Passaic County retreats in opposition

  • New York State has banned fracking for natural gas, but the line must carry the fracked gas into the state.

Two weeks after the Tennessee Gas Pipeline‘s East 300 modernization project was blasted, the Passaic County Council of Commissioners on Tuesday withdrew a motion for a resolution opposing the affiliate construction of a natural gas compressor station in West Milford .

More than two dozen speakers criticized the Commissioners’ decision to drop their draft resolution opposing the 19,000-horsepower compressor near the Monksville reservoir. Many accused elected officials of backing down and not representing their constituency.

Directing Commissioner Pat Lepore said the council would send all comments submitted to the governor’s office, but would not consider its own resolution or take a position on the draft. Commissioner Terry Duffy, who lives in West Milford, said he was not too impressed with the pipeline company, which installed a new transmission line in the area in 2011, and was concerned the project would prove to be regrettable.

The decibel map of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company's compressor station off Burnt Meadow Road in West Milford.

“I’m only going with it, because I don’t want to step on the toes of the West Milford administration,” Duffy said of the decision to drop the resolution.

The East 300 modernization project would upgrade existing compressor stations in Pennsylvania and Wantage and add a new 19,000 horsepower facility to a former quarry in West Milford, near the Ringwood border.

Officials in that town passed a resolution opposing the project, as did local governments in Wantage, Ringwood, Bloomfield and more. Many have cited a lack of local benefits, as the project is designed to end a Consolidated Edison moratorium on new natural gas connections in Westchester County, New York, by adding supply to the line. New York State has banned fracking for natural gas, but the line must carry the fracked gas into the state.

Like county officials, West Milford officials developed and later dropped their own resolution against the project. Members of the city’s governing body said they have filed concerns with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, but have not publicly opposed the project.

A screenshot of the Tennessee Gas Pipeline's presentation on March 22, 2021 on the West Milford Compressor Station project shows a computer-generated rendering of the completed project.

Still, Mayor Michele Dale said she and other city officials were more likely to work with the company to get good bond, insurance and first responder training than to fight a project than they were powerless to stop. While the governor’s office can block the project, pipeline upgrades are under the jurisdiction of FERC.

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FERC officials were initially due to make a decision on the project in May. However, on May 27, they named the East 300 modernization as one of five pipeline projects that will require an environmental impact study in addition to a standard environmental assessment.

An old quarry in West Milford that became a mulch lot was considered by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company as the new headquarters for a compressor station designed to increase capacity in New York City.

The evaluation of the modernization of line 300 revealed that the project would not have a significant environmental impact, according to the files. Opponents of the project nevertheless hope that the declaration will find loopholes.

The project’s environmental impact statement is expected to be released by September 24. A final decision to approve or deny the project could be made by Dec. 23, according to records. By then, the commission could have a new team of five members. The term of Commissioner Neil Chatterjee, whom President Donald Trump appointed in May 2017, will expire on June 30.

David Zimmer is a local reporter for For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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