Van Drew seeking state help to have BL England pipeline built

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BEESLEYS POINT – State Sen. Jeff Van Drew said Tuesday that he wants to know what went wrong with South Jersey Gas’s application to the New Jersey Pinelands Commission to build a natural gas pipeline to the BL England power plant in Beesleys Point.

He said he will work with Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak to have the pipeline built.

“Make no mistake about it, we need to build this pipeline and I’m going to give it my level best to make it happen,” Van Drew stated in a press release. “I am asking the governor and senate president to help in this process.”

 

He estimated that 75 construction jobs would be created in building the pipeline and 60 jobs would be saved at the power plant if the generating station stays open.

A single major natural gas line runs into Cape May County now. If the line was compromised there would be no source of natural gas to the entire county, according to a press release from Van Drew’s office.

“The First Legislative District, as we have heard and read too often, has one of the worst economies in the entire country,” Van Drew stated. “We need to create and find thousands of new jobs and certainly not destroy the few good jobs that we already have.”

BL England is a coal burning plant. Its owner, Rockland Capital, sought to convert the plant to natural gas as part of a $400 million project.

In January, the Pinelands Commission voted 7-7 on a Memorandum of Agreement to allow the project to move forward. The tie vote meant the proposal was defeated.

Fifteen miles of the pipeline would have passed through protected Pinelands areas.

The commission was considering a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the state BPU (Board of Public Utilities) to allow construction. As part of the MOA, South Jersey Gas would pay the Pinelands Commission $8 million. The money would have been used for education and land acquisition, according to a draft of the agreement.

Opponents called the agreement a payment, and accused Pinelands Commission members of prostituting their mandate.

Upper Township and Cape May County officials supported the project. Local officials said converting to natural gas would reduce emissions. The project would also create jobs, they said.

The BL England plant brings more than $6 million to Upper Township coffers every year through Energy Receipts Taxes.

Environmentalists opposed the project because they said it would damage the Pinelands and promote “fracking” for natural gas. “Fracking” uses chemicals pumped underground to release natural gas, and opponents of the process say it pollutes the environment.

The Pinelands Commission denied South Jersey Gas’s proposal for a natural gas pipeline to feed the plant because it would pass through protected areas.

The plant must terminate burning coal due to consent orders by the DEP. Van Drew said the township will lose all of that revenue if the generating station closes, leading to significant property tax hikes.

“The decision to reject the application by the Pinelands Commission was devastatingly bad at a multitude of levels,” Van Drew stated.

He said others have suggested wind turbines or solar fields at the site. 

“If we can build wind turbines or solar panels at the site as well, I will be supportive, but we must get natural gas there and build this pipeline,” Van Drew said. “This two-foot pipeline underground along a roadway will not harm the Pinelands.”

 


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