Clean and Green Forum Puts Focus on Capital City in Debate on PennEast Pipeline, Fracking and the Green Job Economy

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Environment New Jersey Research and Policy Center

Trenton – A week after PennEast officially applied to FERC to build a massive gas pipeline through Central Jersey, the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, the Citizens Campaign and Environment New Jersey held an educational forum in Trenton to discuss the potential impact of the PennEast Pipeline and fracking in the Delaware River watershed on Trenton’s drinking water, as well as the economic benefits of long-term green jobs.

Doug O’Malley of Environment New Jersey was joined by Board Certified Environmental Engineer in Sanitary Engineering, with licenses from NJDEP for Water and Wastewater Treatment, Jerry Haimowitz to open the panel. The two discussed the proposed pipeline and fracking, concentrating on the potential harm to the city’s drinking water.

Trenton is not an island. The potential impact of gas drilling in the Delaware River watershed — and its downstream impacts on drinking water in Trenton — are a real concern. More immediately, the proposed PennEast pipeline brings home the impacts of fracking to Trenton’s back-door, with a 110 mile pipeline terminating right outside of the city,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, which is based in Trenton.

The panel was opened with a statement by Kari Osmond, District Director for Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, who has been a steadfast opponent to the PennEast pipeline.

“In recent years, we have witnessed the destructive capacity of climate change right here in New Jersey, further underscoring the importance of our role as environmental stewards.   We all have a part to play in limiting our carbon footprints, supporting green initiatives, and standing against those who seek profit at the expense of our environment. The proposed PennEast pipeline flies in the face of those efforts, cutting through protected and preserved land, risking habitat for endangered species and threatening crucial water resources.  I stand in firm opposition to the pipeline, and any project that puts corporations before the preservation of our environment. We must stand together to protect our natural resources,” said Congresswoman Watson Coleman (D-12).

Senator Shirley K. Turner, who represents Trenton, said, “Our residents have made it clear that their priority is to protect and preserve our state’s open spaces, agricultural land, and natural resources. Allowing the billions of dollars our taxpayers have invested for conservation and land and waterway protection to be wasted for corporate profit would be reprehensible.”  

The Delaware River provides 30% of New Jersey’s drinking water, but New Jersey only controls 23.3% of the water shed.  Pennsylvania controls 50.3% and New York controls 18.5%,” said Jerry Haimowitz, an Environmental Engineer. “To protect the Delaware, New Jersey should ban the disposal of fracking waste at sewage treatment plants in New Jersey, support the DRBC and New York bans on fracking and ask DRBC and NY to ban the disposal of fracking waste in their sewage treatment plants.”

The Citizens Campaign, an organization that has been working directly with Trenton residents, hosted the second section of the evening. Civic Trustees, a new force for strengthening Trenton’s ability to tackle tough issues, served as panelists. 

“Through the over 30 local leaders within our Trenton Civic Trust, we have already demonstrated how a solutions-oriented, no-blame approach can generate tangible results, including on critical environmental issues,” said Harry Pozycki, President of The Citizens Campaign. “In fact, as a direct result of the leadership of the Trenton Civic Trustees, the City of Trenton is the first City in all of New Jersey to adopt the Storm & Flood Protection Resolution associated with addressing the quality and capacity of its combined sewer overflows (CSO).  From developing the resolution language to navigating the approval process through the City’s Planning Board, our Civic Trustees played the most vital role in enabling the City to better address long-term recovery efforts along with making further progress with its “green” objectives.”

A discussion on the economic benefits of long-term, sustainable green jobs concluded the evening. Andre Thomas, Training Manager of the Isles’ Center for Energy and Environmental Training joined with Jonathan Cloud, Executive Director of NJ Pace to discuss the work their organizations are doing to move toward green jobs and energy efficiency.

“The Center for Energy and Environmental Training is a green collar job training facility targeting careers in energy efficiency and environmental health,” said Thomas of Isles. “Partnering with employers, higher education institutions, labor unions, training organizations, and others, we provide nationally certified energy efficiency training.”

The New Jersey Sierra Club joined the panel to point out that PennEast Pipeline is an addition in a line of environmental hazards in the area threatening the Delaware River. “PSEG pollutes your air with the Mercer Generating Station and now your water with the PennEast Pipeline,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “PennEast’s new pollution is from the same people that have polluted Trenton with the Mercer power plant for a generation.”

The League of Women Voters of New Jersey, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages informed and active participation in government helped organize the evening and served as the panel moderator.