CHATHAM, NJ - Organized grass-roots citizens groups and the fact that Chatham has created a Google Docs site it shares with other municipalities has made Chatham the leader when it comes to opposition to the proposed Pilgrim oil pipeline.

That was the assessment when Len Resto, chairman of the Mayor's Pilgrim Pipeline Advisory Committee, gave his first informational report to the Borough of Chatham Council on Monday.

Resto reported that Chatham set up the Google Docs site so that other municipalities could access information already researched on the subject. He reported that he came home one evening and received 212 emails on the subject.

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"A lot of towns seem to take the approach that once they do their resolution, they're done," Chatham Borough Mayor Bruce Harris said. "Len understates what his committee has done. By creating a Google Docs site, we seem to have become the focal point of this effort. Everyone is coming to Len with tons of email.''

Resto cautioned that this is "a marathon, not a sprint" since it could take years before the issue comes to a head. Council member John Holman, a member of the advisory committee, pointed to certain "catalysts" that will spark movement in the process. For example, Pilgrim hasn't even applied for a permit yet, so when that is done it will be a "catalyst" for action.

"Until something becomes more real, people aren't going to pay as much attention to it," Holman said.

In Resto's power-point presentation, he noted that the committee's mission is to gather as much unbiased information on the issue before recommending an action plan to the council.

Resto reported that 26 municipalities have passed resolutions opposing the Pilgrim oil pipeline as well as Passaic County, the Chatham Board of Education and the New Jersey State Assembly.

Resto also reported that its attempts to get information from Pilgrim officials about their plans have not been answered and that they will continue to reach out to them for a response and a request for a meeting.

Insuring the pipeline against possible damage that would occur with a leak and the low price of oil are two factors that could work against Pilgrim. Resto also named a long list of groups formed to oppose the pipeline.

"Of all these groups the Chatham Citizens group seems to be the strongest of the grassroots organizations," Resto said. "Chatham Concerned Citizens is reaching out to other municipalites. We want to make then aware that this is not a sprint, but a marathon."

One issue seems to be legislation on the books in New Jersey concerning whether an oil pipeline can be considered a utility, which could gain it access to eminent domain.

"There is some question about recognition of Pilgrim as a public utility," Resto said.  "That could give them access to eminent domain and zoning permits. There are no oil pipelines in New Jersey and it's an old statute. The wording is very vague. The legislation says it must be for the 'public good,' but New Jersey does not define 'public good.' At some point this will be challenged."

Chatham Concerned Citizens is planning a rally against the Pilgrim Pipeline on Feb. 21, but has yet to determine the site. Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick has agreed to speak at the rally. Former governor and state senator Dick Codey is scheduled to speak at a rally in Madison this month, but no details have been finalized yet.

  • In other business, the council announced that there is a plan in the works that will supply library employees with permits that will allow them to park on Bowers Lane and on either side of Center Street. According to council member James Collander, the permits will free up parking spaces behind the library for patrons. Karen Brodsky, director of the library, would be in charge of distributing the 15 permits to the 38 employees of the library as needed.
  • Chatham Borough's Tri-Centennial Celebration will be one of the main themes of the Fishawack Festival this June. Chatham Borough was settled in 1715.