N.J. Natural Gas pipeline proposed through Burlington, Monmouth, Ocean faces opposition
UPPER FREEHOLD – A proposed New Jersey Natural Gas pipeline that would cut through several Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean county towns is facing opposition from residents who say the project poses a risk to public safety and the environment.
New Jersey Natural Gas is still determining the final route for a 28-mile, 30-inch transmission line as part of its Southern Reliability Link project to distribute natural gas to its customers, spokesman Michael Kinney said.
The utility serves more than half a million customers in Monmouth, Ocean and parts of Morris, Middlesex and Burlington counties.
Preliminary plans call for the line to begin in Chesterfield and continue through North Hanover, Upper Freehold, Plumsted and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst before connecting to the utility’s system in Manchester, Kinney said.
Currently, a connection to an interstate pipeline in Middlesex County feeds the utility’s entire natural gas distribution system, but a second line into the southern end of its system would add supply diversity and increase reliability, Kinney said.
“If there’s any disruption or there’s a catastrophe similar to Superstorm Sandy, having that secondary feed will help mitigate … the impact on our system,” he said.
More than 100 residents of towns in the pipeline’s possible path have formed a grassroots group called Families for Responsible Pipelines.
Upper Freehold resident Sean Sweeney said their mission is to ensure that the pipeline follows a route that would have the lowest impact on families and the community, not necessarily the lowest cost for the utility company.
Sweeney said they first learned of the project in late November when they saw engineers surveying land in the area and did some digging. He said safety is the group’s primary concern.
“There’s so many issues that can go wrong with these pipelines with how they’re put in,” he said, pointing to gas line explosions in Edison in 1994 and San Bruno, Calif., in 2010.
Proposed N.J. Natural Gas pipeline that would cut through Burlington, Monmouth, Ocean faces opposition
Sweeney said area residents, who are serviced by Public Service Electric & Gas, would bear the burden of the New Jersey Natural Gas pipeline, but not benefit from it.
“Common sense has to prevail,” he said. “We understand that the pipe needs to go in … but they need to make a responsible decision to route this pipeline away from families and structures. A high-pressured gas pipeline doesn’t need to go down a residential street if it doesn’t have to.”
Other concerns include damage to the environment and wildlife, a decrease in property values, risks to well and septic systems and inadequate fire resources to respond to a potential catastrophe, Sweeney said.
He said he is glad the group learned about the project before plans are finalized or permits are sought.
They have already reached out to the utility, the state Board of Public Utilities and local officials to express their concerns and more than 100 residents attended Upper Freehold’s reorganization meeting Tuesday.
Kinney said that once the utility chooses the final route, the company plans to hold open houses in the towns the pipeline would go through.
“We are looking at identifying a route that helps us meet our goal of providing safe, reliable, resilient service with minimal impact to communities and the environment,” he said. “We’re not choosing a particular route because of cost.”
Kinney added that New Jersey
Natural Gas follows the most stringent state and federal requirements for pipeline safety.
The project would be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week from a control room and remote control valves would be installed to shut down the flow of natural gas in the event of an emergency, he said. A leak survey of the entire system would be done annually and physical inspections done monthly, he said.