Lawmakers, affected landowners and a half-dozen environmental groups urged a state agency to reject a renewed bid by PennEast Pipeline Co. to build a proposed natural gas pipeline through New Jersey at today’s press conference, which brought about 40 concerned citizens to The Watershed Institute.
Backers of the controversial PennEast pipeline, which would cut through parts of Mercer and Hunterdon counties, refiled applications on Aug. 8 with the state Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for the necessary water quality and freshwater wetlands permits.
Speakers at the press conference stood in “vigorous opposition” and expressed confidence that NJDEP would reject the resubmitted bid, citing PennEast’s erroneous, incomplete and inadequate application in the face of New Jersey’s strong environmental protection laws.
“We stand in vigorous opposition to PennEast,” said Jim Waltman, executive director of the Watershed. “The PennEast pipeline is both a direct and indirect threat to clean water that we’ve been fighting to protect for seven decades.”
The state agency denied PennEast’s original filing in February, 2018, one month after the company received approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Approval of these state permits is required before construction of the 120-mile pipeline could begin.
Tom Gilbert, campaign director for Rethink Energy NJ, decried FERC’s action, “but NJDEP will have the final say and the law and science are on our side. This project simply can’t meet New Jersey’s strict environmental standards and must be rejected.”
Speakers repeatedly described PennEast as a “profit grab” that could unduly harm preserved farmland, federally protected waterways, drinking water and expose one-in-seven homeowners in Hopewell Township to possible explosions from the proposed natural gas pipeline.
Kristin McLaughlin, the mayor of Hopewell Township, said, “the people of Hopewell deal with this issue at ground-level and they are justifiably angry that the federal government said ‘yes’ to this project. We call on NJDEP to say ‘no’.”
Federal, state and local lawmakers in affected communities voiced their opposition, citing the watchdog New Jersey Rate Counsel’s official view that PennEast is unnecessary. The counsel described PennEast as an effort by gas utilities to sell gas to themselves as profiting at a level “tantamount to winning the lottery.”
U.S. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D—12th District) said PennEast has failed to demonstrate the need for this project, citing excess natural gas capacity and the irrevocable damage the proposed pipeline would cause to preserved farmland, protected waterways and wildlife, and the quality of life in local communities.
“Expert after expert has concluded that PennEast is not needed,” she said. “We urge the DEP to uphold their environmental standards to protect our natural resources and irreplaceable drinking water from this project.”
U.S. Rep Tom Malinowski, (D-7th District) expressed confidence that PennEast would by halted by NJDEP and vowed to provide more rigorous federal scrutiny of proposed pipelines in the future.
“I intend to work on federal legislation that will ensure that when these pipes are proposed that they have to show regional benefits,” he said.
Many of the event’s speakers urged a rapid transition away from fossil fuels and towards renewable sources of energy, such as solar and wind power. The Watershed Center is a leading example of where those new technologies have been showcased.