Hundreds Hear Strategies To Defeat Proposed Compressor

Kirk Frost, a member of the township’s Task Force on Compressor Station 206’s steering committee, during the Feb. 27 forum.

Area residents who want to defeat a proposed natural gas compressor station must remain engaged and fight it at every level.

That was the word from a panel of activists gathered Feb. 27 at Sampson G. Smith Elementary School in a forum hosted by the township’s newly formed Task Force on Compressor Station 206.

About 300 people showed up for the forum, which featured comments from local politicians and presentations by environmental activists.

Williams Transco is planning to build a natural gas compressor station on a 52-acre parcel in the township, near the intersection of routes 27 and 518. The plan has come under fire from Franklin and South Brunswick residents, who say the proposed site is too close to homes and to the Trap Rock Quarry’s active blasting area.

The company is in the initial stages of making an application for the project to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which will have the final say. That process is expected to last well into 2017, with construction on the compressor not expected to be finished until 2018.

The compressor station is part of the company’s $1 billion Northeast Supply Enhancement Project, which traverses several states and is designed to get more natural gas to New York customers.

The forum’s goal was to “re-energize this area and get you folks back engaged,” said Kirk Frost, a member of the task force’s steering committee. “It’s very important to get engaged. We all have our jobs to do and we need to do this if we want to make an impact on this.”

“It’s going to be here in 2019, guaranteed, unless you guys get involved,” he said.

Jeff Tittle, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said residents could make an impact by slowing down the compressor’s approval process.

The project needs a number of permits from various state agencies, he said, and each of those permits could be fought.

“The more you can slow this thing down, the more you can stop this project,” he said. “Working together, sharing resources, getting educated, getting on the FERC docket, that’s how you slow it down and stop it.”

Tittle said residents should also fight the proposed new pipeline Transco is proposing to get the gas to New York.

“If you stop the pipeline, you stop the compressor station,” he said. “With pipelines, first you try to slow it down, then you try to choke it off, then you kill it.”

There are a variety of health concerns caused by the emissions from a gas compressor station, ranging from headaches to cancer, said Matt Smith, senior organizer with Food and Water Watch NJ.

“Kids who have to travel through that area on their way to school, business in the area,workers at the quarry, they’re all going to be impacted,” he said.

Smith said there are also emergency response implications to the station because first responders in that area of the township are not trained to deal with emergencies related to gas compressor stations.

State Sen. Bob Smith (D-17) read from a Feb. 9 letter sent to the FERC chairman, expressing opposition to the gas compressor station, and signed by a bipartisan delegation of state an federal legislators.

“We are all together on this, Democrats and Republicans,” he said.

State Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-17), said the safety issue of the station should be of great concern.

“The southern end of town just simply doesn’t have the resources to protect if a catastrophe would happen, especially if that catastrophe would include a pipeline,” he said. “We don’t have the manpower, we don’t have the water, we don’t have the unique training. We’re probably at least two hours away from getting an operation into place that would be any kind of fight. That scares me a lot.”

“Your participation in this issue is critical,” he said. “We must get bigger, we must get louder. This is our town, not theirs.”

Mayor Phil Kramer read from a 1950 newspaper article about a natural gas pipeline explosion near Ten Mile Run that occurred during  a gale storm. The explosion of the 50-foot stretch of pipeline shook area houses, according to the report.

“So the question I have to Transco is, did you know about this, why didn’t you inform us of this, and if you didn’t know, is that because you don’t keep good records, or were you hiding it from us, and what else might you be hiding from us?”

Ed Potosnak, executive director of the League of Conservation Voters, moderated the forum.

“The voices of many can do wonderful things, and powerful things,” he said.

Also attending the forum were Township Council members Ted Chase, James Vassanella, Roz Sherman, Rajiv Prasad, representives from Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman and U.S. Sen Cory Booker and Montgomery Township Administrator Donato Nieman.


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