Fracking Pipelines: Cutting Across New Jersey’s Pinelands
Feb 05, 2016 02:49PM
By Lena Smith
During the last regularly scheduled Board of Public Utilities meeting of 2015, the board members issued a momentous decision that may have deleterious impacts on the Pinelands and the environment. The board unanimously approved the Pinelands Pipeline, a 22-mile fracked gas pipeline being pursued by South Jersey Gas to transition the Beesley’s Point coal plant to natural gas. The project has drawn criticism from both within and beyond the environmental community that argue it’ll harm the threatened and endangered species in the Pinelands, increase dependence on fossil fuels, accelerate climate change, and threaten our health and safety.
The Pinelands Pipeline will cut through the New Jersey Pine Barrens and have negative effects on open space, the environment and wildlife. The Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer is beneath the Pinelands and contains approximately 17 trillion gallons of freshwater. Pipelines run the constant risk of accidents, leaks, spills and explosions, causing potential harm to the air and water resources below. The long-term harms to Pinelands forests and waterways will include habitat loss, compaction of soils, more runoff and erosion in waterways, and changes to hydrogeology potentially impacting aquifers and groundwater.
While proponents of the pipeline believe it’s a positive change for the region—transitioning the Beesley’s Point Coal Plant to natural gas—this argument is refuted by opponents that have revealed that the coal plant currently runs 20 to 49 days a year, but when converted to natural gas will become a base load plant that operates year round. Additionally, while natural gas burns cleaner than coal, it offers hardly any climate benefits, compared to coal, owing to emissions of methane—the primary component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas.
Now a second pipeline is being proposed to cut through the Pinelands. New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) is proposing to construct a 30-mile 720 Psi pipeline that will begin in Burlington County along Route 528 into Ocean County and the McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Joint Base, a Pinelands region. The NJNG pipeline will connect to the Transco pipeline in Chesterfield through a compressor station being proposed as part of the Garden State Expansion project. It’ll transport fracked gas coming from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale via the PennEast Pipeline—a 118-mile, 36-inch- diameter pipeline proposed to cut across Pennsylvania and into Mercer County.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of extracting natural gas from shale rock formation. A well is drilled to a rock formation that holds oil or natural gas, and then drilled sideways up to a mile through a targeted layer of rock. A mixture of water, sand and chemicals are then injected into the well at high pressure to crack dense rock formations and release oil or gas.
The entire fracking process—from drilling a well to transporting waste—endangers our water and the health of our communities. The oil and gas industry isn’t required to disclose the chemicals they use in the process, but many are known endocrine disruptors. Fracking consumes millions of gallons of water for each fracked well and produces massive volumes of toxic and even radioactive waste, the disposal of which is causing earthquakes and risking drinking water resources. Some people living near fracking sites have become seriously ill from polluted air and contaminated water. Others can light their tap on fire due to the amount of methane in their water.
Fracking and the associated infrastructure are large contributors to the climate crisis. Large amounts of methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas, leak from every stage of the natural gas system, beginning at the fracking well, through pipelines and compressor stations, and during the final energy generation phase. The cumulative impacts of this pipeline cannot be ignored.
Fracked gas will not just be displacing coal. It will be out-competing clean and renewable energy solutions. Without a ban on fracking, the oil and gas industry will continue to stand in the way of meeting our energy needs with 100 percent clean, renewable and abundant energy resources.
While New Jersey has no fracking wells within its borders, the best current way to support a ban on fracking in your own backyard is to get involved in fights to stop fracking-related infrastructure projects like pipelines and compressor stations from coming into New Jersey.
The next step in stopping the Pinelands Pipeline is a direct action campaign that’ll undertake actions that directly confront and challenge the current system of injustice. It uses strikes, demonstrations, sit-ins or other public forms of non-violent protest to achieve one’s demands. Food & Water Watch is organizing a participatory training with Zein Nakhoda from Training for Change. Participants will learn more about the history and philosophy of direct action, hear updates about the Pinelands Pipelines, explore how direct action links with strategic campaigns and learn how to form an affinity group and develop direct actions as part of your campaign that creates leverage and applies escalating creative pressure on decision makers.
The training will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on February 13 at the Medford Friends Meetinghouse at 14 Union St., in Medford. A $20 donation is being asked to cover the cost of trainers. Lunch will be provided. For more information or to register, call Lena Smith at 732-839-0878 or visit http://fwwat.ch/PinelandsTraining.
Lena Smith is a regional organizer for Food & Water Watch, a consumer advocacy organization. For more information, visit FoodAndWaterWatch.org.