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Christie DEP Approves Another Pipeline Through Pinelands

DEP issued permits for NJ Natural Gas the same day Pinelands Commission OK’d SJG

Accelerating climate catastrophe ignored – again

We got a heads up on this last week from Agnes Marsala, head of People Over Pipelines, so we were not surprised by Dave Levinsky’s Burlington County Times report today:

New Jersey Natural Gas’ proposed gas pipeline through northern Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties has cleared another regulatory hurdle. … The permits were awarded Feb. 24…

The permits were received the same day the [Pinelands] commission approved construction of another pipeline through part of the Pinelands in Cape May County. That decision was blasted by environmental groups, who fear it might set a precedent for approving other pipelines like New Jersey Natural Gas’ Southern Reliability Link. …

“(Gov. Chris) Christie’s one-two attack on the environment delivered Friday, Feb. 24th, marks a desperate, end-game attempt to ram as much unnecessary, permanent fossil fuel infrastructure as possible through the Garden State before his term expires,” said Agnes Marsala, president of the group.

We told you that would happen:

NJ Natural Gas Pipeline Next In Line for the Christie – Wittenberg Rubber Stamp

The record setting Christie DEP press office – who has issued more press releases by far than any other – didn’t issue a press release. Not even a Friday afternoon dump.

Not only did DEP try to keep this quiet and under the radar, instead, when they knew the press was working on a pipeline story, they cynically put out a self serving diversionary smokescreen to create the appearance of protecting the Pinelands (see this). (this is a longstanding and shameless abuse, especially for climate related issues).

Like the South Jersey Gas pipeline, this NJNG pipeline also has a particularly corrupt regulatory history at BPU (see this and this), the Pinelands Commission, and the DEP. Lets look at DEP.

The Christie DEP not only bent the rules to approve this pipeline, remarkably, they actually changed the rules to make it easier for pipelines!

The DEP rolled back protections under the Flood Hazard Act (stream encroachment permits) to issue and essentially deregulate and privatize stream encroachment permits under what is called a “Permit by Rule” (see this for details:

Keep in mind that the rollback of those stream encroachment rules weakened other critical protections for streams (see: The Case for a Legislative Veto) that apply statewide (and not only to pipelines).

The rollbacks made it cheaper for energy corporations to comply with rules, increased allowable disturbance and destruction of environmentally sensitive lands, reduced or eliminated mitigation requirements, made it easier for DEP to approve pipelines, and much harder for the public to challenge them.

Environmental groups mounted a strong opposition to the DEP rollbacks and Legislators promised to veto them. But that veto was abandoned.

So, folks need to criticize not only the Christie DEP, but Democratic legislators who failed to honor their pledge to veto those rules (see:

The regulatory game is rigged and the corruption is bi-partisan.

Hopefully, the courts will uphold the lawsuits that are certain to be filed by environmental groups.

As citizens, our only recourse at this point is protest, direct action, and civil disobedience.

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