Pinelands Commission hearing on pipeline to BL England tonight

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GALLOWAY – The Pinelands Commission will hold a public meeting tonight on a proposed Memorandum of Agreement between the commission and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) that would allow South Jersey Gas to build a 22-mile natural gas pipeline from Millville to Beesleys Point.

The public hearing will start at 5 p.m. tonight, Monday, Dec. 9 in the Galloway Township Municipal Building, 300 E. Jimmie Leeds Road in Galloway. The purpose of the hearing is to elicit comment on the proposed MOA.

The pipeline would fuel the BL England power plant, which is converting from coal and oil to natural gas. Around 15 miles of the pipeline pass through protected Pinelands areas.


As part of the MOA, South Jersey Gas would pay the commission $8 million. The money would be used for education and land acquisition, according to a draft of the agreement.

Environmentalists say approval of the pipeline would violate the Pinelands Commission’s Comprehensive Management Plan, in that it would allow infrastructure in the Pinelands that is intended to serve another area. It will also put pressure on endangered and threatened plant species in the area, they say.

Advocates for the pipeline have said it would increase service reliability and allow BL England to convert to natural gas, which is cleaner than burning coal.

The Pinelands Commission’s Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) allows service infrastructure in the Forest Management Area only when it is intended to primarily serve the needs of the Pinelands. An MOA is needed to allow the project to move forward.

The MOA would be similar to one signed by Conectiv and the state BPU several years ago to run power lines along the Garden State Parkway. Conectiv paid $13 million as part of the agreement, according to Nancy Wittenberg, executive director of the Pinelands Commission.

The pipeline is part of a planned $400 million conversion from coal and oil to natural gas at the plant. According to a map submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the proposed pipeline would travel from Millville down Route 49, passing through Maurice River Township, Estell Manor and Upper Township. In Upper Township, the pipeline would turn south from Route 49 onto Cedar Avenue, before the intersection with Route 50. It would then turn east onto Mill Road and Reading Avenue before turning south again onto Mount Pleasant-Tuckahoe Road. It would then turn onto Route 50 and travel through Tuckahoe and Petersburg on Route 631 before turning north and using the power line right-of-way parallel to the train tracks to the B.L. England plant in Beesleys Point.

Along the way the pipeline will pass 49 feet beneath the bottom of Mill Creek and 41 feet beneath Cedar Swamp Creek in Upper Township.

The New Jersey Sierra Club, the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, and Waterwatch International have come out against the pipeline.

The pipeline would transport about 20 million dekatherms of gas from Millville to Beesleys Point. That equates to the same amount of gas that South Jersey Gas provides to 267,000 homes in a year.

The Pinelands National Reserve is the first National Reserve in the nation. It encompasses approximately 1.1 million acres covering portions of seven counties and all or parts of 56 municipalities.

This region occupies 22 percent of New Jersey's land area. It is the largest body of open space on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard between Richmond and Boston and is underlain by aquifers containing 17 trillion gallons of water, according to the Pinelands Commission.

The process following the public hearing includes the preparation of a report on the hearing and a formal recommendation regarding the proposed MOA. That report will be presented to the 15-member Pinelands Commission board, which will decide whether to approve the proposed MOA.


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