The state chapter of the Sierra Club is suing two New Jersey agencies in a bid to overturn their approval of a 30-mile natural gas pipeline that would run through three South Jersey counties.
The appeal filed last week criticizes the Pinelands Commission and the Board of Public Utilities for authorizing the Southern Reliability Link project, planned to carry natural gas from Chesterfield Township to Manchester Township.
The pipeline would also pass through Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst as well as part of the Pinelands, a 1.1 million-acre national reserve.
“It’s a project that’s going to create a lot of air pollution along the way, destroy environmentally-sensitive areas, cut through important open space, and be a safety hazard,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
In December, the staff of the Pinelands Commission issued the project a “certificate of filing,” allowing the project to move forward without a vote by the commissioners.
A month later, the Board of Public Utilities approved the pipeline application, saying it met all state and federal safety requirements.
To a vocal group of environmentalists and anti-fracking activists, those approvals showed that New Jersey was not on their side in opposing additional natural gas pipelines in the state, said Agnes Marsala, president of People Over Pipelines, which is joining the lawsuit.
“It’s a wake-up call to how our government works, how the regulatory agencies work. And they don’t work in our favor,” said Marsala. “They seem to favor business.”
“Just because a utility says it’s public, doesn’t make it a library. It’s a private enterprise.”
New Jersey Natural Gas, the company behind the Southern Reliability Link pipeline, has contended the project is necessary to provide additional supplies and resiliency to customers in Burlington, Ocean, and Monmouth counties.
The company expects the state approvals to hold up in court.
“We fully expect that the certificate of filing issued by the Pinelands Commission, wherein the commission rightly concluded that the SRL complies with the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan, will be upheld on appeal,” said spokesman Michael Kinney in a statement. “The two orders issued by the Board of Public Utilities authorizing the construction and operation of the SRL … will similarly be upheld on appeal.”
Construction on the project will begin after the company obtains the necessary permits.