Communities Fight to Stop
PennEast Pipeline as Company
Enters Federal Regulatory Process
Communities along the proposed route of a 105-mile pipeline in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are expressing their opposition to the project today by contacting the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. More than 350 people have submitted formal comments, calls, and emails to the commission demanding an immediate denial of the PennEast pipeline project. This is in response to the Commission accepting the first round of documents on Tuesday submitted by UGI Energy Services and its partners for the proposed PennEast pipeline.
If approved, the 36-inch gas transmission pipeline would create a new 50-foot-wide pipeline right of way between Luzerne County in Pennsylvania and Mercer County in New Jersey, impacting the entire Delaware River Watershed as well as dozens of communities. Matthew Young is a resident of Hopewell, NJ near the proposed route. “I object to the PennEast pipeline project,” says Young when asked about his reaction to Tuesday’s announcement, “The communities that will be affected by the proposed pipeline were not consulted or asked if they needed or wanted such a major project prior to planning.”
While the company has made promises of meeting a demand for natural gas in New Jersey, communities along the proposed route would not actually receive any of the gas and are seeing a different side to the story, one full of environmental, economic, and social concerns.
Laura Wilson lives in Milford, NJ near where PennEast is trying to get permission to build the pipeline. “The PennEast Pipeline would permanently scar and destroy environmentally sensitive and rich lands. In Holland Township alone, the PennEast Pipeline would cross ten category C1 streams,” Wilson says. She is also concerned about where the gas is coming from in Pennsylvania and the impacts to communities due to hydraulic fracturing. “The PennEast Pipeline would carry gas produced by fracking in the Marcellus Shale, contributing to major air and water pollution, endangering families and the environment in order to transport fossil fuels.”
For many residents living along the proposed route, another concern is safety. Problems occur on natural gas lines every year. In the past ten years, gas transmission lines average 117 incidents every year, according to PHMSA, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. In the past twenty years there have been 41 deaths, 195 injuries, and $1.6 billion in property damage due to gas pipeline accidents.
In Pennsylvania, the past three years has seen a dramatic increase in the number of proposals for transmission gas pipelines. Communities are now seeing the true cost of pipelines, which mean more compressor stations, forest fragmentation, and river crossings. “Many people do not realize the true environmental impacts of gas transmission pipelines. Every step of the process would degrade our air and pollute our watershed,” says Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director of the Clean Air Council, “This is a serious public health and environmental issue that should have everyone involved.”
Even before the company entered the pre-filing process with FERC, community members and non-profit organizations have been working together to stop the pipeline. Their concerns have brought together a diversity of voices, from people concerned about property rights and the economic impacts of gas exports to environmental concerns and climate change. Within the past month, close to a dozen communities have had public meetings to discuss the project.
“People are organizing. They have a clear vision of what they want for their communities and for the lands they’ve gone to great lengths to protect. They’re hitting the ground running and have no plans to back down,” says Karen Feridun, founder of Berks Gas Truth, one of the organizations working with community groups.
For people who are concerned about the project and want to learn more, visit bit.ly/stoppenneast. There are resources available for landowners, including a form to deny the company permission to survey or access your property. The pre-filing docket is also publicly available online at the FERC’s website by searching for docket number PF15-1-000.
Jeff Tittel is the Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. On September 15th, his organization hosted a Pipeline Education and Empowerment Forum along with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network in Lambertville, New Jersey. “We are calling on FERC to reject this pipeline because it is not needed and will cause irreparable harm to the environment,” says Tittel, “The project will promote fracking, cause water pollution, create air pollution, and is dangerous. The public strongly opposes this pipeline.”
Food & Water Watch will host a similar forum at Northampton Community College on October 20th at 6:30 p.m. in College Center Room 220. The event is open to the public.
Elizabeth Balogh is a resident of Riegelsville, PA where the pipeline would cross under the Delaware River. “PennEast and their representatives have shown nothing but contempt to the communities they wish to run the pipeline through by offering minimal safety standards while going through such places as the Delaware canal which is traversed by tens of thousands of people per month during the spring and summer seasons,” says Balogh, “There are 4 church congregations and a nursery school within a third of a mile of the proposed pipeline route through my home town alone. All the while, PennEast is claiming that the towns they are going through are hardly populated at all.”
For residents of Luzerne County in Pennsylvania, the PennEast pipeline is merely the latest of a growing litany of proposed massive transmission projects that would run through the county. Dorina Hippauf lives in Lehman Township near where there are currently four proposd transmission gas pipelines. “As a resident of Luzerne County, I am dismayed at the PennEast pipeline plans. We are being overrun with more and more pipelines coming through our communities and are not benefiting from it at all,” says Hippauf.
“The Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition is concerned about this and other proposed pipelines that will traverse our communities, disrupt our natural surroundings, and pose explosion risks. While there are now about 8,500 unconventional natural gas wells in Pennsylvania, at full build out, there will be about 100,000 wells. Much of this gas will be sold on the international market when the approximately twenty LNG export terminals that are now under construction, permitting or application are up and running. This may be good for the gas industry but it will not be good for Pennsylvania,” says Diane Dreier, Vice President Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition of Luzerne County
On the other side of the Delaware River in New Jersey, Patty Cronheim has been working with a new community group called Hopewell Township Citizens Against the Pipeline. This is one of the grassroots groups that helped organize the coordinated public comment and call-in day. “Hopewell residents have worked hard and paid with our taxes for many years to preserve the environment we so highly value. The PennEast project makes a mockery of New Jersey’s open space laws and violates the will of the people,” Cronheim says, “Our hope is that today, FERC got the message.”
“I was surprised that PennEast Pipeline Co LLC is able to submit a pre-filing to FERC with only 38% of the property surveys completed. Seems like the information required from a private entity trying to cut through a lot of preserved land and open space is not very stringent. I do not feel confident that all entities involved will be reviewing the environmental, historical, archeological, wildlife etc aspects with a fine tooth comb. It looks like a formality and that a pipeline cannot be stopped for any reason. The Delaware River and the State of NJ are trying to come back from previous environmental chaos. Why undo much of the good that has been made with this pipeline?,” says Alice Orrichio, a Holland Township resident.
Already, impacted community members are coming together to take a stance against the PennEast pipeline project. While the regulatory process is just beginning, communities that would be impacted by the extraction and transportation of the gas have a clear message: “Stay the FERC out of our communities!”