Pinelands Commission Approves Pipeline, Despite Massive Protests
Former Chairman, Commissioner Lohbauer provides brilliant statement in opposition
Commission Votes For Fossil On A Record-breaking 76 degree February Day
Signal of climate chaos
NJ Natural Gas Pipeline Next In Line for the Christie – Wittenberg Rubber Stamp
There was a huge turnout today of strong and loud opponents for the Pinelands Commission’s final meeting on the proposed South Jersey Gas Co. pipeline.
The line outside formed early – hours before the 9:30 am start – and the 1,600 seat ballroom was 3/4 full – over 95% opposed (the union guys stayed home – they knew the deal was in).
I was one of the over 100 people turned away and/or forced to stand for hours in the cold rain in the previous fiasco at Browns Mills, so I made sure I arrived early (it was still dark when I got there and I was the first on line and to sign up to speak – absolutely to no avail!).
Commissioner Barr, a political hack with no Pinelands experience who was installed as a puppet by strong armed tactics by Gov. Christie and Senate President Sweeney, had the balls to announced in the press that he would vote to approve, 3 days BEFORE the hearing.
So much for deliberation with his fellow Commissioners and public input prior to making a decision! Note that his support has nothing to do with his legal obligation under the CMP and that his claims about property taxes are factually false. You really can’t make this stuff up:
He [Barr] warned of a “cascading effect” caused by the plant’s possible shutdown, including higher local property taxes, the loss of jobs and Upper Township residents leaving the area.
“They will move because their property taxes will go through the roof,” he said.
Keeping the plant open would create more jobs for the region, Barr said. The facility currently does not run every day of the year, but its conversion to natural gas would allow it to operate constantly, requiring more workers to keep it humming, he stressed.
It was tragically fitting that the temperatures outside were soaring to a record-breaking 76 degree February day, as the Commission blindly and corruptly voted to approve a massive $500 million regional pipeline and gas power plant infrastructure project, fueled by Marcellus shale fracked gas.
I am providing this quote, because it was included in the initial AP national wire story, but was mysteriously deleted from every single one but this one: (Down the Memory Hole! I am the Invisible Man!)
“What you just did was despicable,” environmentalist Bill Wolfe told the commission. “I’m gonna use George Bush and say people who voted for this pipeline are evildoers.” – see NBC TV/AP story: Hotly Contested Pinelands Pipeline Project Passes Despite Noisy Protest
[Note: Fox News and NJTV included my Bush “evil-doer” quote – but without my preface that I typically avoided both Manichaean and religious terms. The national AP story replace my “evil-doer” quote with this, from a holy man – the point more powerfully and credibly made!:
As a priest, I will pray for you when you stand before the throne of God and you are asked to give an accounting of your stewardship of this special ecological area,” said Rev. David Stump, a Catholic priest from Jersey City. “May God have mercy on your souls.” ~~~ end note]
The turnout was fantastic, but, while there was a time for the Woody Guthrie singing, the tactics failed to reflect the actual procedural actions by the Commissioners.
The protesters failed to understand the process, at times drowning out the superb opposition statement by Commissioner Lohbauer, and yet at other times failing to understand the implications of the defeat of Lohbauer’s motion to table and get more aggressive and try to shut the meeting down and prevent the vote of approval.
Once the Lohbauer motion to table was defeated, it was abundantly obvious that the deal was done and the final vote was a mere formality, yet the crowd plowed on in a singsong denial, oblivious. (in a subtle and slimy legal move, the Deputy Attorney General interjected to advise Lohbauer that his motion could not include tabling the prior Resolution to approve and referral to the Office of Administrative Law for an adjudicatory hearing. Lohbauer then amended his motion to delete the OAL hearing. This is complex, but legally relevant, because several Commissioners noted factual conflicts in the record and flaws in ED Wittenberg’s recommendation to approve.)
At one point, as I was attempting to educate the crowd as to what was going on, I was accosted by a young man I can only describe as a Food and Water Watch cult member.
He was ignorant of what was going on in the meeting and he mistakenly thought I was an agent provocateur. I had to ask the State Police to make him get out of my space, before I had to defend my space physically.
One interesting and disturbing note: the new National Park System representative on the Commission asked some relevant questions – including about this untold Pinelands history – but he abstained in the vote. His predecessor voted NO in 2014. But the NPS representative now serves in the Trump administration and the President is personally championing pipelines (KXL and DAPL).
There are solid grounds for litigation and Commissioner Lohbauer’s statement greatly supported that litigation.
There is also the direct action option.
The meeting received extensive media coverage, which I thought this line from the Press of Atlantic City story was the most revealing:
None of the commissioners who voted for the pipeline spoke about why they were voting the way they were, although Galletta said he had enough information to vote today, after years of hearing from all sides.
In that same article, deplorably corrupt Senator Van Drew talks some smack:
State Senator Jeff VanDrew released a statement of his support, saying opponents had threatened him.
“I want to thank the commissioners who voted to approve the project. They had the courage to do what they thought was right, despite the threats to their safety and harassment they endured during this tumultuous process,” said VanDrew. “This type of intimidation, which was also directed at me, is deplorable.”
So I’ll just leave it at that for now, with some pics –
And bring on the Mom’s Brigade! Senator Van Drew is terribly afraid!:
[Update: Asbury Park Press editorial: “Pinelands Pipeline: “See You In Court” absolutely kills it:
Fittingly, given the sham of the process, Friday’s vote preceded rather than followed the public comment period. Hundreds of people, the majority of whom adamantly opposed the project, came to the meeting knowing full well that the fix was in. Many stayed for at least two hours after the vote, when they were finally given the opportunity to take their turn at the microphone. Most expressed their disgust with the commissioners who sold them out.