Assembly Republican Ron Dancer introduced a package of three bills to protect residents and communities from the potential dangers of natural gas pipelines. The first bill includes the public in the process, and two bills pertain to running gas main routes through communities and towns.
“We can’t be too cautious when pipelines are being run through the most densely populated state in the country,” said Dancer, R – Ocean, Burlington, Middlesex and Monmouth. “I have proposed some common-sense safeguards that will alleviate risk and calm some of the fears associated with potentially explosive pipelines.”
Dancer represents Legislative District 12, which would be heavily impacted by New Jersey Natural Gas’ planned $130 million pipeline. The new transmission line would carve through Chesterfield, North Hanover, Upper Freehold, Plumsted and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
The Assemblyman sponsors a bill (A-4501) amending the Open Meetings Act and requiring the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to hear public comment during open meetings. Under current law there is no requirement for public comment.
“One thing the public deserves is more participation in the process,” said Dancer. “People should have their say, and questions answered. They should have a role in the conversation, especially when the discussion is about a 300 psi high-pressure natural gas transmission pipeline, which is one of the highest pressurized intrastate gas mains to ever be installed in New Jersey.”
A-4503 enhances safety, requiring a 100-foot buffer between a pipeline and occupied structures.
“We shouldn’t be compromising public safety. As a matter of fact, this 100-foot buffer is BPU’s current regulation for public safety, but because it is a regulation, utilities can just request a waiver,” said Dancer. He explained that New Jersey Natural Gas’ application to BPU includes an application for relief from the 100-foot restriction.
“The safety of our residents should not be up for negotiation in an application. By making BPU’s own safety regs the law, my bill makes public safety a priority,” said Dancer.
A-4455 requires gas companies to utilize existing utility right-of-ways whenever possible eliminating the need to disrupt communities and towns for new routes.
Dancer said, “With the cooperation of providers, a new gas main route could follow the established right-of-way of existing electric transmission lines. It makes more sense than tearing through neighborhoods and interfering with traffic and school bus route stops in front of homes and gas lines under construction.”
Under the bill, utility companies must demonstrate to BPU that they have exhausted efforts to find a suitable location along an existing utility corridor before BPU approves a new right-of-way through another community.
“We recognize that the installation of utilities and gas lines are necessary and essential to homes, businesses and the state’s economy, however the proliferation of pipelines outside of existing utility right-of-way corridors is making New Jersey the Pipeline Capitol of the Northeast,” said Dancer.