Lehigh Valley

Bethlehem Township names new manager

Residents concerned about PennEast pipeline

BETHLEHEM TWP., Pa. - Bethlehem Township commissioners Monday night unanimously appointed Doug Bruce, who has served as the township’s assistant manager since 2003, as manager.

Bruce has been serving as acting manager since Feb. 15, when former manager Melissa Shafer stepped down after four years of service to take a job as vice president of government relations for St. Luke’s Hospital.

A contract outlining Bruce’s salary and other job details has not yet been finalized, he said. Before his arrival in Bethlehem Township, Bruce served as a community relations assistant for the City of Bethlehem, where he resides.

Residents concerned about pipeline

Township solicitor James Broughal addressed a group of residents concerned about PennEast Pipeline Co.’s planned natural gas line through the township. While not in a position of much power, the township is meeting regularly with the company to try to relocate the pipeline route, he said.

The township last month made a formal request to PennEast to move the 36-inch pipeline, which would be on the east side of Route 33, away from the populated Hope Ridge neighborhood on the eastern side of the township. 

“The township has not given up,” Broughal said, adding that the board of commissioners’ position on building a berm or moving the pipeline away from Hope Ridge has been made clear to PennEast. “It’s not a done deal.”

While some residents called on the board to reject PennEast’s plan, Broughal said that may not be in their best interest because the company, which has conditional approval to proceed from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, could simply condemn property and build the gas line without accepting input. FERC has jurisdiction on the project because it is an interstate pipeline.

The routing of the line can still change “a hundred times,” Broughal said, noting that PennEast is willing to consider changes.

“There’s time for negotiations,” he said.

The 120-mile pipeline route will begin in the Marcellus shale production area near Dallas, Luzerne County, and end near Pennington, N.J. The route includes 24 municipalities in Pennsylvania and six in New Jersey.

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