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West Milford Council takes no action to oppose compression turbines

West Milford. Opposition Food and Watch organizer Sam DeFalco promised that the movement to end the project would stay focused on its goal and continue to grow.

| 30 Mar 2021 | 10:53

    People opposing the construction of compression turbines on the Tennessee Gas Pipeline that already runs through North Jersey are disappointed that the Township of West Milford Council recently voted unanimously against passage of a resolution that would have shown that the local governing board backs their stand against the project.

    The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (TGP) applied to the Federal Energy Commission (FERC) for a “Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity” and to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for a Highlands Act exemption, air pollution permits, freshwater wetlands permit, storm water management permits and other permits required for its proposed “East 300 Upgrade Project.”

    Final decision expected in May

    Final determination on the application by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is expected in May. If that approval is given construction could begin next March, roughly year from now.

    The project includes construction of a 19,000-horsepower gas compression station (Compressor 327) at 960 Burnt Meadow Road, Hewitt, and the construction of an additional 20,500 hp gas powered turbine at an existing compression station at 164 Libertyville Road in Wantage.

    These projects will significantly increase the amount and pressure of gas transported through the pipeline from Pennsylvania through New Jersey to Westchester, N.Y., the defeated resolution said. It noted that much of the pipeline is 65 years old and beyond its useful life, and sections run near homes, businesses and critical infrastructure in dozens of Northern New Jersey communities and “increases the risk of leaks and catastrophic explosions which can result in property destruction and deaths when they occur.”

    From 2006 to 2017 TGP had 111 significant incidents with their pipelines, resulting in $89,815,380 damage and Federal enforcement actions and such incidents may escalate as pipelines age, the defeated resolution said.

    It reported the proposed Compressor 327 in West Milford is located in the Highlands Preservation Area, “an exceptional natural resource which provides drinking water to more than half of the state of New Jersey and its project is near two major reservoirs, protected wetlands and a Category 1 Exceptional Value Stream, and construction and ongoing operation of these proposed industrial facilities can lead to groundwater pollution from chromium, benzene and hydrocarbons.”

    The document went on to list other sources of dangerous periodic emissions, detailed dangers of VOCs present at compressor stations, listed particulate matter released from compressors that pose a significant health concern and can interact with airborne VOCs increasing their impact.

    History of areas that have had problems, including serious damage to Lake Lookover and Bearfort waters in the township, were also detailed in the resolution. It said the mayor and township council have a principal responsibility to protect the health, and safety of residents, visitors and businesses and therefore in that interest they opposed construction of fracked gas Compresseor 327 station, the addition of a gas powered turbine at the existing compressing station CS325 “and TGP’s attempt to exclude its activities from the Highlands Preservation Act.

    Opposition Food and Watch organizer Sam DeFalco promised that the movement to end the project would stay focused on its goal and continue to grow.

    Reactions and explanations

    Mayor Michele Dale noted that TGP is not installing new pipeline. What is being worked on is an existing line. Councilman Warren Gross encouraged the public to get copies of the TGP proposed project. He said looking at it might give solace to some people who are opposed to it. Councilman David Marsden appreciates the public’s concerns but sees some of the negative information coming forth is inflated.

    Former Councilman Robert Nolan had urged the council to table the Resolution (which they did at an earlier meeting) and then engage in a reasoned and deliberate consideration of the implications being proposed. Councilwoman Ada Erik said she does not favor the project but believes it cannot be stopped. When the resolution was first introduced she expressed her opinion that it should have been stronger.

    Support and opposition

    Melissa Brown-Blaeuer, a resident who recently announced she, and running mate Pamela Fadden, will run on a Democrat ticket for state Assembly District 26, lives a mile away from the compressor station location and fears that her property value will be impacted. She and Renee Allesio of Hillcrest Drive said the governor has the power to stop the project. Allessio said Governor Murphy is up for re-election and local officials need to put pressure on him and other legislators. She shared a letter about fossil fuel.

    Thomas Lamb of Larson Road and Jason Knipp of Cherry Ridge Road belong to Local 472 and they support the compressor station and dedicated people working on the job will see that it is safely built and ready to help supply energy in the region without hurting the environment. Also mentioned was generation of new taxes for the township.

    Gail Stoughton of Beacon Hill Road noted the number of serious accidents and catastrophies that are recoded and she believes there can be better things to benefit the health and well being of the community. Matteus Thorsen, a new resident, opposed the project as did Gary Paolazzi of Greenwood Lake Turnpike.

    Laura Ashtyani of Hopler Place, told the mayor and council they need to address the financial assurance in regards to the TGP plan to protect residents. She added this is is not a federal government project but none for a private gas company.