TGP Seeking Fossil Fuel Expansion in New Jersey & A Message to Governor Phil Murphy.
At ClimateAbility, as well as advising our business clients on the path to a more sustainable future for all, we try to practice what we preach by also getting involved in true on the ground climate activism – action that can make a lasting and tangible difference to our planet today. The past week has seen several high profile wins for climate activists globally with a Dutch court ruling that Shell needs to immediately accelerate the reduction of its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, Exxon Mobil lost at least two board seats to an activist hedge fund and shareholders at Chevron endorsed a call to further reduce its emissions much more rapidly than they had originally planned. While the fight against Big Oil will always grab the headlines, all across the US, normal people are doing extraordinary things at local levels that have far reaching impacts for the environment. One such movement that was recently brought to our attention was that of New Jersey residents opposed to the expansion of a fracked gas pipeline system running through Northern New Jersey by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (TGP) via the construction of multiple major new gas compressor stations, one in Pennsylvania, and two in New Jersey, in Wantage and West Milford.
The Science around Climate Change doesn’t lie, and make no mistake about it, the Climate Crisis is well and truly under way. There is currently more CO2 in our atmosphere than at any other point over the last 3 million years! The science has spoken, and the science is clear, in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to keep the world’s remaining fossil fuels in the ground. That means moving away from coal, oil, and natural gas, and towards a renewable energy future. The path to a sustainable future for people, wildlife, and the climate simply does not include fossil fuels. In fact, a 2015 study in the journal ‘Nature’ revealed that we need to leave at least 80 percent of the world’s known remaining fossil fuel reserves in the ground to prevent runaway climate change.
Fracking & Compressor Stations Both = Climate Change
Natural gas is mainly methane and scientists have measured huge increases in the amount of methane entering the atmosphere over the last decade which has coincided with a period in which the use of fracking for shale gas took off in the U.S. As a result, at least 25% of today’s global warming is driven by methane from human actions. Methane heats up the climate over 80 times more than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the first 20 years after it is released into the atmosphere, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. After 20 years most of the methane becomes CO2, which can then last for hundreds of years.
Compressor stations such as those TGP are seeking to build in NJ are large industrial facilities that maintain the flow and pressure of natural gas by receiving gas from the pipeline, re-pressurizing it, and sending it back into the pipeline system. The projects themselves cost hundreds of millions of dollars with a proposed project on Boston’s South Shore for one such compressor station costing $100m. Companies such as TGP do not build such infrastructure without a long term plan for a return on their investment, meaning that, should TGP’s bid to build three such facilities across NJ & PA be successful then communities such as West Milford can expect trillions of cubic feet of natural gas to flow through it in the decades to come while condemning the environment to the associated global warming. U.S. natural gas production in 2020 was about 33.4 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), an average of about 91.4 billion cubic feet per day of which 20% comes directly from Pennsylvania. The climate concerns aren’t limited to just the end use of the natural gas that flows through these pipelines. Compressor stations themselves emit methane — as well as other harmful volatile organic compounds — during “blowdowns,” the routine gas releases that relieve pressure in the system. A 2015 study estimated that the North Texas’ Barnett Shale region leaked 544,000 tons of methane a year using a conservative leakage rate of 1.5 percent (studies show that fracking operations actually leak, vent, or flare between 2 and 6 percent). That’s equivalent to 46 million tons of CO2, which is more than some states such as Nevada or Connecticut produce. Abruptly speaking, New Jersey will become a methane dumping ground, all for the cause of fossil fuel extraction which our scientists tell us we need to leave in the ground and for energy that will ultimately be consumed outside of New Jersey’s borders.
So Who Are The Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) & What Can New Jersey Expect From Them?
The Tennessee Gas Pipeline is a subsidiary company of Kinder Morgan, the energy infrastructure firm headquartered in Houston, Texas which operates approximately 83,000 miles of pipelines. Kinder Morgan makes its money through the transportation, process and storage of fossil fuels. Renewable Clean Energy forms no part of their offering and instead Kinder Morgan claim that natural gas is part of the solution despite the science proving beyond doubt that this is not the case. It’s akin to a tobacco company saying that some studies suggest that smoking may be related to lung cancer, but let’s keep smoking while we study it further. This should come as no surprise given the checkered past of Kinder Morgan’s climate change denying rhetoric. In response to shareholder demand in 2017 for an assessment into how climate change policies may affect their portfolios, the Kinder Morgan board of directors responded with a unanimous recommendation against preparing an assessment of climate risk as it “may cause us to overstate the likelihood of certain risks, which could be detrimental to our business.”
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it, so let’s take a look at TGP & Kinder Morgan’s recent safety record. According to the PHMSA (Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration), TGP itself had at least 257 significant failures (leaks, fires, and explosions) from 1986 to 2017. Throughout the U.S. from 2003 to 2016, Kinder Morgan and its subsidiaries' pipelines (of all kinds) were responsible for more than 400 incidents in 24 states, incurring more than 110 federal enforcement actions. Kinder Morgan's natural gas transmission pipeline accidents caused $224 million in property damage during this period. Records of this data only run up to 2017 and some of the later incidents are documented below:
· On November 20, 2017, at Agawam, Massachusetts, an operator error on TGP's Connecticut Expansion Project's pipeline test at the compressor station discharged 16,500 gallons of hazardous wastewater onto the soil of the compressor station yard; the wastewater contained heavy metals, lead, and carcinogens such as tetrachloroethylene and phthalate.
· On November 29, 2017, in Richmond, Massachusetts, overpressure (for unknown cause) triggered a relief valve to open at a TGP ‘pigging station’ for a 40-minute blowdown, releasing gas into a residential neighborhood. When contacted, TGP personnel had no idea that there was a problem
· In Texas from 2003 to 2016, Kinder Morgan experienced at least 48 "significant incidents" resulting in fatalities or hospitalization, fires, explosions, or spills.
When history does indeed repeat itself, we will instead be talking about the damage caused to New Jersey’s protected wetlands, reservoirs and endangered wildlife as well as the missed opportunity for New Jersey to take on a leadership role in the fight against Climate Change. An opportunity, that will never again present itself.
A Message to Governor Phil Murphy
The good news is that before TGP can begin construction of their fossil fuel compressor stations, they must be issued a number of federal and state permits. Governor Phil Murphy has the authority to direct the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to reject these permits. In January 2019, Governor Murphy called for a full fracking ban in the Delaware River Basin due to concerns over its impact on the drinking water of New Jersey residents. Just over one month ago, on Earth Day, 22nd April 2021, Governor Murphy issued a statement in which he said, “Climate change is the single greatest long-term threat currently facing humanity, and our state and economy are uniquely vulnerable to its devastating effects. Confronting climate change requires decisive and intentional action across all sectors and levels of government”. We as a NJ based company, along with the residents of New Jersey and planet earth, simply ask Governor Phil Murphy to keep his word to his ‘uniquely vulnerable’ constituents and reject the critical state permits that TGP requires.
For More Information:
Throughout this article we have tried to highlight the climate change concerns surrounding TGP’s fracking operations. For more information on the risks to human health, physical safety, and other water & environmental risks please visit https://www.stopthecompressor.org/ for lots more information and details on how you can help the cause also.
1. Keep It In The Ground (Pipelines & Drilling) – Green Peace
2. Fracking boom tied to methane spike in Earth’s atmosphere, National Geographic, Stephen Leahy, 2019
3. Earthworks – Compressor Stations
4. ENR - Big Mass. Natural Gas Compressor Opponents Could Get New Chance To Shut It Down, 2021
5. EIA - Natural gas explained; Where our natural gas comes from.
6. PHSMA - https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/data-and-statistics/pipeline/pipeline-incident-flagged-files
7. National Observer - Keith Stewart: Kinder Morgan’s climate denial is bad business
8. NJ.Gov. - On Earth Day, Murphy Administration Releases State's First Climate Change Resilience Strategy