Environmental groups sue N.J. over natural gas pipeline approval

A duo of local environmental groups is suing two New Jersey agencies over their approval of a proposed natural gas pipeline through South Jersey.

The New Jersey Sierra Club and Environment New Jersey filed an appeal Wednesday in Superior Court, alleging that the agencies circumvented the standard public approval process.

“What you see here is the failure of government to do its job,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “You see a government that’s more interested in siding with South Jersey Gas than upholding the laws that protect the Pinelands or upholding the laws that protect the ratepayers.”

Opponents also allege that the pipeline proposed by South Jersey Gas is unnecessary and would be harmful to the Pinelands, a 1.1 million-acre nature reserve it would pass through.

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“We have to remember the Pinelands National Reserve is an ecological oasis,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment N.J. “It’s not a convenient conduit for gas pipelines to tear up.”

South Jersey Gas said the pipeline is necessary to provide reliable service to customers in Atlantic and Cape May Counties. The pipeline will also feed into the BL England power plant, which is being converted from coal-fired to natural gas.

“South Jersey Gas followed a well established process for gaining approval from the Board of Public Utilities for this vitally important project,” said Dan Lockwood, manager of stakeholder relations at South Jersey Gas.

“The route selected for the pipeline meets the requirements of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan and minimizes any impact on the environment.”

South Jersey Gas still must get the go-ahead from the Board of Public Utilities to override local zoning rules as well as Department of Environmental Protection approval of environmental permits.

Lockwood said South Jersey Gas is looking forward to starting construction on the pipeline soon.

A spokesman for the Board of Public Utilities said the agency does not comment on pending litigation. The Pinelands Commission did not respond to a request for comment.

Also on Wednesday, the Board of Public Utilities issued its approval of a separate proposed pipeline in South Jersey.

The Southern Reliability Link, proposed by New Jersey Natural Gas, would ship natural gas in a 30-mile pipeline through Monmouth, Ocean, and Burlington Counties. The SRL would also travel through the Pinelands as well as a portion of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.

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