Letters to the Editor

Who will they try to buy-off next? Williams-Transco’s Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (NESE): Economic Report by Rutgers & Other Ways this Company Tries to Influence Perceptions

Apparently, it is worth millions to Williams to shift the focus from the dangers, risks and damage of the expansion of natural gas infrastructure to local projects that benefit from their money and to contract for a study of economic impacts that omits costs of negative consequences.  Hopefully, the public will not be misled by a sparsely documented report saying that the NESE will bring millions to the tri-state area and by offerings of Williams to provide support or money to aid local causes.

Without indicating the source of information for completion of an analysis, and not identifying that the study was commissioned by and paid for by Williams, a June 2017 report by two people from Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy supposedly identified economic impacts of NESE that cannot be considered to be credible or independent at face value.  The lack of detail and transparency, required for any legitimate research study or analysis, was shocking in this 50+ page report that presented favorable yet highly suspicious figures without clarification to support the claim of Williams that this project will contribute to the area economically.  In this very biased report, seemingly written to make the NESE project look good, there are no references, no fact-checking, and no details of the information used for their calculations (e.g., money for the entire NESE project and jobs) that was likely supplied by the company proposing to construct NESE – Williams.  They do not document whether or not the figures include pre-construction activities of Williams-Transco from the conception of this project years ago which, in reality, would not be local or future revenue.  They do not mention that most construction or supervisory jobs require specialized skills and will go to people from other states or that these jobs are temporary (short-term).  The NESE project only projects two full-time positions in our area after its completion.  They do not adequately detail asserted employment impacts for ancillary positions like consultants, retail or food services, and they do not relate their assertions to studies of comparable projects.  This report does not include any reasonableness test of their results.  The two authors of this report were also part of the team that completed similar reports for Williams’ Northeast Supply Link project which was put into service in 2013.  Based on changes in Williams’ projected spending for that project that were less than initially proposed, they revised their initial 2010 report twice in 2011 and 2012.  Certainly, if the Rutgers authors want to add credibility to their current report, they could use real data about jobs and taxes from the Northeast Supply Link to compare their modeling with factual outcomes and use that to provide support or modify their current report. 

If the title of the report, “Economic Impacts of the Proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement Pipeline Project in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York” was what was really analyzed, there would have been real facts about similar projects that have been completed, full disclosure of what they based their figures on, and inclusion of the detrimental and costly impacts from pollution and environmental damage that are found in increased illnesses, responses to and dealing with damages and dangers, and lost income by those relying on farming as well as fishing-related and tourism occupations by the Raritan and New York Bays from such a natural gas infrastructure project.  They do not include the costs for fragile environments, especially those by the Bays where efforts have been made to restore and preserve the environment, wildlife habitats and shellfish/fishery areas where remediation efforts were further impacted by Superstorm Sandy.  They also do not calculate the economic cost of adding greenhouse gases to our atmosphere from this project.  The so-called economic benefits for approximately one year of construction work along with tax revenue are misleading and certainly do not outweigh the immediate and long-term costly impacts of such a project for those in communities around the compressor station, pipelines and metering stations.

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In addition to commissioning such a blatantly one-sided report, Williams/Transco has garnered support in areas of the Northeast impacted by their construction of natural gas pipelines, compressor stations and other facilities to transport fracked gas to areas in the Northeast as well as the South.  They promote themselves as good neighbors by providing grants from $1,000 to $25,000 to local organizations who apply for them.  Though Williams has not announced a grant program for the NESE affected communities, local officials and first responders have indicated that this company offered to help them with needed projects.  Official grant programs of Williams for three other northeast projects are noted below.

  1. Constitution Pipeline project in NY:  Williams, one of the partners financing this project and the company anticipated to build and operate the facilities if it is approved for certificates from New York, established the Constitution Pipeline Community Grant Program in 2012.  Of note, they did not submit their application to FERC for this project until June 13, 2013.  Since 2012, Williams has distributed over 2 million dollars to 159 organizations in areas along the planned pipeline route.
  2. Rockaway Delivery Lateral & Northeast Connector projects in NY:  The Rockaway Community Grant Program was established by Williams after they submitted their application to FERC in May 2014.  Since 2014, Williams provided nearly 800,000 dollars to 130 organizations.  Williams continues to provide some money from this grant program in the area even though the project was put into service in July 2016.  Of interest, the Rockaway Transfer Point is the end-point for the proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) project.
  3. Atlantic Sunrise:  Williams submitted their application to FERC on March 31, 2015, and since 2015, their Atlantic Sunrise Community Grant Program has distributed 1.79 million dollars to 233 organizations.  They also partnered with The Conservation Fund to identify resources most in need of enhancement and/or protection in the region, and through their Atlantic Sunrise Environmental Stewardship Program, they granted more than 2.5 million dollars to 17 conservation projects.  On their blog, Williams provides very professional videos about these conservation projects with the thankful recipients, and they have recently been awarded the Southern Gas Association’s Environmental Excellence Award for this Stewardship program.

In our area, Williams/Transco has proposed the Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) project that includes a 32,000 horsepower gas-fired compressor station near an active mining area (Trap Rock Quarry) and a Superfund Site (Higgins Farm) that is still being monitored for groundwater contamination.  They want to construct over 23 miles of pipeline under the Raritan Bay and Lower New York Bay that would be near or within shellfish and fishery areas as well as 3.59 mile of onshore pipeline in Old Bridge/Sayreville.  This company has submitted their application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the next step is for FERC to publish a draft Environmental Impact Statement, anticipated in October/November 2017.  State departments of environmental protection/conservation will then need to review and decide about their applications for air and water permits.  Even if it were true that NESE would provide economic benefit to the tri-state area for the months of construction and then in taxes, the landowners, consumers, employers and recreational users in the area will bear the costs of negative health and safety impacts for the lifetime of this project if it is constructed.

As Einstein said, “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure of the latter.”  Don’t be fooled!  Just because Pennsylvania chooses to promote fracking and other natural gas production and transmission does not mean that New Jersey should change from the Garden State to the Pipeline Ozone State to increase profits of Williams/Transco and provide more natural gas to New York, a state highly committed to quickly transitioning from fossil fuel to renewable energy.  Natural gas is not clean energy.  The impacts from methane leaks which are flammable and contribute significantly to ozone/smog, and neurotoxic and carcinogenic emissions from compressor stations are real. 

Ask your local organizations, first responders and officials if they are willing to risk your health and safety for thousands of dollars or other support from a company planning to construct another natural gas infrastructure project through and in New Jersey that will impact generations to come.  Ask your elected legislators to ensure that the Rutgers’ report is carefully checked and assessed before allowing it to influence decisions by FERC and the DEPs of the states to permit or not permit construction of NESE.  We have the right to be protected by our elected officials.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

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