Possible pinelands pipeline approval met with protest

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A years-long debate over a pipeline through South Jersey has reignited. (WPVI)

A years-long debate over a pipeline through South Jersey has reignited.

After being shot down in 2014, there's a new proposal to build a line through the pinelands.

Opponents rallied against the idea Tuesday outside the statehouse in Trenton. The crowd of environmentalists was small but passionate.

They're sending a message to Governor Christie and the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, which appears to be on the verge of approving South Jersey Gas' 22 mile natural gas pipeline through the Pinelands reserve.

"This feels like it's a fix. Governor Christie is ramming this pipeline through the pines and they're not playing by the rules," said Doug O'Malley of Environment NJ.

The 24-inch high-pressure pipeline would stretch from Maurice River Township to the old B.L. England coal plant in Beesley's Point, Upper Township.

The Pinelands Commission voted it down three years ago. Governor Christie replaced several members, and now the panel is considering it again.

Supporters say it will create jobs and cut pollution by turning the coal plant into a cleaner natural gas facility with minimal risk.

Critics, including four former governors, disagree.

"I want it protected it for us, and for generations after us, because once there is an accident it's catastrophic," said Leona Fluck of Robbinsville.

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance is worried about tainting aquifers that provide drinking water to over one million people.

"We are hearing about pipelines exploding left and right all throughout the country, and we are talking about a fire prone environment," said Jaclyn Rhoads.

Environmentalists say the 1.1 million acre national reserve was created in the 1970's to protect it from this kind of development.

"Let's remember that the Pinelands is a UN biosphere reserve. There are plants there that are found nowhere else in the world. It's our Yosemite, it's our Yellowstone," said Jeff Tittle of the Sierra Club.

The Pinelands Commission declined to comment. A vote on the pipeline is set for Friday in Cherry Hill.

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