Lambertville residents turned up on a rainy evening for an overview of the more than five years since PennEast announced it was building its $1 billion 120-mile pipeline.
The proposed 36-inch pipeline would carry fracked natural gas, produced in the Marcellus Shale region in Luzerne County, just north of Wilkes-Barre. The pipeline would run southeast across the Delaware River to a new connection on Transco’s pipeline, just east of Lambertville, N.J.
Councilman Wardell Sanders said Lambertville was among the first municipalities to pass a resolution against the proposed pipeline back in 2014 and has since passed several other resolutions relating to its opposition.
Patty Cronheim, outreach coordinator for ReThink Energy NJ, provided a brief summary of the five-year-plus battle with the pipeline company.
The nonprofit organization was created in 2015 by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, the Watershed Institute, and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance in response to new fossil fuel projects.Cronheim told residents although PennEast plans to file with the Supreme Court by its deadline in early February, it may be some time next fall before the court decides if it will take the case.
Councilman Sanders asked Cronheim if PennEast could reroute the pipeline around the state-owned land. She confirmed it was possible. “Yes they could. But it’s very hard. It would be a challenge.”
Cronheim said it is hard to predict the ultimate fate of the pipeline.
“There are so many groups fighting this,” she said. Even if the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case and rules in favor of PennEast, there is still a chance the pipeline could be stopped.
“We never thought after five years we’d be going to the Supreme Court or as I like to call it, The Show,” Cronheim said. “If we’re ever going to survive climate change, we have to make some drastic changes.”
Resident John Hencheck said PennEast officials have not been truthful in their representations regarding the pipeline and asked if the company would be held accountable.
“Who’s going to bring the lies to the forefront?” he said.
Resident Liz McGill-Peer said her parents own land near the proposed pipeline in West Amwell, N.J., and they would lose their farmland assessment, which is a program that allows very low taxes on farmable land so that farmers can remain in business. Without being able to use their land for farming, the cost of living there “would be exponentially more expensive,” and they would be forced to move, McGill-Peer said.
The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), a regional body which includes the four basin-state governors and the Division Engineer, North Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who serves as the federal representative, has scheduled a Dec. 11 meeting, according to Cronheim.
She said the organization has the power to stop the pipeline on its own but the Commission doesn’t “want to weigh in on that.” Cronheim said “they just want to rule on hydrostatic testing,” which usually involves using water to test the pipeline for leaks.
Cronheim said New Jersey officials have been “amazing” in fighting the proposal.
Postcards thanking New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Singh Grewal were available for residents to fill out at a table in the lobby of the Justice Center.