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Highlands Council Agrees to Sell Out Again

Date : Thu, 12 Nov 2009 15:05:30 -0500

For Immediate Release

November 12, 2009 Contact: Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Highlands Council Agrees to Sell Out Again Council votes 9-2 to approve a gas pipeline that will cut right through the Highlands

Today the Highlands Council once again sold out the Highlands for the benefit of a utility company, granting the Tennessee Gas Pipeline an exemption from the Highlands Act.

The original determination by the Highlands Council staff recommended against this pipeline, which will cut right through a reservoir. This current plan is still considered inconsistent with the Highlands Plan on 16 separate determinations, almost all of them dealing with water issues. Because this project is inconsistent on the basis of water issues, this pipeline should have been rejected because the Highlands Plan and Highlands Act were specifically created to protect the region's water.

This is the second time this year the Council has reversed themselves. Earlier this year, they approved the PSE&G Susquehanna Roseland Transmission Line.

"This pipeline is not just a line though the Highlands, it's a line in the sand. It's outrageous that every bad project can get approved by donating land or money to the Highlands Council or the state of New Jersey," New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said.

"This project will have a horrific impact not only on the Highlands but also on New York and Pennsylvania because of the gas drilling taking place in the Marcellus Shale. You can't mitigate for this kind of environmental destruction. The Highlands Act was supposed to protect us from these types of projects but instead the Highlands Council is selling us out again," Tittel said.

This pipeline, which will span 23 miles through the Highlands, is inconsistent with the Highlands Plan and should not have been granted an exemption because it is not an upgrade. It is a new pipeline being dug in a trench parallel to an existing pipeline. It is also bigger and will carry significantly more gas.

This pipeline will cut a trench from one side of the Highlands to the other through some of the region's most important environmentally-sensitive areas, including the watersheds of North Jersey's largest water supply reservoirs.

Our major concern is that this pipeline will disturb and destroy more than 230 acres of critical lands in the Highlands, cutting through numerous Category One streams, exception resource value wetlands, critical forest habitats, habitats of threatened and endangered species, and conservation priority areas as designated by the Highlands. It will also destroy an additional 500 acres during construction to create roads to bring in the necessary equipment. Furthermore, the massive digging that will take place during this project will result in high levels of silt entering these critical waterways and reservoirs.

This pipeline will not just affect the Highlands' environment. The pipeline will be used to bring in gas from Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and New York, causing the destruction of forests and further pollution of the Delaware River.

Instead of sticking to their original interpretation that this pipeline is inconsistent, the Highlands Council sold out and changed opinions based on a bogus mitigation plan. The Highlands Council justified their decision because the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company agreed to buy 55 acres of land. However, this land purchase is not mitigation because the land is already protected. Plus, the land itself is actually pretty cheap and will cost the utility company very little.

The Highlands Council, in their decision to allow this to go forward, failed to address environmental justice. This pipeline will be going through the upper Ringwood community, which has endured its share of pollution due to the Ford Super Fund Site. The Highlands Council also failed to address global warming impacts that will come along with an expanded pipeline and more consumption of fossil fuels.

The impact on air quality in the communities adjacent to the pipeline, such as upper Ringwood, was not addressed by the Council. More importantly, this much digging and drilling will have severe water quality impacts on Category One streams and at least seven major reservoirs. Those reservoirs provide drinking water for more than 2.5 million people. Silt contamination of the waterways and reservoirs is the leading cause of Cryptosporidium, a parasite that killed more than 100 people in Milwaukee.

This piecemeal approach of looking at proposals in the Highlands one at a time instead of assessing how they conform to the overall Highlands Act and Plan, as well as to the state's Energy Master Plan, completely sells out the Highlands Act.

"This haphazard and piecemeal approach continues the death by a thousand cuts, destroying the Highlands and undermining why we passed the Highlands Act in the first place," said Tittel. "What can we expect from a council that sold us out to PSE&G? They have to sell us out to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company too; otherwise it would only prove how corrupt they were on that issue. But this time it looks like they've sold out for even less."

Kara Seymour, Program Assistant

NJ Sierra Club

145 W. Hanover Street Trenton, NJ 08618

609.656.7612

(f) 609.656.7618

<http://www.newjersey.sierraclub.org> www.newjersey.sierraclub.org

Received on 2009-11-12 12:05:30

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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