Local 825 Business Manager Greg Lalevee responds to anti-pipeline editorial with a call for objectivity.

As business manager of an organization with 6,500 members, most of whom reside and raise their families in New Jersey, I would like to take issue with several of the points in the Jan. 2 Press editorial, “New pipelines aren’t good energy policy.”

To begin with, the headline is never substantiated in the editorial. Instead of discussing the policy at all, it focuses on public sentiment exploited by a growing list of opponents who are “raising alarms about environmental risks.”

It is ironic that after warning against oversimplification, the editorial is steeped in oversimplification against pipeline construction. For example, its choice of words belies objectivity: “Slashing through a substantial portion of the environmentally sensitive Highlands … ” and “… residents are worried about the immediate dangers involved”

This slanted, loaded language simply echoes what is found on anti-pipeline websites and Facebook pages, where emotion and opinion gush as if they were facts. Here are some real facts to consider:

Environmental sensitivity.

At the end of 2013, our operating engineers successfully completed the New Jersey portion of the Tennessee Gas “Northeast Upgrade.” This $2 billion pipeline extended 105 miles through Pennsylvania and 23 miles through New Jersey, crossing over several state-owned preserves and parks, including the Appalachian Trail, Monksville Reservoir, Ringwood State Park, McCormack Pond and the Ramapo Reservation.

While opponents like to show the excavation and construction process, we prefer to show the construction route after the work is completed and the land is restored. In this case, the park was meticulously cared for and restored with the utmost consideration of our environment.

Public safety.

Two years ago our operators laid 42-inch pipe from Linden, N.J., to Manhattan. More than 20 miles through some of the most densely populated cities in the nation, the SpectraEnergy “Northeast Extension” passed under roads and rivers and in the shadows of the Bayonne Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline.

The pipeline route crossed the Arthur Kill waterway to Staten Island, crossed the Kill Van Cull to Bayonne, and was extended through Jersey City to the Hudson River, where it was threaded beneath the river to midtown Manhattan.

The maneuvers were handled flawlessly, without incident or injury, testimony to the training and skill of our operating engineers.

The federal government has established and enforces comprehensive, rigorous standards governing all aspects of pipeline construction, operation and maintenance. All levels of government and government agencies are involved in regulating pipelines that are built throughout the United States.

Pipelines are an integral part of a sound energy policy and they are far safer than transporting natural gas or petroleum products by barge or rail.

Local 825 Operating Engineers are highly skilled and experienced in pipeline construction. But we are also residents who raise families in the same communities where we work. Our members are active outdoorsmen and women who are committed to preserving the environment for future generations.

To suggest that we are driven only by consideration for jobs at the expense of public safety or the environment is in itself a gross oversimplification.

Instead of fanning anti-pipeline hysteria, we call on the Asbury Park Press and locally elected public officials, to examine objectively the realities of pipeline construction and not fall for or indulge in either oversimplification or political expediency.

Greg Lalevee is business manager of IUOE Local 825.

[Read the original editorial “LALEVEE: Don’t fan anti-pipeline hysteria” on Asbury Park Press]