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Gas company offers testimony on need for new infrastructure in Holmdel

 A representative of New Jersey Natural Gas informed the Holmdel Zoning Board of Adjustment that a new regulator station needs to be built in the municipality to more effectively serve customers.

Testimony on NJNG’s plan to build a regulator station at 970 Holmdel Road was presented at the zoning board’s Sept. 12 meeting in the municipal building. The company is seeking variances to construct the regulator station on the 16.51-acre site.

Answering questions posed by attorney Nancy Skidmore, who represents the company, Kraig Sanders, the director of transmission operations at NJNG, described how the regulator station would operate.

Sanders said NJNG operates a temporary regulator station on the Vonage property, 23 Main St., Holmdel, where an underground system has been installed to continue to meet the needs of gas customers in the area.

Sanders said the proposed regulator station at 970 Holmdel Road is necessary to reduce the gas pressure between the transmission system that is currently in existence.

Sanders and Skidmore said the temporary system “is not sustainable in the long run” and does not have an above-ground heater they said is imperative for the proposed regulator station to rely on.

An 8-foot-tall heater would be above ground at 970 Holmdel Road, Sanders said, to ensure the gas traveling through the transmission lines does not freeze in cold weather and can travel effectively through the system.

The proposed heating unit would be accompanied by several ventilation runs standing 15 feet in height, Sanders said. Fencing that could top 12 feet in height is also proposed on the site, he said.

“The regulator, which is a valve, actually operates and responds to the demand from customers,” Sanders said. “For example, if we have more customers using gas, the regulator’s function is to open itself up to provide more gas. As you stop using gas … the demand lowers and the regulator responds. It would begin to close.”

“… We are actually running the system at sub-optimal pressures right now,” Sanders said as he discussed the performance of the temporary regulator station. “We are actually burdening other regulator stations to pick up the slack, so to speak. We are not running the system to the point that we really need to because we do not want to cause any situation that would cause an outage.”

The zoning board’s vice chairman, Demetri Orfanitopoulos, asked Sanders why the temporary regulator station could not be improved to accommodate an above-ground heating unit.

Sanders said the temporary station cannot accommodate any design alterations because it would be “unsafe from a regulatory standpoint.”

“This is a system we cannot continue to operate this way,” Sanders said. “It’s like designing a potential failure into the system.”

Sanders said  970 Holmdel Road is the ideal location for a regulator station because it is close to a transmission line that runs through the area. Sanders reported that it is safer to have a regulator station near a transmission line.

Board members asked Sanders what the protocol would be if a fire broke out at the proposed facility.

Sanders said there has never been a fire at an above-ground station and said NJNG officials would respond immediately to an emergency if one were to take place.

Board members expressed concern about potentially harmful emissions from the proposed ventilation units. They said there is a winery directly across Holmdel Road.

“We need to know if there are other heaters that are available that can do what needs to be done with less environmental impact. Respectfully, we feel it is important for us to know,”  Chairwoman Valerie Avrin-Marchiano said.

Skidmore declined to discuss other heating units, saying, “I’m not sure how to say it any other way, we are not going to provide that information.”

The board would be provided with an air quality expert to address issues that were raised by board members, Skidmore said.

Michael Intile of Crest Engineering said 970 Holmdel Road is currently occupied by an office park, parking lots and a cell tower. He said the proposed regulator station would be 180 feet off Holmdel Road.

Richard Weiner of Crest Engineering, a landscape architect and land planner, described the existing landscaping at 970 Holmdel Road and discussed additional landscape buffers that could be created to draw attention away from the proposed regulator station.

The Holmdel Environmental Commission suggested in a recent document that the proposed development of an NJNG regulator station could have a negative impact on the environment in the municipality.

According to an Aug. 9 advisory memorandum from the environmental commission to zoning board members and the board’s professional staff, the proposed development of the regulator station could alter the quality of several Category 1 waterways in Monmouth County.

The environmental commission said Category 1 waterways should be protected from changes to the pre-existing condition of the water. The construction of a regulator station could negatively affect the quality of the water, according to the memorandum.

The environmental commission is requesting proof from NJNG that local waterways will not be impacted by the construction of a regulator station. The memorandum affirms that a permit is required from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection before any action may be carried out by NJNG or the municipality.

The NJNG hearing is scheduled to continue at the zoning board’s Sept. 26 meeting.

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