coa save the bayElected officials, Clammers, Fishermen, local business leaders and environmentalists speak out against a proposed offshore gas pipeline

Left to Right: Bill Schultz (Raritan Riverkeeper), Nicholas Simon (Staff Assistant for Congressman Pallone), Meredith DeMarco (NY/NJ Baykeeper Chief Operating Officer), Peter Blair (Clean Ocean Action Policy Attorney), Kin Gee (CHARGE President), Paul Smith (Borough of Union Beach Mayor), Cindy Zipf (Clean Ocean Action Executive Director), Fred Tagliarini (Township of Aberdeen Mayor), Anthony Cavallo (Borough of Union Beach Councilman), Jay Cosgrove (Owner of Bahrs Landing and Marina and Highlands Business Partnership President), a local clammer, Paul Ritter (Baymen’s Protective Association President), and a group of local Bayshore fishermen and clammers

Port Monmouth, NJ – Tuesday, with the back drop of the bay, clammers, fisherman, elected officials, local business leaders and environmental organizations stood united to oppose the Williams Transco’s proposed natural gas pipeline, the Northeast Supply Enhancement project, simply referred to as the NESE Pipeline.  The impacts from the pipeline on the bay include increased pollution, destruction of habitat, and harm and contamination to marine life, which will also threaten the livelihood and economic potentiality of the Bayshore community. 

“This project is a lose, lose, lose for our region which we have worked so hard to improve,” said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director, Clean Ocean Action.  “Our environment, economy, and greener energy future will be lost – this project must not move forward, and the Bayshore must be heard,” she added.

The entire project consists of a 37-mile pipeline which would start in Pennsylvania, cut through central New Jersey and continue offshore through New Jersey and New York state waters until reaching the Rockaways.  The groups were focused on the so called, Raritan Loop, the 23.5 mile offshore section that slices through the bays and ocean and will have significant impacts on water quality, marine life, and public health.  Environmentalist’s also claims that this project would negate years of investment in the cleaning up of these historically polluted waterways, as well as continue our reliance on climate altering fossil fuels.

The Bayshore community was largely in the dark, and must be heard. Groups called upon the NJDEP to hold a public hearing and extend the comment period.

“When you look at some of the facts that you’ve learned about this proposed pipeline it makes you shiver. Aberdeen is probably one of the closest beach areas. It is noted for great bass fishing and there is a great concern to disturb that,” stated Fred Tagliarini, Mayor of the Township of Aberdeen, before presenting Clean Ocean Action with a signed resolution from the Aberdeen Township Council that opposes the NESE pipeline.

“We definitely don’t want this monstrosity going through our waters,” echoed Paul Smith, Mayor of the Borough of Union Beach, who was accompanied by Councilman Anthony Cavallo.

Improvement of the Bay

The Raritan Bay and Lower New York Bay have suffered from years of pollution, industry dumping, and mismanagement.  However, stronger environmental laws, investments by the State and local municipalities and work of numerous non-profits have seen the water quality significantly improve over the past decade.  Meredith DeMarco, the Chief Operating Officer of New York/ New Jersey Baykeeper stated that “The potential for harm to our waterways is too great not to warrant robust discussions with community members and the NJ DEP. Since the initial application, Williams Transco has made a severely inadequate effort in public outreach and education. Communities affected the proposed pipeline project have actively sought engagement with Williams – and their attempts have fallen on deaf ears.”

“If the state and federal government allow this to continue, against all our efforts, what I am concerned about is the installation of the pipeline. Transit in the bay carry 5-12 ton anchors . It will take over a half mile to stop [a vessel that experiences difficulties]. So there is no doubt that if it is anywhere near this pipeline, it will hook it,” said Bill Schultz, Raritan Riverkeeper.

The installation of the pipeline in the bay will re-suspend over one million tons of toxic-laden muck that contains chemicals such as arsenic, mercury, lead and numerous others. “Don’t stir that contaminated muck up.”  It will threaten the fisheries and clamming industries that we have worked to restore,” said Jay Cosgrove, Owner of Bahrs Landing and Marina in Highlands, and President of the Highlands Business Partnership.

Also of concern is the discharge of nearly 700,000 gallons of drilling muds (a cocktail of chemicals) into the bay and ocean.  These chemicals lubricate the drilling process and also include numerous biocides, some of which Transco has yet to disclose.  Transco also plans of straining 3.5 million gallons of life-rich estuarine waters that will kill all life by impingement or entanglement as well as from the use of CORRTREAT-15316 which USEPA states is harmful to human and marine life and should not be allowed to enter water or soils.

“This could possibly put over 100 families out of business with the heavy metals that [the pipeline] will stir up,” said Paul Ritter, President of the Baymen’s Protective Association.

The noise from the construction will also scatter or otherwise harm fish leading to impacts to fisheries as well as harm to marine life including endangered whales and turtles.

“What happens when they start the project and everything starts going bad?” asked Richard Isaacson, President of the Belford Seafood Co-op. He continued, “Then they shut the whole Bay down and everyone is out of business. Where will these [fishermen and clammers] work? How will they make a living?  If you don’t start doing something for the fishermen and clammers, they will all be out of business and gone. Big oil does not care about the fishermen, believe me.”

Lack of Need/Purpose

The purpose of the project is allegedly to bring an increased supply of hydro-fracked climate changing natural gas to National Grid, natural gas energy utility.  However, studies, including a recent report by 350 Brooklyn have proven that the pretext for this project is simply false – there is currently an ample supply of natural gas to the area and the forecast of future demand by independent sources is flat to declining.  Moreover, the market data allegedly supporting the claim has been kept from the public record, because National Grid claims it contains “confidential commercial information”.

The lack of need has raised questions about the true purpose of the project. Some critics argue that  it appears that the project could likely lead to an offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility for purposes of export natural gas outside of the United States.

“If approved, [the pipeline] will allow Williams to earn a very attractive 14% return on the project.  In addition, it appears that the project could likely lead to an offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility for purposes of export natural gas outside of the United States.  The $1 billion cost for this project should not be borne by ratepayers (i.e., utility customers) for a pure commercial undertaking of a for-profit company operating for the benefit of its management and shareholders,” said Kin Gee, President of CHARGE (Consumers Helping Affect Regulation of Gas & Electric) formerly known as RAGE.

Governor Renewable Energy Goals

Both Governor Cuomo of New York and Governor Murphy of New Jersey have failed to make a public statement on the project.  Both governors are known for their ambitious renewable energy goals.  Cuomo passed New York’s Clean Energy Standard which mandates the state receive 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030 and a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the same time frame.  Similarly, In May of 2018 Governor Murphy signed the New Jersey’s Renewable Energy Bill that requires the state to achieve 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050.  It is unclear how the natural gas pipeline, which will pump 400 million cubic feet of climate-altering natural gas, fits within these goals.

“There is no benefit to the State of New Jersey from this project. It will resuspend over  1 million tons of toxic sediments contaminated with lead, arsenic and other chemicals that have been buried for years of misuse. It will undo years of hardwork by municipalities, county and state, as well as organizations like Clean Ocean Action and Baykeeper. All of this is to bring natural gas to New York. No ratepayer in New Jersey will be able to heat their home with this methane gas,” stated Peter Blair, Policy Attorney at Clean Ocean Action.

Permits/Public Comment and Hearing

Currently the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing crucial permits for the pipeline.  Permits include, Flood Hazard Area, Coastal Wetland, and Waterfront Development.  However, despite the numerous impacts to not only the Raritan Bay, but the Bayshore communities, the NJDEP has failed to hold a public hearing on the Bayshore regarding the coastal and water impacts.  For this reason, the Board of Chosen Freeholders for Monmouth County unanimously approved a resolution calling on the NJDEP to extend the public comment period for the Raritan Loop and to conduct a public hearing in the Bayshore.  Following the County’s lead, Keansberg and Union Beach have adopted similar resolution.  Numerous other Bayshore towns are considering similar resolutions.  Aberdeen has pass a resolution opposing the project.