By Charles Malinchak
Special to The Morning Call
That the PennEast Pipeline is not welcome in Lower Saucon Township was made clear Wednesday when council approved a resolution opposing the 108-mile natural gas line that would cut through the southern part of the township.
The measure was met with some applause after it was approved in a 4-0 vote.
"Thank you for doing the right thing,'' township resident Gloria McVeigh said.
Tara Zrinski, local coordinator of Food and Water Watch, a national group advocating for clean water and safe food, said, "We applaud the draft resolution. ... It is a symbolic gesture to show opposition from the community.''
She said in addition to the PennEast line, there is potential for seven more pipelines traveling a similar route.
"We need a united front. The only people to benefit from this is PennEast,'' Zrinski said
The resolution, which council discussed last month, is mostly symbolic because the ultimate decision on whether or not it's built will be made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
"Our ordinance will not trump federal law,'' council Vice President Tom Maxfield said last month.
The 36-inch natural gas line is proposed to go from Luzerne County and travel south through a 1.5-mile section of the township, go under the Lehigh River, and continue through Williams Township, a part of Bucks County and then under the Delaware River into New Jersey before ending in Mercer County.
According to a copy of the resolution, "Tthe Council of Lower Saucon Township opposes and objects to the design, route and construction of the proposed PennEast Pipeline and the Hellertown lateral. ... The proposed pipeline/lateral threatens to significantly damage streams, wildlife habitat, existing farm operations and the quality of life in Lower Saucon Township.''
The Hellertown lateral, according to the resolution, is a 2.1 mile, 24-inch pipe that would come off the main 36-inch line into the borough and feed natural gas into the area's existing gas system.
The resolution also urges surrounding municipalities affected by the pipe to draft similar resolutions, but supervisors in neighboring Williams Township rejected such a resolution last month and Bethlehem Township has not made a decision.
Councilwoman Priscilla deLeon said Lower Saucon joins Moore Township as the only two municipalities in Northampton County to draft an opposition resolution. Several municipalities have approved such resolutions.
Council President Ron Horiszny said after the meeting that council's decision was based on several factors, such as the pipeline providing no benefit to the township, and that it would scar the landscape, create traffic jams during construction and come very close to land preserved by the township.
"There are no property taxes generated from a pipeline. You can't tax it and you can't regulate it. All you could do is endure,'' he said.
DeLeon said she is opposed to fracking — the method of extracting natural gas from Marcellus Shale — and by allowing the pipeline, "all we're doing is exacerbating the problem.''