The chairman of the Pike County Commissioners said he was disappointed and insulted that so many federal, state and corporate officials ignored an invitation to a meeting for September 18 that was called to address the Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP) plan to cut a 6.1-mile loop around the borough.
“We had no choice but to cancel the meeting,” Caridi said. “Otherwise, we would be sitting talking to ourselves.”
At issue is the TGP plan to take land from 14 properties, using eminent domain, and cut the loop to carry its gas pipeline to important markets in New York and New Jersey. The plan was chosen by TGP because of the informal opposition of the National Park Service (NPS) to allow the company to use an established right-of-way (ROW) the company already has that goes through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area (DWGNRA).
“When Columbia Gas asked to go through the park a few years ago, they were not opposed,” Caridi said. “Why suddenly are we?”
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has already
granted the company the right to take the land using eminent domain.
Local residents and their friends have been holding demonstrations against the move, trying to protect their properties and refusing to cease until the NPS clarifies its position, which they say has not been clearly stated.
“We have done all we can,” Caridi said.
Caridi announced at the commissioners’ meeting on September 18 that NJ U.S. Senator Robert Menendez has asked FERC to allow additional hearings on the proposed move.
“A number of my constituents feel that they were not provided with an adequate opportunity to express their concerns regarding the effect that this project will have on their communities, and I believe that a rehearing will provide them with that opportunity,” Menendez said in his letter to FERC.
The senator added that there are a number of concerns regarding the use of eminent domain to take privately held property from landowners.
“We have not started work yet as we are still working to obtain permits and/or notice to proceed from FERC,” said Joe Hiller, a spokesman for Kinder Morgan, which now owns TGP. “We hope to begin some work shortly after Thanksgiving this year but the bulk of the work should be done in 2013. The vast majority of land needed [for the Northeast Upgrade Project, which includes the loop around Milford] has been acquired by agreement with landowners. We do have our FERC certificate of public need so we have been granted condemnation authority to acquire the properties which have not settled. No homes are being taken.”
In other action, the commissioners approved a move to apply for funds from the Local Share Account (LSA) that comes from gaming money through Monroe County. The funds can be used for public interest and community improvement projects.
In Pike, the money will be used to rehabilitate a building next to the county administration building that is being vacated by the transportation department. The building will house the Children and Youth Department’s Visitation Center.
Potential funding could reach $100,000. The funds will be used to make the building handicapped accessible with handicapped ramps and other adjustments for access. Family services like foster care, family visitation rooms and training for independent living staff are included.
“At a time when the state budget can no longer support many of these programs, we need to find other funding to supply needed resources for the county youth,” Caridi said.