Profits or Public Safety? A Mayor Speaks Out

It seems that everywhere you look, dirty fuel corporations are pushing projects that enhance their profits while putting public safety at risk.

The ironically-named “Southern Reliability Link” (SRL) is a prime example, and citizens are up in arms about the danger this project poses to several small South and Central Jersey communities.

There are two aspects to the SRL – First is a 30+ mile pipeline that starts in Chesterfield Township, winds through portions of Burlington, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties, and terminates in Manchester Township. This pipeline would transport highly pressurized natural gas from fracking wells in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas. Second, is a compression station, proposed near the border of Bordentown Township and Chesterfield Township, adjacent to the New Jersey Turnpike. The current map on the New Jersey Natural Gas website is obsolete because it shows the pipeline traversing the Joint Base (McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst). Recently the commander of the base withheld approval due to the dangers the pipeline poses there.

Bordentown Township Mayor Jim Cann came in on a holiday weekend to speak about the dangers this project poses to his town.

This project poses high risk and offers no benefit to the towns on which it encroaches. While the proposed route is far from a densely populated urban area, there are homes, businesses, and schools within the blast areas of the compressor station, and residents would suffer from the inevitable leaks of toxic chemicals (including radioactive radon) that almost certainly will occur.

Even proponents of the pipeline admit there is sufficient natural gas transmission capacity to serve the needs of South Jersey customers, and are using Hurricane Sandy outages as justification for this project. But activists point out that the dirty fuel purveyors may have ulterior motives. It would be relatively easy to ship this excess natural gas to other countries – further eroding any “benefit” to the victims of fracking and leaking. The power companies may be planning to use the natural gas to power a proposed electricity-generation plant in Lacey Township to replace the generation capacity that will be lost with the closure of the nuclear power plant there in 2019. That “solution” would also add to the air pollution of surrounding areas.

Transco, the company proposing to build the highly-dangerous compressor station, will be presenting its case to the public at a town meeting at Chesterfield Elementary School (30 Saddle Way, Chesterfield) on Wednesday, December 2 at 7:00 PM. Those living in or near the affected areas might wish to attend.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the court of last resort for approval of this project. I wouldn’t count on Congressmen Tom MacArthur or Chris Smith for help in fighting their dirty energy benefactors. Nevertheless, I reached out to Congressman MacArthur’s office this past Wednesday for a statement. I have not received a response yet, but if and when I do, I’ll post it here.

Comments (5)

  1. deciminyan (Post author)

    I just received a response from Congressman MacArthur’s office. Here it is in its entirety – as published earlier this year as an op-ed in the Burlington County Times.

    MacArthur applauds proposal of alternate pipeline route
    By Congressman Tom MacArthur | Posted: Tuesday, June 30, 2015 3:00 am

    One of the most consistent issues raised as I listen to residents across Burlington and Ocean counties is the rising cost of energy. Did you know that right here in New Jersey we pay $22.35 for the same natural gas that costs $1.50 in Pennsylvania? It’s a travesty that can almost entirely be blamed on the lack of energy infrastructure in our region. I support an all-of-the-above energy policy to deal with this problem.

    But building energy infrastructure must be done responsibly. I applaud the bipartisan efforts of the Burlington County Board of Freeholders, and local and state officials to urge New Jersey Natural Gas to consider alternate routes of the proposed Southern Reliability Link pipeline. While I support the construction of energy infrastructure in our region because it would strengthen Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, create local jobs, and provide lower energy costs, I urge New Jersey Natural Gas to find a better, alternative route for its proposed pipeline. I was recently encouraged when the state Board of Public Utilities sided with the members of our community by maintaining a full procedural review of this project.

    I have worked with members of both parties in Washington to address the issue of rising energy costs by introducing legislation, HR-2295, that would update the permitting process for gas pipelines on federal lands. This is an important piece of legislation that will create jobs, improve our energy infrastructure, and lower costs in our region — all while ensuring environmentally responsible construction.

    I am proud to stand with our local officials and members of our community in calling for a new route for the Southern Reliability Link pipeline and look forward to continuing to work on a bipartisan basis to lower energy costs.

    Reply
  2. Agnes Marsala

    I’d like to know where MacAthur got those figures. I can’t find any NJ natural gas suppliers who charge more then $1.24 per therm. I also beg to differ on the “lack of energy infrastructure” We have more than enough infrastructure in NJ. What we don’t have is pipeline to transport enough gas for a million homes when NJNG only heat a fraction of that in the area they want this pipe to serve. They won’t say where the rest of the gas is going. I can guess though, overseas to the more lucrative Liquified Natural Gas and Natural Gas Liquids markets. Why should we be dumped on for corporate greed? I guess MacArthur got his PAC $$ though.
    I won’t even go into the false claims of supporting the Joint Base and the job creation lies.

    Reply
  3. Walter Helfrecht

    Dear Deciminyan: There are a couple of incorrect statements in your article above.

    The first is your inclusion of Mercer County within the area affected by the Southern Reliability Link. Instead, it should be MONMOUTH County as the proposed pipeline course takes it down Province Line Road which is the dividing line between Burlington and Monmouth County.

    Even though JB-MDL (Joint Base) has not given its approval for the construction of the pipeline through the base property, NJNG has not floated any new routing for the SRL and so the map that you link to above is still what stands in the publicly available documents; that is to say that while it may appear to be obsolete, it has not been re-drawn. If you know of a newer map issued by NJNG, then please, by all means, make an effort to get that in the public view as soon as possible. You may send it to info@responsible-pipeline.com .

    Finally, my take on Rep. McArthur’s response is that he really hasn’t gotten the whole story straight, and while he’s trying to walk the political tightrope to not appear too strongly against the TRANSCO Garden State Expansion project or the NJNG Southern Reliability Link project, he needs to look closer at the JB-MDL portion because it is based on a fictitious “military need” that is necessary to avoid getting a fully-vetted Pinelands National Reserve approval for such pipeline infrastructure. In simple terms, the JB-MDL has never determined that it has any need for such infrastructure or service. And as far as his bill concerning gas pipeline infrastructure on Federal lands, that is all within McArthur’s pervue, however, the business about creating jobs, etc. is a weak argument since they are transient, short-lived, and generally are not parceled out to the local workforce. He also has apparently not been made aware that as of 2013 it was found in a federal report that the Northeast has an excess capacity of natural gas and that the bulk of the excess is looking for a place to be loaded onto ships to be sold abroad for many times more than what would be paid in the United States. If this is “improving our energy infrastructure and lowering costs in our region”, I have a bridge to sell him.

    Reply
    1. deciminyan (Post author)

      You are correct. I should have said Monmouth County, not Mercer. It has been fixed in the original post. Thank you for pointing this out.

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Weekend News Roundup & Open Thread for Nov. 28-29, 2015 | Blue Jersey

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *