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Durham digging deeper into pipeline plans


Concerns about the proposed PennEast natural gas pipeline prompted the Durham Township supervisors to direct their solicitor, Peter Nelson, to respond to and question several documents received from PennEast.

The nearly $1 billion project, a 120-mile 36-inch underground pipeline, will pass through seven properties in the township before it tunnels under the Delaware River into New Jersey. It will originate in Dallas, Luzerne County, in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and terminate at Transco’s pipeline interconnection near Pennington in Mercer County, New Jersey.

Pipeline proponents claim it will reduce energy costs and support thousands of jobs. Environmentalists in Durham and other municipalities have opposed it since it was first proposed.

Nelson said he had found minor issues in the documents, but what he found “a little alarming” was the emission of more than 250,000 tons of greenhouse gases. “That dwarfed everything else,” he said, and he was concerned if that release of gas would take place just during construction or during the pipeline’s operation.

He said the proposal complies with the township’s zoning ordinance, and noted the pipeline will be entirely underground. He also said the company plans horizontal directional drilling to go under the river bed so that should not affect the floodplain or stormwater provisions; however, Supervisor Chairman Bartley E. Millett expressed concerns about damage from the pipeline’s construction vehicles.

He asked Nelson to get a clarification addressing soil impact measures. Supervsior Richard Johnson also said he worries about damage to the roads from heavy trucks.

Lois Oleksa of the township’s environmental advisory council said she is concerned about “where the water will be coming from and where it will be put.” She does not want the work to affect either the Delaware River or Cooks Creek.

Nelson also discussed with the supervisors the planned construction of mini-cellular towers, which will soon be cropping up throughout the state. After some discussion, he told the supervisors he believes the best way for the township to retain some control over the project is to address it through tweaking the township’s right of way rules.

Resident Anthony Mills expressed concerns over the township’s plan to ban hunting on a portion of township owned public parkland off Stouts Valley Road. A hunter, he said he found it unfair.

The supervisors said they may ban hunting after Roadmaster Peter Cox said he was worried there would be an incident on the property because hikers were unaware hunters were on the land. The supervisors are now considering whether to ban archery as well as firearms. Hunting is forbidden on adjoining acreage owned by Bucks County.

At the township’s reorganizational meeting held the night before the regular meeting, Supervisor Kathleen Gentner replaced Johnson as supervisor vice chairman.

There were no other changes with the exception of an across-the-board 3 percent wage increase for township employees and the appointment of two new candidates to the planning commission. They are Todd Weyman and Brian Grzelkowski.