Area residents concerned about the environmental and safety ramifications of the natural gas pipeline planned for the Princeton Ridge will get another chance to air their views at a public hearing being held by the Department of Environmental Protection on February 23. The hearing, scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Nassau Inn, is on the permit application that the Williams/Transco company needs in order to begin work on the project.
Williams wants to build a high-pressure pipeline for natural gas next to one that was installed in 1958, increasing its capacity. The portion running through Princeton Ridge is part of the Skillman Loop and would carry natural gas from western Pennsylvania shale fields to customers from other states.
The plan has provoked controversy over the past two years, with significant input from environmental groups and members of the Princeton Ridge Coalition, a non-profit citizens’ group formed soon after the project was announced. In December, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved the Williams company’s request. Last week, the Coalition filed an appeal with FERC to have the agency reconsider its decision.
“We are filing an appeal about environmental things and some of the language they use, which is a little ambiguous,” said Robert J. Goldston, a Princeton University astrophysics professor who is a member of the Coalition. “We’ve put in for a rehearing.”
FERC put out an Environmental Assessment (EA) last August with a finding that the project would pose “no significant impact” to the surrounding area. The Coalition responded with a long document outlining several problems they perceived, including not enough safety measures for the required trenching. “We objected to many things in the EA,” Mr. Goldston said. “On October 1, Transco filed a modification which they said would add another crew to the project and request some extra time to do the work.”
In addition, Mr. Goldston said, the company has given a firm commitment to never operate heavy equipment over the top of the existing pipeline while it is filled with natural gas, replacing the gas with water instead. “That was a huge step forward, from our point of view, in terms of trenching,” he said. “We still think that building under the ridge would be safe and more environmentally acceptable, though.”
The Coalition is considering installing video cameras along the private rights of way to monitor the work being done. “We’re scoping it out,” Mr. Goldston said. “It’s a possibility.”
According to Williams spokesman Christopher Stockton, surveying work on the project would begin sometime in February. Because the line will initially have to be taken out of service, Princeton Ridge residents won’t see any activity until around May. “It takes a lot of coordination with customers, to ensure safety,” Mr. Stockton said.
Construction should last about eight months, he added.