NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — After requests from local leaders and environmental groups including Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr., Roseland Mayor John Duthie, Jeffrey Tittel, Director of New Jersey Sierra Club, representatives from Roseland Against the Compressor Station, 350 NJ, the Alliance for Action and Food and Water Watch organizations, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) gave the public an opportunity to voice their opinions regarding proposed upgrades and expansions to an existing natural gas compressor station located at 563 Eagle Rock Avenue in Roseland during a public hearing at West Essex High School on Tuesday.

The applicant, Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company LLC (Transco), is proposing to double the capacity of an existing station that is currently utilizing 5 percent of its existing capacity. Transco is also seeking variances as it relates to an established flood hazard area immediately adjacent to the property.

Prior to the commencement of the hearing, a demonstration was staged outside the meeting site that was attended by approximately 75 protestors who spoke of the impact this proposal would have upon the community and environment. Speakers reflected on the occurrence in 2013 when a gas leak required the evacuation of a local elementary school, expressed concern about the request to double the capacity for more gas to move through a highly populated area and questioned the long-term goal regarding enlarging the capacity.

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Protestors also noted their concern of the PSEG power station immediately adjacent to the site on one side and the Essex County Environmental Center utilized by thousands of students and visitors throughout the year on the other side of the site. They also discussed the location of Passaic River, which runs directly behind the site, and the impact it would have on the wetlands, ecosystem and wildlife as it relates to protected species. 

Despite concern from protest leaders that this hearing was held on a date when many are on vacation and a time when many residents have work or other conflicts, the meeting was attended by approximately 200 attendees.

On behalf of the NJDEP, Assistant Commissioner of Land Use, Ginger Kopkash, served as the hearing officer. 

DiVincenzo was the first to reiterate his concern over this proposal.

“Adding a second 27,500-horsepower compressor station is not appropriate for the Roseland location,” he said. “The volume of compressed gas traveling through Roseland and other surrounding communities is already great. Doubling the capacity of the compressor station will increase by twofold the inherent dangers of having a pipeline passing through a densely populated area.

“In addition, the existing compressor station, as well as the new one, is on wetlands. This encroachment poses great risks to the ecosystem and environment.

“There is also a great concern about safety in the area, considering the compressor station’s location adjacent to a PSE&G switching station and high-tension electrical lines as well as its close proximity to the Passaic River. These wetlands are susceptible to flooding and, considering the increasing severity of storms this area has been experiencing, creating more development on wetlands is ill-advised.”

Roseland’s Mayor John Duthie stated that the borough implores the NDEP to deny permits to the operators of this facility. He also noted that the borough has been advised by the operators of this facility that the new compressor built four years ago is rarely in operation.

“They tell us that the compressor only operates on peak demand days, the coldest days of winter and that these peak days amount of very few days a year,” said Duthie. “The borough questions why an additional, larger 33,000 horsepower compressor would be considered for this facility when the existing compressor just built four years ago is barely used…the increased pressure into the 60-year-old pipeline will most definitely cause leakage of natural gas and its additives into our soil and ultimately into the ground water and this includes components found in the fracked gas.”

Not all speakers objected to the application. Daniel Ortega, a political administrative liaison with the Community Affairs at Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative (ELEC) representing more than 7,000 union members, spoke of the construction jobs that would be created by the approval of the projects, the safety record of his union members and their concern for environmental issues.

Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, however, said that compressor stations are “dangerous for the health, safety and environment of the people who live near them” and that they release toxic chemicals such as methane ethane, and MTBEs, as well as other green house gasses. 

“An explosion or leak could threaten communities, destroy important habitat and add pollution to waterways,” said Tittel. “Transco’s proposal would mean more gas and more pressure, increasing the chance of an accident. The people of Essex County, including members of the Sierra Club in those areas, have been righting against this infrastructure for years, especially the Roseland compressor station.

“They have complained about the risks of air pollution and safety concerns as well as the failure of Transco to address their concerns. I am here to tell the agency (DEP) that they must deny Transco permits for this dangerous and unneeded project.”

Matthew Smith, senior organizer for Food and Water Watch stated that when a company like Transco plans to violate New Jersey wetlands laws and impact drinking water, it is “unacceptable for the DEP to simply look at a contract provided by Williams and say that’s enough in terms of alternative assessments.”

“What is the demand and what are the alternatives to meet that demand?” he said. “This natural gas will be provided to New York residents, none of this natural gas stays here. What assessment has the DEP done to validate that natural gas is a friendlier alternative?”

More than 40 speakers from the community expressed their opinions regarding the project, the compressor station to date and the gas leak in 2013, the need to ensure future generations will breathe clean air, to protect the water supply, the logic of allowing this expansion next to a PSE&G switching station in a highly populated area, the stress of more gas circulating through 60-year-old pipes and the inconsistency of doubling a station that is currently utilizing 5 percent of its capacity.

Kopkash announced that interested parties may send their written comments to Chivon Kisic via Email or mailed to:

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

Division of Land Use Regulation

Bureau of Inland Regulation

Attention:  Chivon Kisic

P.O Box 420 (mail code 501-02A)

Trenton, NJ 08625

All comments must be submitted no later than Sept. 6, 2018.