A controversial pipeline that would carry natural gas from Luzerne County to New Jersey took a huge step forward recently by winning approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
But local opponents repeated their concerns about the project’s environmental and other impacts — including on drinking water.
Meanwhile, the companies behind the PennEast Pipeline must still get other approvals before actual work can begin.
“Approval of the PennEast Pipeline is a major victory for New Jersey and Pennsylvania families and businesses,” said Anthony Cox, chair of the PennEast Pipeline Co. Board of Managers, in a news release. “PennEast will lower gas and electricity costs, increase reliability, improve air quality and make the region more competitive for jobs in the coming decades.”
The PennEast line will start in Dallas Township and transport up to one billion cubic feet of Marcellus Shale natural gas to a Transco pipeline connection in Mercer County, New Jersey. The 120-mile, 36-inch line will cost $1 billion to build.
Scott Cannon, environmental adviser for Action Together NEPA, outlined three major issues he and homeowners are concerned about:
• Part of the pipeline will be located just 1,400 feet from Dallas High School. Three pipelines already interconnect in the area and the PennEast line would be the fourth.
• The line’s construction underneath the Susquehanna River could breach a mine shaft and cause acid mine drainage to leak out.
• The pipeline will run close to some homes in Plains Township and then go through blasting quarries. “People are concerned that kind of vibration would be harmful to the pipeline that’s being put in there,” he said.
Cannon also said the construction could impact the water supply of residents who live in rural areas and depend on wells.
“It tends to stir up some arsenic that may be laying dormant on the bottom,” Cannon said of the blasting and digging that occurs during line construction.
Water is one of Mary Leeds’ many concerns, since she uses a well. She lives at 252 Manor Drive in Shavertown and her home might be along the line’s route.
“If my groundwater gets polluted, I have no alternative,” Leeds said.
PennEast sent her a contract a year ago, asking her to give the company 24/7 access to her land for $13,300. Even though Leeds said she was pressured to sign, she has not and will refuse to do so in the future.
She asked, “How could any amount of payment be worth it?”
Leeds said the company has threatened legal action if she does not sign the contract — a fight she is ready for.
“If they try to take my property, I will go to court,” she vowed.
Besides the water issue, Leeds is also concerned about potential gas explosions and her property being devalued.
“Natural gas is a very, very volatile substance,” she said. “It’s risky business.”
In the news release, PennEast made an effort to reassure homeowners about safety and environmental hazards.
“In the coming days, we will work to finalize fair and positive compensation agreements with landowners,” Cox stated in the release. “In the weeks ahead, survey crews will collect remaining field data in support of our permit applications to ensure minimal environmental and community impact.”
Cannon agrees the project will lower the cost of energy and create some jobs. However, he said natural gas is still a fossil fuel.
“What we’re doing is not solving the problem by pushing to renewable energy,” he said. “We’re still promoting fossil fuel use, which is going to be a bigger problem as we get down the road.”
Construction on the line is expected to begin in the second half of 2018.
PennEast Pipeline Co. is a joint effort of five energy companies, according to the Bucks County Courier Times. Those companies include UGI Energy Services.
The line would cut through the northern corner of Bucks County on its way to New Jersey, the report states.