Tuesday, March 14, 2023; Harrisburg, PA— Today, PennFuture and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network appealed the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)’s water quality permits for the Transcontinental Gas and Pipeline Company’s (Transco) Regional Energy Access Expansion (REAE) fracked gas pipeline expansion that will run through Luzerne and Monroe Counties. Transco’s expanded pipeline includes 22.3 miles of pipeline cut through Luzerne County and 13.8 miles cut through Monroe County.
The Transco REAE pipeline proposes to dig trenches and divide connected natural waterways and ecosystems, many of which are special protection headwaters of the Delaware River Basin. This construction will damage 114 Exceptional Value wetlands, 77 bodies of water supporting cold water fisheries, 39 High Quality streams, 2 Exceptional Value streams, 17 Class A Wild Trout streams, 57 waterbodies with naturally reproducing trout, and 297 acres of forests.
“Waters are designated as “special protection” because they are just that - special. These designations need to be meaningful, and we will not stand by and watch them be treated as meaningless,” said Jessica O’Neill, PennFuture’s senior attorney. “These are high quality, clean water streams that provide critical habitat and some of the most pristine waters in the Basin. Protecting these headwaters is necessary for downstream drinking water resources, local recreation and tourism, and for billions of dollars in regional economic activity and ecosystem services. We cannot allow for the fracked gas industry or DEP to continue to jeopardize these special protection waters..”
“Pennsylvania DEP’s permitting process for pipelines allows for repeated harms to water resources, including Pennsylvania’s exceptional value and high quality streams and wetlands, which are supposed to receive the highest regulatory protections available. By treating anti-degradation protections as a simple box-checking exercise, the DEP is failing in its duty to preserve these invaluable resources,” says Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper and leader of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. Adds van Rossum: “After years of witnessing, first hand, the devastating impacts fracked gas pipelines inflict on our communities and natural environments, along with an increasing awareness of how pipelines are exacerbating the climate crisis, it is disturbing to see Pennsylvania DEP continues to easily hand out permits for projects like the Transco REAE.”
According to PennFuture and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network legal filings, the permits issued to Transco fail to protect the affected Exceptional Value and High Quality streams and wetlands, and do not follow the requirements of the law that potential developers are to be held to a higher standard in these special protection areas. These critical water resources are part of the public trust belonging to all Pennsylvanians, and the permit also therefore violates the people’s constitutional rights under the Environmental Rights Amendment. The full Notice of Appeal can be found here.
PennFuture, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and our partners previously submitted written comments during the permit process detailing a number of concerns about this exact pipeline as well as documented damage from previous gas pipelines that cut through streams and protected wetlands with irreparable destruction to natural ecosystems.