Published On: Fri, Nov 11th, 2016

Lambertville City Weighs in on PennEast Pipeline Plan at Thursday Night Meeting

new hope free pressBy Rob Bell | PA NJ Radio News

The City of Lambertville came out strongly against the PennEast Pipeline LLP in a special session at the Phillip L. Pittore Justice Center Thursday night.

Over 100 concerned residents, along with the mayor and city council members, packed the auditorium  for a two-hour informational gathering with principal speakers Sue Begent from the City Council Pipeline Committee, Jeff Tittle from the N.J. Sierra Club, and Patty Cronheim from ReThink Energy Now NJ.

Begent started the meeting with a detailed examination of the proposed 114-mile-long 36” pipeline, which would transfer natural gas from fracking fields in the Marcellus Shale in Luzerne County, Pa. to Trenton. PennEastʼs exact route continues to be in flux, the result of continued difficulty in gaining access to privately held land to conduct surveys. Landowners were urged at the meeting to continue to deny access to PennEast land surveyors, adding that the project has already been delayed at least an additional year due to strong community opposition.

Tittle explained that the current route crosses 4,000 acres of preserved land, 255 streams, and 155 wetlands. He agreed with the other presenters that the pipeline would create a clear-cut 125-foot wide trench wherever it goes, destroying natural habitats, lowering property values, damaging the environment, and creating a danger to whomever is in the 1,000 square foot “kill zone,” should a catastrophic failure occur to the high pressure pipe. The pipeline, he added, would also increase the amount of arsenic in the soil and eventually in area wells, due to the fact that the heated pipe encourages arsenic creating organisms to grow and spread.

Among the featured speakers at Thursday nightʼs presentation was David Fournier, operating manager at Suez Water Company. Fournier told this reporter that Suez Water provides 250,000 to 300,000 gallons of treated water daily to the City of Lambertville and West Amwell through a 12 to 15” pipe. which is three to four feet underground. The water is drawn from the Swan Creek Reservoir.

Fournier said PennEastʼs planned pipeline would run directly under this water pipe, between the reservoir and the thousands of customers it serves. Fournier told attendees that he was first informed of the pipelineʼs plans about a year ago in vague terms, and that the public utility has since become an “intervener,” filing a brief to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission against the pipelineʼs construction.

He also told attendees at the meeting that Suez Water has “immediate, serious, strong concerns” about the proposed trench and pipeline right-of-way near the reservoir, its impact on trees and the environment, and the risk the project poses to water quality in our region. Fournier said Suez Water asked for a meeting to address these, concerns months ago and has not yet received a response. He also denied a claim made by PennEast that Suez Water had agreed to conduct water cooling for the pipeline project.

The final speaker Thursday night was Steve Mars, a senior biologist at New Jerseyʼs U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service office. Mars described numerous endangered plant and animal species that would be impacted by the pipeline, and said he would do everything in his power to stop it. He urged property owners along the route to allow access to their land to federal agencies like the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (N.J. DEP) so they can document the endangered species on their properties.

Mars also indicated that the federal lead agency that would approve the pipeline is the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC), which could impose eminent domain if they approve the pipeline. Mars asked the audience to help give federal agencies the “ammunition they need to fight PennEastʼs claim” that there will be minimal environmental impact from the pipelineʼs construction and operation.

Lambertville Mayor David Del Vecchio closed the meeting with an announcement that the city’s official website will soon create a page devoted to providing information to residents about the pipelineʼs ever-changing route and claims. He also urged residents to join Lambertvilleʼs Citizens Against the Pipeline (Lambertville CAP) Facebook page for further updates and to show solidarity against the $1.3 billion dollar project.

Cronheim offered to provide information on how to add comments to FERC against the pipeline, and how to become an “intervener” against the pipeline. She pointed out that one doesn’t have to be a resident to add their concerns for consideration, and 5,000 people have already commented on the proposal. Comments must be submitted by December 5.

For more information, contact Cronheim of ReThink Energy Now NJ at (609) 558-2564, or email Patty@rethinkenergynj.org.

Upcoming area anti-pipeline events include a fundraiser at Ragoʼs Auction House in Lambertville on Nov. 30 at 7 p.m., and the New Jersey Conservation Foundationʼs “Pints Not Pipelines” event on Sunday, Nov. 13 from 4 to 7 p.m., which includes a walk along the proposed pipeline route, musical performances, and Flying Fish beer.

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