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The Garden State….
Or The Pipeline State?

By on February 20, 2015

New Jersey is currently awash in proposals for the construction of new pipelines. They will transport gas and oil from supply sources, crossing this state we’re in to deliver fuel to distribution and export points.  These plans are not good news for preserved open space and farmland.

There’s the proposed PennEast pipeline, which would carry natural gas from the Marcellus Shale “fracking” region of Pennsylvania to a location north of Trenton, crossing through a substantial amount of preserved lands in Hunterdon and Mercer counties, including important watersheds. Then there’s the proposed Diamond East pipeline, which would follow a parallel route a few miles to the east.

The proposed Pilgrim Oil pipeline would carry Bakken shale oil produced in North Dakota from Albany, N.Y., to Linden, traversing numerous preserved lands in Bergen, Passaic, Morris, Essex and Union counties. And there’s the NJ Natural Gas pipeline proposed for Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties, and the South Jersey Gas pipeline proposed for the Pine Barrens in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties.

With so many plans out there – and perhaps more in the offing – you would think there would be a comprehensive review process that looks at the big picture and considers the necessity and cumulative impacts of so many pipelines. But there isn’t.

When these proposed pipelines cross state lines, they must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

Unfortunately, each individual proposal is reviewed independently, in a vacuum, as if the others didn’t exist. The combined effects on New Jersey are not addressed. And the proposals enjoy the full backing of current federal energy policy, which focuses on getting energy to markets quickly.

Gas and oil pipelines now present perhaps the single greatest threat to the integrity of preserved land in New Jersey.  The proposal affecting the most preserved land is PennEast.  Two potential routes are being considered, which could cross as many as 66 preserved parcels totaling nearly 4,500 acres.

The route of the proposed PennEast pipeline targets preserved farms and natural areas – properties that were protected for their soil quality, food production value, drinking water and the wildlife habitat. Protections on these lands are supposed to be permanent … as in forever.

The PennEast pipeline:

  • Would cross the Delaware River, a federally-designated Wild & Scenic river, impacting the critically important water resources of the Delaware River Basin and the New Jersey Highlands.
  • Would impact farms protected with federal farmland preservation funds, and other agricultural lands that have benefitted from U.S. Department of Agriculture funding for farm conservation practices.
  • Runs counter to voter support for permanent land preservation, and would erode public trust in preservation programs.

Let’s not forget who pays for New Jersey’s investment in preserved land. Most preservation projects are paid for with our tax dollars at the local, county, state and federal levels.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides substantial federal funding for farmland preservation through the Farm Bill and other programs. When the FERC allows these lands to become a target for energy infrastructure, it creates a huge inconsistency between federal energy and land preservation policies.

It’s critical that all levels of government require comprehensive planning for energy infrastructure in a consistent, science-based, proactive manner that protects preserved and other high quality natural resource lands.

Please contact your U.S. Senators and Congressmen and ask them to change federal policy to require comprehensive planning for energy and infrastructure. To find your Congressman, go to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/. To contact Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, go tohttp://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?State=NJ.

For more information about PennEast, go to www.njconservation.org/currentissues.htm.

And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org.

The State We’re In….
by Michele S. Byers
Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation.