The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced today that it will hold one public hearing in New Jersey about the Williams Transco Leidy Southeast gas line expansion project.
The hearing will be held at 7 p.m. June 13 at the Hillsborough Middle School, which is located at 260 Triangle Road in Hillsborough.
Environmental groups and municipal officials had asked federal regulators to hold a separate meeting for each loop to encourage more public input, but the request was denied.
Some Princeton residents, officials and activists are concerned about the pipeline expansion in Princeton, where pipeline would be added in the environmentally sensitive Princeton Ridge. The pipeline would carry gas produced from Marcellus Shale through franking.
The New Jersey Sierra Club criticized the federal government for announcing the public hearing date on the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend.
“Government always sneaks out really bad announcements on the Friday before a three day holiday weekend because they do not want the press or public to know what they are up to,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “That is what FERC just did with the Transco pipeline, proving the pipeline is bad for the environment and public safety. It is shameful what FERC is trying to do and this project is shameful.”
The hearing is the first step in the preparation of an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act. During this phase, all parties interested in the project — including municipal bodies, environmental and community groups, land owners and concerned citizens — must submit their concerns to the federal government. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will only look into issues raised during this portion of the review process. The project cannot be challenged in court after approval on the grounds not raised during this phase of the project review.
Following the public hearing, FERC will prepare a draft environmental assessment that will either conclude there is a no significant impact on the environment as a result of the proposed project or that more review is needed under an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Due to the sensitive nature of the Princeton Ridge region and other issues, environmental groups are urging FERC to prepare a full EIS for the project.
Transco is in the pre-filing process and has not yet filed a formal application with FERC. The New Jersey Sierra Club is exploring options to intervene in the proceedings. By intervening, individuals and groups can challenge the FERC approval and are considering next steps now. Citizen groups, municipalities, and residents cannot intervene until a formal application is filed.
More than 12 miles of pipeline would be installed in New Jersey as part of the Leidy Southeast expansion project. A portion of the project called the Skillman Loop would run 6.36 miles through Princeton and Montgomery townships. The Pleasant Run Loop would run 6.85 miles in Branchburg, Readington, and Clinton townships. The Pennsylvania portions of the project are in Luzerne and Monroe counties.
“There is no need for this pipeline other than to promote fracking and the burning of fossil fuels that impact clean water and promote climate change,” Tittel said. “Pennsylvania gets the money, New York gets the gas, and we get the pipe. This line not only threatens the neighborhoods it passes through but threatens our environment. This pipeline is going to go through environmentally sensitive areas creating an ugly scar, adding to pollution, and putting people at risk. Just ask the people of Bellingham Washington, Burlingame, California and Edison.”
Princeton Township and Readington Township Municipal Councils have both passed resolutions expressing concerns over the impacts of the project and requesting more information.