Cherry Hill – At a packed and contentious meeting at a Crowne Plaza hotel ballroom off Route 70, the Pinelands Commission voted by a margin of 9-5, with one abstention, to approve the highly controversial South Jersey Gas pipeline, which will bisect the Pinelands Forest Area for 15 miles as part of an effort to repower the B.L. England peaker plant to a full-time gas power plant. The vote occurred without any public comment preceding the action, despite public protest, and the Commissioners who supported the pipeline didn’t reference the opposition from the Pinelands Commission’s first Executive Director, the original Dept. of Interior representative or four former New Jersey Governors, representing both political parties. The entire deliberations lasted only about 90 minutes before the vote, which was conducted under massively loud jeers. The vote will authorize construction of the pipeline unless legal action is taken by opponents of the project.
In response to this morning’s vote, Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, issued the following statement:
“The is a sad day for the Pinelands. The Pinelands is an oasis in New Jersey – not a convenient conduit for a fossil fuel pipeline which will rip an ecological scar through the Pines and not provide a benefit to the Pines.
The Pinelands Commission’s vote undermines the very concept of the Comprehensive Management Plan. The plan was developed to prevent this very kind of infrastructure from using the vast ecological expanse of the Pines as a pathway to tear across the Pines. Back in the 1970s, the threat was from oil pipelines from potential off-shore drilling. Today it is from gas pipelines. But today’s vote will make it harder for the Pinelands Commission to use the Comprehensive Management Plan as to enforce what is and what isn’t allowed in the Pines.
The Commission bent to political pressure from the Christie Administration. Three years ago, Commission members faced pressure to rubberstamp this pipeline. Seven members didn’t, and two of those members were removed from the Commission, one was threatened with removal and the chairman of the Commission was demoted. Today, those members which replaced opposing members were the margin of difference in this vote. “