West Amwell Township responds to PennEast’s boilerplate scoping replies

I’m immensely proud of the political leadership in my town of West Amwell. The elected and designated officials of our town have been fighting against PennEast from the beginning, and their focus and dedication on this issue has been relentless.

Our town’s pipeline committee has seen PennEast’s ridiculous boilerplate replies to the scoping comments, and has submitted a very detailed document of all of the things PennEast missed.

The committee’s response is available here, and is signed by Cathy Urbanksi, Chair of the West Amwell Pipeline Committee, and George Fisher, mayor.

Here’s a link to the FERC alternate site in case the main one above is down.

It mentions the National Heritage Priority Site on Goat Hill that PennEast missed.

The specific, unique reasons lands have been preserved in the Sourlands that PennEast did not address.

The details of our C1 water ways and drinking water situation that PennEast ignored.

Our township officials have had to educate PennEast on the realities of blasting in hard diabase bedrock. Earth to PennEast – shaped charges do not mitigate vibration in bedrock. Shaped charges in fact focus more of the blast into the diabase. Our concerns do not consider just debris from blasting (although this is important). Our concerns relate the fact that diabase is a highly efficient medium for conducting blast waves, and that those waves can collapse the fissures in the bedrock that we rely on for our wells.

On these and many more points our township committee has had to educate and chastise PennEast for it’s woefully inadequate response.

They close with this summary:

The scoping period was “to solicit comments on the scope of the environmental review for the Project from interested stakeholders.”

West Amwell Township spent considerable time and resources preparing the scoping comments and expressing our specific concerns. It appears that they were ignored or just not read by PennEast. It is not possible for PennEast to prepare a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement when the scoping period comments were mostly disregarded.

Of the comments that PennEast did respond to, most did not address specific issues and concerns. They were boilerplate and stock responses. The “interested stakeholders” were treated very unfairly and not in accordance with the regulations:

“Pursuant to Section 157.21(f)(9) of the Commission’s regulations, 18 C.F.R. § 157.21(f)(9) (2014), PennEast submits, in Appendix A hereto, its response to comments posted to the above-referenced docket.”

Lest I offend the other towns along the pipeline route by over doing it with West Amwell, let me hurry to say that opposition against the pipeline has been unanimous in NJ, and has been swelling in PA for some months, and the level of detail and commitment in those towns has been simply outstanding overall. I keep thinking back to the scoping meeting in Hampton, NJ where the mayor of Kingwood Township stood up for his comments and basically raked PennEast over the coals, demanding the company guarantee drinking water for every single resident in his town for a decade or more after construction.

If you’re in one of those towns that hasn’t passed a resolution in opposition of PennEast, send them links to comments like these. Show them what a united front of townships up and down the route can do.

Delaware Township farms

Stephanie of Brook hollow farms tells the FERC about the farms and preserved lands her family owns and how the pipeline is going to destroy them:

Stephanie’s comments – FERC Generated PDF

The whole first paragraph is worth repeating here:

We are located in a historic, agricultural and rural federally designated district. It was selected for this designation for its bucolic beauty and history. All the preserved farms and open space in Delaware Township didn’t happen by chance. Locals have been actively and persistently preserving for 50 years to keep this place one of NJ’s crown jewel in its undisturbed shape. My family put my 250 acre farm into farmland preservation & conservation land so it would remain the same in inperpetuity. My sister and I live here with our families and continue their conservation efforts. This land was conserved for the public and not for corporate profit. My parents donated land along the Wickecheoke Creek as a public walking path and the local people have been working to expand that to protect the creek corridor and allow the public to enjoy the woods and creek. Your pipeline goes right thru it. My township has spent decades working to preserve land here and many of us have given a lot of money to do this or taken discounts on land put in preservation. We did not devote all our time and energy so Penn East could destroy that resource. How are you going to mitigate for that? Do you think anyone will want to preserve land now? You have opened the door to increased suburbanization around here which will cost our township its rural character as well as make our tax dollars soar. How do you mitigate?

Not only is my farm protected but the whole view shed will be forever changes.

 She also comments on an issue I’m deeply concerned about, the placement of the pipeline on very steep slopes. We have a lot of slopes in this entire region and clearing them is known to cause all sorts of bad, long term issues.  Stephanie says:

I also have environmental and farmland concerns:
The massive erosion and sedimentation on my steep sloped forest land. The purposed pipeline goes thru wet lands as well on my property. Your standards are so low and unsuited to this kind of landscape. I have seen the photos on the Delaware River keeper webpage of the 300 line in PA which in places has been replanted three times with no success. The damage extends far beyond the ROW. The same with the Highlands line which has eroded down to bedrock in places. What recourse do we have when it doesn’t work? Can you direct me to even one new pipeline site on a steep formerly forested slope that is an example of what you will do here? All I can find are failed examples