At its only New Jersey open house, Penneast pipeline company appeared last night with close to a hundred Penneast representatives at South Hunterdon Regional High School gymnasium in West Amwell to answer questions regarding its proposed 108-mile (give or take) long pipeline cutting through parts of PA and Mercer County NJ.
The event was set up like a job fair — separately manned tables with poster boards and preprinted material. Each station aimed to apply to a particular topic with the range of affected municipalities and also subjects including the environment and engineering.
Hundreds of concerned individuals attended — some landowners and farmers whose properties will be effected, local and informed citizens, as well as representatives from municipalities and environmental groups. Those not waiting to speak to the blue-shirted Penneast representatives milled around in the middle of the room sharing frustrations and viewing a sea maps that lacked much explanation.
“I was asked to fill out the ‘We’ll get back to you’ form seven times from several different Penneast represenatives,” said Hopewell Township resident David Seems. “The only point of this event is to defuse and confuse.”
Others shared a similar experience including board members from Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space (FoHVOS) who came to the open house to defend Hopewell Valley’s open space in person. One of the specific questions posed by FoHVOS board members was about Penneast’s land restoration efforts once open space had been ripped apart to bury the massive 36+ inch wide 108-mile long pipe and substantial mandatory buffer zone surrounding the pipeline.
“I received no answers and was passed from table to table, from environmental to engineering, with no answers. I utlimately was told to fill out a form with my question and they’d get back to me,” said Ruth Jourjine, FoHVOS board member, artist and nature-lover.
The lack of answers to specific questions was clearly a theme.
“Last night’s open house was an exercise in frustration for many of the hundreds of people attending,” said Patty Cronheim of the Hopewell Township Citizens Against the Penneast Pipeline (HTCAPP). “Folks told me that they just kept getting pushed on to talk to someone else and when they got to the ‘expert’ they were given cut out answers like ‘We will do everything in accordance to FERC regulations.’ The one area they were definitely expert at was passing the buck. It was like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz pointing in many directions. ‘We’re looking into that,’ ‘That depends,’ and (my favorite) ‘I don’t know’ were the themes of the night. They’re good at saying what they want to do but not very good at responding to our concerns. If this is how they’ll handle problems with the pipeline down the road, we all have a right to be very worried.”
Many local officials attended showing support of the opposition and also attempting to get answers for questions that have yet gone unanswered by Penneast and FERC. To date, 14 municipalities have adopted resolutions opposing the pipeline.
Hopewell Township representatives attempted to gain answers to why the project has proceeded as far as it has when there is no indication that Penneast has secured a contract with Transco, the potentially connecting pipeline in Pennington off of Blackwell Road. The response to those inquiries were met with hints that FERC might in fact hold scoping meetings to answer some of the environmental concerns.
We, at MercerMe, will continue to track this development and let the public know if there is an additional opportunity to be involved in the process, aside from the many recommendations posed by local environmental groups.