PEMBERTON, N.J. (AP) — The New Jersey commission considering a new gas pipeline through the Pinelands should approve the project when it meets next week, the panel’s executive director said in a report.
The proposed roughly 20-mile pipeline should be approved subject to 10 conditions, including disposing of construction debris at a licensed facility and ensuring sediment doesn’t seep into wetlands, Pinelands Commission executive director Nancy Wittenberg said in a report dated Friday.
“As the (proposed) natural gas pipeline conforms to the standards of the Pinelands (Comprehensive Management Plan), it is recommended that the Pinelands Commission APPROVE it,” the report said.
The commission is expected to consider the pipeline at a meeting on Friday.
The plan was narrowly defeated in 2014. But since then, Republican Gov. Chris Christie has replaced several commissioners on the state agency that will reconsider the plan with supporters of the pipeline.
South Jersey Gas proposes to run the pipe from Maurice River Township in Cumberland County to the B.L. England power plant in Upper Township. It would run mostly under or alongside roads.
Environmental groups fear it will harm the fragile Pinelands and set a bad precedent for future development there. Four former state governors — two Republicans and two Democrats — also oppose the pipeline, citing their desire to protect a vulnerable natural resource.
South Jersey Gas proposes to run the pipe from Maurice River Township in Cumberland County to the B.L. England power plant in Upper Township; it would run mostly under or alongside existing roads.
Supporters and foes packed a hearing last month, and dozens of others were denied entry when the room reached its capacity of about 250. A leader of the Food and Water Watch environmental group, Lena Smith, was escorted out by state police after she began yelling at commissioners that people were being made to stand outside in a cold rain.
Pipeline foes unfurled a large paper banner that said “Stop The Pipeline” before the hearing but removed it soon afterward.
South Jersey Gas maintains that in addition to providing a cleaner fuel source to the power plant, the new pipeline would provide a second transmission vehicle for natural gas to thousands of customers in Atlantic and Cape May counties.
There is only one pipeline right now that takes gas to nearly 29,000 homes and businesses, which could be left out in the cold without a second means of getting gas to their homes if the existing pipeline fails.