ROSELAND, NJ — Despite not hearing a decision on the appeals that have been filed in objection to state and federal permits allowing for the Williams Transco Gateway Expansion Project to move forward in Roseland, the gas company has begun construction in preparation to double the capacity of the existing compressor station located at 563 Eagle Rock Avenue.
Nearly 40 demonstrators from Roseland and neighboring towns like Livingston lined Eagle Rock on Thursday afternoon in an organized protest to send a message to Gov. Phil Murphy asking him to “halt construction on the Roseland Compressor by enacting an emergency moratorium on fossil fuel expansion projects.”
“We have called for this emergency rally calling for Governor Murphy to halt construction of the Roseland Compressor Station,” said Matt Smith, senior organizer of Food & Water Watch and one of the organizers of the protest. “We find this compressor station is not only unnecessary and not needed but we do not need the extra gas this project would bring travelling through 18 communities in Essex County through an aging pipeline, which is a major concern.”
Roseland Mayor James Spango, who attended the protest along with council members Roger Freda and Eileen Fishman, said that the entire governing body stands with Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and Sen. Richard Codey in imploring the state to reconsider granting the two wetland permits.
“The governing body of Roseland urges Williams Transco to invest in replacing the 60-year-old pipeline rather than double the capacity of a compressor station that is utilized approximately 10 days a year,” said Spango. “Doubling the capacity is wasteful, harmful and irresponsible to the public and the environment.”
Representing the neighboring township of Livingston, Councilman Michael Vieira came to support the protestors, stating that although the compressor station is located in Roseland, Livingston is “right next door.”
“It can affect Livingston and Livingston is here to support our friends in Roseland,” said Vieira. “This should not have been started. [Transco] should wait for all the permits to process and then hopefully Governor Murphy will overturn something that should not have happened in Trenton.”
Essex County Freeholder Pat Sebold, also a Livingston resident, was on hand as well to comment on what she called “a terrible, terrible procedure.”
“I live in Livingston on the Roseland border and it could affect me severely, as it could so many people who live in this area,” said Sebold. “It has got to be stopped. It is the wrong thing for them to do, and the governor has to stop it.”
Although not in attendance, Roseland Councilman Jonathan Lace has been a known voice among those protesting this project and applauded the Roseland council for “taking a strong stand against this proposed development.”
“At a time when anthropogenic climate change is becoming more and more of a crisis directly impacts our health and, to an even greater extent, that of our children, the idea of increasing capacity for more non-renewable energy sources is not good public policy,” said Lace. “While natural gas produces fewer greenhouse emissions than coal as a percentage, it does produce methane, which is 34 times more heat-absorbent than carbon dioxide.
“A major concern for natural gas pipelines is the 'fugitive' emissions that result from leaks and can be as high as 10 percent. This will negatively impact the air quality for residents who live in proximity to the compressor station.”
Lace also added that the proposed area of expansion will require the removal of trees on wetlands, which he said “will only exacerbate the growing problem of stormwater runoff.” He concluded that “higher energy demands need to have more renewable, not non-renewable solutions.”
Ted Glick, a representative of Roseland Against the Compressor Station and a key organizer of the demonstration, said that the start of construction “is par for the course for Transco.”
“They think that they can get their way all of the time; they do sometimes and so far they have gotten their way somewhat on other projects,” said Glick. “They are getting their permits and getting started here on construction later than they wanted to because of the organized protests that went on. They clearly are concerned about the fact that this has become a very big issue in Roseland and the county and beyond the county about the united front of opposition from community and environmental groups, the mayor of Roseland and [DiVincenzo].”
Glick added that the governor and the head of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) need to realize that “this is a very bad idea and they should pull the permit to stop the construction.”
Roseland Against the Compressor Station and other community organizations have also spoken with Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill requesting that she “put in a good word” or speak with the DEP. However, Glick said that at this point, he is not sure whether anything has been done.
“This proposed project never should have been approved just on the basis that it is essentially a lie,” said Glick. “This makes no sense as to what this expansion is all about. We think this is about much more.
“They want to make this area a whole transit corridor for more and more gas, primarily fracked gas coming from Pennsylvania and probably to eventually export around the world. It is not for New Jersey, not the New Jersey customer; it will go to New York City.”
Noting that the pipeline is 60 years old, Glick also said that if the company is successful in building the expanded compressor station, Transco’s “next proposal will be to completely replace that 60-year-old pipeline going through 17 towns.”
“This governor and state legislature were supposed to be about shifting away from fossil fuels to wind and solar energy,” he said.
Also commenting on Trasnco’s decision to move forward with construction despite not hearing a decision on the appeals, Smith said that it is “just another chapter in a long story of Williams’ basic neglect.”
“Not only did they start construction while we are appealing their permits, but going back to 2013, they did what is called a ‘blow down,’ a planned relief of all the gases and associated toxic chemicals that are compressed at this site,” said Smith. “They released that into the community without disclosing to public officials or first responders. There was an emergency evacuation of Noecker Elementary Schools, which is less than a half a mile from here, and there were complaints of nausea and headaches amongst the students and residents of Roseland.
“This is the kind of company where are dealing with. There is a complete disregard for the safety and well being and even the ‘voice’ of Roseland, and [Transco is] instead prioritizing their own profits over the health and safety of the community.”
Thursday's protest was the second to occur this month in Roseland. Click HERE to read about a similar event held at the Essex County Environmental Center, where Spango and DiVincenzo spoke out against the project along with representatives of Roseland Against the Compressor Station, New Jersey Sierra Club, Food and Water Watch, 350NJ and more.