Poconos Coal

Engineer: PennEast Pipeline could complicate Penn Forest wind project

PENN FOREST TWP., Pa. - As attorneys for Atlantic Wind LLC wrapped up over six hours of cross-examination at Monday night’s Penn Forest Township zoning hearing, a civil engineer who lives in the township warned that proposed wind turbines could present a dangerous scenario.

Phil Malitsch, a civil engineer for Hanover Engineering who also resides in Penn Forest Township, was cross-examined by counsel for Atlantic Wind in a continuation of a prior hearing. During his cross-examination, Malitsch warned township officials that an overlap between the proposed 28 wind turbines and the PennEast Pipeline, which is slated to transport natural gas from Pennsylvania to New Jersey, could pose a safety risk for the township and its residents.

“The bottom line is that they’re two very large infrastructure projects. To say that one shouldn’t consider the other is completely inappropriate,” he said.

Atlantic Wind attorneys, however, attempted to use the period of cross-examination as a way to discredit Malitsch as someone who has clear personal motivations behind his involvement in the case. They also argued he was not qualified to comment on the transportation of natural gas.

“You’re not offering those exhibits in any way as an expert in in the area of pipeline and hazardous material, are you?” asked Edward Greene, the attorney for Atlantic Wind. “Are you here as an expert in the area of pipelines and the transportation of hazardous materials?”

“No, I’m here as an expert in civil engineering,” Malitsch said.

Greene asked Malitsch if he had ever reviewed regulations set forth by the United States Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Malitsch admitted that he has not.

“You don’t know any of the risks; you don’t know any of the percentages of risks with respect to this construction, these setbacks — you don’t know any of that information pertaining to that pipeline and the wind turbine project, do you?” Greene asked.

Malitsch did say that he has a “general working knowledge” of certain pipeline regulations through his work as a site engineer. He also suggested that a specific knowledge of pipeline regulations isn’t necessary to see the risks that the two projects pose.

“I would suggest that if there is no communication between PennEast and Atlantic Wind, and both projects are going on simultaneously, that that could be a problem for a lot of people,” Malitsch said.

Greene suggested that Malitsch had no information on whether Atlantic Wind has been in contact with the PennEast Pipeline Company or not.

Malitsch’s testimony also touched on forestry on the Bethlehem Water Authority property where the turbines are proposed, conflicts of interest with the township’s engineering firm and the conservation easement between the Bethlehem Water Authority, Atlantic Wind and the Nature Conservancy.

The next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. at the Penn Forest Township Fire Company #1. The zoning hearing board will hear testimony from objectors to the project at the hearing.


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