Opponents of gas company loop frustrated; company has power of eminent domain
Frustration and anger were the dominant moods of both commissioners and residents who are opposed to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s plan to cut a 6.7-mile loop around Milford. The feelings all spilled out at the commissioners’ meeting on July 31.
The Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company (TGP) is unable or unwilling to fight the National Park Service (NPS), which is opposing the construction of an addition to an existing gas pipeline across the Delaware Gap National Recreational Area (DWGNRA), where they already possess a right-of-way (ROW).
Pressured by its commitment to supply natural gas in a timely manner to its customers in the northeast, the company seems ready to use the right of eminent domain, which it was granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), to cut the 6.7-mile ditch to avoid the park.
“We’re not getting anywhere with the company and with our elected officials to come to a meeting to stop the company’s plan to dig the ditch,” said commissioner Matt Osterberg, who was acting as chairman in the absence of chairman Rich Caridi, who was on vacation. “We’ve sent all our elected officials—all of them—with three possible dates to come to a meeting. None of them have responded. They’re just offering lip service, that’s all.”
All agreed that Congress should step in and solve this dilemma. “It would make everything so simple,” Osterberg said.
A group of residents in the area of Cummins Hill Road, where the cut will occur, have formed an organization called Save Cummins Hill Road and have been holding protest demonstrations in Milford.
“We’re afraid of the danger to residents who live along the
road in emergencies since the road is very narrow,” said Jolie DeFreis, a spokesperson for the group. “Emergency experts tell us that fire trucks would find it difficult to maneuver along the road. It’s the only road to reach the residents. There is no other road and there is no evacuation plan.”
“The company is already cutting down trees in the area,” said Geoffrey Peckham, one of the 14 residents who would be immediately affected. “I don’t see how they could be doing that.” Peckham said the company offered him a very low price for his land. “It was totally unacceptable.”
“It’s probably because some residents have signed a lease or agreement for them to come on to their property,” said commissioner Karl Wagner.
“If they have signed an agreement, no one can do anything about it,” Osterberg said. “It’s a private matter between the company and a willing resident.”
The commissioners said that none of the other 13 residents whom they contacted have responded to a letter and several calls.
“As I see it, the big problem is on the Jersey side,” Wagner said. “That’s where the park is. And there is only one resident in Jersey that has responded to us.”
David Wallace, a New Jersey attorney, was present at the meeting, representing the only Jersey resident who has responded.
“You have to realize that FERC is funded by utility companies,” said resident Jack O’Leary. He recalled that, on Long Island a number of years ago, residents stopped the building of a nuclear plant in Shoreham. “You have to organize if you want to stop this,” he said.
“The company has eminent domain, so they can do whatever they want,” Osterberg said.