Pinelands Commission Approves South Jersey Natural Gas Pipeline
The New Jersey Pinelands Commission has approved the memorandum of agreement with South Jersey Gas that allows the gas company to construct a 24-inch steel pipeline from Maurice Township to the B.L. England plant in Beesleys Point, Atlantic County, a distance of 22 miles. The pipeline route is proposed to travel under roads and right-of-ways that transverse about 10 miles of protected forest area. Nine commissioners voted to approve the MOA; the commission requires eight affirmative votes to approve.
The meeting held Feb. 24 in Cherry Hill was packed with protestors who feared the pipeline would pose a threat to the fragile forest areas if it were compromised and also that it would set a precedent for other natural gas companies that want to run pipelines through the Pinelands.
According to the New Jersey Sierra Club, New Jersey Natural Gas is proposing to build a 30-mile pipeline called the “Southern Reliability Link” from Chesterfield through the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst at Fort Dix in Burlington County and to Manchester in Ocean County.
The B.L. England plant has been under a state Department of Environmental Protection directive to change its coal-burning furnaces to natural gas by May of this year or close.
Although changing to natural gas would reduce air pollution in the form of particulates, protestors claim changing to natural gas will allow the plant to operate year ’round and add more C02 to the air.
In July 2015, the state Board of Public Utilities approved the two aspects of the South Jersey Gas Pipeline proposal to remove the interconnect from the Pinelands Protected Forested area and to disallow any new connections to the pipeline as it transverses through the Pinelands.
The Pinelands Preservation Alliance has announced it plans to appeal the Pinelands Commission’s decision in court.
On the day of the decision, PPA Executive Director Carleton Montgomery said, “Today’s decision is a low point for the Pinelands Commission. Unless the commission is reformed and rededicated to protecting the Pinelands, this case could prove a devastating precedent for more decisions giving powerful development interests the right to build in the Pinelands’ most protected areas.
“When decisions like this are being made by those we charge with defending the Pinelands, no one should take for granted that New Jersey will protect this region’s vast forests and the freshwater aquifer on which all life here depends.”
— Pat Johnson