Red Bank, NJ — Saying that New Jersey Natural Gas officials are being uncooperative with local officials, Senator Jennifer Beck (R- Monmouth) held a press conference with Mayor Pasquale Menna and Rivercenter Executive Director Nancy Adams to demand NJNG work cooperatively with local officials toward a solution in vetting alternatives to the utility's planned regulator replacement program.

NJNG plans on replacing 88 natural gas pressure regulators currently located below highly trafficked sidewalks on Front, Broad, and Monmouth Streets, bringing the devices above ground. The company has refused to release details of its decision making process and any alternative locations for the regulators that were considered, despite requests from the Senator and Red Bank officials.

"NJNG is being unresponsive and heavy handed with the Borough of Red Bank," Beck said. "They have admitted that there are alternatives to the current plan, but will not discuss what those options are or why they were not chosen. You don't see these devices placed as prominently, or in as great a number, very often in the downtown district of a busy municipality. Why is this solution the only one that works for Red Bank?"

"Let me be clear, safety should be our first priority," Beck continued. "However, that does not excuse NJNG's refusal to explain their decision making process."

Beck and Mayor Menna have written to state Board of Public Utilities Officials asking for their support in delaying the project until an acceptable remedy can be agreed to by all parties and NJNG releases their internal study on alternatives.

"If it is really necessary to disrupt our downtown business district like this, then we need to understand why," said Mayor Menna. "And if there were alternatives that could have been pursued but were not, we need to understand the reasoning. We should not have to beg to get NJNG officials to be forthcoming with us."

Red Bank RiverCenter's Executive Director, Nancy Adams, also expressed concern over the lack of cooperation by company officials. RiverCenter is a non-profit partnership dedicated to promoting revitalization of Red Bank's downtown business district.

"We have been successful in promoting Red Bank as a destination for businesses, merchants, restaurants, and night life because elected officials, volunteers, and the business community worked together," Adams stated. "We need NJNG to work with us too."

Senator Beck said that she will submit legislation at the Senate's March 15, 2012 voting session that would direct the BPU to require gas utilities planning regulator replacement projects to study less disruptive locations for the devices. The bill also requires the gas utility make public the findings of the study, and to return any disrupted property and infrastructure to its original condition.

"If NJNG refuses to be a good corporate citizen and come to the table, then we must act through the legislative process to force them to consider the needs of this community and others that may find themselves in similar situations," Beck said. "If there is a more palatable alternative that will provide the same public safety protections, it ought to be presented as an option to local officials."