LAKE HARMONY, Pa., - Critics and supporters of a key element of the controversial 120-mile PennEast Pipeline project lined up Wednesday night to argue their case at a public hearing before the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection at Split Rock Resort.
The hearing was on an application by PennEast Pipeline Co. of Wyomissing for approval of an air quality plan to operate a natural gas compressor station in Kidder Township consisting of three gas-fired, turbine-driven compressors.
The proposed pipeline has been met with strong opposition from residents since its inception.
Many said they fear the pipeline will harm the environment through noise and pollution and devalue their properties. At least one resident questioned the need for the pipeline.
Linda Christman, an outspoken critic of the pipeline, told DEP there are several studies that "show this pipeline is unnecessary and that the extensive harms that the project would produce far outweigh the benefits."
Christman, citing another report, said Pennsylvania is a net exporter of natural gas and "therefore has no unmet needs for gas within the state."
Mark Zakutansky, the Mid-Atlantic policy manager for the Appalachian Mountain Club, said PennEast should power the compressor station with an electrical motor, not natural gas, which can generate methane, ethane and benzene.
"The project's proximity to the Appalachian Trail and other recreation area makes these area vulnerable for increased levels of ozone pollution," he said.
Kevin Sunday, director of government affairs, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, which supports the project, said the pollution fears are unwarranted. He said the station will be able to comply with stringent emissions limits through controls and technology.
Sunday also said an economic analysis at Drexel University estimated that the pipeline will generate about $1.6 billion in new wages, revenues and investments to regional and state economies of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Abe Amoros, the legislative director for the Laborers' International Union of North America, specializing in construction, highways and building maintenance, said his union backs the pipeline.
Colleen Connolly, community relations coordinator at DEP, said the public can comment on PennEast's air quality plan until March 10 in writing.
The site in Kidder Township will be the only compressor station along the entire pipeline, in a wooded area between Routes 80 and 940. Inside the station, the gas will be directed to three natural gas turbine-driven units engines that increase pressure before it returns to the main transit.
While pipeline representatives have said the $1 billion project will "reduce energy costs and support thousands of jobs with clean-burning, American energy," homeowners said they fear the 36-inch underground pipeline running anywhere near their homes will deflate property values and harm the environment.
The pipeline will pump natural gas from the Wilkes-Barre area near Scranton to southern New Jersey.
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