Home > Uncategorized > Burlington County Freeholders Join Gov. Christie’s Pinelands Pipeline Parade

Burlington County Freeholders Join Gov. Christie’s Pinelands Pipeline Parade

Another Arrogant Abuse of Power on Pinelands Pipeline

The Pinelands deserve a Commissioner who would be a champion and advocate for the Pinelands, not just show up and vote as he’s told. ~~~ Carlton Montgomery, Executive Director,  Pinelands Preservation Alliance

Freeholders apear to be listening to Wolfe (Source: Theresa Lettman, PPA)

Freeholders apear to be listening to Wolfe (Source: Theresa Lettman, PPA)

[Update: see the Burlington County Times story]

In a remarkably sham move, today, at a special 11 am meeting the day before Thanksgiving (in the midst of a strong Nor’easter to boot), the Burlington County Freeholders rammed through a vote to re-appoint Pinelands Commissioner Sean Earlen (his “qualifications” are pretty clearly depicted here).

The Freeholders now join a long and growing list of corrupt decisions and victims of Gov. Christie’s strong armed tactics and dirty politics to force the Pinelands Commission to approve the South Jersey Gas pipeline.

[* Doug O’Malley of Environment NJ noted the irony that today was the 1 year anniversary of the Pinelands Commission’s public notice, an obvious attempt to minimize public review of the proposed MOA.]

It is clear that the Earlen appointment was political payback for the Senate Judiciary Committee’s recent refusal to approve Gov. Christie’s candidates for the Commission.

I spoke with the Freeholders’ public information officer at length yesterday to try to explain the context and the significance of this appointment and request that the matter be removed from the agenda or tabled. He specifically mentioned that he and other Freeholders found the Senate’s actions to reject the Gov.’s candidates “reprehensible” (see this Star Ledger editorial that explains all that:

The Pinelands Commission deadlocked 7-7 in a January 10, 2014 vote that would have allowed the pipeline to proceed, despite the fact that it is inconsistent with the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP).

Because that vote was on a proposed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to mitigate the conflict with the CMP, technically,  the SJG application has not been defeated or withdrawn and still remains before the Commission.

Additionally, South Jersey Gas appealed the Commission’s vote, thus the matter is before the Courts as well, who could remand the matter to the Commission for reconsideration.

So, the Freeholders’ nominee could determine the outcome of the controversial pipeline.

With the retaliatory replacement of Cumberland County’s representative, who opposed the pipeline – and Ocean County’s grossly disrespectful appointment of a reliable Christie yes man – the Gov. now has at least an 8-6 majority to approve the pipeline, should the Courts or SJG find a way to bring the matter back for another vote (which I think is in the works).

Earlen previously voted in favor of the pipeline, a vote some residents said should disqualify M. Earlen from re-appointment. In response to that, again showing political loyalty to Gov. Christie instead of his duties, Freeholder Donnelly complained about what he saw as a double standard – he chastised those who “praised Pinelands Commissioners who bucked the system and took on the Governor”, and ague that Earlen should be disqualified.

I spoke to Donnelly after the meeting about this comment, because I too said Earlen should be disqualified for re-appointment. I explained the fact that the pipeline was inconsistent with the CMP, so voting for the MOA to sidestep that inconsistency failed the test of leadership and “Pinelands Champion”. He knew all about the issue, calling the MOA “like a variance” and went on to basically confirm all my suspicions that this decision was political and not based on the merits.

[* Donnelly had no qualms telling me to my face that – I quote – “you know” that providing an opportunity for the public to participate would allow “your groups to organize 700 people to pack a public hearing”  – such is the state of democracy in Burlington County.]

  • The Process Stinks

The Freeholders agenda for today’s meeting was released on monday. It merely listed a “nominee” for the Pinelands Commission, but did not name that individual or indicate whether the nominee would be voted on and formally selected.

The Freeholders nominated and “selected”, i.e. voted to appoint, Earlen on the same day, despite strong public objections to the secretive process and lack of meaningful public notice

The public’s concerns about the lack of transparency and ability to participate were shared by Freeholders Belgard and Schwartz.

Belgard said she found out about the Nomination on Monday, but did not even know the name of the nominee, or that it would be Mr. Earlen, until she walked into the hearing room on Wednesday.

Freeholders Belgard and Schwartz twice offered Resolutions to table the nomination. Twice they lost 3-2 votes.

Belgard said she requested the name and resume of the nominee when she received the meeting agenda on Monday, but that information was not provided.

Several Burlington County residents objected to the fact that the Pinelands Nominee was not even named on the agenda, making it impossible to provide informed comments on his/her qualifications for this critical position.

Carleton Montgomery of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance noted that Mr. Earle was not a champion for the Pinelands and implored the Freeholders to appoint a champion who would advocate for the Pinelands “not just show up and vote as he’s told”.

Instead of responding to the public’s legitimate and well argued concerns, the Freeholders bickered like little children.

It was embarrassing.

After the vote, I told them they should be ashamed of themselves.

So, have a Happy Thanksgiving folks – and I hope you can find some time to get outside with your family.

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  1. deciminyan
    November 26th, 2014 at 21:39 | #1

    My take, along with video comments from Doug O’Malley of Environment New Jersey, Carleton Montgomery of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, and Freeholder Aimee Belgard, may be found at this link: http://goo.gl/x0niZX

  2. November 29th, 2014 at 13:12 | #2

    thanks, good stuff.

  3. November 29th, 2014 at 13:12 | #3

    I included a link to your posit above about the state of democracy in Burlco

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