Middlesex County News

Middlesex and Somerset Residents Discuss How to Block Gas Pipeline Project

More than 150 people packed the South Brunswick Senior Center Thursday night to learn how to oppose the Williams Transco natural gas pipeline compressor station project. Credits: Nicole M. Wells photo
More than 150 people packed the South Brunswick Senior Center Thursday night to learn how to oppose the Williams Transco natural gas pipeline compressor station project. Credits: Nicole M. Wells photo
More than 150 people packed the South Brunswick Senior Center Thursday night to learn how to oppose the Williams Transco natural gas pipeline compressor station project. Credits: Nicole M. Wells photo

SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – When it comes to blocking Williams' Northeast Supply Enhancement project and proposed natural gas Compressor Station 206, which would be located near Trap Rock Industries' Kingston quarry, numbers count, according to a panel of state environmental activists.

More than 150 people from South Brunswick and Franklin townships came out Thursday night to the South Brunswick Senior Center on Ridge Road to learn potential ways to defeat the project, which is deeply unpopular in both the neighboring municipalities and elsewhere in Middlesex County.

Williams/Transco filed its formal application on March 27, and once complete, the project would help meet the growing natural gas demand in the Northeast, including 1.8 million customers served by National Grid in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island, according to the company. 

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If the project is approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the Northeast Supply Enhancement project will consist of approximately 10 miles of 42-inch pipeline looping facilities in Pennsylvania, three miles of onshore 26-inch looping facilities in New Jersey, 23 miles of offshore 26-inch looping facilities, the addition of 21,902 horsepower at an existing compressor station in Pennsylvania; a new gas powered 32,000 horsepower compressor station on a piece of the Trap Rock quarry in Franklin Township; and related appurtenant facilities, which would include two 50-foot smokestacks, according to the company. 

According to Sierra Club NJ Director Jeff Tittel, the number that counts the most is the 401 Water Quality Certificate, which is issued by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

New Jersey is one of only two states that have the authority to grant such applications on their own under the federal Clean Water Act. The rest of the states must get approvals from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Half a dozen pipeline projects have been killed for lack of this certificate, according to Tittel.

“In the case of the water, again, you do analysis of the groundwater impacts and you use that with DEP and get them to deny the permit,” he said. “That's really critical because that's one of the major ways that we can stop this.”

In addition to getting the DEP to deny the 401 Water Quality Certificate, Tittel said that it's important for communities that would be impacted by these types of projects to get organized, do their homework and use the legal system.

“There's really three main parts of fighting pipelines,” he said. “One is grassroots organizing and public knowledge. Second is doing your research and getting experts to understand the environmental impacts so that you can go after the regulatory agencies. And three, if you can't get the regulatory agencies to respond properly, you go to court.”

Franklin Township Task Force on CS206 and NESE member Dr. Barbara Cuthbert said that residents should go home and talk to their families and neighbors about registering as intervenors.

According to the FERC website, an intervenor is “an official party to a proceeding and enjoys distinct advantages over those who only file comments.”

Intervenors have the right to participate in hearings before FERC's administrative law judges, file briefs and file for rehearing of a commission decision, according to the website.

Intervenors also have legal standing in a Court of Appeals if they challenge the commission's final decision on a matter and have the right to be placed on a service list to receive copies of case-related commission documents and filings by other intervenors.

“So far, we have over 2,000 (people) that have registered on the FERC website as intervenors,” Cuthbert said. “When the draft environmental impact statement does come out, they list them there: how many comments there are, how many intervenors there are. Numbers matter to FERC.”

Cuthbert said it's important to get as many people as possible registered as intervenors and sending letters to the DEP voicing opposition to the project, because the number of people speaking out will have an impact.

In his opening remarks before the panelist's presentations, Franklin Township Mayor Phil Kramer said that elected officials were taking their cues from the people of the townships.

“Really, thank you because you're the ones who are fighting this fight,” Kramer said. “You're the ones who are guiding us in this fight. This is a true grassroots movement and we've taken our lead from you.”

Washington D.C.-based non-governmental organization Food & Water Watch sponsored the event, in conjunction with South Brunswick and Franklin townships, according to moderator Barry Kutch, of Central Jersey Safe Energy Coalition.

According to Food & Water Watch's website, the organization “champions healthy food and clean water for all,” and is supported by members, individual donors and foundations interested in supporting a progressive agenda.

“What we have here are the buggy whip manufacturers trying to stop the automobile,” Tittel said. “In this case, it's the gas companies and the other fossil fuel companies trying to stop the progress and the future.”

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