Home > Uncategorized > A Brief Open Letter to Pinelands Executive Director Nancy Wittenberg

A Brief Open Letter to Pinelands Executive Director Nancy Wittenberg

Same Pipeline, Same Purpose, Same Route, Same Geographic Service

Still Inconsistent with CMP

Honor Your Father

A Pinelands scene

A Pinelands scene

Dear Executive Director Wittenberg:

On this Father’s Day, you should honor your father and make him proud, not ashamed, of your actions.

You have a huge upcoming decision to make with respect to the “new” application submitted by South Jersey Gas Co. (SJG) seeking Pinelands Commission approval of their 22 mile $90 million pipeline.

You previously supported your staff’s determination that the proposed pipeline was inconsistent with the forest area standards of the CMP because the project did not “primarily serve only the needs of the Pinelands”  (see: NJAC 7:50-5.23 (b)12))

No doubt, significant pressure is being put on you by Gov. Christie’s Office, powerful legislators like Senators Van Drew and Sweeney,  corporate executives, and political power brokers like Wolff & Samson and George Norcross to revise that decision in light of “new information”.

But, deep down, you know that this SJG argument is a sham – there is nothing new that is material and relevant to the prior finding.

In accordance with CMP regulations, the “new” amended application remains inconsistent with the CMP – and thus the only remedy to resolve the inconsistency, short of denial, is for SJG to seek a waiver of strict compliance.

1) project route and terms of gas service to BL England remain the same.

There has been no change to the geographic distribution of alleged “reliability” or “resilience” or “air quality” or “energy”  or “needs served” or “public benefits” of the project.

2) staff previously determined that the project was inconsistent with the Forest area standards because it did not “primarily serve” the Pinelands

3) The Executive Director’s Report and recommendations on the MOA confirmed the staff finding that the project was inconsistent with the CMP.

4) That inconsistency was repeated numerous times during the course of months of public debate and Commission meetings and public hearings.

5) After the Commission’s vote, Chairman Lohbauer wrote a letter to the Press of Atlantic City, published on Jan. 23, 2014,  see:

After rejecting various arguments put forth in support and opposition to the SJG application, in that letter, Chairman Lohbauer defined the scope and objectives of the Commission’s powers, concluding:

“Our job is to apply the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan to applications. It was undisputed that the applicant’s intention to bury pipeline through forest area -even under a state highway shoulder – was inconsistent with the CMP.

To be approved, the applicant needed to quality for an exception. There are only two standards for exception: waiver of strict compliance and intergovernmental memorandum of agreement. The application pursued the memorandum-of-agreement standard, which is only available to governmental entities.

Seven commissioners considered it inappropriate for a private company, South Jersey Gas, to receive an exception reserved for governmental entities. An eighth commissioner shared this belief, but he was recused from this vote. We believe an applicant like this must apply under the waiver standard and meet its requirements.

Our vote was not about what is relatively better for the environment or what is the best way to generate power in South Jersey. It was about adhering to the standards of the Pinelands Act, plain and simple.” (emphases in boldface are mine).

There are more important things than the well paying and interesting job you now enjoy.

These kind of decisions can make or break a career and professional reputation.

Ms. Wittenberg,  you must stand by and honor the prior staff finding and determine the project inconsistent with the CMP.

If you don’t you will destroy the staff’s reputation for integrity and competence – as well as what’s left of your own.

I rarely make personal appeals of this sort, but in this case it is warranted given the excessive discretion delegated to you by the Commission under the CMP and the huge stakes for the future of the Pinelands and our energy and climate crises.


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