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NJ agency declares South Jersey Gas' pipeline application invalid

The New Jersey Pinelands Commission found that South Jersey Gas Co.'s application to build a gas pipeline to feed an electric power plant is invalid after the generation facility owner decided against converting the plant to gas fuel, Press of Atlantic City reported.

RC Cape May Holdings had planned to convert its oil-and-coal-fired power plant to gas but recently decided not to move forward with the project. In light of that development, the Pinelands Commission told South Jersey Gas that since the B.L. England power plant would not need gas service, South Jersey's project was no longer justified and the company's application was void, Press of Atlantic City reported March 9.

South Jersey Gas, a subsidiary of South Jersey Industries Inc., proposed a 22-mile, 24-inch-diameter intrastate line to the B.L. England plant, which was supposed to be converted to a 430-MW, gas-fired power plant known as B.L. England CC Plant in Cape May County.

South Jersey Gas spokeswoman Marissa Travaline said the company had anticipated the commission's decision given the abandonment of the B.L. England power plant conversion, which impacted about 40% of the South Jersey's project plan.

Travaline added that the company is seeking approval for a new project. South Jersey executives have previously said that the pipeline was necessary to boost reliability for gas customers in Cape May and Atlantic counties and that there is still need in that area.

''This announcement is bad for the region, as repowering B.L. England with natural gas was a cost-effective and environmentally prudent solution to a known [PJM Interconnection] constraint point,'' South Jersey Industries CEO Michael Renna said during a Feb. 27 earnings call.

The Pinelands Commission has authority over the 1.1 million-acre Pinelands National Reserve, which South Jersey Gas' planned pipeline was slated to cross. Environmental groups have challenged the project in court, arguing that the commission violated the Pinelands Protection Act and the comprehensive management plan governing the reserve, among other concerns.

The Pinelands Commission approved the project in February 2017.