A group of environmentalists say the engineering firm preparing the environmental impact study for the proposed PennEast pipeline has a conflict of interests because the firm also does work for the natural gas industry.
Pasadena, California-based Tetra Tech, which has branches all over the world — including an office in the Twin Stacks Center in Dallas — is performing the study required by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on how the PennEast natural gas pipeline could affect the environment.
The Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association, New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation wrote to U.S. Inspector General Gregory H. Friedman on March 24, asking him to investigate how Tetra Tech was selected to be consultant for the $1 billion project when the firm has financial and organizational conflicts.
PennEast Pipeline Co. LLC, a joint venture among UGI Energy Services, AGL Resources, New Jersey Resources, Public Service Enterprise Group and South Jersey Industries, is looking to build the pipeline, which will run from Dallas Township to Mercer County, New Jersey and supply gas from Marcellus Shale wells to utilities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The environmental groups contend that in the approximately 108-mile pipeline route, there are 39 parks, 88 waterways, 44 wetlands, and 33 farms and other open space areas.
“We believe that this pipeline violates the Clean Water Act and cannot meet the criteria for 404 permits because the amount of high quality streams, wetlands, and rivers it is crossing through,” the environmental organizations’ press release states.
The organizations state in the letter to Friedman that Tetra Tech’s objectivity is in question because the engineering firm provided consulting services to natural gas companies, is a member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, and noted in its annual financial report that Tetra Tech “depend(s) on our customers’ willingness to make future expenditures.” The organizations ask how the firm can do an independent analysis and respond fairly to public comment, given its involvement in the pro-gas coalition and the fact that it benefits financially from the natural gas industry.
A spokeswoman for Tetra Tech did not call back after being contacted for comment.
PennEast spokeswoman Patricia Kornick said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission selected Tetra Tech from three candidates provided by PennEast. She said an applicant is responsible for providing the commission with recommendations on third-party consultants, but the ultimate decision is up to the commission.
It is imperative for consultants to have a background in and experience with the energy industry, Kornick said.
“It’s really a disservice to the community and the process for groups that oppose the project to try to advance their own agendas by continuing to impugn the reputations of professionals whose expertise helps ensure plans for the proposed project allow for the safe (pipeline construction) and operations, while minimizing impact to the community and the environment,” she said.
This article was written by Elizabeth Skrapits from The Citizens’ Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.