In Your Opinion: Williams-Transco Again Provided Misleading Statements On Proposed Compressor Station

By Barbara Cuthbert.

When asked about concerns that air emissions from the proposed Compressor Station 206 could contaminate drinking water if a reservoir is constructed at Trap Rock Quarry when it stops mining in 2045, Williams-Transco spokesperson Christopher Stockton told the Editor of Franklin Reporter & Advocate that this would not be an issue.  He then noted, “The regulatory and permitting process for interstate natural gas transmission compressor stations is robust, protecting the health and safety of the public living near compressor stations” in an article entitled, Transco: Proposed Gas Compressor Would Not Affect Future Reservoir (12/12/17).  Issues with this statement are:

The “robust” regulatory and permitting process starts with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) which has only rejected two interstate pipeline projects in 40 years, and this was because the companies could not prove that they had customers for the gas they wanted to transport.

There are no requirements in the permitting process to study health impacts.  Decisions by FERC and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) have nothing to do with potential health impact from compressor station toxic emissions.  Measurement of air quality is from stations that are not close to the compressor station, and the proposed Compressor Station is next to an active mining quarry that produces its own airborne pollutants.  Standards for air quality are based on averages over time for large areas – not on the immediate vicinity of polluting facilities.  There is ample anecdotal and data-based evidence that the emissions from natural gas drilling, processing, transportation and use are linked to increases in health issues like cancer, strokes, heart attacks, respiratory and neurological issues, and low birth weight.

FERC’s decisions about safety rely on information provided by companies wanting to build pipelines and compressor stations, and FERC defers to the Department of Transportation’s Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to ensure safety after something is operating.

Pipelines built in the 2000s are failing (exploding / cracking) at a rate that matches the failure rate of pipelines built in the 1940s. http://www.napsr.org/SiteAssets/mediainfo/SNL%20Sept%209%202015%20BathTub%20Curve%20Construction%20Practices.pdf

The potential dangers of fires, explosions, and unexpected or planned releases of toxic chemicals from compressor stations  is not seriously considered by FERC or the NJDEP since they make the assumption that the company and the Department of Transportation’s Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) will do their job to monitor and ensure safety of pipelines and compressor stations.  Given history, this does not happen since there are frequent reports of fires and gas releases at compressor stations and pipelines. Also, PHMSA is understaffed.  We are in PHMSA’s Eastern Region where inspectors are responsible for interstate pipeline facilities in 15 states:  Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Ohio, Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia & West Virginia.  The Eastern Region Office lists 20 employees and a Director on PHMSA’s 10/01/17 Administration page to cover all 15 states.  Of note, this number of employees has been shrinking over the past year.  https://www.phmsa.dot.gov/sites/phmsa.dot.gov/files/docs/about-phmsa/offices/1136/ops-organizational-chart-10-01-2017.pdf

Thus, those living near the proposed Compressor Station 206 are not protected by these regulatory and permitting requirements.  If the regulatory and permitting process truly protected local citizens, then why are there so many accidents at natural gas pipelines and compressor stations?  Why do people who live near compressor stations complain about noise and unexplained illnesses?

Barbara Cuthbert is a member of Franklin Township Task Force Steering Committee.

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