PEMBERTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey environmental officials spoke out Friday in favor of a proposed pipeline plan through the Pinelands, saying it would drastically reduce air pollution in the region by enabling an old coal-burning power plant to use cleaner natural gas.
Three air quality officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection spoke at a Pinelands Commission hearing in favor of a hotly debated plan to run a 22-mile natural gas plant through the environmentally sensitive and legally protected Pinelands region so that it can connect to the BL England power plant in Cape May County.
Frank Steitz, assistant director of the DEP's air quality permitting division, said his agency issued an air quality plan for the project in April. He said enabling BL England to switch to natural gas will double its efficiency and drastically reduce pollution in the region. The plant signed an agreement with the DEP to switch to natural gas.
He said the changeover will cut the plant's carbon dioxide emissions in half, virtually eliminate sulfur dioxide emissions that can contribute to acid rain and reduce mercury emissions 94 percent.
"It's an older plant, over 50 years old, and it's the last coal plant in New Jersey without a good air pollution control," said William O'Sullivan, the DEP's air quality director. "This plant burns the highest sulfur coal in New Jersey. By far, gas is the cleanest option."
The commission has to approval the plan because the 22-mile pipe would run through the protected Pinelands region.