HOPEWELL: Deadline to comment on proposed PennEast pipeline looms

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By Frank Mustac, Contributor
Opponents of the planned PennEast Pipeline are urging individuals to submit comments against the project to the federal government prior to the September deadline.
Back in July, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released a draft environmental impact statement, submitted by the PennEast Pipeline Company, for the 118-mile natural gas pipeline.
Roger Byron, of the “ReThink Energy NJ” campaign, said it was important for anyone who did not want the pipeline to be constructed to make sure they submit their thoughts on the proposed project.
“Anybody who wants to comment should comment before the close of that opportunity,” said Roger Byron with the ReThink campaign.
The PennEast Pipeline Company is waiting for approvals from 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.
According to the FERC, the public comment portion of the application will continue until Sept. 12.
Launched in part by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the “ReThink Energy NJ” campaign was started to “provide the facts on fossil fuels, pipeline risks and the benefits of renewable energy and energy efficiency in the Garden State,” according to the group’s website.
Several “really big problems” with the PennEast Pipeline proposal also exist, Mr. Byron said..
“One is that much of the proposed pipeline (route) is through preserved land, and that land has been preserved using taxpayers money,” he said. “To me, that land is priceless, and there is no sort of logic suggesting it should be home for a pipe.”
Mr. Byron said the campaign is also concerned over the pipeline’s potential impact on water quality in the region.
“There is a great danger that our drinking water will be polluted by the pipe,” he said.
He said the draft environmental impact statement is “riddled with with omissions, errors and problems.”
“It’s really unfortunate that FERC is still moving forward with this process when in fact the process that needs to be followed isn’t being followed,” Mr. Byron said. “They have a process, and it appears FERC is accepting the draft environmental impact statement with all these omissions and all these errors in it, and saying they will still review it.”
The PennEast draft environmental impact statement is available at pipeinfo.org.
Mary Tolmie, a member of Homeowners Against Land Taking – PennEast (HALT), said the individuals and organizations opposing the PennEast Pipeline have made a significant difference in delaying PennEast’s application process with FERC “for about a year, so far.”
Ms. Tolmie said HALT PennEast was formed in December 2015 by homeowners and landowners who individually began taking action to oppose the pipeline, then “realized that it was a David versus Goliath fight.”
The proposed route of the PennEast Pipeline, she said, runs through land owned by professionals like chemists, geologists, and active and retired government officials.
“They’re going through the backyards of all these people who have connections and know how to play hardball,” Ms. Tolmie said.