The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities on Jan. 27 found that New Jersey Natural Gas Co.‘s (NJNG) proposed route for the Southern Reliability Link (SRL) natural gas pipeline meets or exceeds all federal and state pipeline safety requirements.
In approving the company’s petition to approve a route for the construction of the proposed pipeline, the board said it ordered additional pipeline safety measures, such as the installation of two twelve-inch-wide warning tapes placed over the pipeline and an initial integrity assessment using inline inspection devices.
The SRL project needed board approval under a law that requires approval for natural gas pipelines that are operated in excess of 250 psig and located within 100 feet of any building that is intended for human occupancy. In approving the petition to construct the proposed SRL, the Board found the project complies with all federal and state pipeline safety requirements.
In making its decision, the board found that the proposed SRL will improve reliability and resiliency by providing an alternate feed to deliver natural gas to approximately 452,000 NJNG customers and to maintaining system pressure in the event of a service interruption or failure in the existing pipeline system.
“The Southern Reliability Link will provide the necessary reliability and resiliency improvements needed to protect the natural gas service of about 452,000 NJNG customers,” said Richard S. Mroz, President of the N.J. Board of Public Utilities. “In approving the route for this natural gas infrastructure improvement project, the Board continues to support New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan goals and recommendations, while also demonstrating our commitment to ensuring safe, adequate and affordable utility services to all who desire such services.”
The board still must consider NJNG’s petition requesting the board to issue an order determining that the construction of the project is reasonably necessary for the service, convenience or welfare of the public and finding that the zoning and land use ordinances and regulations shall not no apply to the project. The 30 mile, 30-inch steel natural gas pipeline that will run through six towns located in Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties.
The board’s approval of NJNG’s request to construct the SRL is subject to the approval of all environmental permits required by the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, approval of road opening permits from the affected counties and municipalities, any requirements of the Pinelands Commission, the approval of traffic control and detour plans with the affected jurisdictions, the installation of two twelve inch wide warning tapes over the pipeline, the pressure testing requirements of New Jersey code prior to placing SRL into operation, and completion of an initial integrity assessment of the pipeline using inline inspection devices.
The SRL will serve as an alternate major feed to support the delivery of natural gas to NJNG customers and will maintain system pressure in the event of a supply interruption or system failure in the existing, single feed transmission pipeline supply system. Presently, approximately 85% of NJNG customers’ winter season peak day natural gas supply is serviced through a single interstate pipeline (Texas Eastern Transmission System) located in the northwest section of NJNG’s service area. NJNG customers located at the southern end of the service territory are potentially at risk to be adversely affected by supply interruptions and system failures.
Sierra Club official Jeff Tittel said in a Jan. 27 statement opposing this project: “The BPU has sold out the environment once again to the gas utilities. The Southern Reliability Link is unneeded and unnecessary. This pipeline is not for resiliency; it is for growth and development along the coast. The pipeline will cause an ugly scar through the Pinelands and create environmental damage along the way. It will affect the safety of communities and farming viability in the area. The pipeline and connected infrastructure will add pollution to our air and water and promote climate change, putting our environment, our health, and our safety at risk. The BPU tried to sneak it through by not telling people it was on the agenda today. During the lengthy discussion at the hearing, they didn’t even mention whether or not this pipeline is needed or necessary. The BPU is nothing but a rubber stamp for the industry they are supposed to regulate. When you listen to them try to justify this unjustifiable pipeline, they put out more hot air than two pipelines could handle.”
Tittel added: “The Southern Reliability Link would bring five times as much natural gas into Ocean County than necessary for resiliency. The purpose of this pipeline is potentially for a new gas-powered plant in Oyster Creek or the Heritage Mineral development project in Ocean County. This is not about resiliency; it’s about expanding their franchise area for more customers and development along the coast.”