Township Council To Oppose Williams-Transco Natural Gas Compression Station

8-10-16 Transco Meeting - 1

Concerned residents packed the Township Council chamber Aug. 10 for an information session with the company wishing to build a natural gas compressor station in Franklin Park.

The Township Council next month will formally oppose a natural gas pipeline compressor station proposed for a site in Franklin Park.

The decision came after a nearly four-hour special meeting Aug. 10, during which representatives from Williams-Transco – the company proposing the compressor station – were peppered with questions and comments by council members, area residents and environmental activists.

The resolution is not binding on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the only agency with the power to approve such applications.

“But that does not prevent us from advocating on behalf of our citizens,” said Mayor Phillip Kramer.

Nearly 400 people showed up at the special meeting, with some having to watch the proceedings on a television set up in the Municipal Building’s foyer due to fire code restrictions in the council chamber.

Williams is proposing building the Greenfield Compressor Station 206, a 32,000 hp natural gas-powered twin turbine compressor, on one of two potential sites off Route 27. One option is near Promenade Boulevard, while the second is a little further north, near Carter’s Brook. Compressor stations raise the gas pressure in pipelines so the gas can make it to its final destination.

In both cases, an approximately 15-acre lot would be cleared, upon which the compressor station would be built on about six acres.

The station is part of Williams’ $1 billion Northeast Supply Enhancement Project. The enhancement is necessary, Williams’ representatives have said, because one of its natural gas customers is projecting an increase in need in several New York City boroughs.

Both sites under review are owned by Trap Rock Industries. FERC’s decision isn’t expected until some time next year.

One by one on Aug. 10, area residents stepped up to the council podium to air their concerns about the proposed compressor station: chemicals released into the air, noise generated by the compressors, accidents that have occurred at other Williams compressor stations, the danger posed by blasting at the Trap Rock quarry.

Also weighing in through proxies were state Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-17) and U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, (D-12).

Watson-Coleman’s district director, Kari Osmond, told the council that the Congresswoman has introduced the SAFER Pipeline Act, which would require FERC to apply more stringent and broader criteria when approving a new pipeline or pipeline enhancement.

She noted that in the last decade, FERC had approved about 250 applications, while rejecting only three, due to a “flawed review process.”

“We share the concerns of the community and look forward to having an open dialogue with the community,” Osmond said.

In a statement read by his chief of staff, Wayne Dibofsky, Danielsen expressed opposition to the project.

“Those who will gain the financial benefit for this project will never be in harm’s way and will never have to live in fear of what might or could occur,” he wrote. “I am strongly suggesting no action is taken on this proposal until all studies are completed about the real need for this project and all other options are on the table.”

Ed Potosnak, the executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters – also president of the township Board of Education – told the crowd that “when people come together, amazing things can happen.”

Potosnak said that none of the gas used by township residents will come through the compressor.

“Wherever this goes,” he said, “there are serious risks to families that are nearby.”

The Williams representatives said that the station will comply with all state and federal regulations, and will provide the company with enhanced flexibility in serving its customers.

The residents did not seem to be swayed by their arguments.

Shubhendu Singh, president of the Princeton Highlands Homeowners’ Association, asked, “What’s in it for us?”

Princeton Highlands is one of two residential developments close to the proposed sites.

“We know what’s in it for you, we know what’s in it for New York residents, we know what’s in it for PSEG,” he said. “What we are scratching our heads over is, what’s in it for us?”

Bill Batjer of Ridings Parkway said he was concerned about the affect the station would have on the area’s aquifer, given that many homes in the area are dependent on wells for drinking water.

“I would encourage further study given the importance of a clean water supply,” he said.

Winding Way resident Prakash Taunk pointed out that one of the gases that would be emitted by the station, methane, is flammable.

Several speakers brought up Williams’ safety record, saying the company has been fined in the past. Other speakers noted that there have been dozens of incidents at other compressor stations around the country.

After more than 2 1/2 hours of comments from the public, it was the council’s turn.

“From what I’ve read and heard, my concerns with Williams-Transco as a company are quite broad,” said Councilwoman Roz Sherman (D-Ward 2). “None of us want Franklin Township to be part of their learning curve.”

Councilwoman Kimberly Francois (D-At Large) said she was “totally, absolutely, wholeheartedly” opposed to the station.

“There’s so much potential for risk here,” she said. “It doesn’t belong in Franklin, we don’t want it in Franklin, and I’ll do everything I can to stop it.”

Councilman James Vassanella (D-Ward 5) said he would like to see the station relocated somewhere else, “far removed from Franklin.”

“It seems to be not a matter of if, but when, something happens,” he said.

The proposed station “defies all safety and logical and rational reason,” Councilman Rajiv Prasad (D-At Large) said.

“It’s obvious that none of us in Franklin want this compressor station,” said Councilwoman Shanel Robinson, (D-At Large). “I will do everything in my power to continue to stand with the community to make sure it does not come to Franklin Township.”

Some residents questioned how blasting at Trap Rock would affect the station. Williams representatives said they had not yet done the necessary testing to determine that, an answer which did not sit well with Deputy Mayor Ted Chase (D-Ward 1).

“It’s evident that this has not been studied,” he said. Further, Chase said, there’s a question of whether the station is actually needed.

Mayor Phillip Kramer said he saw no evidence of a need for the station.

“I’m also concerned about the issue of equipment being near a blast site,” he said.

“The benefit is infinitesimal compared to the risk to Franklin,” he said. “The simple risk-benefit ratio does not weigh in favor of saying yes to this station.”

The council then voted to draw up a resolution opposing the station, which would include all of the members’ reasons for opposition and would be voted upon at the council’s September meeting. The resolution will be presented to FERC representatives at a planned September information session.


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