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South Jersey Residents Join Environmentalists in Blasting Pines Gas Pipeline

South Jersey Gas Hijacks Hearing – PR Stunt Taints Public Hearing

Was BPU Punked by SJG, or Were They Complicit in the Fraud?

Upcoming BPU Vote on Project A Test: Is BPU as Captured By Energy Industry As FERC?

Georgina Shanley, OCean City, head of Citizens Untied for Renewable Energy (CURE) invokes the Pope to call out "fossil sinners".
Georgina Shanley, Ocean City, head of Citizens United for Renewable Energy (CURE) invokes the Pope to call out “fossil sinners”.

In the belly of the beast, almost in the shadow of the BL England power plant, yesterday the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) held a public hearing in Upper Township, Cape May County on the attempt by South Jersey Gas (SJG) for a second bite at the apple for approval of a proposed 22 mile ratepayer funded $90 million gas pipeline through the Pinelands National Reserve.

The pipeline is dedicated to repowering the BL England power plant, a $400 million project.

SJG argues that the re-powering of the BL England plant is required to provide power to the region and “reliability” for the PJM electric grid.

SJG argues that the pipeline will provide duplicate service for Cape May County, described as “resilience” in the event of a Sandy-like storm, emergency, or pipeline failure.

Because the alleged beneficiaries of the so called “reliability” and “resilience” are almost all located outside the Pinelands region – SJG even touted a restriction on gas hookups in the Pinelands along the route – those SJG arguments directly contradict claims SJG is making simultaneously to the Pinelands Commission that the project “primarily serves” Pinelands residents.

It is a stunning contradiction I and many others called out during the hearing. Will BPU swallow it?

About 150 residents and environmentalists blasted the proposal for almost 6 hours last night. SJG looked bad, very bad.

Background and Context

Critics have called the $500 million fossil fuel project an antiquated and costly boondoggle that is not needed to meet the region’s energy needs, a ratepayer ripoff, air pollution health threat, public safety risk, and an environmental attack on the Pinelands that would undermine the ability of the State to meet the emission reduction requirements of the Global Warming Response Act while frustrating off shore wind development.

In a very rare win by environmentalists fighting scores of pipeline battles across NJ and the nation, last year, the Pinelands Commission denied approval of the pipeline, because it conflicted with the forest area standards of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP), a critical legal finding SJG is now seeking to overturn by brute political force.

That rare win was made possible by the fact that the pipeline is an intrastate pipeline under State control – the project is not an interstate pipeline federally preempted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC). It is widely know that FERC is dominated by the energy industry, a process political scientists call “regulatory capture” and activists call corruption.

Given the Pinelands Commission’s rejection of the pipeline, the upcoming BPU vote will be a test of whether the BPU is as “captured” or “corrupt” as federal FERC.

BPU Allows SJG To Hijack the Hearing

In a cynical and unprofessional show of that political force, at the start, SJG hijacked the hearing by staging a sham quasi-legal presentation of “expert testimony”.

A lawyer representing SJG led a SJG “expert” through various technical reports and Plans to support their media talking points in order to create a false appearance of an independent and objective justification for the pipeline project.

SJG stunt deploys Perry Mason in sham examination of expert witness. BPU Commissioner Joe listens and lets it go

SJG stunt deploys Perry Mason in sham examination of expert witness. BPU Commissioner Joe listens and lets it go

Remarkably, BPU Chairman Fiordaliso allowed this sham to continue for over 30 minutes – a gross abuse of the public hearing process noted by Press of Atlantic City reporter Cindy Nevitt’s story: (read the whole thing)

Public comment, which was the intent of the hearing, was further delayed another half-hour at the first meeting as counsel for South Jersey Gas elicited testimony from a South Jersey Gas general manager as to the necessity of the pipeline.

That practice, BPU Commissioner Joseph Fiordaliso said, is usually part of evidentiary hearings, not public hearings.

The fact that BPU allowed the SJG sham to continue, without ruling the stunt out of order, suggests that either they were punked by SJG, or they are complicit in the stunt.

I testified that the sham was so improper it tainted and violated the public hearing process required by law and demanded that the BPU conduct another public hearing to correct the record. SJG has been given a mulligan, so there’s no reason why the public should be denied one (for the non golfers out there, Wiki explains a mulligan AKA “do-over”):

mulligan is second chance to perform an action, usually after the first chance went wrong through bad luck or a blunder

Yes, SJG has made enormous blunders, a practice they are repeating.

[Update: Becky Free of PPA recorded the beginning of the hearing – what went on was hardly “a short introductory statement”: watch:

Part 1 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRaQSpIZTAE

Part 2 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2g8S3_U5a_c

BPU Questions Raised – Will BPU Repeat Past Mistakes?

BPU not only allowed SJG to hijack the public hearing and thereby raise questions about BPU’s competence and independence.

BPU has dirty hands from two prior unusual approvals of the project.

BPU issued two prior approvals, both issued with virtually no public involvement and BEFORE the Pinelands Commission review process was able to spawn the public debate on the pipeline:

  • an April 29, 2013 Order which provided numerous significant unfounded findings (e.g. “fewer air emissions”) and provided subsidies to the project, including requiring ratepayers to pay for a big part of it; exemptions from RGGI greenhouse gas emission allowance purchase requirements and Societal Benefits Charges; and a “confidentiality” agreement to keep the economics secret; and
  • a June 21, 2013 Order which curiously included a MOA with the Pinelands Commission before that controversial issues was ever discussed before the Commission, approved a host of questionable issues, from the need for the project, alternatives, safety, and the pipeline route. Amazingly, it included this statement:


After the pounding BPU took last night from the public, I strongly doubt that they will stand by their prior false claim that “No members of the public voiced opposition to the proposed pipeline alignment” 

In addition to misrepresenting the public’s opposition to the pipeline, take a look at how the BPU April Order glosses over the major change in policy by the Christie DEP. Bob Martin turned the Corzine/Lisa Jackson DEP’s enforcement Order that required shutdown or pollution control upgrades into a “repower the facility” Order:


Governor’s Office Quarterbacking Approvals – Lobbied by Wolff & Samson

My testimony focused on the highly unusual regulatory history of the project.

I forgot to mention, aside from the Gov.’s Office ethics violation and the unusual process for forcing the recusal of Pinelands Commissioner Lloyd,  that this unusual and highly coordinated regulatory review process is very likely a result of the fact that BL England (e.g. owned by RC Rockland Capital) is represented by lobbyists from Wolff & Samson – yes, The General Himself has his fingerprints on this.

Speaking off the cuff, I outlined how a prior 2006 DEP Enforcement Order for violations of the Clean Air Act – expected to result in plant shutdown – was amended by the Christie DEP to create the false appearance that the DEP was ordering South Jersey Gas to repower the facility with natural gas.

BPU then relied on the alleged DEP Order to expedite their approvals, issued quietly with virtually no public awareness of involvement in April and June of 2013, months before the public debate broke out before the Pinelands Commission.

SJG then attempted to leverage those BPU Order, using that same “DEP and BPU are making us do this so you must approve it” sham argument to the Pinelands Commission.

Meanwhile, with the press and the public either unaware or focused on the Pinelands Commission review process, the DEP quietly issued land use, air pollution, and water pollution control permits, again with virtually no public awareness. Wolff & Samson earned their fees.

Dr. Steven Fenichel, Ocean City, testifies on health effects of ultra-fine particle emissions from BL England. He also presented scientific paper on 100% renewable energy by 205.

Dr. Steven Fenichel, Ocean City, testifies on health effects of ultra-fine particle emissions from BL England. He also presented scientific paper on 100% renewable energy by 2050.

DEP even made the virtually unprecedented move to present a flawed “air quality analysis – prepared by consultants to BL England – to the Pinelands Commission before their vote. See;

Doug O’Malley’s succinct quote sums things up nicely and gets in right (Philly.com story):

“They’re trying to do an end run around the Pinelands Commission,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “This whole process has been extraordinary.The level of Christie administration influence is astonishing.”

Yes, it has been astonishingly corrupt – like I said when this whole thing broke: It’s Chinatown.

The question now is – will BPU repeat prior mistakes and rubber stamp the whole thing?

Stay tuned.

(PS – this is a BPU review process so I have to focus on the BPU aspects of the project.)

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