Historic properties and districts, perpetually protected farmland and critical watersheds are increasingly being threatened with the proposed construction of natural gas pipelines in all corners of New Jersey. With the opening of extensive shale oil fields to the west of the state in Pennsylvania, the delivery routes for these newly developed gas sources are planned to traverse some of the New Jersey’s most pristine farmlands. Most recently in the news, the Penn East pipeline, crossing parts of Hunterdon and Mercer Counties is but the latest of a number of proposed lines to compromise the historic and natural resources of our state.
The Penn East pipeline traverses Holland, Alexandria, Kingwood, Delaware and West Amwell townships in Hunterdon County and Hopewell Township in Mercer County. This route crosses through some of the most productive and scenic farmland in New Jersey. Additionally, the proposed pipeline crosses multiple streams in the Delaware River watershed, posing the potential risk of contamination. The Rosemont Rural Agricultural District, listed on both the New Jersey and the National Registers of Historic Places is also in the line of the proposed routing.
The proposed Southern Reliability Link, an improvement project of New Jersey Natural Gas, located in the southern part of the state, will affect the Chesterfield Village Historic District in Chesterfield, Burlington County. This proposed routing will disturb open space in Chesterfield and North Hanover townships in Burlington County, Upper Freehold Township in Monmouth County and Plumstead, Manchester townships in Ocean County and the Pinelands National Reserve.
The Transcontinental (TRANSCO) gas pipeline is a new set of parallel installations next to existing pipelines. TRANSCO attempted to minimize the public review and approval process by defining the project into a number of smaller components. Known as the Leidy Southeast Expansion project, the proposed work affects parts of Somerset, Hunterdon, and Mercer counties and crosses through the Sourland Mountain area, the largest contiguous forest in central New Jersey.
Finally, the Tennessee Gas pipeline was a project approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), but the US District Court of Appeals reversed this decision in 2014 due to inconsistencies in the approval determination. This proposed routing, from West Milford to Mahwah, disturbs some of the most scenic areas in New Jersey, including the Delaware Water Gap and Wawayanda State Park. The routing also affects the Newark watershed in Highland Lakes and negatively impacts the Skyland Manor House Historic District and St. Luke’s Chapel, both in Ringwood and the Cleveland Bridge in Mahwah, the oldest vehicular bridge in Bergen County. Tennessee Gas will resubmit its plans for the pipeline in this critically important part of the state so the jury is still out.
All of these projects require great diligence to keep the approval process fair and open and to assure that New Jersey’s historic and natural resources are fully considered in the review of these projects. The construction of natural gas pipelines from the shale oil fields in Pennsylvania promote the development of fracking but at best will be a short-term solution to deliver natural gas until the resource is depleted, and will produce permanent, negative impacts on our state’s environment.
Preservation New Jersey asks that the required reviews be undertaken in the evaluation of these pipeline projects in the most transparent and fair manner. In accordance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the State Historic Preservation Office should administer this process, assuring that open and convenient hearings are conducted and public opinion solicited and that the impacts on historic properties are fully assessed. Only then can the public be confident that their interests be fully considered.
New Jersey Conservation Foundation
908 997 0734