Feb. 1, 2020 – In our efforts against the JCP&L’s high power transmission line through the five towns (the Monmouth County Reliability Project or “MCRP”), we learned that utility companies filed projects under pretexts.
In the case of MCRP, JCP&L first mislead the public indicating it was needed to address the power outages that we all faced, despite the fact that the project would have been the third transmission line and the existing (and backup) transmission was “up” during storms and was not the cause of the local power outages. In the petition filed with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities “BPU”), JCP&L indicated this was needed to address a reliability standard issue even though JCP&L started a route study one year before the issue was known and that there was an alternative that was not only cheaper, but also not as invasive as a new electrical transmission line to address the issue.
Residents are now facing similar issues with New Jersey Natural Gas (“NJNG”). Like electrical grid systems, there are gas transmission pipelines and local distribution gas pipelines that serve our communities. In 2011, NJNG filed and received permission to upgrade a gas transmission pipeline that run approximately from Hazlet (near Route 36) to Lincroft (Middletown) and then to southern Holmdel (Newman Spring Road/Main Street and Holmdel Road).
Subsequent to this replacement of the pipeline, NJNG sought significant zoning variances with the Holmdel Zoning Board for a regulator station. The 2011 pipeline replacement application conveniently omitted the then long-range needs, including this regulator station that now NJNG alleges is desperately needed.
At issue is the need for a regulator station with an industrial gas heating unit due to the extreme drop in operating pressure from the transition of the gas transmission pipeline to the distribution gas pipeline that could lead to freezing or icing of the regulator station. The previous pipeline that was replaced did not require the need for the proposed regulator station since it operated at a lower operating pressure.
In their own words, witnesses for NJNG have described the regulator station as a “major” or “significant” station with “city-level capacities” and that they look to locate in industrial or commercial zoned acres. The site in which NJNG is seeking variances for, a primarily residential, historic and farmland area, was not intended for this and would require 12 additional waivers and variances over existing 12 variances and 11 waivers. Most significantly, this would be considered a third use of the land, something Holmdel Township has never allowed in recent memory.
The population of Monmouth County has been flat for the past 10 years. In addition, according to the US Energy Information Administration, NJ residential gas consumption grew at 1% per annum for the past 10 years. Despite this, NJNG not only increased the “volume” of the pipeline by 250% (going from a 10-inch pipe to a 16-inch pipe), the maximum operating pressure of the pipeline was also significantly increased. The new maximum operating pressure of 722 PSIG is the same operating pressure for NJNG’s Southern Reliability link, a 30” pipeline, a pipeline that is almost twice the size of our 16-inch pipeline.
This is clearly driven by the corporate greed by NJNG to push the abundantly available fracked gas from Pennsylvania through New Jersey for the use and benefit outside of New Jersey. Many of you know may know or have read about the plight of fracked gas in many Pennsylvania communities (imagine turning on your kitchen faucet and lighting up the fluid with a match).
There were many environmental and safety issues with the proposed regulator station and the application by NJNG was denied two times by the Holmdel Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Last year, NJNG has filed a petition with the BPU to override the decisions by Holmdel’s Zoning Board, arguing that it is necessary for the “service, convenience or welfare of the public” - under the same statute that JCP&L had tried for MCRP. Coincidentally, NJNG is using the same outside counsel as JCP&L did for MCRP.
We learned that subsequent to the filing with the BPU, NJNG has now filed for variances in local land use law for a similar gas regulator station in Hazlet.
Municipalities have the sovereign and statutory right to determine local land use. While it has the right to appeal the decision to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, NJNG has the burden of proof to make the case and to show there is no other site or alternatives (including design of the regulator station) to accomplish this. NJNG has not done so.
This is a NJNG self-imposed hardship of its own doing. Municipalities of Holmdel, Hazlet and possibly Middletown must not be coerced into compensating for NJNG’s flawed planning or its corporate greed to the pursue profit.
What You Can Do
1. Public hearing – Just like MCRP, the BPU has assigned the case to the Office of Administrative Law. The case is before Administrative Law Judge Elia Pelois and a public hearing for public comments has been scheduled. Please attend and, if you are comfortable with it, speak out against the petition, asking the ALJ Pelois and the BPU to deny NJNG petition. See our online petition for talking points.
When: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020, 6 PM
Where: Holmdel Senior/Community Center, 6 Crawfords Corner Road, Holmdel
2. Sign our petition. There is a petition signing campaign at Fox Hollow Vineyards on Monday, Feb. 3rd. Residents will be there to answer any questions that you may have.
When: Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, 5 - 8 PM
Where: Fox Hollow Vineyards, 939 Holmdel Road, Holmdel, NJ 07733
3. If you cannot come on Feb. 3rd, please sign our online petition opposing this. We will submit this as part of public comments to the BPU and to ALJ Elia Pelios.
Online petition: http://chng.it/4zVJw2NXyD