March 6, 2013

Residents Are Wary Of Proposed Pipeline On Princeton Ridge

At a presentation by the company that wants to install a new natural gas pipeline through a section of the Princeton Ridge, residents of the area voiced concerns about potential disruptions, property damage, and safety. More than 50 homeowners and other concerned citizens gathered at the Municipal Building on February 28 to question representatives from the Texas-based Williams Company, which owns the 42-inch proposed pipeline and wants to run it next to an existing one that was built in 1958.

Of particular concern were the effects of blasting, especially in relation to the environmental sensitivity of the area. Some 30 properties would be affected by the project, which would run 1.5 miles between the Coventry Farms development and Cherry Valley Road. Known as the Skillman Loop, the pipeline is part of the Leidy Southeast Expansion Project that would bring Marcellus shale gas from Pennsylvania. The loop is on the Transco pipeline, which runs 10,200 miles from south Texas to New York City.

Williams’ representatives could only answer preliminary questions, since the project is in the pre-filing stage. The company will apply in the coming fall to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for permission to begin construction in the fall of 2014. If it is approved, the pipeline would take just over a year to complete.

“The Princeton Ridge is an environmentally sensitive area. We have fought over this area many, many times over the years,” said Laura Lynch, who lives in Lawrence but represents the New -Jersey Sierra Club. “I strongly suggest that you do an EIS (environmental impact statement). You don’t know yet about the rocks, but we do. And you’re not going to be happy with what you find.”

The meeting was arranged at the request of local officials. Williams’ representatives said that this was the first time they had held this type of session in advance of its regular open house events, the first of which will take place April 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Otto Kaufman Community Center in Montgomery Township. More detailed maps and plans will be available at that gathering. But a representative urged those at last Thursday’s meeting to make their concerns known.

“The time to comment is now, at the beginning of the process,” said Cindy Ivy, in charge of public outreach for the Williams company.

Questions from residents ranged from where equipment would be stored during the construction process to what impact the project would have on insurance values. An indemnity clause would be put into easement agreements, the representatives said. The project would require that the company acquire some 20 feet of new easements onto some properties located close to the site.

“We don’t want the pipeline running through our property,” said resident Christopher Barr, whose home is located near where the new pipeline would diverge from the existing line. Asked what would happen if a homeowner refuses to grant those easements, a Williams representative said that under the Natural Gas Act, “… if the Commission (FERC) approves this project, that carries with it eminent domain,” meaning the property could be condemned and the landowner forced to sell the easement rights at market value.