UNION COUNTY, NJ — Municipal and legislative resistance continues to mount against a proposed $820 million, 178-mile underground oil pipeline one company is determined to construct through towns in Union County.
Pilgrim Pipeline is facing formidable foes in its effort to build the pipeline that will run underground from Albany, New York. Eventually, the pipeline would make its way through existing right-of-ways in municipalities such as Cranford, Westfield, Clark, Roselle, Scotch Plains, Mountainside, New Providence, Berkeley Heights and Linden.
At issue is whether the pipeline is a safer means of transporting petroleum products than via the Hudson River to refineries here in New Jersey. The pipeline also could cross three rivers in New Jersey, all of which supply drinking water to residents and businesses, according to the New Jersey Sierra Club, which has continued to actively fight the move by Pilgrim.
Of concern is that the pipeline would carry Bakken oil, a very volatile type of petroleum because it must be hydraulically fractured or “fracked” out of highly dense shale. In order to extract the oil, highly pressurized liquids are injected into the shale to create tiny cracks so the oil and natural gas can escape upward. The liquid oil that comes out of the shale, objectors said, often carries so much dissolved natural gas that it looks like its boiling, even at room temperature.
Pilgrim’s goal is to transport the oil south to be refined and use the other barrel of the dual pipeline to send refined gas like jet fuel and kerosene, north, according to reports filed with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
Although initially the Sierra Club was alone in its effort to inform citizens and municipalities that will be impacted by the pipeline, that is no longer the case.
In December Democrat Assemblywoman Linden Stender, District 22, introduced a resolution opposing the construction and operation of the Pilgrim pipeline that would slice through not only portions of Union County but also nearby Middlesex and Somerset counties.
Stender’s resolution, calling for a moratorium on the planning, surveying and construction of the pipeline, joins the chorus of other objectors, including towns like Roselle, who passed resolutions to “Stop the Pilgrim Pipeline.”
According to Roselle Mayor Jamel Holley, the proposed pipeline would require construction directly adjacent to Washington Elementary School, LV Moore Middle School, Roselle Catholic High School and all three of their playing fields. Also impacted would be a Girl Scout camp, several group homes and a church.
“The Pilgrim oil pipeline route will be on the other side of the same track that is used by the Texas Eastern Gas line,” said the mayor, adding that this is the same company that had the serious explosion in Edison and Metuchen in March 1994.
Roselle resident Arlene Murphy said her husband was approached by representative of the Pilgrim Pipeline, who requested that he sign papers for access to their property. Although her husband refused, the representative said an easement would be taken by eminent domain.
“As he left, the representative called out that he has thousands of dollars in checks to give out to those who will sign his papers,” said Murphy, adding that she had concern about a company that would start a project “in such a careless manner.”
Meanwhile, in Cranford the governing body recently heard a presentation from lobbyist David Pringle who works for Clean Water Action. However, they were not convinced the pipeline was such a bad idea. At the time the township was still considering whether to pass a resolution opposing the pipeline. Mayor Andy Kalnins, though, was not entirely convinced there was looming danger to residents from the venture.
“We have much more toxic stuff,” he told the lobbyist, noting crude oil could not be lit with a match. Pringle, though, disputed that claim, explaining the type of crude oil Pilgrim would be transporting was more volatile than the traditional kind.
“This one does carry more risk than a typical oil pipeline,” said the lobbyist, pointing out that adding another pipeline increased capacity and, in addition, trains and barges would continue to transport crude oil as well.
Pringle brought up the fact Pilgrim had been “bullying” residents in order to gain access to their properties where needed.
“They don’t have the right to eminent domain,” Pringle told the governing body, advising property owners in the Hillside Avenue School and Myrtle Avenue areas to not allow Pilgrim on their properties. These areas, he said, were some of the residential sections where the pipeline would be routed.
Gov. Chris Christie has not released an official stance on the pipeline, noting that Pilgrim was still going through the DEP permitting process. However, in the past he has vetoed a bill banning fracking and twice before that vetoed bills banning fracking waste.