Two environmental groups filed new litigation against the Pinelands Commission’s approval of a 22-mile natural-gas pipeline through parts of the preserve, saying the project fails to protect forests and other resources in the region.
The lawsuit, filed by the New Jersey Sierra Club and Environment New Jersey, joins the Pinelands Preservation Alliance in challenging the commission’s approval of the South Jersey Gas pipeline earlier this spring.
The pipeline, intended to deliver natural gas to the B.L. England power plant in Beesley’s Point, is one of the most contentious of more than a dozen such projects proposed or approved in New Jersey in recent years. They are all part of a Christie administration-backed expansion of the state’s energy infrastructure.
With cheap deposits of natural gas found in neighboring Pennsylvania, the projects are tapping into plentiful new supplies that have brought down heating costs for consumers and businesses, but have stirred strenuous opposition in areas where they have been built.
The South Jersey Gas project is opposed by most of the state’s environmental groups, four former governors, and thousands of residents while attracting backing from labor, business, and key political leaders.
Bouncing back between the courts and the Pinelands Commission, the project has been before the agency for six years. Upon receiving its initial approval from the agency, it was then remanded back to the agency when a state appeals court found it had failed to comply with the commission’s Comprehensive Management Plan.
Opponents fear the pipeline, which crosses 10 miles of forest through the Pinelands, will adversely affect the preserve and the trillions of gallons of waters underneath it.
“We are going to court to do the job the Pinelands Commission is supposed to do, which is protect the Pinelands,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This pipeline will cause irreparable harm to our forests, threaten biodiversity, and cut an ugly scar through the Pinelands.’’
Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, agreed. “The Pinelands are an ecological oasis, not a convenient route for gas pipelines to tear up,’’ he said.