Hopewell Valley residents came out in droves to question and oppose the proposed Penneast pipeline at the Hopewell Township special committee meeting last night. Community members picketed along the road outside the meeting.
The meeting began with a power-point presentation by representatives from Penneast, a corporation formed for this specific 105-mile pipeline, outlining the process. As Ryan Kennedy, one of our MercerMe contributors, explained in his article, “FERC This: Pipeline Process in 90 Seconds,” open-season is over and Penneast believes there is more than sufficient demand for the pipeline.
Here is the timeline for the proposed project:
Penneast explained that they believe they established so much interest that the diameter of the proposed installed pipeline will likely be 36 inches, rather than the initial 30 inches. Local distribution partners have already started signing up to be partners of the project. One of the Penneast representatives, who is part of Elizabethtown Gas Company, spoke of Elizabethtown Gas’s interest in “diversifying the portfolio of natural gas” and that 84% of the gas would stay in New Jersey.
Penneast explained that the process of establishing the current proposed route has been based on information readily and publicly available, as well as flyovers to assess steep slopes, cliffs and mature forests. Because of the information is not complete, Penneast said that the current map reflects a wide study corridor and that they will need to start the surveying process to develop a more informed proposed route. The determination process involves considering 50 factors including endangered and threatened species, large populations centers, etc.
Penneast also talked about safety measures and restoration policies. The pipeline will be checked every 7 year years by sending a “pig” into pipeline which is an electronic exploratory device. No trees may be planted along the right of way. They claim they will restore the property (and top soil) back to the original condition when the construction is complete.
Then the floor was opened to the public for question / answer. MercerMe was there last night and covered it live. Many of the community member comments and questions were met with resounding applause from the rest of the community.
There was a lot of talk about the dangers of a pipeline to the community, environmental and safety, as well as the environmental effects caused by fracking (hydraulic fracturing – the method of obtaining the natural gas).
“I’m not interested in the rerouting of this pipeline. I’m not interested in this pipeline existing. The creation of this pipeline creates more of a demand for fracking and the more natural gas you are extracting, the less demand for renewable clean energy sources,” said Heidi Wilenius, a Hopewell Borough resident. “If we just talk about how horrible the pipeline is, then Penneast will push it through. We should fight it not just for Hopewell Township but for the planet.”
The Delaware Riverkeeper, Maya K. van Rossum, urged those in opposition to the project to be unified against all pipeline construction in order to be successful.
Representatives from New Jersey Sierra Club and Hopewell’s own Stonybrook-Millstone Watershed Association also each took a turn at the mic in strong opposition to the project and support of the environmental interests they have worked tirelessly to protect.
Jim Waltman, from Stonybrook-Millstone Watershed Association asked Penneast to commit at the meeting to complying with the existing environmental measures in place and avoid “category 1″ streams. As for the restoration, Waltman said that Penneast established an “impossible to achieve goal” of returning land to the original condition and he wants to know who the arbitrator/referee of those goals.
Local elected and appointed officials spoke about concerns regarding safety and location. Mayor Vanessa Sandom got in a few jabs including suggesting that the pipeline be brought someplace else, like the other side of the country.
Democratic Hopewell Township Committee candidate Kevin Kuchinski expressed concerns about aspects of the pipeline including how it threatened to destroy the land, impacting the fragile eco-system of the sourland mountains. Kuchinski held up a picture of a swath of clear-cut trees along a pipeline corridor showing the devastation to the environment and asked why the pipeline was proposed to be in Hopewell Township rather than Bucks County, which would also be a logical location based on the intended destination.
The complete video will be available on the Hopewell Township website. Penneast has been charged by Hopewell Township to submit written responses to all the questions posed last night. The answers to these questions will also appear on the Township’s website.