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April 26, 2016

Two N.J. state agencies sued over approval of Pinelands pipeline

Pinelands Commission and BPU approvals are subject of Sierra Club suit

The Sierra Club’s New Jersey Chapter is suing state agencies over their approval of New Jersey Natural Gas' Southern Reliability Link.

The 30-mile, 30-inch pipeline would run through three counties, including part of the Pinelands. It would carry natural gas from Chesterfield Township to Manchester Township and cut through Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, part of the pines.

The Board of Public Utilities approved construction in January and voted last month to bypass local zoning and land-use rules.

A letter sent by Pinelands Commission Executive Director Nancy Wittenberg to the BPU informing the agency that the project complied with Pinelands regulations is also being challenged.

"We strongly believe the pipeline is unneeded and unnecessary and it's a threat to homes and the environment,” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said Monday.

New Jersey Natural Gas has claimed the project is needed to enhance the reliability of gas delivery to its nearly 500,000 customers, mostly in Ocean and Monmouth counties.

But the Sierra Club and their allies contend it will be an environmental and safety hazard and its true intention is to provide additional gas for new development along the shore.

"This is really all about opening new areas for growth," Tittel said during a press conference.

The BPU has declined comment. A spokesman for the Pinelands Commission expressed confidence the approvals will stand in an interview with the Burlington County Times.