New Jersey to Sue Delaware for Blocking LNG Pier

Published October 1, 2005

New Jersey and Delaware will be squaring off in the U.S. Supreme Court, say New Jersey officials, over Delaware’s refusal to allow New Jersey to build on its Delaware River shore a pier for boats carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG).

River Ownership Disputed

Although the proposed LNG delivery pier would connect to the New Jersey shore, much of its 2,000 foot length would pass through Delaware waters. A seventeenth century border quirk places all of the Delaware River in the region of the proposed pier in Delaware territory.

In denying New Jersey the right to build the LNG delivery pier, Delaware officials point to the Delaware Coastal Zone Act, an environmental measure passed by the state in 1971, which prohibits any new heavy industry or bulk piers from being built on the state’s Delaware River shoreline. Pointing out that the proposed LNG delivery pier would pass through Delaware waters, Delaware officials argue they are merely enforcing their long-established law.

New Jersey officials say Delaware is overreaching both the letter and spirit of its own laws, as well as violating interstate compacts that allow New Jersey to determine the fate of its own shoreline. New Jersey officials argue that a 1905 interstate compact grants each state exclusive jurisdiction over developments on its shoreline requiring water access.

Moreover, argue New Jersey officials, the Delaware Coastal Zone Act does not apply to the proposed delivery pier because it would connect to an existing manufacturing facility on the New Jersey shore, and therefore is not “new” heavy industry.

“The plain fact is that the State of Delaware does not have jurisdiction over any projects on New Jersey’s shoreline,” New Jersey Acting Gov. Richard Codey (D) told local media. “Delaware has never controlled development on our shore, and will not start doing so now.”

Talks Broke Down

New Jersey “can’t let someone in Wilmington decide what’s going to be built in New Jersey,” added Codey’s chief counsel, Paul Fader, in the July 28 Greenwire. “We must get New Jersey rights over its own destiny.”

“Our borders are well-established,” replied Delaware Attorney General M. Jane Brady. “We believe we have the right to regulate what is within our borders. We think maintaining our coastline is very important. We do not want our coastline to look like the coastlines in other places, including parts of New Jersey.”

Codey announced on July 27 he had reached an impasse with Delaware officials and had directed state Attorney General Peter Harvey to file suit in the Supreme Court.

“My counterpart in Delaware has rejected our efforts to settle this amicably,” explained Codey in the July 28 Wilmington News Journal.

Enviromentalists Leading Opposition

The proposed pier would allow three LNG tankers per week to dock and deliver natural gas to New Jersey facilities. That would be enough fuel to power 5 million homes.

Ironically, in the 1990s environmental activists demanded that power plants, especially those in Northeastern states, switch from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas. After numerous new natural gas plants were built, those activists have opposed the recovery of natural gas resources within U.S. boundaries. Now that plants are seeking to import natural gas from other countries, the activists have opposed new LNG import facilities virtually everywhere they have been proposed.

Proposed LNG import facilities in California, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, as well as New Jersey’s proposed delivery pier, are facing fierce opposition from environmental activists.

LNG Safety Record Strong

“This dispute shows how foolish the Delaware leadership is regarding the environmental record and the safety record of liquefied natural gas,” said Sterling Burnett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. “Blocking natural gas delivery means regional power plants will burn more coal rather then natural gas. Natural gas, of course, is much cleaner burning than coal.

“Similarly,” observed Burnett, “today’s technology makes delivery of natural gas quite safe, and real-world experience proves this.

“Delaware is falling behind here,” Burnett added. “More, rather than less, power companies are burning liquified natural gas. By chasing away a growing industry, Delaware is chasing away regional jobs as well.”

James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News.