PETERSBURG – Upper Township Committee's five members unanimously passed a resolution Jan. 9 in support of South Jersey Gas' proposed natural gas pipeline to B.L. England Generating Station in Beesley's Point. The document was signed by Mayor Richard Palombo and Municipal Clerk Barbara L. Young.
The Pinelands Commission plans a Jan. 24 hearing at 9:30 a.m. for the project. That hearing will be held in the St. Ann's Church Parish Centre, 22 Trenton Road, Pemberton Township, according to the commission’s website.
Regardless of local support, four former governors remain opposed to the proposal, and they sent a joint letter so stating their opposition to Pinelands Commission Chair Sean Earlen.
The letter notes that Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan rules dictate that gas pipelines can only be approved if they serve residents already living there. “On any interpretation, this pipeline…does not meet that standard,” according to a release from the Pinelands Alliance.
Former governors Brendan Byrne, James Florio, Thomas Kean and Christine Todd Whitman told the commission “that Commission staff correctly determined in 2014 that the project violated the Comprehensive Management Plan, then, after the Commission vote in 2014, simply reversed that determination in order to advance its approval.”
“If the Commission turns its back on decades of bipartisan efforts to protect this precious asset, the door opens to more pipelines and more threats to drinking water and other resources,” according to Carlton Montgomery, executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. He lauded the governors’ action.
South Jersey Gas has again applied to the New Jersey Pineland Commission seeking permission to construct a 22-milelong pipeline to provide reliability to Cape May and Atlantic counties.
The existing South Jersey Gas system has one supply into Cape County "making it vulnerable to a critical loss of service," according to the document.
It cited the utility's 142,000 residents and businesses that lack a "reliable back-up supply of natural gas and vulnerable to a disruption of natural gas service due to Mother Nature, an excavator's mistake or terroristic act."
The governing body also pointed to the loss of service that "would have a significant impact on public health safety of those affected and cause serious damage to the region's economy."
The resolution added that "the proposed pipeline would have minimal impact on the Pinelands forest, constructed entirely within existing rights-of-way - below and alongside state highways like Routes 49 and 50."
Because the England station must close if better air quality is not possible from its stack, the resolution added it is "the only major source of electric generation in the region." It presently burns coal.
"Due to the compelling public need for the safety of our residents the economy and the protection of our environment, the Township Committee of the Township of Upper strongly supports the South Jersey Gas application to the Pinelands Commission to construct this much-needed pipeline and ask that the Pinelands Commission render its decision favorably."