By Frank Mustac, Special Writer
HOPEWELL TWP. — Landowners learned what’s next in the fight against the proposed PennEast pipeline at an educational forum hosted by several activist organizations opposing the natural gas transmission conduit.
More than 70 people attended the meeting at the Hopewell Township Municipal Building on Jan. 21.
“It was a full room,” said Patty Cronheim of Hopewell Township Citizens Against the PennEast Pipeline, one of the event sponsors.
The PennEast Pipeline Company is waiting for approvals from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a permit to proceed with construction of the proposed 118-mile-long, 36-inch natural gas pipeline that would start in Luzerne County, Pa., near Wilkes-Barre and pass through parts of Hunterdon and Mercer counties in New Jersey and end at a junction with an existing pipeline in southeastern Hopewell Township near Blackwell Road.
PennEast specifically is requesting that FERC issue what’s called a certificate of public convenience and necessity. The pipeline company would not be able to break ground for the estimated billion-dollar-plus pipeline project before FERC and the state Department of Environmental Protection give formal consent.
Ms. Cronheim said that a draft environmental impact statement from FERC will probably come out sometime in the spring. When it is delivered, there will be 45 days to respond.
She said the forum held last week was, in part, about “how citizens have a voice and need to be able to write about their concerns to FERC.”
“We will be helping community members learn how to respond — help them with the FERC process,” Ms. Cronheim said.
Communities, towns and non-governmental organizations are “working together with a lot of unity,” Ms. Cromheim said. “I think people left (the meeting) feeling good knowing that they are supported and not going through this alone.
“It was a real show of commitment from all the people united fighting this pipeline,” she said. “We’re not going to back down. We are in this until the finish.”
The guest speaker at the event was Anne Marie Garti, an environmental lawyer from a citizens’ group called Stop the Pipeline, which is fighting the construction of the proposed Constitution Pipeline in New York State.
Other officials in attendance, Ms. Cronheim said, included state Assemblywoman Elizabeth Muoio, D-15; Hopewell Township Mayor Kevin Kuchinski; Tom Gilbert of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation; and Patricia Sziber of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space.
Representatives from HALT PennEast (Homeowners Against Land Taking), a group of homeowners and residents in Mercer and Hunterdon counties, also talked about their hiring of a Washington, D.C., law firm to help thwart the PennEast Pipeline company from winning government approvals.
The entities that sponsored the educational forum are Hopewell Citizens Against the PennEast Pipeline; along with Concerned Citizens Against the Pipeline; Hopewell Township; New Jersey Conservation Foundation; Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association; Sourland Conservancy; Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space; and Washington Crossing Audubon Society.
By Frank Mustac, Special Writer