DELAWARE TWP., N.J. –
The company that wants to build a $1 billion natural gas pipeline through parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey could have a fight on its hands, at least where this community is concerned.
Hundreds of people filled the township school gymnasium Monday night to hear the PennEast Piipline Company’s proposal for a 100-mile pipe the company says would bring millions in tax revenue and thousands of construction jobs.
But residents seemed skeptical about those benefits Monday, or argued they would outweighed by the cost to the environment, safety and property values.
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“How could ever compensate these people for the loss of the value of their home?” asked local real estate agent Paula Anastasio. “You cannot guarantee that.”
PennEast’s plan is to pipe Marcellus Shale gas from Luzerne County in Pennsylvania, pass through Carbon and Northampton counties before ending up in the Trenton area in New Jersey.
The route through New Jersey includes Delaware Township, where residents lined up to ask questions of PennEast representatives.
The presentation was part of the township committee’s regular meeting, which had to be moved twice to accommodate the expected crowd: first to the Sergeantsville Fire Company — which has a capacity of 299 people — then to the school.
People filled the chairs and the gym bleachers and sat on the floor. Cars lined the shoulder on the road. About half the audience was from the township, based on a quick “Show of hands” poll one resident conducted. Some people carried signs: “Stop the pipeline” or “No trespassing.”
The latter signs had to do with a big concern among residents: the idea of PennEast surveying their land — which company officials stressed Monday they wouldn’t do without permission — or taking it by eminent domain.
That’s something that can happen, PennEast spokeswoman Alisa Harris said, after getting approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
At that, the audience began drowning her and township officials out with a wave of booing.
Harris said PennEast will file its first application for the pipeline this week, and begin holding open houses where residents can meet one-on-one with company officials. If FERC approves the pipeline, construction would wrap up in the winter of 2017.
The company says the pipeline would create 2,000 construction jobs and bring the township millions in tax revenue, although there was some question about exactly how much. PennEast also says it can help meet local energy needs, but residents were skeptical about that as well.
“We have more people using solar than we have using natural gas,” resident Richard Burkholder said,
PennEast is scheduled to meet with residents in Holland Township Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. at the township fire company.