A state agency has suspended a gas company’s permit to construct a pipeline after their operations severely damaged a woman’s home in Upper Freehold.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has ordered work to stop on a controversial New Jersey Natural Gas pipeline after drilling damaged freshwater wetlands as well as the Monmouth County home of Barbara Fox Cooper.
She was forced to flee her two-story house in June, where she had lived since 1988, after the gas company’s horizontal drilling operations destabilized the home’s foundation.
The 30-mile long transmission line from Chesterfield in Burlington County to Manchester is expected to provide a backup source of natural gas to more than 1 million customers in Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties.
The Department of Environmental Protection said the gas company reported three “inadvertent return” incidents that impacted freshwater wetlands between April and June during their horizontal drilling operations, the last of which caused damaged to the Upper Freehold home.
On Wednesday, the DEP suspended the gas company’s Freshwater Wetlands General Permit, citing the “unanticipated, unauthorized environmental impacts to the DEP-regulated wetlands, transition areas, and streams, damage to the private residence and the need to protect public health, safety, welfare and the environment.”
The DEP, in its letter to New Jersey Natural Gas, said personnel would evaluate the gas company’s horizontal drilling locations for “the potential for additional impacts to public health, safety, welfare and/or the environment.”
The Burlington County Engineering Department took a similar action last month when department officials issued a stop work order on the gas company’s project, pending further evaluation of the incidents.
Major work on the Burlington County phase of the pipeline began in the middle of June and was expected to continue through the next 18 months, according to utility officials.
The DEP now has ordered the gas company to submit a written remedy strategy for the damage within 30 days.
The agency also determined the project is not in compliance with its flood hazard rules, which require that DEP-regulated water only be disturbed temporarily. As a result, the agency has ordered the gas company to obtain a Flood Hazard Area Individual Permit in order to continue the project.
Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for New Jersey Natural Gas, said last month that the damage to the Upper Freehold house was “deeply regrettable” and that the company was committed to doing everything possible to help Fox Cooper. He could not be immediately reached for comment on Thursday morning.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, an environmental advocacy group, accused the company’s work of causing “mayhem.”
“Any time we can slow down a dangerous project is always a small win for the environment,” Tittel said in a news release.
Check back for more on this developing story.
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