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Despite Penneast’s short-notice cancellation, pipeline opposers still appeared at the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting tonight to ask the county to take a stance in opposition to pipeline development in Mercer County.

Penneast, the company spearheading a proposed 100-mile pipeline spanning from PA to NJ known as the PennEast Pipeline, postponed (or cancelled) its attendance to the Mercer County Board of Freeholder meeting because they “cannot answer many specific questions at this time,” according to yesterday’s Penneast press release.

Andrew Koontz, Chair of the Mercer County Chosen Freeholder, shared that he was contacted by Penneast representatives before the weekend to notify him that they would not be present at the meeting.

“I want to make clear that the decision to attend the meeting was presented by Penneast… and the request was made by Penneast, not the Freeholder Board, to postpone that appearance,” said Koontz. “The Freeholder Board is very interested in the proposed pipeline and, as a public body at a public meeting, we very much welcome input.”

And input was offered by many Mercer County residents presenting uniformly the issues of pollution, open space, and safety.

Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, explained the propensity of pipeline companies to locate pipelines in open space and about the amount of pollution that results from a pipeline from run off, fracking, air pollution from the venting and air compressor stations, and noise.

“The pipeline is going through all areas without right of ways and it is all open space because it is cheaper… And it isn’t bringing jobs, it isn’t helping people here,” said Tittel. “This is a county that cares so much about open space and environment, we hope you will join in opposing it.”

Hopewell Borough resident, Heidi Wilenius joined in NJ Sierra Club’s concern about the environment expressing that, “The addition of the pipeline to the myriad of pipelines that already exist just makes it easier to get fracked gas out of Marcellus Shale region. If you build it, they will come, however the fewer nonrenewable energy sources available, the more demand for renewable energy sources.”

Annie Saunders, a Hopewell Township resident, commended the Board of Freeholders on their commitment to reducing the use of plastic bags in Mercer County and asked the Freeholders to join in the opposition.

Kim Robinson, another Hopewell Township resident, expressed serious concerns with safety. “I went to the Hopewell meeting and read to them [Penneast] a list of explosions and how many people were killed in each and their response was that they weren’t familiar with any of the incidents … but that they will build their pipeline to be safe. It offered no comfort whatever,” said Robinson.

Representing the Hopewell Citizens Against the Penneast Pipeline, Patty Cronheim urged, “This isn’t about need, it is about greed. These are paper companies. The ink isn’t even dry and they claim a perfect track record. It isn’t honest and it isn’t fair dealing.”

The public comment portion closed without formal action and with Koontz thanking the residents for their input and participation, “This was highly informative. We give you our word that we will continue to follow this issue. I appreciate your words of interested and concern.”

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Mary Galioto
Mary Galioto is the founder, publisher and editor of MercerMe, 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 mild germaphobia, excessive self-reflection, enthusiastic television viewing, and misguided adventures in random hobbies.

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