Deep f’n breaths.
First there was this clown show:
Then this heart warming story:
And then this little gem you may have seen today on your Facebook sidebar:
If anyone is looking for me, I’ll be hanging with my grasses.
Deep f’n breaths.
First there was this clown show:
Then this heart warming story:
And then this little gem you may have seen today on your Facebook sidebar:
If anyone is looking for me, I’ll be hanging with my grasses.
It’s 1:07 AM and I can’t sleep.
This has become the norm for the past two months so I’m used to it by now. Eventually the body will shut itself down even if the mind doesn’t follow suit. A few hours later, I’ll wake up, roll out of bed in a fog, groan and try to recall if I actually went ten rounds with Tyson while I was sleeping. Because my body sure feels like it. Part of it may be the fact that I’m 43 and not the young buck I used to be. The other part, well, I have you to blame.
The threat (and I use the term intentionally) of your PennEast pipeline is slowly and effectively ripping through the heart of everyone in my family. The uncertainty of our future is the only topic of conversation in our home right now.
Quick aside – this is where I should probably tell you that your proposed natural gas pipeline is due to cut directly through our backyard. And by backyard, I mean in front of the kids playground. Go ahead and look it up, 1 Bellis Lane, Kingwood, NJ. Got it? Good, because you’ll need that as reference for the remainder of this letter.
My daughter has asked me numerous times how someone can waltz right in, seize our land (not to mention destroy her swing set) without us having any means to fight it. I have tried like hell to frame a response that she could comprehend but I’m failing miserably. Any advice on what I can tell her? I tried your statement of “we don’t go through backyards” but for some reason, it didn’t resonate. She suggested we call the police, which broke my heart, but I told her they were actually too busy tracking down another one of your surveying companies who was trespassing.
As each day passes, my parenting skills are eroding. I’m half hearing what the kids are saying and I have no ability to shield them from my emotions. And while they are young and involved in young kid things, they feel it. They get it. They want mom and dad’s attention and admittedly, they aren’t getting it right now.
I am an avid gardener and garden writer and you’ve killed all of my spirit on that front. I can’t bear to set foot outside and dream of what we are potentially in for the next few years. Gardening is all about patience, future planning and the joys of watching it all unfold. It is why I purchased my large park-like lot ten years ago.
You’ve forever destroyed that vision.
In some ways, I want to commend you for allowing my kids to be exposed to one of life’s most important tenets – Greed always wins. Because that is what it is and you know it. It didn’t take long for us to get up to speed …
Actually, one more aside before I proceed.
Quick aside #2 – we were first notified of the July re-route in late August. We were provided with a whole 23 days to come to grips with what was going on, educate ourselves on all things gas pipelines and provide our input to FERC.
Seems fair, three weeks to deal with a life changing event.
I’m not looking to argue renewable energy vs fossil fuels, not only because I’m no expert, but because if I do I know I’ll immediately be labeled as “one of those environmental crazies”. Silly and crazy people who care about the environment, what a bunch of nut jobs, eh? They can take their valid concerns and shove it, right?
While we are on that topic, I’ve read that your PR person likes to refer to the naysayers as a “minor contingent” that does not fairly represent the majority who are clearly in favor of your pipeline. Now I have only been at this for two months or so now (have I mentioned that already?), but I think it is safe to say that the majority are not “in favor”, but uneducated as to the details of the project.
Just in my township alone, I’ve had to make people aware that NONE of the gas will be used by anyone along the route. That PennEast, as a private company, can claim eminent domain and grab a nice chunk of your property (and it does not equal #retirement by the way). And that you can dig a nice swath through our preserved lands we have funded as tax payers.
I then like to inform them that many of us, my township included, live in what has been labeled as an “arsenic hotspot” which of course terrifies us all when it comes to our personal wells. When they learn that this is no amateur analysis, but the analysis of one Dr. Tullis Onstott, Princeton University, they are drawn in. And you know why they listen, because we ALL have personal wells we rely on for our drinking water.
Fortunately for you, your application to FERC already covered this. You’ve indicated that there will be “no construction within 150 feet of any wells”.
Hold on … I literally had to pause before typing that last sentence. I could not stop laughing. That is a good one.
I know someone who can refute that statement in 2 seconds …
Our well is less than 25 feet from your designated “construction zone” and close to 75 feet from the pipeline center. Not to mention the construction zone is 2 feet off of our deck.
Once word spread about this complete well misjudgment (my guess is that your consultants were out of Red Bull and having already missed two deadlines, really had to rush this in) at least a dozen other landowners were quickly identified as being in the same predicament.
Throw in the fact that you intend to use Class 2 pipe rather than the Class 4 pipe your partners lobbied for and I’ve really pulled the uninformed in. Clearly the lives of country folk ain’t as important. They love that one.
So me thinks if you were to be upfront and honest and you know, actually attempted to talk to all of the citizens along the pipeline route, your suggested “vocal minority” would be much larger. But I guess I can’t blame you because working as a clandestine operation has clearly worked in the past and your buddies at FERC let it all pass through without a hint of oversight. I’d probably put in a minimal amount of effort as well.
I just realized that the emotions I’ve felt while writing this letter mirror the emotions we’ve all felt since we’ve heard of your little pipeline project.
We’re tired from owning the burden, as lay people, to show why we not only don’t want your pipeline, but the facts behind why we do not need it.
We’re angry from the realization of how this all works. Call me naïve, but I thought my government had my back. I thought they would actually hold you to a standard that all other companies are held to.
We’re scared to look into the future to see where this all ends. We know the values of our homes will reduce dramatically (and I read your horrific assessment in the application so spare me the retort). “Hey want to buy my house, oh don’t worry about the “kill zone” label.”
We’re concerned because we know we’ll need to test our wells weekly. Drinking water will never feel safe.
Rinse and repeat.
Thank you in advance for taking the time out to read this letter.
I look forward to your rebuttal.
Shit is getting really real.
The PennEast pipeline was the topic of the morning on New Jersey’s charter radio station “New Jersey 101.5”. You can read about it here.
The host was clearly in favor of it, because you know, it isn’t coming through his backyard. That and he clearly doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the environmental impact. A real fun listen.
Many of us non-supporters called in and made it onto the air, but he wanted nothing to do with hearing the other side. I know these hosts like to incite an argument and troll for ratings purposes, but none of us are in the mood right now for playful banter. We’re pissed, tired, worried and unsure of our futures.
Want to see an example of how to piss us all off?
— Bill Spadea (@BillSpadea) September 30, 2015
Really? I couldn’t resist responding.
I hate everyone right now.
A few hours after that, word spread that there were surveyors around the corner from here. They were potentially looking to survey illegally since so many of us have denied them access to our properties.
You had to know I’d place mine in a garden bed.
Without hesitation, I hopped in my car and located the crew, snapped a few photos and headed home. This is normal day to day life for us right now. We feel under attack and paranoid. Ready to fly off the handle at a moment’s notice. I don’t even trust the mailman anymore. I just saw him glance at my backyard as he drove by.
Turns out they were surveying legally, but as expected, all of the vehicles were from out of state. That “create local jobs” sales pitch, kind of a joke. But hey, it’s worked in the past so why not continue pushing the same bullshit.
We all continue to read the gargantuan PennEast application, released late last week, in great detail and have discovered a fun new game along the way. We like to call it “What will lead us to drink today?”. Such doozies as labeling the “Delaware River” as the “Hudson River” are par for the course.
Today I combed through new access roads that will be built along the proposed route that have not been communicated to those in its path.
I feel like I’m solving a case like Encyclopedia Brown back in the day. Except ultimately I’m not solving a case. I’m making a discovery that just adds to the angst. I really wish there was a Bugs Meaney I could punch in the face to feel better.
Aside – I loved the Encyclopedia Brown book series as a kid and continue to reference it to this day. Even if one of you remembers Bugs Meaney, this was worth it.
Where was I? Oh yeah, another example of PennEast trying to sneak this thing through with out following the proper protocol.
My favorite discovery today (Thanks Mike S) has to be this gem:
“There are no private wells within 150′ of pipeline construction workspaces.”
If it wasn’t such a cluster f, this statement would be hilarious. Grab me the tequila.
After learning of this little ditty, I went outside and officially measured the distance from my wellhead to the center of the “proposed” pipeline.
We are looking at roughly 75 feet to the “center”.
That doesn’t include the easement that they will be cutting out to put the pipeline in. That would be 25′ on each side of the pipeline, so my well will be less than 50′ from the construction zone.
Bartender, pour me another.
Over the next 2-3 weeks, we are in the process of registering as “intervenors” with FERC. This allows those who intervene to be part of any legal proceedings in the future. Kind of a big deal and totally not promoted by FERC.
Luckily we have superstars on our side and have it covered. Each township is holding a meeting to aid those in understanding why and how they should intervene. I’ve got our township lined up for next week.
This is going to be a long process.
We will need some serious mental endurance to survive.
So that is why I decided to grow a beard.
A bad one, but still a beard.
I need it for street cred. I need it as inspiration. When you fight the man, you need a beard.
But I’ve failed so many times in the past and have always given up. I figured a true “gardener” needed a beard but eventually laughed that one off.
But this time is different. I’ll suffer through for the cause.
Last night my daughter told me “Dad, you have so many bare spots in your beard. It will never be complete.”
The irony is palpable.
Today is our 19th wedding anniversary and I’m fairly certain that we talked about nothing else other than the pipeline. Such is life in 2015. That pisses me off like you cannot believe.
Here is the latest:
This past Thursday, PennEast formally applied to FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) for their pipeline project. Even though they’ve only surveyed 30% of the affected properties in NJ, they’re obviously cocky enough to think it is sufficient to proceed ahead.
And you know what? Precedent would indicate that they are probably right. FERC has NEVER turned down a pipeline application and as we’ve quickly learned, their role is not as overseer, but as hand holder to the pipeline companies. It is infuriating considering we have all collectively written 3000+ intelligent and valid comments to our “government” yet there is zero confidence that it won’t all fall on deaf ears.
I spent a good part of Thursday and Friday pouring through the formal application. Not a fun read; Fifty Shades it is not. I’ll spare you the painful details (for now), but here are a few gems that are borderline hilarious:
“The proposed Project route has been designed to minimize direct impacts to residences.”
“This one-time upfront payment will increase the property owner’s disposable income.”
“Several historical and recent studies indicate that construction of natural gas pipelines does not adversely affect the values of the properties proximate to the pipelines.”
“Therefore, the Project is not expected to impact underlying property values.”
How do they have the cojones to say all that? “Disposable income” with a “one time” payment. Seriously? They would be “leasing” my property for years to come to line their pockets but would not pay us going forward.
No affect on property values? You stupid SOB’s, you don’t think that is due to the fact that people can’t sell at all? Who wants to buy a house with 36″ pipeline buried in the yard? I could punch you all.
But what set us off more than anything else was this find, a map of our individual residence buried within the bullshit report.
Allow me to elaborate.
We’ve been told all along that the construction zone would be 100′ and da da, it is now doubled to 200′. How fun. I’m sure it isn’t indicative of what is to come.
To pour it on real thick, here are some photos of my backyard as a reference:
Having said all that, we are still fighting are asses off. The anger of reading the application and all its cute little stories only fuels the fire in a big way.
On Friday night we attended an impromptu rally initiated only 24 hours prior. There was a terrific turn out and those driving by seemed to on board as well.
Fun fact #1, we are in the kill zone.
Fun fact #2, that guy holding the sign is the esteemed Dr. Tullis Onstott of Princeton University. Read the hyperlink and tell me it doesn’t piss you off.
What we are learning is that “action” keeps your mind off of things and sitting still only adds to the anxiety. If we could attend a rally or meeting on a daily basis we would do it in a heartbeat.
On to Saturday.
After softball in the morning (a nice distraction) …
… we hit up Milford Alive where pipeline non-supporter, congressman Leonard Lance, spoke and made it a point to visit the Stop PennEast booth. We’ll see where it goes from here, but having him on our side can only help.
Today, in an effort to get out and clear our heads, we finally made a trip out to Mad Lavender Farm. My wife made the discovery via Facebook and we had vowed to get there before the end of the season. Plus, I have failed at growing lavender like a champ so I was curious to see how it is all done.
The farm is tucked back off a local road in Milford, NJ (Hunterdon County) and we were greeted by the owners, two of the friendliest people you could ever meet. We received a personal tour and education on the farm’s operations.
My personal fave was the raised bed of Lavender ‘Phenomenal’.
After being schooled on the soil that they used and how they winter protect the crop, I am determined to give it a whirl myself. We fell in love with the place and look forward to many return visits, hopefully including a fully dedicated blog post.
So with all the anger and fear this potential pipeline has brought about, we’ve also made so many new friends and discovered more about our special region than we could have ever imagined. It is uniting us in the love of our land and of each other.
PennEast should be worried.
One last story.
When we were at the lavender farm, one of the owners mentioned that they had recently rejuvenated a number of apple trees on their property. Each of the trees was loaded with apples and it was all done organically. While there was some pruning and clean up involved, the owner ultimately gave credit to one thing and one thing only …
The bees they added to the farm.
Life Lesson – don’t fuck with the land.
Yes, autumn has officially arrived and I will just have to accept it.
It may be in the high 70’s/low 80’s today, but judging by the current state of the garden, the fall has been here for a while now. And I have to admit, it looks freakin incredible.
Whether I like it or not, I realize that the Fall brings out the best in my own garden. Ornamental grasses are the focal point/star-of-the-show right now and as you may know, I like me some grasses.
Throw in some blooming perennials, fading-in-a-good-way plants, foliage changes on shrubs, some much needed rain and cooler weather and you have a recipe for some stunning views.
Here is the latest out in my garden:
Veronica ‘Royal Candles’ still blooming after multiple pruning attempts, Sedum ‘Autumn Fire’ and Micanthus purpurascens (Flame Grass).
Dwarf sneezeweed and Micanthus purpurascens (Flame Grass).
Dwarf sneezeweed and Amsonia (Bluestar).
Panicum (Switch Grass) ‘Northwind’, Itea (Sweetspire) ‘Henry’s Garnet’ and Clethra (Summersweet).
Red Twig Dogwood and Physocarpus (Ninebark) ‘Diablo’.
A different view of the prior mentioned plants.
Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ and Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed) ‘Gateway’.
Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed) and Boltonia (False Aster).
Amsonia (Bluestar) and Physostegia (Obedient Plant) ‘Vivid’.
I work in the “corporate world” and holy crap do we love buzz words. In fact, it may be the most entertaining part of my job. Each and every week a new word or phrase appears out of the blue and each one is better than the next (sarcastically speaking). I’ve considered doing some extensive research into the origin of many of these words/phrases but I get too annoyed along the way to dedicate that much time.
Some of my personal favorites:
We must account for the various swim lanes as we create our timeline.
Let’s make sure we apply our best practice
This is a large undertaking, we don’t need to boil the ocean here.
I ask that we leverage our best practices on that project.
Hi John, I know the meeting will run until 11:00, but I have a hard stop at 10:45.
I realize this is a complex task, but let’s take care of the low hanging fruit first.
After comparing the two documents, can you identify the delta?
Seriously, can we not use the word “differences” any more? Does “delta” give you more street cred?
I could go on and on but you get the point.
There is, however, one additional buzzword phrase that holds a special place in my heart – Elevator Speech. I heard the term during my very first day on a new job back in 2002 and I still cringe when I think back on it.
An elevator speech is a brief, persuasive pitch that you use to spark interest in what your organization does. You can also use it to create interest in a project, idea, or product – or in yourself. A good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 20 to 30 seconds, hence the name.
Simple enough, right? The concept is easy to grasp but what I missed/misinterpreted was that you don’t actually recite it word for word while on an elevator. Literal much John?
We were all asked to create our own elevator speech as it related to our department. I pieced together an awful attempt and had it semi-memorized. I anticipated being quizzed along the way and walked around in a state of stress. If I don’t nail this I’m doomed.
It sounds dumb now, but I made sure to never take the elevator at work. I imagined a moment when someone would pop out of the corner on the elevator, Candid Camera style and yell “Elevator speech, go!” I would then panic and embarrass myself in front of all of the other elevator riders. I remember the night sweats like it was yesterday.
Fast forward to today and I’m at ease with the idea of an elevator speech. Not that I could rattle one off at a moment’s notice, but I do now ride the elevator without fear. Nothing stresses this grizzled veteran any longer.
I spent this past Saturday at a “Stop the PennEast Pipeline” booth at our local Community Day. It was my first foray into the road show circuit that has been touring for over a year now.
To say I was impressed is an understatement. I would dare anyone to approach the tent and not walk away in a fit of anger and bewilderment. The blown up maps alone stopped me in my tracks – the blast zone that impacts the entire township is terrifying. Not to mention the imminent
potential negative impact on our sole source of drinking water.
Early in the day, I spent a good part of my time listening in on the more seasoned presenters and how they approached each visitor. While I’ve become educated in a short period of time, these people have been there from day one and they know their stuff.
My thought was to soak it all in and get good at it as quickly as possible.
And that is when the “elevator speech” concept popped into my head. Without fully realizing it, I had one. While I never cared to pull one together in the past, this one was easy. It rolled of the tongue.
Allow me to test it out:
A private company can invoke eminent domain on preserved lands funded in good part by landowner taxes (of which Hunterdon County is 10th highest in the nation).
The pipeline company pays no taxes to the impacted townships.
Even non directly impacted landowners in affected townships will see their taxes raised and a reduction in their home/property values.
The federal government has never turned down a pipeline application.
Because we live in a “rural” area, the pipe used is of a significantly lesser quality.
A renowned scientist has called the soil in our specific area “an arsenic hotspot”. By the way, everyone gets their water from a personal well.
Over 30 C1 level streams will be crossed by the pipeline and will put a number of endangered species in grave danger.
Only 30% of NJ landowners have allowed survey access which is lower than in any other pipeline fight.
I clocked it in at 33 seconds. May have to scale it back a bit.
What do you think? Can it be more effective?
I used it quite a bit on Saturday (though not as effectively as my counterparts) and it led to a huge outpouring of support from those either unaware of the pipeline or not as up to speed on its potential impact. We had an incredibly productive day with more of the same planned in the near future.
Color this non-supporter of the pipeline as encouraged.
Speaking of encouraged, we’ve been contacting our local representatives (email/standard mail/tweets/etc) with a fervor of late and it has paid off. Take a look at this tweet below.
— Rep. Leonard Lance (@RepLanceNJ7) September 19, 2015
The big boys are stepping in and that can only be a good thing. Hopefully others will soon join the effort. As a group, we continue to pound away at making everyone aware of this horrifically planned project and I find tweeting it gives the biggest bang for the buck.
This battle may be only in its infant stage but we’re ready and equipped to see the denial come to fruition. They messed with the wrong crew and underestimated the power of the people.
Stay the f out of Jersey PennEast.
I just got back from another stakeout.
I kid you not, it all started innocently enough with me running around in my backyard trying to track down a Monarch butterfly. The best way to describe the scene would be to imagine a toddler chasing a seagull on the beach. A slight giggle, no chance in hell of ever catching it but still enjoying the thrill of the chase. Along the way, there is a lot of falling and running into things, maybe even a slight drool.
As I’m about to give up on the hunt, I hear a mysterious vehicle pull into the street. How do I know it is mysterious? When you live on a small street without only 3 houses inhabited, you learn the sound of everyone’s vehicle over time. This one was not one of those.
I quickly see that it is a white “company” vehicle and I’m on high alert. That is life these days with the threat of the PennEast pipeline. The company is attempting to survey potentially affected properties through all means shady since only 30% of NJ landowners have granted them access (Don’t mess with Jersey). Illegal trespassing, utilizing electric companies to survey for them, even fake bat studies (you read that correctly) are the norm.
We have “no trespassing” signs all over our property and will not hesitate to call the authorities if a surveyor shows up. We denied all access and have completed all of the necessary paperwork to ensure that holds true. I am also keeping an eye on neighboring properties to make sure there are no shenanigans.
So I set up camp at my favorite hideout (I’ve done this a few times before as you can tell) where I can see the entire road and take pictures if necessary.
If there is any sign of surveying/drilling, I will be on that shit like an animal. This is what you turn into when dealing with situations like this.
Turns out there is no foul play (for now) as the truck immediately departs. If there were any concerns, I’d have photos including their license plate. Yes, our new reality.
Part of being able to function on a daily basis is to make light of the situation. We’ve taken to blaming PennEast for everything. If the drier stops working, it’s PE’s fault. If there is a large collection of turkey vultures sitting on my roof plotting their next move, it is because of PE. If Shop Rite is out of white peaches, you guessed it, f’n PE. It gives us all a much needed laugh.
Another fun family activity is to run outside if we hear the sound of a plane/helicopter/drone. PE has been surveying from the air so we all know what to do if a low flying object appears.
Kids love having the OK to throw up the middle finger. They need to learn just how powerful it can be at the right time. I’m so proud of them.
We’ve even gone so far as to imagining a future where there is no pipeline and we create a restaurant that sits on the originally proposed path. Ask my wife, it’s true. I recently jumped out of the shower one morning and announced what one of our starters would be at the “The Pipeline Cafe”:
Eminent Romaine – we’ll decide when you are done with this delectable salad and we’ll decide what we want to charge you.
Sick, I know.
But in all seriousness, there has been an incredible push from the people to defeat this monster. Just last night I attended another meeting to further educate the public on how to get involved and most importantly, what to do next now that the pipeline company, PennEast, plans to submit their application this month.
Over the last year, amazing leaders have emerged from all over the affected townships and you would swear they all fight pipelines for a living.
No, not even close.
These are farmers, teachers, professionals, you name it, who have dedicated their time to energizing this fight and most importantly, keeping the people engaged. I am proud of it all and look forward to continuing the fight, how ever long that may be.
Who knows, part of my fight beyond red shouldered hawks, environmental concerns and proximity to my well just may be protecting the milkweed and those ever elusive Monarchs.
Today I will take a back seat and allow the photos to do all of the talking for me.
I know you all visit here for my sick wordsmithing skills but you’ll just have to wait for another day.
Because if I write too much it distracts from the purpose of today’s post.
And that would be a travesty since the 15th of each month is dedicated to all that is blooming in our gardens.
Some times we just want to see beautiful photos and bypass all of those silly words that get in the way.
So with than in mind, I won’t write a thing today.
Because, you know, I care.
Truly I do.
Like, a lot.
I have a hard time letting go of the summer, the heat, the well earned sweat and the longer days. The stark reality of winter can force me into the fetal position. No matter how hard I try, I cannot deal.
But you knew that already.
Before that reality sets in however, I do truly cherish the fall for oodles of reasons. And we are right on the cusp as we speak. The current state of the garden tells me that.
Last night I tried to take some photos of the “just about autumn” garden from angles I typically forget to enjoy. Here are just a few for your viewing pleasure. To the shock of no one, you’ll notice all are anchored by the ornamental grass.