Home > Uncategorized > Chinatown In The NJ Pinelands – Florio & Byrne Legacy Is Blown In The Wind

Chinatown In The NJ Pinelands – Florio & Byrne Legacy Is Blown In The Wind

Gov. Murphy Installs Corporate Cronies On Commission, Removes Chairman & Conservationist

Balance Radically Shifts In Support Of Development Over Preservation

Another Corrupt Power Play By PSE&G And Orsted

Gov.’s Scheme Exposes Weakness & Corruption In “Green” Groups

Brendan Byrne (Princeton, 3/3/13) (Wolfe)

Brendan Byrne (Princeton, 3/3/13) (Wolfe)“

The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerated the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism: ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power. ~~~ FDR  Message to Congress (1938)

I guess it was not enough that Gov. Murphy installed a corporate lawyer as DEP Commissioner, reneged on his climate commitments, and promoted an economic development plan for the protected forested watersheds of the NJ Highlands.

I)  Wall Street And The Ideological Roots Of The Disaster

Now, Gov. Murphy – a former Wall Street Goldman Sachs man – just sullied the legacy of former Governors Florio and Byrne in the Pinelands – and he cynically deployed classic identity politics as a cover, a textbook example of what professor Nancy Fraser calls “Progressive Neoliberalism”:

Progressive neoliberalism developed in the United States over the last three decades and was ratified with Bill Clinton’s election in 1992. Clinton was the principal engineer and standard-bearer of the “New Democrats,” the U.S. equivalent of Tony Blair’s “New Labor.” In place of the New Deal coalition of unionized manufacturing workers, African Americans, and the urban middle classes, he forged a new alliance of entrepreneurs, suburbanites, new social movements, and youth, all proclaiming their modern, progressive bona fides by embracing diversity, multiculturalism, and women’s rights. Even as it endorsed such progressive notions, the Clinton administration courted Wall Street. Turning the economy over to Goldman Sachs, it deregulated the banking system and negotiated the free-trade agreements that accelerated deindustrialization.

In another superb article, Fraser explains how a right wing ideology was legitimized by so called “New Democrats” to promote Wall Street interests, masked by “progressive” identity politics:

Progressive neoliberals did not dream up this political economy. That honor belongs to the Right: to its intellectual luminaries Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and James Buchanan; to its visionary politicians, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan; and to their deep-pocketed enablers, Charles and David Koch, among others. But the right-wing “fundamentalist” version of neoliberalism could not become hegemonic in a country whose common sense was still shaped by New Deal thinking, the “rights revolution,” and a slew of social movements descended from the New Left. For the neoliberal project to triumph, it had to be repackaged, given a broader appeal, linked to other, noneconomic aspirations for emancipation. Only when decked out as progressive could a deeply regressive political economy become the dynamic center of a new hegemonic bloc.

It fell, accordingly, to the “New Democrats” to contribute the essential ingredient: a progressive politics of recognition. Drawing on progressive forces from civil society, they diffused a recognition ethos that was superficially egalitarian and emancipatory. At the core of this ethos were ideals of “diversity,” women’s “empowerment,” and LGBTQ rights; post-racialism, multiculturalism, and environmentalism. These ideals were interpreted in a specific, limited way that was fully compatible with the Goldman Sachsification of the U.S. economy. Protecting the environment meant carbon trading. Promoting home ownership meant subprime loans bundled together and resold as mortgage-backed securities. Equality meant meritocracy.

Just like “Progressive Neoliberal” President Joe Biden is outpacing Presidents Bush and Trump in issuing oil and gas leases on federal lands in direct contradiction of his public pledges, Gov. Murphy is breaking new ground and going beyond pro-business Republican Governors Whitman and Christie in locking in a horrible environmental legacy.

Here’s how Gov. Murphy’s press office cynically justified and defended the Gov.’s nominations (source: Michael Zhadanovsky, Deputy Press Secretary – check out his bio – campaign for Hillary, to intern at corporate KPMG,  to Phil’s campaign)

After collaborative talks this afternoon with Pinelands advocates, we are moving forward with two nominees to the Pinelands Commission. The Governor is committed to diversifying the Commission and ensuring that its actions promote environmental justice and accountability to those most impacted by its decisions.


Gov. Murphy – another Progressive Neoliberal – has now become the worst environmental governor in NJ history.

In the process, the Gov. is also deeply dividing an already weak environmental community and exposing its corruption.

II)  Politicization And Pro-Development Bias Expanded 

The Pinelands Commission is supposed to be an independent planning and regulatory agency whose mission is to plan for and preserve the Pinelands:

The Commission’s 15-member board consists of seven members who are appointed by the New Jersey Governor, one member appointed by each of the seven Pinelands counties, and one member appointed by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. The gubernatorial appointees are subject to the review and consent of the NJ Senate.

In general, the County members tend to be pro-development and the Gov.’s appointees tend to balance that with a pro-conservation emphasis. Reflecting that split, the vote on the controversial South Jersey Gas Pipeline was a tie vote – 7-7.

So, the vote count is crucial.

Gov. Murphy’s slate of nominees would tilt the current 7-4 dominance of the County pro-development members to a 9-3 gross imbalance.

The Gov. would remove the current Chairman, Richard Pricketta retired High School science teacher and independent and reliable pro-conservation vote – and Commissioner Rohan Greene – another independent and reliable pro-conservation vote. (below photo taken during historic pipeline debate)

Pinelands Commissioners (L-R) Prickett, Lohbauer (Chair); Rohan Green; DiBello (National Park Service); Brown

Pinelands Commissioners (L-R) Prickett, Lohbauer (Chair); Rohan Green; DiBello (National Park Service); Brown

The Gov. simply can not tolerate independence.

The Gov. is installing loyal political operatives that not only further politicize the Commission and destroy its independence, but radically reorient the balance of power towards development and away from preservation and the statutory mission of the Commission.

This corrupt move comes at a time when the Pinelands are facing intense new development pressures, threats from more infrastructure (including off shore wind transmission), and suffering from the impacts of climate change.

The Commission has several major policy issues backlogged, including taking action on the climate emergency, adopting long delayed regulations to limit the allocation of water to protect Pines ecology, addressing ecological and human health risks from endocrine disrupting chemicals exposed by a recent scientific study, and hiring a new Executive Director.

Gov. Murphy is destroying the Pinelands Commission at exactly the time when strong and expert leadership is desperately needed.

III)  What’s The End Game?  The Answer Is Blowin’ In The Wind 

But why would Gov. Murphy do such an unpopular and obviously corrupt thing? Something that even the Star Ledger editorial board denounced?

Even the the Star Ledger editorial board excoriated the Gov.’s move 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.

What’s end the game?

Ironically, its about promoting Gov. Murphy’s “green light at the end of the dock” – off shore wind.

I say ironically, because – no disrespect to conservation author John McPhee or the conservation legacy of Governors Florio and Byrne –  the Pinelands were established as much or more to block off shore oil and gas development by forming a barricade from onshore pipelines east – west through the Pinelands to Delaware River refineries, as to preserve forests and water quality.

For documentation of that history, see:

former Congressman and NJ Gov. Florio

former Congressman and NJ Gov. Florio

At the Princeton event, Florio noted:

Governor Florio (who served in Congress from 1975 – 1990) shared his national perspective, noting that the Carter Administration and many in Congress – just like today – were concerned about the Nixon Administration’s energy policy, impacts of off shore drilling, and plans to run pipelines across the Pines to refineries along the Delaware River. This prompted Congress in 1978 to create the nation’s first National Reserve in the Pinelands.

So, Gov. Murphy has installed a lobbyist from off shore wind developer Orsted on the Pinelands Commission to assure that no roadblocks to his off shore wind project are erected by the Commission.

His nominee, Davon McCurry, is an unqualified flunky (and token of Progressive Neoliberal diversity) who began his political career at a very low level in Gov. Murphy’s Office and then was installed in a political position at DEP, which he used as a revolving door opportunity to the corporate position at Orsted.

The combination of personal ambition, careerism, tokenism, corporate power and “progressive neoliberal” diversity is truly disgusting, even for NJ politics.

Gov. Murphy’s other corporate crony, Laura Matos, also displays a career path of political service, not subject matter expertise – she’s a virtual political hack handyman, having worked for politicians in multiple capacities:

New Jersey Political Director for Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign and served as an at-large delegate at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. 

Laura also served on numerous boards for Governor Phil Murphy, including the 2017 Transportation and Infrastructure Transition Advisory Committee, the New Jersey Complete Count Commission and currently the Governor’s Restart and Recovery Advisory Council.

Of course, PSE&G has a hand in this corruption – the Murphy administration multi-billion dollar nuclear bailout, the $200 million wind subsidies for Artificial island wind port, the sweetheart lease deal, and that unreported quiet Murphy DEP deregulation weren’t enough to sate their greed and power ambitions (pun intended). The environmentalists supported all that.

PSE&G knows exactly how to play the dirty game and bribe NJ conservation groups – they are repeating the playbook for the DEP’s decision to abandon costly cooling tower requirements at the PSEG nuclear plants (a billion dollar giveaway supported by NJ conservationists) and the Susquehanna – Roseland power line through the Delaware Watergap and the Highlands (they got off cheaply there – with a mere $17 million “mitigation” bribe). Pringle played the same game with Gov. Christie in walking away from a DEP cooling tower mandate at the Oyster Creek nuke plant.

PSE&G is an investor that owns a 25% interest in Orsted, as well as approved utility rights-of-way across the Pinelands. Orsted needs a safe place to bring that off shore wind power ashore and transmission corridors. They now have a lobbyist on the Pinelands Commission to grease the skids for all that.

The Governor’s move prompted this unanswered set of questions to the press spokespersons for PSE&G and Orsted:(questions of course we will formally force a written answer to via the Pinelands Commission’s Ethics Officer): 

———- Original Message ———-

From: Bill WOLFE <bill_wolfe@comcast.net>

To: “Marijke.Shugrue@pseg.com” <Marijke.Shugrue@pseg.com>, “Gamar@orsted.com” <Gamar@orsted.com>

Date: 01/06/2022 1:58 PM

Subject: Orsted Official – Pinelands Commissioner

Greetings – I understand that today, the NJ Senate will confirm Gov. Murphy’s nominees to the Pinelands Commission, including Mr. Davon McCurry, Orsted’s Deputy Head of Market & Government Affairs, New Jersey.

I request your comment on this appointment.


1) how do you respond to the concerns regarding conflicts of interest?

2) Do Orsted and/or PSE&g plan or anticipate any projects located in the Pinelands that may require approvals by the Pinelands Commission?

Can you be specific about such projects?

3) can you provide a map of PSE&G currently approved utility ROW and property located in the Pinelands?

4) can you provide ethics disclosure and recusal documents that will be filed with the Pinelands Commission?

Appreciate your timely reply – I’ll be writing for tomorrow.

Bill Wolfe

IV)  Fake Green Fading

Gov. Murphy, in seeking his “green light at the end of the dock“, has divided and exposed the fading fake green of the NJ environmental and conservation community.

As I’ve written, Ed Potosnak of the NJ LCV supported this corrupt deal; Carleton Montgomery of PPA did not oppose it; and a good woman, Theresa Lettman, has been slimed by it.

But I need to add a few more players and organizations: Dave Pringle and Amy Goldsmith of Clean Water Action.

Recall that that dynamic duo endorsed and ran political cover for Gov. Christie in his first term.

Dave Pringle is obviously running interference for Gov. Murphy with the environmental community and the media and legislature. That’s exactly the same corrupt and dishonest and manipulative role he played in the first term of the Christie administration.

Folks should know that after endorsing Chris Christie for Gov. in 2009, Dave Pringle provided cover for DEP for 2 years. Here he is sucking up with Christie DEP Commissioner Bob Martin.

Folks should know that after endorsing Chris Christie for Gov. in 2009, Dave Pringle provided cover for DEP for 2 years. Here he is sucking up with Christie DEP Commissioner Bob Martin.

After I called out the entire NJ environmental community’s leadership for their corrupt support and cowardly silence on the Gov.’s nominees, Amy Goldsmith weighed in in a half assed defense. In an email (glad to share) she even created the false impression that CWA opposed the nominations.

So I listened to the tape of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing yesterday (folks can listen here, starting at around time 42:00).

Pringle didn’t oppose the nominees. After praising the Gov., and saying that the nominees would “break the logjam” at the Commission and saying he knew both of them well for many years and had spoken with them about their nominations, and then saying he supported offshore wind (all very supportive comments), Dave mentioned “concerns” about conflicts of interest.

That testimony could only be interpreted as supporting the nominees.

So, when I say its Chinatown, it’s all of that and more than the corruption portrayed in one of my favorite movies.

But sadly, there’s no Investigator Gittes to call it out. Classic scene:

Investigator Gittes: “What can you buy that you don’t already have?”

Noah Cross: “The Future, Mr. Gittes, the Future”

Screen Shot 2022-01-08 at 11.10.11 AM (1)

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