MONTVILLE, NJ – Morris County Freeholder candidate Nicolas Platt held a press conference at Montville Township Community Park near Lazar Middle School on May 9 to voice his opposition to the proposed route for Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings LLC’s petroleum pipeline.
The press conference was one stop along the route the project would take, Platt said, including Chatham Township and Florham Park. Platt was joined by Great Swamp Water Shed Association and Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline members.
“We’re letting citizens know that we have to stop this pipeline,” Platt said. “This is not about relocating this. It’s about stopping it.”
Platt called the pipeline a health threat, since the pipeline may contaminate watersheds and aquifers, therefore polluting drinking water. He felt the Great Swamp would also be compromised.
“The project poses high cleanup costs to municipal budgets if crude or refined oil leaks from the pipeline,” Platt said. “History has shown, these pipelines are vulnerable to catastrophic leaks, and there’s no viable cleanup solutions once these aquifers are compromised.”
Platt said there is no public benefit, since no additional oil will be delivered and safety will not be improved. He further said that property values will decline, especially among those properties located close to the proposed route.
Platt said almost 60 municipalities along the route have passed resolutions against it.
“It’s time to kill this project so we won’t waste any more time debating it,” Platt said.
Pipeline investors want the federal government to declare eminent domain on the property necessary to route the pipeline, Platt said, allowing the project to proceed. Alternatively, investors would like the federal government to weaken and roll back the Clean Water Act, which would weaken the DEP’s ability to deny pipeline permits, resulting in “many far-reaching, destructive consequences in New Jersey,” Platt said.
Platt called on “all residents, local and state officials to oppose federal actions before it’s too late.”
He said he chose the site of the press conference near Lazar middle school because “students at this school have already been impacted by nearby energy infrastructure projects and the pipeline is proposed to run within 500 feet of this school, adding more risk to everyone here. If this pipeline were to be built, the students at this school will be within several hundred feet of two high voltage electric power lines, a natural gas pipeline and an oil pipeline.”
Platt said usually towns opposing projects are trying to relocate the project, but this is not the case. “We’re trying to kill it,” he said. “We’re not trying to push it into someone else’s backyard.”
Platt said he didn’t think enough work was being done in Trenton to recognize that this should be stopped. He further thought that renewable energy options needed to be further explored rather than a stop-gap option such as a pipeline.
Ken Dolsky from Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline also spoke at the press conference, and he stated that PSE&G has not granted Pilgrim Pipeline right of way access to land on which PSE&G has electric lines, which is good. However, Dolsky worried that the Republican administration in Washington would side with a pipeline company rather than protect environmental concerns, and therefore provide eminent domain. He further worried that the weakening of the Clean Water Act would result in the Dept. of Environmental Conservation of New York State and the DEP of NJ losing the ability to turn down a pipeline which he felt would threaten drinking water. He hoped the next governor would help to keep the pipeline out of the state.
“The Pilgrim Pipeline project isn’t dead – they’re just waiting for the right tools from Washington to make this happen,” Dolsky said.
Platt said that opposition represented at that press conference was not against creating jobs, because only a handful of permanent jobs would be created.
Sally Rubin, Executive Director of the Great Swamp Watershed Association, said that her favorite book is The Lorax, who says he speaks for the trees.
“At the Great Swamp, we want to speak for the water,” she said.
There are states and political boundaries that will be crossed, Rubin said, but the pipeline is also going to cross a lot of water, and “nobody seems to be looking out for the water.”
“If it leaks, it’s going to be catastrophic,” Rubin said. “We need to kill it, and we need to kill it now.”
According to the Pilgrim Pipeline website, the pipeline will “better meet the Northeast region’s current and future demands for a stable supply of essential petroleum products, transported in a safer and more environmentally-friendly manner compared to current methods of rail and barge traffic along the Hudson River.”