Tag Archives: pipeline fight

The Rooster

*Testosterone fueled post to follow. If that is not your thing, I suggest skipping to the pretty photos below.*

I am angry and I am pissed.

When that happens, I turn to my “angry music” playlist to help me get through. So truth be told, the only music I’m listening to right now is “Pissed Off’s Greatest Hits”.

One of the songs on constant loop is “Rooster” by Alice in Chains. Like so many other songs of the “grunge” era (to which I fully subscribed) it is a slow moving, heavy and “sludgy” tune that takes a while to build up, but when it does, it delivers.

While lyrically it tells the tale of a Vietnam vet, I have selfishly adopted it as my theme song for the fight against the PennEast pipeline. Just a few lyrical samples:

Ain’t found a way to kill me yet
Eyes burn with stinging sweat
Seems every path leads me to nowhere

Here they come to snuff the rooster, aww yeah
Yeah here come the rooster, yeah
You know he ain’t gonna die

They spit on me in my home land

Am I being melodramatic? I don’t care.

The song lifts me up, gives me the strength to keep up the fight and allows me to puff out my chest with pride.

True story … this morning I walked out into the thriving and somewhat frigid fall garden with only a t-shirt and shorts on. The iPod was all set up and I hit “play”. It felt goofy as hell at first but then it kicked in.

I was the “Rooster” as I paced my backyard.

Everyone I’ve met over the last few months is the “Rooster”.

The single mother who stood up to the trespassing surveyors was the “Rooster”.

The guy who has spent countless hours researching the non-viability of this natural gas pipeline is the “Rooster”.

Shit, my wife is the frickin “Rooster”.

Since I’m acting all boastful at the moment, here is this “Rooster’s” garden that is looking all sorts of awesome at the moment:

fall driveway

 

fall front

 

fall maple leaves

 

fall driveway 3

 

fall planter bed

 

fall driveway 4

 

fall front 2

 

fall planter bed 3

And just to throw it in their face even more, I purchased a bunch of bulbs I plan on getting in the ground the next few days.

This gardener ain’t gonna die.

NIMBY – Not in My Backyard

We’ll get to NIMBY in just a moment.

We were recently interviewed by NJ.com about our dealings with the potential PennEast pipeline.

You can read the article here.

NIMBY

My wife and I were both happy with the results of the article as it fairly portrayed the plight from our specific perspective. We were nothing but honest. Yet as I’ve learned over the past few months, you never know how these types of interviews will pan out in the media so you have to remain skeptical. This one worked out OK.

Aside:

I cannot say enough about the support we’ve received from friends and family who’ve already shared this article or offered up kind words along the way. People at work have stopped by with a thumbs up. Strangers from across the globe have encouraged us to keep up the fight. Say what you want about social media, but it has been an incredible opportunity to connect with those under similar circumstances. United we stand.

Aside over.

I understand that exploring reader comments associated with an article can be an exercise in maddening futility. It is a slippery slope trying to reason with someone whose sole purpose is to troll you. Everyone is a tough guy or a know-it-all when debating on the WWW and to engage them is generally a waste of your time.

But I did it with our article … and I’m glad I did.

Here is the comment that lead me to some true introspection:

Witch CC (And I bet that isn’t your real name you silly goose) said: “NIMBY, but others no problem.”

Oh that NIMBY. The go-to argument for the pro-pipeline/pro-fracking contingent.

Not

In

My

Back

Yard

NIMBY-sign-0411b

NIMBY is a tough one. If we are honest with ourselves, we suffer from the NIMBY mindset on a daily basis, often without being conscious of it.

“I’m glad ‘blank’ didn’t happen here. Oh well, time to buy more junk on Amazon.com”.

“Those poor people living in ‘blank’. Let me check the DVR again.”

“There was an accident where? Oh good, it won’t delay my commute into the office.”

Is this a reality of life? I guess depressingly so. If we didn’t apply NIMBY we would be paralyzed with concern and fear 24 hours a day.

It hurt to type that last sentence.

When we learned that our property was going to be directly impacted by the “proposed” (a word that gives me fits now, BTW) PennEast pipeline, you bet your ass I was all NIMBY. I never felt more nimbified in my entire life. You want to come take my land, against my will, all in the name of greed? It’s about to get all NIMBY up in here.

An attack against my land is a direct attack against my family. This is where I raised both of my kids, where I taught my son how to catch a baseball. This is where my dog roamed free and chased the rabbits. This is where I planted trees in the name of literally settling down our roots. I picked this land for a reason and you are now fucking with my family.

Will my kids ever wander into the backyard again? Worse than that, will we drink the water out of our well ever again? I need to put “No Trespassing” signs on my lawn, why? Is my largest financial investment in serious jeopardy?

How can you not view something like this from a purely personal point of view? It’s not like they provide you with a fair warning ahead of time. Gently soothe you into it all. It felt like survival, not merely as an inconvenience as it is sold to the public. You return the gut punch with a gut punch of your own, only you have no frickin idea where to throw that punch. Utter chaos.

But then the NIMBY feeling slowly starts to lessen. Or I should say the NIMBY feeling changes course. It just takes some legitimate amount of time to settle in and realize what and who you are contending with. That initial shock subsides as you fortunately, or unfortunately, realize you are not alone. NIMBY people meet other NIMBY people and then meet former NIMBY people and things start to change.

“Not in my backyard” morphs into “Not in my neighbor’s backyard either” and into “Not in my community” and eventually into “Not at all”. If I had to come up with a cute little catch phrase, I’d call it BIFTS:

Bad

Idea

From

The

Start

We are unfortunate to be in the beast’s path but this issue is bigger than us. This is about pursuing more sustainable and cleaner sources of energy. This is about respecting our environment and appreciating what we have been granted, not to mention paid to preserve. This is about fighting against the abuse of eminent domain by a private company in the name of the almighty dollar. This is about logically looking at the project and realizing, maybe it makes no sense at all.

We’ve shared our story not for your sympathy. I can say that with 100% honesty. We want to get the word out on how easily this can happen to ALL of you. Stay aware, ask questions and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

This is transforming us as a family. It has been stressful and unnerving but we’ve become significantly less nimbific. We hope to carry that ideal with us well beyond when this pipeline is inevitably shot down.

That is ultimately the message we want to convey.

Thank you Witch CC.

 

 

 

 

 

Pause

True story.

I had this post completed about ten minutes ago.

And then I deleted it.

Because it sucked.

So now you are reading version 2.0. I don’t know if it’s any better, but it is definitely more real.

I hope I’m not coming across as whiny with my series of posts the past few months. I realize we are not dealing with a life and death situation here (although somewhat debatable … couldn’t resist). I know things could be much worse.

But the uncertainty of our situation with this proposed pipeline makes it so difficult to not only relax, but concentrate on anything else. There are meetings to attend each week, reading material to absorb and official letters to read, interpret and interpret again. Keeping active does the mind well but it is during the down time when the brain starts to wander and wonder.

Originally I had written a whimsical post about the onset of fall and pieced together what I thought were the different phases of autumn as it pertains to the garden. It felt insincere when I went back to read and edit it, so without much thought, I deleted it all. It didn’t work and needed to go.

I haven’t felt whimsical in a long time and it felt dishonest to pretend to be so now. This blog has always had a lighter tone and hopefully some day it will return to that. That was how I felt at the time and I’ve come to realize that I’m only capable of writing in a manner that matches my mood.

That mood today is one of uncertainty. And as I photographed the garden in its current autumn state, I found myself desperately wanting fall to stick around. I am so dreading the dark and cold and dreary winter. I’ve come to realize that my garden is in its peak in fall and I just want it to stay that way for a long ass time.

So with that inspiring set-up (haven’t lost the sarcasm a bit) here are the bittersweet photos of my autumn garden.

Little bit of every color here.

driveway bedd fall

 

This shot represents the onset of fall with the fall colors of the Itea (Sweetspire) ‘Henry’s Garnet’ and Clethra (Summersweet) but with summer still hanging around with the never say die Petunias in the background.

fall back deck

 

Spent flowers just about ready to throw in the towel.

boltonia fall

sneezeweed fall

sneezeweed fall 2

 

The richness in color and texture is evident here and damn I wish I could hit the “pause” button.

side bed fall 2

 

Subtle changes on other plants warn of it what is to come.

abelia fall

phlox fall

geranium fall

 

My beloved grasses are all like “Sorry dude, we can only hold up for so long.”

northwind fall

clethra northwind fall

rots fall

amsonia fall 2

 

Flame grass is literally on fire and I can’t take my eyes off  of it.

flame grass fall

fall 5

 

And some are blooming (Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’) and some are on their way out (Clethra and Joe Pye Weed).

clethra joe pye fall

 

 

 

An open letter to PennEast

It’s 1:07 AM and I can’t sleep.

Again.

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.

PennEast - backyard

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.

h12

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 …

Yours truly.

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.

PennEast

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.

John Markowski                

Another pipeline rant

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?

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.

no

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.

How fun.

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.

well

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.