Penn East Pipeline Moved Away from School

The most recent PennEast pipeline goes the natural gas line but keeps its closeness to Lower Nazareth Elementary in the Nazareth Area School District.

Residents of both communities have expressed worries about having the 108-mile pipeline near their schools.

The move of the pipeline is not related to safety concerns and away from Moore Elementary is portion of a more substantial rerouting earlier this month declared, said PennEast employee ( spokeswoman Patricia Kornick.

“While PennEast welcomes feedback from landowners, municipalities, services among others, the latest reroute that transferred the pipeline slightly away from Moore Township Elementary School wasn’t because of the closeness of the pipeline to the institution,” Kornick said within an email.

It was part of a larger reroute strategy pipeline officials submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission earlier this month, in which the school also happened to be affected.

Kornick pointed out it is common for utilities, including natural gas pipelines, to run at schools that were near.

There’s energy infrastructure, including underground natural gas pipelines near schools throughout Pennsylvania and across the country, she said.

Beneath the prior proposed route, the pipeline was a bit more than a quarter mile or at its closest point, said feet 1,990 Northampton Area Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik.

The most recent route that is planned has got the pipeline eight-tenths of a mile from your institution, or more than 4,000 feet.

The pipeline will remain six-tenths of a mile, or about 3,000 feet at its closest point, from Lower Nazareth Elementary, Kornick said.

Despite more space between the pipeline and Moore Elementary, Kovalchik is still concerned. Route 946 provides the sole access into and out of the elementary school. The pipeline continues to be slated to cross the highway near its intersection with Hokendauqua Drive.

“Our concern was if something would happen, from an overall safety point of view, we might involve some trouble getting students out of that place due to the closeness of the conduit,” Kovalchik said.

On Feb. 24, the school board submitted a letter outlining its concerns to FERC, which is ultimately responsible for approving the undertaking.

“Is there still a danger?

The pipeline remains too close, said Jean Rundle, Moore resident and Northampton Area School Board member.

“I just do not feel comfortable with it.”

Gary Brienza, lawyer for the Nazareth Area School District, is glad to learn the pipeline was moved away from Moore Elementary, but remains “extremely worried” about the pipeline’s proximity to Lower Nazareth Elementary.

He is expecting an upgrade that fulfills Nazareth Area School District is provided by PennEast.

“If not, I assure you and the PennEast pipeline developers that our participation and opposition to the project will intensify,” Brienza said.

Nazareth district officials expressed their resistance within a public forum before FERC to the route at Northampton Community College in February, Brienza said.

Also Lower Nazareth Township managers sent a letter to FERC summarizing their concerns regarding the pipeline’s path, though they didn’t take a position for or against the job.

In the letter, they requested the pipeline be directed toward the undeveloped farmland in the township, and be establish as far away from Lower Nazareth Elementary as you can.

PennEast is in the “pre-application” phase of its own job, which will run 108 miles of pipeline from Wilkes-Barre to Trenton, N.J., cutting through the center of Northampton County along the way.

In this phase, until they submit a final application FERC, probably in July pipeline officials are seeking public feedback concerning the route and will continue to make changes based on those opinions.

The newest changes to the planned route were declared earlier this month and included transferring the pipeline away from one of the Bethlehem Authority’s water main lines. That change was made in response to concerns regarding the proximity of the pipeline.

There were also changes to where the pipeline and it would cross the Appalachian Trail and a subdivision, a Lower Nazareth subdivision, plus Trio Farms, respectively in New Jersey.