Days before federal regulators were scheduled to host four public hearings on a controversial natural gas pipeline planned to run through Jersey City and Bayonne, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy released an anti-pipeline public service announcement (PSA) on video.
The mayor – a vocal opponent of Spectra Energy’s proposed natural gas pipeline – said the PSA is meant to encourage residents to attend this Wednesday’s public hearing in Jersey City.
The PSA includes television news footage of natural gas explosions that have taken place across the country, including the September 2010 San Bruno, Calif. explosion that left six people dead.
The three-minute video, titled “No Gas Pipeline in Jersey City,” can be seen on the municipal web site and on YouTube.com.
If approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the proposed pipeline would include the construction and operation of 19.8 miles of new and replacement pipeline, six new metering and regulating stations, and other modifications in Linden, Jersey City near the Hoboken border, and Bayonne.
The pipeline would then cross the Hudson River into New York to connect the company’s existing pipeline infrastructure in the region to Manhattan and Staten Island to supply gas to Con Edison customers.
There will be a public hearing on the Spectra pipeline this Wednesday at Ferris High School at 7 p.m.
Because of the pipeline’s close proximity to these areas, local activists and the Healy administration have argued that a natural gas explosion could cause mass casualties and significantly damage important transportation infrastructure. In addition, Healy has noted that the potential hazards posed by a gas pipeline will hurt future commercial and residential development along 18th Street.
‘Concerns not addressed’
“We want the people of the state, the people of New York, and certainly we want FERC to understand that this would be terribly destructive to our city, terribly dangerous to our city, and would put a huge roadblock and impediment to the future economic viability of our city,” Healy said on Tuesday when the city’s PSA was released.
Houston-based Spectra Energy altered its pipeline route earlier this year to accommodate concerns raised by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The PA had expressed concerns about the pipeline route in Bayonne.
Still, Healy said, “Our concerns in Jersey City have not been addressed.”
“If the pipeline explodes, it would likely cut off the only ways to evacuate people from the explosion and get them to safety,” said Greg Kierce, director of Hudson County Emergency Management and Homeland Security, who was with Healy on Tuesday when the PSA was released.
In a prepared response to Healy Marylee Hanley, a Spectra spokesperson said, “Spectra Energy has conducted more than 300 meetings with community stakeholders to listen to their input on the proposed natural gas pipeline. We are committed to building one of the safest natural gas pipelines in the country and have demonstrated that by the numerous safety enhancements we have made that exceed federal requirements. Our goal continues to be an open dialogue with Mayor Healy and other local officials to ensure public safety, create jobs, and deliver affordable, clean, and domestic natural gas to New Jersey and New York.”
When asked how many of the company’s 300 meetings have been held in Jersey City and Bayonne, the company did not respond.
Healy spokesperson Jennifer Morrill said, “There have been about half a dozen meetings directly with the mayor’s office staff, though Spectra has met separately with other city agencies and departments.”
Public hearings this week
Before FERC can render a decision on the project it is required to hold public hearings. This week FERC will host four hearings on Spectra’s proposed pipeline. One of these hearings will take place in Jersey City on Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. at Ferris High School, at 35 Colgate St.
In addition to this hearing in Jersey City, FERC will host one other in Hudson County on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. in Bayonne at the Knights of Columbus Hall, at 669 Avenue C.
Public hearings will be held on Mon., Oct. 17 on Staten Island and Thursday, Oct. 20 in Manhattan. Those meetings will also be held at 7 p.m.
FERC is expected to render a decision on the pipeline in January 2012.
Should the project be approved in its current form, Healy said Tuesday that the city has already retained a Washington, D.C.-based law firm to appeal the decision.
“But in my experience, once these kinds of decisions get made, it’s very hard to get them reversed,” said Healy. “That’s why this period time is critical. It’s critical for our opposition to be made now, for our voices to be heard now, before a decision is made.”
Healy not alone
Healy has not been alone in his opposition to the Spectra project. The Jersey City Council passed a resolution opposing the pipeline, as did the Hoboken City Council. Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer also has publicly expressed her opposition since the pipeline’s proposed route lies close to her city’s border.
The Jersey City-based activist group No Gas Pipeline launched a grassroots campaign last year to oppose Spectra’s plans.
On the other side of the Hudson River, the New York activist group Sane Energy Project has opposed the project. And this week a group of New York high school and college students will debut an anti-pipeline PSA similar to the one Healy released.
Several union groups have, however, expressed support for the pipeline project and the estimated 5,000 jobs it would create in the region, including more than 2,300 in Jersey City.
To see the city’s PSA, visit the municipal web site at http://www.cityofjerseycity.com/ or log in to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eblHZIZTddo.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.