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September 25, 2014

THEY WILL REPLACE YOUR TREE STAND, BUT SAY GOODBYE TO TREES

...a pipeline meeting summary by Jared Flesher


 

At the September 23rd meeting in Hopewell, PennEast officials pledged that all land impacted by the pipeline they desire to build "will be restored to its original use and condition." Their pledge is memorialized in the photo below. Skeptical audience members received no answer from PennEast about who gets to decide that a piece of land has been restored correctly-though one was promised in writing. The officials did clarify that they wouldn't be able to replace the trees they cut down or any buildings they raze.


A PennEast official went on to explain that sometimes they leave the land even better than they found it. The example given was that after destroying a tree stand (the kind used for deer hunting), the company went shopping at Cabela's and bought the landowner a significantly better tree stand. This is not to be confused with replacing your previous stand of trees.


PennEast also acknowledged that they've already made changes to their original proposed pipeline route. Apparently, no one at the company noticed during their initial planning stage that they were proposing to cross the Appalachian Trail "one or two times."


Another PennEast official acknowledged that the company was actively searching public records to determine what properties along the proposed pipeline route already had land preservation easements on them. The official was then unable to answer whether the company was identifying parcels of preserved open space so as to avoid them or to specifically target them.


At one point during the meeting, a PennEast official referred to construction of the pipeline as similar to "building a superhighway" from which future natural gas connections could be routed. Some residents found this an interesting choice of words. One resident educated the PennEast officials on the history of another superhighway that was slated to be built through Hopewell Township, Interstate 95, which runs 1,919 miles from Maine to Florida. In all this length, there is just one gap in Interstate 95-in Hopewell and Lawrence Townships, where the organized residents of Central Jersey fought a successful grassroots battle to stop the highway. Before finally winning, they maintained steady opposition for more than 10 years.


The director of a long-established environmental organization in Hopewell Township noted with some concern that the PennEast official Project FAQ on their website touts that a benefit of the pipeline is that "energy intensive industries and facilities look to site their operations near natural gas pipelines." The director asked which energy intensive industries and facilities the Hopewell Valley should expect to move in. No answer was given but one was promised in writing.


PennEast officials said please don't be alarmed or put out if they try to contact you three times after you send them an official certified letter asking them not to contact you or come on your land. According to the PennEast officials, they are just following orders from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. No only means no when repeated a fourth time.


In a statement to the press, PennEast spokeswoman Patricia Kornick recently said, "This is not about fracking." But at the meeting, PennEast officials were clear that the purpose of this pipeline was to move fracked natural gas from the Marcellus shale region of Pennsylvania to utilities in other parts of New Jersey. Meanwhile, national news outlets have reported that new fracking wells in the region are now closely connected to pipeline construction. Specifically, fracking has slowed in the Marcellus region for lack of enough pipelines to move the product to market.


PennEast has also changed their minds about a 30-inch pipeline. (30 inches in diameter, times 100 miles.) "In the interest of full disclosure," according to a PennEast official, they think now they might want the 36 incher. 


 

  

 

Important Informaton 

  • To view a map of the proposed PennEast pipeline route superimposed on an Open Space Map of the Sourland Region, click here.
  • There is a closed Facebook Group called "STOP PennEast Pipeline" that has compiled lots of good information, including the latest maps and copies of Deny Property Access Letters. To access, Facebook users must first join the closed group and wait for acceptance. Then go to "Files" near the top right of the page and view maps and other documents. 
  • According to Kate Millsaps of the New Jersey Sierra Club, right now the most important thing landowners along the pipeline route can do is send a survey permission denial letter to PennEast via certified mail. "The company has not selected a final route and still needs this information for the project to move forward," Millsaps said. "Denying permission is the single best way to stop this project from destroying our wetlands, forests, and farmlands." Click here for a survey permission denial form letter in Word format.
  • The Sourland Conservancy will continue to provide pipeline news updates and meeting schedules, as they become available, via our website, Facebook, and eNewsletters.

 

Two Upcoming Autumn Adventures with the Sourland Conservancy!

 

Saturday, October 11, 9:30-noon: Hike in the Somerset County Sourland Mountain Preserve with Kevin Burkman, Sourland Conservancy member and GIS analyst. 3-4 miles of easy to moderate difficulty. Registration required. Space is very limited. Email director@sourland.org to register. This event is free.


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Saturday, October 25, 9:00-noon: Sourland Conservancy's Autumn Bus Tour of the Western Sourland Mountain Region

 Click this link for information about the Bus Tour and registration.