We would like to update Montgomery residents on the Township's position and involvement in the NJDEP's review of the Transco Skillman Loop pipeline project. Certain State permits are necessary for Williams Transco to continue working to complete the final 1,250 foot long portion of the pipeline in the southern section Montgomery near Cherry Valley Road. NJDEP opened a public comment period, during which Montgomery Township submitted written statements to State regulators (see links at bottom of this article for full comments.)
Montgomery Township has advised the NJDEP in no uncertain terms that it strenuously opposes any further horizontal directional drilling ("HDD") by Transco in Montgomery. Last fall, Transco attempted to complete work on this last section of the pipeline by this method of drilling, which involved first drilling and then pounding a 42-inch pipeline through the drilled earth. The technique, however, resulted in extremely loud pounding at all hours and earth vibrations that were extremely disruptive and unhealthy for many Montgomery residents, especially those living near the site of the drilling.
Conceding that the drilling had been "unsuccessful," Transco filed an application with NJDEP to modify its prior permit to allow Transco to install the remaining pipeline by a "trenching" method rather than HDD.
The Township Committee and Township officials have been carefully monitoring the situation. In response to Transco's application, the Township submitted an August 5th, 2016 letter from Mayor Patricia Graham to the NJDEP that emphasized that it is the residents of Montgomery, and not other municipalities or outside groups, who have suffered the greatest adverse effects of this project.
Ms. Graham advised the NJDEP that, "The Township strenuously opposes any further HDD drilling at the site. The disruption to our residents during the last attempt was unbearable, alarming and unhealthy. The continuous noise impacted our residents' health and prevented them from the quiet enjoyment of their homes. Many actually left their homes during the construction to escape the persistent noise. Under no circumstances should another attempt at HDD be made."
Ms. Graham's letter also criticized Transco's work and noted that the project has "caused significant disruption of traffic patterns, and residents' lives and has taxed Township resources." The Township also requested that the project be expedited and that the Township's prior requests for local monitoring and control of the project be granted to address environmental and other concerns with the proposed work. The final portion of the pipeline loop traverses an environmentally sensitive area and land that Montgomery has preserved as open space. Among other things, the Township has sought to require Transco to deposit funds in escrow to be used to pay an environmental expert retained by the Township for monitoring purposes.
In addition to accepting written submissions such as the mayor's August 5th letter, the NJDEP conducted a public hearing on August 9th at which oral comments on the permit modification application were accepted. The August 9th hearing was attended by Township Committeeperson Christine Madrid, Township counsel, and Township staff members, as well as Clem Fiori, the chair of the Township's Open Space Committee.
To best understand the concerns raised by Montgomery Township leadership, please follow these links to the August 5th letter, as well as an earlier letter from the mayor dated February 24, 2016, which was submitted again as an attachment:
Now that the comment period has ended, the Township is waiting to hear the decision of the NJDEP on issuing permits. We will continue our vigilance in seeing this project through to proper completion.