USGS Denies Data Quality Complaint On Highlands Study

February 11th, 2017 No comments

USGS Paves Way for Gov. Christie’s DEP Rollback of Highlands Water Protections

US Dept. off Interior - home of USGS

US Dept. off Interior – home of USGS

In NJ’s first official taste of the Trump administration’s environmental science policy, on Friday (2/10/17), the United States Geological Survey (USGS) by letter denied a federal Data Quality Act complaint filed by NJ PEER almost a year ago, back on May 18, 2016. (read the PEER complaint)

While noting that the NJ DEP “third party” data USGS relied upon did not meet federal USGS standards, USGS nonetheless found that efforts to make this fact transparent in the text of the Report was an adequate response.

With respect to the flawed DEP data – although inconsistent with USGS’s own data quality standards – USGS “found the data to be of sufficient quality to meet the needs of the study.”

The USGS decision removes a key scientific challenge to the Christie DEP’s regulatory proposal and thereby effectively green-lights the Christie DEP’s proposed rollback of core clean water protections mandated by the 2004 NJ Highlands Act.

In light of the USGS decision, we can expect the DEP proposal to be adopted soon. Highlands defenders must renew their pressure on DEP and demand that the proposal be abandoned.

The USGS decision is presented below. The decision was months overdue. The USGS provided no explanation for the lengthy delay.

The timing of the USGS decision – after many months of delay and just weeks into the Trump administration – is troubling.

During the Presidential campaign, candidate Trump repeatedly criticized environmental regulations and designated NJ Gov. Christie as head of his Transition Team.

In Trump’s first weeks in office – just like his advisor Gov. Christie – Trump issued sweeping Executive Orders to rollback environmental regulatory protections. He directed the US Army Corps of Engineers to reverse the Obama Dakota Access pipeline environmental review process and ordered the State Department to reconsider the Keystone XL pipeline. Trump has pledged to abandon the Paris Climate Accords and withdraw EPA’s Clean Power Plan. He nominated Scott Pruitt, who has sued EPA 14 times and advocated for the oil and gas industry, to head EPA. The head of Trump’s EPA Transition Team threatened to abolish EPA.

All of Trump’s radical anti-environmental policies have virtually identical precedents in NJ under Gov. Christie and his DEP Commissioner Bob Martin.

Potential Grounds For Appeal

The USGS allows for appeals – here are some flaws in the decision that we may appeal:

1. USGS directly contradicts NJ DEP about data limitations and lack of QA/QC 

The NJ DEP issued 3 technical Reports that noted significant limitations and flaws with the Private Well Testing Act data upon which the USGS study is based.

Specially, regarding QA/QC, a DEP Division of Science and Research report “The New Jersey Private Well Testing Act: An Overview (April 2009) stated this conclusion: (emphases mine)

The quality of NJDEP’s PWTA database is adversely affected to an unknown extent by several factors. There is no agency responsible for verifying that the data from all real estate transactions (sales and leases) subject to the PWTA are reported to the NJDEP. Therefore, some data is likely missing. Some data that were initially  rejected by the E2/COMPASS quality control system were not resubmitted, despite NJDEP efforts to have these data resubmitted. One laboratory failed to submit data over a 3-year period, although this is believed to be an isolated case.

There are errors in the reported data as well. The PWTA relies on the sampling and testing laboratories for proper conduct of sampling, testing, and data accuracy. As previously stated, all laboratories performing PWTA analysis must be certified. That is, they are required to successfully complete periodic performance evaluations. Certification presumably reduces sampling and analysis errors. Nevertheless, there is no ongoing quality control of the data, either following sample collection, during or after testing, or in reporting results to the client or during electronic entry to the NJDEP databaseIt is not known how many errors exist in the non-location aspects of the data.

The USGS decision failed to even mention the DEP data limitations and flat out contradicted DEP’s QA/QC conclusion, by stating:

The PWTA data is subjected to QA/QC control and review.

DEP says there was no QA/QC – USGS says there was. Which is accurate?

2. The USGS decision responded to criticism by pointing the finger at DEP and/or the Highlands Council.

USGS fails to take responsibility for fatal flaws in the study design that create conflicts with existing law, regulation and policy.

Specifically, we noted several flaws with the USGS study design and methodology that created bias and conflicted with NJ law.

USGS rejected that by blaming NJ DEP, the Highlands Council. For example, in responding to criticism about using non-representative data outside the Preservation Area, USGS blamed DEP:

The area of study was defined by our agreement with DEP.

In response to criticism of bias in the statistical method, USGS again pointed the finger:

Selection of median values for use in the study was a decision made by the Highlands Council, not the USGS. 

Furthermore, USGS claimed (correctly) that USGS is not subject to state law, but that surely is no excuse or justification for conducting a study that knowing conflicts with State law and ignores the legislative standard to prevent degradation of groundwater and base decisions on natural background conditions:

USGS, as a Federal Agency, is not subject to State regulations. USGS’ research standards are independent of, and not subject to, New Jersey state laws.

In addition to the flat out contradiction about QA/QC, USGS completely failed to note multiple flaws, errors and limitations that DEP found with the PWTA data (see this post for a summary of how the data were “riddled with errors”).

Below is the full text of the USGS decision.

More to follow after we have time for an in depth review and to consider our options and whether to appeal the decision.

Attachment: USGS Response to IQA Request for Information Correction

(http://www.usgs.gov/info qual/med nitrate concentrations groundwater nj highlands region.html)

The following provide the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) final responses that specifically correspond to the “numbered” sections outlined in the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) request for information correction.

I. CHALLENGED INFORMATION DOES NOT COMPLY WITH THE INFORMATION QUALITY GUIDELINES

A) DataQuality-Lack of QualityAssurance/QualityControl (QA/QC)

Third party data, such as the Private Well Testing Act (PWTA) data, have different quality assurance standards than data collected and analyzed by the USGS. As required in the USGS’s Information Quality Guidelines (https://www2.usgs.gov/info qual/ section 111.5), the source and limitations of the PWTA data were made transparent in the report. Data used for the study was collected pursuant to the PWTA (N.J.S.A. 58:12A-26 et seq.) as implemented through the regulations at N.J.A.C. 7:9E. The act states that all water tests conducted under the law must be done by certified laboratories. The PWTA data is subjected to QA/QC control and review. The DEP regularly examines submitted data, and if a value appears to be anomalously high, the laboratory is asked to resubmit the value. Also, the submitted latitude and longitude is compared to the mapped lot and block location of the properties from which samples are taken; if they do not match, the location is corrected to the lot and block. The USGS conducted its own review of the data upon receipt and found no obvious indicators of problems. The USGS, NJDEP, and peer reviewers found the data to be of sufficient quality to meet the needs of the study. Furthermore, the use of the extensive data available from the PWTA database materially aided the investigation by improving the spatial data coverage.

In summary, the USGS considers that the PWTA data used in this report are appropriate in quality and geographical distribution to be used for estimating nitrate concentrations in the study area .

B) Data Reliability

1. Basic hydrogeological gaps violate Information Quality Guidelines

Where hydrogeological data were needed for identifying the explanatory variables. only NWIS data, which had the needed information, was used (page 11 of the report). Analysis of the NWIS data did not find well depth to be an important predictor, most likely because most wells are of similar depth and sampling recently recharged water. Although the construction details, including the depth, of the wells in the PWTA data base are not explicitly known, homeowner wells can be reasonably assumed to be shallow. As such, the water samples from these wells can also be reasonably assumed to represent the water quality of the surficial aquifer and can be related to land-surface characteristics. The NJDEP provided the 2000 ft by 2000 ft grid in which each well resides, and its use was determined by appropriate USGS officials to be sufficient for the needs of this study. The absence of hydrogeologic information for the private wells in the PWTA data base did not prevent the USGS from accurately quantifying and validating statistical relationships between land-surface characteristics and nitrate concentrations.

2. “Method Detection Limit” and non-detect values are not credible or reliable

As stated in the report 23 percent of the samples were nondetects and MDLs ranged from 0.05 to 10 mg/1 (page 9). However, less than one percent of the wells (152 wells, page 9 of report) had MDL values that were greater than 0.5 mg/1. More importantly, only five non-detect samples had MDLs above 1.0 mg/1. Thus almost 99.9 percent of the non-detects had MDLs of 1.0 mg/1, or less, which is well within the acceptable range required by the PWTA, as well as the EPA methods cited by PEER. This is well within the normal range of values seen in numerous studies conducted by the USGS. Based on the above, and other QA criteria required by DEP, the data were found to be acceptable for use in the analysis.

Concerns about how different methods of estimating non-detects would impact results were addressed appropriately in the report (page 21) by the use of four different methods for analyzing non-detects. No method produced median nitrate concentrations that were substantially different from any other.

C) Spatial Bias

The spatial bias of well locations is due to the fact that all the wells in PWTA data base are from areas containing homes and therefore are rarely located in forested areas. This was acknowledged in the report. To minimize bias, logistic regression was used to make predictions of median nitrate concentration. In other words, there is bias in the data, but the method used to estimate median nitrate concentrations was designed to minimize bias (see citation by Greene and others, page 25).

1. NJ PWTA data correlate with land use and anthropogenic loadings

The stated objective of the report was to quantify median nitrate concentration in the highlands region, and selected subregions. Although this information was to be used for regulatory purposes USGS did not cite DEPs methodology for developing septic standards because it was not relevant to the report objectives.

This investigation was designed to minimize the acknowledged geographical bias of well locations. A higher groundwater-nitrate concentration in areas with more urban and agricultural land use is a common finding throughout the scientific literature, and is clearly true from the raw data from the NJ Highlands regardless of what dataset is used.

The section of the report entitled “Median of measured nitrate concentrations in the NJ Highlands Region” (page 14) described in detail the median concentrations that would result if this bias was not removed. Methods used to minimize this bias were adequately addressed in this investigation and in the report (see section of the report entitled “Comparison of Median Measured Nitrate Concentrations and Estimated Median Nitrate Concentrations” on page 15).

2. Data sources located outside Highlands Preservation Area

The area of study was defined by our agreement with DEP. The objective of the study was to develop a method that could be used to define the median nitrate concentrations in administratively-defined areas of the entire Highlands Region. The Preservation Area is one such region. Each administrative region has different regulations. Median nitrate concentrations were estimated for all six sub-regions to address the needs of stakeholders interested in a particular area within the Highlands. Any spatial bias in the data set was addressed by use of the regression modeling technique.

Regarding concern that the regional analysis may not be valid for the Preservation Area – A s discussed in the validation and comparison sections of the report (pages 16 and 19 respectively) errors in the estimated median values are acceptable for this type of analysis. However, as indicated in the report, estimation errors will be greater in areas with low nitrate concentrations, such as forest. As is shown in Table 8, the percent difference between the measured and estimated median concentrations is greater in the Preservation and Conservation areas than in more developed areas. This result is expected due to the lower nitrate concentrations commonly found in these areas, but the percent difference is still quite low (4 to 6 percent), and is considered an acceptable result. Therefore there should be no concern about the validity of the model in the Preservation Area. It should also be noted that the median values in the report are for the entire Preservation Area, which contains a mix of land uses (not just forest).

D) StatisticalBias-Selection of Median

Selection of median values for use in the study was a decision made by the Highlands Council, not the USGS. However, use of the median did not bias the data or analysis. The study also addresses the deeper aquifers in that protection of the shallow aquifer recharge area would also protect groundwater that might reach deeper regional flow systems.

The USGS was aware that data could be used to develop standards in the Highlands Region, and was very careful to conduct a thorough, accurate, and impartial analysis. However, questions regarding legislative intent or use of data in developing standards should be forwarded to the appropriate legislative or regulatory authority. The regulatory intended use, or other use by any cooperator or stakeholder, does not determine the methods of scientific investigation that are used by the USGS. The data and report were peer reviewed in accordance with USGS requirements in Survey Manual (SM) chapter SM 502.3 at https://www2.usgs.gov/usgs-manual/500/502-3.html.

E) Administrativeclassificationofwelldatalacksscientificsupportandisinconsistent with law

The administrative areas used in the report are defined in the Highlands Master Plan. Regional analyses used in the report were designed to meet the needs of the Highlands Council and the NJ DEP. The publication is meant to add to our scientific knowledge of the region. The USGS consulted with the various parties mentioned in your request to maximize the usability of information in the report. Thus, median nitrate concentrations are given for each area, zone, and area:zone combination as different stakeholders are interested in nitrate concentrations for different administratively defined portions of the Highlands (including the Preservation Area).

The land use percentages are from values published by the NJDEP and were not provided by the Highlands Council or obtained from the Regional Master Plan.

USGS, as a Federal Agency, is not subject to State regulations. USGS’ research standards are independent of, and not subject to, New Jersey state laws. Although USGS is not subject to State regulations our work is held in high regard, and all States, and numerous agencies, use information we provide. Responsibility for adhering to legislative standards or intent is the responsibility of the user.

II. CHALLENGED INFORMATION IS INFLUENTIAL AND MUST MEET HIGHER STANDARDS

This report is typical of reports that are written to satisfy the needs of a cooperator, many of whom are federal, state or regional regulatory bodies. These reports are often used for regulatory purposes, yet they are not categorized as influential, or highly influential. That being said, this report received a stringent review and approval process (two colleague or peer reviews, supervisory review, specialist review, editorial review, and final review and approval by the Bureau Approving Official), and all review comments were addressed in writing at each review step. The approval process for USGS products is described in SM 502.18 at https://www2.usgs.gov/usgs-manual/200/205-18.html.

Ill. PEER IS AFFECTED BY THE INFORMATION ERRORS No comment.

IV. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CORRECTION OF THE INFORMATION CHALLENGED BY THIS COMPLAINT

The USGS contends that the authors, peer reviewers, and approving officials followed the appropriate USGS requirements prior to release of the report and therefore stands by the methods, analysis, conclusions, and stated limitations of the report. No corrective action to modify or retract the report will be taken.

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Shut It Down!

February 9th, 2017 No comments

Fossil infrastructure is highly vulnerable to direct actions

pipeline infrastructure "somewhere" in the Pinelands National Reserve

pipeline infrastructure “somewhere” in the Pinelands National Reserve

 

I can get up there and tell you that there are places in the Pinelands where we have many, many, many, many, many, many, miles of natural gas pipeline that has been put in – and we can go out and look at what the effects were of those. ~~~ Executive Director Nancy Wittenberg advising the Pinelands Commission, back in July 2013 (listen to recording @ time 11:26)

And that — that brings me to the second mode of civil disobedience. There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus — and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all!! ~~~ Mario Savio (watch on YouTube – read his full statement)

In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the public learned what had long been kept secret and ignored by industry and government officials: damage assessments found that the electric utility infrastructure was highly vulnerable to flooding, sea level rise, and storm surge. Dozens of electrical substations were located in flood prone areas and knocked out. As a result of this failure to address known vulnerabilities, hundreds of thousands of people lost power for almost a week, or more.

[Update: 2/14/17 – here’s another warning on infrastructure vulnerability that was ignored:

Oroville Dam: Feds and state officials ignored… ~~~ end update]

Similarly, in the wake of direct action by brave climate activists, another huge energy infrastructure vulnerability has become apparent: (read the whole story):

Climate Activist Escapes Conviction in Action That Shut Down 5 Pipelines

Climate activist Ken Ward eluded conviction on multiple criminal charges for shutting off an emergency valve for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain oil sands pipeline last October after a county court in Washington declared a mistrial.

Following three days of trial in Washington’s Skagit County Superior Court, the jury deliberated Ward’s fate for about five hours before failing to unanimously agree to convict him of sabotage, burglary and two counts of felony. Skagit County deputy prosecutor Sloan Johnson is expected to announce his decision about whether to retry Ward in the coming weeks.

Ward’s trial, which began on Monday, was the first for the five activists that were charged for helping to shut off emergency valves of five oil sands pipelines across four states on Oct. 11. Ward and his colleagues, who call themselves “ValveTurners,” filmed their coordinated acts of civil disobedience, which resulted in the temporary shutdown of segments of five pipelines: the Trans Mountain, Enbridge’s Line 4 and 67, TransCanada’s Keystone and Spectra Energy’s Express Pipeline.

The remote locations and huge number of these pipeline infrastructures and the ease of shutting them down makes them highly vulnerable.

South Jersey Gas Co. has a very different view on vulnerability:

To understand why the [Pinelands pipeline] Project is necessary to address a major vulnerability in SJG’s existing distribution system, it is essential to understand how the Company’s distribution system is configured. Attached as Exhibit 18 is a map depicting the Company’s existing transmission and distribution system in relation to the Pinelands.

EXHIBIT 18

Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 1.53.25 PM

The direct action tactic is not limited to west coast activism.

Direct action? Doesn’t that mean people chaining themselves to trees and so on?Well, maybe. “People I have talked to are very willing to get involved in a direct-action campaign of putting themselves in the way of the construction crews,” he said. “I think it’s time to think about taking different tactics if the ones we’re using aren’t working.” ~~~ NJ Spotlight 2/8/17

We’ll leave it at that.

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Pinelands Commission Reschedules Pipeline Hearing

February 8th, 2017 No comments

Another inappropriate venue at the wrong time

The Commission may think that they are tamping down public anger, when in fact their failure to hold a formal “public hearing” – in the traditional evening hours – and conduct an adequate environmental review of the pipelines is stoking even more protest and opposition.

Once again, the Pinelands Commission – the gang that can’t shoot straight – has engaged in a last minute bait and switch on a controversial pipeline meeting schedule and location.

Yesterday afternoon, about 3 hours after I posted on their earlier morning meeting, the Pinelands Commission issued a Public Notice cancelling the scheduled February 10 meeting at Commission HQ and rescheduling it on February 24:

The Pinelands Commission’s regular meeting, originally scheduled for Friday, February 10, 2017 at 9:30 a.m., has been canceled and rescheduled for Friday, February 24, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. The meeting will be held at the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia-Cherry Hill in the Grand Ballroom. The address for the Crowne Plaza is 2349 West Marlton Pike, Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

The Grand Ballroom! (capacity 1,500?)

Maybe the next rescheduling will be in the evening to allow people who work for a living to attend and testify. And maybe it will be a formal “public hearing” and be held in a public facility instead of a gaudy private hotel (how Trump-like!)

Public hearings on controversial regulatory decisions are almost always scheduled in the evenings to allow people who work during the day an opportunity to attend.

But the Commission arrogantly continues to disregard people who work for a living and schedule the meetings at 9:30 in the morning!

The Commission provided no explanation for the latest rescheduling, but it is obviously due to the prior fiasco in Browns Mills and intended to provide a venue to accommodate the huge and growing crowds of pipeline protesters.

But there is another reason – as I noted, the Commission’s extension of the public comment period did not remedy the fatal flaw in the fiasco in Browns Mills because it would have provided only 2 days for the Commission to review public comment:

In response to the public outcry  – “this is a sham, shut it down“- and threats of another round of lawsuits for denying basic due process rights, the Commission just announced an extension of the written public comment period until February 8, 2017.

The extension is a meaningless gesture that does not remedy the fatal flaw.

First of all, the Commission meets on February 10, 2017, where they may vote to approve the SJG pipeline project. An extension until just 2 days before that hearing provides insufficient time for Pinelands Staff and Commissioners to consider and respond to public comments.

[Update: a friend just sent me a note to warn that technically, 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. ~~~ end update]

Once again, the Commission is creating a false impression that it is responding to public demands for a larger venue with sufficient capacity to accommodate the public.

In reality, they are fixing another fatal legal mistake to frustrate legal challenge.

The Commission may think that they are tamping down public anger, when in fact their failure to hold a real public hearing – in the traditional evening hours – and conduct an adequate environmental review of the pipelines is stoking even more protest and opposition.

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Pines Abuse: Despite Bare Bones Budget And 22 Vacant Professional Positions, The Pinelands Commission Has No Idea If Gas Companies Are Paying The Full Costs Of Oversight

February 7th, 2017 No comments

No progress on climate change or Ecological limits on water use

Corporate pipeline companies subsidized

Gov. Christie’s Office still blocking reforms

South Jersey Gas pipeline station - "somewhere" in the Pinelands

South Jersey Gas pipeline station – “somewhere” in the Pinelands

[Update below – 2/10/17 meeting rescheduled!]

The Pinelands Commission’s Personnel and Budget Committee met briefly this morning (see this for agenda and information). Note that the agenda also included a briefing on “application fees update”.

So I thought it was a good opportunity to talk about staff shortfalls, management problems, and lack of adequate budget/resources, particularly as they relate to:

1) a severe staff shortfall (22 vacant, un-budgeted positions); and

2) extensive delays in vitally important work that’s not getting done, like climate change and amendments to the Comprehensive Management Plan to implement the Commission’s Kirkwood-Cohansey study.

The Pinelands Commission has been bogged down in controversial pipeline debates for almost 4 years now. During that time, they have invested considerable staff time in reviewing pipeline applications and responding to public concerns.

During that four year period, crucial work is not getting done, including these priorities I suggested that they focus on last year:

1. Rescind delegation of power to the Executive Director to make unilateral decisions on major issues

2. Impose a moratorium on review of fossil infrastructure until a climate & energy  policy is adopted in the CMP

3. Restrict water use to protect ecosystems – implement the long delayed Kirkwood-Cohansey Study

4. Amend the CMP to adopt a map where motorized vehicles are prohibited

5. Put teeth in the new MOA policy by adopting standards to define equivalent protection – codify in CMP

I want to briefly update folks about what went on this morning with respect to items #3 and #5, including an important new issue that emerged about whether the Commission collects application fees to fully recover their oversight costs.

No action on climate change

Regarding climate change, the Commission pledged, in the Fourth Progress Report on Plan Implementation (September 2014:

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

Today, in response to my concerns about a lack of progress on the climate front, Executive Director Wittenberg admitted that nothing was getting done on climate (or energy).

That is particularly unacceptable, given another record warm year and mild winter, which is sure to have ecological impacts on Pinelands forests and aquatic ecosystems. 

That lack of progress is deep troubling, especially given that on November 18, 2015, State Climatologist Robinson briefed the Commission staff and the public on climate change issues as part of the Commission’s science program series. That meeting stimulated positive discussions about exploring how the Commission’s science program and Rutgers’ climate programs could work together to develop climate impact monitoring in the Pinelands, see:

Extensive delays and little progress in setting ecologically based limits on water use

Regarding amendments to the CMP to implement the Kirkwood-Cohansey study. Wittenberg said work was getting done, but very slowly.

My guess is that the delay is a result of Gov. Christie’s anti-regulatory policy and the political power of the builders, more than a lack of staff.

Gas corporations subsidized, despite massive budget shortfalls

I then asked the Commission, given budget shortfalls and 22 unfunded positions, two key questions:

1) what was the Commission’s application review fee policy with respect to recovering 100% of the Commission’s costs of reviewing the South Jersey Gas and NJ Natural Gas pipeline applications?

2) Did the Commission have an estimate of the total costs of those application reviews, actual application fees received from SJG and NJNG, and whether subsidies were being provided to SJG and NJNG?

Wittenberg replied that the Commission does not seek to recover 100% of staff review costs in application fees.

Wittenberg noted that a CMP amendment draft rule proposal was submitted to the Gov. Christie’s Office to increase current application fees to recover just 75% of review costs. The Gov. Office has not approved that draft proposal. (recall that Christie vindictively vetoed the minutes to block an approved staff raise).

I previously wrote about how the Gov.’s Office was blocking Commission CMP amendments, and violating rule-making procedures of the NJ Administrative Procedure Act. The Commission is not legally required to seek the Gov. approval before proposing a CMP amendment – this is another abuse of Christie’s Executive power.

Wittenberg had no data or estimate of total staff review (hours or costs) and related Commission costs of the review of SJG and NJNG pipeline applications, and simply refused to respond to my questions about subsidies.

So, at a time when the Commission has a bare bones budget, 22 unfilled professional science and technical positions, and is making little or no progress on critical issues due, in part, to a lack of staff and resources, I find it outrageous that deep pocketed corporate polluters like South Jersey Gas and NJ Natural Gas are being subsidized by the Commission’s budget and taxpayer money. 

Finally, I complained about the fact that the Commission has spent over $62,000 on labor lawyers to respond to workplace employee disputes. I noted that this was another sign of management problems that needed to be resolved.

The Commissioners were generally supportive of my concerns, but made no effort to direct Wittenberg to respond to them or otherwise take any action, as a Commission, to address them.

The full Commission next meets on *****Friday, February 10 at 9:30 am at Commission HQ- be there and be sure they do not rubber stamp the SJG pipeline! (*****NOTE: about 3 hours after this was posted, the Pinelands Commission rescheduled, see below:

[*****Update: Notice

Public Notice Regarding Upcoming Pinelands Commission Meetings

The Pinelands Commission’s regular meeting, originally scheduled for Friday, February 10, 2017 at 9:30 a.m., has been canceled and rescheduled for Friday, February 24, 2017 at 9:30 a.m.  The meeting will be held at the Crowne Plaza Philadelphia-Cherry Hill in the Grand Ballroom. The address for the Crowne Plaza is 2349 West Marlton Pike, Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

The Pinelands Commission’s Policy and Implementation Committee meeting, originally scheduled for February 24th, has been canceled and rescheduled for Friday, March 10, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. This meeting will be held at the Commission’s offices at 15 Springfield Road, New Lisbon, New Jersey. In order to accommodate the rescheduled Policy and Implementation Committee meeting, the Commission’s regular meeting scheduled for March 10, 2017 has been canceled.

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Pinelands Protectors Hold Protest March To Stop Pipeline

February 4th, 2017 No comments

Protests Mount As Pinelands Commission Scheduled to Meet on February 10

Protesters at BL England plant site (2/4/17)

Protesters at BL England plant site (2/4/17)

Today, in brisk 20 degree wind chill weather, over 100 Pinelands defenders held a protest march along the route of the proposed South Jersey Gas (SJG) pipeline through the Pinelands.

The march – with support from the Bus for Progress and a lengthy car caravan – began at the BL England power plant – slated to receive gas from the pipeline –

BL England plant - Beesley's Point, NJ

BL England plant – Beesley’s Point, NJ

After a rally by the plant, the group moved to Tuckahoe.

protesters march in Tuckerton, NJ

protesters march in Tuckahoe, NJ

The event culminated in a Pinelands forest tour to observe sensitive natural resources that would be impacted by the pipeline – in Peaslee Wildlife Management Area.

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The event was held after over 100 people were forced to stand in the cold rain last week outside of a Pinelands Commission meeting on the pipeline in Browns Mills, see:

Bill [Wolfe], the gentleman with the loud voice, tells me that it is getting close to the point where more direct action, such as creating a Pinelands version of Standing Rock, may be necessary. “They can’t vote on it today. But the next meeting in February, they’re going to approve it, guaranteed. The only thing we have left is direct action and civil disobedience…. The only other thing we have is lawsuits.”

As a result of public outcry, the Pinelands Commission was forced to extend the public comment period until February 8, in a desperate attempt to fix major legal flaws related to denying over 100 people an opportunity to comment on the pipeline. As we wrote, that extension is a sham that does not resolve fatal flaws.

The Commission next meets on February 10 at the Commission’s headquarters – they legally could vote to approve the pipeline at that meeting. Let’s hope that protesters jam that meeting.

Clearly, opposition is growing – and growing more aggressive.

Even the mainstream press recognizes this mounting frustration – see the Philadelphia Inquirer story on today’s march:

And the Press of Atlantic City emphasized the passion:

Some photos of today’s event:

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Pee. Wildlife Management Area

Peaslee Wildlife Management Area

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