(Last week) South Jersey Gas reapplied to the Pinelands Commission for a previously rejected plan to build a 22-mile gas pipeline to the B.L. England Generation Station. The proposal for this route was already rejected in January 2014 but the company is reapplying its application with an amendment hoping to show that the plan meets Pineland standards. They’re coming in as a private development to try and bypass a commission vote.
“This is outrageous! The Pinelands Commission voted down the pipeline and now they’re back again. They should not be allowed to just reapply for the same pipeline in the same exact location. What’s even worse is that they’re trying to do it by playing games with the rules to prevent public participation. They’re trying to call it a private development to get around the rules so the commission will not even have a vote on this. This is a shameful manipulation of the Pineland rules and an abuse of power,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Not only would this pipeline cut a destructive scar through environmentally sensitive land and bring in air and water pollution, it clearly violates the Comprehensive Management Plan. This is the governor and the Pinelands Commission breaking the public trust. This is the governor siding with South Jersey Gas over the Pinelands and the people of New Jersey.”
These guys just can’t take a hint. We fought against this last time and will do so again. The proposed pipeline route would disrupt vulnerable forested land and threaten water supply. This is a dirty deal. Robert Barr was appointed to the Pinelands Commission by Governor Christie earlier this year. Environmental groups opposed his nomination as political retribution against a Commissioner who voted against the South Jersey Gas pipeline. Now with his vote, this already rejected proposal may become a harsh reality.
“Hundreds of people came out to hearings opposing the pipelines last time. Thousands more sent letters. Now they want to have the staff approve this damaging pipeline without any public scrutiny or input. This is a slap in the face to the people of New Jersey. We’re not going to stop. We’re going to keep fighting and we’re going to fight harder, not only at the Pinelands Commission for opposing the application but in court if we have to. This is a dirty deal and the people of NJ are going to stand up against it,” said Tittel.
The proposed pipeline does not serve the needs of the Pinelands. The BL England plant which the gas pipeline would serve is located in Upper Township outside of the Pinelands region. Eight miles of the pipeline will fuel B.L. England. The pipeline would run from Millville to Beesley’s Point, across portions of the Pinelands Forest Management Area, where such development is prohibited. The pipeline would keep the BL England plant running, bringing more water and air pollution to the region.
“They’re trying to turn the Pinelands into The Pipelands. The violation of the public trust and the violation of the Pinelands rules is getting even worse with this application. They’re going around the public process and the Pinelands rules. Instead of going through the law they’re trying to make the laws fit the pipeline. There is a cozy relationship between the governor’s office and South Jersey Gas and it makes you wonder how much is going on behind the scenes. This is a bigger scandal than Bridgegate and has some of the same people involved. This is worse. Instead of closing a bridge they’re trying to pen the Pinelands up to pipelines and powerplants. The replacing of Leslie Ficcaglia on the Pinelands Commission, the appointment of Robert Barr, the DEP letter, and now this new application shows that this an orchestrated campaign by the Christie administration and Senator Sweeney to push this pipeline through. What they’re trying to do is turn the Pinelands over to special interests and polluters,” said Jeff Tittel.
Based on the current transmission system, the electricity generated by the plant would go to Atlantic City and other communities outside the Pinelands. South Jersey Gas has stated that 14 miles of the line will serve as a back-up to service in Cape May County and parts of Atlantic County. In their March 11, 2013 BPU petition South Jersey Gas states that “much of the load growth has been in the east (Atlantic County) and southeast (Cape May County) parts of its service territory,” areas whose most densely populated municipalities are outside the Pinelands region. The South Jersey Gas transmission system supplies the local distribution systems for Atlantic City and the City of Cape May and almost all of the gas in the pipeline can be expected to go to those areas, not the Pinelands. We believe this pipeline will serve areas in Cape May County exclusively outside the Pinelands Commission’s jurisdiction.
“The BLU plant is unneeded and unnecessary. There’s a power plant in Atlantic City sitting empty. They’re selling out the Pinelands Commission for funding and selling out the public as well. Whenever governments go out of their way to push something through, they’re not doing it with the public’s best interests. There is a concern that we’re pushing these pipelines through the Pinelands and they will have environmental impacts that far outweigh any merits attached,” said Jeff Tittel. “This pipeline would be the largest producer of greenhouse gasses in this area of South Jersey. This pipeline will promote fracking, pollution, and could be used for offshore LNG. The proposed pipeline did not serve the needs of the Pinelands. Instead it would promote water pollution from fracking and cooling towers, air pollution from power plants, while creating irreversible harm to wetlands, streams, and damaging important open spaces. Instead of pushing for a destructive pipeline and a fossil fuel plant, Governor Christie should be working to make wind a reality off our coast. The BL England could be turned into a base site for offshore wind construction and maintenance. Unfortunately Governor Christie would rather appease the Koch Brothers and Right Wing at the expense of clean air and clean water for New Jersey residents.”
The Pinelands is a truly unique and ecologically important region, recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. There are plants and species in the Pinelands found nowhere else in the world. It protects 17 trillions of water in its aquifer and is the largest open space on the northeastern seaboard. The proposed route would also cross at least two populations of threatened or endangered plants. There was no plan for mitigation to restore these critical habitats, wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas that could have been destroyed. This type of destruction could do irreparable harm to an area rich in diversity.
“They’re trying to turn the Pinelands into The Pipelines. The violation of the public trust and the violation of the Pinelands rules is getting even worse with this application. They’re going around the public process and the Pinelands rules. Instead of going through the law they’re trying to make the laws fit the pipeline. There is a cozy relationship between the governor’s office and South Jersey Gas and it makes you wonder how much is going on behind the scenes. This is a bigger scandal than Bridgegate and has some of the same people involved. This is worse. Instead of closing a bridge they’re trying to pen the Pinelands up to pipelines and powerplants. The replacing of Leslie Ficcaglia on the Pinelands Commission, the appointment of Robert Barr, the DEP letter, and now this new application shows that this an orchestrated campaign by the Christie administration and Senator Sweeney to push this pipeline through. In the process they are trying to undo 40 years of Pinelands protections and turn the PC over to special interests,” said Tittel.
“Four governors have already come out against this pipeline. The people of New Hersey have already opposed it. Now the Christie Administration is going to ignore the public and side with South Jersey Gas over the people of New Jersey. This is despicable and one of the most shameful acts we’ve ever seen a government do. The people of New Jersey are not going to stand for this. They’re going to stand up to the governor and to South Jersey Gas. The Sierra Club is committed to fighting this pipeline as we’ve been fighting the BLU power plant. We’re not going to give up, the public isn’t going to give up and we will fight even harder. More than 40 years after passing the Pinelands Acts we’re battling to save the Pinelands all over again. The public is going to stand up for the Pinelands again as they always have done,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.