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Legislators: FERC Ignored Residents’ Concerns In Draft EIS

Artist’s rendering of the proposed Williams-Transco gas compressor station.


The conclusion by a federal agency that a proposed gas compressor station targeted for the township would have “less than significant” environmental effects was blasted March 23 by state and federal legislators.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released its draft Environmental Impact Statement for a gas compressor station proposed by Houston-based Williams Transco, slated for a 52-acre tract in Little Rocky Hill, near Route 518.

Williams Transco has proposed building the 32,000-horsepower natural-gas powered twin turbine compressor station – which will raise the gas pressure in pipelines so the gas can make it to its final destination – as part of the company’s $1 billion multi-state Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (NESE).

As its stands, plans call for construction on the compressor station to begin in January 2019, with completion expected sometime in December 2019.

The draft EIS, prepared and released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, breaks its analysis of the environmental effects of the proposed gas compressor station into nine categories: Safety, Air Emissions, Noise, Visual Impacts, New Jersey Buddhist Vihara Meditation Center, Property Values, Contaminated Groundwater, Alternatives and Electric Motor Compressors.

In each of the nine categories, the FERC concluded that the proposed compressor will have no deleterious effect, or that any negative effects would be mitigated by steps planned to be taken by the company building the compressor.

“We determined that construction and operation of the NESE Project would result in some adverse environmental impacts, most of which would occur during construction (e.g., impacts on residences and offshore impacts related to turbidity, sedimentation, and pile driving noise),” FERC wrote in the report. “Long-term impacts on air quality and noise would result from the operation of Compressor Station 206. As part of our review, we developed specific mitigation measures that we determined would appropriately and reasonably reduce the environmental impacts resulting from construction and operation of the Project.”

“We are therefore recommending that our mitigation measures be attached as conditions to any authorizations issued by the Commission,” the report reads. “With implementation of Transco’s impact avoidance, minimization, and mitigation measures, as well as their adherence to our recommendations, we conclude that all Project effects would be reduced to less-than-significant levels.”

Following are the nine categories, and FERC’s conclusions:

Safety

Based on the extensive pipeline infrastructure in the United States (including compressor stations), the overall potential of a significant incident at a given compressor station is low.

Regarding the ability of the existing municipal water system to adequately support fire-fighting at Compressor Station 206, Transco would connect to the existing municipal water supply system in County Road 518 and has indicated that Franklin Township is planning to conduct upgrades that would ensure adequate water service to customers along County Road 518, including Compressor Station 206 … We further recommend that Transco provide an alternative plan to obtain sufficient water at the compressor station if the planned municipal water supply upgrades are not completed by Transco’s proposed in-service date in late 2019.

Transco would design, construct, operate, and maintain Compressor Station 206, including the inlet and outlet pipelines, in accordance with modern engineering practices that meet or exceed the DOT Minimum Federal Safety Standards which are protective of public safety, and added measures would be put in place to further ensure that the facility would not be affected by periodic blasting at the Trap Rock quarry.

Air Emissions

Based our analysis in section 4.10, we conclude that construction and operation of the Project would not have a significant impact on air quality and a health impact assessment for a facility of this size and limited impact is not warranted.

Noise

We conclude that operation of Compressor Station 206 would not result in significant noise impacts at nearby (noise sensitive areas).

Visual Impacts

Compressor Station 206 would not result in a significant visual impact in the area.

New Jersey Buddhist Vihara Meditation Center

(W)e conclude that construction and operation of Compressor Station 206 would not significantly impact the NJBVMC.

Property Values

(W)e conclude that Compressor Station 206 would not significantly contribute to these existing conditions that may influence property values in the area.

Contaminated Groundwater

Transco’s construction plans were reviewed by the EPA, who is assisting us in our environmental review of the NESE Project. The EPA finds, and we agree, that construction and operation of Compressor Station 206, as proposed by Transco, is unlikely to encounter contamination associated with the Higgins Farm site or affect EPA’s ongoing cleanup operations at the site.

Alternatives

Based on our review of Transco’s hydraulic modeling and our comparative environmental analysis, we conclude that alternative modifications of Transco’s system would be either infeasible due to adverse effects on existing delivery points and/or would not provide a significant environmental advantage when compared to Transco’s proposed expansion plans.

The preliminary review identified four other parcels that could potentially host Compressor Station 206, and these sites and Transco’s proposed location were evaluated in more detail for impacts on forested land, wetlands, waterbodies, and proximity to residences, places of worship, and schools/daycare centers … In balancing the advantages and disadvantages of sites, we conclude that none of the alternatives offer a significant environmental advantage over Transco’s proposed site, and do not recommend any of the alternative locations.

Electric motor Compressors

(W)e conclude that the electric motor-driven compression alternative does not offer a significant environmental advantage over Transco’s proposed use of natural gas at Compressor Station 206, and we do not recommend the alternative.

Opponents of Williams’ plan in the township and South Brunswick have said that the gas compressor will create air and noise pollution, and will create a safety hazard. The draft EIS was being reviewed on March 23 by those opponents, who did not have a comment at publication.

Two area legislators condemned the draft EIS, saying that FERC had ignored the comments of local residents. FERC noted in its draft EIS that about 98 percent of the comments on the plan concerned the proposed gas compressor.

“The draft EIS for the proposed Transco compressor station is a perfect example of FERC’s practice of approving these projects in spite of, and frequently in direct conflict with, the concerns of the communities in which they would be built,” U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman said in an email. “I’ve addressed FERC directly with my doubts about their process and I introduced the SAFER Pipelines Act specifically to change it.”

“These projects should only proceed when they are absolutely necessary, so that we can focus on sustainable, green energy options — and when they are approved, the companies responsible should be required to work with the communities in which they will be built to ensure minimal disruption and impact,” she wrote. “I’m disappointed in this outcome, and will continue to work with community leaders to push back against this and other new fossil fuel projects in New Jersey.”

State Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-17) is “very concerned that FERC in its initial draft report, has totally disregarded the input of hundreds of petitioners from the district and surrounding communities on the impact Compressor Station 206 at Trap Rock will have on the health, safety and property values of his constituents,” Wayne Dibofsky, Danielsen’s Chief of Staff. said in a statement. “These concerns are very real and raise serious questions that FERC must address prior to moving forward.”

“The Assemblyman will continue his efforts to seek solutions with all parties involved to address the outstanding issues,” Dibofsky said.

Transco spokesman Richard Stockton called the draft EIS a “significant milestone” for the company.

“This draft Environmental Impact Statement is a significant milestone for the project,” he said. “Since this proposal was first introduced in 2016, we have worked diligently to identify potential environmental issues or concerns, incorporating adjustments to the project design to avoid or minimize impacts.”

“We believe that the draft EIS positively reflects our efforts to collaborate with stakeholders to design this project in an environmentally responsible manner,” Stockton said.

A public comment session is set for 5-9 p.m. May 2 at the Senior/Community Center in the municipal complex on DeMott Lane. There will be no presentation at this session, but residents will be able to have their comments on the draft EIS recorded.

The Franklin Township Task Force on the Compressor Station, along with other groups, will schedule informational meetings about the draft EIS report and actions that people can take, according to task force member Barbara Cuthbert.

Also, the task force will discuss the draft report at its next meeting, scheduled for 8 p.m. April 2 in the municipal building.

 

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