Home > Uncategorized > Pinelands Commission “Approves” Over A Mile of Gas Pipeline Replacement With No Public Review

Pinelands Commission “Approves” Over A Mile of Gas Pipeline Replacement With No Public Review

After years of pipeline battles and litigation, Commission still has no policy

Another example of failure to address the climate emergency

“inadvertent return of drilling fluid … may occur during the installation”

According to the Pinelands Commission’s September Management Report (excerpt below), Executive Director Wittenberg, via a letter, determined that replacement of over a mile of gas pipeline by South Jersey Gas was not subject to the Commission’s review.

The Wittenberg unilateral letter was issued with no public process or Commission vote, yet it imposed regulatory requirements designed to avoid “potential inadvertent return of drilling fluid that may occur during the installation“.

Executive Director Wittenberg came under withering criticism – including by the Philadelphia Inquirer  and Pinelands Commissioners – for her favorable treatment of South Jersey Gas during prior gas pipeline controversies and her unilateral action and manipulation of the Commission. (“my baby, just wrote me a letter“)

More recently, in July there was a damaging accident caused by inadvertent return of drilling fluid during pipeline construction, and permits were suspended. 

Here is the excerpt from the Commission’s Management Report (emphases mine):

“South Jersey Gas (App. No. 2020-0083.001): On September 21, 2020, the Commission staff issued a letter indicating that the replacement of 5,900 linear feet of natural gas main in the Hamilton Mall area of Hamilton Township did not require an application to the Commission. No application to the Commission was required because the proposed main would serve development which has received all necessary approvals and permits (N.J.A.C. 7:50-4.1(a)6). The September 21, 2020 letter requested that South Jersey Gas prepare a contingency plan to address any potential inadvertent return of drilling fluid that may occur during the installation of approximately 1,135 linear feet of natural gas main by horizontal directional drilling under the Atlantic City Expressway. The letter indicated that the contingency plan should provide for the immediate notification of the Pinelands Commission regarding the inadvertent return of drilling fluid.”

This is completely unacceptable administrative practice.

The letter also reveals the Commission’s longstanding failure to adopt enforceable requirements to address the climate crisis and fossil infrastructure.

Here is the text of the cited exemption: (see: NJAC 7:50-4.1(a)6)

The installation of utility distribution lines, except for sewage lines, to serve areas which are effectively developed or development which has received all necessary approvals and permits;

These are exactly the kinds of loopholes in the CMP that must be closed and beefed up with enforceable requirements to address the climate emergency.

But, as we learned by reading the Commission’s August Management Report, they have done absolutely nothing on the regulatory front and still are diddling with “guiding principles”:

  • Land Use, Climate Impacts & Sustainability (LUCIS): The LUCIS Committee met on August 28, 2020. The Committee discussed the five guiding principles that would be incorporated into a preliminary amendment of the CMP regarding climate change. The Committee agreed that a draft resolution establishing the guiding principles be drafted for their review.

I wrote Commissioner Lohbauer, who has been a leader on climate and pipeline issues, the following note as a heads up:

Commissioner Lohbauer – According to the Commission’s September Management Report (excerpt below), the Commission “approved” a 5,900 linear foot gas pipeline replacement by South Jersey Gas, with no public process, allegedly because the project was exempt from CMP review requirements.

Even if that were the case – which I do not concede without analyzing the Commission staff’s written regulatory analysis if one even exists – the Commission imposed regulatory requirements (i.e. contingency plans) absent any regulatory process.

This is unacceptable administrative practice and poor policy and planning.

As fossil infrastructure ages and replacement is sought, there should be phase out policies and plans and retrofit requirements – including energy efficiency, electric conversion of buildings, renewable energy installation, etc at the Commission approved development the pipeline served.

Are you aware of this? Are you advocating CMP amendments to enforce these kind of climate and energy policies?


Bill Wolfe

We’ll let you know what we hear back. I’m not expecting much.

[End Note: NJ DEP also has regulatory responsibilities – see my note to Department Assistant Commissioner Vince Mazzei:

Hey Vince – saw that you recently briefed the Pinelands Commission on the development of DEP’s climate PACT regulations and thought you might be interested in this, which also applies to DEP’s wetlands (401 WQC) and stream encroachment rules. Has DEP issued enforcement action or modified regulations on “inadvertent return of drilling fluid that may occur during the [pipeline] installation”?


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