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Holt, Booker, Others Urge Federal Agency To Protect the Ridge

Four state lawmakers have written to a federal agency requesting increased attention to safety issues regarding the Williams Transco company’s plan for a pipeline on the Princeton Ridge.

Congressmen Rush Holt and Frank Pallone, and Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez signed a letter Tuesday to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requesting that the agency “thoroughly review safety risks associated with this project” before a final Environmental Assessment is issued. While the lawmakers would have preferred that FERC require an Environmental Impact Statement, which is more extensive than an Environmental Assessment, the agency has determined that an Environmental Assessment is adequate for the project.

The letter, which is part of the public comment process, comes a week after Princeton Council passed a resolution asking FERC to reject Transco’s plan for the project, citing environmental and safety concerns brought to the forefront by the citizen action group Princeton Ridge Coalition.

Last month, Mr. Holt cited the Princeton Ridge expansion proposal in an address to the House of Representatives on the need to increase funding for the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. “I have heard from my constituents about their safety concerns with this project which will require excavation and construction work along an existing, more than 50-year-old pipeline, which runs past homes and schools,” he remarked during a hearing for the amendment, which was adopted.

The letter signed by Mr. Holt, Mr. Pallone, Mr. Booker, and Mr. Menendez calls the Princeton Ridge “an unusual environment of boulders, shallow bedrock, and wetlands,” and cites submissions by pipeline safety expert Richard Kuprewicz of Accufacts, Inc. about safety concerns. “Failing to account for all credible safety risks would needlessly imperil not only local communities, but also the men and women working to construct and install this pipeline,” the letter reads.

Since the Williams Transco company announced its plans for the project, which would add a new gas pipeline to one that was installed in 1958, the Princeton Ridge Coalition has been investigating and airing concerns about environmental and safety conditions. The company has met with the citizens’ group and the municipality on several occasions and has made several changes to their plans to accommodate the concerns. But some issues remain.

In the letter to FERC, the lawmakers reference a recent finding that FERC had violated the National Environmental Protection Act in segmenting a project’s environmental review process involving the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company’s Northeast Upgrade Project. That project and the one involving the Princeton Ridge, which is part of the Leidy Southeast Expansion Project, “are notable and may be of relevance in the preparation of a final environmental review document,” they said.

“If FERC is committed to proceeding with the EA (Environmental Assessment) rather than a full Environmental Impact Statement, the outstanding issues related to safety during construction should be addressed,” the letter reads. “The principal safety risks involve potential damage to the half-century old existing pipeline because of remaining rocks and anticipated use of heavy construction equipment. In consideration of remaining safety concerns and the unique Princeton Ridge environment, we encourage you to answer all community concerns regarding project construction and environmental impacts.”

 

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