Among the arguments made by activists who oppose the natural gas pipeline that Texas-based Spectra Energy wants to build through Hudson County into New York is the point that the project would really only benefit energy customers across the Hudson River. In other words, “There’s nothing in it for us in New Jersey.”
To this, Spectra officials have countered that, if the pipeline is approved and built, there is the possibility that New Jersey residents could, in fact, one day be pipeline customers.
Many residents oppose the pipeline based purely on their concerns about its safety and the possibility of a natural gas explosion. But using Garden State land to benefit New Yorkers sticks in the craw of many others.
“It would bother me a little less if I knew we were using [the pipeline and natural gas].” – Nick Lassiter
Lassiter, who caught up recently with friends Eileen Reynolds and Brian McGuire at the local cafe Beechwood, describes himself as someone who is “lukewarm” about Spectra’s proposal, neither strongly in favor or opposed.
If approved by the federal government, the 15.5-mile pipeline will carry 800 million cubic feet of natural gas per day through Hudson County to New York City customers of Con Edison.
Coming to a home near you?
So, how likely is it that Spectra’s natural gas will heat Jersey City homes or light oven pilots in Bayonne?
Three weeks ago, a Spectra spokesman told the Reporter: “The pipeline will increase the capability to deliver natural gas to New Jersey, leading to reduced energy bills, potential for conversions from coal and oil to cleaner burning natural gas and substantial property tax benefits to the region on an annual basis once the pipeline is placed in-service.”
He added that the company has reached out to “power generators and other end users along the pipeline route to explore…interconnection possibilities” for Garden State residents.
When pressed last week for more specifics, Spectra Energy spokeswoman Marylee Hanley said, “Spectra Energy has a fully executed Interconnect Agreement with PSE&G for an interconnection and meter station in Bayonne, connecting the NJ-NY facilities to the existing PSE&G local distribution system in the area. This interconnection will help boost PSE&G’s service capabilities in the area. The project also includes a tap for PSE&G in Jersey City.”
Public Service Electric & Gas – known to customers as PSE&G – supplies gas and electric service to thousands customers in New Jersey including everyone in Hudson County. If Spectra were to have a serious presence in Northern New Jersey, the company would have to do business with PSE&G.
When asked to detail the nature of its current, or possible future, relationship with Spectra, Karen Johnson, a spokesperson for PSE&G initially said, “PSE&G is not involved in this project and, at this time, does not expect to be a taker of gas from the pipeline when it is built.”
When asked to explain the “interconnection agreements” referred to by Hanley, Johnson eventually conceded that, “Spectra [plans to build] a metering station in Bayonne at no cost to us. We also have an interconnection agreement, which is a standard procedure. Since the project is not yet approved, the metering station has not yet been built. It is part of the Spectra proposal at this point. Whenever a gas transmission pipeline is built, the local utility would have the capability to connect with it. It is standard procedure, even though we do not foresee the need to buy gas from this pipeline at this time. We do not have any contracts in place to buy gas from the pipeline once it is built.”
Since PSE&G – the biggest gas/electric player in northern New Jersey – appears not to be interested in working with Spectra at this time, that leaves the Texas company with far fewer options to make meaningful inroads in Hudson County.
When asked whether the Bayonne Energy Center – a joint project between ArcLight, Pure Energy Resources, and the Hess Corporation – might be interested in taking gas from the proposed natural gas pipeline, Pure Energy CEO Paul Barnett said, “the company has no comment.”
Spectra is undeterred and continues its efforts to map a footprint in New Jersey, said Hanley.
“We have reached verbal agreement with IMTT [the International Matex Tank Terminal] to connect with their facility in Bayonne. We are working to finalize this Interconnect Agreement,” she said. “Spectra Energy is in active discussions with electric generation developers along the project route in NJ who have expressed an interest in connecting to the pipeline. Our negotiations with additional potential customers such as electric generators are confidential and information cannot be shared at this time.”
William Schulte, the attorney for the grassroots group No Gas Pipeline, did not return calls by press time.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.