Parsippany resident and head of Already Devalued and Devastated Homeowners Ken Dolsky gave a presentation about the Pilgrim Pipelines on May 21st to about a dozen Montville residents at the Senior House, sponsored by the Montville Democratic Committee and Club. There were no Pilgrim Pipeline representatives at the meeting.
ADDH is a homeowners’ organization originally formed to oppose JCP&L’s electrical towers, but now their efforts are focused on stopping the construction of the Pilgrim Pipelines through New Jersey.
Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings is a start-up venture company formed two years ago by four energy and finance executives, based in Connecticut.
“They are proposing the construction of two pipelines, between Albany and Linden, NJ, about 60 miles of which is in New Jersey,” stated Dolsky. “Albany is now the hub for bakken, which is oil that is drilled out in North Dakota and surrounding areas. The oil field is in the middle of nowhere, so they have to ship it by trains to Albany, which is the hub for distributing it to the New England area. Then it’s sent on barges to the refinery in Linden, where it’s refined into gasoline and home heating oil, and then it’s sent back to New York. This company wants to build a pipeline so the oil will travel down it to Linden to be refined, and sent back by a parallel pipeline, at the rate of 400,000 barrels per day.”
There would be two branches starting near Scotch Plains, and one branch would travel to the refinery in Linden and the other to Port Reading. A pipeline would be more cost effective than barges, according to Dolsky.
The pipelines would cross five New Jersey and New York counties and 29 New Jersey towns. The company wishes to build the pipeline on utility rights-of-way, but PSE&G announced it will not grant usage of its land, as reported in TAPintoMontville HERE.
Dolsky says Pilgrim claims that the construction of the pipeline will create 2,000 jobs, but they have admitted that many of the specialized jobs will go to a company in Tennessee that is listed as a project partner. The company claims it will create 50 permanent New Jersey jobs, but a similar pipeline which is longer in length only created 35. At the same time, the Port of Albany employees fear they will lose their jobs. Dolsky claims that Assemblywoman Bettylou DeCroce and Assemblyman Jay Webber both abstained when a resolution condemning the pipeline came to vote, and a staff member for DeCroce claimed it was because she felt it was possible that jobs could be created.
“She wasn’t concerned about oil coming through New Jersey for the next thirty or more years,” stated Dolsky, “or the effect on property values or health issues, she was concerned that maybe a job or two might manifest.”
The pipeline holding company has made claims that it would provide an alternative to barges currently bringing oil to Linden, but according to North Jersey news, Pilgrim's vice president of development, George Bochis, stated that "The pipeline would in no way increase the amount of oil and refined products currently transported between Linden and Albany," so there would be no benefit of increased energy availability to residents near the proposed pipeline. Pilgrim is the only party claiming there is a need for the pipeline, according to Dolsky.
The danger of the oil, according to Dolsky, is its volatility. It’s more hazardous than conventional crude, because it is “lighter” and contains a number of gases and compounds, such as methane and propane, making it more corrosive and volatile. A train carrying Bakken crude derailed in Quebec and killed 47 people two years ago, said Dolsky. Further, Bakken is so flammable, it can ignite at temperatures as low as 68°F. Further compounding the problem, said Dolsky, is that the pipelines are proposed to run alongside a high-pressure natural gas pipeline.
The pipeline would also cross the Buried Valley Aquifer, as well as the Passaic River. The Buried Valley Aquifer provides water to much of Montville, according to Dolsky. It would also run next to the Great Swamp.
“When they construct this pipeline, they are theoretically responsible for cleaning up any spills, but that’s not guaranteed because they are not required to carry insurance,” stated Dolsky. “They will not indemnify anyone for damages to our property, health problems due to exposure, or water problems. If your water is polluted and the town has to clean it up, they don’t want to hear about it. Pilgrim has stated that if there is a spill, a company will show up within 24 hours – not to clean up or stop the pipeline, but just show up.”
Dolsky stated that the company is proposing shut-off valves every ten miles, which would equate to 700,000 gallons of crude that could be spilled.
Further, the Bayway Refinery has stated, according to Dolsky, that they are building their own train facilities to transport oil from the Bakken oil fields and are not interested in the pipeline, while the pipeline representatives have stated they will build the pipeline first, and deal with contracts later.
No Benefit to New Jersey, Only Risks
“Fresh water trumps oil,” stated Dolsky. “You cannot replace fresh water. There are substitutes for oil. It’s not easy but you can find them.” Water supply contamination would also greatly reduce property values, said Dolsky. Property values would also be affected by the presence of perceived dangers from a pipeline installation, he said.
Health risks would result from breathing the fumes from crude oil, which are toxic and carcinogenic. Chronic exposure can result in irregular heartbeat, convulsions, and coma, and can also cause birth defects, said Dolsky.
Dolsky also reported statistics about spills, stating that there were 400 reported pipeline “incidents” in 2013, with almost 120,000 barrels being spilled, causing $266 million in property damage. Further, over a ten-year period from 2004 to 2013, there were an average of 631 incidents per year. “That’s about one and a half to two spills per day,” stated Dolsky. “There’s a Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), but they admit they can only inspect one-fifth of the national pipeline system. There are 135 federal inspectors to oversee almost three million miles of pipeline. They never get around to it! Eighty percent of oil spills are detected by residents. New Jersey has no resources that I’m aware of to monitor oil pipelines.
“Pilgrim claims pipelines are safer, but I’m not sure how,” stated Dolsky. “Pipelines are worse than barges and railcars. When you look at how much oil is carried, and the percent of that oil that is spilled, and you compare that to the different types of transportation, oil pipelines have spilled three or four times more than barges and rail cars. Further, ‘new technology’ won’t help because 44% of spills are not related to technology, they’re related to things like excavation, natural force damage, or incorrect operation.”
How to Oppose?
Dolsky stated the best way for towns to fight the pipeline, since siting is left up to the towns a pipeline would traverse, is for the towns themselves to pass resolutions opposing it (the Montville Township Committee and Board of Education have done this) and ordinances prohibiting “unregulated pipelines that do not benefit the local community.” Chatham and Madison have both passed such ordinances, according to Dolsky. Parsippany’s ordinance was introduced in May and the Coalition to Stop Pilgrim Pipeline hopes every town along the route will do the same, he said. Dolsky stated that governing bodies could also pass ordinances that state energy companies must have $10 million in insurance, pipelines must be sited at least 1000 feet away from a school, a pipeline could only be worked on during normal business hours, or prohibitions on truck traffic that would annoy residents, for example.
Dolsky also encouraged residents to sign up for email alerts at the Stop Pilgrim Pipeline website, and encourage friends and neighbors to do the same. Further, he wanted to encourage the Township Committee to write an official letter to PSE&G, thanking them for stating that Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings may not use its right-of-way.
Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings is an energy company, and therefore does not have eminent domain authority, according to Dolsky. This means that they cannot seize property, claiming it is for the public’s good. Dolsky claims this right could be granted if the company files with the Board of Public Utilities or in court, and demonstrates that it would add value to the communities the pipelines would traverse.
“We still need to really pay attention, because it could happen,” said Dolsky.
“We’re going to try to get every Board of Ed along the proposed route to pass resolutions against it, and I think this has gotten politicians and even the regulatory people to wake up and understand what the sentiment of the towns is,” he said.
The Coalition will also be hiking the proposed route, to contact affected businesses and establishments along the route.
“In Wanaque, for example, the pipeline would cross the front lawn of a convalescence center, so we contacted them to let them know,” he said.
Read about the Montville Township School District’s resolution opposing the Pilgrim Pipeline HERE
To read Montville Township Committee’s resolution opposing the Pilgrim Pipeline, click HERE
For more information about the Stop Pilgrim Pipeline movement, click HERE