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Landowner takes fight to PennEast over pipeline proposal LETTER TO THE EDITOR

To the editor:

In her recent letter to the editor (NJBIZ, Feb. 5, Page 23), Pamela Witmer, vice president of government relations with UGI , said her company “had advised landowners to reach an agreement now,” so PennEast can proceed with putting fracked gas through my land.

Thanks, but no thanks, PennEast!

I own one of the 147 properties in New Jersey that PennEast is trying to seize through eminent domain. Based on the company’s actions, it’s clear that eminent domain is far from a last resort for PennEast. And regarding the company’s claims that its pipeline won’t displace landowners, I wholeheartedly disagree, as the pipeline will undoubtedly bring significant disruption to my land, where I run my business and where I also happen to live with my three children.

I’d rather not take advice from a company that wants to build a pipeline no one needs through my business’ property and make the public foot the bill. And unlike Ms. Witmer, I have no financial connections to PennEast.

PennEast has done nothing but mislead the New Jersey public about this boondoggle. The letter was more of the same from a company with no credibility.

She wrote, for example, “Once a pipeline is built, the land is restored to its original condition.” But her rhetoric won’t replace my trees that will be chopped down or my crops that won’t grow.

She also claimed that “90 percent of the gas has already [been] purchased by local gas utility and power generators.” She leaves out the important information that those companies are all affiliates of the pipeline owner and that utility customers will pay the $1.2 billion construction costs while the owners profit. That’s a clever bit of self-dealing that the New Jersey Rate Counsel has repeatedly condemned.

The letter described the PennEast pipeline proposal as “recently approved.” That’s far from the truth: While the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission conditionally approved the pipeline (it has only rejected two in its history), our fight is far from over. The pipeline can’t be constructed without approval from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, which already rejected PennEast’s application for permits required under the Clean Water Act because so much information about environmental impact was missing.

Meanwhile, the State Attorney General’s office called on FERC to reconsider its certificate for the pipeline and rehear the case because FERC shouldn’t have let PennEast start eminent domain court actions when the total environmental impact of the project isn’t clear. PennEast’s environmental review – which NJDEP will conduct – has not even begun yet. In its letter asking FERC for as rehearing, the state said FERC “failed to assess [PennEast’s] impacts to environmental resources” and “erred in finding the Project fulfills the public interest.”Ms. Witmer points with pride to the fact that carbon emissions in New Jersey are lower today than they were 20 years ago. That’s because, today, New Jersey uses almost no coal anymore. Yes, natural gas is cleaner than coal — but that’s nothing to brag about. Gas is made mostly of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change and threatens our health. Like coal, gas is a fossil fuel.

Gov. Murphy has committed to make New Jersey a leader in the transition to clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and unneeded, dirty gas pipelines like PennEast don’t fit into that future.

Maybe the biggest example of “fake news” in Ms. Witmer’s letter is this: “The recent cold snap from a few weeks ago shows us why low-cost and reliable natural gas is needed.”
She seems to want us to think we’ll all freeze if this pipeline isn’t built, but nothing could be further from the truth. A global energy consulting company called Skipping Stone conducted an analysis of January’s record low temperatures and concluded, “PennEast is not needed to meet peak winter demand, not even for a single day, even during extreme weather events.”

Even as the evidence against the pipeline builds, PennEast wants us to consider the project a fait accompli so that we just give up. Well, we’ll never stop fighting to protect our land, and our state, from this dangerous, damaging pipeline.

Jacqueline Evans
Delaware Township

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