West Amwell Submission – Explosions even worse than I thought

West Amwell Township, NJ has submitted a lengthy document to the FERC objecting to the pipeline. It’s a very well organized and written submission that goes into great detail why this pipeline is such a bad idea for our town and for the entire region.

There are two areas they discussed especially succinctly:

Public Safety – Explosions

Penn East is proposing a 36-inch natural gas transmission line through West Amwell. This pipeline will have natural gas flowing at the rate of 1 billion cubic feet per day. The effects of an explosion with this rate of energy flow would be disastrous. A 36 inch diameter natural gas transmission line under high pressure, if exploded, could cause radiant heat to ignite secondary fires within a 1,000 foot radius.

PennEast downplays issues of pipeline safety and claims that they will incorporate the best safety practices from construction through operation.

However, in 2012 alone, natural gas transmission lines accounted for more than 80 explosions and fires according to the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), a branch of the US Department of Transportation that inspects and regulates the nation’s pipelines. Of the 80 incidents, 38 were classified as significant, PHMSA data show. The 2012 accidents and fires reportedly caused seven injuries, and more than $44 million of damage.

Since 2001, however, natural gas pipeline explosions and other accidents have resulted in the loss of at least 45 lives and many more serious injuries, usually from burns. (FracDallas.org)

In September 2010, a natural gas pipeline explosion rocked neighborhoods of San Bruno, California, killing eight people. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the cause, and in the words of Chairman Deborah Hersman, found “troubling revelations … about a company that exploited weaknesses in a lax system of oversight and government agencies that placed a blind trust in operators to the detriment of public safety.” And, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer investigative report, such revelations ring true in Pennsylvania, where “hundreds of miles of high-pressure pipelines already have been installed in the shale fields with no government safety checks — no construction standards, no inspections, and no monitoring.”(Food&Water Watch, Natural gas pipeline problems from beginning to end, January 2013)

In an earlier post here I cited a woman concerned about a 400′ “kill-zone”. As it turns out there’s a lot of data on pipeline explosions (unfortunately) and it’s much worse than 400′. Some readers emailed me that the 400′ figure was understating the facts, and as you can see West Amwell Township corroborates this.

West Amwell elementary is within that 1000′ zone. As are several homes in my neighborhood.

The township continues on another safety topic that I personally have been wondering about. How smart is it to co-locate a natural gas pipeline along with high voltage electric line route?

Public Safety – Co-location with transmission lines There is also concern with the co-location of a large, high pressure gas line to overhead electrical transmission lines.

“Transmission lines are considered one of the major sources of magnetic fields. In recent years electromagnetic field (EMF) interference with buried pipelines has been of great interest in the literature. The EMF interference on pipelines located in utility corridors is a real and serious problem which can place both operator safety and pipeline integrity at risk. Installing pipelines in energy utility corridors containing high-voltage AC transmission lines subjects the pipelines to induced AC voltages. This can be caused by an imbalance in the transmission system, and by high voltages near transmission tower grounding systems resulting from lightning strikes and phase faults. When a long-term induced AC voltage exists on a pipeline, it can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening for operations personnel to touch the pipeline or appurtenances. In addition, pipe corrosion also can result from AC discharge”. (Transmission Line EMF Interference with Buried Pipeline: Essential & Cautions M. H. Shwehdi and U. M. Johar)

“The issue of electromagnetic field interference on buried pipelines has been known for over 30 years. When a pipeline runs parallel to a transmission or electric distribution line, the pipeline becomes part of the electrical circuit by electromagnetic and electrostatic coupling (Nelson, 1986). The impact of co-locating metallic pipelines usually buried in the earth directly underneath high-voltage transmission lines can cause electromagnetic interference”. (Issues Affecting Co-Location of Energy Infrastructure, Governor’s Office of Energy and Security, May 2011)

An explosion in a pipeline located near transmission lines, would again, be disastrous.


Read West Amwell’s complete submission below:

West Amwell Township – FERC Generated PDF

West Amwell Township – FERC Generated PDF Alternate site

Arsenic in our water

Debra and John from Stockton, NJ made a FERC submission today that included comments from a Prof. Tullis Onstott, from the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University. He goes into detail explaining the unique geological makeup of Hunterdon County, and how constructing a pipeline through it is a really, really bad idea for residents. He states:

My second concern, however, is far more significant. The proposed route through Hunterdon County cut right through the Triassic shales of the Passaic and Lockatong Formations. It has been long established that these formations, particularly the Lockaton argillite belt that runs through Hunterdon, are the sources of arsenic in the groundwater in this region. Several New Jersey Geological Survey reports document the high arsenic levels in the wells in Hunterdon and Mercer counties. This belt of rocks form an arsenic hot spot. The groundwater supply is known to be vulnerable in these counties, but Hunterdon county is uniquely vulnerable because the farms and rural homes all rely upon well water. They have no access to the public water utilities of their much more populated neighbors. The privately-owned wells are the source of drinking water for
the families and for their livestock. These wells tap a surficial,unconfined, fractured rock aquifer in the Lockatong, Passiac and Stockton formations. The proposed PennEast pipeline cuts right through the arsenic hot spot where it can do the most damage to the drinking water supplies of the inhabitant. The soil cover is thin, so in order to bury the 36″ diameter pipeline they have to trench or drill through the bedrock.

This excavation will aerate the rock formation and expose the arsenic-bearing pyrite to oxidation which will released the arsenic as arsenate into the groundwater. This will occur on every ridge of ever drainage divide the pipeline will cross and I am told that the proposed route crosses 87 drainage divides. These same drainage divides are the recharge zones for the groundwater used by the farmer and rural residences. This, however, is not the worst aspect of the pipeline. Once the pipeline is buried, its components and any methane that leaks from the pipeline provides
reductants that will be consumed by anaerobic bacteria. These anaerobic bacteria will reduce the oxidized iron in the environment and will reduce the arsenate to arsenite, the highly mobile and toxic arsenic species.

The pipeline will continue to do this throughout it operational lifetime and, if left in the ground, after its lifetime. In summary the construction phase will generate arsenic and the operational phase will mobilize arsenic. By running the pipeline through the arsenic hotspot of New Jersey, PennEast will create an arsenic pipeline that emanates into the drinking water supply along its route and there is precious little that PennEast can do about it as long as it cuts across the strike of the Triassic basin units from northwest to southeast.

Finally, I have been told that PennEast will be tunneling underneath the water drainages. In Hunterdon county these drainages all run along fracture line faults into the Delaware River. That means during the construction phase the drilling contaminants will enter the water shed. During the operational phase arsenic concentrations will likely increase in the water sheds as well. But since PennEast does not have to comply to any kind of wetland restrictions, I am not sure that they could be held accountable to this form of pollution. That is tragic, but as I said earlier, my principle concern is about the drinking water supply in this rural part of New Jersey, the arsenic hot zone.

So. A highly poisonous form of arsenic will be in everyone’s well water. And will be in run off going through our propreties. And the pipeline is going over lots and lots of ridges so the impact will be tremendous in Hunterdon county.

And on top of that it will be running into the Delaware during construction, a major source of drinking water for the whole area.

Please visit the link below to read the rest of Debra and John’s submission. It contains a fascinating description of their property (their very old home was insulated with Horse hair!) and a not-so-flattering depiction of PennEast representatives pressuring them to sign their rights away before they force the issue with eminent domain.

John and Debra of Stockton – FERC Generated PDF

John and Debra of Stockton – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

Who benefits again exactly?

Michael in Pennington has a very in-depth submission to the ferc.gov.  What he (and everyone else) is wondering about is: who will this benefit again exactly?  Not vague assurances and statistics, but actual quantifiable results?

Ill perceived benefits

As I write, the the Penn East Pipeline Company is seeking approval from FERC to place a pipeline through our community. I have attended meetings and listened to presentations by their representatives who continue to tow the party line that the pipeline will be beneficial to the community because of the savings for the cost of gas and for the creation of new jobs.

Meanwhile, there are neighborhoods in the community through which the proposed pipeline would traverse that does not even have gas service. The gas distribution company in the area- PSE&G- which is also a member of the Penn East Pipeline Company conglomerate admittedly has no plans for service upgrades to serve the residents of those communities. Additionally, there is no specificity and no commitment for a set reduction in or delivery price for gas. The savings are neither quantifiable nor do they appear to be better than the rates that will be offered to communities that will not be impacted by the pipeline. In other types of government subsidized or enabled projects there are incentives to businesses and concessions made by those businesses that provide direct, quantified benefit to the citizens. One such example would be tax credits that are given to real estate developers for providing low or middle income housing. In these models there is a precise quantifiable benefit to private corporations and also a quantifiable benefit or value to citizens. The FERC model of review and grant of eminent domain to private entities does not even come close to quantifying a benefit to citizens. This is extremely problematic and disconcerting considering there is a taking of resources from ordinary citizens and licensing them to private businesses.

I have the same trouble with the PennEast assertions that this is good for our area.  There are assertions that the pipeline will have enough capacity to service “4.7 million homes” in the area.   This is a nonsense statistic.  According to the U.S. census bureau there are only 3,186,418 households in the entire state of NJ and 4,958,427 in all of PA.  Does PennEast really expect us to believe this one pipeline is going to power the equivalent of 57% of all the households in the two states?

Of course not all households are served by natural gas, and households aren’t the only consumers.

So let’s go to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s page and see what actual energy use in PA and NJ is:

NJ Monthly natural gas usage

PA Monthly natural gas usage

These graphs show the monthly usage breakdown for each in millions of cubic feet. Unfortunately they only do states, not regions, so we can only get the entire state breakdown. For reference the PennEast pipeline will deliver one billion cubic feet a day, so divide the table’s numbers by 30 (avg days in a month) to see how they compare to PennEast’s production.

NJ’s peak usage across all categories was 1.6 billion cubic feet a day.
PA’s peak usage across all categories was 2.9 billion cubic feet a day.

For a total of 4.5 billion cubic feet a day.

This mean’s the PennEast pipeline has enough natural gas flowing through it to supply more than 20% of both states natural gas needs combined.

Now shrink those numbers down to “Eastern PA and central NJ”, as PenNEast claims they’ll be helping, and this number climbs in excess of 100% of the total natural gas usage in the region.

Do you still believe PennEast is going to be using this natural gas in just our region? Or do you suspect – as I and many people do – that PennEast is going to send this to a Liquid conversion plant for shipping overseas (where gas is much more expensive)?

Michael’s full comments are available here

Michael’s full comments – Alternate Site

Dreaming of daylilies…

The submission from Emma in Stockton below was one of the reasons I started this web site. It shows the costs of this pipeline go beyond material costs and environmental impacts.

This is my husband, Brant Switzler. Can you see the joy in his face? This is his DREAM. He has spent years cultivating a daylily farm. He has hand planted thousands of flowers, 350 different varieties that will all have to be moved if the Penn East’s pipeline permit is granted. This is NOT just a DITCH to be dug. This is a LIFE”S WORK. Please…

Please do visit the link below to see a picture of Brant and his humongous daylily plot…

Emma and Brant’s Daylilies – FERC Generated PDF

Emma and Brant’s Daylilies – FERC Generated PDF ALternate Site

The 400ft KILL ZONE

I think Nora in Stockton NJ has a reason to be upset….

My 24 acre farm abuts the proposed route of the PennEast Pipeline. I have major concerns about the consequences of this pipeline coming so close to my house, drinking water well & horses.

1.At a recent township meeting in Delaware Township I learned that there is a 400ft KILL ZONE around the Pipeline! This means that if there were a leak, the explosion could kill everything within a 400 ft. radius .My house and horses are within the KILL ZONE. I believe that it is a violation of my human rights to force me to live in fear of my husband, horses & myself dying from a pipeline breach. How would I be able to live knowing of this possibility? This violation of my human rights would be for a private company’s profits

2.This concern is not unwarranted! Just recently, on January 15th, 2015, there was a natural gas line break near Bellis Rd & Shire roads in Holland Township, NJ. This gas line break resulted in a half mile radius evacuation. This gas line was 12 inches in diameter. The proposed PennEast Pipeline is 36 inches in diameter. If there is a break in the PennEast Pipeline how large would the radius of evacuation be? Once again, why should I be forced to live within a EVACUATION ZONE of a pipeline for a private companies profit. Additionally, how would we evacuate our horses & live stock. Once again, should my horses lives be endangered for a private company’s profits.

That Kill Zone perimeter is pretty terrifying when you look at some of the PennEast proposed route in Pennsylvania:

Cutting farms in half

Emma in Stockton NJ owns a fifty acre farm that will have the pipeline running across its entire length. She shares some of her concerns:

1. The proposed easement is would block all fifty acres from being accessed by heavy equipment. The access gate for farm equipment, carefully placed so that there is adequate room to turn a farm tractor from the road will fall within the proposed easement. This is also where the neighboring farm of over 100 acres is also accessed, and also the third adjoining farm behind. So in essence, three farms will be blocked from farm equipment.

2. The access to my lower fields that are farmed will also be blocked by the easement.

3. The easement will prevent me from farming almost one third of my land if even if the access problem could be solved.

4. In the proposed easement is a fruit orchard of over 50 trees and farm of over 350 species of daylilies that will have to be relocated. If the orchard is changed it also endangers the bees that are being raised by our beekeeper.

5. An eighty thousand dollar freestanding solar array, paid for by New Jersey may be within the easement proposal.

6. There is a pond, a creek, and substantial wetlands that will be crossed. Study will be needed to determine if there are specific endangered vegetation in this area and how the hydrology of the stream will be affected.

7. There is a natural hedgerow with at least three dens, one of them may be a wildcat den, and a natural run off waterway that leads directly to the creek, specifically within the proposed placement of the pipeline. If the dirt is at all compacted in this runoff area, there will be substantial storm water management issues that will impact homes downstream. Roads have already been washed out in big weather events.

8. There are numerous natural springs that need to be located specifically in relation to the proposed pipeline.

9. There is an old stone well that needs to be investigated, because it may be of historical significance and the possible sight of an old homestead.

10. There is an oak tree, over 250 years old, which has already been specifically protected by the township that will be endangered.

If you take a look at an overhead map of Stockton you can see what Emma is talking about:

As you can see this is pristine farm country that the pipeline will be running through (the pipeline survey corridor is the parallel purple lines). In many cases they’re trying to co-locate along the power line right-of-way – but then again in many cases they aren’t. Here’s a virgin tract that’s going to be ripped up by Penn East: