ENVIRONMENT

Highlands Gas Pipeline Project Could Get Approved This Week

A gas pipeline project that will cut through New Jersey’s Highlands could be approved this week despite questions about its environmental impact. The project is part of a 40-mile expansion by Tennessee Gas to transport methane from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.

The Highlands Council is expected to approve the approximately eight-mile segment of the pipeline which starts in West Milford and cuts through Ringwood and into Mahwah. All of this is in the Highlands Preservation Area, where development is severely limited. But an exemption in the Highlands Act allows utilities to upgrade existing rights-of-way.

A report by the Highland Council staff says some aspects of the pipeline expansion violate environmental protections in the area but that the company’s plans to preserve nearby forests are sufficient to allow it to move forward.

Almost two months ago, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) concluded in a report that the project would not have a significant impact on one of New Jersey’s most delicate environments.

New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have been critical of the report and the project.

In a Dec. 20 DEP letter to FERC, the DEP stated “FERC cannot clearly understand the full environmental impact of the proposed project and should not approve the application.”

The Highlands Council vote is scheduled for Thursday.