Two weeks ago MDN told you that New Jersey radicals had succeeded in scuttling a plan to convert an old coal-fired electric plant into using natural gas (see Cape May NatGas Power Plant Dead – Scrub Pines Pipeline Too?). At that time we raised the question about whether a tiny 22-mile pipeline that would feed the plant would still get built. A state commission that had approved that pipeline has just unapproved it–so we now have our answer.
Running a spur to the power plant was part of the justification for the “Southern Reliability Link” pipeline project, but not all of the justification. The $130 million, 22-mile natural gas pipeline was proposed by New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) to connect NJNG’s distribution system serving customers in Ocean, Burlington and Monmouth counties (in NJ) and the interstate pipeline system adjacent to the New Jersey Turnpike. In addition to providing gas to the power plant, the pipeline is meant to provide a backup for hundreds of thousands of NJ residents who lost access to natural gas following Super Storm Sandy. Redundancy is a good thing when it comes to natgas supplies.
The pipeline would run through 10 miles of scrub pines that are “protected” in NJ. The scrub pines are actually overseen by a state commission, the Pinelands Commission. In Sept. 2017 the full Commission voted 8 to 4 (with 1 abstention) to approve the Southern Reliability Link project (see Pinelands Commission Approves Pipeline Thru NJ Scrub Pines). Big Green contested the Commission’s vote in court–a drama still playing out.
Big Green doesn’t have to contest the decision any more. Last Friday the Pinelands Commission reversed its approval:
The Pinelands Commission has notified South Jersey Gas its approval to build a pipeline from Maurice River Township to Upper Township is void, now that the B.L. England electric plant will not repower with natural gas.
“We sent a letter to South Jersey Gas saying, ‘Hi, because of the fact that B.L. England is no longer part of the application, as far as we are concerned, the application is no longer valid,’” Executive Director Nancy Wittenberg said at Friday’s commission meeting.
A South Jersey Gas representative was unavailable for comment Saturday.
Wittenberg said a lawsuit against the pipeline by environmental groups is still proceeding.
“Our court date has been pushed back to June. We have to remain vigilant because RC Holdings can sell this plant to another natural gas power company,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, one of the groups suing to stop the pipeline. “South Jersey Gas can also come back with another application. That’s why it is so critical that Gov. Murphy move ahead with new appointments to the Pinelands Commission and place a moratorium on all fossil-fuel infrastructure projects.”
Commissioners said they would discuss the litigation, and motions filed in the case, during closed session.
South Jersey Gas has said there is still a need for a new pipeline to provide a second route for gas to get to about 140,000 customers in Cape May and parts of Atlantic County, now served by only one transmission line.
But Wittenberg’s letter made it clear SJ Gas will need to make a new application for any new or amended project through the Pinelands.
The proposed 22-mile SJ Gas pipeline would have traveled through 10 miles of protected Pinelands forest area, where it would have been buried along roadsides.*
*Pleasantville (NJ) Press of Atlantic City (Mar 9, 2019) – Pinelands Commission says South Jersey Gas pipeline approval void
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