HOLMDEL, NJ - Area officials and residents came out swinging against a proposed new regulator station for New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG). This was during a BPU public hearing held on February 13th, at the Community Center in town.
NJNG appealed to the BPU from a decision of the Holmdel Township Zoning Board of Adjustment denying the company's application for construction of a proposed regulator station along Holmdel Road in Holmdel.
Holmdel denied an application in 2016 for one address on Holmdel Road and, in 2018, denied an application for an area near the first location on Holmdel Road. So, NJNG took their case to a higher level, the Board of Public Utilities.
The company requested, "pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:55D-19 and N.J.S.A. 48:2-23, that the Board (a) determine that the construction of the Facility for the benefit of the residents of Holmdel and neighboring municipalities in Monmouth County, is necessary to maintain system integrity and reliability and reasonably necessary for the service, convenience or welfare of the public, and that no alternative site or sites are reasonably available to achieve an equivalent public benefit; and (b) issue an order that the zoning, site plan review and all other Municipal Land Use Ordinances or Regulations promulgated under the auspices of Title 40 of the New Jersey Statutes and the Municipal Land Use Law of the State of New Jersey (the “MLUL”)".
It didn't go over very well at the hearing.
The special attorney hired by Holmdel, Peter Dickson, pointed to several factors in the burgeoning battle cry to deny it. He held up a copy of New Jersey's Energy Master Plan. More than a prop for him, it pointed to the reasons why the new regulator was not worthy of approval. Specifically, he branded it as a future stranded asset since the New Jersey Energy Master Plan calls for 100% clean energy by 2050. According to the attorney, if this were the case, the regulator would likely be a wasted asset - too big and not needed.
The Mayor of Holmdel, Greg Buontempo, slammed the application. He stated that the regulator would have three smokestacks at fifteen feet in height each. He indicated that each would spew volatile chemicals and exhaust 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He also listed other concerns such as safety, property values, quality of life and more.
The Mayor honed in on the environmental effects on the human body when subject to airborne volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and other pollutants that are said to emanate from the 15-foot smokestacks all year long.
Of major concern to the Township, it was expressed that local schools including elementary schools are subject to the exhaust that is about a mile from Holmdel Village School. The Mayor identified various medical infirmities such as respiratory and cardiac issues that can be caused by the daily exhaust from the proposed new system. Most folks were not aware of the danger proposed so close to an elementary school.
Local residents spoke out at the meeting. Art Frank stated, "I don't think that New Jersey Natural Gas has the right to walk in to Holmdel and say you've got to change your zoning we're bigger than you are, and we've got more money, and we are going to sue you to death if we have to and we're going to get it in the end, and that's what they are doing."
Kim Casola owns a farm nearby. She went into detail on the application and identified a number of inconsistencies. "I grow over 30 acres of grapes with vines that are over ten years old out front across from this proposed regulator. Grapes are very thin skinned, highly permeable and sensitive. I have grave concerns about the effects of the toxins and emissions that come out of the station 24/7 365 days a year...I worry about the effects of this on my family and on my farm."
Monmouth County Freeholder Patrick Impreveduto was the highest elected official from Holmdel to step in. While unable to attend the meeting he did submit a statement in opposition of the project. He stated that building 8 miles (12.87 km) of pipeline was not necessary, and he further elaborated in his statement his opposition that New Jersey Natural Gas' plan to install new lines that expanded the capacity changing a 10 inch line to a 16 inch line were not necessary as a recent study showed that gas consumption was up only about 1% a year over the past ten years.
Impreveduto also took aim at the financial impact on schools. By building a polluting regulator station, the result would likely be reduced property values which result in less taxes. The reduced revenue materially impacts the school's ability to provide a thorough and efficient education, according to Impreveduto.
There is still time to speak out: Written comments or statements may also be submitted directly to the clerk of the Office of Administrative Law, 33 Washington St., Newark, NJ 07102 or to Aida Camacho-Welch, Secretary, New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, 44 South Clinton Ave., 3rd Floor, Suite 314, P.O. Box 350, Trenton, NJ 08625-0350.
Comments, if any, should be identified with the heading “In the Matter of the Petition of New Jersey Natural Gas Company for a Determination Concerning Holmdel Regulator Station Pursuant to NJSA 40:55D-19, BPU Docket No. GO18111257: OAL Docket No. PUC 17810-2018S.”
See more comments here (video Courtesy of CILU)