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Pinelands Executive Director Caught On Tape Minimizing Impacts Of Pipelines

In Her Own Words: Wittenberg Won’t Tell Public What She Really Thinks

“I would never say that with the real public here”

Now that Pinelands Executive Director Wittenberg herself has confirmed that she controls the fate of the South Jersey Gas pipeline and there will be no local reviews or public hearings to challenge her decision, I thought the public should know exactly what Ms. Wittenberg thinks about pipelines in the Pinelands.

Recall that, in a July 24, 2015 letter, Wittenberg wrote:

With regard to the Commission’s review process for the pending application, Commission staff is reviewing the application in accordance with the standards of the CMP at N.J.A.C. 7:50-4.2 There is no provision for a public hearing or a public comment process for non-public applications, until after issuance of a local approval and then only if the Executive Director determines that such local approval raises substantial issues as to the conformance of the proposed development with the minimum standards of the CMP.

In light of those powers, listen to what Wittenberg really thinks and how she thinks.

Blunt Remarks Caught On Tape

Back during the 2013 pipeline debate, Wittenberg was caught on tape advising the Commissioners. She was unaware that the conversation was being taped and thought they were in a secret executive session (download and listen to the whole thing, there is a LOT of interesting stuff said. You will get a message that “Google can’t scan this file for viruses”.  Don’t worry, I assure you that the file is safe).

Earlier during the public hearing, I had criticized the Commission’s pre-application conferences with South Jersey Gas, which had gone on for over a year with virtually no public awareness. I noted that this kind of process created “agency capture’.

During the taped session, Commissioner Lloyd agreed with me.

Lloyd said “I’m much closer to Bill Wolfe on this … it does bias things … taints the process” – and, like a red flag before a bull, that set Wittenberg off.

Wittenberg immediately and aggressively challenged Lloyd. Amazingly, she begins by citing her prior role as lobbyist for the NJ Builders Association to attack Commissioner Lloyd.

Wittenberg said:

In a previous life when I worked with the Builders Association, the builders get ballistic about that [i.e. transparency and public disclosure of pre-application meetings] because they may not have even bought the property yet, and they’re coming in to find out about requirements. …

But the thing that Bill [Wolfe] said that I wanted to remind you all of is that, Stacy [Roth], month after month after month, went on the record warning you: the pipeline project was coming. The public was here. We did not keep this a secret. It’s not my fault they missed it. But I really resented that and I resent Bill Wolfe saying it because he doesn’t know what we do. (starts at time 2:30)

Wittenberg later again disagreed with and challenged Commissioner Lloyd who had again agreed with my prior testimony regarding the Commission’s jurisdiction over climate change impacts. No wonder the Christie Machine took Lloyd out.

The issue arises during a wide ranging and ill informed rant by Counselor Roth about “science” and “dueling experts” (starting at time 8:10).

Wittenberg’s sidekick, Counselor Roth, claims that the Commission has no jurisdiction over climate.

Commissioner Lloyd immediately disagrees with that. Immediately, Wittenberg interjects, like a schoolyard “na na na na boo boo” spat, and immediately disputes Lloyd – it is amazing:

(Roth) – Whatever they [the public] throw out, we then have to start with the premise, is it even science to begin with. Is it even relevant to the issues you have to look at, because climate change is not within your jurisdiction.

(Lloyd) – I can make an argument that it is.

(Wittenberg) – We have no standard. We have no standard.

(Lloyd) – The point is well taken, but we have no standards about what constitutes an equivalent level of protection either.

But, saving the best for last, here is what Wittenberg thinks about pipelines (time 11:26):

I can get up there and tell you that there are places in the Pinelands where we have many, many, many, many, many, many, miles of natural gas pipeline that has been put in – and we can go out and look at what the effects were of those.

But I would never say that with the real public here because I’m already the one whose been (unintelligible)

Ah, but what’s another 22 miles of additional pipeline – no biggie, eh Nancy?

That comment is followed by a lot of trash talk, which included a Commissioner calling public criticism “all that nonsense“. Prior to that insult, another Commissioner referred to the public as “Kindergardeners” (this elicits giggles) and another said “I don’t care what the public thinks” and another Commissioner said “I don’t really care what they think“. (verbatim, listen yourself)

After all this, Wittenberg was obviously wound up and feeling confident:

(Wittenberg) – We’ll have South Jersey Gas at the next P&I meeting.

I will unfortunately be out of the country I’m sure (huge laugher).

And after that presentation, you can decide what you want to do.

Fun times in the Pines.

And I wonder if Wittenberg still thinks that I don’t know what the Commission does?

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