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The Pinelands Commission Finally Takes A First Baby Step On Climate Policy

November 20th, 2020 No comments

Vague Aspirations, No Specific Policy Commitments, Actual CMP Amendments Postponed Indefinitely

Abdicating Leadership, The Commission Bows To BPU and DEP Lead On Climate Policy And Program

Looks like my controversial snarky and frustrated foray into “Fake News” has become a reality!

We’ve been pounding this issue for a long time, see:

After over a decade of demands for climate action by the public – including bruising battles over fossil infrastructure pipelines – the Pinelands Commission will consider a Resolution (see Draft Resolution) to address climate change at their next meeting scheduled for Friday December 11, 2020. (see correction)

[Correction – I was working off the Commission’s October Management Report, which I received today. The dates are wrong. Here’s the accurate info from the Pinelands Commission:(my emphasis)

That resolution was actually passed at our meeting last week; it’s not a draft. It recognizes the science behind climate change and directs the Climate Committee (LUCIS Committee) to develop climate mitigation amendments to the CMP, among other things, so now the real work comes. Your comments can now be used in that amendment drafting process, and I’m grateful to have your input.

It’s been a long time coming (and Executive Director Wittenberg actually tried to derail it).

As I wrote most recently, over 6 years ago, the Pinelands Commission, in The Fourth Progress Report on Plan Implementation (September 2014), first directed staff to develop climate policies and amend the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) to address climate risks and impacts. (see Action Plan Table on p. 166):

The Commission will evaluate what options are available to address climate change through the CMP and in cooperation with other agencies.

In that post, I reiterated a broad climate policy framework for the Commission:

There are many things the Pinelands Commission could do to address climate change, including:

1) establish and fund phenology, forest management, climate impact science, and monitoring programs, including incorporating climate driven rainfall/drought into their similarly long delayed and seemingly stalled “Kirkwood-Cohansey” project on restricting water allocation to protect ecological functions and ecosystems;

2) mandate and promote energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewables (including installation of EV charging stations, public transport, bicycles, and zero carbon development), and distributed publicly owned local power, micro-grids, etc – including requirements for new development applications and to retrofit of existing development;

3) prohibit new fossil infrastructure, like pipelines and power plants, and phase out existing fossil infrastructure, including ecological restoration of disturbance associated with that infrastructure;

4) regulate greenhouse gas emissions, including mandatory offset and mitigation requirements and net zero development;

5) establish a pro-active adaptation program (not just reactive fire suppression).

Call it a Green New Deal for the Pinelands!

Unfortunately, the Commission’s Draft Resolution does not do any of that.

There are no binding schedules or timetables for adopting necessary amendments to the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP).

There are no specific greenhouse gas emission reduction goals snd timetables.

There are no specific research, monitoring, policy, planning, program, staff, or funding elements or commitments.

On the positive side, the draft Resolution does build scientific and legal/regulatory bridges (in legal jargon, a “nexus”) between climate and the Commission’s regulatory jurisdiction under the Pinelands Protection Act and the provisions of the CMP: (emphases mine)

WHEREAS, these measures have not only protected the Pinelands ecosystem but have significantly benefited air and water quality, while protecting agricultural lands and vast wildfire-prone forests that serve to sequester carbon in the entire region when properly managed; and

WHEREAS, wetlands comprise approximately one-third of the Pinelands, and they play a critical role in filtering sediments, pollutants and nutrients from water, while also capturing and storing carbon, providing a buffer against sea level rise, and reducing the impacts of flooding and droughts;

Recall that Commission legal Counsel Stacy Roth and ED Wittenbeg denied that this jurisdiction existed. So, there is some progress on this important and fundamental issue.

But the way the Resolution is drafted raises other problems.

For example, there is no specific and direct linkage between climate and energy policy, energy infrastructure (like pipelines), and building and construction standards and practices, which are currently addressed under the CMP.

This lack of detail undermines the Commission’s ability to establish critical energy efficiency, renewable energy, electrification, and zero carbon standards and technologies. It weakens the Commission’s ability to discourage and/or phrase out fossil infrastructure, to impose retrofit requirements, and to impose CMP standards and conditions on land use and development approvals that greenhouse gas emissions are offset.

The forest related Whereas clause opens the door to destructive forest management and “forest stewardship” logging practices that actually increase carbon emissions and reduce carbon sequestration. Forests, just like wetlands, naturally store/sequester carbon without any active management (note that the wetlands whereas does not include the “properly managed” clause).

Here are the highlights of what the Commission Resolution would do. (Resolved): (emphases mine)

[1. – 2.]

3. The Pinelands Commission further acknowledges that substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are required, together with adaptation measures, to limit the risks of climate change.

[4. – 7.]

8. The Pinelands Commission shall evaluate all proposed CMP amendments in terms of their potential impacts on greenhouse gas emissions and shall seek to include measures that will mitigate adverse impacts on the Pinelands environment.

What are “sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions”? What agency and what specific regulations “requires” those reductions?

No numeric greenhouse gas emission reduction goal is stated (in #3) and no timetable to achieve those reductions are specified and no regulatory  agency is assigned responsibility.

It also appears that the scope of the climate review (#8) is limited to future “proposed CMP amendments”, not the current provisions of the CMP. This must be redrafted and clarified.

It also appears that the review is limited in scope to “mitigate adverse impact” – as opposed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, phasing out fossil, and transitioning to a 100% renewable energy system.

That confused conflation of greenhouse gas emissions reduction (sometimes referred to as “mitigation”) and traditional impact mitigation is present throughout the draft Resolution and really needs to be re-written.

The climate emergency is more than a threat – there are actual current adverse impacts on the Pinelands resources right now. This whereas should be revised to make that clear:

WHEREAS, the Pinelands Commission acknowledges there is ample scientific evidence documenting that climate change poses a new and severe threat to the Pinelands environment;

Finally, the Commission would defer to DEP and BPU and other state agencies on the substance of the statewide climate and energy policy:

5. The LUCIS Committee shall coordinate with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Board of Public Utilities and other state agencies and departments on their efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change in New Jersey.

This “coordinating” role contradicts the Commission’s role under the Pinelands Protection Act (Act) and conflicts with decades of leadership.

The Act authorizes and directs the Pinelands Commission to protect the Pinelands and adopt a CMP with standards that are more stringent than those adopted by other state agencies.

Most of the Pinelands’s CMP environmental and land use standards are far more stringent than the DEP’s statewide standards.

The Commission must not abdicate its statutory leadership role.

I urge readers to contact the Pinelands Commission and strongly urge that they strengthen the draft Resolution to address the significant flaws I outline above (and more!)

It’s taken so long to get here, better to do it right, redraft the Resolution, and delay another month.

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

October 8th, 2020 No comments

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?

Respectfully,

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”?
Wolfe

 

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Pinelands Commission Fails To Marshall Sufficient Votes To Kill South Jersey Gas Pipeline

January 14th, 2020 No comments

Six Years After Historic Tie Vote, Zombie Pipeline Is Still Alive

South Jersey Political Machine Refuses To Abandon Pipeline

The Commission’s failure to act makes a mockery of Governor Murphy’s energy and climate policies and invites litigation as well.

The bizarre saga of the proposed South Jersey Gas pipeline through the Pinelands continues.

The latest debacle was as if pipeline champion Senate President Sweeney – Boss George Norcross’ puppet – was in the shadows twisting arms and lawyers from South Jersey Gas were whispering in the ears of certain Commissioners.

It was equally obvious that Governor Murphy lacks the political will and/or the political power to implement his so called climate policies and transition to renewable energy.

In contrast to Gov. Christie, who aggressively strong armed this pipeline through BPU, DEP and the Pinelands Commission approvals, Gov. Murphy is a eunuch. Here’s what went down:

Exactly 6 years to the day after the infamous deadlocked 7-7 vote that rejected a proposed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to approve the pipeline, at their Friday (1/10/20) meeting to kick off a new decade, the Commission failed to muster the votes to put the final nail in the coffin of that pipeline.

After extracting concessions that neutered a prior strongly worded April 2019 draft Resolution that explicitly deemed the pipeline inconsistent with the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) and “invalid”, pipeline supporters on the Commission betrayed their prior compromise and shifted gears to instead oppose the compromise Resolution.

You can watch the latest embarrassment – public testimony starts at time 41:30 and the Commission’s deliberations start at time 50:00.

Commissioner Lohbauer, who opposed the pipeline, was unable to secure votes to pass the stronger April version of the Resolution. He then negotiated what he, Executive Director Wittenberg, and Commissioner Avery described as a “consensus” compromise Resolution.

But the so called “consensus” resolution only secured 3 votes in favor and was defeated (3 YES, 6 NO). [Correction: The Vote was 4 YES, 5 NO. Sorry about that!]

It was an egregious example of bad faith by the pro-pipeline faction.

Commissioners hid behind all kinds of smoke screens to rationalize and mask their support of the pipeline, as they voted to oppose a compromise, watered down, and vague Resolution.

But Commissioner Earlen, former Chairman appointed by Gov. Christie who aggressively championed the pipeline, was more honest. He said:

This Resolution does nothing. It does not rescind the application It does not revoke it. It does not terminate it.

Commissioner Earlen opposed the Resolution, stating he opposed any Resolution because it was not the role of the Commission, but rather the Executive Director. But he tipped his hand when he said it did a “disservice” – obviously he meant to South Jersey Gas.

Commissioner Christy was equally disingenuous. He spewed drivel that he had never seen a Resolution that rescinded a prior Resolution. He fails to understand that a “Resolution” is the Commission’s procedure for issuing what legally are regulatory approvals.

Of course a regulatory approval can be revoked, but must be revoked via formal procedures, the same that were used to issue the approval, in order to satisfy basic due process concerns. This is why the Commission can not rely on Executive Director Wittenberg’s April 2019 letter to SJG.

Executive Director Wittenberg obfuscated and manipulated again, by conflating the requirement to submit a completely new application and conduct a de novo review by the Commission and public, versus an amendment to the existing approval where the Commission and public have very little effective power. She said:

No way they (SJG) can do this without coming back in (before the Commission).

Wittenberg obviously knows that the real issue is under what regulations, standards, and procedures they come in under.

Chairman Pricket let the cat out of the bag and stated that the Attorney General’s Office, in anticipation of litigation, advised him that Commissioners should make a public statement on the intent of their vote in order to create a public record, because of flaws and lack of clarity in the Resolution itself.

The Court remanded the SJG prior Commission approval back to the Commission.

The Commission has failed to act, thus the prior Commission approval stands, as well as prior DEP and BPU approvals.

The failure to act keeps the door open for SJG to amend the application to provide a different rationale, to sell the approval, or to secure another owner or otherwise revise the BL England re-powering plan. And keep in mind that service to the BL England plant and capacity was not the sole or exclusive basis upon which the Commission approved the pipeline: there were the Cape May redundancy, “resilience”, and capacity to serve new growth in gas demand rationales.

Plus, natural gas exports are now expanding, and an approved pipeline connecting the fracked wells of Pennsylvania and an Atlantic Ocean port is an extremely valuable asset.

That’s why South Jersey Gas is still bullish on the project and misleading shareholders and investors about it.

Failure to act makes a mockery of Governor Murphy’s energy and climate policies and invites litigation as well.

What an awful start to a new decade.

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Pinelands Commission Doing Nothing To Address Climate Risks and Impacts

January 9th, 2020 No comments

No Action 5 Years After Commission’s Workplan First Included Climate Policy

The Pinelands Commission Is Collapsing

The following is the US Military’s caption: Controlled burns help prevent wildfires, which reduce visibility for air exercises. Photo credit: Dr. Walter Bien, Laboratory of Pinelands Research

The following is the US Military’s caption:
Controlled burns help prevent wildfires, which reduce visibility for air exercises. Photo credit: Dr. Walter Bien, Laboratory of Pinelands Research

The Pinelands National reserve is under attack from many quarters. And as these attacks escalate and proliferate, the Pinelands Commission is literally collapsing.

Most recently, Gov. Murphy failed to secure Senate confirmation of his Pinelands Commission nominees and tomorrow the Commission again will consider a fatally flawed Trojan horse Resolution on the South Jersey Gas pipeline (see also:

Even worse, although you wouldn’t know it from reading today’s NJ Spotlight story on climate risks and impacts in the Pinelands – including wildfire risks – aside from two briefings by climate scientists, the Pinelands Commission is doing virtually nothing to amend the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) to adopt enforceable polices and plans to address climate change.

Once again, NJ Spotlight’s coverage got spun by the “experts”, who – in the wake of California and Australia wildfire disasters – opportunistically are promoting a narrative that generates public support and funding for highly questionable policies, such as “controlled burns”, while masking major failure to address serious climate concerns.

Here’s what the “experts” don’t want you to know and that NJ Spotlight again failed to report.

Over 5 years ago, the Pinelands Commission, in The Fourth Progress Report on Plan Implementation (September 2014), first directed staff to develop climate policies and amend the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) to address climate risks and impacts. (see Action Plan Table on p. 166):

The Commission will evaluate what options are available to address climate change through the CMP and in cooperation with other agencies.

Since then, aside from 2 scientific briefings on climate science, the Commission  has done nothing to amend the CMP to provide enforceable policies and plans that reflect climate science and address climate impacts and risks to the precious natural resources of the Pinelands.

In fact, there is evidence that Executive Director Wittenberg is dragging her feet, if not outright derailing such developments, see:

There are many things the Pinelands Commission could do to address climate change, including:

1) establish and fund phenology, forest management, climate impact science, and monitoring programs, including incorporating climate driven rainfall/drought into their similarly long delayed and seemingly stalled “Kirkwood-Cohansey” project on restricting water allocation to protect ecological functions and ecosystems;

2) mandate and promote energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewables (including installation of EV charging stations, public transport, bicycles, and zero carbon development), and distributed publicly owned local power, micro-grids, etc – including requirements for new development applications and to retrofit of existing development;

3) prohibit new fossil infrastructure, like pipelines and power plants, and phase out existing fossil infrastructure, including ecological restoration of disturbance associated with that infrastructure;

4) regulate greenhouse gas emissions, including mandatory offset and mitigation requirements and net zero development;

5) establish a pro-active adaptation program (not just reactive fire suppression).

Call it a Green New Deal for the Pinelands!

Because Spotlight reported so favorably on how the “experts” spin their wildfire suppression efforts, readers also should know that the military starts forest fires (in their own words: “one fire every 10 – 14 days”) during training exercises.

As we recently wrote, via the REPI program, the Pentagon is funding the NJ “controlled burn” program. For documentation of all that, see:

We wrote to Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle to provide all these facts that expose serious gaps in his reporting.

Spotlight needs to up their game – they are seriously misleading readers and routinely providing only part of the story.

PS – Virtually the same criticism, failure and missed opportunities apply to the work of the Highlands Council and the Regional Master Plan (RMP). In fact, the problems are even worse in the Highlands, as NJ DEP and NJ Audubon team up to log Highlands forests, under the sham pretext of healthy forests and habitat creation.

These problems will get much worse as about $10 million/year in RGGI “carbon sequestration” funding drives even more destructive logging projects, see:

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The Right Way To Revoke The Pinelands Pipeline Approval

November 13th, 2019 No comments

Commission Wobbling On Putting The Final Nail In SJG Pipeline Coffin

Staff Incompetence or Sabotage?

Vote Postponed until a “physically present quorum”

Inability to get a quorum “Seems like a mess – which is what it is”

This is Administrative Law 101 – I can’t believe that the Commission’s Counsel and the Attorney General’s Office signed off on all this. So, is it incompetence? Or sabotage?

The Pinelands Commission is having a difficult time putting the final nail in the coffin of the South Jersey Gas pipeline they previously approved.

The pipeline is no longer consistent with the Comprehensive Management (CMP) plan due to the cancellation of the BL England re-powering, the primary purpose for the pipeline and the sole reason it was found to be consistent with the CMP and approved by the Commission.

Recently, I was advised by an official in a position to have first hand knowledge that the Commission can not reach consensus on clear language to kill the project, i.e. to determine that it is no longer consistent with the CMP and to revoke the prior approval, resulting in what was called a “weak” resolution. Worse, the leader of a conservation group was OK with the compromise language the Commission negotiated (emails provided upon request and assurance of confidentiality).

But a prior April 2019 Resolution concluded that the pipeline was no longer consistent with the CMP and was revoked. That Resolution was tabled. The current version rejected that April language and does not conclude that the project is inconsistent with the CMP and revoke the prior approval.

In addition to the language of a Resolution, the issue that is not getting any attention by the Commission and public is the procedure by which the Commission should act to kill the project.

SJG has raised these procedural issues, and based on my review of their April 12, 2019 letter, I think they raise valid issues. The Commission would be highly vulnerable to legal reversal if they try to act via Resolution in the absence of formal procedures. In an April 12, 2019 email to AC Press reporter Michelle Post – which I sent to conservation and environmental leaders as a warning – I wrote:

I think they are correct on both legal issues (jurisdiction and procedure).

This looks like a significant embarrassment to the Commission and the administration.

The proper course of action after BL England cancelled their project would have been: [1)]

2) for the Pinelands Commission to issue a formal public notice, and provide a public hearing on its decision to withdraw the prior approval and state the grounds upon which they base that decision.

The Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan  (CMP) regulations appear to be silent on the procedures for revocation of an existing Commission project approval, like the South Jersey Gas pipeline.

But longstanding basic administrative law procedures on “final agency action” by the Commission under the CMP require formal procedures, i.e. a Report or statement of factual and legal basis, public notice, public comment and public hearing. These are basic and fundamental due process procedures.

The Commission was required to follow these formal procedures in issuing the original approval. Logically, they must follow the same procedures to revoke a prior approval.

Here’s one example from the CMP on revocation of prior county or municipal plan certification:

7:50-3.62  Notice and Hearing

Upon making a determination to initiate proceedings to revoke, suspend or modify Commission certification of a county or municipal master plan, regulation or land use ordinance, the Executive Director shall give notice and conduct a public hearing in accordance with the provisions of N.J.A.C. 7:50-4.

If notice and public hearing are required to revoke a local certification, then obviously killing a multi-million dollar pipeline requires formal procedures.

Here are examples from DEP’s regulations that mandate formal procedures. This is for revoking a water permit, but the procedural requirements are virtually boilerplate for revocations under all DEP permit programs:

For the suspension or revocation of an existing permit or the denial of an application for a new permit or permit renewal, issue a notice of intent to suspend, revoke or deny, as applicable, in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:14A-15.7(a) setting forth the basis for the permit action; (emphases mine)

The notice and statement of basis require public notice and comment, see:

  • 7:14A-15.10 PUBLIC NOTICE OF PERMIT ACTIONS AND PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD

So, not only must the current Resolution be tabled, but the Commission must abandon the entire Resolution based approach and instead follow formal procedures to revoke the prior approval, the same procedures they followed to issue the original approval. Anything less than that will not kill the project and instead will invite litigation by SJG.

This is Administrative Law 101 – I can’t believe that the Commission’s Counsel and the Attorney General’s Office signed off on all this. So, is it incompetence? Or sabotage?

Getting back to the Commission’s monthly meeting on November 8, 2019, where they considered a seriously flawed Resolution purported to kill the pipeline was difficult to watch – I was embarrassed for the Commissioners.

Before this meeting, I explained those flaws in this recent post:

You can watch video of the Pinelands Commission’s November 8, 2019 monthly meeting

I was not at the meeting, but after watching this video, my concerns are heightened.

The bumbling and lack of a quorum were humiliating.

After the public raised objections to Wittenberg’s actions – way to go Georgina Shanley, Agnes Marsala and Arnold Fishman ! – the Chairman defended what was egregiously improper behavior by the Executive Director Wittenberg and staff in meeting with South Jersey Gas and outlining options on how they could proceed under the CMP.

Chairman Prickett stated that the CMP encourages applicants to meet with staff and that the Commission was briefed by Wittenberg on the SJG meeting.

But Prickett failed to note that the CMP does not encourage the kind of meeting SJG was provided, under these specific and unique conditions – on remand from a court, with no formal policy position taken by the Commission. He also failed to note that being briefed AFTER a meeting occurred is not remotely equivalent to being asked permission to conduct such a meeting and receive policy guidance from the Commission BEFORE it occurs.

Wittenberg played exactly the same game in the prior dispute about a “waiver”.

During the Commission’s deliberations, Executive Director Wittenberg interjected to rebut public criticism about her role and pointed the finger at the Commissioners. She said:

“the language of Resolution was the Commissioners’ – agreed to at a meeting. It’s their language.”

Wittenberg expressed frustration about the inability of Commissioners to establish a quorum. She even implied that the technical difficulties with the phones were a sham, by claiming that the phones worked for all the other calls, except the Commissioners. Wittenberg then blurted out:

“(Lack of a quorum) seems like a mess – which is what it is”

It is remarkable – especially after the pattern of Wittenberg’s prior collaboration behind the backs of the Commissioners – that she still is allowed to get away with this crap and even bully the Commissioners.

Arnold Fishman summed it up nicely.

He criticized the Commission as being too slow and squandering a golden opportunity to “put a fork in it”.

Fishman warned that the pending Resolution was the equivalent of a “stop work order” and left the door open for SJG to proceed.

Agnes Marsalla raised an important issue. She claimed that SJG favorably advised investors of their intent to proceed AFTER the meeting with Wittenberg. That is an incredible situation that warrants investigation.

Agnes accused Wittenberg and staff of supporting the project, being captured by SJG, and of creating a backdoor for SJG to proceed.

Agnes was also the only one to raise the issue of Gov. Murphy’ pending Pinelands appointments. She advised to either table the SJG matter and wait until they are confirmed by the Senate, or kill the pending flawed Resolution.

Once again, the people are far ahead of the leaders.

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