In New Jersey, if you can’t win an argument on the facts, just say “property tax relief.”
Judging from the misleading mailer PennEast recently sent Hopewell Township residents, this tried-and-true appeal is the energy conglomerate’s latest—and to date, most desperate—effort to convince us that we’ll benefit from its proposed pipeline.
The truth is, it would put our drinking water at risk of arsenic contamination, use eminent domain to seize our neighbors’ homes, reduce our property values, threaten our school children and residents with the potential for deadly explosions, pollute our air and damage our health.
PennEast failed to mention any of this in its mailer, nor the fact that it would build a damaging end station on Pennington-Lawrence Road in Hopewell Valley. The station would regularly vent gas containing carcinogens and fine particulate matter, impairing air quality and emitting significant greenhouse gases.
New Jersey already has 50 percent more pipeline capacity than needed to meet gas demands, even in the harshest winters. As opposition mounts to a pipeline that isn’t even needed in order to meet the state’s energy demands, PennEast pulled out all the stops in their direct-mail piece full of misleading claims:
- They say it would “reduce” energy prices in the state, but the New Jersey Rate Counsel, the state’s consumer energy watchdog, has called PennEast “unfair to ratepayers” who would pay more for gas because the costs of this unneeded pipeline would be passed through to ratepayers, while PennEast’s investors enjoy a 14 percent guaranteed return on equity rate. Additionally, recent federal data show gas prices increasing as more pipelines are built in our region.
- They say the pipeline would “support” 12,000 jobs. In fact, experts found this number is grossly exaggerated, and PennEast will only create 10 ongoing jobs.
- They claim that pipeline gas is “clean” energy, but it’s not. Gas pipelines leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas even more harmful than carbon dioxide.
- To top it all off, PennEast says the pipeline will reduce property taxes. Yet PennEast’s claims about property taxes are hardly plausible.
Even if PennEast would do what it says, its contribution to the public coffers would amount to less than 1 percent of property taxes collected in the Township, as gauged by Hopewell’s 2016 property tax revenue of more than $104 million.
What’s more, these minor contributions are short-lived. PennEast would stop paying property taxes after only five years. We’d pay the health costs and safety risks forever.
PennEast ignores the significant costs it would inflict on our community, such as reduced property values, contaminated wells, and damaged open space and farmland, not to mention the price we’d pay if there was a deadly explosion.
We won’t be deceived by PennEast’s obvious ploy to suggest that they can pay off Hopewell Township to accept their unneeded pipeline. The long-term damage done by a pipeline would not be outweighed by the modest tax revenue PennEast would contribute during the few years that it would pay taxes.
Beyond the harms to our health and environment that have been documented by regulators, scientists, and the Hopewell Township Board of Health, the pipeline would ruin open space and farmland that we’ve preserved and paid for with our taxes.
PennEast would take something that belongs to all of us and use it for its own private gain. We can’t let that happen.
Despite what PennEast says, no good can come of its pipeline. Join me in calling on our federal and state elected officials to stop it.
— Kevin D. Kuchinski
Kuchinski is the mayor of Hopewell Township