The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities fined New Jersey Natural Gas $14,000 on Wednesday for its alleged failure to do proper monitoring on a bare steel pipeline, according to the environmentalist organization New Jersey Sierra Club.
The NJBPU said the matter began after an investigation of an alleged natural gas pipeline safety violation found by the Board’s Bureau of Pipeline Safety during a Nov. 30, 2017, inspection of pipeline facilities owned and operated by NJNG.
“As a result of the inspection and subsequent investigation, it was determined that NJNG was in probable violation of external corrosion control requirements in Part 192 of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R),” the NJBPU said in Docket number GS19111462. “An inspection of company records revealed that a pipeline system installed in Parsippany, New Jersey, in 1987 consisting of sections of 2-inch and 4-inch steel pipe was not monitored for corrosion until July 8, 2016, in violation of 49 C.F.R §192.465(a) which requires each pipeline that is under cathodic protection to be tested at least once each calendar year, but with intervals not exceeding 15 months.”
“In addition to the probable violation, it was determined that NJNG was subject to a Notice of Amendment concerning the company’s procedural manual for operations, maintenance, and emergencies,” the NJBPU said. Although not a probable violation, NJNG’s standards, operations, maintenance and emergency (SOME) manual did not satisfy the requirements of 49 C.F.R. §192.605(b)(2) which requires the company to include, in the manual, procedures to cathodically protect pipelines consistent with external corrosion control rules in Subpart I of 49 C.F.R. §192.”
“The fact is, ensuring safety and reliability is our top priority,” NJNG spokesman Kevin Roberts told NJBIZ via email. “At all times since its installation, this section of pipeline conformed to NJNG’s safety standards for cathodic protection of steel pipe, and was regularly surveyed for leaks without issue. The presence of safety measures protecting this section of pipe was consistently confirmed during normal maintenance and operations work, until this pipe’s retirement in 2019.”
“In 2018, it was discovered that this section of pipe was inadvertently omitted from one inspection and reporting procedure,” Roberts said. “Again, we confirmed that at no time were safety measures absent from this section of pipe. This settlement addresses that narrow issue and, working with the BPU, we have since updated our procedures accordingly to address this reporting issue moving forward.”
The Sierra Club says this matter involves the board’s consideration of an offer of settlement from New Jersey Natural Gas to resolve certain violations of the agency’s pipeline safety rules in the amount of $14,000. New Jersey Natural Gas is also fighting to get a regulator station in Holmdel and has started construction on its Southern Reliability Link pipeline near the Pinelands.
“It’s good that the BPU is holding NJ Natural Gas accountable for failing to do proper inspections and monitoring for their pipeline in Parsippany,” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said. “However, this fine is pennies on the dollar and will not deter this fossil fuel company from doing this again. While the BPU is holding NJNG accountable today, they are letting them proceed without a stay on the Southern Reliability Link pipeline. NJNG are moving forward with their SRL pipeline in the Pinelands. This is one step forward and another step back by the BPU.”
Despite being in court, New Jersey Natural Gas is moving forward with its Southern Reliability Link pipeline.
The Sierra Club says the Southern Reliability Link pipeline will damage wetlands, streams and important open spaces, and threaten a vital source of drinking water. The NJ Sierra Club has asked the Pinelands Commission and Gov. Phil Murphy to put a stay on the pipeline. The Sierra Club has also fought New Jersey Natural Gas’ industrial gas regulator proposal in Holmdel that the zoning board rejected last year.