Proposed gas pipeline raises safety concerns

Bordentown and Mansfield residents are concerned about the effect a proposed pipeline will have on the safety of their homes and property.

By: Eve Collins
   BORDENTOWN TOWNSHIP – Approximately 50 residents attended the informational open house on Monday about a proposed pipeline that will extend through Bordentown and Mansfield townships, some expressing concerns about safety to their homes and property.
   Employees of Williams, the Tulsa, Okla. pipeline engineering and construction firm, were on hand at the Ramada Inn on Route 206 Monday to answer residents’ questions and show them maps of the proposed routes of the pipeline. The company hosted the open house.
   The company already maintains a 10,500-mile long pipeline system extending from Texas to New York that runs parallel to the western side of the New Jersey Turnpike.
   At this stage in the project, Williams representatives are gathering information from residents, as well as local and state officials.
   The company has proposed four routes for the new pipeline: two that would run very close to the existing pipeline, and two that would "jump" the Turnpike and run on the east side of it. The line would be located near Exit 7 of the Turnpike, near the toll plaza.
   The new 36-inch wide pipeline will extend for about 3.5 miles underground, representatives said. The project will connect sections of a pipeline in Mercer and Burlington Counties.
   Some residents expressed concern about safety, noting the 1994 incident in Edison, when a natural gas pipeline exploded, incinerating and damaging several homes.
   A new pipeline is needed, due to the growing demand for natural gas, company representatives have said. More than half of the natural gas consumed in major metropolitan markets in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania is delivered by the Transco line, they said. Transco transports about 12 percent of all the natural gas in the United States.
   Residents were able to discuss how interstate pipelines are approved, built and operated with Transco representatives, who said they hope to start surveying the routes in March, will select one in May, and will file an application with the Federal Energy RegulationRegulatory Commission (FERC) in June.
   Once they receive permission to build from FERC, construction on the pipeline will begin in autumn of 2005.
   The FERC is charged with determining whether any proposed pipeline project is in the public interest, a process that can take up to eight months. Input from members of the public and officials is welcomed in that process.
   Williams representatives said they hope to have the pipeline in service by November 2005.
   "I’m gratified that this many residents came out," said Bordentown Mayor Jerry Boyer at the open house. He explained that local officials will also be soliciting opinions from residents. "We want to keep this as far away as possible so it has the least impact to residents," he said.
   Representatives of the Williamsburg Village Condominium Association also attended the open house and said they were concerned because one of the proposed routes passes very near to the homes in the complex.
   The complex, with 396 units on Georgetown Road, is the largest community affected by the proposed route, according to Rob Delaney, president of the Williamsburg Condominium Association.
   "I don’t think they have considered the impact to residents," Mr. Delaney said. "This is just the beginning of a long period of inquiry for the residents of Williamsburg Village."
   Williams representatives said they will take all issues into consideration, including residents, the environment, and the New Jersey Turnpike, to and choose a route that causes the least impact.