Ron Shapella is running for the Township Committee in West Amwell as well, and also agreed to be interviewed here on how he plans to fight PennEast if he were elected.
1) Why are you running, and why should people vote for you?
Ron: My experience includes being directly involved in township issues going back to 2000, when I was on the Planning Board as it began revising the township Master Plan. I also have experience in reviewing school budgets, since defeated budgets go to the Township Committee for review. That happened a few times when I was on the Township Committee in 2004 and 2006-09. My experience would go a long way toward preventing the roller coaster taxpayers found themselves on this year where taxes went down during one quarter and back up again in the most recent quarter.
2) What is your position on the PennEast pipeline? Are you for it, against, it
neutral, or something else?
Ron: I am adamantly opposed to the pipeline. I’ve posted the letter on my campaign Facebook page that I wrote and sent to FERC in April pointing out that when we revised the Township Master Plan, this kind of industrial intrusion into West Amwell was exactly what we wanted to prevent. It has no place in a largely unspoiled rural setting like West Amwell, or any of our neighboring communities, for that matter. There are only a few places in West Amwell that are served by natural gas, so we will not benefit. Penneast has not been honest with people in West Amwell and has tried to avoid public accountability. For example, what happens at the end of the 10-15-year expected lifespan of the proposed pipeline? Does it get excavated all over again? I also hear it might be used to transport oil at some point, which is a nightmare scenario for West Amwell.
3) What do you think your township has done right so far in dealing with the
Pipeline company? And where do your think there could be improvements?
Ron: The Township has been responsive and has hosted a number of public meetings, It is on the record as opposing the pipeline. On the other hand, I was very disappointed when I learned at a recent public meeting that our mayor had met privately with Penneast representatives. There is absolutely no way to justify something like this. Supposedly, Penneast doesn’t want any more public meetings because they have to face too many opponents of their disastrous plan. Well, too bad for Penneast, I say. Any meeting with Penneast or anyone else who seeks to do business in West Amwell must be done as part of a publicly noticed meeting that West Amwell residents are able to attend. I was also told that it didn’t matter if the mayor attended this meeting, that he is only one of three who would have to make a decision. That is irrelevant and ignores the divide-and-conquer goal of Penneast. They want to lobby our elected officials one-by-one, and try to soften them up, so that when decision-time comes they might be more likely to get the outcome they want. If I am elected I will always demand that meetings like this be subject to the state’s Open Public Meetings Act, in that they be properly noticed and open to the public.
4) What is your opinion on PennEast’s purpose and need? Will this be a
net-benefit to people in NJ?
Ron: As I said before, West Amwell will see little if any benefit from the pipeline, and I believe most of the natural gas it transports will not meet the needs of New Jerseyans in any significant way, except for Penneast shareholders.
5) If you’re against the pipeline, how do you plan on fighting it going into
PennEast application period?
Ron: The debate period has opened on this disastrous proposal. I will remain engaged until the end.
6) What can residents do to get more involved and help?
Ron: There is a process that is governed by federal regulations, which is outlined by FERC. It is a complicated process, but we can’t let up on the pressure now. West Amwell residents should also continue to look to our Environmental Commission, which has been consistently out front in opposing the pipeline.
7) How can township committees help residents that worry about water safety
issues, septic system worries, construction issues, traffic impacts, etc etc
that are anticipated if this project is approved?
Ron: All of these topics are thoroughly covered by local, county and state regulations covering land use and public health. West Amwell has put in place several protections governing large-scale development in the last 10 years and I hope that these remain in place. I will always work to keep them in place and I hope that will be the case no matter who wins on Nov. 3.
8) How can townships collaborate better to fight the pipeline?
Ron: The Environmental Commission in West Amwell worked very closely with the Delaware Riverkeeper on the Penneast issue, as did Hopewell and Delaware townships. We were all pointing in the same direction, which was across-the-board opposition to this disastrous pipeline plan.
9) Can townships work more closely with state and federal agencies on issues
such as this one?
Ron: It’s not always easy to find out what the state and feds are planning to do. I think it’s important to know what we want to do in advance and what kind of community we want so we can quickly tailor our approach accordingly.
10) Any closing remarks
Ron: It’s is vital that everything be handled in a publicly visible way. Public accountability at every level is so important.