Job creation, pollution at odds in hearing on controversial compressor station

BY Raven Santana, Correspondent |

About 100 environmental activists gathered at Franklin High School to protest the construction of a compressor station in Franklin Township. Natural gas supplier Williams Transco says it would play a key role in meeting the growing demand of natural gas in the Northeast.

The rally took place just 30 minutes before the state Department of Environmental Protection held a public hearing on the proposal for Williams Transco to build a 32,000 horsepower compressor station in the Township that would supply additional gas to consumers in New York. The proposal also includes 23 miles of pipeline that runs through the Raritan Bay to Long Island.

Environmental activists say part of the reason why they don’t support the compressor station and pipeline project is because they’ve seen firsthand the impact it has on other communities.

“You can go down to Lawrenceville, you can go down to Bridgewater, you can go to Old Bridge, you have people from Old Bridge here. That Old Bridge compressor station is also a Transco project,” said Junior Romero, organizer with Food and Water Watch NJ. “The same people who want to build this dirty and dangerous project here in Franklin Township. You can look at that community. That community has higher rates of respiratory diseases, they have higher rates of cancer and we think it’s because of this compressor station.”

But union representatives disagree and say completely switching to renewable energy can’t happen overnight. They believe the compressor station is in lockstep with Gov. Murphy’s energy master plan to slowly transition to clean energy.

“The trend is going to be solar and wind. We support that. We build that,” said Ciro Scalera, director of government relations for New Jersey Laborers Union. “But you can’t switch to that overnight, and you have to maintain what exists in order that there’s a smooth transition over the next 10, 15, 20 years. It’s a $240 million investment, it’s 2,400 jobs.”

There’s going to be a lot of union guys out there that are going to say, ‘These are the jobs.’ We spoke, me and my colleagues from the Sane Energy Project, we spoke to the guys working on the Rockaway Lateral [Project], they’re from Oklahoma, they’re from Texas. They don’t support the local labor,” said Kim Fraczek, Sane Energy Project director.

Residents say besides pollution and threats to sensitive marine life, they’re also worried the compressor station will cause noise pollution.

“There’s issues with noise, there’s something called ‘blowdowns.’ Blowdowns is when they, for, let’s say, for maintenance purposes, they have to release gas from the system in order to proceed to work on pipes or valves and it sounds, from what I understand, very much like a jet engine,” said South Brunswick resident Kevin Corcoran.

“There is no beneficial use of this compressor station for the people of New Jersey,” said New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel. “And so DEP has to look at beneficial use. There is no beneficial use, because the gas from this compressor station is going to go through a pipeline that’s also going to cause damage going to New York to bring the gas there. So the gas companies make the money, New York get the gas and we get the pollution, and it’s just not fair.”

“That’s a false argument, okay? Other states provide energy into the PJM grid and we get the energy from that grid and we get that energy from that grid,” said Scalera. “Should people in those states say, ‘Why would we provide that energy to the grid — it’s going to New Jersey?'”

This is the only public meeting on the proposal. The next step in the process is a permit submission and review process by the DEP. Williams Transco says it plans to start construction in 2019 if their proposal is accepted.