The pinelands of southern New Jersey are a quilt of farmlands, marshy areas, and, frankly, pine barrens. So biological rich is this region that in 1978 it was designated as a United States Biosphere Reserve, and Congress later established the country's first National Reserve across more than 1 million acres.
Now a portion of Pinelands National Reserve is being eyed for a transmission corridor to funnel natural gas to the B.L. England Plant so the power plant can turn from coal to natural gas for fuel. That proposal, according to the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, threatens the integrity of the National Reserve and actually is prohibited by the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan because the plant's energy is transmitted primarily to users outside the Pinelands.
The public service infrastructure restriction was placed in the CMP for good reason. If the rules can simply be ignored whenever a utility company wants to do something that violates the rule, then the credibility and permanence of the CMP is damaged.
This kind of pipeline can cause environmental damage to the Pinelands, because the construction and maintenance of these pipelines damages forests and roadside habitats through which the pipeline passes. For example, the proposed SJ Gas route would cross at least two populations of threatened or endangered plants. Experience shows that theory does not match practice when companies claim construction can be done without harming natural resources, as the abuse of Pinelands road shoulders has shown time and again.
There are alternatives to the proposed pipeline route. Even if one assumes it is necessary to bring natural gas to the B.L. England plant, there is no necessity to run the pipeline through the Pinelands Forest Management Area. There are power plants directly to the north in Atlantic County, so it should be possible to run the supply pipeline outside the Pinelands Area or, at least, in the right of way of the Garden State Parkway, where it will not impinge on the interior forests of the Pinelands.