At Congressman Scott Garrett’s district office Thursday in Glen Rock, local activists brought to the representative’s district staff a unique mingling of local and national issues. A New Jersey chapter of Food and Water Watch, which coordinated other events around the state, presented the office with a petition that they say addresses both Bergen County and national concerns.
Local residents may be familiar with the controversy surrounding Tennessee Gas, which in June won federal approval for construction of a 40-mile pipeline between Pennsylvania and Mahwah. The project attracted attention from area activists last spring.
Matthew Smith, the North jersey regional organizer of Food and Water Watch, which organized Thursday’s event, said the concern is that it’s “set to go through really our last remaining wilderness in Bergen County.”
The group believes that the pipeline, which is currently planned to run underneath a reservoir that provides drinking water for much of Bergen County, could pose health hazards to those outside the Mahwah area.
“Just because it’s not happening here specifically in Glen Rock,” borough resident and Glen Rock Environmental Commission member Naomi Gamorra said, “twenty minutes away there’s a pipeline and the industry is not responsible.”
After federal, state, and county approval for construction of the pipeline, the environmentalists believe that they must turn away from the immediate local concern and focus on the big picture.
This led to a gathering at Congressman’s district office in Glen Rock, to meet with staff to discuss an issue more associated with Washington politics than local concerns. By delivering a petition, signed by 170 constituents of the district, the activists requested that the representative support a ban on liquid natural gas exports.
The group argues that these exports encourage the kinds of pipelines that Tennessee Gas plans to construct in Mahwah, without providing tangible benefits to the local population.
“If we allow that gas to be exported we’re not going to see any of the benefits, so essentially we get all of the negatives and none of the positives,” Smith told Patch.
The group says that natural gas exports, by facilitating overseas sales in more profitable markets, encourage more dangerous drilling and pipeline construction. Seeing no viable path to stopping the pipeline from being built through Bergen County, they now seek to instead address the broader national issues that they say lead to such projects.
As according to the district office’s policy, press did not have access to the constituent meeting, but those inside said the staff inquired about their position on the pipeline.
The Congressman, in a statement released by his Washington office, said simply, “I always value and appreciate input from my constituents. As Congress continues to debate solutions to the challenges facing our nation, I hope more people will share their thoughts and views with me.”