New Jersey Natural Gas Files Suit Against Red Bank
The gas utility filed a suit in Monmouth County Superior Court over the denial of a permit to replace underground gas regulators with above ground ones.
On the same day Red Bank officials criticized New Jersey Natural Gas for its plan to replace below ground gas regulators with above ground ones throughout the borough's downtown, the gas utility announced that it has filed suit in Monmouth County Superior Court over the recent denial of construction permits in Red Bank.
Michael Kinney, spokesperson for NJNG, said the utility applied for construction permits in Red Bank to replace below ground gas regulators with above ground ones in February but was denied. The suit alleges that the borough's motivations are arbitrary and capricious, and violate federal law that requires utility companies to ensure the reliability and safety of their system.
The issue at bar is the proposed plan to move 88 gas regulators above ground. Kinney said the move is a necessary one, based on safety concerns associated with the underground regulators, such as corrosion and potential system failure. The borough's position is that the above ground regulators are not only unsightly, but that they present a safety hazard to pedestrians and are more susceptible to tampering, vandalism and the elements.
At noon Wednesday, Red Bank officials and State Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-11, also a Red Bank resident, gathered in front of one of the above ground regulators to denounce the plan and draw attention to what they claim has been NJNG's lack of transparency.
NJNG's suit asks the court to reverse the borough's denial of permits and to allow the utility to begin working on replacing the underground regulators.
Much of the official complaint levied against NJNG dealt with a perceived lack of transparency from the gas utility, including information about studies and inspections that were done on underground regulators in Red Bank. Many of those questions are answered in the court document. (We've provided the complaint in the photo section up top)
According to the complaint, NJNG inspected 85 regulator pits in Red Bank in 2009. Of that total, 58 regulators were found to be in unsatisfactory condition, including two that were leaking and were immediately replaced. In the months following the inspection, several gas leaks were reported and more regulators were replaced, the complaint states.
Though the borough argues that above ground regulators are more open to severe weather, like ice and snow, NJNG contests that below ground regulators are subject to rain runoff, salt from snow remediation efforts, and humidity from being in an enclosed space. NJNG also has documented proof of corrosion of underground gas regulators.
Kinney said NJNG has replaced 144 below ground gas regulators with above ground ones in 17 communities throughout the state. He did admit, however, that the proposed replacement of 88 regulators in Red Bank represents one of the larger replacement programs.
"We have been working with local officials for over a year now," Kinney said. "We've discussed why we have to do it (replace the gas regulators); we also had an extensive assessment to see if there were other options."
Ultimately, Kinney said, the above ground gas regulators are the best fit.