Pilgrim FAQs

[Click here for a downloadable copy of these FAQs]

Frequently Asked Questions about the Pilgrim Pipeline

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What is the Pilgrim Pipeline proposal?

Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings has proposed building two parallel pipelines connecting oil terminals in Albany, New York to a refinery in Linden, New Jersey. Bakken shale oil would be sent south; refined products (including kerosene) would be sent north. Their proposed route crosses 5 counties and 30 municipalities in NJ and 5 counties and 25 municipalities in NY.

Why do you oppose these pipelines?

Pilgrim’s proposal creates unacceptable risks to public health, safety and the local NY and NJ economy while offering little to no benefits. Our primary concerns are…

  • The proposed pipeline route travels through densely populated residential areas, near schools, hospitals and businesses, and would cut through environmentally sensitive and protected areas, including the Highlands region in NJ, which provides drinking water to more than 4.5 million people in NJ.
  • Pilgrim’s proposal cuts across 3 major drinking water rivers, numerous smaller streams and two EPA designated sole source aquifers (the Ramapo Aquifer and the Buried Valley Aquifer) in New Jersey. In New York it crosses 232 regulated streams. A major pipeline spill could contaminate the drinking water for the several million people and dozens of municipalities who rely on these irreplaceable water sources.
  • Oil pipelines leak. Between 1986 and 2013 pipeline accidents have spilled an average of 76,000 barrels per year or more than 3 million gallons. This is equivalent to 200 barrels of oil spilled into our environment every day.
  • Crude oil contains “BTEX” – benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. The EPA stated “maximum contaminant level goal” for benzene is zero because it causes blood diseases and cancer. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada sampled Bakken crude. Based on its data, the 200,000 barrels per day of oil that would be pumped south equates to the following volumes per minute: 71 pounds of benzene, 122 pounds of toluene, 34 pounds of ethylbenzene and 190 pounds of xylenes. A spill lasting only ten minutes can be expected to release about two tons of BTEX. A one-minute pumped release (spill) from the southbound Pilgrim pipe could amount to almost 6,000 gallons containing about 70 pounds of benzene. This is enough to contaminate 1.7 billion gallons of water making it unsafe for human consumption.
  • Pilgrim’s pipelines would be able to transport 400,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil and refined products per day, virtually every day, for the next 30 to 40 or more years. During that time the risk to our drinking water will be based on their ability and resources to perform proper maintenance, monitoring, training and management of operators, not to mention external factors beyond their control, which account for 44% of all pipeline incidents. The people of NY and NJ are unwilling to accept these risks.
  • Major pipelines regularly reduce local property values and pose serious health and safety risks to nearby residents and first responders alike. These risks include toxic/carcinogenic fumes, forced evacuation of homes for prolonged periods of time, and permanently polluted drinking water. The absence of virtually any public benefit makes Pilgrim a bad deal for New Jersey and New York.
  • If these pipelines are approved, it will set a precedent for future oil development through our watersheds and densely populated communities.

How do pipelines, rail cars, and barges compare in terms of safety?

All modes of oil transportation leak, create accidents and have significant health and multifaceted safety concerns.  A report from Environmental Research Consulting (an industry-supported report) shows that between 1998-2007, nearly 80% of the annual average oil spilled came from pipelines. Rail and barge combined for only 7% of the annual average spillage over the same period.  According to the Congressional Research Service, the most recent data available indicates that pipelines spill three to four times more crude oil per ton-mile transported than both rail and barges combined.

Stating that pipelines are “safer” than other forms of oil transportation depends on how the word “safer” is defined.  The Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (a federal organization whose purpose is to improve pipeline safety because it is so troubled) does not define “safer” but does have “safety goals,” which, for 2016, are to:

  • Reduce the number of pipeline incidents involving death or major injury to between 26-37 per year.
  • Reduce the number of hazardous materials incidents involving death or major injury to between 21-32 per year.

PHMSA has other goals set for environmental impacts but they are separate from its safety goals.

Pilgrim executives have quoted PHMSA as stating that oil pipelines are the “safest mode of transportation.”  This may be true in terms of deaths and injuries (although accepting 37 deaths a year does not sound particularly reassuring), yet PHMSA’s own data shows that the amount of oil spilled from pipelines (on a ton-mile basis) is greater than that spilled from trains and barges combined.

The bottom line is that talking about safety can be very misleading unless it is clearly defined and Pilgrim has tried to use this to its advantage.

Are pipelines more dependable than barges as a steady source of fuel?

Pilgrim has argued that barge traffic can be interrupted by severe weather conditions, which do not affect pipelines and is, therefore, an inferior form of oil transportation.  However, this assertion is not supported by actual historical facts …

  • The Hudson has never been closed in recent history due to ice.
  • Hurricane Sandy would have prevented the pipeline from accessing processed oil products if the pipeline had been operating at that time.
  • Sandy did not cause a fuel shortage in NY as the terminals near Albany had several days’ supply in storage.  The Albany region typically has several days’ supply of these liquid fuels in storage at regional terminals.  Interrupting the supply system for twenty-four or even thirty-six hours would not cause a dire shortage.

The more important question is: which mode of delivery to the Albany region is more likely to be stopped completely for a week or more, a single pipeline or a network of independent barge/towboat units?

A pipeline leak results in a shutdown while a barge leak may not prevent other barges from continuing to provide gasoline.  If one tug-barge unit is taken out of service even for a month, there are many substitutes available.  However, the time required to repair a pipeline and demonstrate to PHMSA that is it fit to resume operations is unpredictable and can result in long outages.

The recent leak of the Colonial Pipeline, a key source of gasoline for many states along the East coast, is a good example.  A leak was discovered on September 9, 2016 in the Colonial Pipeline Line 1 near Helena, Alabama.  Line 1 was closed for twelve days to allow construction of a 500-foot long bypass.  This disruption from September 9 through September 21 caused gasoline reserves on the East Coast to fall from 64 million barrels to 55.5 million, the biggest one-week drop in U.S. history.  Fears of regional shortages of gasoline were realized.  Closed pumps at filling stations in several states followed, as did temporarily higher prices.

Twelve days after Colonial’s Line 1 reopened there was a fatal explosion in the same line nearby that shut off flow for another eight days.  This was caused by a Colonial contractor performing maintenance/repair work when its track hoe hit the pipeline, sparked and exploded, killing the track hoe operator.  (See the FAQ here on the ability of new pipeline technology to reduce the risks of leaks).

Conclusion:  A multi-day interruption in supply would be required in order to cause shortages in the Albany region.  Reliance solely on a pipeline that could be shut down for many days would put the region at greater risk for shortages than reliance on a waterborne transportation system that is flexible and adaptive.

Will Pilgrim remove the barges and rail cars that are currently transporting oil through New York and New Jersey today?

Pilgrim’s proposal will not replace dangerous oil trains currently carrying Bakken oil from the Albany area down the West side of the Hudson and through Northern New Jersey. The trains transporting oil through this region do not go to the Port of Albany, the proposed starting point for these pipelines. Trains carrying crude oil down the CSX Hudson River line come across NY from the West, turn South at Selkirk, and take their oil to refineries in Philadelphia. Adding pipeline capacity between Albany and Linden will not reduce this rail traffic to Philadelphia.

Consequently, the proposed pipelines would not reduce the risk to Hudson Valley and northern New Jersey towns. Instead, Pilgrim’s pipelines would actually increase the risk to towns because they will be exposed to a potential crude disaster by both the existing rail and barge traffic and the new pipelines, which will carry highly flammable and explosive fuel in both directions.

Furthermore, with Congress’ recent lifting of the US oil export ban, and the Bayway Refinery’s position that it is not interested in connecting to the pipeline, Pilgrim’s proposal would not reduce any of the current risks from existing oil transportation nor create increased energy resiliency or independence. It is simply a financial opportunity for Pilgrim.

Would these pipelines alleviate rare instances of gasoline shortages and long lines at the pump like the ones New Jersey and New York experienced in the wake of Super Storm Sandy?

No. Pilgrim’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) sent to the New York DEC blames the problems with fuel supplies after Sandy on the lack of a pipeline to move refined products north along the Hudson Valley. The DEIS implies that restricted ship movements in NY Harbor strangled fuel supplies in the upper Hudson Valley for days. All other published accounts of the impact of Hurricane Sandy say otherwise.

Hurricane Sandy severely disrupted the gasoline supply chain in the NYC/Northern New Jersey metro area, creating a number of broken links.

  • Sandy closed the Bayway refinery for 13 days and the only other refinery in the NY harbor area, Hess Port Reading in Woodbridge (which shut down after January 2013), preventing the processing of crude oil, so there was no oil to load onto the barges even when the river was open, six days after the storm.
  • There was a lack of backup power at pipeline pumping stations and gasoline storage facilities and loading facilities in the New York area. Without these terminals, pipelines can’t offload gasoline into the storage tanks, which are needed to feed gasoline trucks bound for nearby service stations. For three days after Sandy, all fuel terminals in the New York metropolitan region were completely out of service.
  • Sandy knocked out power to critical pipelines that provide the bulk of the region’s refined product needs. The Colonial Pipeline lost power to its pumps in Linden and the same thing happened to the Buckeye Pipeline, which runs gasoline into New York from the Midwest. (There is no reason to expect Pilgrim would not have suffered a similar fate). Shortages were also caused by the lack of electricity at gas stations, and the inability of tanker trucks to get through tree filled streets.

The bottom line: Pilgrim’s pipelines would have had absolutely no ability to prevent shortages in the NY metro area caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Even if Pilgrim’s claims were true, the risk of having gasoline shortages for a few days is simply not comparable to the risk of endangering the water supplies for more than 5 million people for 30 to 40 years, not to mention the risks of property damage and health damages from leaks which would last far longer than the inconvenience of a few days without gasoline.

How would the pipeline impact local property values?

Pipeline spills (shown via a number of case studies in MD, TX, OH, the Gulf of Mexico region, etc.) – or even the possibility of pipeline spills – have been shown time and again to adversely impact property values. In several documented cases, directly impacted properties lost between 10 and 40% of their value.

The reputation impacts alone are significant – properties near spills will usually see a 5-8% reduction in value. Groundwater contamination will lead to more permanent value losses, particularly where homes rely on well water. Even if houses aren’t directly damaged, the stigma and perception that the next incident could affect them is significant.

Another analysis from Western Washington University notes that a home’s value is negatively and significantly affected by proximity to a petroleum pipeline.

Who’s responsible for reviewing / approving the Pilgrim’s proposal?

The Federal government’s jurisdiction over interstate oil pipeline construction is limited. The US Army Corps of Engineers only regulates federal water body crossings, so interstate oil pipeline siting falls to state and local governments. (It is a common misperception that FERC would have authority over this project. FERC has authority over natural gas pipelines, not hazardous liquid pipelines.)

In New Jersey, the Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is the lead permitting agency for interstate oil pipelines. They are responsible for the majority of environmental and water quality permits Pilgrim will need. Applicability determination from the NJ Highlands Council will also be needed, although Pilgrim does not qualify by any common-sense standard. New Jersey, unlike neighboring New York, has no law or regulations in place to assess the cumulative environmental impacts of an oil pipeline.

In New York, the SEQRA review process allows many different agencies to apply for the lead environmental review role. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has announced that it would be a co-lead agency with the Thruway Authority (which would benefit from land use fees from Pilgrim).

In both states, local governments are planning how to best protect their residents and critical resources by filling the regulatory void left by the broad state and federal oversight.

What’s Pilgrim’s project timeline?

After numerous delays, Pilgrim finally announced in November of 2015 that they had filed their application for the New York portion of the project. Pilgrim recently announced that they would be filing for their New Jersey permits in early 2016. It will likely take at least 12-18 months for all permit reviews to be completed and final determinations made. However, all of the New Jersey DEP water-related permits (other than wetlands) must be addressed by the DEP within 90 days of filing. If they are approved, Pilgrim is free to begin construction in non-wetlands areas if there are no other actions which would prevent this.

Won’t homes, business or other assets be indemnified in the event of damage caused by a pipeline spill?

No. In a public forum held in Kinnelon, New Jersey, Pilgrim representatives stated that property owners (private and public alike) would not be indemnified.

Won’t the proposed pipelines provide jobs for people in New York and New Jersey?

Pilgrim’s two proposed pipelines have generated discussion about new jobs for local workers. Pilgrim claims it will need about 2,000 workers for one season of construction and will need 50 permanent employees. Not only would the majority of jobs be temporary, but Pilgrim plans to outsource this work to its partner in Tennessee.

These proposed oil pipelines will have virtually no positive effect on long term economic growth or supply of oil, while adding a totally new risk to our water supplies and environment.

Proponents argue that the pipelines “would provide the most economical and environmentally responsible way to move those critical fuels,” totally ignoring data provided by the Congressional Research Service that shows that pipelines spill three to four times more oil than barges per billion ton miles. This argument allows proponents to ignore the risk to the water supplies for millions of people in order to assuage their conscience in going after a few new jobs.

We all agree that jobs are important. We can’t have a healthy economy without them. We can’t have a healthy economy without water either. Energy from oil can be replaced with other sources. There are no known replacements for fresh water. Oil pollution of aquifers can last for many years and residents and businesses affected by spills can face years of higher taxes to pay for cleanups and/or alternate sources of water. The expected decrease in property values along the proposed route not only hurts those home and businesses owners, but also the entire community as tax revenue would decline with the property values depreciated.

The Solutions Project research at Stanford University shows that a complete transition to renewable energy will create over 136,000 more 40-year jobs by 2050 in NY and NJ than those from the fossil fuel and nuclear industries. This means a gain of over 5.4 million man-years of jobs for both states over the next 35 years. By comparison, Pilgrim’s pipelines will create at most, 4,000 man-years of jobs, mostly for out of state workers.

Renewable energy is a win-win for communities who need jobs, functioning ecosystems, safety from pipeline leaks, and a livable planet for future generations. New Jersey, which is already a national leader in solar energy, would do well to continue down the path toward renewable energy jobs.
We encourage any labor unions who would support these pipelines to instead push for true long-term job growth in the renewable energy sector and help train their members to fill those positions, which are much more likely to be permanent, instead of alienating thousands of residents with a focus on short term jobs at their neighbors’ expense.

What do Pilgrim’s pipelines have to do with fracking?

Pilgrim executives have stated that the pipeline would carry Bakken Crude oil from North Dakota and possibly Canada. The North Dakota oil is drilled via fracking, a method of extreme extraction which involves huge amounts of water, sand and chemicals which are pumped thousands of feet underground under high pressure to break apart shale deposits to release oil and gas. Although fracking for shale oil is not occurring in New Jersey or New York, residents of these highly populated states, and the natural resources upon which they rely, are still subject to spills and explosions as Bakken oil currently enters the region by train and barge, and Bakken oil is considered highly volatile and more combustible than other forms of oil. The risk of disaster will only increase if the proposed pipelines are allowed.

Won’t the modern pipeline safety technology used by Pilgrim greatly reduce any risk of a spill or leak?

Despite Pilgrim’s rosy promises, most pipeline leaks and ruptures aren’t attributed to outdated technology. According to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration (PHMSA), the federal agency responsible for pipeline safety, 44% of pipeline leaks are due to non-technical issues such as excavation, operation error and forces of nature.

There is no industry standard for how quickly pipeline leaks must be identified. A Wall Street Journal Report in January 2014 found that since 2010 pipeline monitoring controls discovered less than 20% of oil spills. One of the worst and most expensive oil spills in U.S. history has been attributed to human failure. It occurred in July 2010 when a pipeline ruptured near a tributary of Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, spilling as much as 1 million gallons of oil. Local health problems forced relocations and a $1billion dollar cleanup effort is still ongoing. A two-year investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board in July 2014 found that a “complete breakdown of safety” led to the spill.

And even the best-case industry response is still not good enough. During a 2013 pipeline spill in Mayflower, Arkansas the operator turned off the pipeline in 16 minutes, but by that time it had already leaked at least 200,000 gallons of oil into a residential community. And in January 2015 a Bridger pipeline spill in Montana leaked more than 50,000 gallons of Bakken crude into the iconic Yellowstone River. These are just a few of the hundreds of significant pipeline incidents reported annually by federal safety regulators, raising fresh concerns about the ability of pipeline companies to detect problems before it’s too late. Furthermore, according to the PHMSA the single greatest cause of pipeline incidents and leaks doesn’t come from technology failures but from outside excavation and construction activities.

Pilgrim commissioned a study that showed their pipelines will be good for the environment by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Do you agree?

First, it should be understood that building the pipelines does not mean that all barge traffic will come off the river. Crude oil is carried south to offload points besides Linden that cannot be reached by the proposed pipeline. Also, there are waterside terminals along the river on both the east and west sides that have no planned pipeline laterals and will still be serviced by barges. The lifting of the crude oil export ban has made it more likely, in general, that oil will continue to move by barge, rail and the pipelines (if they are built), leading to an overall increase in greenhouse gases associated with oil transport, NOT a decrease!

Second, Pilgrim’s study is deeply flawed in two ways:

  1. It assumes that the volume of crude oil and refined petroleum products carried today by barges, that the two pipelines would replace, is equal to the combined capacity of the two pipelines when, in fact, that volume (combined southbound and northbound transport) is only about 50% of the proposed pipeline capacity. A comparison of the GHG emitted from actual recent barge shipments with those attributable to the pipelines at full proposed capacity of 400,000 bpd (barrels per day) of crude and refined products, plus those due to oil barge traffic that the pipelines could not replace, shows that the new delivery system would, in fact, produce 81% more greenhouse gas than all recent barge shipments. See table A, below.
  2. It fails to take into account the GHG emissions from the increased shipment of oil by train to Albany that would be required to fill the pipeline to its capacity. The volume of oil loaded onto barges between March 1, 2014 and Dec 31, 2015 was equivalent to an average of 0.9 oil unit trains/day. Filling the pipeline to capacity (200,000 bpd of crude oil) plus maintaining the barge shipment volume the pipeline would not replace, would require about 3.2 trains per day arriving in Albany. Thus at least two more trains per day, averaging 71,000 bbl each, would be needed which would generate an increase of 211% in GHG emitted to North America air over today’s train shipments. See Table B, below.

All told, the Pilgrim pipelines, running at full capacity, would directly or indirectly cause the release of almost three times (198%) the tonnage of GHG than is due to the current methods of moving crude from North Dakota via Albany to New Jersey. See Table B, below.

Table A

Sources of GHG Total MT/Year at Current Level of Barge & Pipeline Shipments Total MT/Year with 80% Reduced Barge Shipments & Pipelines at Capacity Percent Change
Barges 36,444 7,289 -80%
Pipeline Operations 0 58,642
Total 36,444 65,931 81%

Table A: the amounts of GHG in metric tons (MT) per year produced in the two scenarios based only on the changes in barge and pipeline shipments.

Table B

Sources of GHG Total MT/Year at Current Level of Train, Pipeline & Barge Shipments Total MT/Year with 80% Reduced Barge Traffic, Increased Train Shipments & Pipelines at Capacity Percent Change
Trains to/from Albany 328,500 1,022,000 -80%
Barges 36,444 7,289 -80%
Pipeline Operations 0 58,642
Total 364,944 1,087,931 198%

Table B(*): the amounts of GHG in metric tons (MT) per year produced in the two scenarios including train shipments.  (*)Values for barge GHG emissions are based on unit values from Pilgrim’s study (metric tons of GHG per barge-tug unit delivering 100,000 barrels 160 miles then returning empty). The 80% reduction in barge shipments is CAPP’s best estimate given that Pilgrim did not provide this level of specificity in their study. The value for GHG emissions from pipeline operations is taken directly from Pilgrim’s study. Values for GHG emissions from train transport are based on CAPP estimates of train engine horsepower and and calculations of resulting emissions.  Assumptions and calculations used to produce this analysis are available upon request (via the Contact button on this web site).

What would be the health and safety impacts of the pump stations along the pipeline route?

Pump stations provide another point of leakage. Even though they are above ground and easy to maintain, spills are not uncommon. For example, on July 10, 2015 a spill that sent an estimated 4,200 gallons of crude oil running down ditches in eastern Madison County, Illinois. A preliminary report from IEMA said the spill was caused by a fitting on a 20-inch pipe inside the pumping station blowing out.

Will these pipelines reduce the cost of gasoline and other petroleum products?

According to Pilgrim’s website, crude oil would be shipped south to New Jersey refineries in one pipeline and the resulting refined products would be shipped north to Albany in a second pipeline. Pilgrim makes no claims about this process reducing the price of the refined products for consumers. The market for oil and refined products is open and would be expected to go to the highest bidder (aside from long term contracts).

As stated elsewhere in these FAQ’s, Pilgrim has said it does not plan to bring new oil into the region because demand has been steady which indicates there will be virtually no change in price based on demand. The fact that it is being shipped back to Albany makes it even less likely that it would be appealing for NJ oil distributors since they would have to truck it back to NJ as opposed to buying oil directly from in-state refineries or other existing sources in or near NJ.

The residents of our two states are being asked to take on all the risks and public costs of these major oil pipelines with little, if any, benefits.

Isn’t Pilgrim’s proposed route almost entirely on existing Rights of Way, creating little, if any, impact to nearby residents and property owners?

Pilgrim will need to lease or condemn all, or part of, several hundred privately owned parcels along its proposed route. Thousands more property owners located just off the Right of Way would face secondary impacts including threats to their property values, health and safety risks, and loud noise and heavy traffic delays from a long and disruptive construction process. There’s also the risk that heavy excavation activities including blasting in some areas could damage existing high pressure gas lines that lie in close proximity to multiple locations where Pilgrim proposes to trench their two pipelines.

What are some of the streams and other resources most imperiled by this project?

In New Jersey, the pipelines are proposed to cross the following streams: Stag, Havemeyer, Bear Swamp Brook and Ramapo River. These are all brook trout reproduction streams. Other Category One streams on the proposed route include the Wanaque and Pequannock Rivers.

Preliminary analysis of the route indicates five rare plant occurrences on or within a quarter mile of the proposed route. The proposed route crosses a Natural Heritage Priority Site supporting two State Endangered plant species.

The proposed route crosses numerous Green Acres Program sites including Ringwood State Park, Ramapo Mountain State Forest, Ramapo Valley County Reservation, Sunset Valley Golf Course, Troy Meadows, West Essex Park, Passaic River County Park, Ash Brook Reservation, Middlesex Water Company Reservoir, Rahway River Parkway and Roosevelt Park.

In New York, Pilgrim lists crossings of 232 streams and 8 aquifers, including the Hudson, Wallkill, and Ramapo Rivers, and Coxsackie, Esopus, and Catskill Creeks. The Catskill and Delaware Aqueducts, which supply water to New York City, would be crossed.

If pipelines are regularly inspected, how is it that spills—including such big ones—happen every year? And if operators are monitoring and controlling pipelines 24/7, how can major leaks go undetected for days?

First, “smart pigging”, the modern technology touted by Pilgrim as state-of-the-art, typically only occurs every five years, which may not be frequent enough.

Second, the terabytes of data transmitted by smart pigs are not analyzed in real time — data analysis can take up to nine months.

Third, smart pigs have a detection rate of only about 90%, so they clearly miss indications of problems.

Fourth, the pipeline owner/operator has to act on inspection test results in a timely manner, which doesn’t always happen as demonstrated in the recent high profile pipeline spills in Michigan and Arkansas.

The oil business is cyclical as we can see with today’s price of oil. In times of low prices pipeline owners look to cut costs, which can include maintenance.

Also, Pilgrim has stated they are only obligated to have their outsourced spill remediation team show up within 24 hours of a spill. This isn’t the time frame in which they promise to stop the spill or clean up anything, just the time in which they promise to have emergency crews on the scene. Even with a best case scenario for shut off valve locations, there would still be 1.25M gallons of crude and oil products in any ten mile section that could leak out of a pipeline rupture or break even after the emergency valves have been shut.

How will this oil actually damage the water supply if the leak occurs in a pipeline miles away from my town?

If a pipeline spill were to contaminate the Hudson River watershed in NY (there are 232 stream crossings along the route) or the Ramapo River or Buried Valley Aquifers in NJ, irreplaceable water sources beneath the anticipated route of the Pilgrim Pipeline, it could take decades before the water for millions of residents would be safe to consume. Despite efforts to clean up an oil spill that polluted a Minnesota aquifer in 1979, the water still wasn’t safe to drink 17 years later because levels of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes still exceeded safety limits established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This is an issue that affects much of our region as water from the Highlands is used by communities as far away as Newark.

Why is it such a big deal when we have fuel pipelines all over the region?

Most of the pipeline network in our area is for natural gas transport, which does not contaminate water when it leaks. This would be the first major oil pipeline to cut through the protected and environmentally sensitive Highlands Region, which provides drinking water to half of New Jersey residents. If a pipeline spill were to contaminate the Hudson River watershed, or the Ramapo River or Buried Valley Aquifers, irreplaceable water sources beneath the anticipated route of the Pilgrim Pipeline, it could take decades before the water for millions of residents is safe to consume.

These pipelines are proposed to run not just through the Highlands Region but are planned to cut through about 10 miles of the Highlands Preservation Area.

Aren’t pipelines banned in the Highlands Preservation Area?

Yes. Of the over 800,000 acres that make up New Jersey’s Highlands Region, the Highlands Act designates approximately 398,000 acres of exceptional natural resource value as the Highlands Preservation Area. The Highlands Act mandates that the Department’s rules provide enhanced environmental standards for development in the preservation area to protect its important water, ecological and cultural resources. Pipelines are specifically banned in the Highlands Preservation Area. However, the Highlands Council could provide an exemption to this rule as could the NJDEP.

In its Permit Readiness Checklist document filed with the NJDEP in 2014, Pilgrim stated, “Pilgrim believes that the proposed use will be consistent with the intent of the Highlands Act.”

If you don’t want the pipeline, what alternatives do you suggest?

The Pilgrim Pipeline web site states the following. Fact: There would be no appreciable increase in the volume of crude oil transported between supply and distribution terminals in Albany and in Linden, whether originally produced by hydraulic fracturing techniques or any other production mode. The volume of crude oil is based on demand, and the demand in the New York and New Jersey region has been fairly steady for years. The only variable is the method of transportation between the two points. Since these pipelines would bring no new oil to the region and are only a financial play, there is no need for alternatives in this specific instance.

When looking at oil infrastructure in general, some of the world’s largest economies, including Germany and Brazil, are already well on their way to transitioning to clean, renewable sources of energy. (En route to its 2050 goal of 80% of the nation’s power being supplied by renewables, Germany broke another renewable energy record on May 11, 2014 when it reached almost 75% renewable power market share). And as the cost to bring online renewables continues to drop dramatically, new oil pipelines would only lock us into a more polluting and expensive source of energy for decades to come.

New York is aggressively pursuing adding renewable energy options into its power mix and New York Governor Cuomo has ordered state regulators to create a mandate for 50% renewable energy in electricity by 2030. New Jersey, as the third leading supplier of solar in the country, continues to integrate renewable energy into the grid.

A study from the University of Delaware countered the usual argument that renewable energy is too expensive and unreliable to fully power the US electric grid. The study showed that by 2030, renewable energy can supply electricity 99.9% of the time at costs comparable to today’s prices.


Are you fighting this pipeline because of climate change as was done with the Keystone XL?

We are fighting it primarily because of the risks to our water, health and property values. At the same time, there is a recognized urgency across the world and in our country and our region to move away from our high degree of dependence on fossil fuels for both economic and environmental reasons (renewable technologies create more jobs and fossil fuels create many types of environmental hazards). If the money being spent on these pipelines (which have virtually no energy benefits for NY and NJ) were instead invested in renewable energy for NY and NJ this would have significant long-term beneficial effects.

Are they planning on exporting this oil?

According to Pilgrim’s website, the oil would be refined in New Jersey and finished products would be sent northbound to Albany. Pilgrim claims the pipelines would only replace barges that are used on the Hudson River today to transport products “between supply and distribution terminals in Albany and Linden, New Jersey.” (The Phillips 66 Bayway refinery in Linden is the only refinery in the area). The recent lifting of the 40-year ban on exporting US crude oil and new information from Pilgrim in its New York permit request requests raises significant questions, however, about the veracity of this claim:

  • In documents recently filed with the NJDEP, Pilgrim showed that its proposed route will connect with marine terminals in New Jersey which will give it access to many other oil transportation facilities making both nationwide transport and export distinct possibilities. Kinder Morgan has marine terminals in Carteret and Perth Amboy. Carteret is KM’s largest terminal with four barge and two ship docks, and was recently upgraded to provide another 1 million barrels of storage capacity. These terminals provide marine vessel trans-loading, connection to the CSX and Norfolk Southern Rail Lines, and direct connection to the Colonial, Buckeye, Sunoco and NY Harbor pipelines. The Colonial pipeline connects to refineries in Houston, however, it must be noted that the Colonial pipeline only carries processed oil products northward.
  • Pilgrim has stated its planned capacity (in each direction) to be 200,000 bpd (barrels per day). Over the past 24 months, the total shipments of crude oil moving by barge down the Hudson from the Port of Albany to all terminals have been less than 71,000 bpd (barrels per day), and of this total amount the shipments to Linden have averaged less than 33,800 bpd. This raises the question of why Pilgrim is proposing to construct a pipeline whose capacity exceeds by five-fold the actual amount that has been moving from the Port of Albany to the refinery in Linden (which is the objective stated in Pilgrim’s business plan) and far exceeds the total actual volumes shipped by barge in the last three years. Assuming Pilgrim Pipeline has a financially sound business plan, there is clearly something it is not sharing with the public.
  • Pilgrim has contended that it will not ship tar sands products since that would require heating facilities. However, Global Partners, the oil purveyor who currently has a contract to ship oil from Albany to Linden via barges, has applied for a permit for a heating facility at the Port of Albany. (This permit has been temporarily placed on hold but could be approved in the future.) A similar facility in Perth Amboy at the marine terminals Pilgrim plans to reach also recently received the necessary air quality permit to process tar sands for trans-loading.

The one factor in all this which has remained unchanged since Pilgrim first announced its plan is that the Phillips 66 Bayway refinery has consistently stated that it has no interest in connecting with Pilgrim’s pipelines and is building its own rail facilities.

So in summary,

  • Pilgrim has proposed a 200,000 bpd pipeline to replace current shipments of 33,800 bpd for a customer who has repeatedly stated they are not going to use it;
  • Pilgrim will connect with marine terminals and other pipelines that can export crude oil outside the US and to refineries in other parts of the US;
  • Heating facilities to support tar sands product shipments are one permit away from being complete at both ends of the proposed pipelines; and
  • US crude oil can now be exported.

Can you say, “Keystone of the East?”

Does CAPP advocate one type of oil transport as better/safer than others?

No, all forms of oil transport have serious problems and risks. Transporting Bakken Crude is inherently dangerous and there is little evidence this will change in the future. We should consider the long term costs and benefits for any major energy infrastructure project. As the costs to bring online clean, renewable sources of energy continue to drop dramatically, new oil pipelines would only lock us into a more polluting and expensive source of energy for decades to come.

Many people, when first told about these proposed pipelines, start to compare pipeline risks to those of trains and barges in an effort to decide what works best. People compare the memory of seeing oil train explosions on television with stories about major pipeline leaks like the recent one in Santa Barbara California. This is the reaction that Pilgrim and the fossil fuel industry want us to have. They want the debate to be about the best way to transport oil. They don’t want us to think about the fact that many of these explosions and spills were because of their unwillingness to spend money on safety. They want us to accept the current unsafe conditions as status quo – something we have to live with.

Instead, we need to change our paradigm and recognize that the risks of fossil fuels are not inevitable and can be removed if we all support a rapid transition to completely feasible renewables.

Would you be less opposed if they change the proposed route?

No. Any route will have to cross hundreds of streams and, in this area of the country, run near/through residential neighborhoods and business zones. Moving the pipeline out of the New Jersey Highlands, for example would only ensure it runs closer to population centers in northern New Jersey.

This is not a case of crying NIMBY. Our goal is to stop this project.

If these pipelines could be made leak-proof, would you still be opposed to them?

Credible people in the oil industry have not claimed that pipelines could be absolutely leak proof, so this is not a useful discussion. PHMSA data from 2001 to 2011 compelled pipeline engineering consultants Kiefner & Associates, Inc., to conclude: “The ‘average’ pipeline therefore has a 57% probability of experiencing a major leak, with consequences over the $1 million range, in a ten-year period.”

Even Pilgrim knows this is not possible. At a recent public appearance in Kinnelon, Pilgrim officials claimed that the pipeline would not leak while simultaneously refusing to indemnify any property owners for damages from a potential spill. If the pipeline could be perfectly leak-proof they would be smart to offer indemnification.

At the end of the day we are not here to address hypotheticals. Our job as parents, citizens, advocates, etc. is to deal with the very real and serious risks associated with Pilgrim’s proposal.

What are the major causes of pipeline leaks?

Excavation and construction activities near pipelines are the single greatest cause of pipeline ruptures and leaks. 44% of pipeline leaks are due to external causes not under the control of pipeline operators.

Does you believe this pipeline will ultimately carry tar sands oil?

Regardless of the type of crude oil it carries our concern is the very real and serious risks associated with Pilgrim’s proposal. (See the FAQ on Are they planning to export this oil?)

What will happen if the pipeline is not built – will it affect our supply of gasoline?

The pipeline isn’t built today and we have a steady supply of oil and gas products in our region and even Pilgrim has said there is no need for additional oil in this area as the market can only consume so much.

Will local residents and businesses see any benefits from this pipeline?

The refined products will be sent north to Albany and any minor tax revenue or temporary jobs will be far outweighed by the long term costs including risks to our water supplies, destruction of local property values, wear and tear on public infrastructure, risks and expenses to first responders, etc. Residents of New Jersey and New York carry all the risks with little or no benefits.

Are you against all forms of oil transportation?

No. While no one can deny our current reliance on fossil fuels, we shouldn’t accept any major oil and gas infrastructure project as wise or inevitable. We should weight the merits of each project on their benefits, risks and costs. The Pilgrim proposal fails to stand up to a risk benefit analysis for NJ and NY.

If you are successful in preventing all oil transport, how would we live without oil products?

Our goal is not to prevent all forms of oil transport. It is to stop Pilgrim’s dangerous and dirty pipeline proposal. Our local needs are more than adequately addressed by current pipelines and as we become more efficient with our energy uses and more renewables come into our energy mix, it is highly likely that we will need less, not more oil.

How can a company be allowed to build a pipeline and not be completely responsible for any and all adverse affects?

That’s a good question we should require our elected officials at all levels of government to address.

What is the coalition’s end goal?

Our end goal is to stop these pipelines from being built.

9 responses to “Pilgrim FAQs

  1. Pingback: Coalition to Stop Pilgrim Pipeline (CAPP)·

  2. How do we stop this if the permits are approved and who actually approves the permits? Is it the town or some other governing body?


    • It’s funny that you should ask this now, since we’re working on a detailed post on this very subject.

      If we wait until the permits are approved, it’s basically too late. The time to get involved is during the permit approval process. There are quite a few permits required — dealing with wetlands encroachment, stream crossings, endangered species, flood hazards, Green Acres, etc. Most of these are at the state level, but some are at the federal level. In addition, there’s some question as to whether or not town zoning boards have any power to restrict this project.

      Stay tuned for the detailed post soon.


  3. Members of a local community get together using their local knowledge and map out sites that would be adversely affected by the Pilgrim Pipeline. You can find local meetings in Woodbridge and Oakland on our Events page, with another to follow soon in the Chatham area.


  4. Good detailed work, especially pointing out approx. 1.25 million gallons of fluid within a 24″, ten mile section of pipe. I’m looking for more details on the automatic shut off valves. Do they require power? Do they use wireless or satellite communications? How will operators control the valves, etc. There was a case in Santa Barbara in Sept. 1997 (Platform Irene) where the operator saw the valves shut down the flow, apparently didn’t believe there was a problem, and over-rode the system to continue the flow. A spill of up to 20,000 gallons resulted in terrible coastal damage.


  5. Pingback: New Yorkers: Please Call Gov. Cuomo This Week! | Coalition Against Pilgrim Pipeline (CAPP)·

  6. Won’t the pipeline go under the Passaic River at the river’s source as the river exits the Great Swamp. The pipeline will be on its exit from Morris County on its way to Linden to be refined. if it leaked into the river at this point could it have a BIG impact on water in northern NJ


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