PLAINSBORO, NJ—On February 18, the Middlesex County Commissioners approved a resolution that will allow “Sunoco Pipeline LP” to relocate an oil pipeline to an area along the edge of a county-owned golf course.
In exchange, Middlesex County will receive $350,000 to purchase open land, and retain ownership of the land that would house the relocated pipeline.
The pipeline is set to be moved underneath protected “Green Acres” land, to accommodate a utility development known as “the Hunter’s Glen project.”
The Meadows at Middlesex is one of four golf courses operated under the auspices of the Middlesex County Improvement Authority (MCIA). It’s located in Plainsboro Township near several residential developments.
But the agency had no comment on the move, citing its decision to outsource its management of the golf courses to a private company, after we asked MCIA Executive Director James Polos and Chairman James Nolan for their reaction to the decision of the County Commissioners.
“The MCIA has no ownership or management involvement with regard to the County golf courses and therefore has no comment in response to your request,” said George Devanney, the former Union County manager who now does public relations for the authority.
In 2019, the MCIA inked a deal with Billy Casper Golf to manage the four courses. The company was then renamed Indigo Golf Partners and subsequently sold to an Arizona-based company called Troon in January.
“[The planned oil pipeline] is along the property, the golf course, that has no impact or bearing on play,” said County Administrator John Pulomena.
Pulomena and the county’s Director of Parks and Recreation Rick Leer stressed that the pipeline was “an existing pipeline that is being re-aligned” thanks to the easement approved unanimously by the seven-member board, previously known as “the Freeholders.”
As part of the project, a wooded area will be cleared and electric utility Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) will be required to purchase 215 tiny trees as replacements to be planted in county parks.
It is PSE&G that is prompting the move, as they decided to build a new electric switching station near the golf course, located between Plainsboro Road and Dey Road in Plainsboro.
“The county was approached by Sunoco Pipeline,” said Leer, noting that PSE&G wants to expand a switching station in a move that would create “safety issues placing high-voltage electricity on top of petroleum”
“This [planned] station is a larger station,” than the one it will replace, said Jaye Cazallo, a PSE&G spokesperson.
According to the agenda for January’s meeting of the State House Commission (SHC), the expansion means that the companies “must relocate an existing 16-inch underground petroleum pipeline owned by Sunoco Pipeline LP (Sunoco) to facilitate the construction of the switching station.”
Less than one month later, the County Commissioners approved a resolution granting an easement to allow for pipeline relocation, and this reporter was the only member of the public to ask questions or comment.
The man leading that meeting, Deputy Director of the Board of Commissioners Kenneth Armwood, deferred to Pulomena and Leer before voting yes.
Their defense of the move echoed the explanation in the SHC document.
“The diversion will consist of the conveyance of a variable 20-foot to 50-foot wide subsurface easement to Sunoco for the construction, operation and maintenance of the underground pipeline,” read the SHC agenda.
The state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is on board with the move, which would require a “diversion” of .543 acres of “Green Acres” land, meaning that the county will have to make up for the land with a future open space acquisition.
“To compensate for the proposed diversion, the County will receive $350,000 in monetary compensation from PSE&G to be used for the future acquisition of at least 1.086 acres of land for recreation/conservation purposes located within the County,” reads the agenda.
The 3-inch caliper replacement trees would be planted this fall in county-owned parks including Thompson Park, Thompson Park Conservation Area, Mill Pond Park and the Ireland Brook Conservation Area.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.