A Marcellus Shale drilling rig in Lone Pine, Washington County. Two similar natural-gas-pipeline projects have come under environemtal scrutiny. (Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)
In a reversal of a decision, the Delaware River Basin Commission will review two natural-gas-pipeline projects in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Both projects have been completed, but in a letter to an environmental group that asked for the review, commission executive director Carol R. Collier said their sponsors would need to apply for permits.
"I am directing my staff to undertake reviews of these projects after the fact," she wrote Jan. 30 to Maya van Rossum, head of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
Van Rossum praised the decision. Both projects, she said, left "deforested moonscapes" that are adding to storm water runoff and other problems.
She wants the DRBC to make the companies do additional restoration.
Van Rossum's group also has asked for a review of all natural-gas-line projects in the basin, including several that will come through the southeastern region.
The request, backed by more than 50 environmental groups, noted that four pipeline projects had been built since 2011 and seven were planned, and that there was potential for six more.
The DRBC, whose members are from the federal government and the four states with land in the basin, denied the request at its most recent meeting, in December.
The rules of the commission specifically exclude natural-gas-pipeline projects from commission review, with limited exceptions, said spokesman Clarke Rupert.
Collier determined in July that a review of the two projects - interstate lines built by Columbia Gas Transmission and Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. - would not be required.
Later, the staff learned that both projects went through a public recreation area - the Delaware State Forest - that had been incorporated into the DRBC's comprehensive plan. That, it turns out, is one of the exceptions.
So, in December, the commissioners directed Collier to take another look. She determined that the projects would, after all, trigger DRBC review.
Van Rossum said she felt confident that once the commissioners saw the level of destruction in Pike and Wayne Counties, where the lines went through, they would broaden their oversight to all pipeline projects. "It's going to be overwhelmingly obvious," she said, "that the DRBC cannot ignore its jurisdiction."