Dozens of North Jersey residents and activists held a rally this afternoon in Sparta just ahead of the NJDEP hearing on the proposal to expand and build new fracked gas compressor stations along a North Jersey gas pipeline. This hearing was on the Air Quality permit for the project which is the last pending permit for this project before Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (TGP) can start building this project.
Compressor stations are industrial facilities situated along pipeline routes that pressurize gas to push it through the pipeline and release gas to regulate pressure within the pipeline system. These accident-prone facilities are dangerous, loud, and major sources of harmful air pollution.
This so-called “East 300 Upgrade” project includes a massive expansion of an existing gas-fired compressor station in Wantage, and a new gas compressor station in West Milford right next to the Monksville Reservoir, which provides clean drinking water to millions. The expansion project would allow TGP to pipe higher volumes of fracked gas through this 65-year-old pipeline en route to Westchester, NY.
“In a worsening climate crisis, we must do all we can to lower emissions, and that must start with a halt to new fossil fuel projects in our state. Governor Murphy’s own climate goals would be undermined by a dangerous and unnecessary fossil fuel expansion project that is only being built to serve the profits of the fossil fuel industry and a private utility in New York,” said Sam DiFalco, an organizer with Food & Water Watch. “If Governor Murphy means what he says about battling climate change and protecting public safety and our environment, he must reject this unsafe and unnecessary fracked gas expansion project.”
“Our government is supposed to protect the people and the common good, not major corporations like the oil and gas industry,” said Renee Allessio, a 45-year resident of West Milford and board member of Sustainable West Milford. “Fossil fuel extraction, transportation, and combustion pollute the air communities breathe, the water they drink, the land they walk on, and the food they eat. The release of these pollutants is also a major cause of climate change.”
Compressors regularly release methane gas containing volatile compounds including formaldehyde, benzene, and other harmful compounds directly into the air surrounding the compressor. This gas can engulf the surrounding area in a toxic cloud for hours and travel for miles before the gas dissipates. A major incident like this happened on New Year’s Day of this year when a computer malfunction caused the unstaffed facility to shut down and release gas for almost two hours before a worker could arrive on-site and fix the problem.
“My family moved to Wantage to build our forever home not knowing the major risks this facility would pose to our growing family. We already deal with the awful smells from the facility and noises 24×7. On January 1 of this year, a blowdown as loud as a jet engine released a toxic plume that engulfed the local community and could be smelt, for miles,” said Kelly Kessler, a Wantage resident who lives less than a mile from the existing facility. “These facilities release benzene a known source of childhood leukemia. An even bigger facility three times this size is not safe to raise children around.”
“NJDEP must protect our health and environment and reject this unnecessary project which will have damaging impacts on the air, water, and land. These compressor facilities release harmful air pollutants such as benzene, GHGs, NOx, that can cause asthma, headaches, and worsen symptoms for people with respiratory problems.,” said Taylor McFarland, New Jersey Chapter Conservation Program Manager for Sierra Club. “This is a dangerous and polluting project that will only cause more climate and health impacts. It’s critical that NJDEP consider the disastrous impacts this project will have and reject it.”
Many remember the significant damage TGP caused to North Jersey communities a decade ago when they laid additional pipes in the ground to expand the capacity of their original 65-year-old line. During construction, they caused a sinkhole, mudslides that flowed into decimated Lake Lookover in West Milford and impacted drinking water wells, and petrochemical spills. What’s more, TGP failed to successfully replant the mature forest they decimated during construction across North Jersey. NJ communities are not alone in dealing with the impacts of TGP’s risky operations.
“According to Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration failure reports, from 2006-2017, TGP had 111 significant incidents with their pipelines resulting in $89,815,380 in property damage and 19 federal enforcement actions,” said Jill Aquino, RN a 19-year resident of Sussex County who worked as a school nurse in the county for 16.5 years. “Just last month a portion of this very same pipeline exploded in PA and started a forest fire which burned through 5 acres before it could be contained, reminding us of the increased risks of forcing higher volumes of gas through this aging pipeline system. With this track record, it’s unfathomable that the agencies responsible for protecting our environment would permit TGP to construct another expansion in our communities.”
“We seem to lose focus on the fact that none of this gas is intended for use by residents of New Jersey — it’s all going to New York to serve potential new users in the future. It’s not needed, yet the damage will be borne in the Highlands by our residents,” said Julia Somers, Executive Director of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition. “It’s an outrageous, irresponsible situation! The DEP must deny the permit.”
In an undeniable climate, ecological, and public health crisis, Governor Murphy has to make a choice to live up to his climate commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower harmful pollution or cave to the corporate interests of out-of-state polluters.
“Anushiik kéeshxung is ‘Thank You Wind’ in the Munsee language, the original language of these lands. We have a choice between Good Air and Bad Energy right now. If we choose Bad Energy then we will have Bad Air, Bad Health, and Death,” said OWL of the Ramapough Munsee Lunaaape Nation. “Let’s not sacrifice Good Air for Bad Energy.”