Protest of Southern Reliability Link natural gas pipeline set for Tuesday
TRENTON — The citizen's group People Over Pipelines and the New Jersey Sierra Club will join forces Tuesday to oppose New Jersey Natural Gas' planned pipeline through Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean Counties with a march and rally in the state's capitol.
The Southern Reliability Link has already been approved by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, but the project still needs permit approvals from the state Department of Environment Protection.
Protesters will march from the DEP to the Statehouse steps for a rally at noon to draw attention to a wetland permit hearing on Monday in Bordentown, and to an expansion compressor station in Chesterfield, according to Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club.
"For us the concern is, it's cutting right through the middle of the Pinelands and through really environmentally sensitive area, and we don't feel it's needed," Tittel said.
Tittel contends opponents want the DEP to make sure all environment impacts are taken into consideration.
"Look at all the water quality impacts, flooding impacts, impacts to open space," Tittel said.
In addition to concerns about the pipeline increasing the state's dependence on fossil fuels, opponents are worried about health and safety consequences.
New Jersey Natural Gas spokesman Michael Kinney said the Southern Reliability Link will benefit 82 municipalities.
"This project will be integrated into our system," Kinney said. Currently, 85 percent of supply used to serve our Monmouth, Ocean and Burlington Counties, the primary heart of our service territory, comes from a single interstate pipeline feed. The Southern Reliability will provide a second feed at the southern end of our system, thereby providing the extra resiliency, so it will essentially feed natural gas into both ends of our system.
In response to environmental concerns, Kinney said, "90 percent of the project will be located under existing road rights of way."
He added his company has taken every effort to identify a route that minimized the impact to the community and environment, and enables the utility to strengthen the resiliency of its system.