South Jersey Gas seeking Tuckahoe easement for pipeline station

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TUCKAHOE – Planning for a natural gas pipeline through the Pinelands apparently continues despite a vote by the Pinelands Commission in January denying the application.

South Jersey Gas has requested an easement on about an acre of land in Tuckahoe so that it can build a valve station as part of the project. The station would connect the proposed 24-inch gas pipeline with an existing pipeline, solicitor Dan Young said.

 

On Tuesday, township committee gave approval for an ordinance to be drawn up that would grant the easement to South Jersey Gas for $67,500. The lot is next to the old township hall and the public works yard on Mt. Pleasant-Tuckahoe Road. The two baseball fields there would no longer be used if operations are consolidated at Amanda's Field in Petersburg, Committeeman Hobie Young said.

The easement will not have to be put up to public bid since South Jersey Gas owns easements on adjacent lots, Dan Young said.

“They have easements to both sides of the property,” he said. “They are the adjacent land owner.”

Upper Township could seek its own appraisal of the lot before it moves forward, Young said. But the assessment by South Jersey Gas is likely favorable to Upper Township. Township engineer Paul Dietrich said a two acre lot in Tuckahoe is currently for sale for $75,000.

Dan Young said the $67,500 would probably be enough to build two new baseball fields.

“The two baseball fields there will not be useable,” he said.

The valve station would be an above ground structure. Pipeline valves would come up from underground and then go back underground there. The station can be used to regulate pressure in the pipelines, Dietrich said.

South Jersey Gas had initially sought a property on nearby Marshall Ave. for the station but is now opting for the site on Mt. Pleasant-Tuckahoe Road, Dietrich said.

The battle over the pipeline to BL England has only intensified since the Pinelands Commission voted 7-7 in January to deny a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) proposed by the state Board of Public Utilities, which would have allowed for the construction of a 22-mile natural gas pipeline from Millville to Beesleys Point. The pipeline is required to repower the coal burning plant there.

The Pinelands Commission has jurisdiction because around 15 miles of the pipeline would run through protected Pinelands. It would run along Route 49 from Millville, through Tuckahoe along Route 50 and to Beesleys Point parallel to the power lines, passing under two ponds, a river and a creek along the way.

Upper Township Committee and Cape May County freeholders have supported the project, saying it would increase natural gas and electrical reliability in South Jersey. It would also preserve around 100 jobs at the BL England power plant, which is required by the state Department of Environmental Protection to shut down its coal burning boilers.

Environmental groups have opposed the pipeline, saying it could threaten endangered species and claiming it violates the Pinelands Commission’s Comprehensive Management Plan. The CMP only allows public service infrastructure in the Pinelands if it is intended to primarily serve the needs of the Pinelands.

Opponents of the pipeline also say recent changes to the Pinelands Commission are an attempt to reverse the January vote. 

Gov. Chris Christie recently nominated two new members to the Pinelands Commission, replacing D’Arcy Rohan Green of Bay Head and Robert Jackson of Middle Township with New Hanover Mayor Dennis Roohr and Robert Barr of Ocean City.

Green and Jackson both voted against the pipeline proposal.

Cumberland County freeholders also recently replaced their Pinelands commissioner, Leslie Ficcaglia, who voted against the pipeline proposal, with Jane Jannarone. Jannarone is a former Democratic freeholder and a real estate agent.

South Jersey Gas has filed a lawsuit in Superior Court, seeking to have the Pinelands Commission rehear the proposal.

Officials said the approval of an easement with South Jersey Gas could benefit the township by allowing it to expand its public works yard, since the baseball fields would be gone. Dietrich said it would also allow for an expanded area for a cell tower there. That could result in increased future rental income, he said.

 


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