Officials tour proposed pipeline route

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission representatives walked the proposed pipeline route as an inital step in the coming environmental assessment of the pipeline project.

By: Scott Morgan
   BORDENTOWN TOWNSHIP — The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week opened its pre-filing review of the proposed Williams/Transco pipeline with an on-site tour of the planned 3.5-mile route.
   On June 29, representatives from FERC and township officials walked the planned route to get an idea where the pipeline would go, if approved. The tour was, according to Robert Cupina, FERC’s deputy director of the Office of Energy Projects, one of the very first steps toward FERC’s coming environmental assessment of the pipeline project.
   Williams, an Oklahoma-based engineering firm is partnering with the Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Corp. (Transco) in an effort to lay a 36-inch diameter gas pipeline through Bordentown and Mansfield. The preferred route, which officials toured last week, runs along the eastern (northbound) side of the New Jersey Turnpike, mostly along an existing multi-utility easement, away from homes and businesses. Part of the proposed line does cross open space and private property, including a section tentatively scheduled to cross part of Old Yorke Stables, a horse farm on Old York Road. If the project ultimately is approved by FERC, the line would connect to an existing grid in Hamilton and service customers in southern New Jersey.
   The tour, according to FERC officials, is part of the pre-filing process. Mr. Cupina said this refers to a preliminary look at the project site, which allows officials to identify issues and concerns before Williams/Transco files its application to the commission. Williams/Transco is expected to file its application in late August.
   Alisa Lykens, environmental project manager at FERC said the commission is looking for the best route for the pipeline and is in the process of gathering public reaction and input, which FERC will consider when it prepares its environmental assessment in the fall. FERC will receive public input until the application is filed, she said.
   "We’re very early in the process," said Bryan Lee of FERC’s pubic information office. "People with concerns have ample opportunity (to tell us about them)."
   People with concerns include Committeeman George Chidley, who was armed with a laundry list of questions about environmental impact and the effect of construction on the township’s citizens. Mr. Chidley, like everyone else on the Township Committee, has made no secret of his distaste for the project and has questioned whether Williams/Transco even needs the pipeline.
   Representatives of Williams/Transco have stated that the project would service a growing need in the southern end of the state. Mr. Chidley said he is afraid the companies might be building a pipeline it will then need to find customers for.
   "Is it a case of ‘If you build it, they will come?’" he asked.
   Walter Nitschmann, director of community development in Bordentown, said there are "a lot of questions to be answered" about the project, largely of the environmental sort. Until the answers to those questions come, he said, the township will continue to be frustrated with the process.
   "We’re in a state of flux," Mr. Chidley said.