Protesters scorned state Department of Environmental Protection officials at a public hearing over a controversial gas pipeline expansion project slated for Essex County. The battle pits environmental groups, residents, and neighbors of Roseland Borough against the energy infrastructure company Williams. It operated the Transco pipeline and is a major natural gas provider for north and southeastern states. The issue? A plan to beef up horsepower and expand the existing Roseland compressor station for a larger pipeline project.
“We’re not only talking about doubling the size of a polluting compressor station with public health implications, safety implications, but they’re talking about pushing even more gas through a 60-year-old pipeline network through 15 municipalities,” said Food and Water Watch New Jersey senior organizer Matthew Smith.
“It’s not just the compressor station and wetlands, it’s part of a bigger project that ties to something called the Rivervale South Pipeline project. It ties to the Northeast Expansion Pipeline,” said Sierra Club New Jersey Director Jeff Tittel.
For years, opponents have raised issue with the amount of methane and air pollution — including chromium and other volatile chemicals — emitted from compressor stations. They want the DEP to deny this and all other fracked gas infrastructure permits. The Roseland station also happens to sit in a floodplain, and critics say it poses extra risk because of the hazardous materials and power lines there.
“We’ve had three 100-year floods in the last 10 years since that has been built. River Road has been closed for one or two days depending on the size of the rain we get or the storm we get,” said resident Jean Perrotti.
“Transco has not been a very good neighbor to us here in Essex County,” said Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo. “When Transco made the first compressor, they made a commitment to us they would do no expansion whatsoever. Now they’re coming back and saying they want to double the capacity. It’s all about money.”
“We filed this project with FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] who came back with a very comprehensive environmental assessment of the project. And they determined that it’s a project that will not have a significant impact on the environment. This project is within the fence line of our existing compressor station,” said Mike Atchie, manager of public outreach for Williams.
A Williams representative said the project will meet increased demand for natural gas in the northeast and create jobs. Critics say only the risk stays here while the gas is piped to nearby states.
“The class pipe that’s in this area is either class 3 or class 4, the highest that can go into that area. We think that the pipeline itself is at the level that it needs to be. We have a really robust integrity program where we assess and analyze the flows and capacity of that system every single day,” Atchie said.
The New Jersey Alliance for Action and the Laborers Union also spoke in favor of the project and infrastructure upgrades. Meanwhile, after mounting pressure, the DEP will extend the public comment period until Sept. 6.
But would Atchie feel comfortable living next to a station with these expansions himself?
“Yes, I would. I know our robust integrity program, so that would make me very confident in living near a compressor station,” he said.
Easy to say, according to protesters. It’s not in his backyard.