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Emotions run high in Pinelands gas pipeline plan


PEMBERTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey agency tasked with protecting the largest tract of open space between Virginia and Boston will decide next month whether to side with a forest sitting atop 17 trillion gallons of some of the most pristine water in the United States, or with a power plant seeking to switch from coal to cleaner natural gas.

A hotly debated plan to run a 22-mile natural gas pipeline through the protected Pinelands region of southern New Jersey is heading for a final vote Jan. 10.

Environmentalists oppose the plan, saying it will harm the fragile forests, wetlands and wildlife of the 1.1-million acre Pinelands.

But union workers and business leaders say the plan will provide jobs and reliable energy to southern New Jersey.

South Jersey Gas wants to build the pipeline to connect with the BL England power plant in Cape May County. So that the coal-burning plant can switch to cleaner natural gas.

It would pay $8 million to the New Jersey Pinelands Commission for land preservation and an educational center.