Opposition to Approved NJ Natural Gas Pipeline Continues

By Briana Vannozzi

It’s getting harder and harder for the lay person to keep track of the proposed, pending and approved pipelines in New Jersey. That’s partially because there’s already 1,800 miles of existing pipeline projects, with another 12 proposals waiting in the wings. Most recently approved, the New Jersey Natural Gas pipeline, known as the Southern Reliability Project. It’ll start in Bordentown and Chesterfield, going through a portion of the Pinelands, ending in Manchester Township.

“The fundamental problem is this pipeline is unnecessary and the BPU is functioning as a rubber stamp for these projects,” said Pinelands Preservation Alliance Executive Director Carleton Montgomery.

The BPU unanimously voting to approve the 30-mile project and granting exemption from municipal land-use laws, local oversight and opposition.

“The applicant has made this proposal largely based on its foundation on the need for redundancy and the risk of not doing so would be detrimental as highlighted by the impacts of Superstorm Sandy,” said Richard Mroz of the Board of Public Utilities.

Opponents argue the company has already admitted its existing system is more than sufficient to cover all current and future demand for its 500,000 customers. NJ Natural Gas also admitted Hurricane Sandy had nothing to do with impacts on the transmission system.

“So it’s really a purely hypothetical of a catastrophic failure of a system that already has a lot of redundancy built into it, which is why we really think it has nothing to do with redundancy. It’s simply that this is a company that can only grow by building more,” Montgomery said.

“We’ll be paying the price in the health of our children who we already know when compressor stations have blow downs, children suffer sore throats, bleeding noses, headaches. Adults do the same,” said Bordentown Township Committeeman James Cann.

Cann and Mayor Jill Popko have been leading the fight here as one of six municipalities along the proposed route.

“Constituents are quite frantic. They’re worried about property values. They have wells and pipelines are known to leak. There’s a 4 to 9 percent leakage built into the market plan for every pipeline that is laid,” Popko said.

The BPU emphasizes the NJ Natural Gas project complies with the state’s energy master plans and provides cheaper energy for customers. It’s estimated to cost about $170 million and that cost is already being put into rates.

“One real glaring need they have, and that’s greed. Make more money. First off, just look at the amount of gas they’re going to pipe in this area. It’s much more than the proposed new homes to be constructed,” Cann said.

“We have the agency responsible for land use in the Pinelands completely negating and avoiding its responsibilities and we think that’s for purely political reasons,” Montgomery said.

So the project moves forward. Opponents have already vowed to fight it in court. Municipalities will continue lobbying state and federally elected officials for their help, until the bitter end.