PEMBERTON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — The staff of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission on Monday recommended that the agency approve a hotly debated plan to build a pipeline through the protected Pinelands region.
The pipeline would bring natural gas to a Cape May County power plant that's switching from coal power.
A report signed by the commission's executive director, Nancy Wittenberg, recommended that the full commission approve the plan. The commission is scheduled to vote on Friday.
Wittenberg wrote that many opponents of the plan said the commission's main mission is to protect the Pinelands, but she said it is also tasked with encouraging "orderly" economic development within the region.
"Simply put, the commission's charge is not only to 'preserve, protect, and enhance,' but to also make the Pinelands area a living, working environment that serves both its natural ecosystems and its human ecosystems as well," she wrote.
The 22-mile natural gas pipeline would run through the Pinelands, which are protected by state and federal law. The commission is tasked with protecting the ecologically fragile region while supervising responsible economic development within it.
South Jersey Gas would pay $8 million to a Pinelands fund to help clear the project's final hurdle. The deal would, in effect, exempt the pipeline from a ban on new transmission lines in the 1.1-million-acre Pinelands reserve.