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Is Williams Pipeline Project a Money Grab? Will Raritan Bay be Collateral Damage?

For many years, Raritan Bay was polluted and contaminated from industrial discharge and runoff. Through time, remedial efforts, and lots of hard work from groups like NY/NJ Baykeeper and volunteers, the water quality has improved. In November 2016, a humpback whale was seen frolicking and feeding on bunkers in Raritan Bay.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water and great tasting local clams are available once again, a massive fossil fuel project threatens Raritan Bay and New Jersey’s clean energy future. Even as New Jersey turns its focus towards clean, renewable solar and wind power, Williams Companies, an energy company based in Oklahoma, filed an application for a 37-mile gas pipeline project. The project starts in Pennsylvania, cuts through central New Jersey and includes 23.5 miles of pipeline in the Raritan/Lower New York Bay. For this project to proceed, it will need certain crucial permits from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.

Williams stated that the reason for the project - called the Northeast Supply Enhancement (“NESE”) - is to provide for natural gas needs of New York. However, studies have proven that this pretext is simply not true – 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. A report released by and 350 Brooklyn this month states that the “Williams NESE Pipeline Project is completely unnecessary and would unwisely lock the State of New York into a pipeline gas market expansion that is not in the State’s best interest.”

The project, however, will stir up and re-suspend over 1 million tons of contaminated harmful muck through dredging that include PCBs, dioxin, lead, mercury and arsenic in Raritan Bay. The project will also release thousands of gallons of drilling fluid in the Raritan Bay. Both of these two actions will harm the marine life – including endangered whales and sea turtles - and negatively impact the recreational uses of the area including diving, kayaking, boating, surfing and wildlife viewing.

If approved, it will allow Williams to earn a very attractive 14% return on the unneeded and detrimental project – all at the expense of ratepayers (utility customers). 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. If this is the real underlying reason, the $1 billion cost for this unneeded project should not be borne by ratepayers for a purely commercial undertaking of a for-profit company operating for the benefit of its management and shareholders.

In May 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed an Executive Order directing the development of an updated Energy Master Plan for New Jersey to achieve 100% clean energy by 2050. The NESE gas pipeline project flies in the face of Governor Murphy’s clean energy initiatives. Equally as important, it would also lock our region into 50+ years of outdated, dirty fossil fuel infrastructure and introduce new safety risks.

For all the above reasons, we urge Governor Phil Murphy to stop this project as authorized by the Coastal Zone Management Act (“CZMA”) of 1972. We also urge the NJDEP to deny the application for the various permits for this project.

Finally, we also urge the NJDEP to extend the comment period and to schedule a public hearing at a location in the Raritan Bayshore area since this area will be greatly affected by the project.

Please sign our petition opposing the Williams NESE pipeline project:

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