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

Chris and Sherri, 4th Generation Farmers

Chris and Sherri own a farm in Milford, NJ. The pipeline is going right through the middle of it.

We are the 4th generation to be living on our farm and hopefully our children will be the 5th. The pipeline is proposed to be going right through the middle of the property, which now makes it impossible for us to farm the land or for any of our children to build their future home. Our surrounding neighbors all have their land in farmland preservation which is supposed to protect the land. There is a natural spring that runs parallel to our property that will be disrupted. We also have a narrow 9 acre wood lot that is in the projected path. It is densely populated with red oak trees. If they go through that, it will kill many trees and make it look like an open field, which will cause serious erosion. Our woodlot sits in the middle of the Gravel Hill Preserve, which was set aside by the state to preserve and keep the natural beauty of the forest. I can’t see how they can destroy all the protected land around us.

We live in the country because of the beautiful surroundings and the feeling of being safe. With all the recent gas explosions, we don’t want to live with the constant fear that we’ll be next.

Read their submission below:

Chris and Sherri submission – FERC Generated PDF

Chris and Sherri submission – 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

Yet another farm the pipeline is going through

This is getting to be a sadly familiar story. Chris from Etters, PA has owns farmland in PA, and PennEast wants to put their pipeline through it.

I am writing this letter in regards to the PennEast Pipeline Project, pre-filing docket number PF 15-1-000. With the threat of eminent domain looming, we are being coerced to agree to an easement. If the project is approved, FERC will be doing a disservice to the landowners within the
path of the pipeline. I am opposed to this project. I do not want it on my property. The PennEast Pipeline Project is extremely detrimental to the property owners directly affected by its construction, nearby residents, and the environment.

The PennEast Pipeline is planned to cross my family’s property from West Scenic Drive to Hoch Road in Danielsville, Pa. This property is currently rented to local farmers for use in crop production. If the pipeline is constructed on this land, may render a sizable portion of the land as unusable for its intended purpose. Loss of farmable land would impact our income, as well as that of the farmer through lost production. Farmers would be impacted equipment damage and / or catastrophic accidents due to shallow or exposed pipelines; pipelines which are easily damaged by plowing, construction and weather-related accidents, leading to explosions and fires. As landowners we cannot accept the responsibility of damage the pipeline may cause to farmers, area residents or the environment. The proposed route for the PennEast Pipeline traversesfarmland, un-developed land, and areas that have a history of sink-holes; furthering the risks of destructive and catastrophic occurrences. The farm has been in our family for over 60 years. In addition to farming, the land is used for recreational purposes, which would be diminished due to the pipeline. Further, property values and future plans for developing the land for a family profit would be severely impacted by
this project. In addition to lowering property value, having a dangerous gas line on our property will increase our insurance costs. The pipeline would cutoff access to the property from Hoch Road or West Scenic Drive. As building over the pipeline is not permissible, our family will have extremely limited options as to what can and cannot be done on our own land.

Also of great concern is what will happen to the pipeline when it is no longer useable? Will PennEast be required to return the land to its native state? Once can look anywhere in the country and see deteriorating buildings and infrastructure; both of which are dangerous and an eyesore.
On the PennEast site, the proudly boast they will donate UP TO $5,000 to communities along the pipeline. This paltry amount will barely cover a months’ worth of salary for emergency responders, environmental monitoring and remediation. Such an amount will not even make a dent in the amount needed to buy equipment to respond to accidents.

I hadn’t noticed the $5,000 Chris mentions on the PennEast web site. That amount seems pretty insulting for a pipeline that’s going to have 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas running through it per day.

See Chris’ submission below:

Chris’ submission – FERC Generated PDF

Chris’ submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

The Rolling Hills Farm

Like so many people, Jane and Jason of the Rolling Hills Farm in Lambertville NJ had a dream. They moved from NYC to Hunterdon County in search of a rural life. Now eminent domain is being threatened to run a 3 foot wide high pressure pipeline through their organic farm.

2 years ago, my husband and I left Manhattan to start an organic farm in Hunterdon county. We have worked hard, are conscious stewards of the land, and grow clean food for our community in the midst of a country-wide epidemic of health problems due to lack of healthy product in America. Our farm happens to have the electrical easement on it that PennEast proposes to use. It goes straight through the farm, 10 feet from our historic home; an old area orphanage built in 1840, and directly through a registered historic Lenape settlement in the woods below our fields.

As you can imagine, the land would be decimated by the 100ft wide cuts- and we would no longer be able to farm organically. I could go on, but it boils down to the fact that we as family fundamentally oppose the practice of fracking and this pipeline proposal. Instead, perhaps FERC could support research and development into sustainable energy- to put us back on the map with countries like Germany, who have initiatives that bring them into the future, and not push us farther back by poisoning the land and putting citizen’s health on the line in order to take part in the Fracking bubble?

It is the fact that a giant conglomerate company could possibly undermine the efforts of individual citizens to make our country a better and healthier place, that disappoints me so greatly.
This farm is our American dream. Please give me faith that the government will support us, and it’s citizens, and refuse to let this tragic pipeline befall our families, communities, and ecology when it comes time for you to review the Penn East proposal.

I am counting on you.

You can see their web site here:

Rolling Hills Farm web site

Their FERC Submission is below:

Jane and Jason – FERC Generated PDF

Jane and Jason – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

From Brooklyn to Hunterdon

Annalisa from Delaware Township tells of her family moving to NJ to build a better life for themselves.

I am a resident of Delaware Township who is strongly opposed to allowing a 36”, or the newly proposed, 42” natural gas pipeline to be constructed through this precious, preserved area of Hunterdon County. My family and I have lived in Delaware Township since 1959 when my parents purchased 73 acres on Pine Hill Rd for 20,000 dollars. They were working class, first generation Italian-Americans who moved originally from Brooklyn, NY to Princeton, New Jersey, in hopes of building a better life for themselves and their 5 children in the beautiful “Garden” state. Over these 56 years in Delaware TWP, our family members all worked, sold land, in to renovate, as we could afford, our 1725 historic stone home, including an 1850 frame colonial section added to the original structure. Over five decades we have worked to upgrade our home to make it more energy efficient and functional by modern standards. As working- class/struggling middle class citizens, we have farmed, recycled, gardened and otherwise maintained what we can of our remaining property. This gem of bucolic, pristine forest we love, was earned through many personal and economic trials. As members of this community, we are invested in protecting our personal investment, as well as, the community’s rights and investment in maintaining this culturally and ecologically rich, yet delicate, land.

Our family has worked together, repaired, restored and invested our love, bodily strength and hard-earned dollars in maintaining this historic property. The 10 acres of land my family has been able to hold onto is aptly named “The Pines” –pine trees planted by the “Civilian Conservation Corps” in the 1940’s. President Roosevelt’s plan promoted both economic and ecological restoration to our country’s political and physical landscape. Several early American artifacts have been uncovered and proudly displayed upon (rare) hand-hewn chestnut beams and massive jingle stone fire place mantels for all to see. This is but one small, sentimental example of what exists across our historic Hunterdon County. Even though the proposed Penn East Pipeline routes do not appear to directly cut through our land, it is representative of what thousands of citizens hold near and dear to their hearts- and of what could be at risk. We will stand with our fellow citizens to protect their lives, family legacies and lands. We are all the same: Vulnerable to exploitation, marginalization and complete disenfranchisement in this rapidly growing trend to control and ultimately deplete our natural resources, for profit. The financial short-term gains for the very few will bankrupt our ecology, destroy a multitude of wildlife species, denature presently cultivated lands to become unproductive and useless; and, ultimately, to break the spirits of many humans. The Delaware water shed will not continue to maintain balance or be able to continue to supply clean water to millions of households and industries if constant encroachment and depletion of protected lands in our small state escalates. There is also some discussion that the pipeline may actually end up as an overseas project to provide gas to Europe. I do not know this to be fact, but I do believe we must be hyper-vigilant in preparing for such a possibility. Based on the dishonesty and efforts of Penn East interests to this point, I feel we will need unrelenting accountability as the application process moves forward. The magnitude of such a project would further prove that this stretch of damaging pipeline and concomitant interference with geologic, botanic and soil integrity, among the many aforementioned destruction of nature, will serve to prove that our community would be employed simply as means to someone else’s end. Proposing that any large energy company be allowed to ravage the “preserved” and protected farmlands, forest, still –viable natural water supplies, and dwindling species of wildlife native to our small state, is unconscionable. Once again, a few powerful, avaricious players in big business will benefit financially to a level of obscene proportions, while thousands of citizens will lose the values of their own hard-earned investments. Middle class and working class people are still hanging on in this egregiously –bloated economic climate of high taxes, diminished economic returns via employment and cost of living demands. Now, to have a life-time’s worth of toil and careful investment in their piece of the American pie, so to speak, be denatured and devalued, is barbaric.

It is time to invest in cleaner, life and land-preserving energy production and preservation. This historically rich area of New Jersey also serves as a thriving ecosystem and living testament to what our beautiful country can provide for generations to come. We are one community of many who will fall prey to rampant, planet- altering destruction if energy production and delivery is not carefully monitored, regulated and analyzed in service to the long term effects for all.
I would also like to add, that the scoping meetings arranged by the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee for the proposed Penn East pipeline are not located in or near Hunterdon County, across which a majority of the pipeline would be laid, if approved. Our community finds this to be insensitive at best, and wanton disregard, at worst, for the very residents who live in the path of this proposed pipeline. This project could prove to have potentially dangerous and devastating impacts on our community.

My family and I ask that you do not fast-track any scoping or application processes toward potential approval of the Penn East Pipeline. We ask that FERC please address our concerns and arrange for scoping meetings within Hunterdon County.

To give an idea of what Delaware Township is like, here’s a Google image of Lower Creek Road where the pipeline is proposed to go through:

Annalisa’s FERC submission is available below:

Annalisa from Delaware Township – FERC Generated PDF

Annalisa from Delaware Township – FERC Generated PDF Alternate site