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Pinelands Commission Asked To Impose A Moratorium on Pipeline Reviews

Commission’s Rules Lack Adequate Safeguards To Protect Pinelands In Light of New Science

NJ Has A Rich Tradition Of Using Moratoria To Drive Stronger Laws

[Update below]

The Pinelands Commission held their regular monthly meeting on Friday (July 10).

While there wasn’t much of substance on the official agenda for the meeting, the public comments – quoting Thoreau and the Pope – were well worth the price of admission.

A man who lives and traveled from Philadelphia, a member of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA), injected some perspective into the otherwise banal bureaucratic deliberations :

A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. ~~~ Thoreau

He not quite trumped (or “pre-empted” as Chairman Lohbauer accused me of doing when I presented the “People’s Report” in response to the misleading Executive Director’s monthly Report to the Commission) my quote from the Pope’s encyclical, imploring the Pinelands Commissioners to respond to the climate crisis by imposing a moratorium on pipeline reviews.

The Pope challenged each one of us, individually and organizationally, when he wrote:

Following a period of irrational confidence in progress and human abilities, some sectors of society are now adopting a more critical approach. We see increasing sensitivity to the environment and the need to protect nature, along with a growing concern, both genuine and distressing, for what is happening to our planet. Let us review, however cursorily, those questions which are troubling us today and which we can no longer sweep under the carpet. Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.

It speaks volumes about a culture when the Federal Reserve Chairman’s use of the phrase “irrational exuberance”  of financial markets winds up on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers and becomes a slogan that is indelibly inked into mainstream discourse, while the Pope’s invocation of “irrational confidence in progress and human abilities” is virtually ignored.

But let’s get back to the Pinelands Commision.

Before I invoked the Pope, I focused on public policy.

I urged the Commission to follow the lead of their nearby sister regional planning entity, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), and enact a moratorium on review of pipeline applications – South Jersey Gas and NJ Natural Gas are now seeking approval for major new pipelines through the Pinelands.

I advised the Commission that the DRBC moratorium on fracking was based on the DRBC’s recognition that their existing regulations had gaps and flaws and lacked adequate safeguards to protect basin resources from an avalanche – up to 20,00 wells according to the DRBC’s analysis – of applications for fracking well drilling approvals.

The Pinelands Commission is faced with an analogous situation: Pinelands forests, water, and ecological resources are currently being impacted by climate change; gas pipelines have significant lifecycle impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change; and existing Pineland CMP regulations are not adequate to adequately consider and regulate all pipeline impacts, especially those from lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions.

I advised the Commission that a moratorium is technically and legally justified, and is vitally important given the proliferation of pipeline projects; the exploding public opposition to pipelines; and serious gaps and flaws in Pinelands regulations that were identified during the prior debate on the SJG pipeline debacle.

In addition to the DRBC moratorium, NY State recently imposed a moratorium on fracking due to lack of scientific data on health impacts from fracking and numerous unavoidable and irreversible significant adverse environmental impacts that were documented during an extensive public EIS review process

NJ has no comparable EIS statement preparation and public review requirements, which alone is adequate to justify a moratorium on any pipeline reviews until one is established.

NJ has a long and rich history of using moratoria to trigger major environmental reforms, ironically one even spurred the creation of the Pinelands Commission.

The historical irony is made richer by the fact that the creation of the Pinelands can be considered a collateral benefit of opposition to off shore oil drilling and the construction of pipelines across the Pinelands to refineries on the Delaware River. Then, the battle was to block off shore drilling and oil pipelines from east to west –  today’s fight is to block drilling of Marcellus fracked gas and gas pipelines from west to east – 50 years and we’ve come full circle!

1. Gov Byrne declared a moratorium on certain permits which led to passage of the Pinelands Protection Act

2. Gov. Kean declared a moratorium on issuing certain permits, which led to the passage of the Freshwater Wetlands Act

3. Gov. Florio declared a moratorium on garbage incinerator approvals (permits and financing) that led to the 65% recycling rate (highest in the world at that time) and killed 12 planned incinerators, see:

(*Full disclosure: I am proud to say that I worked on the Florio moratorium and the new progressive solid waste plan. That plan adopted a then world leading 65% recycling rate. The Florio policy also included source reduction, a policy hierarchy, with incineration as a last resort, regionalization, and pioneered new technical methods like lifecycle assessment and materials management. This planning occurred simultaneously with other major progress, like integrating energy at DEP to expand DEP into DEPE. Sadly, most of those reforms have since been gutted by Governors Whitman and Christie.)

4. In contradiction to this historical leadership and use of moratoria to leverage reforms, our current morbidly obese Governor issued his own MORATORIUM – on REGULATIONS!!! See:

Until sanity can be restored in Trenton and BPU, the regional planing entities like the DRBC, Pinelands Commission, Highlands Council, and Meadowlands Commission have to pick up the slack and innovate to respond to the climate crisis.

Even the Pope has spoken.

There is no where else to hide.

[End Note:  ask the reporters and editors at NJ press outlets:

1. Why do they report on trivial BS while ignoring the content of what the Pope says and how that might apply to Gov. Christie’s policy.

2. Why do they report about a letter to the Pinelands Commission from 4 prior Governors but IGNORE the fact that prior Governors have used moratoria so effectively?

Do they know that Christie imposed a moratorium in new regulations and that it killed a drinking water standard for perchlorate, a toxic chemical?

[Update: I recently suggested a list of a dozen specific demands for the new Clean Energy Coalition to raise the bar and petitioned BPU to table the SJG pipeline review, recognizing that:

Real solutions lie in demands to leave fossil in the ground and impose moratoria on fossil fuel extraction, pipelines, trains, ports, and related infrastructure.

Like Chris Hedges said:

We don’t have time to fool around. We have to get militant, very fast.” 

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