Today we’re talking to Julie Blake, candidate for Hopewell Township. Here Facebook page for her campaign is:
1) Why are you running, and why should people vote for you?
Julie: I am running for the simple reason that I want to stop the excessive spending and borrowing that has become the norm while preserving what makes Hopewell so special — the farms, the open space, the deep history, and, of course, the warm community. We need new voices on our Township Committee and more vision and long-range planning in our municipal government. The challenges we face in the next few years – reducing spending and debt, fighting the PennEast Pipeline, and creating a responsible affordable housing plan – need a practical and honest person who will be transparent, collaborative, and responsive to all Hopewell Township citizens.
2) What is your position on the PennEast pipeline? Are you for it, against, it
neutral, or something else?
Julie: As the Democratic candidate for the Hopewell Township Committee, I wholeheartedly support the fight to stop the PennEast pipeline from entering our community. Under Democratic Mayor Vanessa Sandom’s leadership, Hopewell Township was the second community to formally register its opposition to the proposed pipeline, and we have followed with a Board of Health hearing documenting the risks this pipeline represents to our water, the public’s safety, and our environment, but there is so much more we can and should be doing. As a next step, we need to work with the NJ state legislature to ensure that the NJ DEP fully enforces our rights under the Clean Water Act to block the proposed pipeline and to deny its permits. We should insist that there be a programmatic Environmental Impact Survey that looks at the cumulative impact of all of the pipelines proposed for this area. Where the proposed pipeline crosses C1 stream corridors, we should demand that TetraTech look at the “no build alternative”, as required by the US EPA. Second, I believe that the Township put on the record for PennEast that they must abide by long-standing environmental regulations within the Township, including our Stream Corridor and Steep Slopes Protection Acts, and our Forest Management and Tree Removal ordinance. Finally, we need to look more aggressively at renewable energy alternatives, so that we can reduce our reliance in NJ on fossil fuels and the destructive pipelines and other infrastructure that they require. As a life-time environmentalist, I will continue to work with the many parties engaged in this fight to make the government responsive to our concerns.
3) What do you think your township has done right so far in dealing with the
Pipeline company? And where do you think there could be improvements?
Julie: Last fall, under the former Democratic leadership, Hopewell Township was the second municipality to formally oppose the PennEast Pipeline. Unfortunately, my opponent has left Hopewell Township vulnerable to the pipeline. We should be calling on the residents to intervene with FERC and send a message to Washington that we don’t need and don’t want this pipeline.
4) What is your opinion on PennEast’s purpose and need? Will this be a
net-benefit to people in NJ?
Julie: In the Delaware County Daily Times, Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., the executive director and chief counsel of the Clean Air Council, gets it right: “The Delaware River Watershed is being asked to host 12 new pipelines in the next two years. Not one government agency has actually determined that these pipelines are needed to meet the country’s energy needs. Indeed, right now it appears that all levels of government — including the federal government, Pennsylvania state government, and most local governments — simply rubber-stamp every application for more gas infrastructure that the industry proposes. These agencies, whose purpose is to regulate industry, refer to the industry as their clients. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I believe that in the American system of governance, government should be for the people.” There needs to be better oversight and consideration of all pipelines at the federal level and we need to insist that FERC conduct a programmatic environmental impact survey, to ensure that we are looking at the cumulative impact of all of the interconnected new pipeline projects.
5) If you’re against the pipeline, how do you plan on fighting it going into
PennEast application period?
Julie: We need to make our voices heard: intervene with FERC, send letters to the editor and to our representatives in Washington, and learn about how the proposed pipeline affects our water and environment. It’s also important to support our politicians, like Bonnie Watson Coleman, who have worked tirelessly to fight the pipeline. I have intervened and will continue to work with the citizen groups and our local government to fight. Democrats at the local, county, state and federal level are united in their opposition to the proposed PennEast pipeline, and I will work with them to fully enforce existing environmental protections vested with the NJ DEP under the US Clean Water Act, and to work at the federal level to reform FERC and its currently-broken processes. Additionally, I will be donating the proceeds of my next fundraiser to these groups to support their efforts.
6) What can residents do to get more involved and help?
Julie: A good place to start is Facebook to learn about the issues and how to respond – the pages for HTCAPP and Stop the PennEast Pipeline show how to intervene with FERC and how to register your opposition. Other local, state and national environmental groups, including the NJ Conservation Fund, the Stony-Brook Millstone Watershed, NJ Sierra Club and the Sourland Conservancy are also united in their opposition to PennEast’s proposed pipeline and are good sources of information.
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?
Julie: We need to do more than the bare minimum to fight PennEast. If the PennEast pipeline is approved, we need to proactively test residents’ wells pre and post-construction to help ensure that residents’ water is not contaminated by arsenic. We need to conduct this testing not just on the wells where the proposed pipeline is sited, but also on other wells that would be negatively impacted by the pipeline. And we cannot look at this as a “one-off” exercise – we need to force PennEast to test for 10 years. Beyond this, Hopewell Township needs to strengthen its environmental protections, ensuring that C1 stream corridors and other environmentally sensitive areas are fully protected.
8) How can townships collaborate better to fight the pipeline?
Julie: We have a woodlands protection act and a stream corridors protection act. It’s time we started enforcing their provisions vs. kicking the can down the road and hoping to be protected from the ravages of the proposed pipeline. Hopewell Township has been at the forefront of efforts to stop the proposed PennEast pipeline, and I will reach out to other Townships along the route, so that we can share resources, build on each other’s successes, and better coordinate our fight against the pipeline.
9) Can townships work more closely with state and federal agencies on issues such as this one?
Julie: Yes, working with our representatives in Washington has to be a priority for our Township. We cannot fight this alone. Our working relationships with our allies at the state and federal level will help us gain access to the agencies that can effect change. At the federal level, we need to focus on reforming FERC and its broken processes; similarly, at the state level, we need to work with state legislatures to ensure that the NJ DEP fully enforces environmental protections vested with it under the US Clean Water and Wetlands Protection Acts, and that it does not simply rubber-stamp another new pipeline as it did with the one through the Pinelands.
10) Any closing remarks
Julie: On Wednesday, October 28, 2015, I will be a special guest bartender at Trenton Social (449 South Broad Street from 5 pm to 7pm). This was originally going to be a fundraiser for my campaign for Hopewell Township Committee, but given the grave threat we collectively face with the proposed PennEast pipeline, all the evening’s proceeds (10% of sales) will now be donated to benefit local citizen organizations, as they continue to battle PennEast.