The New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection has suspended construction of the the New Jersey Natural Gas Southern Reliability Link pipeline.
The NJDEP recently issued a letter of suspension for the SLR pipeline which included a suspension of permits for the project, a stop work order, and the department is re-evaluating the projects’ general permits.
This action is in response to damage to roads, a stream, and a home near the project. The pipeline was planned to connect to a compressor station in Chesterfield and run 28 miles of pipe through Burlington, Monmouth, and Ocean Counties.
Specifically, it goes through Plumsted Township in Ocean County and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and ends in Manchester Township near the corner of Route 70 and Colonial Drive.
“The DEP finally stood up to NJNG. They pulled the permits because of unauthorized and illegal discharge of materials that polluted wetlands and groundwater,” New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said. His group has opposed the project since before it started.
“NJNG has clearly violated the Flood Hazard, Wetlands, and Buffer rules and are being held accountable by the DEP. The pipeline construction has caused a catastrophe for the people living along the pipeline route, causing damage to homes.”
“Any time we can slow down a dangerous project is always a small win for the environment,” Tittel added.
In its letter, the DEP explained the reason for the suspension was that the NJNG’s general permit fell under the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act Rule and on April 9 through 15, June 16, and June 19, the utility reported to the Department three separate inadvertent return events that occurred.
The pipeline installation involved horizontal directional drilling (HDD) and resulted in impacts to freshwater wetlands, transition areas and headwater streams, according to environmentalists.
DEP officials requested additional information from NJNG which it will evaluate to determine if the project will be able to achieve compliance with the conditions of the Flood Hazard Area Permits and if the agency determines that the project remains inconsistent with regulations, then NJNG will be required to obtain a Flood Hazard Area Individual Permit.
A home in Upper Freehold Township was made uninhabitable last month and its occupant had to leave her residence as a result of the HDD work. Ironically, the homeowner, Barbara Fox Cooper, is a founding member of People Over Pipelines who has been fighting since it began operation.
NJNG spokesman Kevin Roberts said the firm has taken full responsibility for the damage to Fox’s residence and offered to cover the costs of her lodging while repairs were made to it.
He responded to the DEP’s suspension of work on the project stating, “NJNG’s environmental response to the Inadvertent Return events was quick, fully in line with our response and mitigation plans, and conducted with the oversight of DEP officials.”
Roberts added, “drilling activity remains suspended, and we continue to work collaboratively with the DEP and Burlington County Engineer to provide the information they’ve requested, including steps we are taking to strengthen our mitigation and prevention efforts for the project’s few remaining drilling locations.”
“It’s important that the DEP put a stop work order on NJNG’s drilling permits for the six sites of the SRL pipeline. We believe there are now nine incidents of suspected problems, if not more, in different areas of the pipeline that need to be investigated,” Tittel said.