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Supremacy Clause

January 28th, 2015 we received an email from PA U.S. Senator Bob Casey. This email told us:

“Columbia has stated that they will not seek local permits on the basis of federal preemption of state and local laws under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution. The Supremacy Clause states that federal laws can preempt state and local laws on the same subject. Therefore, Columbia stated that it is not required to comply with local permits.”

Columbia’s expansion of the Milford and Easton compressor stations without even the formality of approved local permits sets a precedent that will need to be addressed in all the proposed projects. Will FERC’s approval of the Penn East Pipeline over-rule all other requests for information and input?

We have been respectfully engaging with State, County, and Township officials asking them to stand up for their constituents. We have been guided by statements in papers issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the PA Department of Environmental protection.

The FERC Approval states:

129. Any state or local permits issued with respect to the jurisdictional facilities authorized herein must be consistent with the conditions of this certificate. The Commission encourages cooperation between interstate pipelines and local authorities. However, this does not mean that state and local agencies, through application of state or local laws, may prohibit or unreasonably delay the construction of facilities approved by this Commission.

Nowhere does this clause state that Columbia Gas does not need local and state approvals. It calls for cooperation.

The January 14th Milford PA DEP Air Quality Comment Response report states:

14. Comment: Commenter(s) expressed concerns over local zoning permits (such as conditional use) from the compressor station. (2, 6, 21, 26)

Response: In consideration of this concern, the Department has included a condition in the Plan Approval stating: “Nothing in this Plan Approval relieves the facility owner or operator from its obligations to comply with all applicable Federal, state and local laws and regulations.” The issuance of the Plan Approval does not prevent Columbia Gas from having to secure any necessary local land use approvals.

Accepting Columbia’s position effectively stops information sharing and transparency as soon as FERC approves a project. From then on they inspect and police themselves. Just as they are working behind the 12ft privacy fence they’ve built around the station in Milford. They are not even filing the information FERC required. FERC has no regulatory enforcement system and The Supremacy argument takes everyone else out of the picture.

Local entities may not make “unreasonable” requests or demands.

Forks township has already passed a resolution asking them to use best practices electric compressors and blowdown re-capture/ or move the station out of Protected Farmland and into the Industrial park where it belongs.

We do not believe this request is unreasonable. We do not believe FERC or the PA DEP should consider this an unreasonable request.

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