Hotly contested pipeline in New Jersey Pinelands approved by commission

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CHERRY HILL, N.J. — New Jersey regulators have approved a measure allowing a natural gas pipeline to run through the federally protected Pinelands preserve.

The Pinelands Commission voted to permit the pipeline Friday. The issue has been one of the northeast region’s most hotly contested energy proposals.

The vote ends a classic jobs-versus-environment battle in the nation’s most densely populated state, although environmentalists are expected to try to appeal the decision.

South Jersey Gas proposes to run the pipe mostly under or alongside existing roads to the B.L. England power plant in Upper Township.

Supporters say it will increase energy reliability, while environmentalists fear damage to the pristine Pinelands preserve.

The plan was narrowly defeated in 2014. But since then, Republican Gov. Chris Christie has replaced several Pinelands commissioners with supporters of the pipeline.