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Township Retaining Environmental Expert

Proposed resolution for professional contract of $7,500 working with Princeton Hydro for guidance on any aspect of review re: environment as part of the ongoing review of the PennEast pipeline. John Hart is asking questions about the details and wants to know what the expert will do that they are not able to do themselves.

Paul Pogorzelski explained the Mark Gallagher has wetlands and ecological restoration expertise and has worked with Princeton regarding a gas pipeline. Pogorzelski said that Gallagher was instrumental in making sure that certain environmentally sensitive areas were avoided. Vanessa Sandom attested to his expertise. Kevin Kuchinski stated that time is of the essence and supports bringing Princeton Hydro onboard. Todd Brant asked Paul to explains how the figure of $7500 was determined. Paul said that it would give the Township hours of Gallagher’s and staff’s time (including specific research which can be done at a lower rate) — the final costs with Princeton was a little over $6000 and the Township has control over the expenditure. Mayor Lester said that Gallagher is an expert in his field and he will consider shared service agreements once the Township has retained him for the Township’s services and determined that shared services are appropriate.

Update on Letters to FERC

Lester address miscommunication re: alternate route. Paul Pogorzelski said that the Township filed 2 letters with FERC: 1) request that FERC amend and revise its minutes and strike certain statements made. Paul said that the minutes were part of a bi-weekly conference call transcribed by a 3rd party transcriber. MercerMe has covered this; 2) in response to a FERC announcement that they would be having scoping meetings with only one being held in NJ. the Township raised objections to several aspects. The alternate route was not official in the eyes of FERC until 2 weeks before the scoping meeting.

The Township received a map from PennEast officially identifying the alternate route. Up until this point in time, the Township had not seen an official map from PennEast although PennEast indicated that an alternate route had already begun prior to the open house meetings. Later in the week, there was an official filing by PennEast for a “preferred alternate route.”

Today FERC announced it was extending the public comment period until Feb 27, 2015. No changes in scoping meeting locations or dates by this notice.

Lester said that while the scoping meeting is being held on Jan 27th at 6pm at TCNJ, in their notice of intent to conduct an environmental impact statement that “state and local representatives …. should encourage” individual to speak their concerns.

Permission Requested to Access Township Property

Township received a notification of request for survey of municipal property. Lester wants to know whether they can have a conversation about the request at this time.
Paul says no because they just engaged Gallagher and it is premature.

Lester wants to move to public comment — FERC gives speakers 5 minutes.

Public Comments

Patty Cronheim HTCAPP: Thanked the Committee for holding the meeting and retaining Gallagher. Spoke about handout sheets with scoping sessions, the deadline for written FERC comments and the types of issues that FERC would consider during the scoping sessions. (We’ll be posting that within the next day.) Especially landowners who are directly impacted, there there are  surveys on HTCAPP’s website.

Andrea Bonnett: Wanted to know whether the Sourland Conservancy’s map was the same that the Township has. Re: Minutes and misquoting of West Amwell mayor. Concerned because FERC was defensive about a particular company that is doing their environmental studies that is associated with the Marcellus Shale company. Says that the scoping meeting will be at Kendall Hall at TCNJ.

McGee (President of Washington Crossing Audubon Society): the group opposes the project. Baldpate has the highest diversity of bird life in NJ. The habitat is high quality because of the steep slope with incredibly diversity of breeding birds which are protected by the Migratory Bird Act. Spoke about the current right-of-way and is concerned the that high level of noise associated with the pipeline will disturb nesting birds. Wants to make sure people realize the ecological significance of Baldpate. (Lester wanted to make sure McGee will be at scoping meeting.)

Resident of Old Mill Rd: One issue the Township should look into is that FERC looks to the economic benefit of the pipeline that it brings to the community it goes through. Read that PennEast guests that Township will benefit from the natural gas but then the businesses will also benefit. Says that it is untrue and wants the Township to implore FERC to identify the economic benefit.

Pisauro from Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association: FERC has made the decision to have the hearings. Watershed objects to the timing to the scoping meeting and asks for a true meaningful scoping process.

Donna D’Anna: Wants to know the purpose of the pipeline. Paul says that their filling says to bring gas to various companies that responded to the open season and includes PennEast’s partners. Paul says that is all they know. Wants to know whether they have to be more specific in their FERC filing. Paul says that that question has been raised a lot. Kevin Kuchinski said that in the FERC process, there is a consortium of companies that have certified of downstream demand (includes Elisabethtown Gas).

Ray Nichols: We’re now away of 3 different possible alignments of this pipeline. The first one went through the county facility (Equestrian Center) and the next one just effects the dog-park section… it is supposed to connect to the Transco pipeline that goes from PA through Hopewell and L’ville and east.  Nichols received a letter from PennEast that they have now a different preferred alignment but it indicated that the route is preliminary and they could come up with a different route in the future. Suggested that the Township and everyone should be aware that if we object to THIS alignment, they will come up with another one and we’ll have to figure out the environmental impacts of that one. Thinks that if we focus on certain issues, we will look like NIMBYs (Not in my backyard). There are many pipelines in the planning stages. Spoke about cumulative environmental impacts – suggest that the Township and residents focus on NOT JUST the PennEast pipeline… Says that economics are driving this and a loophole in federal tax law that doesn’t tax new pipelines. Talked about compressed gas transfer stations.

Kim Robinson: There are 2 primary routes. Wants to know whether Gallagher will be reviewing both routes and also wants the Township to pass a new resolution that Hopewell Township is against any pipeline anywhere in the Township.

Lester said that the resolution was specific to PennEast… Robinson said that the 2nd resolution served to confused people because it talked about co-location. Paul wanted to clarify. Robinson said that there should be a new resolution. Lester expressed confusion about what that new resolution would say and wants input from the environmental expert. Wouldn’t commit to a new resolution. Robinson urged them to reread the 2nd resolution.

Paul said that Gallagher and Paul would go through the environmental impact of both routes and see where they go from there. The advice is global and then the Township directs on greater detail.

Annie Saunders: Spoke about the 2 resolutions. The first was vague opposing the PennEast pipeline. The second requests a scoping meeting in lieu of an open house format and it mentions co-location over 6 times. Urges a 3rd resolution and also wants Gallagher to review all the potential routes. “If we agree to one route, we agree to any route. The resolution must be against PennEast.” And spoke to how insulting to refer to a particular route as “preferred” when it has not been something that the Township determined. Cumulative route – it is a heavy impact.

John…: Spoke about how groups dating back to the 60’s have been dealing with issues like this. This is just the latest. Two questions: 1) Wants to know what they are proposing in this latest route; 2) Security – has PennEast proposed to cover security costs; spoke about 9/11 and the aftermath of that there were assessments made and this is added to that and it comes at a cost.

Paul: The red line is the Transco pipeline and then the section that t’s in at Blackwell at Benjamin Trail — the proposed route begins there. He has been advised that the location was chosen because its partners have existing capacity at the pipeline and any connection to the Transco pipeline must be east of the t and the compressor station toward Terhune Orchards. The green is the “preferred route” crossing Pennington Lawrenceville, the circle, the Shop Rite property, … Reed Road and then begin to co-lcoate with existing powerlines then going west toward Scotch Road and opposite the municipal building where the ponds is, through Algers to Bear Tavern Road through power lines to top of the hill toward Baldpate through that preserved property to Howell Living History Farm to Valley Road staying adjacent to the power line easements.

Costs of security? Paul says that the Township hasn’t discussed this yet.

Alex Hanson: 1) Township has deferred decision whether to allow surveyors on Township properties – thinks this is a tough question and wonders if they should allow them on. Thinks this is a difficult situation and wants to protect the Township properties. Not sure whether complying diminishes the Township’s position; 2) Thinks the co-location route is less damaging because the land is largely rural and it is cleared. (Side note: MercerMe covered whether this was more or less damaging. Spoiler alert: NJ Sierra Club says it is more damaging.)

Bonnet: Speaking again talked about whether it is a “public convenience or necessity.” PennEast brags that it will serve 4.5 million households. The total population of NJ is 8.8 million. Pipeline people are being cagey. Is there public convenience or necessity?!?!

Glen Cantor: Wants Paul to make a map that makes the location clearer. Concerned about the noise. Says he lives a mile from the Transco compressor on Cold Soil and that it is incredibly noisy and is not sure whether the noise will be louder when there is more gas passing through. Also concerned about gas leaks and said there is a hike he takes near the transfer station that smells like gas.

Bob Adolf: Commenting on the economics question — pipeline expansions are happening. Microscopically, we’re only looking at a small portion of the impact and it is hard to say what the local benefit is. But what it does do, there is a study that Bloomberg talks about the gas supply into NYC, there was a massive change in the flow of gas. The flow in Transco will change. This opens surplus gas to be shipped out of the Gulf Coast. Says that the “t” where the pipeline will meet up, it is important for PennEast to tie in to that spot. Talked about the big picture.

Nichols: Commenting on whether PennEast should have access to the Township property. Says that it is difficult to preclude PennEast to walk on public parkland. We cannot stop anyone from walking through public open space. However, the on the ground survey will feed into the environmental impact statement to FERC. Thinks it would be useful to know what information is being collected from these public lands — wants a representative from the Township to accompany review of Township lands. (He is the chair of the township environmental commission)

Earl Nebling?: Got a letter that the pipeline would effect his property and is not sure whether the new alignment will effect him. Paul says that PennEast is notifying everyone within a certain distance from the location and says that he will go through with this person.

Twp resident (didn’t catch name): Main concern is the health effects of the pipeline and arsenic in wells — concerned about the construction and the maintenance of a running pipeline there will be increased arsenic. Spoke about an ordinance in California requiring their water to be “free of toxic trespass.” Wants to know whether the Township could pass an ordinance to protect the water. Goodell (Township attorney) says that they are prevented from being things that would attempt to preempt the state. Paul says the Rutgers is doing a study of arsenic in the well water. And the NJDEP has assumed the army corp of engineers of wetlands and aspects of the Clean Water Act.

Jim Andrews: Want to look at a big picture — not the whole country but the area between Marcellus Shale and NJ. There are already many pipelines in existence and many in the planning phase. Perhaps we don’t need 12 or 13 of them. This should be last on the list. Also said that the Delaware Riverkeeper has maps that are very clear. Talked about how the ground under the pipelines is bedrock and other reasons why the pipeline siting is inappropriate.

Bill Washburn: Wants to know how the width of the pipeline compares to the existing right of way, how deep the pipeline will be buried. Paul says that the width of the existing power line that is already cleared is not the full width of the power line easement (almost 300 ft) only 100 ft has been cleared so there is a range of 100 more or less will be additionally cleared. A lot of what will drive the width is related to the physical features of the property and what it takes to get the pipe in the ground. It will be at least 3 ft deep from ground to top of pipeline (which is a 3ft diameter pipe). Concerned about blasting at TrapRock. Lester reaffirmed necessity of people coming

Rob Geoghan?: Wants to know whether the Township will be a target for more pipelines to hook up in the same spot. Paul says that this is speculative but this will be an open access pipeline. Also wants to know whether there is more power from the state to fight federal regulates. Paul says he doesn’t know of any.

Fairfax Hutter: Concerned about expansion.

Cosgriff: Spoke about the effort made to preserve Howell Farm and wants to know why the Township would preserve something and not try to protect it.

Beloff: Wants to know whether there will be a compressor station on Blackwell Rd. Paul says no indication for compressor stations in NJ.

Public comments closed.

John Hart: Wants to know who owns… something about right of ways. Paul talked about permits from JCP&L and approval from power companies…

Kevin Kuchinski thanked all the residents and groups speaking. He says that he has been on both sides of the mic. Encourages people to stick with this fight. It threatens to scar the landscape of all the areas along the pipeline in open space and farmland and threatens specifies. We should send more time on considering the degradation of well water.

Brant spoke and encouraged people to continue fighting the fight. Vanessa spoke reiterating.Lester closed.

Adjournment.

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Mary Galioto
Mary Galioto is the founder, publisher and editor of MercerMe, and a lawyer. Originally from Brooklyn, Mary has progressively moved deeper and deeper into New Jersey, settling in the heart of the state: Mercer County. Formerly the author of an embarrassingly informal blog, Mary is a lifelong writer and asker of questions and was even mentioned, albeit briefly, in the New York Times and Washington Post. In her free time, Mary fills her life with excessive self-reflection, photographing mushrooms, and misguided adventures in random hobbies. Mary also works as the PR Coordinator at the Hopewell Valley Arts Council, serves on the volunteer Board of Trustees of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT), serves on the Hopewell Borough Board of Health, is a member of the Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance, and holds the elected position as the Hopewell Borough Democratic Committee Municipal Chairwoman.

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