Frequently Asked Questions About the South Jersey Gas Pipeline


Q: What is the purpose of the proposed pipeline?

The purpose of the South Jersey Gas Cape Atlantic Reliability project is two-fold:

1.The proposed pipeline will provide the B.L. England electric generation facility in Upper Township, Cape May County, with the necessary natural gas supply needed to convert the facility from a coal- and oil-fired electric generator to a natural-gas generator – becoming one of the cleanest power plants in New Jersey. These plans are consistent with the state’s 2011 Energy Master Plan and its air pollution regulations. By converting to a natural gas-fired generator, the new facility will help meet the current and projected increased demands for electric power in the region in the coming years, and will also emit lower emissions, positively benefiting the environment.

  • The alternative if the conversion does not take place is that the electricity needed to fulfill the region’s demand would have to come from existing plants already on the electric grid. Many of those plants are older and much less efficient – including coal- or oil-fired, creating significantly higher emissions.

2.  It will further reinforce the South Jersey Gas system for more than 142,000 customers in Cape May and Atlantic counties. Currently, homes and businesses in Cape May County are only served by a single pipeline, making them vulnerable to a service outage that could last months in the event of an accident or natural disaster. The new pipeline to serve the B.L. England plant, would accomplish this by interconnecting with the company’s existing system and providing an alternate natural gas supply route.

Q: What is the status of the proposed pipeline?

The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey issued a ruling in early November 2016 on the consolidated appeals of the approvals of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and Pinelands Commission staff of the Cape Atlantic Reliability Pipeline.  The decision affirmed the approval issued by the Board of Public Utilities regarding the proposed pipeline, and remanded the issue of whether the proposed pipeline conforms to the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan to the full Pinelands Commission for decision.

Although the court’s ruling directs that the full Pinelands Commission must decide whether the pipeline conforms to the Comprehensive Management Plan, it affirmed the BPU’s determination that the pipeline to supply a repowered B.L. England plant is necessary for the service, convenience or welfare of the public.

Over the last four years, South Jersey Gas has worked collaboratively and cooperatively with all of the governing agencies involved in this project and, subsequently, received their approvals. That process elicited extensive review which has produced a comprehensive formal record of both support for and opposition against the project, weighing the views of stakeholders both directly and indirectly involved with and effected by this project.

We believe that the compelling benefits of a cleaner, more efficient natural gas-fired B.L. England facility, supplying locally sourced, lower-cost power for residents, combined with the greater resiliency of a secondary line to South Jersey Gas customers in Cape May and Atlantic counties, cannot be ignored. These events continue to delay the construction of this vitally project for residents and businesses in southern New Jersey.

As of February 24, 2017, South Jersey Gas received final approval from the New Jersey Pinelands Commission to construct its Cape Atlantic Reliability Project. This approval is consistent with the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan allowance for energy infrastructure, which has been in place since 1980. Following that approval, the decision was challenged in court by special interest groups. These events continue to delay the construction of this critically important. We remain optimistic that construction will begin in the coming months.


Regional Energy Needs

Q: What is the benefit of this project to the residents of Cape May and Atlantic counties?

The proposed natural gas transmission line will enhance the area’s access to safe, reliable energy, cleaner air, and cost-effective locally sourced electricity generation.  Local residents will benefit from the conversion of the B.L. England coal- and oil-powered generator to natural gas-powered generator in several ways.

Customers will first experience many environmental benefits, such as the dramatic reduction of air pollution in the area, since the B.L. England facility will use a natural gas-powered generator – making it one of the cleanest plants in the state.

Additionally, the reliability provided by locally-generated electricity reduces vulnerability to electric transmission outages and disruptions. Events – such as natural weather occurrences (hurricanes, storms, blizzards, etc.), icing and electrical surges like those experienced during Hurricane Sandy – disrupt the transmission system and impact the flow of imported electricity. Local generating sources also stabilize the grid during peak periods to help prevent brownouts or blackouts, especially during high air conditioning, summer demand and severe cold, winter demand days.

South Jersey Gas has approximately 142,000 commercial and residential customers in Cape May and Atlantic counties, including 64,000 customers in Cape May County and more than 28,000 in the Pinelands. Residential customers use natural gas to warm their homes, cook their food, dry their clothes and heat their water.

Although South Jersey Gas is currently able to serve the needs of customers with just one transmission pipeline, a disruption to this line – like that from an event such as Superstorm Sandy or damage by a third-party contractor/excavator – could result in a major disruption to customers’ natural gas service, potentially lasting multiple months.

Adding a second natural gas line into this area will allow service to be provided from an alternate direction in the event of a failure, reinforcing the South Jersey Gas system and providing customers with increased reliability.

Q: Who would be affected if the portion of South Jersey Gas’ existing pipeline serving Atlantic and Cape May counties was out of service?

Should the existing pipeline serving Cape May and Atlantic counties be damaged anywhere between Union Road in Vineland and NJ Route 50 in Mays Landing, about 142,000 customers in both Cape May and Atlantic counties would be without any natural gas service for an extended period of time.  Likewise, if service were out along the 10-mile pipeline that runs along Route 50 between Estell Manor and Tuckahoe, approximately 60,000 customers in Cape May County would be without service. These numbers refer to the number of meters, not the actual number people who would be impacted – which would be a far greater number.

Hospitals, nursing homes, fire and police departments, schools, emergency shelters, National Guard, Coast Guard, Federal Aviation Administration, and airports and transportation centers would also be greatly impacted by an extended outage.

Due to the lengthy process involved in restoring service, it could take up to three months just to restore service to all of Cape May County alone. Each gas meter would have to be manually turned off and then turned back on once repairs were completed. Then, appliance pilot lights would need to be relit for every home and business affected by the outage.

Q: Why are there so many pipelines being proposed at this time in NJ?

There are plentiful available reserves of natural gas – making natural gas one of the most cost-efficient energy solutions available to customers. Additionally, the electricity produced from natural gas produces far less air pollution than electricity produced from coal or oil – making it a much cleaner energy source.

As more and more customers turn to natural gas to heat their homes and businesses to fuel electric generation units, the need for this reliable, plentiful solution likewise increases. Growing customer demand then drives the need for more investment in infrastructure. More and more pipelines are being proposed to answer this call and support the needs of both new and existing natural gas customers throughout the state.


B.L. England

Q: Why does the B.L. England electric generating facility need service from a natural gas pipeline? How is the facility operational now?

The B.L. England plant in Beesley’s Point, Upper Township, is presently a coal- and oil-fired electricity generator. Per New Jersey’s 2011 Energy Master Plan (EMP), the State of New Jersey set policy to decommission coal-fired power plants and convert them to natural gas. B.L. England is also under NJDEP consent orders to stop the burning of coal.

As such, RC Cape May Holdings, the owner of the B.L. England facility, proposed to repower the plant using natural gas to be consistent with the EMP and adhere to the NJDEP consent orders.

The conversion of these coal- and oil-fired plants to natural gas will dramatically reduce air emissions, which will directly benefit Cape May and Atlantic counties and the surrounding region.

Q: Why is the B.L. England plant so important?

The B.L. England plant in Beesley’s Point is located in a critical electric congestion area and is the only significant electricity generator in southeastern New Jersey.

The B.L. England plant improves the electric reliability needs of homes and businesses in this portion of the state. Reliability is improved for customers by having a local source of electricity during events such as hurricanes, northeasters, summer storms and ice storms – all occurrences that disrupt the transmission system and impact the flow of imported electricity.  Local generating sources provide operating reserves, area regulation and reactive power, which are critical to maintain grid stability, especially during high summer demand and severe cold, winter demand days.

The need for the facility to stay on-line is beneficial to electric reliability, and will only become more important when the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station permanently closes in 2019. New Jersey’s 2011 Energy Master Plan directs that without a replacement power source, the retirement of Oyster Creek will require at least $100 million in new electric transmission lines, some of which will likely run through the Pinelands.

Q: Why can’t renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, be used to support the electric grid if B.L. England shuts down?

Although wind and solar are valuable electricity generation sources that we encourage and support, they are not capable of replacing the output of a repowered B.L. England facility. To replace the BLE Plant with solar power would require 1400-1700 acres of cleared land near existing adequately sized electric transmission but even this would not be sufficient because solar does not work at night or on cloudy days.

To maintain reliability, the electric grid requires power sources that can generate dependable energy to consistently meet customer demand. Combined cycle natural gas generation is the best available technology to provide the rapid response needed to balance load in the system, while also meeting New Jersey emissions reduction standards.


The Pipeline’s Route

Q: What is the proposed pipeline’s route?

The pipeline’s proposed route is approximately 22 miles total and runs underground from just outside Millville in Maurice River Township, Cumberland County, to Beesley’s Point in Upper Township, Cape May County.

  • Approximately 20 miles of the pipeline will be under the pavement or below cleared shoulder of NJ State Highway Routes 49 and 50, within its existing cleared public rights-of-way.
  • Approximately ten of the 22 miles of the proposed pipeline will travel through the Forest Area of the Pinelands, running either below the paved roadways or under cleared shoulder of Route 49.
  • Approximately two miles will cross under private property within Atlantic City Electric’s existing power line corridor.

Q: How will the pipeline impact the Pinelands?  Will it affect the water?

A detailed analysis of eight different proposed routes for the pipeline shows that the selected underground route has the least overall environmental effect of all alternative routes investigated (verified by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) in a letter to South Jersey Gas in May 2015):

  • Natural gas is a naturally occurring, non-toxic substance. Pipeline transportation remains the safest means of transport – the natural gas used for this project will be transported via a supply line built to meet or exceed state and federal requirements.
  • The pipeline’s construction will not endanger the Pinelands aquifer.
  • This project will not cut into protected areas of the Pinelands. There will be no forest clearing, fragmentation or “violent impact” to the Pinelands.

Q: How much of the pipeline’s route is on private or protected property?

Approximately 20 miles of the pipeline will be underground, beneath the pavement or below cleared shoulder of NJ State Highway Routes 49 and 50, within its existing cleared public rights-of-way.

The remaining approximately two miles will cross under private property within Atlantic City Electric’s existing power line corridor; this area has already been and will remain cleared, regardless of whether or not the pipeline is built.

Of the 22 total miles of the proposed pipeline, ten of those miles will travel through the Forest Area of the Pinelands, running either beneath the paved roadways or under cleared shoulder of Route 49.

Q: Why was this route chosen as the best option?

South Jersey Gas worked with both the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and NJDEP to investigate and design a route that would mitigate the effect on populated areas and address environmental concerns, while further meeting the requirements for refueling the B.L. England facility and the company’s need for reliability reinforcement.

Additionally, an independent, third-party consulting firm spent more than a year performing studies in the area to ensure there would be no impact to nearby plants and animals classified as threatened and endangered.

The chosen route lies along or under existing state and county highways, minimizing the impact to environmentally sensitive areas and requiring no filling of wetlands.

Q: Why can’t South Jersey Gas just go around the Pinelands?

South Jersey Gas and the NJDEP evaluated eight different alternative routes and concluded that no alternatives exist outside the Pinelands area to meet the goals of the project. The detailed analysis for the pipeline showed that the selected route has the least overall environmental impacts of all alternative routes investigated (verified by the NJDEP in a letter to South Jersey Gas in May 2015).

One of the greatest challenges South Jersey Gas faces is that its natural gas sources originate on the other side of the state, 70 miles away. All of the natural gas serving the coastal portions of Cape May and Atlantic counties originates in the vicinity of Paulsboro or Swedesboro. The Pinelands Forest Area and Preservation Area form a continuous band from the extreme southern portion of Cape May County all the way north to Ocean County. The gas travels those 70 miles across the state, through the Pinelands area, in order to reach the coast.

The New Jersey Pinelands covers almost 20% of New Jersey across portions of seven counties and is home to over 850,000 people. No matter how far south the company would run the pipeline, it would still have to go through the Pinelands. So, if people living along the coast in Atlantic and Cape May Counties are to have reliable natural gas service, the supply must come through the Pinelands.  There simply is no other way to supply natural gas to the coastal areas.


Construction and Safety

Q: How will the pipeline be constructed?

The latest construction techniques are part of the plan for installing the 24-inch pipeline:

  • The first technique is the direct bury method which entails opening a trench, placing the pipe, and then burying the pipe.
  • The other two methods are considered trenchless technologies, known as Jack & Bore and Horizontal Directional Drilling (HDD). These two methods involve excavating a starting point and an ending point, and either pushing the pipe (Jack & Bore) or pulling the pipe (HDD) from one location to the other.

These construction techniques are industry standards for the construction of underground utilities, including but not limited to: natural gas, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, water main, telecommunications, cable and electric Conduits. The materials used for construction meet all federal and state regulations for the construction of the natural gas pipeline.

Q: Is it safe to construct, operate and maintain a pipeline in the proposed area?

The pipeline has been designed and will be constructed in accordance with New Jersey pipeline regulations, which exceed federal regulations and are considered to be some of the most stringent in the nation.

The system will have state-of-the-art safety features, including automatic and remotely controlled valves, and will be subject to routine inspection according to South Jersey Gas’ pipeline integrity management system.

Construction of the pipeline will exceed minimum safety standards including:

  • A minimum of 4-foot depth coverage, instead of the Federal standard of 36 inches;
  • The installation of 12-inch wide warning tape over the full length of the line;
  • The use of higher yield steel pipe wall thickness;
  • Stricter fill requirements to prevent any rock or debris damage to the line when constructed.