An online petition opposing PennEast Pipeline Co.’s proposed natural gas pipeline, which begins in Pennsylvania and ends in Hopewell Township, has been launched by state Sen. Christopher “Kip” Bateman.
The petition, which was posted online on Jan. 23, has already been signed by nearly 400 people. Many of the signers may be affected by the 116-mile-long pipeline, which begins in Luzerne Co., Pa., and runs through several Pennsylvania counties and into Hunterdon and Mercer counties in New Jersey.
“As a legislator who represents families that will be impacted by PennEast, I want to demonstrate to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection the massive opposition that exists to building the pipeline,” said Bateman, whose 16th Legislative District includes parts of Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset counties.
The goal of the online petition is to give a residents a chance to ensure that their voices are heard and to give them an opportunity to influence the approval process at the state level, Bateman said.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) granted a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” to PennEast by a 4-1 vote last month. The certificate was issued on a conditional basis, requiring that PennEast complies with certain conditions.
The New Jersey Sierra Club blasted FERC’s approval of the controversial pipeline project for siding with the company instead of the public or the environment. Jeff Tittel, the New Jersey Sierra Club’s director, called FERC’s actions “shameful.”
But FERC’s approval of the PennEast application does not clear the way for the pipeline to be built, because the project still needs approval from the NJDEP and the Delaware River Basin Commission.
PennEast’s application to the Delaware River Basin Commission could take up to a year, Tittel said. PennEast does not have an application in front of the NJDEP, and it could take more than a year to apply, he said.
Last summer, the NJDEP denied a request by PennEast for an extension of its freshwater wetlands permit and water quality certificate. PennEast had been given a 60-day extension and requested an additional 60-day extension, but it was turned down.
In its Jan. 19 order to issue the certificate, FERC acknowledged that the project “will result in some adverse environmental impacts, but that these impacts will be reduced to acceptable levels with the implementation of the applicant’s proposed mitigation and staff’s recommendations.”
The project will impact nearly 1,600 acres of land during construction, and nearly 800 acres of land when it becomes operational. About 44 miles, or 37 percent of the pipeline route, will be located alongside existing rights-of-way.
A letter was sent to the NJDEP last summer – signed by 31 elected officials, including Hopewell Township Mayor Kevin Kuchinski and Deputy Mayor Julie Blake – that objected to the pipeline because of the damage that it would cause to open space and farmland.