WESTFIELD, NJ – The Pilgrim Pipeline project is far from dead, despite an announcement made by the Sierra Club of New Jersey Monday that PSE&G has denied the company use of its rights-of-way to build parallel lines running crude oil from Albany, N.Y. to Linden and bringing refined products back to Hudson Valley communities, a spokesman for Pilgrim said Tuesday.
“The project is still in the early stages,” said Paul Nathanson, a Washington, D.C.-based spokesman for Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings, LLC. “We still haven’t applied for permits yet.”
(Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, maintains that he heard of the denial from several senior staff of PSE&G.)
The final route for the pipeline has not been determined, but the preliminary route would “skirt the southern tip of Westfield,” Nathanson said. Under this plan, the northbound line that would carry gasoline and home heating oil would not cut through Westfield.
Recently, concern has grown about the pipeline’s potential impact to New Jersey municipalities. In November, Chatham Borough passed a resolution opposing construction of the Pilgrim Pipeline, and forums on the project are being held this week by the Sierra Club in Watchung and Roselle.
Last week, activists urged Westfield’s town council to pass a resolution similar to Chatham Borough’s opposing the pipeline. To read that story, click here.
TAP into Westfield was unable to reach Mayor Andy Skibitsky for comment for this article, but at last Tuesday’s town council meeting the mayor said that, although he did not believe that Pilgrim had approached the town yet about the plan, he was aware of the proposal and he and the council are looking at resolutions passed by other towns.
The proposed Pilgrim Pipeline would carry 200,000 bbl/day of Bakken shale oil that originates in Montana and North Dakota south from Albany to the Bayway refinery in Linden. Bakken crude has been a major success story for the domestic energy industry, igniting the economy of North Dakota and boosting domestic oil production.
The line running north would carry 200,000 bbl/day of refined products back to Albany.
Pilgrim maintains that the pipeline is a safer method of transportation for the oil that is already traveling down the Hudson River and eventually arriving at Bayway.
“The crude oil is already going down to Linden. It’s just going by barge or train,” Nathanson said, calling a pipeline “the safest mode of transportation for these energy products.”
The pipeline could take an estimated 1,000 barges off the river and ensure against supply disruptions caused by bad weather.
But activists are worried about the volatility of Bakken crude and the potential for leaks.
Brendan Keating, a Chatham Borough native and a graduate student at Cornell University, is a vocal opponent of the pipeline. He spoke last week at Westfield’s town council meeting and was at the Sierra Club's forum in Watchung Tuesday night.
While Keating encourages towns to pass resolutions against the pipeline, he said that if the pipeline company is granted public utility status by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, it can move forward and use the land under eminent domain to build the pipeline.
“If Pilgrim Pipeline were to get public utility status from NJBPU, it would be very difficult for activists to fight this from happening,” he said.
In addition, Keating is concerned about the pipeline’s potential proximity to major sources of clean drinking water for millions of New Jerseyans.
“It travels directly over the Highlands, Buried Valley and Rockaway aquifers,” he said. “It also has the potential to affect the Passaic River and Great Swamp Wildlife Refuge.”
Elias Rodriguez, a public information officer for the Environmental Protection Agency, told TAP into Westfield, “The Pilgrim Pipeline proposal would likely require a permit from the US Army Corps of Engineers, and EPA would assist the US Army Corps of Engineers in reviewing an environmental impact statement.”
Rodriguez pointed to a report generated by the Congressional Research Service in May titled “U.S. Rail Transportation of Crude Oil: Background and Issues for Congress,” which included a section addressing concerns about Bakken crude oil.
“The properties of Bakken shale oil are highly variable, even within the same oil field. In general, however, Bakken crude oil is much more volatile than other types of crude. Its higher volatility may have important safety implications,” the report states.
The report also notes that “each mode of oil transportation – pipelines, vessels, rail and tanker trucks – involves some risk of oil spills.”