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Dirty Energy Pipeline Targets Our Public Lands

Date : Wed, 2 May 2012 12:21:07 -0400

*/For Immediate Release/*
May 2, 2012 Contact:Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100 Karina Wilkinson, Regional Organizer, Food & Water Watch 732 491-3530


*Dirty Energy Pipeline Targets Our Public Lands*

// Forty five groups from across the State have come together to oppose the loss of public lands for a polluting fossil fuel pipeline.The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (TGP) is proposing to expand their existing natural gas pipeline in Montague, Wantage, West Milford, Ringwood, and Mahwah, in order to carry more gas produced through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Marcellus Shale.This Northeast Upgrade project heavily targets our public lands with about 50% of the project in our state and county parks and forests.The organizations are calling on the State House Commission (SHC) to reject the diversion of our protected open spaces for a project that will increase our dependence on fossil fuels and destroy critical environmental resources.

"This project is being proposed in the Highlands, the most environmentally sensitive part of New Jersey and the most important lands for water supply.This project will have a dramatic impact on an area that should be preserved.This is like putting a pipeline through our Yellowstone or our Yosemite.We need the State House Commission to stand up and protect our public lands by rejecting this project," *said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club*."The State House Commission should deny these diversion requests and tell TGP to go back to the drawing board and outline a route that does not violate the public trust by destroying the resources of our public lands.The Commission must not allow this company to destroy our public land again while offering us little in compensation." The organizations submitted a letter to members of the Commission asking them to stop lands preserved using Green Acres funding from being used for this project. No independent alternatives analysis was done to avoid public lands.Instead the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Bergen County relied on the applicant's data and alternative reports prepared by their consultants. Alternative routes that would completely avoid state parkland, such as constructing the pipeline adjacent to Route 80, were either dismissed or not examined at all.The company has not presented any realistic alternatives to avoid state parkland, simply routes that traverse other portions of state-owned land.

"Millions of New Jerseyans depend on the Highlands watershed and the Ramapo Valley County Reservation, which provide drinking water and serve as valuable ecosystems that are supposed to be preserved and protected. The rapid expansion of shale gas development and fracking has resulted in significant environmental and public health problems. Does New Jersey really want to sacrifice our public lands to be a part of this public health and environmental experiment?" *asked Karina Wilkinson, Regional Organizer for Food & Water Watch*, a consumer advocacy organization.

"Why does Tennessee Gas want to plow through our public open space, even though it means compromising our water supplies and healthy forests? Because they want to cut corners by avoiding the costs of paying private landowners a fair price and because they figure they can get away with taking over these public lands for their own special interests. We can't let these companies ruin the value of the investment taxpayers have made in protecting our watersheds and undeveloped natural spaces. The State House Commission needs to draw the line here and now before our State's public lands are cut to shreds by these companies and insist TGP choose alternatives to these shortcuts through these irreplaceable public assets," *said Tracy Carluccio, Deputy Director of Delaware Riverkeeper Network*. The amount of money being offered to compensate for the loss of public lands was also challenged by the groups.The DEP is willing to lease the land for $0.15 cents per square foot, or $6534 per acre.TGP will be offering $7.84 million to lease our state lands, averaging out to about $13,300 per acre over the life of the lease.Recent Green Acres purchases in the area of the TGP project have cost well over $13,300 an acre.The Woggish parcel next to the existing pipeline and Long Pond Ironworks State Park was purchased for $41,000 per acre in 2009.Bergen County paid $105,000 per acre to preserve Camp Todd in 2005 near Ringwood State Park, Ramapo Reservation.

"This is adding insult to injury. It's insulting they pay less to develop and injure undevelopable public lands that protect our drinking water.Fossil fuel polluters reap in millions, while we get dirty water? That's not undevelopable that's deplorable!" *said David Pringle, Campaign Director, NJ Environmental Federation*. Instead, the groups are asking that the SHC wait until a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Bob Smith and Gerry Cardinale passes the legislature.The bill S826 would increase lease amounts paid to the state by requiring that the "revenue generation potential" of the land be considered in determining the lease value.Currently public land is valued as undevelopable due to deed restrictions and this bill would end this inappropriate valuation practice and allow the state to recuperate more than pennies on the dollar for the loss of our public lands. The project has not received any approvals at the federal level.The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is currently preparing an Environmental Assessment on the project and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and DEP have raised significant concerns on that process related to water supply as the project crosses under the Monksville Reservoir.

"The Ramapough Lunaape Nation would like to ask all people who have concern for our Grandmother earth, to stand with our Nation in defense of her. We cannot allow for her skin to be peeled back and then poisoned with these chemicals. If we fail to stand together, we will not only fail her, and ourselves, but our children, our grandchildren, and those yet to be born. It is our obligation to help preserve her, and to protect her. For without the ability to drink from her bosom we shall all surely perish," *said Chief Mann, Ramapough Lunaape Nation, Munsiiw New Jersey/New York*. This project would have significant impacts on some of the most environmentally sensitive areas of our state and the organizations are calling for a more robust mitigation plan if this project does move forward.This project will impact our core forests and threatened and endangered species habitat, increase sedimentation, and degrade water quality and the groups believe the current mitigation plan does not do enough to address these impacts.TGP cannot adequately mitigate for the destruction of habitat and loss of these public lands through replacement land because these lands are irreplaceable.In portions of the project, there is nothing else comparable to these lands in the state and buying otherforested properties wouldprotect those tracts but does not make up for any damage along the pipeline.

"The negative consequences of sacrificing our highest quality forested lands and watersheds for the benefit of private companies are profound, and we are wary of handing over our diminishing resources for an unnecessary and unwanted pipeline project.We expect the same caution from the State House Commission and urge them to deny approval of this land diversion," *said Erica Van Auken, Campaign Coordinator for the New Jersey Highlands Coalition*. The SHC is expected to vote on the land diversions for this project within the next few months.The Commission is waiting for the DEP to prepare a final diversion request for their consideration.The DEP is expected to submit the final request after it finalizes a response to public comment document based on the three public hearings held last year and comments submitted to the Green Acres program. The State House Commission oversees the sale and leasing of state owned lands.The membership of the Council is the Governor, the State Treasurer, the Director of the Division of Budget and Accounting or their designees, two members of the Senate and two members of the General Assembly.

"I'm not sure there is a fair price we can put on that cherished, protected open space.But more time for a robust mitigation plan makes sense. It's a question of safety more than anything. Since this pipeline project came to our attention in February 2012, there have been at least four gas pipeline or compressor station blowouts throughout the U.S. I know that Bergen County does not want to be the next headline," *said Rosemary Dreger Carey, Chair of the Pascack Sustainability Group*.

"NJ does not need this pipeline. It is not contributing to our energy demand in any way. This pipeline will have adverse environmental and public health impacts and will also encourage the extraction of natural gas. Natural gas pipelines are not the future," *said Amanda Nesheiwat, New Jersey Sustainable Collegiate Partners and Ramapo College Student '12*.

Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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