Yellow line indicates proposed route of Pinelands pipeline (Pinelands Commission)


A deal appears to be in the works that would enable a 22-mile natural gas pipeline to be built in New Jersey's Pinelands.

Under a draft agreement, the Asbury Park Press reports South Jersey Gas would pay $8 million to a Pinelands conservation and education fund to help clear the project's final hurdle.

The deal would in effect exempt the pipeline from a ban on new transmission lines in forest areas of the 1 million-acre Pinelands.

Forest areas have the second strictest level of conservation protection in the national reserve, which spans portions of seven counties in southern New Jersey.

The 24-inch diameter pipeline would run from Maurice River Township in Cumberland County to the old coal-fired BL England coal plant in Cape May County's Upper Township. The state has ordered the plant converted or closed permanently to end pollution violations.

A public hearing is planned Dec. 9, and the Pinelands Commission is expected to vote on the proposal Jan. 10.

The draft agreement contends the pipeline route, mostly along Route 49 and other roads, would have less environmental impact than other routes considered.

A number of environmental groups have opposed the project, mainly because they object to an exemption to the forest safeguards.

The Sierra Club's Jeff Tittel said the group would file a legal challenge if the pipeline is approved.

The pipeline agreement would dedicate $7.25 million to buying land in the southern Pinelands adjacent to the pipeline route, the Asbury Park Press reported. Any money left over after three years past the project completion could be used for buying lands south of the Atlantic City Expressway.

An additional $250,000 would finance completion of a Pinelands education center in Pemberton and $500,000 would be used by the commission for education and outreach.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)