Woman says her elected officials have “turned their backs on the wishes of their residents”

Lynn from Williams Township, PA is very unhappy with her township.

I’ve lived in Williams Township for 41 years, attracted by the open space and beautiful landscape – corn fields, a beautiful river and pure water.

A 36 inch 108 mile pipeline would destmy that picture. Farmers fields would be upheaved and would not be returned to its original usefulness and bounty (just ask a farmer).

Our township elected officials have tumed their backs on the wishes oftheir residents. They have voted against issuing a resolution opposing the pipeline. It’s not in “their” backyards. But it is in “their” township and it affects the health and well-being oftheir residents. It’s not like a resolution would stop the construction of this pipeline, but it would get our voices out there along with many other townships in PA and NJ.

It is said that the pipeline would create jobs —but not for our local workforce. The pipeline brings its own workers. The pipeline is already constructed. It just has to be buried. It doesn’t bring any revenue to the townships it travels thru or even to the US —it is headed overseas where big corporations will enjoy the profits. Are these the profits That Obama plans on taxing’? The oil is not even going to be available to the people of the US to warm their homes.

Our township has been on the forefront of open space preservation and not for an easement for the pipeline to cross these pristine lands. Much of the pipeline will traverse carbonate rock which is prone to sinkholes which the township has cautioned for recent construction projects. How will the pipeline blasting affect these possibilities’? How comfortable are you ifyou live in the 955′ radius potential impact zone’? How easy will it be when you try to sell your well-maintained homestead within the girth of the-pipeline? The pipeline could cross 33 wetland complexes and 60 waterways, including the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers and many aquifers may be adversely affected.

As well-stated by David Winston of Riegelsville:

“In a supposedly fee country, I find it despicable that this groups of corporations intends to shove an unwanted and potentially dangerous gas pipeline thorough so many communities, preserved farmlands and green space, sensitive aquifers and watersheds (including the Delaware River) and areas rife with limestone formations and the resultant sinkholes.”

From what I’ve heard PA has had a rough time of it historically when it comes to many materially-intensive (and invasive) industries. Coal mines, metals mines, shale oil and gas, pipelines. And then it gets even more complicated with the sinkhole/karst situation.

I can understand if Pennsylvanians are a bit life-weary from it all and are resigned to fate. But I see it as a positive sign that some towns in PA actually ARE fighting the pipeline and opposition resolutions are being passed there. I don’t know if they were encouraged by every town in NJ along the pipeline route passing their own resolutions against it, or some other forces in work, or combination thereof…but I think it’s an excellent sign. People of all backgrounds are rising up against this pipeline and the many other ones slated to follow it.

I’m reminded of two quotes from Stephen King’s riveting novel The Stand when I think of this situation.  Those in opposition remember:

The place where you made your stand never mattered. Only that you were there…and still on your feet.”

And to PennEast, and every other big energy corporation involved in creating an environmental and physical disaster:

That wasn’t any act of God. That was an act of pure human fuckery.

Easement realities

Richard, Anthony, and Beverly of Delaware Township have a conservation easement on their farm, a very common thing in Hunterdon County. I like to read our town Open Spaces Committee minutes (they’re available online!) to see how the conservation process works, and to see what properties are being considered in my town.

One aspect of the process I forgot about is that you owners can ask for exception areas. These are exceptions to the conservation easements so the families can have some limited development rights. They’re usually very well defined and for a very specific reason.

This trio points out how these exceptions can make a bad situation even worse when the Pipeline company comes knocking on your door.

Four generations of the Danese family have worked the land for nearly a hundred years in Delaware Township, New jersey. Our 67-acre farm (Block 32, Lots 32 & 32.01,Delaware Township) has served as the center of our family’s history, life, and livelihood in this portion of Hunterdon County.

In recognition of the very special place that our farm occupies in our family’s heart, we agreed to preserve our farm in 2009, and accept the restrictions that farmland preservation places on landowners. Our farm was preserved with State, County, Municipal, and Federal funding through the Federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program. We thought that we had preserved our land in perpetuity and that one of the parties to that agreement was the government of the United States of America.

Now we have been contacted by the PennEast Pipeline Company LLC, who tells us that they wish to run a high pressure, 36-inch gas pipeline across our preserved farm. What is worse, we fear that this pipeline will bisect a small area that we had exempted from the preservation as a non-severable exception area, to serve as a building envelope in the event that any of the future generations of our family wished to establish a home on that site. A high-pressure gas pipeline running through the non-severable exception area would make our building envelope useless as an area to build a home, and would destroy the remaining value of our preserved

The Danese family has proved our willingness to abide by the restrictions imposed on our property by the preservation easement in order to preserve our farm for future generations. We are both shocked and saddened that the Federal government, our partner in land preservation, would even think of allowing a high pressure gas pipeline to cross our Federally preserved property and abrogate the agreement that we thought would be in effect in perpetuity.

Their filing is available below:

Richard, Anthony, and Beverly’s filing – FERC Generated PDF

Richard, Anthony, and Beverly’s filing – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

Crossing the Appalachian Trail

Dan of Bath, PA writes about the pipeline crossing the historic Appalachian Trail.

I am concerned about the impacts of building this pipeline and other proposed pipelines that cross the Appalachian trail. Furthermore, I have concerns in general about a large increase in the development of natural gas reserves and the impact of using those reserves quickly on climate change and air and water pollution. I believe that FERC and it’s environmental impact statement should address the issues of not only the creation of the pipeline and where it’s sited, but also the larger impacts of exploiting these resources quickly based on creating new large capacity pipelines, and their potential pollution impacts and health costs including the release of atmospheric gases and contaminated water. This should include the rate of development of these natural gas reserves and consideration of the fact that PA and NJ rank in the top 10 of all of the states with the highest levels of air pollution. If FERC should be weighing the public benefit of the building this pipeline then it should consider the cost of the health impacts of air pollution on the public. Current air pollution maps show that the terminus for this pipeline is one of the highest areas of air pollution in the country. Long term health impacts to the millions of people living in the area should be weighed against the benefit of employing 2000 construction workers for 8 months or even the profits of even cheaper natural gas to the communities purporting to benefit from this pipeline.

I volunteer maintaining the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT) and personally spend over 100 hours a year working to support the trail. I am concerned about new fragmentation of the forest along the trail. New cuts through the forest create openings for invasives and also cause fragmentation of contiguous forest cover which impacts some species of wildlife. I would like to see this new pipeline co-aligned along existing infrastructure particularly in areas where it crosses forested lands such as the AT. For instance, in this case, the pipeline could be co-aligned with a powerline crossing of the AT that is a short distance away from the proposed AT crossing (between Delps and Little Gap.)

I am concerned that during construction the PennEast construction contractor may not want the public to use the trail or trailheads that cross their construction area. The trails must remain open like any other transportation corridor (road, powerline, etc).

I was involved in the monitoring of the construction of the recent Williams-Transco pipeline in the section called “Wind Gap loop” where the new pipeline crossed the Appalachian Trail – FERC docket – PF06-32-000 and have found that although best practices were followed in the construction and restoration of the land after the construction of that pipeline, there has been little recovery of the “temporary” buffer area that was cleared during construction. Most of the trees replanted have died. Invasives have spread throughout the cleared area. The so-called temporary buffer is not temporary in terms of the forest damage caused looking back over 8 years.

Following up on the above experience, I don’t understand why this pipeline that starts and ends in basically the same area as the Williams- Transco pipeline isn’t using the same ROW. Transco has 4 lines installed in the ROW the oldest of which is quite small. As an alternative, the smallest of those could be purchased by PennEast and replaced with a larger pipe, staying basically within the same ROW. This would involve less direct impact across new areas.

In the past month, I’ve read about natural gas explosions in NJ leveling a home and causing evacuations of a neighborhood and many injuries. I’ve read about explosions further away in West Virginia and locally last winter in Allentown and Moorestown PA. Clearly the companies (including the PennEast member companies) that provide this dangerous explosive gas are not following best practices as their buried pipelines have failed as the infrastructure ages and they have failed to replace and repair them. I’m concerned that if this line is built it will one day in the future have a catastrophic failure and cause injuries and death. I’m also concerned that power generation stations and industries that solely depend on it will become huge liabilities in the case of fuel delivery failure.

As people in the FERC scoping meetings have stated, many people’s objections are not based on theories or conjecture, but on observed fact. Many many pipelines have been built before and we have objective evidence of the end results. The most telling part of Dan’s submission for me is what he learned from a pipeline through the A.T. several years ago:

I was involved in the monitoring of the construction of the recent Williams-Transco pipeline in the section called “Wind Gap loop” where the new pipeline crossed the Appalachian Trail – FERC docket – PF06-32-000 and have found that although best practices were followed in the construction and restoration of the land after the construction of that pipeline, there has been little recovery of the “temporary” buffer area that was cleared during construction. Most of the trees replanted have died. Invasives have spread throughout the cleared area. The so-called temporary buffer is not temporary in terms of the forest damage caused looking back over 8 years.

Let’s hope the FERC listens.

Dan’s submission is below:

Dan’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

Dan’s submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site


Hunterdon is a hot bed of equestrian activity

Horses are everywhere in Hunterdon county. There are two horse farms within spitting distance of my house. On the way to the FERC scoping meeting last night I was on a road that had “25mph when horses present” signs for miles:

Claire is the owner of a horse farm in Kingwood Township, NJ, and her FERC submission talks about equines as you might expect:

I am the owner of a small farm in Kingwood Township, NJ, where I raise horses, not far from the proposed PennEast Pipeline route.

I have two points to make.

First, I am among many equestrians in Hunterdon County who are here because of the land and miles of trails that meander through historically significant property and valuable, preserved open space. Our land is rural, situated between New York and Philadelphia. It is accessible to the cities where many of us work, yet it is a world apart. We live here so that we can enjoy our way of life, commune with our horses and breathe fresh air.

The community of equestrians in Hunterdon County is well known. We are proud of the numerous Olympians who reside and train here. And, each year thousands of amateurs from all walks of life participate in a wide variety of riding sports in Hunterdon County. Many of these riders live here and others drive great distances for what we have to offer, contributing to the notable equestrian economy. The agricultural focus of Hunterdon County has fostered this business and the community.
To name a few, The Readington Trail Association, Amwell Valley Trail Association, Covered Bridge Trail Association, Pittstown Trail Association and the Alexandria Trail Association, are groups that sponsor events throughout the year providing members and riders from the tri-state area access to the unmatched trails in the region. Riding here, over the same fields that the Revolutionary troops did or looking at undisturbed vistas that have stood for millennia from the back of a horse is unique and rare.

Away from the roads and highways we see the natural world at its best. We see natural ecosystems thriving, pristine streams, old growth trees, and hear the calls of thousands of birds. On one recent occasion, in November of 2014, a large group of riders was brought to a standstill, in total awe, when four magnificent bald eagles took flight as we topped a hill in the Sourland Region. They circled a few times giving us a breathtaking memory to cherish. This is why we ride here.

I ask the FERC to consider, as the agency develops the Environmental Impact Statement, the negative impact Hunterdon County and its equestrian community would experience if the PennEast Pipeline were granted approval. Including,

• The right-of-way it would command through valuable rural scenic property, a source of recreational enjoyment for many citizens. This is a place we can escape urban noise and polluted air to ride our horses freely with our senses open.

• The degradation to increasingly threatened natural habitat that is home to millions of organisms.

• The impossibility of mitigation. No landscape in Hunterdon County or anywhere, once cut through by the PennEast pipeline, can be restored. Mitigation, by “replacing” that habitat in another region will simply leave the original land changed for the worse in perpetuity.

For these reasons, please deny the application by PennEast Pipeline (Docket No. PF15-1-000) with a no action, no build decision.

Claire’s complete FERC submission is available below:
Claire’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

Claire’s submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

The New Jersey Natural Heritage Program means nothing to PennEast

Cathy Urbanksi, the chair of the West Amwell Township Environmental Commission, has made another submission to the FERC site.

The New Jersey Natural Heritage Program
“As New Jersey continues to experience industrial and economic growth, it is imperative that we take steps to ensure that remaining areas of natural significance be preserved for their resource potential, their educational and research use, and their aesthetic and cultural values for present and future generations. As we become more aware of our dependence on our natural environment for our well-being and ultimate survival, we must answer one question: how can we best preserve our irreplaceable natural heritage.

The New Jersey Natural Heritage Program identifies the state’s most significant natural areas through a comprehensive inventory of rare plant and animal species and representative ecological communities. From the inventory, the Natural Heritage Database compiles information on the distribution, biology, status, and preservation needs of these species and communities”. (NJDEP)

The Natural Heritage Priority Sites Coverage was created to identify critically important areas to conserve New Jersey’s biological diversity, with particular emphasis on rare plant species and ecological communities.

“Using the Natural Heritage Database, the Office of Natural Lands Management (ONLM) has identified 343 Natural Heritage Priority Sites, representing some of the best remaining habitat for rare species and rare ecological communities in the state. These areas should be considered to be top priorities for the preservation of biological diversity in New Jersey. If these sites become degraded or destroyed, we may lose some of the unique components of our natural heritage.” (NJDEP).

Goat Hill has been designated as a Natural Heritage Priority Site. Goat Hill is the westernmost boundary of the Sourland Mountain. It is a steep, woody diabase hillside and the site contains three state endangered plant species (NJDEP). Any disturbance to the natural environment of this area should be absolutely prohibited. See map, below.

The PennEast preferred alternate route comes dangerously close and actually crosses this Natural Heritage Priority site. Any altercation to this site, whether from pipeline construction, the noxious gasses emanating continuously from the pipeline, possible explosions, or herbicide use, would pose a serious problem to the endangered plants. This area is a priority site for a very good reason.

We request that FERC choose the pipeline option of “no build” in order to preserve our critical ecological and rare communities and our fragile natural environment.

George Fisher, Mayor, West Amwell Township
Cathy Urbanski, Environmental Commission Chair, West Amwell Township

The map described is this one below:

The fat black line is (appropriately) the pipeline route.

This is the important part from their submission:

Goat Hill has been designated as a Natural Heritage Priority Site. Goat Hill is the westernmost boundary of the Sourland Mountain. It is a steep, woody diabase hillside and the site contains three state endangered plant species (NJDEP). Any disturbance to the natural environment of this area should be absolutely prohibited.


West Amwell has an extensive history of preserving land, both for ecological reasons and so we can continue to be a rural township in perpetuity. People like Cathy have been ceaseless in their efforts at preservation. And it isn’t just talk – we spend time and money ensuring the safety of our land.

Take a look at the West Amwell Natural Resource Inventory. The last entry in the document talks about Goat Hill:

The database has identified Natural Heritage Priority Sites that represent some of the best remaining habitat for rare species and exemplary natural communities in the state. These areas should be considered to be top priorities for the preservation of biological diversity in New Jersey. If these sites become degraded or destroyed, we may lose some of the unique components of our natural heritage.

Goat Hill has been designated as a Natural Heritage Priority Site (Figure 19). Goat Hill is the westernmost boundary of the Sourlands. It is a steep, woody diabase hillside and the site contains three state endangered plant species. This site was preserved in its entirety by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Green Acres in 2008. It is now known as Goat Hill Overlook.

My town has been at this for quite some time. Here’s a NJDEP release from 2003 talking about West Amwell’s preservation efforts at that time. It mentions:

Standing with local, state government and community leaders at Fiddler’s Creek Farm, Campbell announced the acquisition of the 197-acre turkey farm located in West Amwell. The preservation of Fiddler’s Creek Farm creates a continuous expanse of preserved land connecting the Delaware River Greenway and the Sourland Mountain Greenway. Fiddler’s Creek Farm consists of forested stream corridor, hayfields and pasture and commands a 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside, the Delaware River and Bowman’s Tower in Pennsylvania. A branch of Moores Creek, which supports 18 species of fish, flows through the property, connecting it to other preserved properties including the Howell Living History Farm and Baldpate Mountain. Delaware & Raritan Greenway, the Green Acres Program Hunterdon County and West Amwell Township were partners in the preservation of Fiddler’s Creek Farm.

Of course it goes without saying that the PennEast pipeline will be going through both Moore’s Creek and Fiddler’s creek.

West Amwell is also hardly alone in these efforts. Every town in Hunterdon has significant conservation programs in place and you see Green Acres, Open Spaces, Preserved Farmland, and D&R Land Trust signs all over the place. We think preserving the land is important. Too bad PennEast doesn’t.

The West Amwell submission is below:

West Amwell NJ – FERC Generated PDF

West Amwell NJ – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

Trashing the New Jersey Green Acre Program for Profit

Alex and Laura of Pennington go into details of of how their farm was preserved through the New Jersey Green Acres program several years ago:

Let me say categorically and emphatically that we are strongly against this idea. We worked extremely hard over many years with a consortium of nonprofit land preservation organizations to place a conservation easement over our property, which formed a cornerstone of preserved lands that include significant and vital stream corridor and woodland habitats for wildlife. It seems outrageous that the government, acting through New Jersey’s Green-Acre Program, would work so hard and expend so much of the public’s treasure and effort to preserve land, only to allow you to smash a substantial right-of-way, which would involve cutting down large amounts of preserved forests and carving through wetlands, through pristine lands that provide important ecological resources. It perhaps goes without saying that the stream corridors and wetlands and surrounding woodlands provide vital habitat for wildlife, important buffer zones for aquifer recharge and storm water sequestration, and passive recreation opportunities for residents. Our property, which we worked so hard to preserve, provides roughly 4000 feet of such stream corridor preservation, which you propose to undo completely.

Let me review a few of the facts we discussed. We granted a conservation easement over our property in December 2003 to a group of nonprofit land trust oriented organizations, including the Delaware and Raritan Greenway Land Trust, the Borough of Pennington, a local municipality, and the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association. Each of these organizations used an allocation of available funds from the New Jersey Green-Acres program. The transaction was a so-called bargain sale, in which the nonprofit organizations and municipality contributed a portion of the funds for the bargain sale, and we donated a substantial portion of the value. We have lived quietly on the property since this time and worked to continue to preserve and maintain the conservation values of the ecologically sensitive lands and open spaces. The easement in question involves a combination of conservation easement areas(>95%), with and without public access, and a small portion dedicated to our private residential use, that comprises less than 5% of the property.

Left unchecked, this project would powerfully dissuade people granting conservation easements over the lands in the future. In light of the diminished state financial resources that are available for land preservation now and in future, it will dramatically undermine the willingness of individual private landowners to grant conservation  easements over their lands, and set back the cause of preserving land in our region to a measurable degree. These easements provide a vital tool to prevent real estate development from encroaching on the semi-agrarian nature of our region and our quality of life, and create the conditions under which we avoid flooding, create aquifer recharge, and maintain wildlife population and recreational opportunities.

The public access areas dedicated to the public access-conservation use are used by dozens of people a day for passive recreation such as running, hiking, walking and cross-country skiing. The trails are well used. The trails on the property that pivotally connect to interlocking lands owned by the state of New Jersey Department of  Environmental Protection in the so-called Lake Baldwin Wildlife Management Area, and other lands protected from development and under conservation easement that are owned and managed by the D&R Greenway Land Trust together comprise a mosaic of hundreds of acres of preserved property, trails and natural beauty that provide an important buffer to development and a vital ecological function.

Your project would unavoidably cut through these important trail networksand wetlands, cutting across a swath of woods and agricultural lands, and reducing their conservation value. Protecting preserved lands is a critical stewardship function of the local land trusts we worked with and who continue to have responsibility for this vital role. I served astrustee of the D&R Greenway Land Trust for eight years after we granted the conservation easement, because I felt it was important to work hard in this critical stewardship process of defending the easements once they are granted and finding new properties to preserve. My wife Laura, has recently joined the board of the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association in part driven by a similar concern.

We pledge to you that together with as many willing nonprofit land preservation organizations as will support us, and by organizing individual owners of property affected by your plan, we will work hard to defeat your project at every stage. As a society we cannot abide by the wanton destruction of preserved lands.

They bring up a very good point I hadn’t considered before: by breaking conservation easements, PennEast will be providing a powerful disincentive for people to protect lands in the future.

Their entire submission is available below:

Alex and Laura’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

Alex and Laura’s submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site