Thursday, March 8, 2018

The NJCF’s Rant Against Human Energy Needs

In an editorial that served as the negative side of a New Jersey Star-Ledger “pro-con” debate on the proposed PennEast natural gas pipeline that will cut across Western areas of the state, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s Tom Gilbert presented the argument against allowing the pipeline to be built.

But the editorial is more a rant than an argument. Gilbert issues the usual warning of environmental catastrophe, despite the fact that millions of miles of existing pipelines already deliver life-enhancing energy to Americans, including in New Jersey. This includes the Transco/Williams Pipeline that crosses the same Delaware River as the PennEast will, and that passes through my township of Readington, and which I cross right over on my daily walks. Transco includes a brand new pipeline recently constructed. No catastrophe.

Facts don’t stop Gilbert from offering vague warnings. “PennEast proposes a serious risk to drinking water supplies from heightened arsenic levels, and threatens critical wildlife habitats and thousands of acres of preserved open space and farmland,” he writes—ignoring the fact that plentiful reliable energy from the likes of fossil fuel pipelines are required to deliver the drinking water; ignoring the fact that wildlife thrives around existing pipelines; ignoring the fact that pipelines are underground, leaving the land just as preservable and that without fossil fuels to power modern farm equipment, there would be no farms to preserve.

Gilbert's sloppy rationalization comes to a head with the favorite environmentalists’ claim that the pipeline “isn’t needed”, which contradicts Gilbert’s later claims that the motive behind the proposed pipeline “is driven by utility company profits.” Gilbert doesn't explain how companies are to earn profits by not selling natural gas to consumers who don’t need it. By its own rhetoric, the argument from need makes no sense whatsoever.

Gilbert does have one valid argument: The pipeline builders’ approval of the pipeline is accompanied by the power of eminent domain, which can be used against landowners should voluntary agreements not be possible.* But where is the Conservation Foundation when it comes to seizing taxpayers’ monetary property to buy the development rights for the purpose of creating the preserved open space and farmland? Defending taxpayers? No, defending open space. Where was the NJCF when Solberg Airport in Readington was spending $millions fighting the township’s years-long attempt to seize it through eminent domain? The Conservation Foundation’s new-found concern for private property rights rings hollow, indeed. **

Gilbert’s arguments fall flat. But the main thrust of the article revolves around pushing the state government bureaucrats to stop the project.

It would be a big mistake for PennEast to think the conditional approval it received from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) means their pipeline will be built, said New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJ Conservation) and other opponents of the dangerous and costly project today.

"It's just the beginning. New Jersey doesn't need or want this damaging pipeline, and has the power to stop it when it faces a more stringent state review," said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJ Conservation).

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a decision by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to deny a key water permit for the proposed Constitution gas pipeline that had been approved by FERC, effectively halting its construction. Very recently, FERC itself confirmed the State's right to make such a determination by refusing to allow Constitution pipeline to proceed given the state's denial.

Those are the first three paragraphs. It’s all about “the power to stop it”. And that really gets to the heart of the motive of people lake Gilbert and organizations like the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “Conservation”—of what? Of nature. From what? Of man’s building of industrial projects. Don’t be fooled by quack statements like “commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move New Jersey to 100 percent clean energy,” which appears near the end of Gilbert’s Star-Ledger print version of the article. As it stands now, so-called “clean energy”, usually solar and wind, provides only a tiny fraction of our energy, and for good reason: It is unreliable and cannot satisfy the massive energy needs of our industrial progress.

And that’s the point. Environmentalists’ like the NJCF seek to conserve nature from human industrial development—meaning, they don’t care about human well-being. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) reduces greenhouse gas emissions because it is replacing coal through price competition. Nuclear and hydroelectric release no greenhouse gases. Yet, environmentalists oppose them all. If they were primarily concerned about the climate from a human life perspective, they would embrace all three. But of course, Environmentalists don’t oppose climate change. They oppose only human activity that contributes to, or may contribute to, climate change.

Thank God for profit-seeking energy companies like the PennEast company. Environmentalists love to oppose new pipelines on the ground that they are “not needed?” But if not for the existing network of pipelines, our lives would be miserable, or non-existent. And if not for the farsighted willingness of today’s energy builders to invest in new infrastructure to meet future energy needs, we won’t have the plentiful, affordable, reliable energy that we so much take for granted today. There are “serious risks” and “threats” in every human life-advancing project. But those can be ameliorated. The benefits far outweigh the risks—that is, if human well-being is the standard. The anti-pipeline activists who use so much energy (both literally and figuratively) trying to stop this pipeline, and their passive supporters, should keep that in mind.


* That governmental pipeline approvals are accompanied by grants of eminent domain power to the builders complicates matters for those of us who defend fossil fuel pipelines against the anti-pipeline jihadists. But this is not an argument against pipelines. It is an argument against eminent domain. See my link below.

** Having gotten approval from FERC, PennEast has begun filing eminent domain notices, according to Jon Hurdle for NJ Spotlight. NJCF purports to defend the property rights of people like Jacqueline Evans, whose 6.5 acre Organic-certified farm is threatened. But would the Environmentalist organization be defending her if an “endangered species” was discovered on her property?

Related Reading:

PennEast Pipeline Objections Don’t Add Up

Eminent Domain: The Dark Side of Pipelines

The ‘Jihad on Pipelines,’ New Jersey Front

PennEast Pipeline Objections Don’t Add Up

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