12 hours ago
BORDENTOWN TOWNSHIP — State and federal regulators may be just weeks away from rendering decisions on a controversial natural gas pipeline and related compressor station proposed for northern Burlington County but opponents urged area residents to keep up the fight.
"They want to rubber stamp and push this through as quickly as possible, but you as citizens have rights," Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said Wednesday during an information forum at the township community center. "They don't have a right to just build this pipeline. There are regulatory processes they have to go through and the louder the public speaks out the better."
Tittel was just one of several environmental leaders and pipeline opponents who spoke at the two-hour forum, which was organized by Food and Water Watch and the grassroots opposition group, Responsible Pipelines.
Over 200 people crowded into the center to listen to the various speakers. Also there were several elected officials, including state Sen. Diane Allen, R-7th of Edgewater Park, Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-7th of Delran, Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, and Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-12th of Plumsted.
Most of the speakers focused on the environmental impacts and danger they say is posed by the proposed New Jersey Natural Gas pipeline and related Williams Transco compressor station, as well as other natural gas projects across the state.
Decisions on both projects could be handed down as early as next month by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The pipeline, called the Southern Reliability Link, is proposed to run through Chesterfield, North Hanover, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and several other towns in Monmouth and Ocean counties before connecting with New Jersey Natural Gas' service network in Manchester, Ocean County.
The line would begin at a compressor station that Oklahoma-based Williams Transco has proposed to build in Chesterfield in order to connect New Jersey Natural Gas' proposed pipeline to the company's existing Trenton-Woodbury transmission line.
Unlike the Southern Reliability Link, which as an intrastate pipeline must be approved by the state utility board, the Garden State Expansion project is part of an interstate natural gas pipeline that connects to lines through multiple states and therefore is regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Both regulatory agencies are expected to make rulings next month.
New Jersey Natural Gas has said in filings and public statements that the pipeline would provide a second transmission feed to its territory, which it claims is crucial for both reliability and resiliency.
Opponents claim the high-pressure pipeline and compressor station would come too close to homes, schools and businesses. Environmental groups also object, arguing that the natural gas infrastructure supports hydraulic drilling, called fracking, and promotes dependency on fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.
During Wednesday's forum, speakers shared talking points about fracking, natural gas and some of the best arguments against the pipeline and compressor projects.
"They're trying to get fracked gas to market and New Jersey is being trampled on for the profit," said Lena Smith, an organizer with Food and Water Watch.
"Pipelines violate things we hold dear as Americans: Our homes, our families health and safety, and our property rights," said Patty Cronheim, a leader with the group ReThink Energy NJ.
Most of the speakers urged residents to get involved in the opposition and pressure regulators and elected lawmakers at all levels of government.
"We can win this thing, but you have to keep up the pressure," Geoff Richter, outreach manager for the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.
Officials from New Jersey Natural Gas and Williams Transco did not attend the forum.
In a statement, Williams Transco spokesman Chris Stockton said the company has safely operated its pipeline and five compressor stations in New Jersey for decades and that its proposed Garden State Expansion project was designed to deliver natural gas safely and with a "minimal impact to neighbors and the environment."
"Underground pipelines aren’t something most people think about, but this complex infrastructure is vital for homes and businesses who depend on pipelines to deliver reliable, affordable energy," Stockton said. "Projects like our Garden State expansion are important for New Jersey residents to continue to enjoy reliable natural gas service."