JIM AMON / NJ ENVIRONMENT NEWS – The PennEast Corporation, a consortium of energy companies, proposes to take gas produced by fracking the Marcellus shale in northeastern Pennsylvania and run it through a 114-mile long, 36-inch pipeline to a connection with existing pipelines in Hopewell Township, Mercer County. The proposed route would cross under the Delaware River a little south of Philipsburg and would traverse Hunterdon and Mercer County properties.
The PennEast Corporation is presently seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Support for this project has been limited to some members of labor unions who believe that the project will result in valuable jobs, and representatives of the energy industry. Everyone else who has expressed an opinion in public meetings is opposed. Mercer County Freeholders are opposed; reports are that Hunterdon Freeholders are about to pass a resolution of opposition; every municipality in the proposed route has passed a resolution of opposition; landowners who would be affected are outraged (opposition is far too mild a descriptive for them).
Every environmental group in central New Jersey is also outraged. The proposed route relies heavily on land that has been permanently preserved. It crosses several C-1 streams; it would fragment intact mature forest; preserved farmlands would be harmed or ruined; habitat for deer and predatory animals would be increased while habitat for many native animals would be decreased; it would traverse areas where bedrock is close to the surface so that blasting would be required; forested wetlands and vernal pools would be damaged; both ground and surface waters would suffer pollution.
PennEast has prepared an economic impact report that has been examined by expert economists and found to use inadequate methodologies and to reach unsupported conclusions. It has been reported that the company hired by PennEast to prepare the environmental impact analysis has investments in the fracking industry. They are mounting an aggressive publicity campaign to convince citizens that this pipeline would be a wonderful benefit to them.
A distant entity that possesses great wealth and power proposes to come to central New Jersey to despoil its resources in order to make greater wealth. This is the modern form of colonialism, carried out by giant corporations that often, if not usually, have more power than the citizens who are pleading for protection. Citizens sign petitions, write letters, put signs in their yards, put bumper stickers on their cars and speak at public meetings. These actions seem puny and possibly ineffective in the face of powerful corporations but they are all that are available. It remains to be seen if FERC will be part of the process of re-colonizing New Jersey or if it will protect the citizens.
Jim Amon has been active in environmental and planning issues in central New Jersey for 40 years. He is presently a trustee of the Sourland Conservancy.