For many months, a battle has been raging in New Jersey about whether to convert the coal-burning BL England power plant to natural gas. While coal-burning is relatively more polluting (especially in terms of sulfur dioxide, NOx, and carbon dioxide emissions) and more expensive than natural gas, natural gas power plants bring with them other concerns. In order to repower this plant on the shore of Cape May County, a 22-mile-long pipeline was proposed to be built through the 1.1-million acre New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, a sensitive wetland habitat that straddles the Cape May and Cumberland County lines. The pipeline would have run adjacent to Rt 49, a main highway that bisects the Pinelands. Although the administration of Governor Chris Christie had lobbied strongly for the project, saying that the pipeline would go under and alongside existing roads, opponents of the project felt that that it posed too much of a threat to state- and federally-regulated wetlands and other Natural Heritage sites.
Map of Proposed Pinelands Pipeline plan (defeated). For a full-screen version of this map (including map legend), click here.
On Friday, January 10, the New Jersey Pinelands Commission rejected the proposal by New Jersey Gas to move ahead with the project. According to the New York Times, New Jersey Gas would have been exempt from a ban on additional transmission pipelines through the Pinelands because they were including an offer to acquire and preserve two to three thousand acres of land near the pipeline route. Now, the next decision will be whether to find an alternate route for gas delivery to the plant if it is converted, keep the plant running on coal, or, perhaps, like has been suggested for other sites like the Cayuga and Dunkirk plants in New York State, choose to upgrade the efficiency of transmission lines, and capture energy that is currently lost.
For more information:
New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve National Park Service website
New Jersey Officials Back Pinelands Pipeline NY Post, 12/12/2013
Panel Blocks Gas Pipeline in New Jersey Pinelands New York Times, 1/11/2014
Controversial Repowering of the Cayuga and Dunkirk Coal-fired Power Plants, Earthjustice website
Coal-To-Natural-Gas Switch For Power Generation Is Paying Off In Smaller Carbon Footprint, International Business Times, 1/14/2014
National Wetlands Inventory: US Fish and Wildlife Service