Proposed Pipeline Through Jersey City Sparks Protests

A plan to extend a natural gas pipeline from New Jersey to New York has locals concerned about safety and health issues.

With natural gas prices dropping and newly discovered supplies in neighboring states, New Jersey is awash in proposals to extend its network to interstate pipelines to meet rapidly expanding demand for energy.

But a proposal to build 16 miles of new pipeline from Staten Island to Jersey City and then back into New York City is being met with fierce opposition in the Hudson County city, from residents who raise safety and health concerns.

The project, by Spectra Energy, a Houston-based natural gas infrastructure company, would run from Staten Island to Bayonne and into downtown Jersey City before crossing underneath the Hudson River to connect with Manhattan.

The company claims the project is designed to meet New Jersey and New York’s future clean energy needs by expanding its existing Texas Eastern Transmission and Algonquin Gas Transmission pipeline. It is designed to bring 800 million cubic feet of natural gas each day to the two states, according to the project website.

Opponents’ Fears

Critics of the project, who have developed their own website, argue the project will run through the heart of downtown Jersey City, posing a risk to tens of thousands of residents, primarily from the release of airborne toxins and the potential for a natural gas explosion.

The project will run underground in a six-foot trench, said Dale Hardman, a 28-year resident of Jersey City who founded the group along with a neighbor, Stephen Musgrave. He and others argue the pipeline should veer away from the densely populated downtown area and run under water from Staten Island to Manhattan.

“By going over land, they show they don’t care about the people of Bayonne and Jersey City,” said Hardman, who noted there have been five people killed this year in pipeline explosions.

Marylee Hanley, a spokesman for the company, said the proposed route was chosen because of its “constructability” and the fact that it does not cross residential property along 100 percent of the 16 miles. Still, she said when the company submits its application to the federal government, expected in December, it will propose a route based on comments at various public sessions and meetings with residents, along with several options.

As for adverse effects on residents, Hanley said the federal Department of Transportation has determined that natural gas pipelines are the safest mode of transportation.

Under Review By Federal Agency

The project is being reviewed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is expected to issue an environmental impact statement later this year and will make the final decision on the route. Foes of the project are trying to get city, county and state governments to intervene in the case, which they say is crucial to stopping the pipeline. “If the state or Jersey City do not intervene, then our prospects are very dim,” Hardman said.

Last year, the federal agency approved 100 percent of the pipeline extension projects to come before it, according to Hardman.

Paul Patterson, an energy analyst at Glenrock Associates, said the federal agency generally is more driven by national concerns than local issues when these types of projects come before it. “There is an increasing need for energy infrastructure in this country. The problem is where the fuel is located, not where it is needed,” he said.

Driving the demand is the fact that natural gas is the cleanest of all fossil fuels, generating far fewer greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants than other traditional energy sources.

The project also has raised concerns from the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We think natural gas is an important fuel, but we need a real energy plan before we make this decision,” said executive director Jeff Tittel, noting there are six different pipeline extension projects pending in New Jersey. “We have to figure out our energy needs and determine whether this pipeline is necessary.”