February 26, 2014

Williams Company Answers Claims That Pipeline Mapping Is Inadequate

Responding to a statement issued Tuesday that they have failed to produce accurate mapping of the construction path for the proposed Princeton Ridge Transco Pipeline project, the Williams Company said that “incomplete survey permissions” prevented them from having access to the area of concern until recently. The company responded further that they have provided mapping for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to the agency’s satisfaction “for the Letter of Interpretation process.”

Williams wants to expand its natural gas pipeline through an environmentally sensitive area of the Princeton Ridge, affecting some 30 properties. The company has held public presentations and met repeatedly with the citizens’ group Princeton Ridge Coalition, representatives from the municipality, and others concerned about the impact of construction on area wetlands and wildlife, as well as safety.

“I have met with Williams officials and their consultants from Texas and Florida at least a half a dozen times, and they have always promised to do the right thing by the community,” said Jennifer Coffey, policy director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, in a press release. “On at least two occasions, we had meetings with officials in Princeton and Trenton to discuss the incomplete wetlands mapping, and Williams promised to fix it. Their most recent mapping shows that they have done nothing to correct the problem or accurately represent the sensitive nature of the Ridge.”

The press release states further that Williams’ reports “fail to map critical regulated features of the existing right of way (ROW). These include watercourses, wetlands with active seeps and springs within and adjacent to the ROW, as well as State open waters occurring within 50 feet of the ROW.” The release quotes a report prepared by the company Princeton Hydro as saying, “Failure to accurately identify and delineate these regulated [stream and wetland] features will preclude an accurate representation of the project’s impacts.”

According to the release, the Watershed Association, the municipality, and the citizens’ group are calling on the Department of Environmental Protection to ask Williams to re-do their wetlands surveys “in compliance with the law.”

“In sum, Williams’ efforts to properly delineate wetlands and regulated waters within the Princeton Ridge segment are plainly inadequate. They call into question the accuracy and completeness of all studies Williams has commissioned in the Princeton Ridge segment. We are deeply disappointed that Williams has failed to meet its basic regulatory obligations, regardless of whether these oversights were intentional or inadvertent,” according to a letter written on behalf of the coalition by attorney Paul P. Josephson, a Princeton Ridge resident.

In an email, The Williams Company said, “We have worked in good faith with the Princeton Coalition to address their concerns, and had previously committed to them to map additional areas within a 150 foot corridor. Previously, this was not accomplished due to incomplete survey permissions. Until recently, we did not have survey access to a key property in this area of concern and therefore could not survey outside of the existing right of way.”

The email continues to say the mapping Williams provided for the state environmental agency “reflects delineations that were performed in the presence of the NJDEP, to their satisfaction, for the Letter of Interpretation (LOI) process. Additional surveys, although not required as a function of the LOI line verification process, will be incorporated as part of NJDEP’s review of Transco’s freshwater wetlands application. Transco continues to coordinate with NJDEP to provide the information necessary for the proposed project to be reviewed in accordance with the state of New Jersey’s environmental regulations.”

Barbara Blumenthal, a resident active in the Princeton Ridge Coalition, said in the release, “The Ridge is our home. The Princeton community feels great responsibility to be good stewards and protect it from unnecessary harm. There are extensive preserved lands on the ridge that the Princeton community and officials have worked hard to protect and now enjoy as open space. All we are asking is for Williams to comply with New Jersey environmental rules and conduct all the analyses they are required to do.”