What the Heck is LNG?
Collingswood neighbors, did you know that there are plans in the works to transport highly volatile fracked gas through our region? This liquefied natural gas (LNG) will be transported by truck or train from the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania, a fracking hub where drilling has caused water contamination, to Gibbstown in Gloucester County to be exported internationally. Over its nearly 200 mile journey, this fossil fuel product will travel past homes, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and sites of natural beauty and historical significance. Our town is adjacent to multiple truck/rail routes for this proposed LNG terminal.
What’s the Plan?
This fracked gas will be transported in regular rail cars over existing tracks or by truck over the public roads we all travel. Transporting LNG by rail is virtually untested. Worse yet, the fracking company profiting from this project got a special permit exempting them from federal regulations requiring safer rail car design.
What Could Go Wrong?
In addition to being harmful to the planet (bolstering the fracking industry), this plan endangers public health. An accident or leak on any of these paths could spell major disaster. If vaporized, LNG can flash-freeze human flesh and asphyxiate by displacing oxygen. If ignited, the fire burns so hot it is inextinguishable. Evacuation in a one mile radius is required. Earlier this year in China, the explosion of a LNG truck on a highway exit ramp resulted in the death of 19 people and injury to 172 others.
Who’s Opposed to the Plan?
The growing opposition to the LNG Export Terminal includes health experts, scientists and first responders. The NJ Attorney General has objected to the lack of public safety and environmental impact studies. Numerous environmental groups have lobbied officials to take a stand. Two NJ State Senators (Kip Bateman and Shirley Turner) and three NJ Assembly members (Andrew Zwicker, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Joe Danielsen) have voiced objections. In Pennsylvania, county commissioners and local officials have adopted resolutions opposing the LNG Terminal. Hollywood celebrities. have used their status to argue against this project. The Inquirer Editorial Board has come out against this plan.
What’s the Collingwood Connection?
Part One: Kate Delany, Advocating for the Planet and Public Health
I got involved in this advocacy work through Food and Water Action (FWA), an organization with whom I’ve done local environmental organizing before. Working with Food and Water Action and Delaware Riverkeeper Network I organized concerned Camden County residents to go to their local government officials and ask them to pass resolutions opposing the LNG Terminal plan. The goal of our resolution advocacy was to demonstrate that both residents and officials object to being used as guinea pigs for a plan that’s been rushed through.
And we had some success. Resolutions opposing the Gibbstown LNG Terminal were passed in Runnemede, Pennsauken and Haddon Township. I also connected with some Gloucester County residents involved in resolution advocacy. Together we’ve worked to coordinate and amplify our bi-county efforts. I’ve also had the chance to connect with Gibbstown residents opposed to the LNG terminal planned for their hometown. Hearing their compelling stories has really driven home for me the very real dangers of this project.
Part Two: Jim Maley–Advocating for Frackers, with Tax Abatements to Boot!
At the September 2020 Board of Commissioners meeting, I joined fellow Collingswood residents in asking our officials to pass a resolution opposing the LNG Terminal. It was at that meeting that I learned that Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley is the redevelopment consultant working to broker the deal for the fracked gas terminal in Gibbstown.
It is deeply concerning that the mayor of such a forward looking community as Collingswood is advancing a dangerous fossil fuel project in South Jersey. Pay to Play reporting of NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJ ELEC) notes that Jim Maley made multiple donations to the Gibbstown (Greenwich Township) Mayor, George Shivery, the same year Jim Maley received a contract with the township for his redevelopment work. Though this project will put Gibbstown locals especially at risk, the company behind the fracking transport will get a long term 30 year tax abatement. This for a company that has been exploiting loopholes to avoid full regulation of their plans. Actual engagement with the public about this plan seems to be little to none. Backroom deals with Steve Sweeney seem to be a driving force in this dangerous plan.
Why Does This Matter?
Transporting highly explosive fuel by untested means past neighborhoods and through densely populated areas is simply too dangerous for South Jersey. This project is planned for a region that has already been subjected to environmental disasters such as the train derailment in Paulsboro that dumped vinyl chloride into a creek that feeds into the Delaware River and the water contamination by Solvay chemical company in West Deptford. Proposed LNG transport routes would go through Camden where residents are already fighting for environmental justice. South Jersey residents deserve better. South Jersey residents deserve clean air. South Jersey residents deserve safe drinking water.
And Collingswood residents deserve leaders who will embody good government practices and ethics, who will reject pay to play and backroom deals. Collingswood needs leaders who put people over profits, who believe that lifting up communities involves working with the community, not just brokering sweetheart deals for dubious corporations. Collingswood needs to elect pro-environment leaders, who will advocate for environmental policies. In May, Collingswood residents will get their chance to cast their vote for ethics and good government, for environmental innovation, and for an unwavering commitment to sincere community engagement. These are all needs that I and my Collingswood Together running mates, Bill Johnson and Jen Rossi, can deliver.