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New Jersey Sets Obstacles For MarketLink

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 28, 1999)

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)

Ellen Beswick

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