Winifred tells it like it is

Winifred from Holland Township, NJ has a whole lot to say about to the FERC about this pipeline, the scoping process, and a whole lot more. It’s so well-written I’m going to include the entire text here, but I want to highlight one piece in particular because it strikes so close to how myself and many others feel:

“I object to the construction of the Penn East Pipeline for many reasons. The biggest reason is that I love my land and the birds, plants and animals I share it with. Removing the trees and tainting the water that runs through it and below it will damage it forever. It will never be the same.” (emphasis mine).

The complete text of her submission:

My name is Winifred Waldron. I am a landowner in Holland Township New jersey and would be directly impacted by the Penn East Project. My property lies between mile posts 82 and 83 and is within 2 tenths of a mile from mile post 83- and I was denied the opportunity to speak at last evening’s FERC scoping meeting. After the meeting I was told that there were 20 people still on the list waiting to speak including me. Later, I learned that there were about the same number of people denied the opportunity to speak at the Trenton meeting as well- totaling at a minimum 40 people. If we were all given the mere 3 minutes allotted to speak, it would amount to another 120 minutes – essentially the length of a scoping meeting. It goes to show that the number of FERC scoping meetings held in New Jersey were insufficient. There were 3 meetings in Pennsylvania and only 2 in New Jersey. Another meeting should be held in New Jersey, about halfway between the two ends of the pipeline that might traverse the region, so that the people who wanted to talk will be provided that opportunity. Furthermore, the recently announced route changes, there should be additional meetings for these people affected. As a landowner denied the opportunity to speak my piece, I know how those landowners must feel at not having the opportunity to prepare and speak out- on the record.

I was anxious to speak and having the public hear my concerns – on the record. I have been waiting more than 2 months to speak. I wrote and revised my concerns until I was able to put them into a succinct speech that would fit into the 3 minute time slot. I have lost all of that time and energy spent preparing, similar to the land that I could lose if this pipeline is approved. I have been monitoring the FERC submissions since the fall, I see how many come in and how thorough and lengthy some of the submissions are. I know that only a few people see those submissions. Given a chance to speak, I might have been heard by more. My husband and I attended Penn East informational meetings in good faith and expecting that our concerns would be heard and questions answered. It did not happen. Instead the Penn East Representatives would send us from table to table and eventually explain that the person that I needed to speak to was not at that meeting but should be at the next.

My husband and I both took time off from work to attend 3 of those meetings. We never had our concerns addressed. Finally, at the last meeting we attended, I explained to Medha Kochlar from FERC that I felt that my concerns were not being addressed and my questions were not being answered. She kindly introduced me to, Alisa Harris from Penn East. Ms Kochlar also recommended that I submit my concerns to FERC. She cautioned that I would not hear back from them as they gather the information for review, but do not answer questions. She also told me that there would be the scoping meetings sponsored by FERC where I would be able to express my concerns publicly. She pointed at the flow sheet and said that they would most likely be held after the holidays. She was right about being after the holidays, but she misspoke bout having the opportunity to express my concerns.

Well, I submitted my concerns on paper, but now I have more to say. I am a landowner directly impacted by the proposed Penn East pipeline. The 400 foot survey area bisects my property. It starts approximately 30 feet from my house and runs through the middle of my backyard. It could take out my fence on 3 sides, many trees as the fence line and one end of the yard are wooded, some fruit trees, my gardens – I grow my own vegetables, my strawberry patch, my onions, garlic and shallots, my blackberry patch, my raspberries, my coneflowers, the garden for my sunflowers, my fire pit and my barn! It could be within 50 feet of my well. I already have some arsenic in my well water. The level bumped up a bit after the earthquakes. The excavation and construction for the pipeline could easily raise the arsenic level up to the toxic range. Death by arsenic- not my first choice. But then, given the proximity to my house, if there were an accident, such as an explosion, BOOM! I would be incinerated. Hmm… I don’t think I like option two any better. I could lose a lot to this pipeline.
I work from home and one of my favorite things about working from home is watching the wildlife. In the morning a young hawk comes to visit about the same time as I sit down to my desk. It perches in the trees – trees that will be displaced by the pipeline – with its keen eyes scanning the yard. I might make a noise or get up to take a closer look through the window and it will turn and look right at me with those keen eyes that appear to miss nothing.

Later in the day, the older hawks start soaring in the sky above my house. The black birds who normally sit at the tops of the pine trees guarding the yard from intruders will become frantic and start calling out in alarm. A group of them will gather and try to chase the predators away. Unfettered, the hawks just fly higher up into sky.

When I cast my eyes towards the ground, I see Wild Turkeys jogging through the yard or the deer sleeping lazily under the trees. A fawn was born and lived in my flower garden for a summer. Now grown, it is not bothered by our presence in the yard and will keep munching away –helping itself to the plants and fruit we grow here.

I love to sit at my desk and listen to the birds chirping during the day and hear the sound of the stream, babbling down the hill to the Harihokake Creek. When my day has ended, I love to relax on the deck at night and listen to the frogs chirping and watching the bats flitter about diving and catching bugs or looking out into the back yard to see the fireflies light up the woods and sky. I object to the construction of the Penn East Pipeline for many reasons. The biggest reason is that I love my land and the birds, plants and animals I share it with. Removing the trees and tainting the water that runs through it and below it will damage it forever. It will never be the same.

I know that Penn East promises to return my land to the way it was before the pipeline construction took place. I am told that after construction, it will be hard to tell that the line is even exists. There is no way they can keep that promise. It is an empty promise. A lie. I do not trust Penn East. All of my interactions with them have been negative. From the land agent Mr. Gilbert and his threats of eminent domain to the Penn East representatives at the company sponsored meetings who took our information and questions and promised that we would hear from someone from the company who would supply the answers. The last of whom was Ms. Harris who at the request of Ms. Kochlar from FERC took my name, phone number and Email address and promised that I would get a call back in 48 hours. I did not get an Email until February, it was not from her and it was to ask me if I still had questions!? Of course I do, no one took the time to answer them yet! At this point, I am not sure that I would believe what they have to say anyway. Their stories have changed so much. From the size of the pipe, to the width of the corridor and the location of the pipe on my property- which was moved closer to my house and now bisects the land! They made no effort to follow boundaries or edges. Not to mention the lack of documentation of the wetland, category 1 stream and the extent of the slope of the hill to the stream. They have been evasive and dishonest. I do not trust Penn East.

Nor do I trust Tetra Tech. I know it is a member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition and represents Marcellus shale to the government. It is also involved in the natural gas and pipeline industry. I question the ability of the consultants to be unbiased. With the recent news of Tetra Tech’s biased decisions and questionable business practices- destroying evidence? I am thinking that this concern is valid. Even without the illegal activities recently brought to light, just its membership to the Marcellus Shale Coalition should prevent them from being environmental consultants for a natural gas line transporting product from the Marcellus shale region. It is a conflict of interest. Although I am not surprised that FERC would allow it – it has a reputation of being pro-pipeline and pro-infrastructure. I am even less surprised after I read that FERC regards landowners as “problems” for pipeline infrastructure in the power point presentation by FERC “A View from the Beltway”. I am NOT sorry to be such a problem. I have told my children and patients that it is important to self-advocate. I, as do many of the other landowners affected, have a multitude of concerns about this pipeline and not only about its effect on Me but on Our World and the futures of Our Children. I will speak out and I will be heard.

Take the “No Action” alternative and do not approve the Penn East Pipeline Project.

Thank You for Listening

Winifred’s submission is available below. Please visit it to see the lovely pictures she’s included:

Winifred’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

Winifred’s submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

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

Illegal trespass

I think from context that Mark and Maureen from Frenchtown are related to the college student who’s submission I highlighted in a prior post, possibly parents?

They have a whole lot of issues with PennEast, the proposed route, and the conduct of the PennEast representatives:

Our family Supports under no uncertain terms the NO BUILD option for health, environmental and economic reasons. This proposed pipeline will sever our working family farm in half and will run the full width of our farm property and pass within 200 feet of our home and well.

Our concerns include and are not limited to:

1)Blasting could facilitate contamination of our well water with arsenic, radon and other toxins. This affects not only human drinking water consumption but our farm animal water consumption; in addition, contaminating our bathing water and watering of our organic vegetable and flower gardens.

2)Our home and farm animal barns are within the blast zone.

3)The pipeline path is positioned to follow our farm field drainage route causing re-direction of this natural storm water/snow melt run off, in addition, crossing cultivated prime agricultural soils. These soils are highly erodible and shallow.

4)This pipeline corridor encompasses very steep (greater than 45 %) ledge, crosses over Nishisakawick Creek (bedrock stream bed) and adjacent wetlands to the creek; in addition this pipeline will cross another small tributary to the Nishisakawick Creek that feeds our pond used for swimming, fishing, (large established plant, amphibian and water fowl populations located here)

5)This pipeline will cross historic original route 12 severely compromising existing macadam roadbed.

6)A centuries old, landmark to the farm, oak tree will be taken down to accommodate this pipeline.

7)Within close proximately to the proposed route is a nesting osprey and endangered bats.

8)Our intention was to preserve our farm; this will be impossible if this pipeline goes through. Sale of our farm in the future will be difficult at best and the value of the property will dramatically be compromised.

9)Lastly, we want PennEast and the public to know that our property was surveyed in multiple locations without permission, a state police report was filed, image of a trespasser was captured on trail cam, a metal surveyor box was left on our property (coincidentally under that old oak tree) and survey tape was removed.

In addition to our personal concerns we support all concerns of our neighbors and local New Jersey community officials and neighbors- degradation/devastation to this Delaware River Valley- our water resources and lands, scarring of our treasured open land that locals and visitors enjoy, the conflict of interest in the official studies/surveys to determine the viability of this project, countless stories of trespass, the lack of fair compensation to land owners if this project moves forward to address on-going land use and potential damage to water quality, the unwillingness of PennEast to explore first the option of using existing approved pipeline and power line easement routes, and THE DANGER to humans wild and plant life.

I’ve seen a number of reports of PennEast reps trespassing on people’s lands. They can’t be doing this by accident – there are literally an order of magnitude more “POSTED – NO TRESPASSING” signs in Hunterdon county then there are stop signs.

Their submission is below:

Mark and Maureen’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

Mark and Maureen’s submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

Growing up on a family farm

Ian from Frenchtown, NJ is a college student who wrote to the FERC to tell them about his life growing up on a farm in NJ:

Growing up on my family farm has been one of the most defining aspects of my childhood, and it has played a huge hand in making me who I am today. There has been nothing like being able to walk outside and having the world at my fingertips; whether I hunt, farm, or work in my family’s garden, I was privileged to have this experience as a child.

The experience, and life lessons learned from living where I do, is something that I would have loved to give my future children. Sadly there is something that could stop me from gifting them that experience if the Penn East Pipeline is approved. My family’s farm will not be the same. The pipeline will run directly through the center of my family’s property, which shockingly, would be terrible. For starters the pipeline would destroy farmland and take away a source of income for my parents. Also, it would run directly through the woods, destroying cover and shelter for the deer and other wildlife. Last but not least, it has the potential to not only contaminate the water supply to my house, but also for the nearby town of Frenchtown.

To recap and reinforce, the Penn East Pipeline will destroy everything that I love about where I live. The farming will be compromised along with hunting; most importantly, my family and I could be gone as well and potentially countless other families in my area if our water source is destroyed.

If this did not convince you about how special my home is to me, below is my college essay that I wrote a year ago. It pertains to how defining farms are to those families who own them. (After you read my essay you will understand this comment: “In addition, my favorite and my granddad’s favorite hedgerow is in the direct path of this pipeline and will be demolished.”)

He then goes on to share the essay he wrote for a college class the year before. The topic of the essay was to describe a place “where you are perfectly content”, and to further describe “what do you do or experience there, and why is this meaningful?”.

Opening day of hunting season has arrived and our family tradition remains the same; we get up before dawn and at the kitchen table, over a steaming pot of coffee and my mom’s freshly baked pumpkin bread, we reminisce about opening days in the past, and discuss the new day ahead. My family surrounds me at my kitchen table and I am content.

It is finally time to head outside. Frost crunches under my feet as I begin the walk from my house to my favorite stand. I live on a farm and this long walk goes quickly, or so I think, as my footsteps keep pace with my heart’s deafening beat. I know these woods like the back of my hand as I have walked them since I was a child and yet, in the dark, they look so foreign to me.

I finally come to my stand and settle in to wait. Mother nature is not on anyone’s schedule except her own. It is this unpredictability about my time in the woods that is intriguing and it is the only environment in which I am completely content.

The sport of hunting is important to me on so many levels. It is about spending time with family and being alone. It is about being in a place where tradition holds value, where knowledge and skills are taught and passed down through generations carefully, and where, at my age; I can contribute to providing for my family.

When I am outside in the woods or meadow, I see nature in its most natural state. I sit silently and pay attention to observing animals going about their business without any human interference in their natural habitat. Being in this environment is peaceful and there is a quiet that I experience here that is unique to
all other aspects of my life.

I am a student, soccer and baseball player, golfer, SCUBA diver, fisherman, and coach. I volunteer, travel with my family, bowl with my friends every Monday night, and I am an adrenaline junkie who seeks adventure and excitement in everything that I do.

However, I am fortunate that I understand at such a young age that every once in a while I need to take a break from all the excitement and activity, and take time to be still and think about what ever comes to mind. I was lucky to find hunting as my source of meditation. Sitting in the woods twenty feet in the air with nothing but untamed nature surrounding me is the only place in which I am at peace and completely content.

The most recent proposed route shows the pipeline going right through the middle of the farm Ian so clearly loves.

His submission is available here:

Ian’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

Ian’s submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

Comments from a member of the West Amwell Pipeline committee

Jennifer Andreoli commented to the FERC as part of West Amwell’s Pipeline Committee, link here:

West Amwell Pipeline Committee Member Coments – FERC Generated PDF

West Amwell Pipeline Committee Member Coments – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

Please read her comments in full, but this passage in particular really struck me:

If you put aside the extremes, the environmentalists and the pipeline companies, you are left with the citizens impacted by the pipeline. As one of these average citizens I can tell you there is an awful lot of conflicting evidence from both sides. Because of this I felt it necessary to talk to other average citizens who have been impacted by similar applications in other towns. Speaking directly to these people is where I found truth on the aftermath of these applications. There are two key points that struck me more than even the evidence on the environmental impact and potential economic boon for the region.

The farmer. I spoke with a woman from PA and found she has had similar problems as our own Mr. Fulper in West Amwell Township with pipelines. The crop yield is lower on and surrounding the lines, the destruction from the installation is not repairable; the disregard by pipeline companies of the land is disheartening. Both of these individuals have had issues with the pipeline companies coming on their property, destroying property, crops and soils, doing what the company claims are routine maintenance without prior notification. In both cases, the pipeline companies after much arguing and threats to contact attorneys would only offer a minimal monetary compensation for the loss. Even going as far as to tell both farmers, go ahead and take us to court, it will cost you more in legal fees. That was a disturbing discovery especially in light of the fact these are private companies being given permission by our federal government to take land from individuals. When questioned, our government repeats these private companies are required to follow certain rules, regulations and standards of practice which it appears no one holds them accountable to.

Historic Stockton Farm Threatened by Pipeline

Dan and Carla from Stockton, NJ writes to the FERC:

Our property is a preserved farm of approximately 137 acres in Delaware Township NJ. The preferred alternative route for the pipeline that is currently proposed by PennEast would traverse the entire length of our acreage. We oppose this pipeline for many reasons which are of an economic, environmental, and legal basis.

First of all, economically, our farm would lose significant value if this pipeline is allowed to bisect it. The proposed alternative route appears to be very close to our residence. Assurances from PennEast employees notwithstanding, all real estate professionals with whom we have spoken have opined that property values would decrease dramatically. How does PennEast intend to compensate us for what we anticipated to be our retirement nest egg? The pittance they hope to pay for a right of way could not begin to approach the loss we will incur if our residence is located within the “impact zone” of a natural gas pipeline.

Many farmers have documented the loss of crop yields on land they use after pipelines have been constructed. We worked hard to establish high quality hay fields, on which we use minimal chemicals. The construction & maintenance of a natural gas pipeline through our farm fields will cause compaction of our loam soils, some of which have been rated as prime & in the top seventy five percentile of statewide importance. How does PennEast intend to protect our soils, allowing them to produce as they do now? The techniques currently employed to minimize damage to the soil strata have been shown as ineffective. The damage cannot be undone once the soil is torn apart & the layers separated. We will lose the use of our prime hay fields as well as suffer reduced yields where we are still able to farm.

Our farm is also of historical significance, having been in operation since the 1700s. In front of our house is a stone hitching post, next to a stone wagon mounting block. We have uncovered old wells & cisterns which were built with stones. The property is contingent to the Rosemont Agricultural Historical District in the area of New Jersey’s only remaining covered bridge.

Environmentally, there are many considerations. The first would be the already mentioned soil compaction. We also have two ponds, one of which is fed by Plum Brook, a stream traversing the northern, wooded section of our farm. Plum Brook is home to minks, beaver, & muskrat, to name a few. The brook feeds into the Wickecheoke Creek, which makes its way to the Delaware River. The pond in our forest contains many fish, including bass & many species of turtles. The pipeline is proposed to cut through Plum Brook, which will cause devastation to the wildlife habitat. To the south of Plum Brook is an open grassland area which we provide for the birds who nest in such areas. Bobolinks & Eastern Meadowlarks live here and breed; their numbers are in decline due to a lack of territory, so we feel it is necessary to set aside land where they will be able to thrive. Another bird in decline that we are involved in trying to help is the threatened American Kestrel. Our farm has been part of the New Jersey American Kestrel Nest Box Project for the past 5 or 6 years, allowing the state to place the nesting boxes on the utility poles which cross our hay fields. Many baby kestrels have been born & banded here. Putting this pipeline adjacent to the power line will increase the already hot summer temperatures, making the survival of these precious babies less likely.

Legally, we have concerns about the selection of preserved farmland for a pipeline. As owners of a preserved farm, we are legally obligated to abide by five pages of deed restrictions. One of these restrictions reads as follows:

“No sand, gravel, loam, rock, or other minerals shall be deposited on or removed from the Premises excepting only those materials required for the agricultural purpose for which the land is being used.”

Another restriction follows:

“No activity shall be permitted on the Premises which would be detrimental to drainage, flood control, water conservation, erosion control, or soil conservation, nor shall any other activity be permitted which would be detrimental to the continued agricultural use of the Premises.”.
How can we be bound by law to uphold restrictions to the use of our property, yet a private company could be allowed by the FERC to violate those legal encumbrances?

We have sacrificed & struggled to return this farm from the neglected, fallow fields we originally found here, to a productive, self sufficient homestead. Our electricity is completely solar generated. We grow our own vegetables & hay for our horses. We try to live frugally, with respect for the land, mindful of our carbon footprint. We pay our taxes & our mortgage. This is our dream, the American Dream. Allowing the PennEast pipeline to be constructed through our farm would turn that dream into a nightmare. We will stand with our neighbors & refuse to allow this private, for-profit LLC access to our land. No action should be the determination by FERC in PennEast’s bid to destroy our preserved lands.

Like Dan and Carla I don’t understand how eminent domain can be used to take away land protected by the state. Doing a little research I came upon the following article – this discusses electrical power lines instead of gas ones, but I believe the principles are the same:

Protected Conservation Easements from Eminent Domain

The article states:

With respect to property owned wholly by a private entity, the FERC permit would entitle the permit holder to acquire a necessary right-of-way by eminent domain if the holder could not acquire the right-of-way through negotiation with the property owner. The court with jurisdiction over the condemnation proceedings would determine the just compensation owed, which would be the fair market value of the property on the date of the condemnation (including applicable severance damages).26
FERC permit holders may not, however, condemn property owned by the United States or a state. The 824p(e) exception states:

In the case of a permit under subsection (b) for electric transmission facilities to be located on property other than property owned by the United States or a State, . . . the permit holder may acquire the right-of-way by the exercise of the right of eminent domain[.]
(Emphasis added.) Thus, because the exception precludes the use of eminent domain, if FERC were to issue a permit for a transmission facility slated to cross any federal or state property, the permit holder would need to reach agreement with the federal or state agency responsible for managing that property in order to obtain a right-of-way.27

The scope of the 824p(e) exception is uncertain. Whether the exception prohibits condemnation of partial interests in land (such as conservation easements) held or co-held by federal or state government has not been indicated by Congress and not yet determined by a court. The 824p(e) exception will apply to partial interests in land to the extent that these interests are considered “property,” and can be “owned.” Conservationists and some land management agencies presumably will seek an expansive interpretation of these terms to maximize the scope of the 824p(e) exception. DOE, FERC, and utility companies, in contrast, are likely to seek a narrow interpretation of these terms to maximize siting options.

So the question becomes, can farmland and Open Spaces protected by NJ open spaces easements be protected in this manner? I wish I knew the answer. I know all local conservation organizations up to the county level are against the pipeline (the Hunterdon County Board of Freeholders gave a resounding speech against the pipeline last night at the FERC scoping meeting). I have several state representatives and senators are against the pipeline. But I haven’t found any documentation on state agencies weighing in.

Carla and Dan’s submission is below:

Carla and Dan’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

Carla and Dan’s submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site