Home > Uncategorized > BPU Approves South Jersey Gas Pinelands Pipeline, With No Discussion

BPU Approves South Jersey Gas Pinelands Pipeline, With No Discussion

Board Allows SJG To Rely On Prior Stealth BPU Approvals

Board and Staff Completely Ignore Public Comments

Game By SJG To Justify Pinelands Reconsideration

You’re a hypocrite Mr. Fiordaliso,” shouted Georgina Shanley, of Ocean City and Citizens United for Renewable Energy, as she left the room with several others. “This is a terrible day for justice. Shame on you!” ~~~ Press of Atlantic City [updates below]

Today the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) met to consider, among many other things, a revised application submitted by the South Jersey Gas Co. for their proposed Pinelands pipeline (we say its the same project and that this is all a game).

BPU President Richard Mroz, appointed by Gov. Christie, introduced the application by thanking Commissioner Joe Fiordaliso for serving as the hearing officer at the June 17, 2015 public hearing.

Recall that at the public hearing, Commissioner Fiodaliso was punked by South Jersey Gas who tried to hijack the hearing. In response to strong public criticism, he promised that he was there to listen and seriously consider public comments (in addition to testimony at the hearing, here are the comments we submitted). He betrayed that promise today (but I’m getting ahead of myself here, so let’s get back to what went on today).

President Mroz then said that he was aware of significant public concerns and the involvement of many people at the public hearing, but that the Board was considering the application as one part of the larger project.

These were incredibly vague and meaningless remarks for a trained lawyer and BPU President to make, so I knew the deal was in.

Staff then began by noting that the SJG pipeline route had previously been approved by a June 21, 2013 BPU Order and that the applicant (SJG) submitted a request to amend that Order in October 2014.

What this amounts to is an attempt by SJG and the Board to severely limit the scope of the issues that currently are under consideration to just the amendments SJG requested: 1) relocation of the interconnection station in Upper Township;  2) to continue to seek approval by the Pinelands Commission that “may or may not be a MOA”; and 3) an agreement not to connect to any new customers along the portion of the pipeline in the Pinelands forest area.

That means that the prior sham BPU Orders – adopted with virtually no public input at a time when there was little public awareness of the pipeline project – still stand and will not be reconsidered.

This is exactly the OPPOSITE of what SJG is a arguing before the Pinelands Commission, where they claim that “new information” and modifications of the pipeline route to reduce impacts justify a reversal of the prior Pinelands Commission finding that the project was “inconsistent with the Pinelands CMP”.

My guess is that this is part of a SJG legal and PR strategy to create the appearance of significant “new” information to justify reconsideration by the Pinelands Commission, while in fact keeping BPU review very narrow in scope.

Regardless of that, what BPU did today makes no sense at all from the BPU perspective, because at the public hearing, SJG was allowed to present sworn expert witness testimony that was extremely broad in scope, dealing with the environmental impacts of the pipeline, the pipeline route, alternatives, various energy policy issues (energy demand, need for the project, reliability, resilience, Energy Master Plan, air quality, etc), and the Pinelands issues.

Public testimony was presented for over 5 hours on an even broader range of issues.

But today, after an extremely brief and narrow summary staff recommendation to approve just 3 technical aspects of the “new” South Jersey Gas Co. Pinelands pipeline, the BPU Commissioners unanimously approved certain aspects of the pipeline with absolutely no discussion.

President Mroz repeated his prior comments about the narrow scope of issues before the Board.

A group of activists who attended the hearing then stood and left the room shouting “scam” and “shame on you”.

It was all done is about 2 minutes – 10 times less than the time staff and Commissioners spent on discussing such earth shaking issues as the fact that water tank paint dries morel slowly in cold temperatures and “vegetative management”: the difference between a “hazard tree” located in a right-of-way or on private property.

I wouldn’t even call this a ‘rubber stamp” – there must be some harsher term I can use that just doesn’t seem to come to mind right now.

We’ll go with: fucking corrupt bullshit.

[Update – I got a charge out of this BPU quote from the Press of Atlantic City story:

“We review for security and reliability,” said BPU spokesman J. Gregory Reinert. He said the board’s staff found no safety problems with the changes, and the approval was based on that finding.

Several people testified and offered data on pipeline safety issues – there is not even a hint that BPU staff considered that testimony – it was not even mentioned, never mind considered properly.

The so called “reliability” issue is key – and totally asserted with no factual basis. We asked the BPU to quantify and map these alleged reliability benefits of the pipeline spatially. IF net reliability benefits in fact exist – and that’s a big if, considering the vulnerable coastal location of the BL England plant and risks from climate change and sea level rise – they do not benefit people who live in the Pinelands, as required by Pinelands regulations.

The fact that BPU neglected to even document the so called “reliability” benefits suggests corruption. At a minimum, those benefits MUST be allocated in order to allocate costs to ratepayers. ~~ end update

[Update #2 – 7/23/15 – Today’s NJ Spotlight story gets it right.

This is all a very cynical legal and PR ploy by South Jersey Gas.

They are trying to create the false appearance that this is a “new and improved” project as a pretext to force the Pinelands Commission to reconsider it after the Commission refused to approve the pipeline in January 2014.

SJG has made minor technical changes to the same pipeline, and perverted Pinelands rules to recast it as a “private” development project that does not require Commission vote or any public hearings or participation.

It is an outrageous move by SJG that must be blocked,

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