New Fortress Energy’s
Secret Gas Route

Safety, community, and ecological impact are the concerns among
Puerto Rican communities over the plan to export gas that involves
an entire region of the eastern United States.

“I’m going to show you the route,” said Fermín Morales Ayala. He takes off his glasses, checks a map printed on a sheet of paper that he carries in a red folder. Then he looks through a fence where there is a train track, lined with gravel and slopes lined with brush. It looks like an abandoned road in an abandoned rural town. But a few feet away you can see two-story houses clustered in streets that are replicated by the sprawling urban network of Philadelphia, America’s sixth-largest city.

“I think this is it. Yes, this is supposedly the route,” Morales said.

He’s referring to the train route that New Fortress Energy would use to transport liquefied natural gas. The trains would depart from Wyalusing in Bradford County, northern Pennsylvania, where a New Fortress subsidiary is developing a plant to process natural gas.

The trains would travel about 200 miles, passing through 10 Pennsylvania counties to New Jersey. New Fortress startet to develop a maritime terminal there, on the grounds of what was a dynamite plant owned by DuPont, from where they plan to export the gas from Pennsylvania.

New Fortress Energy is one of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (PREPA) liquefied natural gas providers and operates an import facility in San Juan. Jake Suski, a press spokesman for New Fortress, told the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) that the company’s projects in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are not related to Puerto Rico.

“Our gas supply to Puerto Rico comes from the global liquefied natural gas market,” Suski said via email. He did not say where the gas they plan to extract from Pennsylvania and transport to New Jersey for export, would go. 

In the United States, New Fortress’s plan to transport liquefied natural gas by train, an unprecedented practice, would impact several Puerto Rican communities.

Fermín Morales shows the New Fortress Energy train route to transport liquefied natural gas. Photo by Joel Cintrón Arbasetti | Investigative Journalism Center

Fermín Morales shows the New Fortress Energy train route to transport liquefied natural gas. Photo by Joel Cintrón Arbasetti | Investigative Journalism Center

The track where Morales at is just one part of the highly flammable train route that would cut through a densely populated area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest city.

“Two hundred thousand people live here. This train is going to pass through the poorest areas of Philadelphia”, said Morales, as an Amtrak passenger train passes at full speed along the track. The trains loaded with gas would consist of 100 special tank cars for each unit, according to the environmental assessment that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) sent to Energy Transport Solutions, a subsidiary of New Fortress that applied for the transportation permit.

Morales was born in Moca, a small town on the west coast in Puerto Rico. He wears a striped polo shirt, denim shorts, and tennis shoes. He is standing on a sidewalk, on a two-lane bridge that crosses over the railroad tracks on North Front Street, one of the areas in the city with the largest Puerto Rican population. An electrician by trade, he has lived here in Philadelphia, the second city in the United States with the largest Puerto Rican population, for 50 years. And he worries that there could be an accident involving one of the gas-filled trains that will cause a tragedy in his neighborhood.

‘This has never been done at this level’

From the city of Allentown, about 60 miles north of Philadelphia, Bob Elbich, an engineer who is an expert on regulatory issues and first responders, shares Morales’ concern. The New Fortress gas route includes Allentown, Pennsylvania’s third-largest city and home to about 30,000 Puerto Ricans.

“You are talking about several million gallons shipped per day… (100 tanks) rail cars twice a day, every day. That’s a lot of product… This has never been done before ever at this level,” said Elbich, the Democratic commissioner of Lehigh County, to which Allentown belongs.

“The energy equivalent of one tank car is approximately 620 tons of TNT in terms of energy. The energy equivalent of a 100-tank car is 62 kilotons of TNT. The energy equivalent of Hiroshima nuclear bomb: 14 kilotons of TNT… The information I give does not indicate that this energy would always be released instantaneously, it’s just to give you a sense of the tremendous amount of energy that they are planning to move through here every day,” Elbich said in a virtual conference called Frack Gas Bomb Train. Some 166 residents of the states that could be affected by New Fortress’ export plans, such as Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, participated.

Liquefied natural gas is considered an extremely flammable “hazardous material,” which can be easily ignited by heat or flame sparks, and whose containers can explode and become projectiles, according to PHMSA’s 2020 Emergency Response Guidebook, under the US Department of Transportation’s umbrella.

In December 2019, PHMSA approved the special permit authorizing New Fortress to transport liquefied natural gas in railroad cars from Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, to Gibbstown, New Jersey. The company requested the permit in August 2017 through its subsidiary Energy Transport Solutions. In the draft environmental assessment for this special permit, PHMSA acknowledges that transporting liquefied natural gas by train “could result in impacts to the environment and pose risks to human health and safety.”

New Fortress Energy in Pennsylvania, United States. Photo provided by Ted Auch of the FracTracker Alliance.

New Fortress Energy en Pensilvania, Estados Unidos. Foto suministrada por Ted Auch, de FracTracker Alliance.

A piece of land where there were houses

In Wyalusing, a small town of about 549 Bradford County residents, the rural landscape intersects with the noise and the   movement of industrial cargo trucks. It borders the Susquehanna River and on both sides of the main road you can see green areas interspersed with drive-in shops, mini markets, a post office, a motel with a neon sign, diners, and gas stations.

Underneath that landscape, about 900 feet deep, lies part of the Marcellus Shale rock formation, which stretches from New York to the Appalachian Mountains, with large reserves of natural gas. Here in Bradford, there are more than 1,000 active gas wells.

From time to time, old train tracks that run parallel to the Susquehanna River and the Route 6 highway appear on the road. The trains that transport the sand used in the extraction of natural gas through fracking technology run through there. They are the same rails that New Fortress Energy would use to transport gas from Pennsylvania to New Jersey.

Natural gas is a fossil energy source that forms deep in the earth and whose main chemical component is methane. It is used mainly to generate electric power. In the United States, more than 25% of electric power comes from natural gas. It is also used to heat and power transportation vehicles such as buses and trucks.

Governments like Trump’s in the United States and the Popular Democratic Party (PPD, in Spanish) and New Progressive Party (PNP, in Spanish) parties in Puerto Rico, as well as the energy industry itself, have promoted natural gas as a cleaner and cheaper source of energy than oil. It has also been presented as a transition to renewable energy sources.

But its extraction method, fracking, which pushes water and chemicals under pressure deep into the earth to bring the gas to the surface, has a long history of adverse effects on the environment and nearby communities from where it’s practiced. A scientific study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows its impact on drinking water resources.

Once extracted, liquified natural gas has been cooled to less than 260°F until it changes from its gaseous state to a liquid, which reduces its volume by about 600 times for easier storage and transport.

New Fortress Energy’s gas supplier would be William Gas Company, which operates several gas extraction facilities in the Marcellus Formation area of northern Pennsylvania. The gas would be transported by a gas pipeline from the extraction source to the liquefaction plant that New Fortress began to develop in Wyalusing, and then transported by trains or trucks to New Jersey, the plant’s construction agreement states.

To build the gas processing plant, New Fortress, through a subsidiary called Bradford County Real Estate Partners, purchased about 220 acres of land between Route 6 and the Susquehanna River. It demolished the houses that were there and cleared the land, which used to be green. It is now a fenced-in brown embankment, like a large baseball park that no one uses, waiting for the company to get, or not, the permits it needs to build the plant.

Some 36 retired people live in the home. Photo by Joel Cintrón Arbasetti | Center for Investigative Journalism

Some 36 retired people live in the home. Photo by Joel Cintrón Arbasetti | Center for Investigative Journalism

Next to that lot is the Wyalusing Valley Personal Care Home, a home for around 36 retirees. From a balcony of that wooden structure shaped like a cabin, some of its residents saw the last remaining house fall in the heart of the land where the New Fortress Energy plant would be built. It was the home of a 90-year-old couple and some residents of the care center cried when they saw it in ruins, said Malinda “Mindy” Merritt, who has worked there for 21 years.

“We had a lot of people move because they bought them out, they bought their homes. Some of the homes are still standing, but the people aren’t actually in them because this gas company owns those homes. And when you’re driving down the road on both sides of the streets, those homes are probably empty…the houses are probably abandoned,” said Merritt, from the front desk of the retirement home.

Behind the lot, hidden in the trees, is a two-story house that appears to be inhabited, but no one came out at the knock on the door. A short distance from that house is the train track.

“They came in and dealt with this real estate company that had nothing to do with gas, and privately bought all the properties around through here and nobody really knew what they were doing or what they were up to until they had purchased the land. And then they said, ‘guess what we’re going to do’,” said David A. Buck, a retired man who lives on the other side of the Susquehanna River, which originates in New York and flows into the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

“What’s affecting the river is the runoff from the different stream crossings and all the construction that they’re doing,” said Buck, who used to run a kayak business on the Susquehanna.

“This is just one example of what happens when the United States promotes gas power around the world…There’s fracking all over the area here,” said Diana Dakey, a resident of a town near Wyalusing and a board member of the environmental organization Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future.

On August 26, Penn Future and other environmental groups petitioned the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection board to rescind an air pollution permit granted to New Fortress subsidiary Bradford County Real Estate Partners.

The organizations noted that the agency did not correctly calculate the potential for polluting emissions that the New Fortress gas plant would produce, such as the chemical ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions, one of the causes of global warming.

In 2018, the Wyalusing municipal administration approved the two conditional use permits required by Bradford County Real Estate Partners for the acquisition of the land. As of June 30, 2021, New Fortress had spent $128 million in the development of the plant, of which about $106 million went to buying the land. But although the houses were demolished and the land cleared, construction has not started because it has not been granted environmental, construction and zoning permits, according to the company’s latest quarterly report.

The Wyalusing Township Zoning and Permitting Office is a four-minute drive from the land New Fortress acquired to build the plant. It is a one-story building, bearing an American flag, with two doors and five parking spaces on the side of the road. It has no sign. On a Monday at 11 a.m. in September the parking lot is empty. On the door is a sheet with the zoning officer’s email and phone number, and another that indicates that the building code inspection hours are Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

In that small office, two or three officials approve permits that afterwards impact an entire region, Dakey says.

Governor Pedro Pierluisi and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González. Photo by Nahira Montcourt | Center for Investigative Journalism

Governor Pedro Pierluisi and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González. Photo by Nahira Montcourt | Center for Investigative Journalism

Puerto Rico as the Caribbean’s natural gas hub

When Gov. Pedro Pierluisi was Resident Commissioner in Congress, Washington D.C., he promoted the idea of Puerto Rico becoming a natural gas distribution hub for the Caribbean.

“Congress should enact my legislation to increase the number of ships qualified to transport LNG from the states to Puerto Rico, and require the DOE to prepare a report on the prospect of the territory becoming a hub for the distribution of American-produced energy in the Caribbean region,” Pierluisi said at a House Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing in 2016

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González continued the idea with legislation in 2017, which has not been approved, to facilitate the export of liquefied natural gas from the United States to Puerto Rico. And in 2018, Representative Rob Bishop said during a visit to the island that “Puerto Rico could be a [natural gas] headquarters for the entire Caribbean area.”

The same year, the New Fortress Energy subsidiary in Puerto Rico, NFEnergía, submitted a “franchise authorization request” to the Puerto Rico Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP in Spanish), for the import, storage, sale, and distribution of natural gas in bulk for the entire island.” The document says that the DTOP received letters from the Ferré Rángel Group, the Luis Ayala Colón shipping company, and Pan American Grain, “alleging their willingness to buy natural gas from NFEnergía.”

In 2019, the Rosselló administration advocated an exemption to the Jones Act that would allow “equal access for Puerto Rico to natural gas energy sources available in the United States.” That year, NFEnergía signed a $1.5 billion contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to convert two units of the San Juan plant from diesel to natural gas and provide fuel. Before landing that contract, Fortress Investment, parent of New Fortress Energy, had been one of the creditors that purchased junk debt from the Government of Puerto Rico.

Although there is a contract for New Fortress to supply natural gas to PREPA, the company is not currently supplying it because it has to correct a deficiency in its San Juan dock, said Tomás Torres, consumer representative on the Governing Board of PREPA.

If the company does not supply natural gas, it has to deliver the diesel that the public corporation needs to generate energy or pay PREPA to buy it, as established in the contract.

Josué Colón, PREPA's executive director, has expressed in meetings of the Governing Board and before the Energy Bureau that he is seeking that New Fortress complies with paying the public corporation for the purchase of the diesel that he has had to acquire to generate electricity.

Meanwhile, the conversion of the San Juan 5 and 6 generating units to natural gas, for which New Fortress was contracted, has not yet been completed, according to a document from the Energy Bureau obtained by the CPI.

Parallels between facilities in San Juan, Wyalusing, and Gibbstown

NFEnergía also operates an import facility in San Juan, where in 2019 it built a plant to process liquefied natural gas without requesting permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

In 2020, the FERC ordered New Fortress to demonstrate why the facility was not subject to the regulator’s jurisdiction. The company responded, and the following year the FERC decided that the New Fortress facilities in Puerto Rico were subject to its jurisdiction under the United States Natural Gas Act. Besides, it ordered the company to apply for an operating permit in 180 days. Even so, the FERC allowed the facility to continue operating so as not to affect the services that the company provides to PREPA. New Fortress submitted the permit application on September 29 and the FERC recently asked the company to demonstrate compliance with more than 15 requirements. 

The FERC’s order came after a lawsuit filed by environmental groups Sierra Club de Puerto Rico, Enlace Latino de Acción Climática, and community groups from the Sabana neighborhood in Guaynabo, near the gas plant and which would be the most affected in the event of an accident.

The San Juan decision could have repercussions on the construction of the Wyalusing, Pennsylvania gas plant and the Gibbstown, New Jersey terminal, where, as in Puerto Rico, New Fortress has tried to establish that FERC does not have jurisdiction.

“As a result of FERC’s decision on the San Juan terminal, New Fortress subsidiaries in Wyalusing and Gibbstown requested a statement from FERC that those projects are not under their jurisdiction ... FERC has not yet decided whether it will assume jurisdiction in those two projects, but everything seems to indicate that it will,” said Tracy Carluccio, founder of Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an environmental organization based in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, the decision as to whether the FERC has jurisdiction over the New Fortress’ facility in San Juan is now up for consideration by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Finishing New Fortress’ plan is in limbo

In its latest quarterly report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company stated that it cannot assure it will finish the Pennsylvania plant due to financial challenges and difficulties in getting permits. There is no mention of the Gibbstown, New Jersey terminal.

Jake Suski, press spokesman for New Fortress Energy, referred the CPI to an excerpt from a Bloomberg interview with the company’s CEO, Wesley Edens, in which he says, “We don’t feel compelled to do it right now,” Edens said of the Pennsylvania project. But it’s a “good idea if the project can get properly financed.”

Suski did not answer questions about the status of the projects in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, or about the company’s position on the safety concerns of the communities along the gas route. A request for an interview with Edens, the CEO of New Fortress, was not granted.

Meanwhile, on the ground, New Fortress’s plan to export liquefied natural gas, still to be completed, has already left its mark.

Gibbstown, New Jersey

There are trucks hauling gas tanks constantly crossing the residential road leading to the DuPont company’s old dynamite plant in Gibbstown, New Jersey. Behind the gate, where there is a guard post, is the port where New Fortress hopes to fulfill the “Gibbstown Logistic Center,” which includes a dock to export the liquefied natural gas that it would bring by truck and train from Wyalusing. The gas that now arrives at the facilities in trucks comes from other sources and is distributed within the United States.

The train track in Gibbstown crosses residential Repauno Avenue, near the entrance to the old DuPont plant and in front of two-story multi-family wooden houses.

“So, you can see a lot of these houses are old, many of them have been here a hundred years,” said Carluccio, founder of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an organization that revealed New Fortress’ plan after requesting information through the Freedom of Information Act from the FERC.

Tracy Carluccio, founder of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. Photo by Joel Cintrón Arbasetti | Center for Investigative Journalism

Tracy Carluccio, founder of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network. Photo by Joel Cintrón Arbasetti | Center for Investigative Journalism

“I brought you up from the street to see how narrow that street is. There were trucks, dump trucks and everything coming through there when they were developing this site. And a lot of neighbors got up in arms,” said Jim Stewart, standing on the train track. He is retired and as a young man worked in the cafeteria at the DuPont plant, lives about five miles from the site, in a house separated from the railroad by just two miles in West Deptford and is opposed to the development of the New Fortress terminal. 

Other residents and local government officials are in favor of a return to economic activity at the facilities that have been closed for more than 20 years. The New Fortress proposal promises an investment of $450 million, the creation of 300 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs. The leadership of the Iron Workers Union, Piles Drivers Union and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers submitted letters of support for the project to the Delaware River Basin Commission.

Gibbstown, New Jersey. Photo by Joel Cintrón Arbasetti | Center for Investigative Journalism

Gibbstown, New Jersey. Photo by Joel Cintrón Arbasetti | Center for Investigative Journalism

The plan isn’t new

The New Fortress plan makes a lot of sense from an energy and financial point of view, according to Steven R. Miles, a fellow at the Center for Energy Studies at Baker’s Institute for Public Policy, a think tank at Rice University in Houston, Texas. This is because the large amount of natural gas available in the Marcellus Formation reserves makes its price low. But he says there aren’t enough pipelines to get it where it’s really needed in the United States, like the Northeast coast.

Meanwhile, Miles acknowledges that the location where the project is proposed, in the northeastern United States, it is very difficult to get infrastructure permits, due in part to opposition from environmental groups. He recalled that similar projects have been proposed in the past but have not obtained the permits. He said he fully understands the environmental concerns, but at the same time believes that the risks posed by New Fortress’s plans already exist in the surrounding area.

“Philadelphia already has petrochemical exports, a big plant south of Philadelphia, you already have ships filling up fuel, you have large storage tanks, you have those fuels coming in or going out by various means, trucks or trailers or pipelines. So, all of that isn’t new. I think the part that’s probably most interesting and new is the concept of bringing the liquefied natural gas down from the plant to the terminal by train. [But if] you go to the city [of Philadelphia], look around, you’d probably see that there are already train cars full of gasoline, for example, that travel through the city… Gasoline is more flammable and explosive than liquefied natural gas,” said Miles.

Accidents are also part of the history that Miles describes. In 2015 in South Philadelphia 11 train cars carrying crude oil derailed. Another train also carrying crude oil was partially derailed and some cars were left hanging over the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. That same year, eight people died after an Amtrak train derailed in the northern area of the same city. The photos of the accident show that the passenger cars fell near gas or gasoline tanks that were parked on the parallel tracks. In 2019, there was a massive explosion at an oil refinery south of Philadelphia that, while not causing any deaths, released more than 3,200 pounds of a highly toxic chemical called hydrofluoric acid into the atmosphere.

The train route and areas where minorities live. Photos provided by the Frac Tracker Alliance.

The train route and areas where minorities live. Photos provided by the Frac Tracker Alliance.

The train route and areas where minorities live. Photos provided by the Frac Tracker Alliance.

The train route and areas where minorities live. Photos provided by the Frac Tracker Alliance.

The train route and areas where minorities live. Photos provided by the Frac Tracker Alliance.

The train route and areas where minorities live. Photos provided by the Frac Tracker Alliance.

New Fortress’ special permit

In the United States, liquefied natural gas is transported by truck. By train it can only be transported in special tanks that complies with an international standard of the United Nations (UN) and with the approval of the Federal Rail Administration and PHMSA. The New Fortress subsidiary requested to use a different type of tank, known as the DOT-113C120W. This would be more cost effective, but it has not previously been used to transport liquefied natural gas, according to the special permit application that expires in November 2021, and which is renewable

In April 2019, former President Donald Trump signed an executive order for the US Secretary of Transportation to create a regulation to allow the transportation of liquefied natural gas by train nationwide, without the need to use the special tank approved by the UN or approval from the Federal Rail Administration and PHMSA.

“The Federal Government must promote efficient permitting processes and reduce regulatory uncertainties that currently make energy infrastructure projects expensive and that discourage new investment… By promoting the development of new energy infrastructure, the United States will make energy more affordable, while safeguarding the environment and advancing our Nation’s economic and geopolitical advantages,” according to the Executive Order that Trump signed. 

Justice Secretaries from 16 states, community and environmental groups and representatives in Congress opposed the transportation of liquefied natural gas by train, which Trump’s order enabled.

A coalition of 94 organizations from the northeastern coast of the United States, including the Delaware Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club, and Philly Boricuas, signed a letter and petition to President Joe Biden to cancel the federal permit and the portion of the Executive Order that would allow New Fortress to transport liquefied natural gas by train in tank cars.

Trump’s order could benefit an entire industry focused on exporting liquefied natural gas from the United States to supply growing global consumption. According to the Baker Institute for Public Policy, in three decades global gas consumption is expected to increase from 23% to 28% as the world’s primary energy source, surpassing coal by 2030, and potentially oil in many industrialized economies.

When Trump signed the Executive Order allowing the transportation of liquefied natural gas by train, the only company that had requested a special permit to transport that material in tanks other than those approved by the UN was Energy Transport Solutions, the subsidiary of New Fortress Energy, the CPI found in the PHMSA files.

Now the Executive Order is under review by the Biden administration and the Department of Transportation will propose to suspend it, according to Bloomberg

From investors to gas distributors

New Fortress Energy is a subsidiary of Fortress Investment Group. One of Fortress Investment Group’s clients was then-real estate mogul Donald Trump. In 2005, Fortress Investment made a loan to The Trump Organization, Trump’s conglomerate of companies, to finance the construction of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago. In 2012, Fortress Investment Group canceled Trump’s debt after an agreement in which the former president would pay around half owed, according to an investigation by Mother Jones.

Fortress Investment was created in 1998 by Rob Kauffman and Wesley Edens. In 2007 the investment firm acquired the Florida East Coast Railway. The conversion of the power source from diesel to gas to move that line of freight trains prompted Fortress Investment’s immersion in the energy industry. Given the absence of gas suppliers for the small volume that the train company used to move around, the investment firm built its own production unit in Miami and obtained authorization to export the surplus, Edens said in an interview with Bloomberg.

Today New Fortress Energy operates natural gas facilities in Jamaica, Puerto Rico and other countries in Latin America, Asia, and Europe.

Regulatory agencies ‘in a tunnel’

In its first proposal to develop the New Jersey terminal in 2016, New Fortress, through its subsidiary Delaware River Partners, proposed using a dock to export fruits, vegetables, cars, flowers, and other products. In 2018 it secured permits from the Delaware River Basin Commission and the following year they requested to expand the operation with a second dock that would be used to export natural gas.

“It’s very hard to find out exactly what’s going on. It’s all very secretive,” said Carluccio, founder of Delaware Riverkeeper.

“So, it was sort of what we call a bait and switch, is that you offer one thing and then you switch to something else. So, it was sort of what you might call a trick. Everything was hidden and secret, and they even denied they were going to go ahead and try to do anything like liquefied natural gas there,” said Carluccio pointing to the terminal entrance in Gibbstown, which is located just steps from a pre-school.

“But behind closed doors, they were secretly moving ahead with this plan. And we didn’t find out about it until 2019 when they had to go before this inter state agency, Delaware River Basin Commission, to get their approval. And then we had heard from an organization that we work with out in Pennsylvania, further out in north central Pennsylvania, where Marcellus Shale is, where they do the fracking, that they (New Fortress) wanted to build an LNG plant up there and then send the stuff down by truck to the Delaware River,” said Carluccio. 

“So, we did some investigative work and found out it was the same company… Delaware River Partners is the name they use in Gibbstown and Bradford County Real Estate Partners is the name they use in Wyalusing Township where they would build the LNG plant. And they have another name for the subsidiary that got the permit to move the LNG by rail from Wyalusing down to Gibbstown, Energy Transport Solutions. So, they always use subsidiaries and it’s kind of a way they hide, and keep in the dark … you must look and figure out that it’s the same company,” said Carluccio.

Regulatory agencies approve these projects in a fragmented way, Carluccio says. “They don’t look at it as one big project. They look at it as little pieces. It’s like they’re in a tunnel and they only look at one thing. They don’t connect the dots. We’re the ones that are connecting the dots. That’s why we’re saying FERC should take jurisdiction, because FERC actually could connect the dots.”

In Wyalusing, Diana Dakey said, “Collectively, all of these infrastructure projects stimulate more local fracking. And fracking has a lot of externalities, there recently was a report by the Pennsylvania state attorney general that looked into a lot of those. For people who live in the vicinity of fracking sites, there are air quality concerns, there are a lot of concerns related to the disposal of what the industry calls produced water, which is the water they put underground to frack and then comes back up. And some of it the industry recycles, other becomes a waste product and it’s contaminated with added chemicals. Also, the drill cuttings have to go somewhere, you know, the mud that comes back up.”

Near ‘La Placita de Philly’

Neither the company or the government have disclosed the exact route of the train or trucks that New Fortress Energy could also use to transport liquefied natural gas. Delaware RiverKeeper traced the two possible routes, based on the availability of railroad tracks and highways connecting Pennsylvania to New Jersey.

The map that the nonprofit organization created — dedicated since the 1980s to the environmental protection of the Delaware River that divides Pennsylvania and New Jersey — is the one that Fermín Morales carries with him in a red folder. He now uses it to find the second railroad track that the gas tanks could use to pass through Philadelphia. “I’m going to call Tracy Carluccio to make sure that we are at the right place ,” Morales says.

The second possible route crosses North 2nd Street, via a railroad lined by houses that coexist wall-to-wall in narrow streets. There is a brick industrial building that looks abandoned and a car junker nearby. On the dry grass and gravel terrain that separates the roads from the residential area there are wood beams, cans, bottles, toys, and other debris.

On the bridge that crosses over there are two broken mattresses, plastic garbage bags, a shopping cart and clothes tossed about. On the sidewalk there are many orange-capped syringes that speak silently of the opioid epidemic problem that has plagued the area for decades.

“This is the Fairhill area. Look at the garbage that’s there. This [area] is very dirty sometimes. It’s cleaned once a month, if at all,” said Morales, referring to the bridge. “What if they burn this here and a fire starts, and that liquefied gas travels through here? All it needs is what they call a spark, and it can all go on fire .”

In a parking lot right next to the bridge, under tents, there are more than 20 tables with clothes, shoes, detergents, purses, and cages with birds. There are two large stores selling second-hand appliances and furniture. There is a kiosk selling alcapurrias and another selling bacalaitos with piña colada. “La Cura” by Frankie Ruiz is heard through a large speaker. It is a market that recently opened called “La Placita,” in reference to the square of the Santurce neighborhood in San Juan, Puerto Rico. On Saturday, August 21 at 2 p.m., “La Placita de Philly” is packed. People eat, shop, paint graffiti on a shipping container, and hula hoop — they’re enjoying the outdoors before winter sets in.