In a statement today, Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes today informed officials associated with the proposed PennEast Pipeline Project that the company would no longer have access to lands owned by Mercer County for the purpose of surveying the property to facilitate the project. This decision was reached as a result of the company performing soil borings on Baldpate Mountain, which the county has deemed as potentially environmentally harmful.
PennEast has no legal obligation to consult with the county to access or map public land. But in order to understand the full and possible impact to county parkland, the county believed that granting access to the company to delineate wetlands and to survey would provide the knowledge necessary to wage a battle to protect county open space. In light of the intrusion on numerous ecosystems and news that the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection has been unable to collect enough information to issue permits to PennEast to perform work, the county has blocked further access to its property.
Mercer County first became aware of the proposed PennEast Pipeline Project in fall 2014. Preliminary maps showed the underground gas line bisecting pristine parkland, preserved open space, farmland, woodlands and wetlands throughout Mercer Meadows, including the Rosedale Lake, Equestrian Center, Ecological, and Farm districts.
County Executive Hughes expressed vehement opposition to the proposed pipeline cutting through environmentally sensitive open space purchased with county tax dollars, on the record through a statement issued in October 2014, in a joint resolution with the Board of Chosen Freeholders in November 2014 and in testimony to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in February 2015.
As a result of the county urging PennEast to co-locate the proposed gas line with existing utility rights of way, the fragile ecosystems in Mercer Meadows and Rosedale will not be impacted. In fact, the company’s initial proposal to FERC revealed the proposed path would cut through pristine ground including fragile wetlands. Instead, the current proposal being presented to FERC puts more than 85 percent of the pipeline in Mercer County within existing public utility rights of way.
Unless this project receives federal approval, the county will no longer permit any soil borings to occur on Baldpate Mountain. The county is prepared to fight on the behalf of county interests and to fight for the open space it has purchased. The county remains opposed to the pipeline.
Reactions from the Environmental Preservation Community:
Jeff Tittel, Director of the Sierra Club released the following statement:
“We thank Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes for denying PennEast permission to Baldpate Mountain. The Mountain is an environmentally sensitive county park where PennEast was drilling and surveying for a potential pipeline. They should never been allowed in the first place, but we are happy to hear of this decision.
It’s not just the mountain that they want to protect. The county has expressed their opposition to the pipeline and its use of surrounding open space. The Sierra Club has worked tremendously to protect Baldpate and it’s the last thing any of us wants to see on this important piece of Mercer County. We worked for a long time to save Baldpate and develop the plan for the park to develop it’s natural features.
The pipeline is a threat to the Delaware Valley and our homes. It will have devastating environmental impacts, cutting a scar through environmentally sensitive land and open spaces. This pipeline will promote fracking, add to air pollution, and safety concerns to the surrounding communities. With all the damage already occurred from surveying and testing this land, just think of how much of a disaster a pipeline would be for the area.”
All together this pipeline will be cutting through 39 parks, 88 waterways, 44 wetlands, and 33 farms and other open space areas. We called on the county executive asking him to stop this project and he listened. That’s why we cannot allow them to come on our property and survey. Without surveys, PennEast will be unable to retrieve the information they need to move this project forward. By sticking together, not letting them on your property, and not supporting an alternative route, that’s how we can stop this pipeline.”