It started with singing and ended with two under arrest, as environmentalists gathered in a last-ditch effort to stop the expansion of a compressor station in Roseland, part of a larger gas pipeline expansion run by Oklahoma-based Williams Companies.
The protesters said the expansion is unnecessary because the current compressor is only operating at 10 percent and that it has the potential to harm surrounding wetlands and puts local residents’ health at risk with events like “blowdowns.”
“A blowdown is when, temporarily, they have to release all the pressure in this facility. So that means they’re releasing huge quantities of not only natural gas, but any chemical additives or other harmful gases that are in the facility,” said Matt Smith, organizer of Food and Water Watch.
Williams denies that saying, “There were no noxious gases released, only methane, which is a nontoxic and naturally occurring gas that is much lighter than air and dissipates into the atmosphere when vented.”
Roseland resident Cassandra Worthington isn’t convinced. “I have asthma, and since I moved here, I’ve been having asthma attacks more than I’ve ever had in my whole life. This affects us personally. It affects the community, this affects our environment,” said Worthington, a Food and Water Watch volunteer.
Williams Companies spokesperson Chris Stockton said they have designed the project in an environmentally responsible manner.
“This federally approved project is designed to have virtually zero impact on surrounding neighbors and the environment, with almost all of the work taking place within the existing fence line. Since the station horsepower upgrades feature electric driven compressors, its operation will not significantly impact noise or air quality,” Stockton said.
While protesters called on Williams to leave the state, their frustration, even anger, was focused mostly on Gov. Phil Murphy.
“Despite Gov. Murphy’s rhetoric that he is committed to fighting climate change, and getting New Jersey to 100 percent renewable energy, his administration approved the massive expansion of this frack gas compressor station right here in Roseland,” Smith said.
They are taking the issue to court. “The borough of Roseland, their local government, as well as multiple environmental groups, including Food and Water Watch, are legally challenging the permits that were granted by Murphy’s administration to allow for this destruction to happen,” he said.
The environmentalists are calling on Murphy to issue a stay on construction until the appeals have been settled in court.