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People’s Dossier of FERC Abuses: Deficient EIS Analysis

FERC Consistently Approves Pipeline Projects Based on Applications and NEPA Reviews that are Demonstrably Deficient, False and Misleading

(Download Printable copy of “People’s Dossier of FERC Abuses: Consultant Conflicts of Interest with attachments here)

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (18 CFR § 380.3(b)(2)) requires an applicant to supply the information necessary to determine a project’s impact on the environment and natural resources.  Complete and accurate information is essential for informed decision making, yet FERC consistently approves projects that lack proper NEPA documentation. FERC approves applications that are filled with data gaps, misrepresentations, and inaccurate, false, or even conflicting information. Additionally, FERC approves projects based on information that has been solidly debunked, contradicted, and undermined by expert, agency, and public comment. The NEPA documents upon which FERC bases its pipeline approvals are of such poor quality that they cannot support legitimate or defensible conclusions. 

Missing Information Is A Frequent Deficiency in FERC NEPA Documents

Often, it is the lack of information in NEPA documents which is the most egregious. For example, FERC documentation for the PennEast Pipeline Project (FERC Docket CP15-558) lacks: detailed locational maps; accurate lists of wetland, waterbody, and/or aquifer crossings; restoration measures and/or impact mitigation; accurate fisheries classifications; accurate information on vegetative cover impacts; accurate and complete information on endangered or threatened species impacts; an accurate list of biological/ecological impacts; fails to consider socioeconomic conditions and the project’s impacts thereon; lacks accurate information on geologic hazards; lacks accurate information on existing air quality; etc. (Attch 1) This is the case with other proposed pipelines.

FERC NEPA Documents Routinely Rely Upon Inaccurate Information

The incorrect information supplied by pipeline companies and adopted by FERC often disregards the most basic of environmental impacts. For example:

  • When field-truthing just one half of a mile of the proposed PennEast Pipeline route, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network found twelve vernal pool complexes and groundwater seeps, where the pipeline company indicated in its materials to FERC that there were only two in the same area.
  • PennEast failed to delineate an intermittent stream in another section of the proposed route, despite the fact that the stream was delineated on government mapping. 
  • Penneast completely left out from its assessment of project impacts any discussion of eight NJ state threatened, endangered, or special concern mussel species that potentially exist along the project route. In addition, the DEIS asserted “there are no private water supply wells or springs located within 150 feet of the pipeline construction workspace in Pennsylvania”, which was proven false by ground-truthing efforts.

(Attch 1Attch 11)

FERC Routinely Finds No Significant Impact Even When It Has Identified Deficiencies

Data gaps are often acknowledged by FERC itself, yet the agency approves applications despite this lack of information. For example, FERC identified over thirty data gaps in PennEast’s application, the majority of which were substantial, such as the failure to identify working and abandoned mines near waterbody crossings and migratory bird conservation plans. Experts identified and notified FERC of dozens of additional data gaps. Despite these known gaps, FERC issued the DEIS, concluding that while the Project “would result in some adverse environmental impacts…impacts would be reduced to less-than-significant levels…”

Induced Drilling Impacts A Frequent Deficiency in FERC NEPA Documents

FERC’s cumulative impact analyses for pipelines frequently mischaracterize the degree of harm that will result from the project by ignoring reasonably foreseeable future actions.  Natural gas production and its subsequent impacts are among the cumulative effects that FERC must consider under NEPA when determining whether an action will have a significant impact.  A pipeline’s capacity will necessarily lead to additional consumption of natural gas, with consequences for its price, production, and use – these are direct, indirect and clearly foreseeable outcomes, yet FERC fails to consider them. For example, FERC ignored that the PennEast pipeline will likely induce the drilling of 3,000 new wells in Northeast Pennsylvania, Bradford, Susquehanna, Lycoming, and Tioga counties. (Attch 1) FERC fails to address these future actions even when the applicants themselves state that more wells will be drilled to feed the proposal pipeline project. (Attch 14) Read More in People’s Dossier: Drilling Impacts & Climate Change Ignored.

Economic Harms & Benefits Routinely Misrepresented in FERC NEPA Documents

FERC routinely fails to independently verify a pipeline company’s assertions of economic benefits, and ignores expert evidence to the contrary. FERC fails to consider the economic harms proposed projects will inflict such as reduced crop production for farmers, adverse impacts to businesses along or near the pipeline right of way, the implications for ecotourism and related businesses and jobs, etc. (Attch 2Attch 3) Read More in People’s Dossier: Economic Harms.

Relatedly, FERC uniformly accepts industry assertions that property values are not harmed by pipeline rights of way or by location within the blast radius or evacuation zone of a pipeline, despite significant evidence to the contrary. (Attch 15) Reduced property values also reduce the property taxes that can be collected by local governments. For example:

  • An analysis by Key-Log Economics determined that construction of the PennEast pipeline would result in a loss of $158.3 to $176.0 million in property value in the right of way and evacuation zone.  (Attch 3)
  • For the Mountain Valley Pipeline, projected property value losses result in a loss of $42.2 to $53.3 million in property tax revenue annually (Attch 2)
  • In fact, in Hancock, New York, “three homeowners have had their property assessments reduced, two by 25% and one by 50%, due to the impact of truck traffic, noise, odors, and poor air quality associated with the compressor station” that was proposed as part of the project. (Attch 4Attch 5)

Economic losses resulting from pipelines can be dramatic, and far outweigh the claimed public benefits of the pipeline companies; for example, expert review determined that the PennEast Pipeline could result in as much as $56.6 billion in total economic harm. By comparison, the company claimed only $2.3 billion in economic benefit over a 30 year period. Similar findings have been documented for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Millennium Eastern System Upgrade Project.  In every instance, FERC ignored detailed  reports demonstrating economic harm while accepting industry assertions describing only benefits.  Attch 13 includes four summaries of economic harm for pipeline projects including the PennEast Pipeline Project, the Mountain Valley Pipeline Project, the Millennium Eastern System Upgrade Project and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Projectoutlining the significance of economic harms that are routinely ignored by FERC.  Attch 2Attch 3 and Attch 12 include the full analyses for each project.

Health Harms Routinely Ignored in FERC NEPA Documents

FERC NEPA analyses consistently fail to fully assess health impacts of proposed pipelines. For example, those living near compressor stations and other natural gas facilities often suffer from asthma, nosebleeds, dizziness, weakness, and rashes. Some residents are forced to sell or abandon their homes because of these health impacts—however, FERC turns a blind eye to these well-documented issues when assessing a natural gas project.

Proximity to compressor stations inflict various harms; impacts can be severe, with at least one documented case of a family forced to abandon their $250,000 home rather than continue to suffer the health, safety, and other harms they were experiencing. (Attch 6) People and experts have urged FERC to adequately consider health impacts during NEPA review, including the establishment of baseline air quality, and FERC routinely refuses. (Attch 7Attch 8Attch 9)

Harms to Historic Resources Routinely Ignored in FERC NEPA Documents

Historic and cultural resources are also among the impacts routinely ignored by FERC. For example, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was found to have no impact on cultural resources, despite the fact that its proposed route slices through the “Most Endangered Historic Place” in Virginia, as found by Preservation Virginia. (Attch 10)

The public that has been forced through the FERC process with regards to infrastructure review and approvals has, almost uniformly, the same experience — deficient EIS/EA documentation, lack of fair access to FERC or to be heard through the NEPA process, the undermining of legal rights and opportunities upon completion of the process (See e.g. Attch 16; consider the testimony available at the

Complete People’s Dossier: FERC’s Abuses of Power and Law 
available here.