The pipeline will affect about 30 Princeton homeowners, according to Carol Peabody, senior land representative for the Williams Company. Residents whose homes are located where the new pipeline plans would diverge from the original pipeline voiced opposition to the project during the meeting.
“We don’t want the pipeline running through our property,” said Christopher Barr, a resident whose property is located at this diversion.
According to Christopher Brown, the director of engineering for the Williams Company, no compensation will be given to the town for granting permission for the project, although he said that the town may benefit from tax revenue and revenue from the workers who will be in town. No formal complaints have been filed preemptively by Princeton residents.
The Williams Company, which has been allowed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to proceed to the project’s pre-filing stage, will conduct informational meetings throughout the spring. The company plans to file an application with FERC for the new pipeline in fall 2013, according to media representative Chris Stockton.
If the project is approved, construction is projected to begin in fall 2014 and end in December 2015. The pipeline extension would help meet a growing demand for natural gas by utility companies and electric power plants. It would transport gas extracted from shale rock in western Pennsylvania, where abundant sources of gas have been recently discovered, to various companies in the Southeastern U.S. that have already committed to paying for gas that will pass through the pipeline.
At the meeting, FERC and Williams Company representatives presented preliminary maps and plans for the project. The company had previously informed and invited to the meeting residents whose property will be affected by construction.
“We want to create a dialogue with those landowners so that they know what our timelines are and we can identify what their ideas and concerns are,” Stockton said.
The contract will include an indemnity clause making the Williams Company liable for any effects on private property, rather than providing homeowners’ insurance. Residents, who have been assigned tentative land agents for future negotiations, brought up various questions about the pipeline’s construction at the meeting.
Laura Lynch, the conservation chair of the New Jersey Sierra Club and a Princeton resident, noted environmental concerns for the ridge area on which some of the new pipeline will be built. Her concerns included shallow soil levels that have caused flooding and the dangers of blasting that may occur during construction. While flooding has occurred in the past without any construction, residents said that they are afraid that construction will provoke more flooding.
“You’re new to the area, but we know what kind of rock is there. You won’t be happy with what you find there,” Lynch said, addressing the Williams Company representatives at a Feb. 28 meeting held by Princeton to allow property owners to voice their concerns.
“The Sierra Club has been trying to protect the ridge for decades and trying to stop development and protect what’s left,” Lynch said, explaining that the ridge has been designated environmentally sensitive by the state government.
The project will also require that the Williams Company acquire 20 feet of new easement onto some properties near the site. In response to a few residents who suggested that the landowners may refuse to grant those easements, Williams Company representatives said the landowner and company could enter into a condemnation process in which the landowner would be compelled to sell the easement rights at market value.
The Williams Company will also need permission to survey the properties in order to investigate environmental impacts and alternatives such has having the new pipeline follow the original pipeline more closely.
“We’ve made changes just based on stakeholder input,” said Cindy Ivy, who is in charge of public outreach for the Williams Company, in response to residents asking about their ability to change current plans at the Feb. 28 meeting.
An open house will take place on April 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Otto Kaufman Community Center in Montgomery Township. The Williams Company will present more detailed maps and plans for the project at the open house.
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