To the Editor:
Thanks to Hopewell Township Mayor Kristin McLaughlin’s efforts, the township – specifically – has had a voice in Washington D.C., and on an issue critical to our community’s health.
Of course, the township always has a voice there with our Members of Congress, and Mayor McLaughlin met with staffers from both Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman’s and Senator Cory Booker’s offices. But just a mile north of the Capitol, Mayor McLaughlin made her second visit to the headquarters of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), speaking to FERC Commissioners Cheryl LaFleur and Bernard McNamee about the PennEast pipeline project. She met with fellow Commissioner Richard Glick and Chairman Neil Chatterjee on her first visit.
FERC provides federal approval for interstate pipelines, which PennEast is mapped to run from northeast Pennsylvania through Hunterdon County and end here in Hopewell Township.
The project needs state approval before the pipeline can be put in place, but preparation is already underway, with PennEast having won in a December federal court decision the right to survey land along the route.
That’s where Mayor McLaughlin’s efforts in Washington D.C. come in. At the July 1 and July 15 Hopewell Township Committee (HTC) meetings, she spoke about homeowners and farmers she met in D.C. who spoke of pipeline companies clearing land before receiving all necessary go-aheads for construction to begin, causing losses for family businesses and even injury to people.
Despite being the agency to give federal approval, FERC is removed from these on-the-ground effects, and our community needs a voice like Mayor McLaughlin’s to make FERC aware of how the process is playing out in real-life ways. The mayor has reported back at the recent HTC meetings how receptive our representatives in Washington D.C. and the leaders of FERC have been to her concerns.
The public-facing portion of the HTC may only be two meetings a month most of the time, but Mayor McLaughlin, with work like those trips to D.C., helps our community far beyond leading those two meetings a month.
Serving on the township committee is formally a part-time role, with the only compensation being about a $4,500 annual stipend and the pride of knowing you are helping your hometown. But with the time Mayor McLaughlin commits to the role, Hopewell Township essentially has a full-time mayor in a part-time position, and the township will be receiving no bill for her visits to Washington D.C. Mayor McLaughlin traveled at her own expense, giving her daughters a first-hand look at the positive effect an individual can have in public policy.
In a time when the HTC worked hard to chip about 3% off of its operating budget, Mayor McLaughlin’s devotion to serving our community is an outstanding return on our investment.
Mr. Borders is a member of the Hopewell Township Zoning Board but writes as an individual resident.