In Your Opinion: Many Health, Safety Concerns Over Proposed Natural Gas Compression Station

By Linda Powell.

What will be the impact of repeated dynamite blasts on a gas-powered, natural gas compressor station?

A Task Force was recently created in Franklin Township to investigate that question, and other possible public safety and health hazards associated with the proposed installation of a 32,000 horsepower natural gas-powered gas compressor station on a 52.2 acre lot near the active blasting site of Trap Rock Quarry, between Routes 27 and 518 in Franklin Township.  Kirk Frost, a Task Force committee member, commented that, “We have not been able to find any research on the impact of dynamite blasts in close proximity with compressors, and could not find any details on this issue in Williams/Transco draft Resource Reports.  We have noticed that Williams/Transco subcontracts to other companies to fill in their Resource Reports.  The risks of a high-powered compressor adjacent to a mining facility that routinely performs blasting is an issue that is barely touched upon and not fully addressed by either Williams/Transco or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).”

The proposed natural gas compressor station would be just one facet of an extensive project to compress the natural gas from fracking sites located in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and to deliver that gas through New Jersey and under Raritan Bay to a distribution site in New York.  Williams/Transco, the company proposing these expansions to their existing pipeline network in New Jersey, in what is known as the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (NESE), is seeking approval for this project from FERC, but they will also be required to obtain permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to proceed with construction.

Compressor stations are designed to concentrate incoming natural gas to deliver more gas at higher speeds.  In this proposed project, the compressed gas would be sent through an extension of the pipeline that Williams/Transco wants to build under Raritan Bay.  On land, the compressed gas would be sent through a pipeline that was installed over 50 years ago, and questions have been raised as to whether such an aged pipeline will be able to withstand the added stress of increased demands on it, especially at welded areas on the pipes where leaks are not always detected before they explode.

Further concerns include the many toxic chemicals and carcinogens released by the regular running of the station. In addition, periodic “blowdowns” vent large amounts of methane into the atmosphere, which contribute to global warming.

Another major concern is the possibility of a leak, breakdown or explosion.  Williams/Transco has a long history of safety problems that have resulted in explosions and fires as well as evacuations of the surrounding area up to two miles from a leak.  Local police, fire, and ambulance services will all need to know how to respond to these kinds of crises.  They will have to have emergency/evacuation plans, and may need extra training. “That’s an added strain on our emergency services, many of whom are volunteers,” notes Task Force Committee member Barbara Cuthbert.

Compressor stations are a source of noise in their regular operations, and during “blowdowns” the noise has been described as sounding like at commercial jet plane taking off.

“We have many concerns – including the impact on the environment, health, and the quality of life”, adds Linda Powell, of the Task Force Committee, “We have done a lot of research, but we are not experts.  We need help and support.”  “In addition to the significant health risks like cancer and asthma from this proposed compressor station, we need to stop this dangerous project in our community because we get all the risk without any benefit.  The methane will be shipped through the Raritan Bay to Long Island,” Ed Potosnak, Executive Director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters explained. “We need to do everything in our power to protect our community by stopping Station 206,” he added.

There is still an open window for organizations and individuals to submit their concerns to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on the FERC website at http://www.ferc.gov (docket number PF16-5).  Williams/Transco will have to address those issues in their Application, which is expected in March, and before FERC publishes a Draft Environmental Statement for public review and comment.

That is why the Task Force is inviting environmental groups, legislators, and the public to participate in a Forum to explore issues related to the proposed Compressor Station.

The Forum will be held on Monday, February 27th, from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm, in the auditorium of Sampson G. Smith School, located at 1649 Amwell Road in Somerset, NJ.

Linda Powell is a member of the Steering Committee of the Franklin Township Task Force on Compressor Station STA206.


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