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An overview of the Tulsa-based Williams natural gas supplier’s proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement to its Transco Pipeline in Central Jersey

Bridgewater Courier News

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has dealt another blow to Williams’ Transco by rejecting permits sought by the energy company to build a natural gas pipeline through portions of Central Jersey.

The decision was issued by the state DEP on Friday and denied Williams the Wetland and 401 Water Quality permits for the Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) project, which would include about 23 miles of submarine pipeline off the Raritan Bay, travel through Sayreville and Old Bridge, and include a compressor station in Franklin.

The same permits were denied by the state DEP in June 2019, but Williams resubmitted.

The state DEP said Williams failed to demonstrate the pipeline would not adversely affect aquatic wildlife and water quality.

The action follows a decision by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration rejecting New York State’s segment of the project.

“After almost four years, an inspiring mobilization of grassroots activists and local residents in Central Jersey won a tremendous victory against a multi-billion-dollar fossil fuel company,” Food & Water Action state director Matt Smith said in a statement. “By rejecting this dirty, dangerous and unnecessary pipeline project, Gov. [Phil] Murphy has protected the health and safety of these communities, the remarkable recovery of the Raritan Bay, and has shown that he is committed to his administration’s climate goals.”

According to Food & Water Action, this was the last round of applications, but Williams could pursue other legal actions in New Jersey and New York.

Food & Water Action rallied with residents around Central Jersey against the proposed pipeline.

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said the state DEP’s rejection is a “big victory.”

“Gov. Murphy and the DEP stood up for the environment by denying the permits for this dangerous pipeline,” he said in a statement. “This a big win for climate change and a big blow for the battle against fracking. Since New York also denied it, this is a one two punch against this project and may be a knockout.”

Laura Creekmur, vice president of communications for Williams, said the company is disappointed with the recent decisions from New Jersey and New York.

“While we continue to believe in the fundamentals of this project, we will not refile in New Jersey or New York at this time,” she said in a statement. “The decision to pause this important infrastructure project is unfortunate for the region as the design and construction would have generated valuable economic activity in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York and would have directly and indirectly supported more than 3,000 jobs during the construction period.”

Other groups joined in praising the Murphy administration’s rejection.

“This decision shows that the right things can happen when you work hard and stick to what you know is right,” said Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “We and our environmental partners have been fighting the NESE Pipeline Project for nearly four years, but now both New York and New Jersey have said no with a one, two punch, and it feels great.”

Creekmur said natural gas “remains a critical part of our country’s energy mix that creates affordability for utility customers and ensures reliability while renewables scale.”

She said Williams is committed to meeting the demand for a clean alternative to heating oil and diesel.

Tittel, however, said the proposed project “would cut through the already polluted and sensitive Raritan Bay and the New York Bay.”

“An explosion or leak from their proposed compressor station could threaten communities and destroy important habitat while adding even more pollution,” he said. “Even though New York and New Jersey denied the fossil fuel project, Transco may still come back.  However, given how strong both state denials were, I doubt it would ever get approved.”

Email: ngmuscavage@gannettnj.com

Nick Muscavage is a watchdog reporter for the Courier News, Home News Tribune and MyCentralJersey.com. To get unlimited access to his investigative work that has exposed wrongdoing and changed state law, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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