Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Proposed pipeline may impact Gloucester County

Food & Water Watch fears negative environmental result

Special to The Sun: Climate activists and residents rally outside the West Deptford Municipal Building on March 25 in opposition to the proposed Regional Energy Access project. If approved, the project will include area pipeline development and a new electric motor-driven compressor facility in West Deptford.

While Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, the region’s Food & Water Watch (FWW) has continued to fight a proposed pipeline that could cause negative environmental impact to the county.

The pipeline project, called Regional Energy Access, is an expansion for Williams Transco to develop a line impacting Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It includes a new electric motor-driven compressor facility in West Deptford.

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“The real impact in West Deptford would be the continued possibility of leaks of air pollutants, as compressors can cause a lot of environmental damage,” said Kate Delany, the state’s senior political organizer for the FWW, which focuses on regional corporate and government accountability relating to the environment.

“West Deptford has already been exposed to water contamination,” she added. “There have already been brown fields, so it’s an area that has already been hard hit by environmental degradation. There’s just no need to be moving in this direction. A compressor station emits as much greenhouse gas as a landfill.”

Williams Transco has denied those claims, saying its facilities will promote the use of clean energy.

“The project is designed in a manner that is adaptable to future renewable energy sources like clean hydrogen and RNG blending, thereby providing the necessary and critical infrastructure needed to meet clean-energy demand for generations to come,” said company spokesman Tom Droege.

But Delany maintains that the company is using “buzz words” in order to divert the facts of the pipeline, calling it “greenwashing.”

“The project is a fracked gas pipeline,” she explained. “This is an older pipeline to try to pipe through more fracked gas at higher pressure and higher volume. Fracking and continuing to frack is really dangerous and we need, as a country, to be transitioning away from this.”

Delany also cited potential negative effects the pipeline would have on county residents.

“The location is hugely problematic,” she noted. “It’s less than a mile from West Deptford Middle School, and nearby an affordable-living community and senior housing, and people don’t know. They don’t know that this project is coming really close to their home.”

While there is disagreement on the environmental impact in the county, Droege said Williams Transco strives to bring economic benefits to the region.

“Per a Rutgers University economic impact study, construction of [the proposed West Deptford facility] is projected to contribute $1.5 million in Gloucester County tax revenue and generate $150,000 annually in local property taxes,” he said. “In addition, it will lead to approximately 236 local union jobs, $18.1 million in labor compensation and $24.4 million in local GDP contribution.”

While the project is still a proposal, construction would likely begin next year. For a more detailed overview, visit williams.com/expansion-project/regional-energy-access.

For information on the Food & Water Watch, go to foodandwaterwatch.org.

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