Hearings set on proposal to lease state park land to pipeline company

TRENTON – A series of public hearings will be held in connection with a proposal to lease land in state parks to a pipeline company.

Three hearings will be held in August and September regarding a proposal to lease land in state parks in Sussex, Passaic and Bergen counties for 25 years to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.

The company wants to build pipelines parallel to existing pipelines to carry more natural gas to customers in its Northeast market.

Tennessee Gas is seeking federal and state permits to install pipeline from North Central Pennsylvania to Mahwah in Bergen County.

According to the company and the state Department of Environmental Protection, this work will complement pipeline expansion approved in May 2010.

The two new “loops” under proposal would be 10 and 7.6 miles, respectively, of 30-inch diameter pipeline on either side of the existing line.

As part of the notice of the hearings, DEP stated it has told Tennessee Gas to come up with a plan to reduce impact on state-owned land.

According to DEP, the project would affect a total of 113.37 acres of public land.

Sites and hearings

The proposal will affect three state parks:

* High Point State Park in Montague, Sussex County;

* Long Pond Ironworks State Park in West Milford and Ringwood, Passaic County;

* Ringwood State Park in Mahwah, Bergen County, as well as Ringwood.

There will be three hearings:

* 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17 at Montague Municipal Building, 277 Clove Road, Montague;

* 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18 at Ringwood Municipal Building, 60 Margaret King Ave., Ringwood;

* 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7, at DEP, 401 E. State St., Trenton.

Under the proposal, the land will be leased at a rate of $0.15 per square foot a year, escalating by 2.5 percent a year for a total rent of approximately $7.84 million over 25 years.

Opposition to proposal

The gas pipeline proposal has not been without criticism.

Back in November, the N.J. Sierra Club spoke out against the overall plan.

“Tennaco has been prying to push this pipeline through a piece at a time so we don’t look at the entire impact,” N.J. Sierra Club head Jeff Tittel said at the time. “This pipeline will not only be a scar through the Highlands but will have tremendous impacts on our water supply both in New Jersey and along the entire Delaware River Basin.”

The company sees the project as necessary and safe.

Tennessee Gas spokeswoman Gretchen Krueger said the proposal is under review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and that the company hopes to have this project in-service by Nov. 1, 2013.

“This is an expansion of our current system to provide safe and reliable transportation of natural gas to key Northeast markets,” she said.

“The market in the Northeast is a growing market for domestic natural gas. We have got what we believe is a sound route that will have the least impact to landowners and the environment while meeting the needs of our customers.’’