New Jersey Sets Obstacles For MarketLink
The state of New Jersey, scene of a massive natural gas pipeline explosion
five years ago, has launched an attack on Transco's MarketLink project
--- which had no connection with the blast --- demanding more stringent
safety requirements on interstate pipelines and additional proof there
is a need for added pipeline capacity.
The attack, fueled by citizen protests along the right-of-way, has come
through the governor's mansion and the U.S. House of Representatives, which
last week found fault with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's environmental
review of the project.
The congressional criticism came in report language accompanying the
FY2000 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, which includes FERC's budget.
It expressed concern that the Commission's Draft Environmental Impact Statement
(DEIS) "insufficiently addresses environmental impact and public safety."
The language, sponsored by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-NJ, notes "the
area in New Jersey where this pipeline is planned is one of the most densely
populated regions in the country and an explosion involving this pipeline
would have devastating consequences." It also expressed concern about
the pipeline's route through the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
The Appropriations Committee directed FERC to provide a 20-year projection
and analysis of pipeline capacity needed in the area.
New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman also wants to be assured "there
is sufficient demand and substantial air quality benefits to the state
of New Jersey." In a letter to FERC, Whitman said she also was concerned
that interstate pipelines did not have to follow more stringent state safety
requirements. "I cannot support the pipeline's construction until
I am assured that there are strict safety standards in place and that there
has been consideration of the impact on both the public and the environment."
After it received the favorable DEIS, Williams' Transcontinental Gas
Pipe Line (Transco) went out and bought $119 million worth of pipe and
compressor facilities for the MarketLink expansion. The project involves
about 150 miles of 42- and 36-inch looping, plus additional compression
on Transco's mainline from the Leidy Hub in Pennsylvania through New Jersey.
MarketLink is designed to pick up additional supplies coming from western
Canada through Chicago and the proposed Independence Pipeline. (See NGI,
June 7, 1999)
Meanwhile, Texas Eastern Transmission (Tetco) has attempted to derail
MarketLink, proposing at least two alternatives that will involve its own
system which runs through the same area, and claiming FERC neglected to
consider the turned-back capacity that will be available on its system
to fill any increased demand. (See NGI, June
It's no surprise the New Jersey governor is concerned. Whitman is the
one who had to declare Edison, NJ a disaster area in March 1994, when a
Tetco mainline blew up, leveling eight apartment buildings and leaving
250 people homeless. Miraculously, a few minutes warning and an earthen
embankment allowed tenants to escape. Only one person died as a result
of the blast. (See NGI, March 28, 1994)
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