A final decision will soon be made on a proposed pipeline that would cut through Middlesex County and the Raritan Bay, and feature a compression station in Somerset County, to serve natural gas customers in another state.

The public comment period ends May 2 on the proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement project that would allow Williams/Transco to expand its National Grid system to help with natural gas distribution in New York. If given the green light, the project could begin as early as Fall 2019.

According to Williams, research shows the design and construction of the project will generate approximately $327 million in additional economic activity in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania (miles of pipeline would also be added in PA). In New Jersey, the project is projected to create more than 2,400 jobs and $171.9 million in labor income.

Williams said demand for natural gas is at an all-time high and statistics show a pipeline is the safest way to transport energy.

But, according to Cindy Zipf, executive director of Highlands-based Clean Ocean Action, the construction of the pipeline itself is the real threat. In the end, she said, the Northeast Supply Enhancement makes no sense for New Jersey, which would feel most of the "pain" for a project that's meant to benefit New York.

"They are going to stir up over a million tons of toxic-laden muck that has been sequestered in the seabed," Zipf said. "In addition to that is nearly 700,000 gallons of drilling fluids."

The nonprofit also refutes Williams' claims that natural gas is needed or wanted in New York.

"Both state and federal agencies predict natural gas remaining flat or decreasing over the next decade," said a COA fact sheet on the project. "Without any justification, Williams and National Grid claim natural gas is projected to increase 10% over the next decade."

According to Zipf, 13 towns in the Bayshore region have passed resolutions opposing the project, and the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders is against it as well.

"There's nothing that makes sense about this project, and we're hopeful that the governor will see it that way," Zipf said. "It goes against everything Gov. Murphy has been saying about a green energy strategy and a green energy future."

Alex Altman, a press secretary with Murphy's office, said the state Department of Environmental Protection is evaluating the project proposal, and a "thorough and rigorous review is underway."

"The public comment was extended to allow additional public input and once all the facts are gathered, a final decision will be made," she said. "Gov. Murphy has confidence in this robust review process."

Comments on the project may be submitted via email to Ginger.Kopkash@dep.nj.gov, or mailed to Matthew Resnick, Division of Land Use Regulation, Mail Code 501-02A, P.O. Box 420, Trenton, NJ 08625-0420.

The project proposal includes the construction of a compressor station in Franklin. Williams said the site was selected because it minimizes potential impacts to residential areas and the environment.

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