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Pipeline Approved on Our Open Space

Date : Wed, 13 Jun 2012 14:11:07 -0400

For Immediate Release
June 7, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Pipeline Approved on Our Open Space The State House Commission voted 5-1 to allow a polluting fossil fuel pipeline to cross our precious public lands.The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company's (TGP) Northeast Upgrade project would add a new pipeline expansion across High Point, Long Pond Ironworks, and Ringwood State Park, and the Ramapo Reservation.About 50% of the entire project in New Jersey would be located on our public lands.The project also crosses some of the most environmentally sensitive watershed lands in New Jersey including the Monksville Reservoir and the Delaware River.TGP will pay the state next to nothing in compensation for the use of these precious lands, held in the public trust.

"Today the State House Commission took the side of dirty fossil fuels over the people of New Jersey.The Commission put the interests of a gas company and gas drillers before protecting our water supply.These areas are unique and irreplaceable containing the most environmentally sensitive parts of New Jersey. This is like putting a pipeline through our Yellowstone or our Yosemite," *said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club*. The Sierra Club opposes this TGP project and the impacts it will have on our public lands, held in the public trust.Allowing this diversion for an unnecessary gas pipeline violates the public trust. Sierra Club continues to object to way our public lands are valued.The company will pay 15 cents a square foot to lease land for the new permanent right-of-way.For just under 20 acres this totals $153,549 in the first year and with incremental annual increases could reach as high $8 million over the 25 years according to the DEP projections. However, the State House Commission also approved a 20 year lease for the Spectra gas pipeline as it crosses under one acre of Liberty State Park.For one acre Spectra will pay $2.279 million or about $114,000 a year. This shows not only that the DEP is getting ripped off by TGP but that the valuation system that they use for state lands is arbitrary.The values are based on an interagency report released by the Christie administration in December.The report values state owned lands at 15 cents a square foot.This is based on a commercial value of $65,000 an acre for all public lands, regardless of habitat type, ecosystem services, and animals and plants leaving on the parcel.The lease is 10% of that commercial value, 15 cents a square foot.Except in the Spectra case this formula was not used because the DEP appropriately identified the value of Liberty state park as exceeding $6500 an acre. Sierra Club is also concerned as state lands have been valued higher by the Department of Transportation in the past.AT&T paid 85 cents a square foot to lease out land from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. TGP will give 10 feet along the right of way back to the state for the entire right-of-way to reduce its replacement land obligations.This 10 foot giveback equals 9.71 acres of land, taking TGP's replacement land commitment from about 70 acres to about 60 acres.Instead of purchasing healthy forest, the state will receive land that has been mowed and sprayed with herbicides over the last 50 years.This land will become home to invasive species and offers no ecological benefit.If gas production takes off in the Utica Shale in Pennsylvania and Ohio this company could be back in 10-15 years asking to permanently divert that land again to install a third pipeline.We believe TGP is using this to inappropriately cut back its compensation to the state and that high value replacement land would better mitigate the impacts this project has on our public lands. The DEP should be doing more to deter the use of public lands for these projects.There has never been a condemnation case against the state and it is unclear if TGP could use eminent domain. No independent alternatives analysis has been completed by the DEP.Instead they relied on data and findings from the gas company and there consultants.Alternatives that would have sited the project along highways or completely avoided public parkland were not researched independently by the DEP. The project will destroy critical habitat, stands of forest, and water supply watersheds on land owned by all of us.The company's last project through Wantage, Vernon, and West Milford, the 300 Line Project, resulted in a number of self-reported violations and two DEP violations that were only resolved recently.Volatile organic chemicals were reported in the right-of-way and water bodies adjacent to the right-of-way were destroyed.

"TGP has already desecrated our public lands with the 300 Line Project and some of those issues have not been resolved.Now we are allowing them to move forward with another project.Why are letting this company have a second chance on our precious parklands?" asked Jeff Tittel. The TGP and Spectra projects put a bulls-eye on New Jersey's open space.Gas companies must not be allowed to divert and pollute our public lands.Instead these companies should propose alternative routes that avoid our public open spaces.Under current state regulations, it's cheaper to put the pipeline on public property rather than private land and these gas companies are taking advantage of that. As fracking operations expand in the Marcellus and Utica Shales, more pipeline expansion projects will be proposed through our public lands.As this gas is shipped to New York City, or even in the future exported overseas, New Jersey will be left with the pollution and degraded public lands without any benefit.Approving these pipelines sets a bad precedent for the future.

"This project violates the public trust.The State House Commission did not do its job to protect our public trust today when it approved this project," said Jeff Tittel.

Kate Millsaps
Program Assistant
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
NJ-Sierra-Chapter-Ex-Committee List Info & Archives:<a>
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Received on 2012-06-13 11:11:07

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