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New Jersey Residents Lash Out At Company Over Proposed Oil Pipeline

LINDEN, N.J.(CBSNewYork) -- It sounds like a Hollywood screenplay; a big oil company using scare tactics to build a pipeline through small towns.

'Pilgrim Pipeline' proposed running two lines, 178-miles long, from Albany to Linden, a project that would require digging through dozens of towns along the way.

Some residents say the company has threatened them with a lawsuit if they don't allow the pipeline on their property.

As CBS2's Christine Sloan reported, those homeowners are not giving in without a fight.

The message on the front lawns of many homes in Parsippany was clear, 'No Pilgrim Oil Pipeline' in our community.

"To us it's disturbing. It's just another thing back there and it is going to impact our lifestyle, the environment for us. It makes us very unhappy," Parsippany resident, Bruce Van Steyn said.

One of the two proposed pipelines, between New York and New Jersey, is carrying crude oil which many consider to be highly flammable.

The line would not only run behind Van Steyn's home, but also near the backyards of countless homes in towns like Chatham, Berkeley Heights, Oakland, and Mahwah.

The oil company said that 90 percent of residents have allowed access to their properties for a survey, but 10 percent have not.

"They've already asked me for permission to do that and I have turned them down," Van Steyn said.

A letter from Pilgrim to some homeowners asked that consultants be allowed on private property to conduct and investigation, and said that if homeowners refuse "Pilgrim will have no choice but to ask a court to issue an order allowing it to enter the property."

The letter claims that because the company was established under New Jersey law it has the power to condemn property.

"It's really something more like out of a Sopranos episode. It's not factual or accurate, and a lie. They really don't have that right or that authority," Jeff Tittel, Sierra Club, said, "Under the law imminent domain is power that is used by a government."

The environmental group has sent a letter to Pilgrim, warning it to cease and desist. Pilgrim called it a PR stunt by the Sierra Club.

"We are confident in our ability to acquire the land to undertake this project. Our focus continues to be on undertaking all necessary work to determine the best and most appropriate route for the pipeline," the company said.

"I think they are going to have a problem taking everybody to court because pretty much on this block, and in this area we have come together and said 'we're going to fight this,'" Van Steyn said.

Environmentalists say the pipe lines would also run by three water supplies, and said that a leak would affect 2,000,000 people.

Pilgrim claims that their method of transporting oil is safer than using river barges.

The Department of Environmental Protection said it is in the early phases of discussions with Pilgrim, but the company has not filed a formal application.

The DEP said that before handing out permits or approvals on the environmental side it needs maps and surveys from Pilgrim.

It is unclear who ultimately has the power to approve the project, but five towns have passed resolutions opposing it.

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