New Jersey denies gas pipeline permits, but allows do-over

WAYNE PARRY
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Northeast Gas Pipeline

In this June 3, 2019 photo the New York City skyline is in the background of the Raritan Bay as seen from Middletown, N.J. New Jersey environmental officials are due to decide Wednesday, June 5 on key permits for a nearly $1 billion pipeline that would bring natural gas from Pennsylvania through New Jersey, out into Raritan Bay and into the ocean before reaching New York and Long Island. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

MIDDLETOWN, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey regulators have denied key permits for a hotly contested pipeline project that would carry natural gas from Pennsylvania to New York, but they're allowing an Oklahoma company to try again.

The state Department of Environmental Protection rejected permits Wednesday night, including ones for waterfront development and wetlands work.

But it also allowed Tulsa-based Williams Companies to adjust their plans for the nearly $1 billion Northeast Supply Enhancement project, and re-apply.

It marked the second time in a month that the proposal appeared to survive a rejection by state regulators in the region. Last month, New York regulators determined the project did not meet their standards, but like this one, their decision was made without prejudice, allowing Williams to reapply.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.

Williams had planned to spend $926 million on the project, saying it is needed to ensure adequate heating and energy supplies to New York City and Long Island, and that it can be built safely with minimal environmental disruption.

Environmental groups and other opponents say the project would stir up tons of highly polluted sediment and reverse decades of hard-won environmental improvements in Raritan Bay, which has been struggling with pollution.

While not killing it once and for all, the New Jersey DEP found plenty it did not like about the proposal. It ruled that Williams had not proven there are no better alternatives to what was proposed.

"Alternatives that further avoid or minimize impacts to freshwater wetlands and riparian areas may be available and require further analysis," the department said in a statement issued after 9 p.m.

It determined that the company has not demonstrated a compelling public need for a compressor station that would be used as part of the pipeline, nor did it prove an "extraordinary hardship" exists that would justify building the project as originally proposed.

"The proposed dredging could adversely impact surface water quality within New Jersey waters of the Raritan Bay," the DEP said, adding that the company needs to demonstrate steps it would take to minimize disruption to the bay and ensure compliance with water quality standards.

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