Adelphia Gateway Pipeline: they take our name, but not our input


On May 31st, I attended my first Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) public scoping meeting, for the proposed Adelphia Gateway pipeline. Having been to many pipeline public meetings, I had a clear mental image of how it would go: chairs arranged in rows, one or two microphones, stoic officials behind a table, residents reciting the same concerns they had and would repeatedly voice. The scoping meeting was four hours long, with speaking registration open until the last hour. Meg, a fellow member of environmental justice group EDGE Philly, drove us down to Essington, volleying facts and questions to prepare our comments.

The scoping meeting was down a narrow hallway guarded by two police officers in bulletproof vests. The room had a series of tables and posters on easels with a few staff milling about. Residents who wanted to give oral testimony could do so privately in a separate room. At the sign-in desk, I noted that at almost three hours in, they’d had only three speakers.

Some of the technical, highly process-focused FERC literature available at the scoping meeting

Some background on the Adelphia Gateway Pipeline project:

The Adelphia Gateway Pipeline would be an 90-mile natural gas pipeline curving from Northampton County, Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook area. 88.4 miles of the pipeline are already in the ground—a 18” – 20”-diameter pipeline that originally carried oil northwest from Marcus Hook. The northern 34-mile section was previously repurposed to carry gas, and the lower 50 miles would also be converted to carry gas. Adelphia Gateway would include two entirely new 16”-diameter segments: the 4.5-mile Tilghman Lateral and the 0.25-mile Parkway Lateral in Marcus Hook, Trainer, and the edge of New Castle, Delaware. Converting and expanding the pipeline for natural gas would require adding infrastructure including eight blowdown assemblies, pig launchers, connection/offtake points, six meter stations, and two compressor stations.

Because the Adelphia Gateway pipeline is an interstate natural gas pipeline project, most of its permitting is done through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC is a quasi-governmental agency funded by the projects it permits. To get FERC approval, projects are supposed to demonstrate “necessity” and that they are “in the public convenience.” Since 1999, FERC has only rejected two out of 400 pipeline projects.

FERC’s summary for the Adelphia Gateway project describes it as providing “about 175 million standard cubic feet of natural gas per day to the greater Philadelphia industrial region with potential to serve additional markets in the northeast.”