Broome County, NY Substitutes Solar Crumbs for NatGas Feast

We have nothing against solar energy–honestly. Yes, in one sense solar competes with natural gas, but hey, let the best energy source win! Truth be told, we need all energy sources, not just one. So please understand this is not a “bash solar” story. However, we do have a problem when politicians and anti-fossil fuel zealots insist we MUST use one source of energy over another. That’s just not American. And it doesn’t make economic sense either. You may hear that solar is cheap and getting cheaper. Some claim solar now produces electricity at a lower cost than natural gas. Not true. Here’s a comparison. Earlier this week Broome County celebrated the startup of a “large” solar farm on 20 acres of county-owned land in Conklin, NY. The official ribbon cutting was a big affair with the county executive claiming the county will save $140,000 a year with the facility–a facility that’s a year-and-a-half late going online. Fair enough. Who doesn’t want to save $140K a year, right? Not that a single taxpayer in Broome County will notice the 10 cents per tax bill they end up saving. Meanwhile, over the past ten years in Susquehanna County, PA (just south of Broome County, shares a border with Broome), natural gas drilling has been going great guns. In Susquehanna County, a single driller, Cabot Oil & Gas, has put $1.5 billion into the pockets of private landowners through signing bonuses and royalties, and has spent another $3.5 billion on drilling (over $5 billion total spent)–all in Susquehanna County. It is an economic miracle. Tax revenues in the county have gone through the roof! Millions have poured into tax coffers because of the gas industry. Cabot, a single driller, is providing 2.5% of all the natural gas produced in the U.S.–from Susquehanna County. And that’s just one driller! There are more drillers in Susquehanna. We’d estimate that at least $7-$8 billion has flowed into the county over the past 10 years. Mind blowing. And yet, here in the Binghamton area, local media has a blackout and refuses to report on Susquehanna County’s economic miracle. Meanwhile, Broome residents are told to get all excited about saving $140K a year. We’re being asked to jump up and down and feel good about a few economic cracker crumbs when 15 miles away everyone eats economic filet mignon. And now a group of antis masquerading as a solar group is trying to snow even more Broome residents into thinking solar is our energy savior. They’re selling a bill of goods…
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NG Advantage Virtual Pipeline Project Near Binghamton is Dead

In March MDN brought you the news that NG Advantage, which had big plans to build a virtual pipeline (gas compression & trucking facility) on the outskirts of Binghamton, NY, appears to have given up on the Town of Fenton location for the planned project (see NG Advantage Looks Beyond Fenton, NY to Build Virtual Pipeline). That impression is now further strengthened by comments coming from the Fenton town attorney at a meeting last week when he said, “My sense is that they [NG Advantage] are abandoning the project.” Abandoning in Fenton, yes. But not outright abandoning the project. Fenton, and indeed perhaps Broome County, is the biggest loser. But rumor has it that NG is looking elsewhere, nearby, for an alternative location. MDN’s sources keep whispering Hancock, NY as a possibility (in Delaware County). We’ve also heard Deposit, NY mentioned (sitting on the border of Broome and Delaware counties, not far from Hancock). MDN remains a top cheerleader to have NG bring their project to MDN’s own neighborhood, truck traffic and all, in the Town of Windsor. Sadly, no word on a Windsor option from our sources. So what did Fenton and surrounding communities achieve with their “victory” in defeating NG’s project in Fenton?…
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NG Advantage Looks Beyond Fenton, NY to Build Virtual Pipeline

In a sad postscript, it appears that NG Advantage, which had once hoped to establish a virtual pipeline operation (compressing natural gas from the Millennium Pipeline) in the Town of Fenton (suburb of Binghamton), has finally given up on building the project in Fenton and is instead looking elsewhere. At least that’s our impression based on a couple of sources. We have no confirmation nor comment from NG–so this is purely our own speculation. However, a local television station in Binghamton recently noticed that NG is loading pipes onto a trailer, moving them out of the former construction site. The Town of Fenton Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) ruled in February that the facility does not qualify as an allowed use under existing zoning regulations (see NG Advantage Loses Zoning Vote for Virtual Pipe Near Binghamton). The Fenton Town Board is in no mood to overrule the ZBA decision, according to Suervisor Dave Hamlin. Case closed–unless NG plans to sue the town to recover costs, or try to force the issue of building the plant–which we don’t see happening. At any rate, MDN has heard scuttlebutt around the virtual water cooler that NG is looking at several other locations–in and out of Broome County. It would be a tremendous loss for Broome if NG locates outside the Greater Binghamton area. Meanwhile, MDN continues to spot XNG trucks (from a virtual pipeline in Susquehanna County, PA) passing through the Vestal, NY area–through densely populated centers–each and every day. They are the very same kind of trucks NG had proposed to use in Fenton. Yet not a peep about the XNG trucks that pass through our community…
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NG Advantage Virtual Pipe Hearing in Fenton an Eye-Opener for MDN

Last night MDN editor Jim Willis attended a Zoning Appeals Board hearing in the Town of Fenton (near Binghamton) where board members held a public hearing on a proposed virtual pipeline (i.e. compressor station) application by NG Advantage. It was, for Jim, a real eye-opener–causing him to reassess previous comments he made about the people opposing the project. Let’s begin with a brief background and the purpose of the hearing. NG previously filed an application with the Town of Fenton to build a natural gas compressor station/trucking facility in the very corner of the township, where it borders other towns/communities (bedroom communities). The people in those adjoining communities, when they learned of the plan, were upset that they had not been notified of the plan. In short order lawsuits were filed, and a county judge ruled that the Town of Fenton Planning Board did not take a hard enough look at environmental and traffic issues related to their approval of NG’s plan (see Judge Rules Against Broome Virtual Pipe, NG Advantage to Try Again). That forced NG to reapply for permits to build the facility. The area is zoned light industrial, allowing certain uses. Among the uses in that area are freight/trucking facilities. Not on the list are compressor stations. A Fenton building inspector researched the issue and agreed (with NG) that the facility fits the definition of a freight/trucking facility. That determination was immediately appealed by a number of people and organizations, including the local Chenango Valley School District. The meeting last night was to hear arguments for and against the finding that the facility is a freight/trucking facility and qualifies as an acceptable use in that zone. There were about 200 or so present for the hearing. Passions ran high. We’d say about three-fourths present were against and one-fourth in favor, judging from applause following various speakers. We will outline the evening and the testimony given below, but right up front we want to apologize to those opposing the project. In previous posts we used strong language to describe them, including the phrase “selfish antis” and the word “bullies.” That was wrong and we retract those statements. While we still disagree with those opposing this facility, we listened closely to their arguments and to their hearts. We found the vast majority speaking against the NG facility were not your typical anti-fossil fuel protesters (although there were a few of those there too). Instead, we found they are simply everyday folks who fervently do not want this facility in their neighborhood for a variety of reasons, including (yes) protection of their children. We heard and appreciate their arguments, and we want to acknowledge their position and attempt to fairly and dispassionately state what that position is…
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Following Constitution Pipe Decision, NY Virtual Pipe Now Vital

1/24/18 Note: We have edited this post to be less incendiary and more respectful of the opposing viewpoint.

Yesterday the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) rejected a request by Constitution Pipeline to overrule the (very corrupt) New York Dept. of Environmental Conservation and allow construction of the pipeline to commence (see our lead story today: Death of the Constitution Pipeline? FERC Refuses to Overrule NY DEC). As we report in that story, Williams is not (yet) giving up the hope and dream of building the Constitution. However, given that tree clearing for the pipeline would have to begin now, and be done by the end of March (in order to save the bats–don’t ask), another year will go by before the Constitution could even begin construction. And it will take a year to build. That’s IF Williams prevails in court. In the meantime, businesses in New York State are DESPERATE to receive shipments of natural gas. Major employers in the Southern Tier of New York had planned to tap into the Constitution and use cheap, abundant, clean-burning Marcellus Shale gas from Pennsylvania, saving them money and lowering emissions. Without the Constitution, what can these employers do? Yes, they can leave the state (and some already have). But there is a solution. NG Advantage is planning to build a “virtual pipeline” in the Town of Fenton, on the outer edge of Binghamton, NY (Broome County). A virtual pipeline is a compressor plant (series of compressor plants) that grabs gas from a pipeline–in this case the Millennium Pipeline–and compresses it and loads it onto special tractor trailers that then deliver the gas to industrial customers like manufacturing plants, hospitals, and even small regional gas distribution systems servicing residential homes. NG’s project got derailed last year when a group of residents living nearby sued, stopping the project in its tracks (see Broome Virtual Pipe Project in Limbo, Fenton Board Refuses to Act). The residents claim three trucks per hour going through side streets will negatively alter the neighborhood. It’s bogus. NG is undaunted. They have patiently, calmly and repeatedly reached out to the community to answer questions and address concerns. NG has more than bent over backwards in an attempt to work with community. NG followed the judge’s directive and refiled the project with the Town of Fenton for a second time. There is a Fenton zoning board hearing at 6 pm on Tuesday, Jan. 23 at the Port Crane Fire Department to consider NG’s refiled request. Residents who are opposed are already gearing up to pressure board members. Pro-gas folks need to show up in large numbers to show the zoning board there is support for this vital project. Let’s not let the other side win this one! Jobs in, indeed the future of, the Southern Tier depend on it…
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Broome Virtual Pipe Project in Limbo, Fenton Board Refuses to Act

In early September, a Broome County, NY judge ruled that the Town of Fenton (Binghamton area) Planning Board did not take a hard enough look at environmental and traffic issues related to their approval of NG Advantage’s plan to construct a facility in the town to compress and load natural gas onto tractor trailers for delivery to regional customers who desperately need the gas–what is called a “virtual pipeline” (see Judge Rules Against Broome Virtual Pipe, NG Advantage to Try Again). The lawsuit was brought by a local school district, which a Freedom of Information Act request reveals is paying approximately $40,000 in legal fees to high-priced lawyers to win the case, stopping the project (we hope Chenango Valley School District taxpapers appreciate their taxes going up to pay for it, and less money available in the budget to “educate” their precious children). NG must now resubmit the project for approval. On Tuesday night, NG did just that–re-applying to the Fenton Town Planning Board. A meeting was held at the local fire hall where some 250 people showed up. The crowd contained those both for and against the project. Unfortunately two of the seven Planning Board members were not present–possibly having resigned due to extreme pressure from bullying antis. So then there were five. Three of the five voted to become the lead agency to review the project, which is the first step in the process. However, three of seven is not a majority. Which puts the project in limbo, not able to go forward. What happens next?…
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Hey Broome County: Enviros Love NG Advantage’s Virtual Pipeline

As we reported in August, a Broome County, NY judge ruled that the Town of Fenton (Binghamton area) Planning Board did not take a hard enough look at environmental and traffic issues related to their approval of NG Advantage’s plan to construct a facility in the town to compress and load natural gas onto tractor trailers for delivery to regional customers who desperately need the gas–what is called a “virtual pipeline” (see Judge Rules Against Broome Virtual Pipe, NG Advantage to Try Again). The judge’s ruling delays the project for months, at least. NG must now resubmit the project for approval by the Fenton Planning Board. Before doing that, NG must first conduct a full environmental impact study and an aquifer study. Even with environmental studies, don’t expect the locals, who appear to have very closed minds, to accept the outcome (see 2nd Approval for Virtual Pipeline in Broome County Not Assured). Some (many?) of the locals have been unduly influenced by charlatans who swoop into town and talk about “bomb trucks” and other nonsense, and then leave town once the locals are hot and bothered and agitated. These out-of-towners are professional agitators–paid by Big Green to do what they do. In a bid to counter the lies and smears pedaled by these people, NG is spreading the news that REAL environmentally-conscious people support NG’s virtual pipeline operations. For example, a dairy farm cooperative in Vermont and a sustainable lettuce and caviar farm in eastern New York are both NG customers and sing the praises of clean-burning, sustainable natural gas deliveries to their operations. Yes, those who actually care about the environment support NG Advantage and virtual pipelines…
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200+ Binghamton-Area Residents Sign Petition Supporting Virtual Pipe

Who knew there was ANYBODY who supported a virtual pipeline project in Broome County, NY?! As MDN recently reported, a Broome County judge ruled that the Town of Fenton (Binghamton area) Planning Board did not take a hard enough look at environmental and traffic issues related to their approval of NG Advantage’s plan to construct a facility in the town to compress and load natural gas onto tractor trailers for delivery to regional customers who desperately need the gas–called a “virtual pipeline” (see Judge Rules Against Broome Virtual Pipe, NG Advantage to Try Again). The judge’s ruling delays the project for months at least. NG must now resubmit the project for approval by the Fenton Planning Board. Before doing that, NG must first conduct a full environmental impact study and an aquifer study. Even with environmental studies, don’t expect the locals, who appear to have very closed minds, to accept the outcome. Travel around the community where the project is slated to be built and almost every home within a mile has a “NO COMPRESSOR STATION” sign. Read local news coverage of the issue and you come to the conclusion there isn’t a single soul in the county (apart from MDN editor Jim Willis) who supports the project. NG is out to counter that media narrative. NG has just launched a petition to support the project. And guess what? Already over 200 local residents have signed it. Yeah, there’s likely at least that many against it, but the point is this is not a one-sided issue. People in the community are starting to speak up in support of the project. If you live in the general vicinity, here’s how you can sign the petition…
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2nd Approval for Virtual Pipeline in Broome County Not Assured

As we reported last week, a Broome County, NY judge ruled yesterday that the Town of Fenton (Binghamton area) Planning Board did not take a hard enough look at environmental and traffic issues related to their approval of NG Advantage’s plan to construct a facility in the town to compress and load natural gas onto tractor trailers for delivery to regional customers who desperately need the gas–what is called a “virtual pipeline” (see Judge Rules Against Broome Virtual Pipe, NG Advantage to Try Again). The judge’s ruling delays the project for months at least. NG must now resubmit the project for approval by the Fenton Planning Board. Before doing that, NG must first conduct a full environmental impact study and an aquifer study. Even with environmental studies, don’t expect the locals, who appear to have very closed minds, to accept the outcome. That much was clear at a Fenton Planning Board meeting last night. Residents packed the small meeting room to voice their displeasure with the project. Until now the project has enjoyed overwhelming support by the Planning Board and Town of Fenton officials. However, that may be changing. Town of Fenton Supervisor Dave Hamlin said there is “no certainty” that NG’s new, second application will get approved by the Fenton Planning Board…
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Judge Rules Against Broome Virtual Pipe, NG Advantage to Try Again

A Broome County, NY judge ruled yesterday that the Town of Fenton Planning Board did not take a hard enough look at environmental and traffic issues related to their approval of NG Advantage’s plan to construct a facility in the town to compress and load natural gas onto tractor trailers for delivery to regional customers who desperately need the gas–what is called a “virtual pipeline.” MDN has chronicled the project from the beginning (see our NG Advantage stories here). Yesterday’s ruling was not an indictment of the project itself by the judge–only the way in which it was approved by the local town planning board. The judge left the door open for the town to re-do it’s approval process–this time including a full environmental impact study and an aquifer study. NG’s CEO Rico Biasetti said that while he is disappointed, the company remains committed to building the facility at the Fenton location and will work with Fenton to try again…
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Making a Strong Case for NG’s Virtual Pipeline Near Binghamton

Somewhat surprising for our local Gannett outlet here in Binghamton (the Press & Sun-Bulletin), but on Sunday the newspaper published two opinion pieces that make a very strong case FOR building a natural gas transfer station (i.e. virtual pipeline) in the Town of Fenton, on the outskirts of Binghamton, by NG Advantage. One of the editorials was written by a resident who lives in the community where the station will get built. The arguments are compelling and destroy the NIMBYism and hysterics of local residents opposed to the project. The other editorial is from the fire chief and emergency management director from a community in New Hampshire that has two facilities to decompress gas delivered by NG Advantage. He speaks about the safety of the trucks and the gas carried on them. Bottom line: This facility is safe, the trucks hauling the gas are safe, and it’s good for the economy. There’s absolutely no reason why it should not get built in Fenton (near Binghamton)…
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Judge Hears Arguments For/Against Broome Virtual Pipe, Delay Stays

Yesterday both sides were in court in Broome County, NY to put forward their best arguments for why a natural gas transfer station (i.e. virtual pipeline) project in the Town of Fenton, near Binghamton, should (or should not) get built. We’ve covered this story from the beginning–because we like virtual pipelines which get natural gas to customers who aren’t blessed to live near a pipeline, and because we live about 10 miles from the proposed site. NG Advantage wants to build a virtual pipeline operation in a suburb of Binghamton. The location NG picked, after considering up to six other locations in the region, was selected because of it’s proximity to major highways, proximity to the Millennium Pipeline, and availability of high-power electric lines. A virtual pipeline is nothing more than a compressor plant (series of compressor plants) that grabs gas from a pipeline, in this case the Millennium, and compresses it and loads it onto special tractor trailers that then deliver the gas to industrial customers like manufacturing plants, hospitals, and even small regional gas distribution systems servicing residential homes. The location NG selected, in the Town of Fenton (within spitting distance of residential communities Hillcrest and Port Dickinson) was approved by the Town of Fenton after a detailed review. The area NG selected is zoned industrial and is, in fact, a former dump site. However, residents from nearby neighborhoods in Hillcrest and Port Dick were not aware of the project (so they claim) and when construction began to clear the dump site, and residents learned what was going to be built at the site, some of them demanded court action to oppose it. Two court cases have been filed and a local judge has temporarily stopped construction at the site. Yesterday that judge heard arguments for and against. NG Advantage CEO Rico Biasetti was encouraged by the judges questions…
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Update on NG Advantage Virtual Pipeline near Binghamton

What’s the latest with the proposed virtual pipeline in Broome County, NY? NG Advantage wants to build a “virtual pipeline” operation in a suburb of Binghamton. The location NG picked, after considering up to six locations in the region, was selected because of it’s proximity to major highways, proximity to the Millennium Pipeline, and availability of high-power electric lines. A virtual pipeline is nothing more than a compressor plant (series of compressor plants) that grabs gas from a pipeline, in this case the Millennium, and compresses it and loads it onto special tractor trailers that then deliver the gas to industrial customers like manufacturing plants, hospitals, and even small regional gas distribution systems servicing residential homes. The location NG selected, in the Town of Fenton (within spitting distance of Hillcrest and Port Dickinson) was approved by the Town of Fenton after a detailed review. The area they selected is zoned industrial and is, in fact, a former dump site. However, residents from nearby neighborhoods (Hillcrest and Port Dick) were not aware of the project (so they claim) and when construction began to clear the dump site, and residents learned what was going to be built at the site, some of them demanded court action to oppose it. So far we’ve had two court cases asking county-level court (called “Supreme Court” in NY) to stop the project, which it temporarily has. And there we sit–waiting on a local court. When traveling through the neighborhoods near the site you see plenty of “No Compressor Station” signs. Ask any of the locals why they oppose it and the issue pretty much centers on truck traffic. The plant itself is safe. It doesn’t emit anything in the way of air pollution. It’s quiet–running on electric motors. The only thing people have to complain about is 3-4 trucks an hour going in and out of the plant. That’s it. But that’s enough to warrant a major fuss. The very latest is that State Senator Fred Akshar and Assemblyman Clifford Crouch, both of whom represent people in the Town of Fenton, visited the NG Advantage facility in Vermont last week–a facility similar to the one proposed for Fenton. They wanted to see it for themselves. Neither rep really has a say in what will happen in Fenton (the matter is in the courts at this point), but at least they informed themselves about the issue and can talk, rationally, with some of their irrational constituents…
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Broome “Titanic” County Desperately Needs NGA Virtual Pipeline

Recently Broome County (NY) Executive Jason Garner sounded the alarm about county finances. He compared Broome County’s economic situation to the Titanic. The New York State Comptroller’s office issued a report in September 2016 that said Broome County has been in fiscal stress over the past three years. Thank you Gov. Cuomo for banning fracking–the one thing that could have pulled us out of the hole. With all of the bad news, you would think Broome County would be a cheerleader for a proposed “virtual pipeline” project from NG Advantage, planned for the Town of Fenton in a Binghamton suburb. In fact, Fenton approved the project (after a detailed review), and construction began in June (see NG Advantage Virtual Pipe “Done Deal” in Broome County, Antis Stymied). However, when the county weighed in on the NG Advantage project, back in May, it recommended against building the project (see NG Advantage Virtual Pipeline May be Coming to MDN’s Backyard). Isn’t that just like Broome County? We’re sinking (yes, MDN editor Jim Willis lives and writes MDN from Broome County), the County Executive sounds the alarm, yet the county wants to deny a project that will bring 150 full-time jobs and millions in tax revenue to county coffers. The irony was not wasted on NG Advantage, which issued this statement following Garner’s economic pronouncement that we’re sitting on the Titanic here in Broome County…
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NG Asks Judge to Toss Case Blocking Virtual Pipeline in NY

NG Advantage wants to build a “virtual pipeline” operation in ultra-liberal Broome County, NY, in a suburb of Binghamton. The location NG picked, after considering up to six locations in the region, was selected because of it’s proximity to major highways, proximity to the Millennium Pipeline, and availability of high-power electric lines. A virtual pipeline is nothing more than a compressor plant (series of compressor plants) that grabs gas from a pipeline, in this case the Millennium, and compresses it and loads it onto special tractor trailers that then deliver the gas to industrial customers like manufacturing plants, hospitals, and even small regional systems servicing homes. The location NG selected, in the Town of Fenton (within spitting distance of Hillcrest and Port Dickinson) was approved by the Town of Fenton after a detailed review. The area they selected is zoned industrial and is, in fact, a former dump site. However, residents from nearby neighborhoods (Hillcrest and Port Dick) were not aware of the project (so they claim) and when construction began to clear the dump site, and residents learned what was going to be built at the site, some of them demanded court action to oppose it. So far we’ve had two court cases asking county-level court (called “Supreme Court” in NY) to stop the project, which it temporarily did (see Court Halts Work on Broome Co. Virtual Pipeline, Residents Sound Off). MDN editor Jim Willis attended a meeting by NG Advantage held for area residents and he has to say the company is bending backward, forward, sideways, upside-down, back flipping–and in general doing anything and everything they can–to prove to residents that a few trucks an hour hauling natural gas is not the horror they have been led to believe it will be. But in an all-too-familiar pattern, the residents’ minds are made up and nothing short of shutting the project down will be acceptable. And so the fight now goes to court. Last week NG responded to the temporary restraining order, asking the judge to toss it out so they can get back to building the facility. If for some reason NG is blocked, the company will be out $23 million…
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Court Halts Work on Broome Co. Virtual Pipeline, Residents Sound Off

Tractor Trailer NG proposes to use at Fenton location – Click image for full size version

MDN editor Jim Willis attended one of the information sessions offered by NG Advantage at the Port Crane fire hall last night. NG Advantage is making a concerted effort to dispel false rumors and misunderstandings on the part of neighbors who live near a proposed “virtual pipeline” site that is a series of compressor stations grabbing gas from the Millennium Pipeline in a Binghamton suburb, compressing it and loading onto tanker trucks. Jim knew it was going to be an interesting night when he arrived at 7:15 pm to find a packed previous session that began at 5 pm was still going strong. Jim wandered to the back of the facility (in the parking lot) to view one of the tanker trucks that NG hopes to have accessing the facility (see our pic). In fact, two of these trucks each and every hour of the day will enter and leave the facility, some 50 trucks per day, on average, according NG officials. As Jim approached the truck, a woman also walking in the same direction said loudly, “My God! Look how BIIIIIIGGGG it is!” Like she’d never seen a tractor trailer before (actually, it’s shorter than a standard trailer). Since no one else was close to her, Jim assumed she said it for his benefit–likely hoping he would join in and agree. Jim said nothing. The same woman grilled the NG rep standing there, asking how many trucks per day, etc. And then she said, “I’m against this–I’m just glad there’s now a stop work order,” which was the first we had heard the news (more on the stop work order below). The woman’s demeanor and her ebullience that the project is now halted was an early signal: Jim knew he was in for a long night of high emotion from local residents who don’t want the facility, largely because of truck traffic. Jim was right…
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