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Four Former NJ Governors Urge Pinelands Commission to Reject Proposed Gas Pipeline

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE/ 01/13/17

PRESS RELEASE

Contacts:
Carleton Montgomery, carleton@pinelandsalliance.org, (609) 304-9902
Jaclyn Rhoads, jaclyn@pinelandsalliance.org, (267) 221-5274

FOUR FORMER NJ GOVERNORS URGE PINELANDS COMMISSION TO REJECT PROPOSED GAS PIPELINE

Pemberton, NJ (January 13, 2017) - Warning that a gas pipeline in the Pinelands would threaten natural resources and encourage development that could harm the fragile region, four former New Jersey governors made a bipartisan appeal to the Pinelands Commission to uphold its rules and reject a pipeline proposal from South Jersey Gas.

The Commission will hold a public meeting about the proposed pipeline on January 24, and will vote on whether to approve the project some time after that. Another proposed pipeline in the Pinelands, New Jersey Natural Gas's Southern Reliability Link, will go through a similar process at some point in 2017.

Democratic former Governors Brendan Byrne and Jim Florio, and Republicans Tom Kean and Christie Todd Whitman, reminded Pinelands Commission Chair Sean Earlen in a joint letter that, under the rules set out in the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan, infrastructure like gas pipelines in the Pinelands can be approved only if it serves the needs of people already living there. "On any interpretation, this pipeline...does not meet that standard," they wrote.

The four governors reminded the Commission "that Commission staff correctly determined in 2014 that the project violated the Comprehensive Management Plan, then, after the Commission vote in 2014, simply reversed that determination in order to advance its approval."

"A rationale can always be constructed to approve a major development such as this one," the governors continued, adding their view that "this kind of inconsistency, if endorsed by the full Commission, undermines public confidence" as well as the integrity of the Pinelands preservation program.

The 1.1 million acre Pinelands National Reserve, established in 1978 by federal and state legislation, protects the Pine Barrens, a rare ecosystem that includes one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the Northeast that supplies drinking water to more than one million people.

Representatives of New Jersey organizations opposing the pipeline welcomed the action of the four governors.

"If the Commission turns its back on decades of bipartisan efforts to protect this precious asset, the door opens to more pipelines and more threats to drinking water and other resources," said Carleton Montgomery, executive director, Pinelands Preservation Alliance. "I thank the governors for speaking out."

"Protecting the Pinelands for future generations shouldn't be a Democratic or Republican position," said Michele S. Byers, executive director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation. "By weighing in so strongly, these four governors show how important this is for all New Jerseyans."

"This letter is a stern reminder that the Pinelands Commission needs to follow its own rules," said Ed Potosnak, executive director, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.

South Jersey Gas wants to build a 22-mile pipeline through the Pinelands that would cut through sensitive forest areas in Cumberland, Atlantic, and Cape May Counties. The "Cape Atlantic Reliability Pipeline" as the project is formally named, would send gas to customers outside the Pinelands.

The Commissioners voted to reject the pipeline in 2014. Then in 2015 Pinelands Commission Executive Director Nancy Wittenberg unilaterally decided that the South Jersey Gas application met the Commission's rules and could proceed. After the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and other conservation groups challenged her action, an appellate court panel ruled in November 2016 that the ultimate authority and decision-making power rests with the full Commission.

In their letter, the four governors were critical of Wittenberg's decision, saying she "simply reversed" the Commission's disapproval, though no relevant facts had changed. The full version of the Governor's letter is available here http://www.pinelandsalliance.org/downloads/pinelandsalliance_1531.pdf.


About Pinelands Preservation Alliance
The Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA) was established as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in 1989 by environmental leaders and Pinelands residents, with the goal of preserving and protecting the more than 1 million acres of the New Jersey Pinelands. PPA remains the only private organization dedicated solely to environmental protection throughout the Pinelands. Visit www.pinelandsalliance.org.

About New Jersey Conservation Foundation
New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a private nonprofit that preserves land and natural resources throughout New Jersey for the benefit of all. Since 1960, New Jersey Conservation has protected 125,000 acres of open space - from the Highlands to the Pine Barrens to the Delaware Bayshore, from farms to forests to urban and suburban parks. For more information about the Foundation's programs and preserves, go to www.njconservation.org or call 1-888-LAND-SAVE (1-888-526-3728).

About New Jersey League of Conservation Voters
The New Jersey League of Conservation Voters is the leading political voice for the environment. A nonpartisan, statewide organization, NJLCV holds elected officials accountable for their actions impacting our precious natural resources. We accomplish this by engaging and educating voters, working to elect environmentally responsible candidates, advocating policy that safeguards residents' health and protects the state's natural beauty and elevating discussion of key environmental issues. Visit www.njlcv.org.

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