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New Jersey Pinelands Commission Rejects Natural Gas Pipeline

The New Jersey Pinelands Commission on Friday rejected a proposal by South Jersey Gas Co. to build part of a $90 million natural gas pipeline through the Pinelands National Reserve, despite support for the project by Gov. Chris Christie, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The proposal called for building a 22-mile, 24-inch diameter pipeline from just outside Millville, located in Cumberland County's Maurice River Township, to Beesley's Point, located in Cape May County's Upper Township. Approximately 15 miles of the pipeline would have been constructed in the state-designated Pinelands area, while another seven miles would have been built within the borders of the Pinelands National Reserve.

South Jersey Gas wanted the pipeline to address the vulnerability of the southernmost portion of its service area to a single-feed disruption. The company also hoped to supply a power plant in its service area -- the B.L. England power plant at Beesley's Point, owned by RC Cape May Holdings LLC -- that has shut down a 156 MW coal-fired unit and is converting the unit to natural gas.

But the commission voted 7-7 for the proposal on Friday, which means the project cannot advance.

Commission spokesman Paul Leakan told NGI Monday that South Jersey Gas "could seek to submit an application and attempt to gain approval for the exact same location, should it want to do this."

South Jersey Gas spokeswoman Joanne Brigandi told NGI that the company was "absolutely disappointed" by the commission's decision. "Since the meeting on Friday, we have not actually sat down and had any discussions about what we're going to do next," she said Monday.

According to a proposed memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the commission and the BPU, South Jersey Gas would have contributed $8 million to the Pinelands Conservation Fund, including $7.2 million for permanent land protection along the pipeline route and $750,000 for educational programs, including a $250,000 interpretive center.

Leakan said the project did not receive the commission's support because it ran afoul of rules governing management of the Pinelands forest area.

"This project would go approximately 10 miles through the forest," Leakan said. "Under our rules, with these types of public infrastructure projects, it has to be demonstrated that such a pipeline would primarily serve only the needs of the Pinelands area. Because this pipeline was proposed to go and extend outside of the Pinelands area, it was determined by our staff that it would not meet that standard."

According to the MOA, about 20 miles of the pipeline would have been built within existing, cleared public right-of-way, while the remaining two miles would have been built on private property within Atlantic City Electric's existing power line corridor. The pipeline would not have exceeded 437 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure.

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