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Murphy BPU Appointment Opposed Off Shore Wind And “Partnered” With Donald Trump

Controversial Pinelands Nominee Abandoned – Quietly Installed At BPU

Relationships with NJ Energy Companies Raise Conflicts of Interest Issues

It seems that Gov. Murphy has changed his mind.

Just weeks ago, Gov. Murphy nominated Kelly Mooij, the Trenton lobbyist for NJ Audubon, for a post as a Pinelands Commissioner. That controversial nomination required Senate confirmation.

We opposed that nomination and explained why Mooij was poorly suited for the Commission, see:

In a follow-up post, we went into great detail to explain why Mooij’s nomination opened a “fundamental policy debate”, why she had conflicts of interest, and why she was totally unsuited for the Pinelands Commission, see:

Mooij’s Senate confirmation hearings would have engaged what I described as a “fundamental environmental policy debate”.

Mooij would have faced opposition in Senate Confirmation hearings. Specifically, NJ Audubon’s role as shill for & relationships w/PSEG would have been outed.

So would have NJ’s Audubon’s “Corporate Stewardship” program of greenwashing for NJ’s largest corporations, developers, and polluters.

NJ Audubon’s “partnership” with Donald Trump – which Mooij tacitly supported – would have been part of the story and obviously would have embarrassed the Governor, see:

She never could have survived a public Senate Confirmation process.

So, while we were pleased to learn that Gov. Murphy recently quietly had withdrawn the Pinelands nomination – a win for the Pinelands – it seems that Murphy’s Pinelands nominee has gone from the frying pan to the fire.

According to Insider NJ (I could find no press release from the Gov.’s Office), Gov. Murphy quietly has installed Mooij at the BPU, not as a Commissioner but in a staff position, as Deputy Director of the BPU’s Division of Clean Energy, see:

Gov. Murphy used raw executive power to make an appointment of an individual – a policy making appointment which is not subject to public scrutiny – who could not have survived a public review process for Pinelands Commissioner. Shame on him.

But, just as Mooij was poorly suited for the Pinelands Commission, her credentials and experience are even worse for the BPU position.

First of all, Ms. Mooij recently opposed off-shore wind:

Kelly Mooij, vice president of government relations for New Jersey Audubon, said the project would have been built within the Eastern Seaboard’s “bird migration highway” and threatened species that fly along the coast. (State rejects wind project off Atlantic City’s coastPress Of Atlantic City (12/18/18).

Given that opposition, can she be independent and objective in her staff role at BPU?

How does a Gov. appoint a Deputy Director of Clean Energy that has opposed off shore wind?

Second, as we previously wrote, she and NJ Audubon have close relationships and have been funded by NJ energy companies that BPU regulates (see this for details).

Corporations that have financial and programmatic ties to NJ Audubon and Ms. Mooij, like PSEG , NJNG and SJG, all have business in front of the Board and the clean energy program she would manage.

Those relationships raise potential to trigger conflicts of interest issues – including the appearance of a conflict, which is the legal standard under NJ’s Ethics laws. These rules should apply, even to staff level positions, as staff have enormous influence and power to shape BPU decisions.

They also raise issues of Ms. Mooij’s judgment – or lack thereof – including her values, training, expertise, and policy orientation.

NJ Audubon – the group Mooij represented in Trenton – is notorious as a political accommodationist, as long as money is part of the deal (witness the “partnership” with Trump, the mitigation deals, the corporate stewardship, and the favorable relationship with the Christie Administration).

Many have criticized NJ Audubon’s “entrepreneurial” style, saying that they act more like consultants than conservation advocates.

NJ Audubon has engaged in many controversial projects – like logging Highlands Forests – that have angered local residents and fellow environmental groups.

When I tweeted that Mooij’s appointment at BPU was joke, an astute reader replied:

“You mean since NJA opposed off Shore wind & is funded by the gas industry? Or Sarah Bloom (sic), former BIA lobbyist who opposes renewables is head of clean energy. Or that the only enviro’s Murphy hires are from LCV that spent $200k dark money on behalf of Murphy. Which joke?

I really can’t top that – except maybe with the Trump Partnership.

Media needs to ask the Gov. Office about: 1) Ms. Mooij’s qualifications for the job, 2) whether she can be independent and objective on off shore wind, given her prior opposition, 3) what was the nature of her lobbying work and background at NJ Audubon and 4) whether her relationships with NJ Energy companies raise potential conflict of interest issues.

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