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Update On Gov. Murphy’s Pinelands Commission Corporate Scheme

Governor Has Not Withdrawn Corporate Nominees

Conservation Community Collapse And Capitulation Continue

Senate Could Still Confirm In Last Hours Of Last Session of Lame Duck


I just got an email from a Pinelands lover forwarding Carleton Montgomery’s (Pinelands Preservation Alliance) “update” on Gov. Murphy’s corporate scheme that the Star Ledger editorial board recently excoriated as “a craven power play”, a “brazen” attempt to “gut the Commission during lame duck”, and a “scheme” that was similar to the “bullying” by Gov. Christie.

No such criticism crossed Montgomery’s lips, which confirms my suspicion that he and Ed Potosnak of NJ LCV cut a dirty deal with the Governor.

So, in the midst of that collapse and dirty dealing, let me be clear: these corporate hacks have no business being on the Pinelands Commission and people should do everything in their power  to demand that the Gov. withdraw their nominations and the Senate to reject them.

Before I provide Montgomery’s complete “update” to PPA members, let me highlight the key points:

1) Despite the scathing criticism by the Star Ledger editorial board, Governor Murphy still has not withdrawn his corporate nominees, who remain pending Senate confirmation.

Thus, the power to make a final decision and determine the fate of the Pinelands Commission is in outgoing Senate President Sweeney’s hands, a man who is no friend of the Pinelands.

That is a complete abdication by Gov. Murphy.

2) Montgomery’s “update” continues a total collapse and capitulation to Gov. Murphy.

Montgomery suggests that a deal to appoint Murphy’s 2 previously nominated conservationists – who he never fought for over 4 years – would be acceptable and more than offset the 2 new corporate nominees.

Montgomery ludicrously suggests that this deal would make the Commission “stronger”.

Montgomery no longer criticizes the Governor’s corporate nominees as totally inappropriate. On December 3, 2021, he initially wrote:

In a truly shocking move, Governor Murphy today nominated three corporate lobbyists for the Pinelands Commission. They would replace three seasoned environmental leaders with years of service for the Pinelands.

All three of the new nominees appear to have fundamental conflicts of interest due to their employment as lobbyists for industry.  Only one of the three appears to have any prior interest at all in environmental protection.

Montgomery no longer criticizes the Gov.’s nominees as “corporate lobbyists” or complains that they have “fundamental conflicts of interest” – or describes the Gov.’s move as “truly shocking”.

Now, Montgomery lamely limits his concerns about the nominees on a very narrow basis:

because they would replace battle-tested environmental voices who are currently serving on the Commission.

How does one go from criticizing the Gov. move as “truly shocking and blasting his corporate nominees for having “fundamental conflicts of interest” and no “interest at all in environmental protection“, to cutting a dirty deal and suggesting it would make the Commission “stronger”?

Could that be because Montgomery himself has a shocking conflict of interest? (i.e. the deal he apparently cut and is now supporting includes Ms. Lettman? Ms. Lettman was a former employee of PPA and worked for Montgomery. [Note: – I support Ms. Lettman, but not Ms. Coffey. e.g. see this and this and  this  for examples of why.)

Could it be that Montgomery feels ashamed and needs cover for throwing 2 Pinelands Commissioners under the bus in his dirty deal?

Montgomery has completely collapsed and capitulated (along with NJ LCV and the rest of the NJ Conservation community, who apparently remain on the sidelines and continue to give Murphy a pass).

As even more evidence of that collapse, Montgomery now is silent on advising PPA member what to do. He takes a totally passive “wait and see” stance and does not urge his members to publicly oppose the Murphy scheme in any way.

That silence on advocating public opposition, coupled with abandoning criticism of the corporate nominees, plus the suggestion that 2 conservationists would make the Commission “stronger” and Montgomery’s failure to even mention the scathing Star Ledger editorial which should be used to bludgeon the Governor – absolutely confirms that he made a dirty deal with the Murphy Administration at that Trenton meeting.

Here is Montgomery’s pathetically lame complete “update” – you can read it for yourself: (emphases mine) – and don’t miss how Montgomery merely names Gov. Murphy’s corporate nominees by name without noting their corporate affiliations (the ones he previously blasted). That is dishonest and manipulative gaslighting, at best:

We are writing to give you an update on the Pinelands Commission nominations.  There are currently four people nominated and teed up for confirmation by the State Senate:  Theresa Lettman and Jennifer Coffey, who were first nominated in 2019 and are highly qualified for the role; and Laura Matos and Davon McCurry, whom the governor nominated last week and who raise concerns in our minds because they would replace battle-tested environmental voices who are currently serving on the Commission.

There has been no movement on any of the pending nominees this week.  The Senate Judiciary Committee (a way station on the path to full Senate confirmation) met on Thursday, but did not address Pinelands Commission nominations.  The next scheduled committee meeting is on January 6th, so it is still possible the Senate will act on some or all four of the pending nominations before the session ends on January 11th.   After January 11th, 2022, all nominations will expire, and the process will need to start anew in the new legislative session.

We’ll be back in touch as soon as we have more information.

PPA’s goal is to make the Pinelands Commission stronger than it is today, so it enforces the Comprehensive Management Plan consistently and rigorously, and adopts needed reforms to protect the aquifer and ecosystems, reinstates public participation rights it has quashed over the last several years, and begins to address climate change in the Pinelands.

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