There has been a lot of discussion and emotional outburst by local residents who are opposed to a pipeline planned to go through the Lehigh Valley. Most don’t want it, but all are worried about the path of it. The proposed PennEast pipeline (110-mile, 36-inch diameter pipeline) would deliver approximately 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from Dallas in Luzerne County, to a Transco pipeline interconnection near Pennington, Mercer County, New Jersey.
The simple fact is transporting natural gas by pipeline is the safest and most economical way to move that energy. Some say studies which point out these facts are lying because they are paid for by the utility companies, even if they are done by independent groups including colleges and universities which usually lean to the left and side with environmental groups.
Some opponents do have some valid points against pipelines while others points are simply ludicrous (remember if you repeat the same lies over and over people actually begin to believe it). There are concerns about environmental and scenic harm, lower property values (surely, no one wants a gas line running through their property), the potential harm for accidents and the idea that relying on natural gas only forestalls a switch to renewable sources like wind and solar.
Some insist that any gas flowing through a new line is headed overseas. The pipeline will cause more death from carcinogens. Some say it will lead to soil erosion, loss of agricultural land and destruction to animal habitat. Still others say that open areas left behind by pipelines through forested areas causes open corridors which will lead to increased deer habitat, because deer thrive on the edges between forests and open spaces. More deer cause more deer feces, which leads to fecal contamination to waterways and reservoirs. (Maybe these folks should be more concerned about geese droppings causing contamination to waterways and park lands.)
Proponents of the pipeline say it will lead to more jobs, more tax dollars (which can be used for education) and cheaper energy costs. Areas above pipelines can be used for agricultural purposes, hiking and biking trails, and even used as fairways on disc golf courses (such as at the Jordan Creek Parkway in Whitehall).
The nation’s energy transportation network already includes more than 2.5 million miles of pipeline operated by about 3,000 companies of all sizes. That includes 321,000 miles of onshore and offshore gas transmission and gathering pipelines and another 2 million miles of gas distribution pipelines.
The nation has more than 2 million miles of natural gas lines under roads, neighborhoods and farms. By comparison, the interstate highway system is about 47,000 miles.
The natural gas system has two basic parts:
• High-pressure transmission pipelines that move large volumes of natural gas in a straight line.
• Low-pressure distribution lines that spread out like spider webs into cities and towns, connecting homes and businesses.
Some people want increased amounts of gases and petroleum to be transported by rails instead of pipelines. They point out that there are usually only a few deaths yearly from train derailments which are carrying petroleum products, but when they do occur they can cause millions of dollars in damages and untold environmental harm.
Recently a huge fireball erupted and evacuations occurred from a derailment in Illinois when a train was carrying crude oil and a fiery derailment of an oil train near the Kanawaha River in West Virginia resulted in crude oil spilling into the river causing evacuations and problems to water systems. Also, most recent, the Amtrak disaster in Philadelphia, though a passenger train, led to deaths after derailing. Many rail lines are shared by both passenger and freight trains.
It’s true that every year there are dozens of pipeline explosions in the U.S. including natural gas pipelines which sometimes result in the loss of lives and many serious injuries, usually from burns. The number of pipeline accidents resulting in death or hospitalization has fluctuated between 30 and 60 a year over the past decade, with fewer problems in most recent years. Many of the affected sections of pipe were older sections lacking coating, which is known to reduce external corrosion on pipelines.
Local residents always point out that five people were killed after a powerful gas line explosion ripped through downtown Allentown in 2011. Workers had just inspected the area the day before the explosion and had found no leaks. The pipe that fed the explosion was installed in 1928 and was eroding as are numerous other old and dangerous pipes running under Allentown. Some lines built over 150 years ago are still servicing buildings there today.
Many are opposed to an underground gas pipeline running through Bethlehem Township, Northampton County, due to its passing near a hospital, an elementary school and a new huge commercial and home development project, Madison Farms off of Freemansburg Avenue. But there are already underground gas lines running through this area, past a large number of homes, a shopping center, PA state highway (Route 33) and under the Lehigh River. There have never been any problems with these pipelines or much concern or fears given to their proximity to the new development going in nearby.
The local residents should be more concerned with the huge development itself and the many problems it will bring. There will be plenty of houses, townhouses, apartments, stores, and a large grocery store all leading to more congestion on nearby roadways, more pollution from autos and trucks and more water runoff.
When parking lots and buildings take over precious farmland as is the case here, there is more water runoff occurring because it doesn’t get absorbed into the ground. It’ll lay in mosquito breeding retention ponds and some will make its’ way to the Lehigh River which already has flooding problems.
There are plenty of pros and cons towards the PennEast pipeline. Most local governments are opposed and have voiced their opinions just recently. Next year, the final decision is expected on the pipeline by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, the independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil. If approved construction could begin in 2017.