To the Editor,
Mayor Skibitsky’s remarks in the TAP article of December 3rd (http://thealternativepress.com/towns/westfield/articles/westfield-mayor-speaks-about-pilgrim-pipeline-pro) were factual, but seemed to underplay the potential negative effects for Westfield residents.
As he correctly stated, the proposed crude oil pipeline would run along the border between Clark and Westfield. The pipeline may not be in our backyards; but if built, it would impact our property values, our safety and our drinking water.
Westfield's water comes from American Water Company, which relies on the Buried Valley Aquifer wells, reservoirs and the surface water of the Passaic River (as well as other water sources that are at risk from a crude oil pipeline). The pipeline would cross the Passaic River in not one, but three different locations. The pipeline is also proposed to go directly above NJ's ancient Buried Valley Aquifer, which is an 80,000 year-old gift left over from the glacial age. You only get one chance with water, and we (and hopefully our elected officials) are the stewards of this precious resource for our children and their children.
If these aquifers are contaminated (or the river and other waterways the pipeline threatens), it will affect millions of people in NJ because many parallel water systems here are inter-connected underground. An aquifer was contaminated in Minnesota from crude oil, and decades later benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (carcinogens) still exceeded safety limits established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (Reference: USDOT: US Geological Survey. Ground water contamination by crude oil near Bemidgi, Minn.)
Pipelines consistently leak crude oil. The US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (USDOT-PHMSA) reported in 2013 that 400 pipeline incidents occurred with 199,200 barrels spilled, resulting in $266 million in property damage. Just Google "Mayflower, Arkansas" for pictures of what an oil spill looks like in a suburban town like Westfield.
I've attached a link to an interactive Google map below so readers can see where the proposed pipeline will go (you can zoom in and out for more detail). It affects about 30 communities in NJ on its route from Albany and back.
It is useful to know that PSE&G is not the ultimate authority in whether or not this pipeline is built. A key battle in this struggle will take place when Pilgrim applies for public utility status with the NJ Board of Public Utilites (BPU), which governs PSE&G. We want the BPU to know that all the municipalities potentially affected, oppose Pilgrim and we want all the municipalities to work together to exert every ounce of leverage to stop Pilgrim from obtaining Eminent Domain.
If we fail and they get it, we will have a crude oil pipeline in on the border of our town and our water and property values will be at risk 24x7 for the next 30 years. Towns that do nothing will be sending a message of indifference to the BPU, the NJ Department of Environment Protection (NJDEP) and Pilgrim. Being passive, based on the presumption that the Pilgrim plan is still tentative, is wasting precious time. We could find ourselves unprepared to face Pilgrim in court or at the BPU when they ask for utility status. They have put forth a very specific plan and are making every effort to survey this route and are working with the NJ DEP right now to prepare their filings.
Even though the proposed route of the pipeline is on the edge of Westfield, Bakken crude’s corrosiveness, explosiveness and volatility is of grave concern. This is not a natural gas pipeline bringing gas into our homes for our heat. This is a dual pipeline with crude oil going to our Linden refineries and purified petroleum products back to Albany. None of this project benefits Westfield or New Jersey. Our refineries in Linden are already receiving this crude oil via barge and rail. If the pipeline is built, we would be bearing all the risks and no reward; all for the profits of a private corporation. (Read below, about Albany’s regrets, in the NYT article, below)
By passing a resolution opposing the crude oil pipeline, like 15 of the NJ communities along the proposed pipeline, Westfield would be sending a clear message to the state that we are extremely concerned for our potable water as well as the public health and welfare of our citizens.
The town of Westfield elected you to safeguard its citizens. Please take action and work with our Town Council to pass a resolution to retain our trust?
Lorraine Wearley, Ph.D.
P.S. I strongly urge all concerned Westfield residents to come to the Westfield Town Council Meeting on December 16th to voice their concerns.
Link to interactive map:
For more information about the Pilgrim Pipeline:
Read what happened in Albany, which was passive in response to their ports and rails being used to transport this crude oil http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/28/business/energy-environment/bakkan-crude-rolling-through-albany.html?_r=0