The 178-mile project would run two underground lines between Linden, New Jersey and Albany. One line would carry Bakken shale oil south while the second line would carry processed oil products north. Much of the proposed route would use existing utility right-of-ways.
The Town Board and representatives of Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings, LLC blamed each other for the last-minute cancellation of a public information hearing scheduled for Thursday, June 18.
Town Supervisor Greg Helsmoortel said he was told by a Pilgrim “lobbyist” that the company would send no representatives to the meeting.
“They were upset with us, concerned about busloads of people coming in from New Jersey,” he said. “They wanted to limit comment, didn’t like that Riverkeeper wanted to speak.”
Long story short?
“They screwed up in the beginning, when they threatened last summer to put the pipeline in whether we liked it or not. They still don’t know how to handle people.”
Paul Nathanson, a spokesman for Pilgrim, explained the company’s dissatisfaction with the proposed public hearing.
“It’s been our experience that these meetings devolve into shouting matches.”
Pilgrim, he said, was unhappy with the town’s wish to change an agreed-upon League-of-Women-Voters-forum-style format for the meeting, a charge that Helsmoortel denied.
Nathanson said the way the meeting was set up “wasn’t going to lead to any productive dialogue.”
The board’s no-confidence resolution won plaudits from opponents of the project, some of whom urged the board to “go a little further” by including additional information, such as the dangers posed by the pipeline to first-responders, the nationwide lack of inspectors and the number of pipeline ruptures over the years.
Helsmoortel dismissed the call for a revised resolution. The final vote was 4-1, with trustee Bill Schirmer casting the sole objection to the resolution.
Schirmer later said he wasn’t necessarily in favor of the project but that he felt the board’s decision to cancel the meeting a few days before it was scheduled wasn’t fair.
“To be honest, I’m still on the fence, not because I want a pipeline but because I want to know what’s the cheapest and most efficient way to move this oil,” Schirmer said after the meeting.
He noted that refined and unrefined oil is currently being shipped by barge and by rail. Would a pipeline lessen the amount of oil being shipped by existing means? Would it be cheaper to do so? Safer?
“Those are my primary concerns,” he said.
Nathanson said the company is still eager to answer such questions.
“We haven’t submitted any permit applications to New York or New Jersey,” he said. “Soon, all that information, all those details, will be available. But we need to finish the permit process.”
Asked if the door was still open to a company in which the board has no confidence, Helsmoortel said, “No, not if they continue to behave like they have.”