The Nishisakawick Creek

Eric from Frenchtown, NJ writes about the threat the pipeline is to the environment around his home on the Nishisakawick Creek. The story quickly goes from talking about bald eagle citings to mention of a horrific 36″ gas pipeline explosion in the 90s in Edison, NJ:

I have read just about every comment submitted to date, regarding the proposed PennEast pipeline – I’m sure FERC has, as well. Aside from a handful of comments from individuals, ALL of the remarks favoring this project (perhaps a dozen) are from those that will directly profit from it. Utility companies & union representatives are all raving about the public benefit. This is in stark contrast to the hundreds of comments from the land owners, local governments, scientists, environmental groups, and individuals who view this project as a potential disaster. Why?

For the record, I live in Frenchtown, NJ and my home is adjacent to the Nishisakawick Creek. This stream has a C1 classification and for good reason. It is home to many species of animals that are endangered and/or threatened through loss of habitat. Three weeks ago, my wife and I had the pleasure of watching this bald eagle hunting next to our house:

As of 2012, there were only 119 breeding pairs of eagles in the state of NJ. Over the years I have also had the joy of viewing goshawk, bobcat, and corn snakes in our backyard, which are all classified as endangered by the NJDEP. Not to mention, the black bear, owls, heron, fox, coyote, deer, and dozens of other species that make regular appearances during the year. The stream is pristine and FERC should reject the PennEast proposal, out-of-hand, on this basis alone.

However, aside from the huge environmental impact this project will have, I am equally concerned about my family’s safety. Our home is located well within the thermal radius of the pipeline should it rupture. And in spite of all of the assurances from PennEast, NO ONE can erase the memory I have of the Durham Woods pipeline explosion in 1994. The flames were so high, I thought that my neighbor’s house was on fire, yet we were over 25 miles away. If this were to happen in Hunterdon, putting out the ensuing fires would be next to impossible, as our rural community relies on water tanker shuttles. Just how will PennEast handle a massive forest fire fueled by thousands of cubic feet per second of natural gas? Put simply, they can’t.

I took the time to carefully read PennEast’s “Draft Resource Report 1 and Summary of Alternatives.” In my humble opinion, the sections outlining project necessity and project alternatives were inadequate to say the least. According to PennEast’s report, the binding reservations during their “open season” demonstrated the need for this project. This is fallacious, as it only proves that members of the PennEast consortium (Spectra, UGI et al) want access to cheaper natural gas. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the existing pipeline infrastructure in NJ/NY can meet current firm demand without any problem. And recently, FERC has approved many major pipeline improvement projects to address future demand. Expansion projects with expected in-service dates between 2013 and 2015 have or will “add at least 3.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of additional capacity to New York/New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic markets.” These include the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co.’s Leidy Southeast Expansion & Virginia Southside Expansion Projects, Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s Line 300 Expansion, Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co.’s Bayonne Delivery Lateral Project, Algonquin Gas Transmission’s Hubline/East to West Project, and Texas Eastern’s Transmission pipeline expansion project from Linden, New Jersey to Manhattan, New York.

New Jersey is already awash in gas transmission pipelines meeting current & future demand, and yet the gas industry insists that we need more. This is complete and utter nonsense and we certainly don’t need to cut across every Category One stream in our state to have another.

The explosion he mentions was written up in the New York times. According to the wikipedia article on the explosion:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edison,_New_Jersey_natural_gas_explosion

…was caused by a rupture in a 36″ natural gas pipeline.  Not too coincidentally, PennEast is a 36″ natural gas pipeline.

Eric’s submission is available below:

Eric’s submission – FERC Generated PDF

Eric’s submission – 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
people?

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

CONCERN #1:
BLASTS FROM CEMENT COMPANIES CAPABLE OF SHAKING HOMES ON PENN DIXIE ROAD AND SOUTH PENN DIXIE ROAD

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.

CONCERN 2:
THE PROPOSED ROUTE OF THE PIPELINE IS APPROXIMATELY 3/10 OF A MILE FROM THE MOORE TOWNSHIP SCHOOL

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.

CONCERN 3:
SINKHOLES AND POTENTIAL CATASTROPHIC RISK OF EXPLOSION
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 –
http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-pa-scranton-gas-explosion-20141204-
story.html

There was a concern mentioned at an Upper Nazareth Township Meeting about
sinkholes: link –
http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/nazareth/index.ssf/2014/11/upper_nazareth
_residents_raise.html

There was another near catastrophic event from a sinkhole – link –
http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-bethlehem-township-searches-forwater-line-break-20141121-story.html

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

CONCERN 4:
THE BOTTOM LINE IS THE 108 MILE PROPOSED ROUTE FOR THE PIPELINE IS NOT A
SAFE ROUTE

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.

CONCERN 5:
PENN EAST REPRESENTATIVES THAT ARE ADVOCATING THE PIPELINE CANNOT ANSWER
SAFETY RELATED QUESTIONS OF CONCERNED CITIZENS

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?

Devastation.

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……

An individual’s traumatizing experiences with natural gas

Kim from West Amwell, NJ writes to the FERC about her bad luck with natural gas and the trauma it’s caused to her family:

When I was young, my Uncle Ken Kenning, Aunt Eileen, Aunt Anna, and cousins Billy and Chrissy lived in Mercerville, NJ; their house was right next to a church. Because their driveway was fairly small, we always parked in the church parking lot when we visited.

On April 22, 1971, that church exploded in a violent gas explosion that left nothing but part of the entranceway remaining. I was only six at the time, but I still remember my mother telling me that Uncle Ken’s house had exploded and that the ceiling had fallen in on my Aunt Anna, and that she had been taken to the hospital. (See Figures 1-4 below for the Evening Times article covering the explosion.) At least five people were injured, and many homes in the area damaged, with windows being shattered miles from the site. If the explosion had happened two and a half hours later, the church would have been filled with children. In Figure 3, the lower right picture shows the view of the rubble from my cousin Chrissy’s bedroom.

Here’s one of the pictures she included:

That wasn’t her only story to share about natural gas disasters though:

This incident was very scary for me, a six year old. I didn’t understand how a building could just blow up like that, and I wondered if it would happen to our house. But I grew up and our house didn’t explode. (We didn’t have gas).

Two things happened when I was in my early twenties. First, my 80 cubic foot scuba tank became a projectile one hot summer night in my bedroom, bouncing off all the walls, smashing everything in its path. It was the loudest sound I had ever heard, and not realizing what was happening, I was convinced that an airplane was about to crash through the window. I personally learned that night how powerful gas under pressure can be.

The second thing that happened involved my Uncle Mike La Franco (my godfather), who lived in an apartment building in East Windsor, NJ. My father’s best friend, Uncle Mike was our closest and favorite, fun-loving uncle. One morning, he woke up and smelled gas. He called the appropriate number he had been given, but reached an answering machine. He waited a while and called again. Again he got the machine. He decided to get dressed and leave. He was in the bathroom when the building exploded. He managed to get outside, but he was burning, with even his hair on fire. My mother and I got the call from the hospital. He had burns that started on his head and went down his back, with more minor burns in other areas.

At one point while in the hospital, Uncle Mike asked me to drive over to his complex and try to find his car keys in his apartment. I drove over, not sure what to expect, but what I found was nothing. Not only was his apartment gone, the entire building was gone. I wandered around the grounds, and found a couple of wall decorations that had been in my uncle’s apartment, but they were melted and deformed. When I asked him if he wanted me to search further, he said no. He didn’t want anything to remind him of what had happened.

As you might guess, of course this means that her house is on one of the proposed Penn East routes:

When I got married a few years later, I told my husband that I would never want a gas stove or gas heater or gas anything, and thankfully when we moved into our current house (my childhood home), there was still no gas service on our road.

And then, in August 2014, we received a letter from PennEast, saying that our property would directly abut the pipeline route. And I knew that if this project was built, I would constantly have to live with the threat of our family being killed in a gas explosion. This fear was compounded when my cousin – the one who lived next to the church and who now lives in West Amwell, NJ – also received a letter from PennEast, saying that the line would go right through her property.

While I understand Kim’s issues with natural gas I don’t quite share the same level of fear of it that she does. But as I’ve said in earlier posts, risks are not absolutes but must be considered as a continuum. And it’s not just about likelihood of disaster but the outcome in the unlikely event that the worst does happen. I could live with natural gas in my house (in fact I have a 500 pound propane tank for home heating). But that’s not the same as a billion cubic feet of natural gas going by your house every day, and having it forced on you by eminent domain.

Read Kim’s entire submission below:

Kim’s submission to FERC

Kim’s submission to FERC Alternate site

92 year old farmer’s concerns about his land and taxes

George in Moore Township, PA was born on his parent’s farm in 1923. And he still lives there. And PennEast would like to run a pipeline through it…

My parents purchased this farm in March 1920. I was born on this land in 1923 and continue to live on this land; I am 92. Both my parents and I have paid substantial taxes over the years in support of this land. But now my rights to use this land is being threatened by the proposed 36 inch PennEast Pipeline. Yes the stated easement is only 50 foot but who in their right mind would even consider purchasing land within 250 yards of this pipeline? The total farm is now devalued significantly!

Currently, I have experienced water runoff problems that occur during heavy rains. The proposed pipeline will funnel additional runoff water downslope and only exacerbate the problems in the future. Removal of trees and other plants that hold water along the pipeline route will only worsen the problem. Where is the information on how they will control this runoff?

Yes, we have paid taxes on this land since it was acquired and will have to continue to pay taxes into perpetuity for land that is significantly devalued due to this pipeline. Who is going to fight to have the taxes reduced? Is this a good deal for Moore Township or Northampton County? No, it is not, and in fact, it hurts the community in that they now have to plan, equip and train for possible large gas pipeline emergencies. Where do the funds come from for the training, equipment and insurance? Taxes must go up and we get no benefit. Great! Has PennEast ever provided communities along the route with information about emergency measures to deal with potential pipeline catastrophes? Or, are they to gain this information through osmosis? I am told that the proposed easement can also be used to install additional pipelines or other infrastructure or can even be sold. Is this correct? PennEast would have 24/7 access to this land and could install “pig launchers” or valves as desired or other infrastructure where the pipeline crosses the 500 KVolt power line. This could render additional land useless! In exchange for some minimal one-time payment, the pipeline company would have use of my property forever and I pay taxes on that land. Do you really think that is right?

I have read about farmers that have allowed, or been ordered, by the court to allow pipelines to pass under their land. Despite claims by the construction companies, these farmers have stated that the farmland disturbed by the construction, produce crops at a reduced yield from land not disturbed. Trenching through farmland changes the soil composition and compaction for hundreds of years and therefore impacts crop yields of tax paying farmers. Is there monetary composition for this reduction on a yearly basis since crop prices change?

You can read George’s entire submission below.

George in PA – FERC Generated PDF

George in PA – FERC Generated PDF Alternate Site

West Amwell Submission – Explosions even worse than I thought

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

There are two areas they discussed especially succinctly:

Public Safety – Explosions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yikes.

Read West Amwell’s complete submission below:

West Amwell Township – FERC Generated PDF

West Amwell Township – FERC Generated PDF Alternate site