Officials in a New Jersey township have joined environmental groups in opposition to plans to expand one of the state's natural gas pipelines, which would bring Marcellus Shale gas to markets in the state and the New York City metropolitan area.

That opposition appears to go against the wishes of Gov. Chris Christie, who sees expansion of the pipeline system providing both economic and environmental benefits to the state.

At its meeting on July 27, the Clinton Township Council unanimously passed a resolution opposing plans by Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line (Transco) to expand its system by constructing almost seven miles of new pipeline next to two existing lines. The council said it was concerned about the expansion's effect on local property values, safety issues and its effect on the environment.

"We are not supportive of it," Mayor Kevin Cimei said at the meeting. "We did send a letter to FERC, asking them to postpone [a meeting on the pipeline], which they didn't do."

The council also passed a second resolution -- by a 3-0 vote with one abstention -- opposing fracking and urging the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to enact tough rules on the practice.

"This pipeline is a perfect example of how hydraulic fracturing impacts our community," Kate Milsaps, program assistant for the New Jersey Sierra Club, said during the meeting's public comment period. "Even though [fracking] is happening across the Delaware River, we are still going to feel the effects of it, not only with the pipeline infrastructure but also with water withdrawals and discharges. It's very important that we be proactive."

On the resolution opposing fracking, Milsaps said, "if those [DRBC] rules are lax then drilling in the Delaware River Basin will definitely increase the pressure to expand the pipeline infrastructure in New Jersey, specifically Transco. We would see future expansions being proposed if development of natural gas resources in the Delaware River Basin occurred."

Five natural gas pipelines -- Transco, Texas Eastern Transmission, Algonquin Gas Transmission, Tennessee Gas Pipeline and Columbia Gas Transmission -- serve the Garden State, although Transco and Texas Eastern serve as the primary transporters. Collectively there are about 1,500 miles of interstate transmission pipeline within the state.

Christie, through his 2011 Draft Energy Master Plan, said his administration was committed to expanding the state's natural gas infrastructure.

"The pipelines that serve New Jersey benefit from increased production by the Marcellus Shale region," Christie's plan states. "Existing pipeline connections allow for the transportation of shale gas from Marcellus in addition to conventional production from the Gulf Coast. Shale gas is expected to increase substantially in the decade ahead, and may continue to capture increased market share for decades.

"There are a number of competing new pipeline proposals that are expected to expand pipeline deliverability into New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area, which would provide Marcellus Shale gas producers with improved access to the market. New Jersey's pipeline and [local distribution company] infrastructure is likely to be strengthened by these new pipelines."

According to figures in Christie's plan, New Jersey has 2.9 million natural gas customers, 90% of which are residential, making the state one of highest in the nation in terms of concentration of natural gas usage.

"Expansion of the gas pipeline system in New Jersey will also foster fuel substitution and will serve New Jersey's renewed interest in [natural gas vehicles] to lessen the state's reliance on expensive diesel fuel," the plan also states. "Other program initiatives oriented around oil-to-gas conversions for home heating are likewise well served by expanding the interstate gas pipeline system into and within New Jersey."

State lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a bill on June 29 that bans fracking in the Garden State (see Shale Daily, July 5). Christie has not signed the bill yet (S-2576), but if he does New Jersey will become the first state to ban fracking.

New Jersey officials have also threatened to withhold its dues to the DRBC if the organization doesn't enact rules governing fracking within the Delaware River Basin by its next meeting in September (see Shale Daily, July 19).