Denial of Permits Signals End for Gas Pipeline Under Raritan Bay

After lengthy battle, environmentalists hail New Jersey’s decision — coupled with decision by New York officials — as major breakthrough
Credit: (AP Photo/Wayne Parry, File)
The New York City skyline is seen behind Raritan Bay from Middletown, NJ. The planned pipeline would have brought natural gas from Pennsylvania through New Jersey, out into Raritan Bay before reaching New York and Long Island.

New Jersey and New York once again have denied key permits for a much contested $1 billion new pipeline that would cut through the former state and under Raritan Bay to supply the latter with natural gas.

This time, permit denials appear to have killed the Williams Companies’ proposed Transco Northeast Supply Enhancement project, as the company announced it would not pursue the proposal.

“While we continue to believe in the fundamentals of this project, we will not refile in New Jersey or New York at this time,’’ said Laura Creekmur, spokesperson for Williams, in a statement that expressed disappointment and called the decisions unfortunate.

For environmentalists and opponents, New York’s decision on Friday and New Jersey officials’ on Saturday marked a big victory in what has been a long-running effort to halt any new fossil-fuel projects that could increase global warming.

“It’s a major breakthrough in the battle against new pipelines,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, referring to New York’s argument it would impede its efforts to combat climate change. “That is a big sea change.’’

New Jersey DEP denies wetlands permit

In fact, in denying the permit sought by Williams, the Cuomo administration noted it would be incompatible with a new climate law that aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 85% from 1990 levels by 2050. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation also feared the 23-mile pipeline would impair water quality by releasing copper and mercury buried in the sediments of Raritan Bay.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection followed with a denial of a wetlands permit, citing its neighboring state’s rejection of the water quality permit. In rejecting the permit, DEP officials cited New York’s decision as rendering the New Jersey case moot, failing to demonstrate a compelling public need for the project. The permit was dated May 15, but made public Saturday.

Transco had contended the project would bring new gas capacity to Long Island and New York City, where some suppliers had stopped connecting new customers because of concerns about unreliable deliveries of the fuel.

“The decision to pause this important infrastructure project is unfortunate for the region as the design and construction would have generated valuable economic activity in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, and would have directly and indirectly supported more than 3,000 jobs during the construction period,’’ Creekmur said.

Gas supplier proposed alternatives

But National Grid, the gas supplier that would use the fuel to supply customers, acknowledged earlier this month in a submittal that alternatives including enhancement of existing infrastructure combined with energy efficiency and other conservation measures could be sufficient to meet New York’s energy needs, according to Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.

“This decision shows that the right things can happen when you work hard and stick to what you know is right,’’ said Potosnak, who lives near a compressor station that would have been built on 16 acres in Franklin Township had the project advanced.

Still, many fossil fuel projects continue to move forward in New Jersey, including a 144-megawatt power plant in Kearny to power NJ Transit and Amtrak trains and a proposed 1,200-MW gas plant in North Bergen.