A deal appears to be in the works that would enable a 22-mile natural gas pipeline to be built through New Jersey's Pinelands.

Under a draft agreement, the Asbury Park Press reports that South Jersey Gas would pay $8 million to a Pinelands fund to help clear the project's final hurdle.

The deal would in effect exempt the pipeline from a ban on new transmission lines in forest areas of the 1 million-acre Pinelands reserve.

The 24-inch diameter pipeline would run from Maurice River Township in Cumberland County to the old coal-fired BL England coal plant in Cape May County's Upper Township. The state has ordered the plant converted or closed permanently to end pollution violations.

A public hearing is planned Dec. 9, and the Pinelands Commission is expected to vote on the proposal Jan. 10.