A proposed 21.6-mile, 24-inch diameter natural gas pipeline to serve the B.L. England power plant at Beesley's Point, NJ, and to increase service reliability in Atlantic and Cape May counties, "is reasonably necessary for the service, convenience or welfare of the public," according to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU), which has approved South Jersey Gas Company's (SJG) petition for the project.
"This project is yet another case in point where the Board is implementing the policies contained in the state's 2011 Energy Master Plan [see Daily GPI, Dec. 2; June 8, 2011] and demonstrating progress towards the Energy Master Plan's overarching goals of lowering the cost of energy for customers and promoting a diverse portfolio of clean in-state generation," said BPU President Richard Mroz.
"This proposed pipeline will provide redundancy for approximately 142,000 SJG customers, while also enabling the conversion of the B.L. England power plant from running on coal and oil to running on cleaner natural gas."
The BPU found that SJG met its burden of proving that the proposed routing is reasonable and that no alternative route would be less intrusive to the environment or community. The state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) concluded that the chosen route, among six alternatives identified by SJG, "has less environmental impact that the other possible alternate routes based upon wetland impacts, potential adverse impacts to threatened and endangered species habitat, and minimization of stream and open water crossings," BPU said.
The decision came nearly two years after the New Jersey Pinelands Commission rejected an SJG proposal to build part of the $90 million pipeline through the Pinelands National Reserve, despite support for the project from Gov. Chris Christie, the DEP, the BPU and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (see Daily GPI, Jan. 13, 2014). While most of the project is set to be constructed within right-of-ways, about 15 miles of the pipeline would travel beneath existing paved portions or roadway shoulders within the Pinelands. SJG filed an amendment to its project application with the New Jersey Pinelands Commission in May. The amendment responded to comments and issues raised during the commission's Memorandum of Agreement process and accounted for changed circumstances since the January 2014 vote.
Without the BPU decision, the project would have needed approvals from Upper Township, Maurice River Township. Officials from Upper Township, the City of Estell Manor and the Board of Chosen Freeholders of Cape May County have indicated their support for the project, and Maurice River Township officials did not voice opposition to it during public hearings, BPU said.