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Christie BPU “Thoroughly” Approves South Jersey Gas Pinelands Pipeline

BPU issues “thorough” but dishonest approval

‘The only evidence [before BPU] is testimony of witnesses of the company.”

A Postscript to Paris

As expected, today BPU issued what may be the final approval for the South Jersey Gas Pinelands pipeline.

Here’s all you need to know about what went down this morning in Trenton – there were some surprises and flat out shocking developments:

1. Notoriety

In his introductory remarks, BPU President Mroz characterized 2 years of strong public opposition to the pipeline, from thousands of people, including a letter from 4 former Governor’s and a 7-7 deadlocked vote by the Pinelands Commission, as “a great amount of notoriety”.

I guess that makes his vote in favor of the pipeline “notorious”.

2. Ethics

In response to public comments suggesting that BPU President Mroz had a conflict of interest as a result of his former role with the NJ Energy Coalition, the State Ethics Commission reviewed the matter and determined that Mroz has no conflict and may participate in the matter.

Guess it’s like those ads for the Lottery – when it comes to ethics: “Anything can happen in Jersey”

3. Democracy Fail

In a remarkably blunt remark, BPU staff confirmed a critical point, flat out stating that public opposition played essentially no role in the BPU’s decision: and this is a verbatim quote:

‘The only evidence [before BPU] is testimony of witnesses of the company.”

Got that?

BPU conducts “quasi-judicial proceedings” – just a fancy legal term for “trial – like”.

You all know what this means, having read about or seen criminal cases on TeeVe where the cops illegally obtained evidence (e.g. no search warrant), which was thrown out by the Judge, allowing the guilty criminal to go free.

4. PPA Ignored

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA) was granted participant status in the evidentiary hearing before BPU. PPA submitted legal and technical documents in opposition to the pipeline.

South Jersey Gas lawyers objected to the PPA participation and argued it was not “evidence” but merely “public comment”.

Obviously, left unstated was that BPU agreed and basically knocked out PPA’s participation as legal evidence the BPU must consider.

Like the Judge disqualifying the illegally obtained evidence against the criminal.

But this time, BPU and SJG got to walk.

5. Wittenberg strikes again

BPU relied not only on the Certificate of Filing by Pinelands staff.

The Certificate was backed up by a more recent August 2015 letter – or letters, it was unclear if there were two – from ED Wittenberg, reiterating that the pipeline was consistent with the CMP.

Wittenberg wrote that that after she reviewed all the testimony from the BPU hearings, that the project was consistent.

The BPU staff went out of their way to be clear that they relied on the Wittenberg letter(s) regarding the CMP and Pinelands issues.

This appears to be an obvious attempt to insulate BPU’s approval from any legal challenge on the grounds of conflicts with the Pinelands Protection Act on the issue of the relationship between the Pinelands Act and the Municipal land Use Law.

It will also be used to defeat any arguments that BPU somehow usurped the role of the Pinelands Commission regarding determination of consistency with the CMP – BPU can argue Nancy did it.

Wittenberg plays dirty and has done everything possible to promote this pipeline.

6. BPU relied on Christie DEP – not Pinelands Commission – for environmental review

BPU noted that they “had early meetings with the company (SJG)” to review the alternative pipeline routes and relied on the DEP – not the Pinelands Commission – to review and approve the company’s selection of the pipeline route, based on environmental considerations.

BPU’s role in review and selection of the route was limited to safety and cost.

7. Mroz is intellectually dishonest – “thoroughly” cherry picks the evidence and ignores key climate concerns

After the vote approving the project, BPU President Mroz took the unusual step to read a lengthy prepared statement about his rationale for voting in favor of the project.

I won’t go into the details, all of which have been mentioned before, but will simply observe that Mroz cherry picked his “evidence” and his “public comment” and that he complete ignored the issue of climate change, social costs of carbon, and significant risks of stranded assets borne by ratepayers.

That all folks – my sense, but this was not made clear, is that the pipeline has all of the approvals necessary to begin construction (aside from perhaps minor construction permits, like road opening, etc).

BPU gives RC Cape May (BL England owner) and South Jersey Gas a big Christmas present.

Send lawyers, guns and money – the shit has hit the fan.

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