Preservation funding bill vetoed, reintroduced
New Jersey Conservation Foundation is very disappointed that Governor Christie chose to “pocket veto” implementing legislation for open space, farmland, and historic preservation funding on Jan. 19.
Had the governor signed the bipartisan bill into law, it would have provided predictable, reliable and transparent distribution of constitutionally dedicated funds for preservation and stewardship. It is important to note that the bill simply would have allocated voter-approved preservation and stewardship funds to state Green Acres, farmland, and historic preservation programs.
New Jersey voters were very clear with their intent when 65 percent of them approved Public Question 2 in November 2014. The voter approval established stable funding for the preservation and stewardship of open space, parks, farms, historic and flood-prone areas by dedicating four percent of existing corporate business tax revenues to preservation and environmental programs through fiscal year 2019, and dedicating an additional two percent of existing corporate business tax revenues from fiscal year 2020 going forward.
Delaying these voter-approved funds means missed opportunities to protect lands New Jersey citizens rely on for clean drinking water, food and recreation. Delay also means that the funds are not distributed create community parks and restore historic sites that are in disrepair.
The Legislature has already posted a new version of the legislation – A780/S969 – and we will work toward its passage in this new legislative session.
See "A Legacy of Green: Celebrating 50 years of the Green Acres Program" >>
Federal Land & Water Conservation Fund
A Significant Victory
At year’s end, Congress temporarily reauthorized the expired 50-year old Land and Water Conservation Fund, the nation’s federal funding source for parks and open space preservation, including it in the 2016 Omnibus Appropriations bill.
The action reauthorizes the program for three years, through September 2018, allowing time to rally support for permanent renewal. The measure also authorizes the Fish and Wildlife Service to spend up to $10 million on the Highlands Conservation Act Program, which benefits New Jersey Highlands protection – the first fiscal year of full funding for this program! The total LWCF appropriation for FY 2016 is $450 million, a significant increase over the approximately $300 million enacted in FY 2015, but still only half of the program’s full funding level of $900 million.
Easement tax incentive now permanent
In another victory for conservation, in December 2015 Congress passed and the President signed legislation making the enhanced federal tax incentive for the donation of conservation easements permanent, as part of a larger tax and spending package. The law applies to all donations of easements and bargain sales of land, effective January 1, 2015 onward. NJ Conservation has worked with the Land Trust Alliance for years to make this incentive permanent.
- Raises the deduction a donor can take for donating a conservation easement from 30 percent of his or her income in any year to 50 percent;
- Allows qualifying farmers and ranchers to deduct up to 100 percent of their income; and
- Extends the carry-forward period for a donor to take tax deductions for a voluntary conservation agreement from 5 to 15 years.
These changes apply to donations made at any time in 2015 and to all donations made after that.
Learn more about the federal tax incentive for conservation easements >>
|Pipelines Proposals Flood New Jersey
PennEast proposal threatens New Jersey land
An Open Letter to Residents of New Jersey:
Privately-owned PennEast – a consortium including PSEG, South Jersey Industries, New Jersey Resources and UGI - is planning to tear up 4,000 acres of central New Jersey’s preserved and historic lands and farmlands, private property, and some of the state’s cleanest, most ecologically significant waterways.
Every New Jersey town and county along PennEast's path has officially objected to the proposed pipeline. It would damage and scar our land, contaminate our air and water, and put communities at risk of a potential explosion.
Pipelines like PennEast set us behind in our drive for a clean energy future. Let’s move towards an energy future that's clean, green and renewed by nature every day. Let's build a legacy to be proud of. Say "No" to PennEast!
Read Michele Byers' column about land condemnation and the flawed federal approval process >>
New Jersey Pipelines Proposed
The fracked gas rush west of New Jersey is creating a frenzy of utility companies proposing new lines – which would cut through the New Jersey Highlands, the Pine Barrens and the Delaware River watershed – and pose a serious threat to our state's natural heritage. We are contending with an unprecedented onslaught of energy infrastructure projects that fall outside of any overall plan or vision and have the full force of federal energy policy behind them. With the exponential increase in pipeline proposals, there is no predicting where the next project will be announced, putting every part of New Jersey at risk.
These linear developments fragment forests, segment preserved farms, and put waterways at risk, all while furthering our dependence on fossil fuels. New Jersey Conservation Foundation is working with partners at the local, state and federal level, advocating for a policy shift that will require a comprehensive approach to pipeline review that considers the cumulative environmental impacts, and whether the gas is really needed or better alternatives exist.
"10 Most Endangered" list includes historic properties threatened by pipelines >>
There is evidence to suggest that the gas these proposed pipelines would bring is not needed in New Jersey. A recent analysis conducted by Labyrinth Consulting found that the proposed PennEast pipeline alone would result in a 53 percent surplus beyond current demand in New Jersey and concluded that the gas is bound for other markets, including export overseas.
The current rush to build multiple new pipelines in New Jersey puts us on course for significant over-building, resulting in supply that far exceeds actual needs, and causing irreparable harm to our communities. Ratepayers and communities would suffer the costs when pipelines become obsolete as renewable sources of energy become less costly and needed to meet carbon reduction goals to address climate change.
Natural gas pipelines are currently considered in isolation, with no single state or federal entity looking at the bigger picture to determine if all this gas is needed, and whether better alternatives exist. This is like letting corporations build toll roads wherever they want without a transportation plan.
We are in a new era for energy in New Jersey and nationally. We are at a fork in the road and we need to decide if we are going to head on the more destructive and expensive path that relies on additional natural gas through a harmful and expanded network of pipelines or if we will become a leader in the transition to this new energy era by fully implementing renewables and efficiency.
Read NJ Conservation’s comments on the update of New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan >>
PennEast Pipeline: The PennEast pipeline, a completely new gas pipeline proposed to cross the Delaware River into Hunterdon and Mercer counties, would cut across preserved farms, forests and vital public drinking water supply streams, on its way to Trenton.
Holland, Alexandria, Kingwood, Delaware and West Amwell Townships in Hunterdon County would be directly impacted, as well as Hopewell Township in Mercer County.
The PennEast pipeline proposes to cross over 4,000 acres of preserved natural lands and farmlands that are legally protected in perpetuity from development.
It threatens other lands containing a multitude of environmentally sensitive attributes and features, including forests, surface and groundwater recharge watersheds, wetlands, the Delaware Wild and Scenic River, dozens of NJ Category One streams, habitat of rare, threatened and endangered species, steep slopes, and productive agricultural soils.
The project would also impact significant cultural, historic and archaeological resources, causing significant and irremediable damaging effects on valuable and irreplaceable resources.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection outlined a thorough process that PennEast must follow before submitting permit applications. Please thank NJ DEP Commissioner Martin and ask the Department to hold firm in not considering an incomplete application.
NJ Congressional Representatives Speak Out
Update on PennEast!
PennEast formally filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on September 24, 2015.
Speak up and oppose the PennEast pipeline, which sets a terrible precedent for the next wave of pipeline applications.
Please contact U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, and your congressman or congresswoman, and ask them to:
• Stop the siting of pipelines on environmentally sensitive lands, including preserved farmland and open space.
• Speak up and oppose the PennEast pipeline at FERC, and require a comprehensive analysis that includes non-pipeline alternatives.
• Call for a halt on new pipelines until there is a comprehensive plan for new energy infrastructure.
CONTACT SENATORS MENENDEZ AND BOOKER >>
FIND YOUR HOUSE REPRESENTATIVE >>
Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (12th district) and Congressman Leonard Lance (7th district) have both called on FERC to consider a more careful, comprehensive approach to pipeline reviews, citing serious bipartisan concerns with the proposed PennEast pipeline.
Congressman Leonard Lance applauds NJDEP for stance on PennEast and asks FERC for more comprehensive review of pipeline proposals.
Read Congresswoman Watson Coleman's letter >>
NJ Legislators Announce Opposition
Members of the New Jersey Senate have announced their opposition to the PennEast proposal, and the 16th District legislators have written a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).
NJ Conservation Foundation Weighs In with FERC
PennEast’s Resource Reports, which form the foundation for the Environmental Impact Statement required by FERC, are riddled with inaccuracies, omissions and outdated information. NJ Conservation’s comments on several of those reports call for more rigorous data and analysis of the natural and cultural resources at stake:
Read July 15 letter >>
Read August 17 letter >>
Read August 31 letter >>
See new route map for proposed PennEast pipeline >>
New Jersey Conservation Foundationalso provided scoping comments for the EIS in late February and testified at the February project hearings. In addition, New Jersey Conservation's Board of Trustees passed a resolution opposing the PennEast pipeline.
South Jersey Gas
In December 2015 the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) approved the 22-mile natural gas line proposed by South Jersey Gas through the New Jersey Pinelands, stating that the pipeline adheres to the updated New Jersey Energy Master Plan's goal to expand distribution infrastructure — with more gas pipelines.
If built, the pipeline would traverse the Pinelands Forest Management Area – an area where this kind of infrastructure is forbidden unless it primarily serves people living inside the Pinelands.
In 2014, the Pinelands Commissioners voted to deny permission for the pipeline, but in May 2015, South Jersey Gas submitted an amended application, arguing that the project would mostly serve the needs of residents within the Pinelands.
In August 2015, Pinelands Commission Executive Director Nancy Wittenberg issued a certificate of filing, asserting not only that the project meets the provisions of the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP), but that the staff determination did not require review or approval by a vote of the Pinelands Commissioners.
The pipeline’s route and stated purposes have not changed since 2014, so the claim by South Jersey Gas and the concurrence of the Commission staff that the proposal complied with the provisions of the CMP is not credible. Instead, South Jersey Gas simply reframed its argument for exactly the same development plan – a plan that violates the Forest Area protections and threatens the integrity of the CMP, and the Pinelands Commission staff conveniently discovered a procedure to avoid a vote by the commissioners.
See South Jersey Gas map >>
New Jersey Natural Gas
NJNG has proposed the Southern Reliability Link, a 28-mile, 30-inch diameter pipeline that would travel from Chesterfield in Burlington County to Manchester Township in Ocean County. The proposed route passes through the Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, a U.S. military facility in the Preservation Area of the Pinelands - the heart of the Pine Barrens ecosystem and home to many threatened and endangered species.
NJNG has provided various rationales for this new pipeline, including obtaining access to a second supplier for its network, reaching new customers in Ocean County and providing a redundant source of gas to the Joint Base, but it appears that the project is really aimed at using the Base to reach the developed areas of Ocean County.
All but two of the impacted municipalities have objected to the proposal and received participant status in the petition. NJNG has admitted the project has environmental constraints, and the survey reports for threatened and endangered species have not yet been submitted. This project is progressing more slowly than the South Jersey Gas proposal, and is currently undergoing BPU review of municipal concerns through the end of this year. Once this review is finalized, the BPU will consider the application, which is not yet complete.
See New Jersey Natural Gas map >>
Pilgrim Oil Pipeline
Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings has proposed building two parallel pipelines connecting oil terminals in Albany, New York to a refinery in Linden, New Jersey.
The pipeline would cut through the New Jersey Highlands and the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and would be able to transport 400,000 barrels of Bakken crude oil and refined products per day - Bakken shale oil would be sent south while refined products (including kerosene) would be sent north.
Citing safety and environmental concerns, the Morris County Freeholders unanimously approved a resolution opposing the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline in late March. The resolution calls for a “full environmental impact” to be conducted, and called into question the reliability of the company proposing the project.
State Senators Richard Codey and Thomas Kean Jr. are also opposed to the Pilgrim Oil proposal.
Pilgrim’s proposal cuts across 3 major drinking water rivers and two EPA designated sole source aquifers, the Ramapo Aquifer and the Buried Valley Aquifer. The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, also in the pipeline's path, was established more than 50 years ago by the United States Department of Interior and offers protection to the headwater of the Passaic River.
A major pipeline spill could contaminate the drinking water for the several million people and dozens of municipalities who rely on these irreplaceable water sources.
More Pilgrim Oil Pipeline information >>
Hopewell Township Citizens Against the PennEast Pipeline
Concerned Citizens Against the Pipeline
Pipeline Safety Coalition
Stop the PennEast Pipeline Facebook page
Contact your district's state legislators
|Protect Pine Barrens Forest
NJDEP struggles to address off-road vehicle
damage to Wharton State Forest
At 125,000 acres, Wharton State Forest in the Pine Barrens is by far the largest state-owned forest in New Jersey. This remarkably diverse forest is home to many rare plants, threatened and endangered species and historic sites, including some 300 bird species, nearly 60 reptile and amphibian species, and more than 90 fish species. Forty-three of these animals are listed by the state as threatened or endangered, including bobcats, timber rattlesnakes and red-headed woodpeckers.
Wharton also has some 850 plant species, including wild orchids, sedges, grasses and insect-eating plants. Rarest among them include bog asphodels, curly-grass ferns and Pine-Barrens gentians.
Since Wharton was purchased in the mid-1950s, motorized vehicles have been allowed to travel its network of sandy roads to tour the quiet of the forest’s interior, visit historic ghost towns and put in a canoe.
In recent years the damage to habitats and roads within the state forest has greatly accelerated as people in 4x4 vehicles have deliberately torn up fragile wetlands creating deep and dangerous puddles, destroying habitats, and making access for other users almost impossible.
The damage at Wharton State Forest has also hindered fire suppression efforts and search and rescue due to impassable roadways. Enforcement of illegal off-road activities has been extremely difficult without a map clearly designating roads where motorized vehicle use is permitted and delineating those areas that are strictly prohibited.
In August 2015, the state released a plan to protect the forest by placing some roads off-limits to motorized vehicles, while leaving 225 miles open for vehicle access. However, due to vocal opposition from some motorized recreationists, the plan has been suspended indefinitely and the State is now seeking additional public input for its revision.
While public input is always beneficial when it comes to the management of our public resources, the State has not acknowledged that it is bound by its own regulations, including the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan, mandating that motorized access is subordinate to protecting natural and cultural resources. This means that the use of the forest to test drivers' skills of fording streams, climbing sandy hills and reducing pristine wetlands to barren mud pits is not permissible under any management scenario.
Read more about this issue in a "State We're In" column by Michele S. Byers, Executive Director >>
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| Working to Protect the Palisades
Conservation groups, LG reach settlement
Following 11 months of constructive discussions, LG Electronics USA, New Jersey Conservation Foundation and a number of parties interested in LG’s new North American headquarters in New Jersey, have reached agreement on a new design, which all parties are celebrating as a “win-win” solution.
After exploring a range of options during the discussions, consensus has been reached on a new design that will create a world-class, sustainably designed building to the benefit of LG, the town of Englewood Cliffs and the state of New Jersey, while protecting the iconic vistas and integrity of the Palisades Park, a National Natural and Historic Landmark.
LG reached the mutually beneficial settlement with Scenic Hudson, the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Natural Resources Defense Council, New Jersey Conservation Foundation and New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.
As part of the settlement, the conservation groups agreed not to pursue their legal appeal regarding zoning approvals in Englewood Cliffs and pledged to work with LG to secure necessary municipal approvals so the project can move forward as expeditiously as possible.
The new building design, reflecting compromises by all the parties, calls for a five-story north wing just shy of 70 feet in height and a three-story south wing, protecting the scenic views of the Palisades. LG will implement landscape, lighting and other design features to further reduce visual impacts, while retaining the scale of the complex as home for LG’s growing U.S. business.
See press release announcing settlement >>
See New Jersey Conservation Foundation statement >>
See former New Jersey governors' letter to LG >>
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