Dream home is nearing completion – but so is the PennEast proposal

Henry from Stockton, NJ is just a few weeks away from completing his dream home in Delaware Township. Unfortunately his dream is located fairly close to both the original and proposed pipeline routes.

I am weeks away &om completing my dream home on a piece of property located close the the proposed route of the PennEast pipeline project. My property is between the original route and the proposed alternate route of the pipeline. My property is located at Block 19 Lot 24 in Delaware Township, NJ.

One reason we decided to build here is that almost the entire immediate area surrounding my home are properties in Farmland Preservation. We enjoy the rural character of the area and would not like to see it marred by a new pipeline right of way. I feel our community was directly targeted because so many properties are in preservation.

I do have some concerns about what could happen to my home and family as well as my drinking water well. I believe the public need for this project has been greatly overstated by PennEast since New Jersey, where the pipeline will terminate, already enjoys the low’est residential natural gas prices in the region. The corporation “needs” the pipeline for profits, not for the benefit of the citizens in the area. I also find it very ironic that residential gas delivery will not even be offered to the very communities that will have to be traversed by the pipeline.

There is a very sad and deep irony buried in Henry’s story. If you google his block and lot information in Delaware Township you’ll land on the minutes of a Delaware Township municipal meeting that took place several years ago. The topic was variances they needed from the town and the NJ DEP to install their septic system. They noted that it took two years to complete the NJ DEP approval process.

Think about that for a moment. An individual trying to get a septic system installed on their lot needs to go through a lengthy process that takes years to get environmental approval for. For just one house. Meanwhile PennEast says that the entire pipeline process will be done in the same amount of time!

What kind of planet do we live on that approving an individual septic system takes two years but approving a pipeline sails through the system?

Henry also shares his eye-witness account of the 36″ gas pipeline explosion in Edison, NJ in the 90s. One part talks about why it took hours to get the pipeline gas flow turned off:

The valves on this pipeline normally operate in power assist mode, in which the gas pressure powers a small motor that opens and closes the valve. Normally, it is a seven- to 10-minute procedure. This night the rupture had reduced pressure in the line such that the valve would not automatically turn. However, even if there had been sufficient pressure, firefighters were concerned that the natural gas vented off from this valve during the automatic valve-closing procedure would be ignited by the intense heat from the fireball.

South Plainfield Volunteer Fire Department and TETCO employees had to close the valve manually. The firefighters, in four- or five-member shifts, took turns on the four-foot-diameter hand-wheel, moving it six to eight inches at a pull against the flow of gas through the line. The heat was such that the reflective material on their turnouts burned away and the bottoms of their fire boots melted. It took 752 turns and 2 1/2 hours to close the valve.

Henry’s submission is available below.

Henry’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

Henry’s submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate site

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

Professor Tullis Onstott provides his formal evaluation to FERC

Prof. Tullis C. Onstott of the Department of Geosciences at Princeton University has been mentioned here and in people’s submissions before. He objects to the pipeline route due to the concentrations of arsenic in Hunterdon county and the amount of it that will be released into our drinking water and waterways if this pipeline is built.

Impact of Pipeline on Drinking Water
Although no specifics have been given as to the depth of the pipeline, the 3‐foot diameter pipeline will require a depth of cover of at least 3 feet below the surface, and, more likely 4 feet below the surface where the pipeline crosses many farmlands in Hunterdon County (as specified by the USDOT regulations at 49CFR192). This means the pipeline trench will need to by 7.5 feet deep and because most of the soil in Hunterdon County is less than 32 to 64 inches10, the bedrock will have to be excavated. This means that the trench construction, which will in some cases require blasting, will fracture, shatter, excavate, deposit at the surface in spoil piles and rebury arsenic‐rich shale exposing it to aerobic conditions. Horizontal Directional Drilling beneath the streams and creeks will crush the bedrock into fine‐grained sand and silt size particles and release arsenic into the drilling mud pits.

The professor goes onto to explain what this means in layman’s terms using an analogy.

To give you a better idea of the consequences of this construction phase imagine you are holding one kilogram piece of Lockatong argillite that has 100 ppm of arsenic. One kilogram is about the size of my fist. If you break it up and leach all of the arsenic from that rock and put it into a 1 liter bottle of Fiji water, the arsenic concentration of the water will be ~250 ppm. The MCL is 5 ppb, so I would have to dilute the water in that bottle with an additional 50,000 liters of Fiji water. In reality the Hunterdon County ground water is not Fiji water and already has elevated arsenic, but I’ll give PennEast a break and say that we would only need to dilute the water in that bottle with ~100,000 liters of Hunterdon County’s best well water. That is only about ~25,000 gallons of well water, which is not that much. If I poured 100,000 liters of water on to the surface of a farm in Hunterdon County, it would fill a 1,000,000 liter volume of the surficial aquifer, reasonably assuming a ~10% porosity. This is equivalent to 1,000 cubic meters. Given that the surficial aquifer is only ~1 meter deep in Hunterdon County, this corresponds to ~30 meter square patch (or ~100 feet by 100 feet) of farmland, which is really not much of an impacted area. The 100‐ foot length is about the width of the temporary ROW for the pipeline, if I understand this correctly. But how many kilograms of Lockatong argillite will be excavated, broken up, exposed to air and reburied into the trench within that ROW? How much of the Lockatong argillite around the trench will be fractured by the blasting? I will give PennEast a break here and just say that the trench is only 2 meters deep by 1 meter wide (it will certainly be larger than this), and I will assume that there is no arsenic in the upper 1 meter. This means that a ~30 meter long pipeline trench will expose ~75,000 kilograms of Lockatong argillite or about 75 metric tons. This is not a lot of rock (about three dump truck loads), but if it contains 100 ppm of arsenic, then it would have to be diluted with 75,000,000,000 liters of Hunterdon County groundwater in order for the arsenic concentration to be reduced below 5 ppb. That is a large volume of water. Another way of thinking about it is to assume that all of the arsenic was released from the 75 metric tons of Lockatong argillite into the 30 by 30 meters of 1‐meter deep surficial aquifer. The arsenic concentration would then be ~180 ppm, but I’ll give PennEast a break and say it is just 100 ppm to make the math easier. So to dilute it down to 5 ppb, you would need a 20,000x dilution factor for 100,000 liters of ground water. To visualize this volume, it would represent a 30‐meter wide strip of land extending perpendicular to the pipeline on both sides for a distance of 300 kilometers (it is just 2×10,000×30 meters), or 216 miles! The average diffusive groundwater velocities in this region are ~1 foot a day, so it would take ~2,500 years give or take a thousand, to dilute the arsenic plume by normal groundwater recharge.

Of course not all of the Lockatong and Passaic formation shale is 100 ppm and not all of the arsenic will be released during the excavation and blasting, but you can easily see that even if a mere fraction of the arsenic is released, that it will have a severe impact on the arsenic concentrations of the privately owned wells down gradient from the pipeline for more than the 30 year operational lifetime of the pipeline. We do know the range of arsenic concentrations in these two formations, but we do not know specifically what the arsenic concentration is of the bedrock along the proposed PennEast Pipeline route. We also do not know what form that arsenic is in within the bedrock along the proposed pipeline route, whether it is soluble arsenic or arsenopyrite or some other arsenic phase. But neither does PennEast know. This needs to be determined for the Environmental Impact Statement.

He goes onto explain the many, many threats there are to the pipeline’s integrity and the many, many ways arsenic can be released not just by the pipeline construction but also by its ongoing operations. I urge you to read his report in full.

The report also has a number of startling pictures to demonstrate what he’s talking about. This image shows the arsenic concentrations and the pipeline route. Sadly the route goes right through the highest arsenic concentrations in the state of NJ.

It shows the route crossing the Ramapo Fault System:

It goes right through water recharge zones – the zones are colored in blue:

The report goes on and on about the risks this pipeline poses to our health and environment, and provides a litany of things PennEast will have to do to even provide a basic measure of safety throughout the pipeline’s lifetime.

Please, go read his report below at one of these two sites:

Professor Onstott’s Statements – FERC Generated PDF

Professor Onstott’s Statements – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

Running the pipeline through areas of regular blasting

Penny from Moore Township, PA writes:

I am a very concerned resident of Moore Township and I am strongly
opposed to the PennEast Pipeline. Moore Township formally adopted a resolution opposing the construction of the PennEast Pipeline. More than 240 concerned citizens attended a meeting in opposition to the PennEast Pipeline in November 2014. Would you please recognize and consider the concerns and opposition of so many

I have numerous concerns in regard to the PennEast Pipeline that is proposed to run through a major part of Moore Township.


I live on South Penn Dixie Road and I am a witness to my entire home shaking from blasts that are conducted at local cement companies. This is not a safe environment to construct a gas pipeline, especially with the potential of this being a gateway for additional pipelines. A man down
the street from us lives on Sterner Road in Nazareth and he was contacted about the pipeline going through his property. He has also mentioned that his entire house shakes from the blasts. There is major risk of this pipeline running near Penn Dixie Road and South Penn Dixie Road because of the effects in the ground from blasting that is capable of shaking homes.


The close proximity of the PennEast Pipeline to the Moore Township Elementary School is a danger to over 700 students at the school. The catastrophic risk of an explosion to so many children is unacceptable.

There have been so many newspaper articles reflecting gas pipeline explosions in regard to sinkholes. I am copying a few links and related articles.

There was the explosion in Dunmore, PA – link –

There was a concern mentioned at an Upper Nazareth Township Meeting about
sinkholes: link –

There was another near catastrophic event from a sinkhole – link –

Lehigh Valley Planning Commission noted the area is like swiss cheese –
link: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/breakingnews/index.ssf/2014/12/penneast_lays_out_benefits_of.html


I attended the PennEast Pipeline presentation and inquired about alternate routes. They said they have about 50 alternate routes but I was very discouraged to hear that these alternate routes are basically the same route with minor deviations within 50 feet to 1 mile of the proposed path. With this being the case, it is impossible to avoid some of the concerns I have noted including blasting, sinkholes, etc. I believe there should be alternate routes in completely different areas so that a
decision can be made on the very safest route. If you look at the map, it is a more direct and safer route to run the pipeline through Saylorsburg and Bangor. I think FERC should demand PennEast Pipeline to have alternate routes that are in completely different areas so that certain problem areas can be avoided completely.


It is a major concern to me as a resident of Moore Township when PennEast Pipeline representatives cannot answer how significant the explosion of a 36 inch high pressure gas line would be.

An important question of mine is what area would a catastrophic explosion encompass? This is a question that should have been investigated and PennEast probably has the answer but they choose not to answer this question because it is most definitely very concerning. What would the explosion area encompass as more pipelines are run through the gateway, which I have heard is not out of the question, and in fact it is a future plan?

The shut off valves are 10 to 20 miles apart which is another concern. How far would the explosion travel?

In rural areas in Moore Township, there are homeowners with their own excavating equipment that could potentially damage the gas pipeline since it is only 3 feet deep. What would the consequences of this be? No one from PennEast will answer these questions.

They’re running a pipeline in areas where cement companies do blasting? I wish PennEast was more open about what methodology they used in choosing this crazy route….

Penny’s submission is below:

Penn’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

Penn’s submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

Impact on all-volunteer fire departments an issue

Bernice from Milford brings up many good points, among them a note about the nature of the fire departments in our area. The FERC should take notice:

On a closer to home note, I live in Hunterdon County, a very rural, historic, river town area. We are living on a fault line and had an earthquake a few years ago. We have only volunteer fire departments. I have lived through the Edison and Allentown pipeline explosions. It looks like the end of the world. Last winter, a house that probably would be on the pipeline route, went on fire. Every fire department for miles was there. They got stuck getting up the hill to the house and flagged down my kids in a four wheel drive truck to try to clear a path through the snow. They couldn’t and instead had to help drag hoses toward the fire. Needless to say, the house burned to the ground.

What would happen if a pipeline exploded?


And on an even more personal note, I have wanted to be a farmer all my life. I finally bought a farm with eleven rental units on it, nine years ago. I went through the expense of getting a building lot approved for a farmhouse and paid an architect for drawings. Now there will be a bomb in my front yard when I build. How much value will that house lose? All of it. I am in the process of getting funding from the USDA to start my farm, live in the farmhouse and now the pipeline is putting an end to that. My dream of farming and living on the farm and having a retirement income is all lost for the benefit of PennEast and gas that will never be used by Hunterdon County residents. Not to mention, my eleven tenants are worried about living near a pipeline that they will have to cross everyday.

This is just one persons nightmare from this pipeline. Multiply it by 108 miles of lives. If it gets approved, why can’t we be paid fairly for what we are losing? Please deny them permission so I can get on with my future hopes and dreams to just live safely and farm on MY LAND.

I know in my town and the surrounding areas fire departments always have a tough time getting funding. They’re mostly volunteers. They’re always fighting for equipment. It took years for West Amwell to finally get modern radios, which help keep firemen safe when they’re entering burning buildings. Every year we get a note from wafco26 (http://wafco26.com/) asking for money, which we gladly donate to every year. We’re all on wells which means no hydrants. Towns routinely help each other when disasters occur but they can only stretch so much. If a 3′ pipeline ruptured I believe it would be far beyond our local fire department’s ability to handle.

Maybe that $5,000 PennEast is donating to organizations will help? Well let’s see, just the radios I mention above cost more than $5,000 in total cost. So I don’t think it’s going to make all that big of a difference. A single fire truck costs more than $100,000……

David and Merete in Pennington, NJ

David and Merete write to the FERC:

As residents of Hopewell Township, New Jersey who would be directly affected by the proposed PennEast pipeline from Luzerne County, PA to the Transco terminus north of Trenton, NJ, we voice our most strenuous objections to PennEast’s plans and its pre-filing for FERC approval. As proposed by PennEast, the pipeline would run through our property and within 100 feet of our home, and would result in the irreparable destruction of acres of hundred+-year old forest on and adjacent to our
property. Furthermore, the planned pipeline would follow a path taking it through a certified preserved wetlands area to the south of our property that are home and a waystation for migratory birds—green and blue heron and snowy egrets, among others. Those wetlands would be destroyed by pipeline construction.

The pipeline would destroy the local environment, which is the principal reason most residents of our township, including ourselves, chose to live here. No financial remuneration from the taking of our property could ever adequately compensate us for that loss. All local authorities in our and adjacent townships have formally objected to the pipeline. As you consider the PennEast proposal, you must urge PennEast to find an alternative to the proposed route that minimizes environmental damage, such as an existing right-of-way, or deny permission to build.

I remain amazed that PennEast thinks it’s OK to run a 3′ wide high pressure natural gas pipeline within a hundred feet of someone’s house, let alone through wetlands and protected water ways.

Their submission is below:

David and Merete’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

David and Merete’s submission – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site