SOMERSET, NJ - Activists and residents celebrated the Murphy administration’s denial of key permits for a contentious pipeline that would send natural gas through New Jersey to New York City at last night’s council meeting.

The Township Council presented the assembled group a commendation for their efforts to pressure the state Department of Environmental Protection to reject the 24-mile Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline proposed by Oklahoma-based Williams Companies.

“We all collectively made history,” said Junior Romero, an organizer with advocacy group Food & Water Watch. “It was the first time the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection rejected crucial permits on a federally approved pipeline. There’s many reasons that that happened, but the reason I think is the biggest is the grassroots power that each of us demonstrated.”

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But the celebrations are likely to be temporary.

The state denied Williams’ permit application without prejudice, which allows the company to make changes to their proposals and resubmit them to the state for approval.

“The applications will probably be resubmitted soon and we’ll need everyone back on board fighting it still,” said Linda Powell, outreach coordinator for Environmental Defenders and a Franklin Task Force steering committee member.

After the permits were rejected on June 5, a Williams spokesperson said the company plans to refile with the DEP.

“This fight is not over, but we have the upper hand for the moment,” said Ward 1 Councilman Theodore Chase.

With the fight against the pipeline and compressor station potentially continuing, Rozalyn Sherman, a former township council member, emphasized how dangerous the project is for local residents.

“There are tremendous amounts of environmental issues that would impact this township and its neighbors,” said Sherman. “There would be all kinds of dangerous chemicals spewed into the air that would affect the health of our children, our seniors and anybody who lived in the immediate area.”

The council also presented a commendation to Maleah Williams, a fifth-grader at Conerly Road School who won the state prize for her age group in the Fire Safety Poster Contest.

“Not only did she win the local contest, but then to go on to the county, that’s a really big deal,” said Deputy Mayor James Vassanella. “And then to go on to the state, boy, that’s really something.”

Representatives from the Fire Prevention Department and the County Fire Marshals Association Surprised Williams at the meeting and told her that she’ll be riding to school on a fire engine the Wednesday morning.

Williams’ poster will be featured in next year’s fire safety calendar and she was awarded a $500 gift card from the state for winning the contest.

“I am really proud of myself as a person and I can’t believe I did something so big,” she said. “When I first started art I thought I wasn’t going to get anywhere, but now that I reached this point I’m really proud of myself.”

Tuesday night’s meeting also saw the passage of an ordinance that gives the council the power to remove appointed members from boards and committees.

The ordinance adds “just cause” as a reason for dismissal from non-statutory committees. Members could previously only be removed for absenteeism.  

The boards, commissions and committees subject to the ordinance are those not already covered by state statute for removal.

These include the Advisory Board of Health, Open Space Advisory Committee, Human Relations Commission, Fire Prevention Board and Cultural Arts Council, among others.

The legislation creates a three-part process where the council brings charges by resolution, which requires five votes to pass, then the Council Administration Standing Committee will hold a hearing and make a recommendation which goes back to the council for a vote on the removal, which requires six affirmative votes from the council.

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