Home > Uncategorized > Star Ledger Editorial Shames Gov. Murphy’s Pinelands Scheme

Star Ledger Editorial Shames Gov. Murphy’s Pinelands Scheme

Urges Gov. To Withdraw Corporate Nominees And Start Over

NJ LCV & PPA Continue to Collapse

Troubling Revolving Door On Orsted Nominee

We need to do a quick update on the Pinelands disaster created by Gov. Murphy (see: “Green Masks Are Off”).

1) Important Star Ledger Editorial

Yesterday’s Star Ledger editorial slammed Gov. Murphy’s attempt to stealth 3 corporate lobbyists onto the Pinelands Commission during a lame duck session, correctly calling it a “craven power play” and likening his abuse to worse than those of Gov. Christie:

We’ve come to expect mischief during lame duck, when lawmakers try to rush things through stealthily in their final two months in office.

But we didn’t expect the governor who preaches environmental protection to make a craven power play at the Pinelands Commission – picking folks who represent corporate interests to replace environmental stalwarts on the board. Not even Chris Christie was so brazen as to appoint a corporate lobbyist.

Murphy needs to rethink his nominations, which include Laura Matos of Kivvit, a prominent public affairs and communications firm, and a guy who works full time for an offshore wind company, Davon McCurry of Ørsted.

I’d bet SL Editorial Board editor and likely author of that wonderful editorial, my old homie friend Tom Moran, would be surprised to learn that his views on this sham are very close to mine. (I published first!) Moran and I grew up together but don’t agree on politics and he has called me a “radical” “bitter” blogger in prior disputes.

The SL editorial concludes with a harsh rebuke and call for the Gov. to withdraw his nominees:

Christie tried to bully this commission and the message Murphy’s sending now is a similar one. If this is a squabble over personnel, it should be worked out internally, not with another act of retribution. Governor, stop this scheme before the Senate acts. 

This needs to be sent around the world to get people informed and activated.

How can it be that a newspaper editorial board is stronger in advocating for the Pinelands than conservation groups whose mission is to protect the Pines? Which takes me to my next point.

2) NJ LCV and PPA Continue to Fold

Both NJ LCV and Pinelands Preservation Alliance issued virtually identical “Updates” to their members that expose the fact that they are engaged in a corrupt deal with the Governor’s Office and are misleading their members.

They both are delusional in suggesting a “slate” of candidates that could make the Pinelands Commission “stronger”.

Ed Potosnak of NJ LCV went even further with this absurd statement – which at least Carleton Montgomery did not:

The Governor’s team tells us that the other two nominees will be good environmental advocates on the Pinelands Commission. We look forward to getting to know each better and seeing them grow into Pinelands leaders.


If a Trump supporter said that Trump’s White House staff assured him that Trump’s EPA Administrator would be a “good environmental advocate” he would be laughed at and denounced as a delusional cultist (and possibly “cancelled” in our current political culture).

That statement also reveals that NJ LCV views this as a done deal (“we look forward to working”) and is not opposing the Gov.’s move, a total corrupt capitulation.

I always knew Ed Potosnak was an unprincipled partisan hack, bootlicker, and cheerleader, but I never thought Carleton Montgomery was and assumed he had far more integrity and courage. But, as they say, know a man by the friends he keeps.

3) Deafening Silence From Other Environmental Groups and Activists

I’ve heard absolute silence from many NJ conservation and environmental groups I would expect to support the Pinelands. Where are these people:

  • Michele Byers, NJCF
  • Doug O’Malley, Environment NJ
  • Amy Goldsmith, Clean Water Action
  • Dave Pringle (I think he consults for Empower NJ)
  • Eric Stiles, NJ Audubon (Murphy initially nominated Kelly Mooij from NJA)

I suspect that a combination of their political support for Murphy, their warped transactional politics thinking that criticism of the Gov. would harm their other more important priorities and pet projects ($$$), and drinking the diversity Kool-aid may explain this cowardly failure.

Where are all the activists that came out to fight the Pinelands pipelines and always show up to defend the Pines?

They all have thrown the Pinelands under the bus for their transactional politics. Shame on them.

4) Troubling Revolving Door Backstory On Devon McCurry, the Orsted Nominee 

The Gov. nominated Devon McCurry who works for off shore wind developer Orsted. Orsted is working closely with the Murphy administration and seeks to gain millions in profits from Administration approvals and subsidies.

The Gov. has issued press releases for virtually everything he claims to have done, and diversity and off shore wind development are high on his priority list. Yet there was no press release announcing McCurry’s nomination by the Governor. Only after getting strong criticism for the stealth move, he now claims his intent was to diversify the Pinelands Commission. We strongly doubt that. Here’s why.

This is why offshore wind developer Orsted hired Devon McCurry: (Orsted bio)

McCurry will help develop and implement strategies to ensure the successful advancement of existing projects, Ocean Wind 1 and 2, inform efforts to secure additional business and shape Ørsted’s position and standing in the state.

Obviously, those strategies will involve the Pinelands Commission and the shaping of public opinion about Orsted and their “existing projects” and “efforts to secure additional business”.

On this ground alone, he must be withdrawn as a nominee or not confirmed by the Senate because of gross conflicts of interest and the unacceptable practice of corporate interests on what was created by the Legislature to be an independent quasi-legislative and regulatory body.

But, McCurry’ background is actually far worse and even more troubling.

Before he went to Orsted, he served at the Murphy DEP as Director of the Office of Legislative Affairs – which is another gross example of revolving door abuse: (Orsted bio)

Prior to joining Ørsted, McCurry was Director of Legislative Affairs at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), where he served on the commissioner’s senior leadership team managing the department’s intergovernmental relations with the state legislature and the congressional delegation. He also guided NJDEP’s legislative team in responding to pending legislation.

Before working at NJDEP, McCurry served as an aide in the Office of Appointments and the Office of Constituent Relations within the Murphy Administration. McCurry worked at a statewide government affairs firm before beginning his time in state government.

Holy crap, he worked in Gov. Murphy’s Office of Appointments! That’s The Office that screens and recommends nominees. He worked for the Office that recommended him! Total inside job. He previously made contacts there as a corporate lobbyist. Wow.

While that is a triple revolving door (in a very short period of time), McCurry is not just an example of the run of the mill revolving door abuse. His placement in the Gov. Office (from a corporate lobbying firm) and then DEP and then departure to Orsted, a corporation with very close relationships with Gov. Murphy, and seemingly coming out of nowhere as a Pinelands nominee are deeply troubling.

I worked in that same DEP Office of Legislative and Inter-Governmental Affairs for 4 years during the Florio Administration. By the time I got there, I had 6 years of experience in the DEP, my wife had been at DEP for 10 years, and I worked on several Department-wide projects (including with the Governor’s Office and Legislature) that gave me a broad view of policy and the entire Department. I had studied for a Master of Regional Planning at Cornell graduate school and a Bachelors degree in environmental science and public policy.

(I also passed the Civil Service test for environmental planner. Bizarrely, I still recall that the only person who scored higher was Dan Van Abs. The only question I got wrong was the multiple choice question for the definition of “gabion”. It is so ironically apt that NJ DEP tested for knowledge of the definition a bag of rocks, while I had spent years studying the intellectual foundations of planning and public policy and government. Perhaps that test would have been more appropriate for working at DEP if it asked questions about the definitions of “agency capture” and “public choice theory” and the “the public interest” and required an essay of the ethics of loyalty to the chain of command when loyalty conflicts with science and the public interest.)

McCurry’s bio does not come close to that. He had ZERO DEP experience. He had ZERO actual legislative experience (as a legislator, drafting legislation, etc). How was he possibly qualified to even work at DEP? And he was the Director of the DEP Office of Legislative Affairs!

Of more relevance to illustrating just how far professional standards at DEP have slipped and been politicized, consider the fact that I reported to Assistant Commissioner Norman Miller and Director of Legislative Affairs Greta Kiernan. Between those two, they had over 40 years of directly relevant legislative experience. Norm was head of the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) Environment Section for over 20 years and drafted key NJ laws, like the 1976 Spill Act (precursor to federal Superfund). Greta had been a NJ Assemblywoman and had years of legislative experience and many professional and personal relationships with Legislators and legislative staff.

McCurry’s highly political career path and out of nowhere nomination to the Pinelands strongly suggest a much larger strategy is underway. Which takes me to my final and most troubling observation.

5) Gov. Seems To Be Committed To A Flagrantly Bad Move, Suggesting This Is Part of a Larger Deal

I’m very disturbed by the fact that the Gov. did not immediately pull the plug on this extremely unpopular and transparently corrupt and absurd fiasco when it exploded, and find a face saving way out or blame it on a misunderstanding or low level staff error.

The fact that he has not done so and instead dug in so strongly suggests that this is not some minor effort to diversify the Pinelands Commission, but is really part of a much bigger power play and strategy.

That larger power play also explains why Senate President Sweeney has gone radio silent and would not respond to his friend and supporter Tom Moran at the the Star Ledger Editorial Board (Moran recently wrote that Sweeeny’s departure from the Senate is a “crippling blow to the State”).

This will be much harder to kill that I initially imagined, especially with the support and political cover being provided by NJ LCV and PPA, enabled by the cowardly silence of all the other environmental and conservation groups.

I strongly urge Pinelands supporters to organize protests and complain to the NJ LCV and PPA Boards – we only have a few weeks to kill this monster.

[End Note: Jon Hurdle, who called this debacle a “significant win” for the environmental lobby and Tom Johnson who touted the “remarkable solidarity” in the environmental community (and their NJ Spotlight editors) have egg on their face and must feel like the total assholes they are.

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