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A Climate Agenda for the Pinelands

Time to Go On Offense Instead of Ad Hoc Pipeline Battles

Raise The Bar

State House Annex, Trenton, NJ (8/20/15)

State House Annex, Trenton, NJ (8/20/15)

Environmental groups today held a noontime press conference in Trenton to announce a new Pinelands campaign to stop the South Jersey Gas pipeline.

Emile DeVito of NJ Conservation Foundation made the most cogent remarks, calling out the pipeline as a “prohibited project” under the CMP and explaining the significance of maintaining the integrity of the CMP to preserve the Pines.

[Doug O’Malley, Environment NJ, had the best “streetfightin’ man” metaphor, calling Wittenberg’s action a “sucker punch”.]

Perhaps that campaign should have been kicked off months ago, to create some public and media pressure to prevent Executive Director Wittenberg from executing her mutiny.

Perhaps a public campaign could have bucked up friendly Pinelands Commissioners to get out in front of Wittenberg’s Machiavellian schemes.

Perhaps an intrepid political reporter could have injected the Pinelands pipeline abuse into Governor Christie’s national ambitions.

But alas, the deed is done – the only thing that can block it at this point is litigation.

So, the cliche’ “too little, too late” comes to mind with respect to today’s campaign kickoff announcement.

BUT, the campaign need not be in vain.

Pinelands activists could use the campaign to begin a grass roots effort to go on offense on the climate front.

As I’ve argued, with Gov. Christie in control of all things Trenton and firmly in denial on the climate front, any progress will need to come from the regional planning entities like the Pinelands Commission, Highlands Council, Meadowlands Commission, and Delaware River Basin Commission.

Such a grassroots supported and regional focused effort could lay the foundation for the next Gubernatorial and Legislative campaigns and begin to cultivate media traction and build local support.

It could also set the stage for the next Administration’s policy agenda and frame the key issues in NJ’s plan to comply with the Obama Clean Energy Plan, implement the Global Warming Response Act, and repeal/revise the Christie Energy Master Plan.

So, here is a talking point level agenda, based on testimony I’ve previously presented to the Pinelands Commission and written about in more detail here:

1) Moratorium on pipeline and fossil infrastructure pending update of  the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan  (CMP) regulations to provide adequate safeguards

Models:  Cuomo fracking moratorium and DRBC fracking moratorium

2) Update CMP to address climate change and energy policies

Model: Adirondack Park Agency Plan Energy Policy.

Basis: Pinelands Commission and other studies on climate impacts to pines forest and ecosystems

3) Update CMP to include lifecycle carbon analysis and at least 1/1 mitigation requirements to offset any new carbon emissions from any new development

I’m tired of playing defense – and We gotta start somewhere.

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