Sierra Club, Pinelands group file motion for stay on natural gas pipeline

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Attorneys representing the New Jersey Sierra Club and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance have filed a motion for a stay on the New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) Southern Reliability Link (SRL) pipeline and a motion to supplement the record with the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey.

According to New Jersey Natural Gas, the Southern Reliability Link “is being developed to support the safe, reliable, resilient distribution of natural gas to our customers.”

“The SRL will provide a major interstate connection between NJNG’s distribution system that serves customers in Ocean, Burlington and Monmouth counties and the interstate pipeline system adjacent to the New Jersey Turnpike.

“By reinforcing the supply of natural gas with a feed from a separate interstate supplier into the southern end of NJNG’s system, the SRL will help mitigate potential customer interruptions, enhance system resiliency and ensure safe, reliable natural gas service for the region,” the company states.

Two weeks ago, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sent a letter of suspension to NJNG. The action includes a suspension of the company’s Freshwater Wetlands permit and the department is re-evaluating the project’s ability to move forward, according to a July 22 press release from the Sierra Club and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

The suspension letter cited three separate inadvertent return (IR) incidents that occurred during horizontal directional drilling (HDD) in Upper Freehold Township.

An IR is an un-permitted release of drilling sludge, chemicals and fluid into the environment surrounding the construction area.

According to the press release, five additional IR incidents had been reported in 2019 in the Pinelands portion of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in south central New Jersey.

The first incident reported on Jan. 31, 2019 discharged 444 gallons into adjacent wetlands. On Feb. 4, 2019, about 80 gallons of slurry were discharged into wetlands. On Feb. 7, 2019, two separate IRs yielded about 490 gallons that were discharged. On Feb. 8, 2019, about 100 gallons were discharged at the same station, according to the press release.

There have been reports along the SRL pipeline route in Monmouth, Ocean and Burlington counties about problems with the construction of the pipeline. These reports include suspected spills, sinkholes and materials from drilling finding their way into streams and ditches, according to the Sierra Club and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

Within the past month, an occupied house in Upper Freehold was condemned because NJNG caused a blowout while drilling and cracked the foundation of the home along the route of the pipeline, according to the press release.

The Sierra Club and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance are asking the court to halt all construction of the SRL until their ongoing appeals have been decided. NJNG has been constructing the pipeline while litigation continues in the matter.