Red Bank Responds to NJNG Suit
Officials promise to not back down when it comes to the issue of replacing below ground gas regulators with above ground ones.
Red Bank officials have refused to back down when it comes to the issue of replacing underground gas regulators with above ground ones, even in the face of a lawsuit recently filed by New Jersey Natural Gas.
On Wednesday, while State Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-11, and Red Bank Mayor Pat Menna were chastising the gas utility for employing secrecy in regulator replacement process, New Jersey Natural Gas was filing a suit against the borough in Monmouth County Superior Court.
At the end of February, Red Bank denied NJNG's application for construction permits, effectively halting the replacement of the gas regulators. The utility is seeking a court order to reverse the decision, alleging that Red Bank is in violation of federal law requiring utility companies to ensure the reliability and safety of their system.
"We'll meet them in court and at the statehouse," Menna said, following the news that the borough was being sued. "We've drawn a line in the gas and we're not backing down."
The gas utility wants to replace 88 gas regulators currently located beneath downtown borough sidewalks with above ground ones. One such above ground regulator was installed last year outside of Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash. NJNG has the move is a necessary one, based on safety concerns and increased corrosion of gas lines associated with the below ground regulators. The borough believes the the above ground regulators, which are about two feet tall and nearly as wide, are unsightly and present a safety hazard to pedestrians, among other complaints.
Local officials say the crux of the issue is the unwillingness of New Jersey Natural Gas to be transparent throughout the process. Borough Administrator Stanley Sickles said the utility failed to provide information about recent regulator inspections, replacements, and possible alternatives to above ground regulators.
To help prevent the issue from happening again, Beck, a Red Bank resident, recently introduced legislation requiring any gas utility to study alternatives to project that would disrupt a municipality's infrastructure and share the findings, detail the decision making process, and restore any affect infrastructure to its original condition.
"The company's rush to court just shows how heavy handed and arrogant they've been in this process," Beck said in a release. "All we are asking for is full disclosure and some cooperation. Everybody involved here is a reasonable person. Call off your lawyers, come to the table, and talk to us.
According to NJNG Spokesperson Michael Kinney, the utility has replaced 144 below ground gas regulators with above ground ones in 17 communities throughout the state. Red Bank's replacement project would be one of the larger, if not the largest regulator replacement projects in the state.
Menna feels as though Red Bank's fight is one that will extend beyond its borders.
"We're going to take a stand," he said. "I think we're doing the right thing and after we do the right thing other communities will do the same."