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Pinelands Protectors Draw A Line In Sand In Advance of Friday’s Pipeline Hearing At Statehouse Rally

February 21st, 2017 No comments

Time for CODE GREEN tactics

 

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Pinelands protectors held a final Statehouse rally at noon today to draw sharp lines in the sand in advance of Friday’s Pinelands Commission meeting, where the controversial South Jersey Gas Co. pipeline is expected to be approved.

Speakers rehashed the sordid story of how Gov. Christie – with the backing of the George Norcross South Jersey Democratic Machine and Norcross puppets Senate President Sweeney and Senator Van Drew – stacked and strong armed the Pinelands Commission and greased the regulatory skids at BPU and DEP to advance both the $400 million BL England power plant repowering and the $100 million SJG pipeline.

For a taste of that pattern of corruption, see recently deceased award winning investigative journalist Wayne Barrett’s expose:

Activists promised a huge turnout on Friday for one last attempt to appeal to the consciences of Pinelands Commissioners and press them to honor their sworn oath the uphold the Pinelands Protection Act.

Good turnout of the press corps – likely they smell blood in the water and see this as the penultimate battle. Some scenes:

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Pinelands Commission Will Vote On Resolution To Approve Pipeline On Friday With No Public Comment

February 20th, 2017 No comments

Executive Director recommends approval with conditions

A brazen move at the end of the road of a cynical and sham process

The Pinelands Commission will meet on Friday February 24, 2017.

According to the meeting information packet, Executive Direct Wittenberg recommends approval of the South Jersey Gas Co.’s proposed pipeline:

Remanded Items

The Appellate Division remanded the following development application back to the Commission for a final decision. The application is being recommended for approval with conditions.

1. SOUTH JERSEY GAS, City of Estell Manor, Maurice River Township and Upper Township, Pinelands Rural Development Area, Pinelands Forest Area and Pinelands Villages, Installation of 15 miles of 24 inch natural gas main within existing road rights-of- way in the Pinelands Area.

Remarkably, the agenda for the meeting will result in the Commission vote on the South Jersey Gas Co.’s proposed pipeline with no public comment.

I previously flagged this possibility, but doubted that the Commission would be that brazen:

because this is a regular Commission meeting and NOT a public hearing on the pipeline, the Commission could vote to approve the SJG pipeline BEFORE the public comment section of the meeting and allow the public comment AFTER approval! I doubt they would be so brazen, but they could do it.

The pipeline is not named on the agenda – nor is the Court’s remand or the Executive Director’s recommendation for approval with conditions, an unprofessional, non-transparent stealth move given the extreme controversy surrounding this pipeline. The agenda and packet were released publicly late Friday and today (Monday) is a holiday, so the public will have just 3 days to react to this brazen move, the latest in a series over a 4 year saga.

Undoubtedly, many people will review the agenda (and not the packet) and be misled.

The public comment period for the proposed pipeline is closed. There was a written comment period but technically, no formal “public hearing” on the proposed SJG application.

The public hearing process was limited to regular Commission meetings, which began at 9:30 am and lacked adequate capacity to allow hundreds of people to testify. The Commission cancelled a regularly scheduled meeting on February 10, which reduced an opportunity for the public to present comments to the Commission.

Worse, the Commission failed to fully comply with the Appellate Court’s remand, particularly regarding the need to revise the CMP to remedy deficiencies in the “coordinated state agency permitting” provisions of the CMP and -implicitly – to restrict the powers of the Executive Director that had been abused and rejected by the Court.

Additionally, the public notice included the Executive Director’s finding of consistency with the CMP and recommended approval – which was struck down by the Appellate Division as a violation of law. Instead, the public notice and comment should have been limited to the proposed revised SJG application.

The public has not had – and will to have have an opportunity at Friday’s meeting – to review the draft proposed Resolution of approval or the Executive Director’s Recommendation Report for approval or the adequacy of the conditions of approval.

That is a result of the fact that Commission procedures do NOT require an opportunity for public comment before a proposed Resolution is introduced, seconded, discussed, and then voted upon.

However, the Commission has the discretion to modify its procedures on a case by case basis to allow public review and comment on the proposed Resolution of approval, once it is introduced.

Equally, there has been no opportunity for the public to review the Executive Director’s recommendations or the proposed conditions of approval.

Given the extreme controversy and the lack of public review of the Resolution, ED recommendations and conditions, the Commission should allow public comment period BEFORE they vote on the pipeline.

I can’t imagine the scene if 1,500 people show up at the “Grand Ballroom” on Friday and are not allowed to speak before the Commission approves the pipeline.

[End Note: I currently am reviewing ED Wittenberg’s February 27, 2017 “Recommendation Report” (A Friday night massacre! Way at the end of the packet!) and will post in future an analysis of what is says.

I’d have liked to have an opportunity to file an OPRA to determine whether SJG lawyers wrote this one, like they did the last time!!!!

But the Commission’s procedure makes that impossible. Just another legal flaw and litigation hook.]

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Dog Democracy

February 19th, 2017 No comments

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“Indivisible” Movement Joins NOW – Focuses on Congress To “Resist The Trump Agenda”

February 16th, 2017 No comments
South Jersey NOW meeting (2/15/17)

This is what Democracy looks like. South Jersey NOW meeting. Dr. Blessett is standing on the left. (Apologies for the poor quality photo) (2/15/17)

[Update – 1/18/17: NY Times:

I listened to the NPR radio show “Indivisible” the other night and was curious about their politics and strategy, so when my friend Margo gave a bunch of south Jersey folks a heads up, I jumped at the chance to attend a South Jersey NOW meeting last night and listen to the newly formed local “Indivisible” group.

Over 150 people jammed the meeting – a far larger crowd than the regular NOW meeting I was told – to hear two superb speakers.

First up was Eileen G. Hill, MD, from Mount Laurel, NJ who, in a recent LTE, decribes herself thusly:

I am a retired 62-year-old physician with no previous political experience. I am an ordinary citizen but I am every citizen. Though I have no previous political experience, I, like many people, have been horrified about what is going on in Washington since Jan 21. I started a chapter of “Indivisible” through South Jersey NOW-Alice Paul Chapter. (read link to full letter)

Eileen impressed me as a powerful, focused, passionate, and well organized woman. She clearly presented the “Indivisible” “Resist the Trump Agenda” strategy and political target (Congressman MacArthur) to the NOW chapter and many others who came along, perhaps, like myself, a first time attendee of a NOW meeting!  (but not my first women’s protest!)

I live in MacArthur’s district and share these concerns – in fact, I was appalled by MacArthur’s cowardly and false comments about people “hijacking” any public constituent meeting as an excuse not to hold one. I let him know that in an email to his Office.

If this group can build on the Women’s March, expand their coalition and focus to embrace a broader progressive/left agenda – particularly on the economic versus cultural/identity politics front – and sustain their current efforts, they could have a significant impact.

But they must avoid at least three traps: first, they must resist capture or manipulation by timid folks like the “No Blame” Citizen’s Campaign” and the Democratic Party and their usual suspects (MoveOn, et al). As Greenwald wrote:

Trump did not become president and the Republicans do not dominate virtually all levels of government because there is some sort of massive surge in enthusiasm for right-wing extremism. Quite the contrary: This all happened because the Democrats are perceived — with good reason — to be out of touch, artificial, talking points-spouting automatons who serve Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and the agenda of endless war, led bymillionaires and funded by oligarchs to do the least amount possible for ordinary, powerless citizens while still keeping their votes.

What drove Bernie Sanders’s remarkably potent challenge to Hillary Clinton was the extreme animosity of huge numbers of Democrats — led by its youngest voters — to the values, practices, and corporatist loyalties of the party’s establishment.

Second, avoid being narrowly cast by The Trumpists as just a sour grapes Hillary Clinton feminista faction of elite liberals; and third, while rejecting the timid “No Blame” approach, do not emulate and embrace the ugly tactics of The Tea Party. (yes, I can recall and attended those despicable Tea Party “Town Hells”).

The regular NOW meeting lecture topic was Inclusive Feminism in a post-Obama Era presented by Brandi Blessett, PhDAssistant professor in the Department of Public Policy & Administration at Rutgers University-Camden.

Dr. Blessett presented a broader black, left, feminist perspective. She was superb!

Women's March, Wash. DC (1/21/17)

Women’s March, Wash. DC (1/21/17)

I was particularly impressed with how she challenged – without chastising or scolding – the overwhelmingly white, upper middle class, female, and straight audience, with the question: where were all the Muslim travel ban airport protesters and Women’s Marchers when police were shooting unarmed black folks and the Black Lives Matter movement emerged?

She urged folks to expand their horizons and embrace different perspectives and experiences, what goes under the banner of “intersectionality”:

Intersectionality (or intersectional theory) is a term first coined in 1989 by American civil rights advocate and leading scholar of critical race theoryKimberlé Williams Crenshaw. It is the study of overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppressiondomination, or discrimination.

I managed to say hello after the meeting and complimented Dr. Blessett on her remarks.

I encouraged her to more explicitly bridge the cultural agenda with political economy, a critique of Neoliberalism, and a bold challenge to corporate power. She seemed to agree with those sentiments. As was just written so well in a piece I read this morning (emphasis mine):

And this brings us back to the most diabolical predicament of all. For the purpose of winning our votes while advancing a neoliberal agenda opposed to our interests, Third Way Democrats have appropriated and transformed identity politics, emptying it of all substantive content and building it back up again as a flashy celebrity-driven PR tool that bears little resemblance to the radical Civil Rights era discourse on which it was founded. …

… the place for issues faced by the marginalized and dispossessed is absolutely central – they are our guiding light. Or, to put it more strongly, in a political landscape where politicians routinely exploit issues of social identity to turn the dispossessed against each other, the only way out – the only way that does not lead us further down the dark road of fascism – is the return to a Civil Rights era version of social and economic justice that aims at the systematic radicalization of the dispossessed across the entire American electorate against a neoliberal political establishment that has united against us.

I am also very  concerned that the grave nature of the Trump threat is not well understood or is being underestimated:

Scholars knew much more than we know about the 1930s – whether we are speaking of National Socialism, fascism, or Stalinism.  But publics are much less interested.  And we lack, for whatever reason, the concepts that we used to have that allowed us to connect ideas and political processes.  When an American president says “America First” or proposes a political system without the two parties or attacks journalists or denies the existence of facts, that should set of a series of associations with other political systems. We need people who can help translate ideological utterances into political warnings.  Thinkers of the middle of twentieth century are now being read again, and for good reason. The American canon included native and refugee ex-communists who came to this country of the 1930s, refugees from fascism and National Socialism in the 40s, and the Cold War liberals of the 1950s. There was this time where we engaged in political theory and history, where people thought about what fascism and communism meant for democracy. Now, one reason why we cannot forget the 1930s is that the presidential administration is clearly thinking about them – but in a positive sense. They seem to be after a kind of redo of the 1930s with Roosevelt where the Americans take a different course. where we don’t build a welfare state and don’t intervene in Europe to stop fascism. Lindbergh instead of FDR.  That is their notion. Something went wrong with Roosevelt and now they want to go back and reverse it..

Here are additional useful links:

South Jersey NOW Chapter

Indivisible – “How to resist the Trump Agenda”

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Why Is Legislative Veto of Christie DEP Rollback of Highlands Clean Water Rule Stalled In The Senate?

February 14th, 2017 No comments

We do not want to repeat the flood hazard rule debacle

[Update below]

I recently urged environmentalists – here at Wolfenotes and via email – to renew their apparently stalled efforts to block the adoption of the Christie DEP’s proposed rollback of the Highlands rules, in light of the USGS’s rejection of a data quality complaint.

I heard nothing back.

So, I looked into the status of the Legislature’s attempts to block the proposal as “inconsistent with legislative intent”.

I urged Legislators to do so and laid out the justification in a May 20, 2016 post, see:

The Assembly subsequently introduced ACR192 (McKeon) a month later on June 20, 2016 and it was approved by the full Assembly by a 48-24-4 vote, way back on December 19, 2016.

The Senate has an identical Resolution SCR148 (Smith), but has not acted on it. Stalled.

I suspect that this is another Sweeney special: see: 

Or the Senate Environment Committee Chair Bob Smith may be acting solo, given the debacle on the failed attempted legislative veto of the DEP stream encroachment (Flood Hazard) rules, or as a bargaining chip in his various negotiations with the Christie DEP (e.g. coastal, public access, budget, et al).

Maybe some intrepid reporter out there might want to find out what’s holding the Senate back and the environmentalists might want to put a little public heat on Senate President Sweeney and Environmental Committee Chairman Smith.

We do not want to repeat the flood hazard rule debacle.

[Update – gee wiz, maybe this could explain the crickets?

BTW, does Murphy know that Kelly Mooij at NJ Audubon partners with Donald Trump?

Is Murphy OK with that?

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