Supervisors explain donation to compressor fight

| 14 May 2015 | 03:53

By Anya Tikka
— A resident questioned a $5,000 contribution that Milford Township Supervisors made to a non-profit organization suing to stop the compressor station.

The group is in the middle of two appeal lawsuits involving the station, which is very unpopular with local residents worried about emissions, noise, and traffic.

"How come it happened within transition time of one meeting, when this appeal has been going on for a long time?" asked Larry Kotar at the township's May 4 meeting. "Township people didn’t know about it."

He asked why the donation was made at all.

“I just heard you’re taking money out of savings to pay the bills," he said.

Supervisor Gary Clark explained that, earlier in the year, the supervisors put $11,000 into savings, and that the township was looking for ways to save money.

Chair Don Quick added, “We’ve been concerned about this since we first got wind about it.”

Quick said the supervisors did all they could to stop the station without litigation.

Milford Township has grounds to get the Columbia Pipeline Company, which owns the station, to the table to discuss increased emissions, said Quick. He and Clark said it was too expensive for the township to hire an attorney on its own, with retainers ranging from $50,000 to $100,000, plus per-hour costs of $300 to $400. The township might be held liable for any problems resulting from the increased gas flow in the pipes, and that would bankrupt the town.

“If you don’t win, that million dollars running through there is not running after Nov. 12 — and guess who’s going to end up paying?" said Clark. "The council’s going to be held liable for the gas that’s not flowing through there, and all the construction that was held up. I made a motion for that $5,000, and I believe we’re supposed to look after the best interest of the people in the township."

The township did the next best thing: donate money to an organization fighting the expansion.

"The opportunity came to donate to a private corporation that was seeking to address our concerns to achieve some of our goals" without the financial risks, Quick said.

The township could not specify what the money was for though, because that could be construed as trying to get around the rules.

“We felt it was a wise thing, a fiscally responsible thing to do,” said Quick.

Kotar raised questions about the five households in the appeal. “Did they take money out of their pockets?”

In the audience May 4 was Shirley Masuo of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability and Alex Lotorto of Energy Justice Network, the nonprofit that received the money. They said the whole area, including the school, would be affected by fallout from increased emissions from the compressor station.

Kotar questioned the sources of the figures.

“The $5,000 was signed over immediately to the attorney who’s the pro-se appellant," Lotorto said. "Energy Justice Network chose not to be the appellant in this case.”

He said he was advised that the more people he added to the appeal, the less chance there was for a ruling. For that reason, he chose to include only the five or six households closest to the station.

He said his finances and accounts were open to scrutiny.