A meeting of WACAP was held at the municipal building on Monday June 15th, 2015. A number of residents were attendance as were 3 of our 4 board of trustees. These are the meeting minutes.
Meet the WACAP Board of Trustees
The five members of the WACAP board of trustees was introduced to the assembled group.
Mike Spille. Mike is founder of WACAP and author of thecostofthepipeline.com
Cathy Urbanski. Cathy sits on several committees in the township including the pipeline committee, and has stood at the forefront of our township’s fight against PennEast.
Joan Van der Veen. Joan is a well respected realtor in the area and has sat on committees in the township.
Dave Beaumont. Dave is well versed in financial topics and serves on the township’s Financial Advisory Committee.
Kristina Spille. Kris has been instrumental in launching our grass roots efforts and has been key in getting our presence felt in events such as the Shadfest and Hunterdon Day at the county fair grounds.
NJ State Agricultural Agricultural Development Committee Meeting
PennEast met in private with officials from the NJ SADC and township officials from along the route. The purpose of this meeting was ostensibly to inform the group about the status of the project and the construction techniques that would be used if the pipeline is approved. However much of the meeting was spent with PennEast pushing SADC and township officials hard to convince landowners to grant survey access to PennEast. You can read more on the topic on Mike’s FERC comment on this issue and related issues with surveys:
Recap of Hunterdon Day booth at County Fairgrounds
WACAP manned a booth in conjunction with Delaware Township Citizens Against the Pipeline at the Hunterdon County Day event at the county fairgrounds in East Amwell. The day was scorching hot but we had great attendance and lots of interest at the booth. We had large blow ups of the pipeline route, construction blue prints, and key PennEast facts on display. We also had an interactive site on a laptop computer where individuals could send their comments into the FERC live at the event. We’re pursuing a booth at the Hunterdon County 4H fair late this summer as well.
Virtual Art Gallery Project
Joan Van der Veen has been working with local artists and local conservation representatives to create a Virtual Art Gallery Project. The virtual gallery will feature paintings of the glorious creeks and Class One waterways that have inspired artists for hundred years in the area, and which are now being targeted by PennEast. We’ll have a before-and-after aspect to the site, with the “after” section showing the devastation pipeline construction will have on these waters and the Delaware River watershed.
Recap of landowners meeting at County Library
Mike attended a presentation by an environmental lawyer fighting the Constitution Pipeline. Some key take-aways from that meeting were:
- PennEast has NO RIGHT to survey. They are entirely dependent on landowner cooperation. You can say no and they have no recourse.
- There is NO ADVANTAGE to landowners granting access. History shows the pipeline company will do everything they can to negotiate the lowest possible easement agreement they can. You gain nothing by negotiating with them.
- If enough residents refuse survey access FERC cannot pass EIS. Currently PennEast has less than 33% survey access in NJ, which is far too low for them. Stay strong and do not grant access! And if you have granted access, you can and should rescind it.
- Easement agreements are tilted heavily in PennEast’s favor. It’s a one time payment, no recurring revenue, no penalties, no guarantees, “can’t sue” clauses. If you choose to negotiate with PennEast, hire the best lawyer you can afford who’s an expert in easement negotiations.
- Most importantly, pipeline companies give up, even if approved, if they keep hitting delays. Time is money to pipeline companies and they cannot afford endless delays. The Constitution Pipeline is approved yet opposition groups have already delayed construction by a year. They have more plans to keep delaying it. Everyone should keep this long game in mind.
PennEast is filing in late July of this year
PennEast has indicated that they will be filing their official application with the FERC sometime in the last week of July. This means we have until then to keep writing scoping comments to the FERC. Please keep sending your comments in. If you don’t know how or are hesitant on how to proceed, email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you setup.
Once PennEast files all people who wish to participate in the proceedings in anyway have to file as “intervenors”. This is a slightly more formal process than the pre-filing application scoping comments. WACAP will be holding training sessions to get everyone setup as intervenors. This is a critical step for all township residents, you have only 30 days to register from the date of PennEast’s filing. If you miss the window you forfeit your right to contribute information and fight the pipeline in the FERC docket.
New Landowner’s Rights seminar June 30th in Milford
There will be another free seminar on landowner rights and eminent domain in Milford NJ on June 30th. Email email@example.com if you are interested or have questions.
Miscellaneous Notes and Action Items from Meeting
The general meeting and the Q&A section generated a great deal of interaction between WACAP trustees and residents and a number of good items came out of it that we’re working on. These include:
- Mike is working on a blog post to highlight the larger network of community and conservation groups we are involved with, how we are all cooperating and how residents can help disseminate information. That post will be out this week.
- A resident was a former employee of the NJ DEP for many years and mentioned that while arsenic has been a key issue with the pipeline, radon is another concern that we should be highlighting. Radon is highly mobile and concentrations can change from year to year, and can definitely be affected by heavy construction. We’ll be reaching out to formulate strategies around getting this information out, and also looking into home testing kits. A regional group is offering cheap testing kits for contaminates like arsenic, we should look for similar kits for radon. Ideally we want residents to test regularly before PennEast ever sets foot here to establish a solid baseline of our current levels.
- A list of properties within the 400′ survey corridor is being compiled and will be put out shortly. We urge everyone to contact neighbors they know who are on this list or who’s property is close to them. Everyone on or near the route should be informed of their rights and kept informed of what’s happening with the pipeline.
- The topic of Swan Creek Reservoir (Lambertville’s drinking water source) was mentioned several times. There’s no clear consensus on why Lambertville hasn’t responded to PennEast or the FERC about this. We’re drafting a letter to United Water to ask if they are aware of this construction happening mere feet from the reservoir dam and will offer assistance to them if they want more information.
- We are now officially accepting donations. We are organizing as a 501(c)(4) non-profit under IRS rules. This means we are a non-profit but that donations to us are not tax deductible. We are organized this way because we do plan on lobbying governments on this issue (forbidden under 501(c)(3)). All money is going to fighting the pipeline, the trustees and others involved are uncompensated volunteers. A small amount of money is going to materials and services around community outreach (printing for events, signs, etc). The bulk of the funds will be dedicated to hiring experts for FERC testimony specific to West Amwell township and the surrounding area.
Electronic donation is being setup, in the meanwhile you can send checks to:
West Amwell Citizens Against the Pipeline
32 Hewitt Road
Lambertville, NJ 08530
Checks can be made payable to WACAP or West Amwell Citizens Against the Pipeline
- Janice Z has graciously offered to do handouts at the dump on Saturdays to help raise awareness in the township. We’re working on flyers to make this happen.
The next meeting will be at the Municipal Building the week of June 29th. The exact date and time will be sent out later this week.