The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is currently seeking public comment regarding a request by Spectra Energy to divert and rent less than an acre of land near Liberty State Park for its proposed natural gas pipeline. The public hearing will take place on Monday, April 16 at 3 p.m. at Liberty State Park, 1 Audrey Zapp Drive in the CRRNJ Terminal Building.
The DEP will also accept written comments regarding Spectra’s proposed lease of state-owned land through April 20. Written comments can be sent to Nancy Lawrence in the DEP’s Green Acres Program, email@example.com.
Under current plans, the 19.8-mile pipeline would be constructed through parts of Jersey City, Bayonne, and Linden. A portion of the pipeline route would be constructed along the border of Liberty State Park and would affect six lots of state-owned property, totaling almost one acre of land, according to a notice from the DEP. Two of these lots are in the vicinity of Bayview Avenue. Four lots are located near Liberty Science Center.
Spectra has filed a request with DEP to lease these six lots for 20 years. Additional state-owned land would be needed during the pipeline’s construction phase as well. To compensate the state, Spectra will pay New Jersey a total of $2.27 million over the course of the 20-year lease. According to the DEP, this money covers $862,721, total, in rent; $65,809 for temporary work space during the construction phase of the project; and $1.3 million to offset any “permanent ecological, environmental, and recreational [impacts]” of the pipeline to the area. The company has also agreed to compensate the state for “tree mitigation,” the amount of which has yet to be determined.
The Friends of Liberty State Park Board of Directors opposes the pipeline project.
Spectra will pay New Jersey a total of $2.27 million over the course of the 20-year lease.
If approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the proposed pipeline would include 19.8 miles of new and replacement pipes, six new stations, and other related modifications in Linden, Jersey City, and Bayonne. In Jersey City, the underground pipeline route would run through nearly every municipal ward and near such sensitive areas as Jersey City Medical Center, several schools, the Holland Tunnel, the New Jersey Turnpike, and transportation infrastructure near the Jersey City-Hoboken border.
The pipeline would cross the Hudson River into New York to connect the company’s existing pipeline infrastructure to Manhattan and Staten Island, supplying customers of Con Edison.
The portion of the pipeline route near Liberty State Park will be 30 inches in diameter and will be built four-to-six feet underground, according to the DEP.
Spectra has also said that it will supply energy to power facilities operated by Bayonne Plant Holding and boilers at the International Matex Tank Terminals, also in Bayonne. It is designed to bring 800 million cubic feet of natural gas each day to the two states, according to the project web site.
Because of the pipeline’s close proximity to sensitive areas, local activists and city officials have argued that a natural gas explosion could cause mass casualties and significantly damage important transportation infrastructure. Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy has also noted that the potential hazards posed by a gas pipeline could hurt future commercial and residential development in the city.
Despite the concerns of residents and the city, and the upcoming DEP hearing, in December 2011 DEP Commissioner Bob Martin approved several land use permits allowing Spectra to move forward with pipeline construction.
Last month, FERC issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement, paving the way for federal approval of the project this summer. Spectra expects to begin construction on the pipeline late this year.
The City of Jersey City, the membership-based activist group No Gas Pipeline, and the New Jersey chapter of he Sierra Club have all threatened to file lawsuits if FERC approves the pipeline. (See “Kill Time,” Jersey City Reporter, Feb. 26, 2012.)
“Although it would be unfortunate for such a legal action to materialize, it would not be unusual or unexpected,” said Spectra spokeswoman Marylee Hanley. “As has been true since the [pipeline] project began, we will continue to reach out and work with the community.”
SIDEBAR Spectra vs. Chevron
For the past two years Jersey City has argued that construction of the proposed Spectra Energy natural gas pipeline will hurt future residential and commercial development in the city since, the city argues, it will pose an environmental risk that few developers will want to inherit.
It seems Chevron, a Fortune 100 petrochemical company, agrees with the city’s assessment.
When Chevron took over Texaco in 2001 the company acquired several oil fields and other Texaco-owned properties.
“Chevron is now looking to consolidate some of these properties and holdings,” said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of he Sierra Club. “As a part of that consolidation the company is planning to convert some of its properties for other uses.”
Among the Texaco properties Chevron acquired was a site in Bayonne which the company plans to remediate and sell to a developer for residential development. The Spectra pipeline would, however, cross this Bayonne site, a fact Chevron believes could impact the value of its property.
In written comments submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Chevron stated, “the project’s proposed route across the Chevron site poses significant environmental risks by passing under a protective slurry wall, passing through the area of highest benzene contamination on the site, passing through an area of heterogeneous historic fill, risking the opening of preferential pathways for the movement of contaminants and risking the re-contamination of remediated areas of the site…These concerns relate to the possibility that the proposed crossing could negatively impact…future residential units to be located within 20 feet and installation of utilities for residential redevelopment on the Chevron site.”
Chevron has asked FERC to grant an emergency abeyance.
“What we’re seeing is a powerful, multi-billion dollar energy company making many of he same arguments we’ve been making for two years,” said Tittel.
Marylee Hanley, a spokesman for Spectra Energy, said there is no basis for granting the emergency motion. “We’ve adequately addressed these concerns,” she said, calling the draft environmental impact statement a viable and safe route for the pipeline project.
The company has in the past stated that the proposed route was drafted because of its “constructability” and the fact that it does not cross residential property along 100 percent of its 16 miles. – EAW E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.