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Sierra Club sues Pinelands Commission over pipeline

The New Jersey Sierra Club is suing the Pinelands Commission following the commission’s approval of the Southern Reliability Link (SRL) natural gas pipeline in the Pinelands.

In an Oct. 30 press release, the Sierra Club said it believes the Pinelands Commission violated the Comprehensive Management Plan and the Pinelands Protection Act by approving the pipeline. The club asserts that the commission did not follow proper procedure to approve the pipeline.

The SRL has been proposed by New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG). According to the utility, the pipeline “will support the safe, reliable, resilient distribution of natural gas to 83 municipalities throughout Monmouth, Ocean and Burlington counties, benefiting over one million people.”

The 30-mile project will begin in Chesterfield and continue through North Hanover, Upper Freehold Township, Plumsted Township and into NJNG’s existing system, according to the utility’s website.

On Sept. 14, the Pinelands Commission approved the SRL pipeline with a vote of 8-4, and one abstention, according to the Sierra Club.

“We are going to court to do the job the Pinelands Commission is supposed to do, which is to protect the Pinelands. The commission has sold out the Pinelands and the environment by approving the SRL,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

“Their approval flies in the face of the thousands of New Jersey citizens who have spoken out against the pipeline and contradicts the commission’s own rules. … The commission originally approved the pipeline and was challenged by the New Jersey Sierra Club and others. The court remanded the commission’s approval back to them. They have turned around and approved it all once more, again violating the law,” he said.

The Sierra Club asserts that the commission approved the SRL as a private development, but states that a regulated utility is not a private development.

Tittel said the Pinelands “is the largest open space on the eastern seaboard and recognized for its biodiversity by the United Nations. It is also the country’s first national reserve and holds 17 trillion gallons of water in its aquifer. This pipeline is part of a bigger picture, which is the rush to bring fracked gas from Pennsylvania to the New Jersey coast for development.”

The Sierra Club is represented by Raghu Murthy of the Eastern Environmental Law Center in its legal action.

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