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We’re here live at the FERC public scoping meeting about the proposed PennEast pipeline project. There’s a packed house and a totally full parking lot. If you’re still coming down, park on nearby side streets.

FERC representative: The primarily purpose to provide the public an opportunity to comment on the project or the environmental scope of it. FERC standard language about the purpose and regulation of the commission. Overview of environmental review process in flowchart. Lots of acronyms. Everything is on the website. www.ferc.gov (check out the e-filing link and make sure you have the right docket #)

Alex (engineer from eastern region of pipeline safety / PHMSA): Talked about PHMSA’s role in the transpiration of natural case through he pipeline and maintains regular oversight for the safety; they perform safety inspections on the pipeline facilities as well as plans, etc. to make sure PennEast is in compliances with the “minimum federal safety standards” including inspections to ensure standards are met. Integrity management programs. Talked about pipeline safety maintenance. Operators communicate with local officials etc. Public awareness programs. Written emergency plans. No authorization to approve. If approved, PHMSA works to ensure safety in compliance with US Code of Pipeline Safety measures(?)

Peter Terranova from PennEast: Talked about the companies that make up PennEast. “During constriction, the pipeline will employ 2500 union construction jobs of highly skilled workers…. 3 year development, 1 billion dollar invested in the project will result in 1.6 billion dollars in profit to the areas where the pipeline.”(Audible laughing and coughing from the audience.)

(FERC gave instructions not to make sounds of approval or disapproval during comments; 3 minute limit for each comment)

COMMENTS:

George Fisher (Mayor of West Amwell): I have 4 major points to cover. 1) the existing right of way for the proposed PennEast pipeline, I am urging that this pipeline be routing along existing rights of way, in particular existing pipeline rights of way. There is a Transco pipeline in N. PA, I would request that the PennEast pipeline be colocated. It doesn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel; 2) compensation structure for landowners – cell towers pay yearly rents which is re-negotiated, where the pipeline pays a 1-time minimal fee; 3) environmental considerations sent to FERC but wants to emphasize that the proposed pipeline would go through the Sourland Mountains, the only contiguous forest in central NJ, rock formations, etc., wetlands (1146 acres of wetlands) should be respectfully cared for, soil erosion from unearthing, and 4) NJ natural heritage program – the current route interference with Goathead that contains endangered plant species.

Harvey Lester (Mayor of Hopewell Township): This pipeline is proposed to terminate in Hopewell Township, not Pennington. Hopewell Township is the crown jewel of Mercer County, containing most of open space in the county and 1/3 of the open space in the county are in Hopewell Twp. The Township is #1 farming muniicpality in Mercer and … (some impressive number) out of the state; the environmental impact study should not be rushed; the environmental consultant FERC has retained has holdings in pro-shale lobby and must be replaced by a consultant that the public can have faith in; 20 page letter; Negative effects on our health, safety, property values etc. We support the NO BUILD OPTION and submitted a letter of opposition.

Kevin Kushinski (Hopewell Twp Committee member): FERC needs to do a full evaluation of the no-action alternatives considering how many pipelines there already are; should use a programatic environmental impact assessment; drinking water is worthy of special protection; Clean Water Act and NJ FreshWater… Act – category C1 streams of environmental and ecology significance; Asks for extension of scoping period

Liz Muoio (Assemblywoman for LD15): This district includes many areas effected by the pipeline project. For many years people of this district have dedicated millions of tax dollars in good economic times and bad for open space that make a stated commitment to use dollars to PRESERVE these areas (to maintain something in its original state and free from harm or injury); Bald eagle etc. These were the indented effect of open space referendums. What was NOT the effect was that this would be used as a self-serving guide for a pipeline company to best determine where they can lay their tracks. Negative effects on environmental referendums and those giving up development rights –> causes a loss of faith; Urge FERC to follow dictates from the court case and not examine the PennEast pipeline as a stand-alone project.

Shirley Turner (Senator in LD15): Wishes there was a better facility — was ASKED BY FERC TO RESPELL HER NAME. Preservation goals. Over 65% of NJ voters last year approved a referendum to further dedicate tax dollars for open space, farmland and historic preservation. Our residents have made their choice to maintain the character in a way that is not overdeveloped and not have it ruined by out of state for profit that would trump good policy. The effected homeowners have chosen rural properties. Applying eminent domain is more than a loss of value, it is a loss of the American dream. Health and safety hazards. Threatens clean water supplies, fish and wildlife, and the health of every individual who relies on these water sources. Our interest in protecting our water qualities and water ways …. While we may never be able to penetrate the “profit at all cost mentality,” asks FERC to respect the environment, local governments, citizens and taxpayers.

Andrew Koontz (Mercer County Freeholder): Talked about PennEast’s cancellation of their meeting. He says they would be still open for a meeting (laughter from crowd). The county opposes the pipeline and in particular the county open space properties including Howell Living History Farm, equestrian center, Baldpate Mountain, etc. Clearly all these properties were preserved over the course of many years and county residents have beens supporting these efforts for years — as parkland not a future sight of a pipeline. Spoke about co-location. A 1-time acquisition won’t repay our lose.

Lucy Walter (Mercer County Freeholder): My colleagues have talked about many of the issues that I am concerned about but when I picked up the booklet here tonight. Now I picture our beautiful Mercer Meadows or one of the other properties with a 50 -foot wide easement that would be mowed yearly without trees. I am concerned about compressor stations. Noise. Erosion. The concerns I had about fractured shale, about routings that don’t follow already established lines, whether all the NEPA regulations are being followed, concerned about what this will do to our residents and their properties. Please listen to these residents and the elected officials and what the irreparable harm.

John Hart (Hopewell Township Committee person, farmer):  What I haven’t heard yet is how we protect our children and residents who would be near this pipeline. Talked about the recent incidents. And talked about the amount of money spent for open space and about how the soil never is the same — it takes years for your farm to recover. And you can’t put a vineyard or orchard on the properties.

Jeff Tittel (NJ Sierra Club): Enough already! Enough pipelines cutting through open space! Talked about the historic signficiance of the area and how now are freedom and safety are being jeopardized by the pipelines. This turned 50 years of change on its head. If this was a highway, it wouldn’t be built. It is cheaper for the gas company, not better for the people and the land. It threatens our safety, it is a blowtorch to the ground, ruins tourism, and ruins our economy — those jobs are not permanent. And the gas will be sent out of the country. If you take a razorblade to a sweater, it might be a little cut but it ruins the sweater. The only alternative is the NO BUILD alternative. We do not need this pipeline, we do not need this gas. Stay the FERC out of my valley!

Brian McClain (President of Elizabethtown Gas): Giving the history, parent company who is in the PennEast group. Supports the project and entered into the agreement to ship natural gas to interconnections that project greater flexibility and reliability of natural gas. This new source of supply would result in gas cost savings. Over 2000 construction jobs will be brought and opportunities… Lower stable gas costs… supports this project to bring an American supply of natural gas.

Maya van Rossun (Delaware Riverkeeper): Enduring harm to health, community… no need for the PennEast pipeline and the gas it will pass. This is an industry that causes irreparable harm to our communities and it is an industry that is very short lived. When we looked at fracked shale gas, there is a near 5 years of supply in the United States and assuming all the gas will remain in this country but that is not something we can assume at all. PennEast is not obligated to keep this gas in the US and it is worth more abroad. PennEast has never used language to prevent the opportunity to export the gas. Any NEPA analysis should consider that the gas would be exported overseas. When considering costs/benefits, should consider clean energy too. Higher jobs and benefits for clean energy while protecting lives and jobs of those who are sustained by this energy. Any NEPA analysis need to compare the benefits of preserving the river, watershed and communities to irreparable harming them.

(YELLING by FERC at Maya for going over time.)

Tracy Carluccio (Sourland Conservancy): Permanent degrading. Oppose all routes. Local stream impacts. Sourland Mountain region, high quality habitats, forested lands. One of the driving forces of the municipal planning and protect efforts is the natural scarcity of the water, the mountain streams is essential for the quantity and quality. High impact operations will effect the streams. Proposed pipeline will cause degrading to water supplies for 5 million people along the Delaware watershed. The scope of the analysis must include all these impacts and the consideration of alternatives including the NO ACTION option.

Hannahasuthers? (biologist): forest fragmentation and vernal pools (frogs and salamanders hatching); took part in vernal pool research program; a disrupted vernal pool cannot be restored after the intrusion of a pipeline; forest fragmentation – to be supported, forests need to be wide to provide for larger birds like hawks requires a minimum of 1000 acres and for song birds 500 acres. Having more forest edges lends for further growth of invasive species like multiflora rose and stilt grass. These are all state protected.

Sharyn McGee (President of Washing Crossing Audubon Society): 30 species are in Baldpate and surrounding areas and migratory stop for 61 species of birds. The ecologic system is intact but stretched. The areas are saturated. This damage would be non-mitigatable. Migratory birds treaty act. Sourland Mountain is the meeting place of northern and souther species — long eared owl etc. The forest would not be able to regenerate. Rosedale Park is the feeding territory of bald eagle.

Susan D’Amour (resident in Hopewell Township): Witnessed a bald eagle by the side of the road right on the property where the pipeline is to be routed. Has been informed by people in Elm Ridge of many sitings and Rosedale Park. We’ve heard nothing from PennEast about the devaluation of our homes and properties and the hazardous conditions that we would be exposed.

Andrea Bonnett: People effected are part of the environment. Told a parable about Uncle Sam.

Doug O’Malley (Director of Environmental NJ): PennEast will tear a massive ecology scar on NJ landscape. FERC cannot rubber stamp this pipeline. The only sustainable option is the NO ACTION alternative. This risks our climate, destroy our streams. NJ is a garden state, it should not be the pipeline state. There is a clear lack of looking of cumulative impacts on the assault of pipeline on NJ. Talked about landmark case w/ Sierra Club and Delaware Riverkeeper. Critical that FERC applies the test from that case to this project. This is more than environmental damage — FERC should listen to the White House about the need to look at the impacts of climate change and greenhouse emission. This is a test that PennEast will fail. FERC must consider the environmental change impacts. Wants to know the biological areas of findings, the plan to not create a major degradation of category C1 streams and overall water quality. There are enough environmental reasons not to. But FERC must consider the impact and the turnaway from alternative energy solutions.

Thomas Niederer (Hopewell Township landowner): Outrock croppings, talked about what would have to be done — blasting and prominent springs (one is the only source of several ponds and one is a historic pond and the third creates a black-muck bog which is rare for the area); talked about the resounding tremors from blasting. Talked about the permanent effect of a minor earthquake on a far away body of water. How do you ever come back from a spring that is lost? Wood ducks. It is impossible to quantify but it effects the environment and the ability to enjoy the property.

Tina (from Bucks County): Supports the no action alternative. Believes that PennEast is profiling with the intention of exporting the gas. Concerned about terrorism.  Need to invest in renewable energy. Appealing to all landowners that they post no-trespassing signs on their properties. We have the right to protect our backyards from corporate interests.

Jaycen Benini (Bucks County): Fossil fuel energy is on the path without accountability. Pivotal time in history.

… (Bucks County): Child/ young teen talked about the realization that she has a natural gas pipeline in her backyard that had been converted. Wants the improvement of existing pipeline. Speaks on behalf of her generation that does not want this now or in the future.

Jeffery Shaffer (property owner in Dover Township): Assessment is deeply flawed in 6 respects: the # of job creation estimates — PennEast is grossly mistaking the job creation to gain support; market costs of loss of revenue and environmental and character losses even if not captured by market prices; the costs would be high and that must be given heavy weight in the analysis. The analysis is partial. The analysis is static. Despite what Mr. Terranova said, you have to consider whether the gas will be exported which would negate or reverse benefits to the local market. Ask for an impartial analyst to assess the impacts.

Frank Dutao (Hopewell Township property owner): Hopes that FERC considers whether the pipeline is necessary (which is absolutely needed or required) – and listed all the nearby pipelines and those that are in the planning; Colocation seems the best way to handle this. Why not co-locate with existing Transcopipeline?

Jonathan Fienberg (Owner of RJ… Hopewell Township on Blackwell Road): While we oppose the property for all the reasons listed here today, also listing how this effect his business and family. Had subdivided lots for high-end luxury homes and the pipeline would come to that area and the loss would be in the hundred of thousands of dollars.

Patty Cronheim (Hopewell Township Citizens Against the PennEast Pipeline): Talked about how the studies are slanted and that PennEast also offers slanted information. PennEast has spent large amounts of time and money to distract people. They haven’t provided a blast-zone but it would be 950 feet. 1392 people in Hopewell Township would live within that zone. Asks that PennEast is required to provide that along with mapping and distributed to every person and business within that zone. Ask for an independent research organization to conduct the EIS. Ask that FERC be aware that survey does not equate to consent and that doesn’t represent the number of people that would willingly enter into a contract with PennEast.

Michael Brogan (Professor at Rider): Credited several others for some of the comments given in his testimony. Professor that talked about the links between fracking and disease — public health issue. Also Professor Druckenbrod says that the environmental impact extraction has numerous aquatic impacts and the human health impacts. Latent impacts after construction: species/area relationship and biological diversity. Brogan says that he objects to the proposed route and project and the burden of proof must be in the favor of public health.

Maya vanRossum spoke out about giving people the respect and how they are all trying to keep within the 3 minute limit (applause.)

FERC representative says that they will cut the meeting short if people keep speaking out of turn. Said they will take a break to figure out how much time they have left.

Sari (Hopewell Township resident): Quoted Abraham Lincoln. Constitution, due process of law. FERC chairwoman said she would ensure fairness. Questionable corporate ethics.

Gery: Water qualities; drinking water from DNR canal; heavy rain events causes most pollution because of run-off in the canal

Sam Thompson: Took a list of the comments made to FERC during the pre-filing timeline.

If you haven’t gotten it right yet, why are you building another one?

Talked about the explosion in Allentown that resulted in 5 fatalities. After the analysis, the PA board of utilities said that there were 178 unaddressed violations that lead up to that one incident that caused people to die. Asks FERC until there is a credible impact analysis that says that will actually benefit the area and that DOT can cover all the pipelines that already exist and that the decay of the existing pipelines has been remidiated, no more.

Denise Furey (worked in energy utility, but here as a concerned citizen): spoke about pipeline safety.

BREAK.

Speaker (didn’t get name): arsenic hotspots; and the amount of arsenic in the drinking water. talked a lot about numbers.

Alix Bacon (NJ Conservation Foundation): We preserve and protect what we preserve for the public benefit. The proposed PennEast pipeline targets preserved lands. NJCF is an affected landowner by this pipeline — we have interests in 7 properties on the current and 6 on the prior route. These are part of the USDEA, funded by federal, state and municipal funds and private foundation monies. You cannot tell me the pipeline is not targeting preserved lands. Also speaking about how PennEast makes calculations — they are based on the disturbed area on the right of way but each parcel traversed is impacted in its entirety and EIS should consider the impact the entire parcels NOT just the area of the right of way. Also should consider that these properties were taken from taxpayer dollars. Every resident and taxpayer is a stakeholder in this property and an affected landowner in this process.

Tim McElroy: This does not benefit us and we do not want it. Talked about the mission of FERC. PennEast has created illusion that the current route is somehow better. Talked about the loss of life in explosions.

Ken Collins (Andover NJ): Supports the no action alternative. I say to PennEast, “Welcome to NJ, now go home!” The truth is that PennEast is terrify of eminent domain. If you refuse access to your property, PennEast will walk away because they would have to take all of you to eminent domain proceedings. That is the secret PennEast does not want you to know. If you all stand firmly together, eminent domain is the biggest weapon in your arsenal. Do not let them on your property! These people are revolving door personnel from regulation to utility provision. It is time to rebel against this fossil

Getz: Want to state the no action alternative is the only alternative. There are cumulative effects worldwide. There is no room to lose. Our proof is the ongoing drought in San Paulo. The taps have run dry. We’re speaking about the Delaware River — we’re begging for no action of this pipeline. The practices of the fossil fool instrustry are melting ice but also running wells dry in the amazon. Color your world with reality…

Wilma Frey (Senior Policy Manager of NJ Conservation Foundation): Hope that FERC is aware of guidelines that requires FERC to consider climate change when preparing the EIS for the PennEast pipeline. The guidelines indicate that the agency must access the upstream and downstream effects, the cumultiatve impacts and reasonably foreseeable events causally related to the project. This should include the gas wells, the use of the gas whether within US or elsewhere b/c climate change is worldwide. Must preserve roles of forest in mitigating climate change and maintaining agricultural sustainability.  It is inconceivable to consider the pipelines together and shows a lack of foresight. There should be a moratorium on pipeline approvals until this process has been completed.

Janice Zuzov: Talked about her neighbor’s property and how she couldn’t get a driveway because of wetland protection but that the pipeline is held to hardly any standards. Minimal standards of environmental protection are not acceptable.

Kim Robinson: Received a certified letter in 2014 that her property is on the pipeline route. Talked about area classification and how that it is discrimination. Says that the pipeline should be built to the highest safety standards. Sent an email to PennEast on November 13 for construction etc. and has received no answer. On November 21, emailed the same email with one additional question. And then received an email that they would respond. In December, she sent the questions to PennEast and Hopewell Township. “I haven’t begun to study the safety issues. I ask that the scoping period begin anew and PennEast be required to provide the information to affect residents.”

Edward Kelly (Hopewell Township): Talked about the potential damage if the case of an explosion and the properties near the proposed route (including a correctional facility).

Ciro Scalaro (Labor Management): Our union supports an energy supply that is mixed and meeting our needs in a safe way. There are complexities — solar and gas. Pipeline proposals must be considered. We remain concern about the slow pace of economic recovery in NJ. Bringing lower case in the NJ would benefit the state economy. Data shows that pipelines are the safest way to transport fuel.

(Booing.)

Robert Fatzinger (gas company): Talked about natural gas capacity. Benefits of lower cost natural case and number of construction jobs.

If you’re still reading along, know that this is about the limit of my typing! 3 hours… 

Resident of Holland Township: arsenic hotbed; talked about an earthquake in Holland Township that resulted in pipes bursting in her pool. Pictures of a sinkhole. Water in jeopardy – who will pay for her to get her well water checked every 3 months. Should we wait for wildlife to die to find out whether that is a result?

Jim Waltman (Executive Director Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association): Keeping water clean, safe and health is the heart of our organization. Our organization is not just alarmed but outraged by the proposed PennEast pipeline b/c of the irreparable harm on the area using literally tens of millions of public tax payer money. FERC should call a time-out and initiate a programatic impact statement to look comprehensively at the pipelines throughout the region. The proliferation of pipelines screams out for a different approach. NEPA requires that FERC take a look at the environmental impact. Talked about the category C1 streams which requires special environmental protection from the state of NJ — this is our state DEP. Early on PennEast said they would respect the specific values, it is time to do that. The streams so designated receive a high level of protection — they are antidegration — they cannot be perceptively effected.

It is a hallucination to a wild degree to think it makes sense to put the pipeline through this region of our state.

Catherine Best (representative of NJ Realtors): speaking out against the pipeline because of grave concerns about the risk of the construction and the pipeline itself and the value of properties.

Lesley LLoyd: Mercer County wetlands information about significant negative impact. Mercer County requests a programatic analysis to consider the cumulative impact of this and pipelines proposed in Mercer County. The county has invested millions in preserving. Compensation should be based on the public’s investment. Colocation? Unclear how many jobs will benefit our local economy.

Gary Salata: Has a farm in West Amwell Township. 200 year old farmhouse on the property and the property dissects his property. Thinks it is funny that the people who are speaking out in favor of the pipeline are those who are business partners. Decimation of a 200 year field stone wall. Was injured in the pipeline explosion in Lambertville.

Sorry, folks. I’m burned out. Will write an article tomorrow giving you the overview!

2 COMMENTS

  1. Awesome work Mary. I was in attendance and after reading your synopsis, I realized just how much I missed. Thank you for your hard work!

    • I wish I had the stamina to continue the coverage until 11pm. I think 3.5-4 hours might be my limit. Thanks for reading and for your comment!

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