Van Drew: BL England pipeline has viable path forward

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BL England

BEESLEYS POINT – State Sen. Jeff Van Drew said Tuesday that he has received the support of Gov. Chris Christie and state Senate president Steve Sweeney to advance plans for a natural gas pipeline to BL England.

Last year, South Jersey Gas proposed building a $90 million pipeline from a facility in Millville to the power plant in BL England. The pipeline would have traveled through about 15 miles of protected Pinelands.

The New Jersey Pinelands Commission rejected the proposal in a 7-7 vote in January.

In a statement, Van Drew called the pipeline project vital for South Jersey and the state. He said the governor and state senate president are committed to moving the project forward and “protecting the economy of the region and ensuring a strong energy future for the state through this effort.”

Van Drew said South Jersey Gas could seek a waiver of strict compliance from the Pinelands Commission. Under Pinelands Commission rules, the commission may waive strict compliance with the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan if there is a compelling public need. The waiver would require the company to demonstrate there is a compelling public need for the project and that no feasible alternatives exist.

Van Drew said the waiver could be a viable option since reliable gas and electricity delivery is essential to the health and safety of the region.

“The fact is that the Pinelands Commission rejected a specific proposal that was before them under very difficult circumstances,” Van Drew said in a statement. “The vote occurred at the height of an emotionally-charged debate during which a lot of misinformation was disseminated.”

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance came out against the pipeline. Four former New Jersey governors, Brenda T. Byrne, Jim Florio, Thomas H. Kean and Christine Todd Whitman, opposed the pipeline, saying in a letter to the Pinelands Commission that it would “compromise the Pinelands plan and serve to encourage future development contrary to the vision the plan sets out for growth and conservation in the Pinelands.”

The 24-inch pipeline would have traveled through the Pinelands under the Route 49 right of way, Van Drew stated. The project would not have resulted in a loss of wildlife, trees, or other vegetation, he said.

The BL England power plant in Beesleys Point could be forced to close if the pipeline is not approved. The region would b more vulnerable to gas outages, since there is only one line for natural gas running into Cape May County, he said.

“We are at a crossroads when it comes to our economic and energy future and this project is a major component in securing a stronger and more prosperous region and state,” Van Drew stated.

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