Urge NJ BPU to Deny NJNG's Appeal of Holmdel Gas Regulator Station

Urge NJ BPU to Deny NJNG's Appeal of Holmdel Gas Regulator Station

February 1, 2020
Petition to
Secretary, the NJ Board of Public Utilities Aida Camacho-Welch and 1 other
Signatures: 837Next Goal: 1,000
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Why this petition matters

Started by Consumers Helping Affect Regulation of Gas & Electric

To: The Honorable Elia A. Pelios, ALJ, c/o Clerk of the Office of Administrative Law, 33 Washington Street, Newark, NJ 07102

To: The Honorable Aida Camacho-Welch, Secretary, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, 44 South Clinton Ave, P.O. Box 350, Trenton, NJ 08625

Re:  "In the Matter of the Petition of New Jersey Natural Gas Company For a Determination Concerning the Holmdel Regulator Station Pursuant to NJSA 40:55D-19",  BPU Docket No. GO18111257,  OAL Docket No. PUC 17810-2018S

The undersigned urges the Honorable Elia Pelios, ALJ and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to deny the petition by New Jersey Natural Gas (“NJNG”) appealing Holmdel Township’s Zoning Board of Adjustment decision denying their application for the construction of an industrial regulator station.

In 2011, NJNG filed and received approval to replace 8 miles of 10” gas pipeline to a 16” pipeline in Holmdel Township and, subsequent to this replacement, sought zoning variances with the Holmdel Zoning Board for a regulator station.  The Holmdel Zoning Board has twice denied such applications due to unsatisfactory answers in a thorough and robust process.

Municipalities have the sovereign and statutory right to determine local land use.  While it has the right to appeal the decision to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities ("NJ BPU"), NJNG has the burden of proof to make the case and to show there is no other site or alternatives (including design of the regulator station) to accomplish this.  NJNG has not done so.

At issue is the need for a regulator station with an industrial gas heating unit due to the extreme drop in operating pressure and, as a consequence, the drop in temperature of the gas.  The previous pipeline that was replaced did not require the need for the proposed regulator station since it operated at a lower operating pressure.  It should be noted that the maximum operating pressure of 722 PSIG of the new pipeline is the same operating pressure for NJNG’s Southern Reliability link, a 30” pipeline, a much larger pipeline than the 16-inch pipeline in question.

The population of Monmouth County has been flat for the past 10 years.  In addition, according to the US Energy Information Administration, NJ residential gas consumption grew at 1% per annum for the past 10 years.  Despite this, not only did NJNG increase the “volume” of the pipeline by 250% (going from a 10-inch pipe to a 16-inch pipe), it also significantly increased its operating pressure of the pipeline.

The population growth and consumption trend do not dictate this extreme increase in capacity from larger pipeline diameter and operating pressure that exacerbated the need for a regulator station with a heating unit.  This is a self-imposed hardship by NJNG.  This is not necessary for the service, convenience or welfare of the public as required under N.J.S.A. 40:55D-19, but rather the commercial and corporate desire by NJNG to push the abundantly available fracked gas from Pennsylvania through New Jersey for the use and benefit outside of New Jersey.

NJNG has not provided a rigorous and exhaustive analysis of alternatives other than NJNG didn’t reach commercial terms with the owners of other possible sites.  As an example, NJNG has not provided details of those discussions or negotiations.  We do not know for a fact whether NJNG could have reached agreement if, in fact, they were willing to be more flexible.

Furthermore, when questions about the design of the regulator station (e.g., the use of a catalytic converter to reduce emissions) were raised, NJNG has refused to provide answers about alternatives saying that it is not within the jurisdiction of the Holmdel Zoning board.  However, these questions are within the jurisdiction of the NJ BPU.

In addition, NJNG has now filed for a similar regulator station in the Township of Hazlet.  This implies that this was a possible alternative.  Based on this and all the other reason mentioned, this is a “want” by NJNG rather than a “need” that would merit the NJ BPU to override the sovereign and statutory right of municipalities with regards to its local land use laws.

This is a NJNG self-imposed hardship of its own doing.  Municipalities must not be coerced into compensating for NJNG’s flawed planning or commercial goal in the pursuit of corporate profit.

In addition, there were serious concerns raised that were not adequately addressed.  These include, but not limited to:

1.  The Right to Farm Act and cumulative impacts on nearby NJ State preserved farmland Fox Hollow Farm were not adequately addressed during the application review process by the Zoning Board or satisfactorily responded to by NJNG.
2.  In their own words, witnesses for NJNG have described the regulator station as a “major” or “significant” station with “city-level capacities” and that they look to locate in industrial or commercial zoned acres.  The site in which NJNG is seeking variances for, a primarily residential, historic, and farmland area, was not intended for this and would require 12 additional waivers and variances over existing 12 variances and 11 waivers.  Most significantly, this would be considered a third use of the land, something Holmdel Township has never allowed in recent memory.
3.  The full public testimonies from the Zoning Board hearings have been omitted from the appeal petition.  In addition, there were approximately 300 petitions that were submitted as part of the original petition that should be included.
4.  The 24/7 three 15 foot waste emission stacks regulator impacts on vegetation, livestock, air and water quality for the Swimming River Watershed potable water supply for over 350,000 residents were not fully disclosed.  The toxins from the emissions were omitted or not completely identified/fully addressed at the Zoning Board hearings.
5.  The proposed regulator station to be used has known key issues, including odorant injection, leakage of industrial antifreeze, gas leaks from joints and valves, handling of filters and monitoring of stack gas which was not addressed.
6.  An independent and objective Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS”) should be performed to balance the studies or analysis provided by NJNG, which are inherently biased for the company.
7.  Independent and objective engineering studies need to be provided for a fair analysis of NJNG assertions regarding flow and pressure maintenance for first claimed and later altered as being for the direct needs of 98% of Holmdel residents.
8.  The 2011 pipeline replacement applications conveniently omitted the then long-range needs, including this regulator station that now NJNG alleges is desperately needed.

For all the above reasons, we urge the Honorable Elia Pelios, ALJ and the NJ BPU to deny NJNG's petition.

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Decision Makers

  • Aida Camacho-WelchSecretary, the NJ Board of Public Utilities
  • Alex MoreauDAG, Dept. of Law and Public Safety, Division of Law