OLD BRIDGE — With the possibility of a gas pipeline running through her neighborhood, Alice Russo, a resident of the Madison Park section of Old Bridge, stood up and said she is frightened.
“Even if not for the environment, what would my property be worth?” she asked, should she decide to sell her home. “And if I left, I would feel guilty for having a family move in and be concerned for their future.”
Residents from Old Bridge, Sayreville and Perth Amboy in Middlesex County and Keyport, Hazlet and Marlboro in Monmouth County listened to leaders of statewide environmental advocacy groups about Williams Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company’s application with the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to construct and operate its Northeast Supply Enhancement Project during a meeting on April 12 at the Madison Park Firehouse on Cheesequake Road in Old Bridge.
The Madison Park Homeowners Association sponsored the meeting.
The enhancement project adds 35 miles to the existing Transco’s interstate natural gas transmission system in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and its offshore natural gas pipeline system in New Jersey and New York waters.
The pipeline spans 23 miles from Old Bridge to Roackaway, New York. The length of the pipeline in Sayreville into Raritan Bay is 23.49 miles and 3.43 miles in Old Bridge and Sayreville from Compressor Station 207 in Old Bridge.
The project also includes implementing a compressor station in Franklin Township in Somerset County.
Old Bridge Ward 3 Councilwoman Edina Brown and Ward 1 Councilman David Merwin were present at the meeting. Junior Romero, regional organizer for Food & Water Watch; Sandra Meola, policy director for NY/NJ Baykeeper; Jamie Zaccaria, communications and legislative coordinator for the New Jersey Sierra Club; and Barbara Cuthbert, former director of special services for the Old Bridge Township Public Schools, made presentations at the meeting.
Meola said the pipeline will impact the Raritan Bay, which has a number of estuaries or nurseries of the ocean.
Along with wetlands and eelgrass, the area is habitat for bluefish, summer flounder, striped bass, shellfish, crabs, lobsters and waterbirds. Marine mammals also find their way into the Raritan Bay including seals, whales and dolphins.
Meola said noise can play a factor in the disruption of the estuaries.
Cuthbert said the proposed pipeline passes through a number of nearby landfills and contaminated sites in Old Bridge and Sayreville including the road department garage along Route 9, the Global Sanitary and Sommers landfills on Ernston Road, the Cheesequake compost site, Morgan Ordnance Depot, a contaminated area between Route 9 and Raritan Bay shoreline, a gas station at 1788 Route 35 in Sayreville, and the Morgan Firehouse in Sayreville.
Cuthbert added the pipeline passes the E.I. Dupont Denemours site at 249 Cheesequake Road and the Raritan Bay Slag Superfund site in the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge.
Yvonne Siclari, who has been president of the Madison Park Homeowners Association since 2003, said the proximity of the proposed pipeline to residents is unconscionable.
“There are about 730 homes within the association,” she said, adding Madison Park Elementary School and New Road School of Parlin, a special education school, are in the vicinity.
Siclari said residents did not want the compressor station that was approved in 2005 and now with news of the expansion, it again brings concerns of health and safety to the many residents in the area.
Romero said the Raritan Bay fracked gas pipeline and the Central New Jersey compressor station are unnecessary.
“These are dangerous proposals that only get in the way of Governor [Phil] Murphy’s vision for 100 percent renewable energy for our state,” he said. “This project presents serious threats to residents near the pipeline, and to the many more who will be exposed to methane and benzene from the compressor station.”
Romero said the proposed expansion will further degrade the environments of New Jersey and New York, and it will contribute to more climate chaos.
“These risks to public health and safety far outweigh the profits that Williams Transco stands to gain,” he said.
Chris Stockton, spokesperson for Williams Transco, said the company certainly understands the concerns that have been expressed about the proposed pipeline and implementing a compressor station in Franklin.
“Our decision to adjust the location of the facility [in Somerset County], sitting it farther from residential areas, was largely in response to such concerns,” he said. “Most people probably aren’t aware that our Transco pipeline already safely operates in this area. In fact, it has safely operated in Franklin Township for decades. Our goal is to design this facility in a manner that it remains just as unnoticed.”
Stockton said the recent winter storms should be a somber reminder of the importance of reliable energy infrastructure.
“The fact is the Northeast region runs on natural gas,” he said. “A secure and resilient supply of natural gas is critical to the local communities. Infrastructure expansions like this project ensure that customers continue to benefit from a safe, reliable, clean energy supply. The region’s air is the cleanest it has been for years and energy prices have fallen thanks to the widespread utilization of cheap, clean, domestic natural gas.”
Stockton said everyone wants the lights to stay on and their homes to stay warm, but people are quick to overlook that it takes thousands of miles of underground energy infrastructure to make that possible.
“It is easy to take that for granted,” he said. “Privately funded projects like this not only deliver the clean energy consumers need, but also well-paying jobs, local and regional procurement spending, tax revenue across our state and economic growth.”
There are two upcoming FERC public comment meetings about the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project scheduled at the George Bush Senior Center, 1 Old Bridge Plaza in Old Bridge, on April 25, and at the Franklin Community Senior Center, 505 DeMott Lane in Somerset, on May 2.
Contact Kathy Chang at firstname.lastname@example.org.