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Agencies reject pipeline money

A least two local nonprofits have said no to grant money from developers of a proposed pipeline running through Carbon County.

The Carbon County Environmental Education Center was to receive $5,000 from the PennEast Pipeline Company through the Community Connector Grant Program.The money would have gone toward improving accessibility on the property.However, the impression accepting the money would have given was enough to sway many of the decision makers.According to Susan Gallagher, CCEEC administrator, an advisory board looks at many of the decisions before the Center and makes recommendations, but the ultimate decision rests with the Carbon County Conservation District board.After input from the community and members of the center, the decision was made to turn down the grant.“What PennEast is proposing to do to the environment is not in line with something an environmental center should be supporting,” Gallagher said. “While we don’t feel accepting the money would influence how we feel about the pipeline project, we didn’t want to give the impression that we are supporting the project. There are a lot of environmental issues they need to address.”Gallagher said changes would have been made along the CCEEC trail from the building to the bird blind.“It’s really muddy in certain sections and what we want to do is develop a longer section of the boardwalk,” she explained. “It would help get wheelchairs in there and our handicap accessibility would be better.”CCEEC originally applied for the money.“Everyone has the best interest of the environmental center at heart,” Gallagher said. “We do rely on a lot of donations to help us and have a responsibility to explore different avenues of funding.”Gallagher said it is the first time since the advisory board’s inception that such an ethical decision has come before it.Another influencing factor in the decision to turn down the money is that the center has other avenues to improve the trail.“We had one individual step up and offer to help,” Gallagher said. “This wasn’t the only option for funding these improvements.”Other non-profits approved to receive $5,000 grants included Dimmick Memorial Library, Franklin Township Volunteer Fire Company, Lehigh Township Emergency Management, Lehigh Township Volunteer Fire Company No. 1, Lehighton Shade Tree Commission, Penn Kidder Library Center, Quakertown Volunteer EMS, Shavertown Volunteer Fire Department and the Wildlife Information Center in Slatington.According to Dan Kunkel, the Wildlife Information Center also turned down the grant.Kunkel, who has publicly spoken out against the pipeline in the past, declined to talk about the project that the funding would have supported.Patricia Kornick, PennEast spokeswoman, said Thursday that it is a rarity for entities to turn down the grants.“It’s unfortunate for the communities where these nonprofits are located because this money could be beneficial,” she said. “We launched this program a year ago and it’s been very successful and has supported first responders and emergency management agencies. We plan to continue to announce grant recipients on a quarterly basis.”Other projects in this round of funding include a rain garden for sedimentation control, funding for environmental educational programs; and hydraulic rescue equipment, to name a few.PennEast expects to announce the next round of grant recipients in 2016.It submitted its formal application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the 118-mile, 36-inch pipeline projected to run through Kidder, Penn Forest, Towamensing and Lower Towamensing townships in Carbon County.