April 6, 2021
Re: Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) Project – CP17-101 – Request for Extension of Time to complete construction and make the NESE facilities available for service by May 3, 2023, instead of May 3, 2021.
Dear Federal Energy Regulatory Commission:
On behalf of the non-profit Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, I am writing to express continued opposition to the NESE Project and to submit comments after Williams/Transco’s March 19, 2021 request for a two-year extension for the Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) Project Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity which was issued on May 3, 2019, and will expire on May 3, 2021.
Simply put, there is no good cause for FERC to grant this extension. This project will have devastating environmental consequences for our Lower Raritan Watershed and the Raritan River.
Williams/Transco did not demonstrate good faith efforts to meet deadlines. Williams/Transco did not encounter “unforeseeable circumstances” to begin construction.
Williams/Transco was denied the necessary permits from both New York and New Jersey due to inherent and fundamental shortcomings in their permit applications, applications which demonstrate their inability to comply with water quality standards. Williams/Transco’s applications were given careful consideration by the relevant agencies of both New York and New Jersey before being denied for cause.
After NYSDEC and NJDEP denied permits/certificates for the NESE Project on May 15, 2020, Williams/Transco did not appeal these denials, and they did not show any good faith effort to re-apply after addressing the deficiencies cited in their permit applications.
Simply put, there is simply no justification that warrants FERC’s consideration of this request for a time extension. Williams/Transco made inaccurate assertions by blaming market disruptions from COVID-19. Further, Williams/Transco inaccurately asserted that NYSDEC focused on the lack of need for NESE gas, then dismissed the “alleged alternative” to NESE that was proposed by National Grid. Additionally, there were no legal actions pertaining to these permit denials that could have been factors in Williams/Transco’s bad faith inaction.
Claiming that the denial was based on reduced demand for natural gas due to the impact of COVID-19 and not on Williams/Transco’s inability to demonstrate the Project’s compliance with all applicable water quality standards is simply not true. On May 15, 2020, NYSDEC denied the Water Quality Certificate for the NESE Project, noting that Williams/Transco’s NESE Project would not comply with applicable water quality standards. In NYSDEC’s denial, the section of Basis for Denial, which spans from page 3 to page 13, it is noted that:
-There was no demonstration that the construction and operation of NESE would comply with applicable water quality standards, particularly without the use of a 500-foot mixing zone for mercury, copper, PCBs, and other metals.
-There would be significant water quality impacts from the resuspension of sediments and other contaminants.
-There would be impacts to habitats due to disturbance of shellfish beds and other benthic resources.
-There would be problematic impacts within a productive hard clam area in Raritan Bay between Mileposts 14 & 20 which is considered both a “sensitive habitat” and a “critical resource area”.
It is also extremely misleading to cite Winter Storm Uri (February 2021) as a reason to improve the reliability and resiliency of gas service to NYC since that storm did not have any significant impact on gas energy service to National Grid’s NYC service area.
Since Williams/Transco did not act in good faith during the past year to rectify the deficiencies in their applications for permits from New York and New Jersey; since there are circumstances that do not support granting this requested extension of time; and since there is no requirement to directly notify impacted residents or businesses of this request with a short comment period that includes many holidays, the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership requests that you:
Reject this 3/19/2021 request for an extension of time; and grant the public an additional 90 days to submit comments about this request since the public has been highly engaged in opposing the NESE Project and would be impacted by your decision.
Heather Fenyk, Ph.D., AICP/PP
President, Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership