State DEP Declares Transco NESE Applications Moot, Kills Compressor Station

A nearly four-year battle against a project that would have placed a 32,000-horsepwer gas compressor station in the township ended May 15 with the denial of necessary permits by the state.

In a decision based more on a technicality than environmental concerns, state environmental officials have denied a series of applications that would have allowed the construction of a 32,000-horsepower gas compressor station in the southern portion of the township.

The decision by the state Department of Environmental Protection to deny the permits sought by Texas-based Williams-Transco, as part of its Northeast Services Enhancement project, was based on an earlier decision by New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation to deny permit applications Transco sought in that state.

Noting that any permit approval can only be for projects that serve a public good in New Jersey, and that the NESE project was being constructed to primarily serve residents of New York state, DEP said the New York denial of permits rendered the New Jersey applications moot.

In a May 15 letter to Transco’s Tim Powell, the DEP’s Diane Dow, director of the DEP’s land use regulation division, wrote, “While Transco also provides additional information seeking to demonstrate the benefits of the project to New Jersey residents, such as increased reliability of the interconnected interstate gas delivery system, the primary recipient of the proposed capacity increase remains New York residents.

“Transco was required to demonstrate concurrence from New York to confirm the purported public need and to ensure that the project is not constructed in New Jersey without an endpoint for the proposed additional natural gas capacity,” Dow wrote. “New York, the ultimate beneficiary of the Project, appears to have concluded that the alternative of enhancing existing infrastructure represented comparable cost options, had minimal comparable environmental impacts, accelerated greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, and provided additional job opportunities.”

“… the Department must conclude that, under these circumstances, public need has not been demonstrated,” Dow wrote. “Furthermore, as there would be no endpoint for the Project absent NYSDEC’s approval, Transco’s application has been rendered effectively moot and any grant of its permit applications by the Department would be futile. 

“Under these circumstances, the Department need not resolve any further issues presented by the subject applications,” Dow wrote.

Transco had proposed building the 32,000-horsepower natural-gas powered twin turbine compressor station – which would raise the gas pressure in pipelines so the gas can make it to its final destination – on a 52-acre tract in Little Rocky Hill, near Route 518 as part of the company’s $1 billion multi-state NESE project.

The project included laying new natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as New York.

A host of environmental groups banded together to fight the project, and the township created a task force to lead Franklin’s fight against the compressor station.

Among those groups involved in the fight against the project was the Franklin-based League of Conservation Voters.

League executive director Ed Potosnak welcomed DEP’s decision, saying the fight against the permits was “a very, very steep battle and we had to pull out all the stops to make sure the public was engaged and the governor and everyone understood the environmental impacts and that this was not a necessary project and was going to be hazardous.”

“I couldn’t be more happy today,” he said.

In a press release about the decision, Potosnak said, “This decision shows that the right things can happen when you work hard and stick to what you know is right. 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.”

A Transco spokesman could not be reached for comment.

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