About a hundred people from throughout New Jersey gathered at The Law and Public Safety Institute in Mahwah Wednesday night to discuss their views on the pros and cons of Bergen County selling 1.4 acres of land to the Tennessee Gas company to aid in its proposed expansion of a pipeline that runs through the .
Tennessee Gas’s Northeast Upgrade Project is currently seeking several approvals to add looping pipe to an existing gas pipeline that was built in the 1950’s. The expansion would increase the amount of gas that flows through the company’s ‘300-line,’ which ends at the Mahwah Compression Station. From there is distributed to Tennessee Gas customers.
While the ultimate decision as to whether or not the project will go forward is up to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the loop would go through one parcel of Green Acres land in the reservation owned by Bergen County. The parcel lies entirely within Mahwah.
The county has negotiated to receive $700,000 from Tennessee Gas in exchange for the 1.4 acres of land, which the company will use as a right-of-way to access the pipeline both during and after construction. The meeting for public commentary Wednesday night is part of the process of approving the transaction, Bergen County Division of Open Space Director Adam Strobel said.
According to Strobel, “as least amount as possible,” of the $700K would be used to buy 2.8 acres of land, a Green Acres requirement to replace double what would be sold to Tennessee. The rest would be used for park improvements. “We would be able to develop and enhance the park,” he said. “We’d be talking about conservation activities, archeological and historical analysis and projects like that.”
The public in attendance at the meeting brought up several concerns, some in favor of, and some against the project. Labor unions brought up the increase in jobs and capital the construction would bring to the area. Environmental groups brought up concerns with fracking (which removes the natural gas that is transported through this line) and bringing gas through protected land. Area landowners brought up concerns about Bear Swamp Road, which will be used by the gas company to gain access to the pipeline and Mahwah meter station.
Another public meeting will be held on the Bergen County land sale component of the upgrade project at the Bergen County Administration Building in Hackensack at 7 p.m. on February 9. Strobel said the public comment periods are "a very important part" of the process. After that, several steps are needed before the deal is set, Strobel said, including a recommendation from the County Board of Freeholders and formal approval by the Statehouse Commission in Trenton.