JERSEY CITY - On June 7, the State House Commission approved, by a vote of 5 to 1, the diversion of Liberty State Park property for a proposed Spectra Energy pipeline.
The energy company, Spectra, will pay the state of New Jersey $2.2 million for a 20 year lease to divert about 1 acre of land.
The federal government approved the gas line last month, but Spectra may have to jump through other municipal hoops in order to construct it here.
Spectra's proposed pipeline would include 19.8 miles of new and replacement pipes, six new pump stations, and other related modifications in Linden, Jersey City, and Bayonne. In Jersey City, the underground pipeline route would run through a portion of Liberty State Park, nearly every municipal ward, and near such sensitive areas as Jersey City Medical Center, schools, the Holland Tunnel, the New Jersey Turnpike, and transportation infrastructure near the Jersey City-Hoboken border.
The pipeline would cross the Hudson River into New York to connect the company's existing pipeline to Manhattan and Staten Island, supplying customers of Con Edison. Spectra has also said that it will supply energy to power facilities operated by Bayonne Plant Holding and boilers at the International Matex Tank Terminals, also in Bayonne.
Because of the pipeline's close proximity to sensitive areas, environmental activists and city officials have argued that a natural gas explosion could cause mass casualties and significantly damage important transportation infrastructure.
Union groups, emphasize the pipeline will create thousands of new jobs in the construction trades.
"The State House Commission took the side of dirty fossil fuels over the people of Hudson County and New Jersey," Jeff Tittel, director, NJ Sierra Club, said in a released statement. "The Commission put the interests of a gas company and gas drillers before protecting the public trust. This is like putting a pipeline through our Yellowstone or our Yosemite."
The New Jersey Sierra Club has argued that the 20-year lease negotiated between the state and Spectra was specifically drafted to avoid requirements of the Ogden-Rooney Act. The law applies only to leases over 25 years and requires more public participation than what is required when shorter leases are signed.
The Sierra Club is also concerned that no replacement land agreement was entered into for the diversion of parklands. In previous pipeline leases before the State House Commission, replacement land was purchased at a 4:1 ratio.
"Liberty State Park was purchased to be held in the public trust for the public good and this project violates the public trust by allowing these preserved lands to be destroyed. By voting yes today, the State House Commission is allowing our most heavily visited State Park to be impacted with pollution," Jeff Tittel said.
Liberty State Park is among the most-visited state parks in the nation.
Marylee Hanley, a spokesperson for Spectra, said the pollution risks are exaggerated. "The NJ - NY Expansion Project will deliver a clean, domestic and diverse supply of natural gas to the region that meets or exceeds our federal gas quality specifications," Hanley said.
Last month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in Washington gave its approval for the pipeline project. - E. Assata Wright