A proposal by New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) to construct a natural gas pipeline through parts of Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties will be on the docket for the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) in 2016.
The company’s proposal has been in the news since early in 2015 when it filed a petition with the BPU to construct the Southern Reliability Link (SRL). The project would connect the natural gas system in the three counties to a new supply point with the Transcontinental Pipe Line Company (Transco) in Chesterfield, Burlington County.
During the summer, residents and elected officials had a chance to state their views about the SRL at two public hearings that were held by the BPU.
The board will eventually make a determination on the 30- mile-long natural gas pipeline that is proposed to cross a portion of southcentral New Jersey, including portions of Upper Freehold Township, Jackson and Plumsted.
In July, BPU Commissioner Dianne Solomon granted the motions to intervene of the Burlington County Board of Freeholders, Chesterfield Township and North Hanover Township. She also granted the motions to participate of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and Plumsted Township, including the right to argue orally and to file a brief or statement, according to an order establishing a post-hearing briefing schedule Solomon filed on Dec. 10.
The order states that an evidentiary hearing was held on Dec. 7 and that NJNG proposed an expedited briefing schedule, with initial briefs to be filed on Dec. 23 and reply briefs to be filed on Jan. 6. The intervenors and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance proposed that initial briefs be filed on Jan. 15 and reply briefs be filed on Jan. 29.
Solomon wrote in the order that she concluded that the expedited briefing schedule proposed by NJNG would not provide sufficient time for the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, BPU staff, and the intervenors and participants “to thoroughly review the extensive record that was created in this proceeding to prepare and file their positions on the petition (for the new pipeline).” Solomon directed that initial briefs are to be filed by Jan. 15 and reply briefs are to be filed by Jan. 29.
John Valeri, an attorney representing NJNG, previously said, “The SRL project is necessary to support the reliability and system integrity of the company’s natural gas transmission system. It provides a second major transmission tool to a critical part of the company’s service area … which serves Monmouth and Ocean counties and a portion of Burlington County.”
According to NJNG, the SRL is a highpressure 30-inch-diameter pipeline that would run 30 miles from Chesterfield Township in Burlington County to Manchester Township in Ocean County. The utility states the SRL would “provide supply diversity and system resiliency, supporting the safe, reliable distribution of natural gas to more than one million people.”
The SRL would connect a natural gas system that serves customers in Monmouth, Ocean and Burlington counties to a new Transco supply point in Chesterfield. The new pipeline will tie into NJNG’s transmission system in Manchester that is near the southern end of the transmission system.
As things stand today, Valeri said, the utility’s service area is served by a single pipeline that runs through Middlesex County, which he said is “well outside of the company’s franchise area.”
Since there are no intrastate pipelines in NJNG’s shore service area, Valeri testified that the company had “no other choice” but to run a secondary pipeline through an area of the state it does not serve. At a public hearing this summer, Jaclyn Rhoads, the assistant executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, took issue with NJNG’s statement that it needs to bolster resilience for the company’s shore area at all.
“New Jersey Natural Gas has not demonstrated this pipeline is necessary or even desirable for maintaining or safeguarding the region’s natural gas supply,” Rhoads said.