SOMERSET, NJ - Franklin Township officials passed a resolution last night urging the state Department of Environmental Protection to deny wetlands permits critical to the building of a new pipeline that would run through New Jersey to connect natural gas fields in Pennsylvania to customers in New York.
The $926 million project proposed by Williams Companies would add more than 26 miles of pipe in Sayreville, Old Bridge and under the Raritan Bay, while also building a compressor station in Franklin.
After receiving approval earlier this month from federal regulators, it’s now up to New Jersey and New York to decide the pipeline’s fate.
On May 3, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission voted 3-1 to approve the project, with Richard Glick, the dissenting commissioner, writing that the commission refused “to consider the consequences its actions have for climate change,” saying that the approval violates the Natural Gas Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration has until Thursday to approve the project, where it is being reviewed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, but it has yet to make a decision.
Gov. Murphy’s administration will make its decision in June. Murphy previously pledged to have the state running on 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
“The reason we’re only asking for the water permits to be denied is that’s the only way New Jersey can stop this project,” said Linda Powell, outreach coordinator for Central Jersey Environmental Defenders and Franklin resident.
The controversial project pits concerns about climate change, pollution and explosions against economic incentives and a projected boom in New York’s energy needs.
Councilman Theodore Chase, who lives about a mile from the pipeline, said he talked to the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission about the possibility of the pipeline exploding.
“It could set the woods on fire and a forest fire could come in my direction,” said Chase.
According to a press release from Williams, researchers at Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy found that the design and building of the pipeline could generate as much as $327 million in economic activity in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York while creating more than 3,000 jobs.
However, Mayor Phillip Kramer doubts there will be any significant economic benefits for Franklin residents.
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“I’m pro-union, don’t get me wrong here, but it’s going to add to our ratables an insignificant amount that you won’t notice on your tax bill, it will not add to the gas that’s available to you,” said Kramer. “I think it’s going to be three permanent jobs. There will be construction jobs, but a lot of those construction jobs don’t come from around here.”
Meanwhile, a study conducted by Suzanne Mattei, the former leader of the New York City office of the state Department of Environmental Conservation found that William’s projected 10 percent increase in natural gas demands in the next decade were overstated.
According to Mattei’s report for 350.org, an activist group focused on eliminating the use of all fossil fuels, the New York Independent System Operator and Long Island Power Administration predict electricity use decreases over the same period.
With much of the conversation around the pipeline focused on the needs of New York, the council sees little benefit for local residents.
“This pipeline gives us nothing. It gives the citizens of Franklin nothing and we’re against it to a person,” said Kramer.
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