Pinelands Commission Reschedules Pipeline Hearing
Another inappropriate venue at the wrong time
The Commission may think that they are tamping down public anger, when in fact their failure to hold a formal “public hearing” – in the traditional evening hours – and conduct an adequate environmental review of the pipelines is stoking even more protest and opposition.
Once again, the Pinelands Commission – the gang that can’t shoot straight – has engaged in a last minute bait and switch on a controversial pipeline meeting schedule and location.
Yesterday afternoon, about 3 hours after I posted on their earlier morning meeting, the Pinelands Commission issued a Public Notice cancelling the scheduled February 10 meeting at Commission HQ and rescheduling it on February 24:
The Pinelands Commission’s regular meeting, originally scheduled for Friday, February 10, 2017 at 9:30 a.m., has been canceled and rescheduled for Friday, February 24, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. The meeting will be held at the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia-Cherry Hill in the Grand Ballroom. The address for the Crowne Plaza is 2349 West Marlton Pike, Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
The Grand Ballroom! (capacity 1,500?)
Maybe the next rescheduling will be in the evening to allow people who work for a living to attend and testify. And maybe it will be a formal “public hearing” and be held in a public facility instead of a gaudy private hotel (how Trump-like!)
Public hearings on controversial regulatory decisions are almost always scheduled in the evenings to allow people who work during the day an opportunity to attend.
But the Commission arrogantly continues to disregard people who work for a living and schedule the meetings at 9:30 in the morning!
The Commission provided no explanation for the latest rescheduling, but it is obviously due to the prior fiasco in Browns Mills and intended to provide a venue to accommodate the huge and growing crowds of pipeline protesters.
But there is another reason – as I noted, the Commission’s extension of the public comment period did not remedy the fatal flaw in the fiasco in Browns Mills because it would have provided only 2 days for the Commission to review public comment:
In response to the public outcry – “this is a sham, shut it down“- and threats of another round of lawsuits for denying basic due process rights, the Commission just announced an extension of the written public comment period until February 8, 2017.
The extension is a meaningless gesture that does not remedy the fatal flaw.
First of all, the Commission meets on February 10, 2017, where they may vote to approve the SJG pipeline project. An extension until just 2 days before that hearing provides insufficient time for Pinelands Staff and Commissioners to consider and respond to public comments.
[Update: a friend just sent me a note to warn that technically, because this is a regular Commission meeting and NOT a public hearing on the pipeline, the Commission could vote to approve the SJG pipeline BEFORE the public comment section of the meeting and allow the public comment AFTER approval! I doubt they would be so brazen, but they could do it. ~~~ end update]
Once again, the Commission is creating a false impression that it is responding to public demands for a larger venue with sufficient capacity to accommodate the public.
In reality, they are fixing another fatal legal mistake to frustrate legal challenge.
The Commission may think that they are tamping down public anger, when in fact their failure to hold a real public hearing – in the traditional evening hours – and conduct an adequate environmental review of the pipelines is stoking even more protest and opposition.