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January 10, 2014

Today the members of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission stood up to pressure from the shale gas industry — and from Governor Christie — and voted 7 to 7 to reject a pipeline which would have carried fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale through the treasured, and legally protected, New Jersey Pinelands.

Indian Mills Lake: Wetlands abound in the Pinelands. Photo by John Burnell from Pinelands Commission photo library.

Seven Commissioners rejected an intensely controversial “Memorandum of Agreement” (MOA) which would have violated the Commission’s own rules in order to permit  the pipeline. These Commissioners acted to protect a region that provides drinking water to millions of state residents against a brand new, unnecessary, and damaging South Jersey Gas Pipeline.

This is a major victory for the people and for the environment. It also shows that every local resident, every independent grassroots environmental advocate — and everyone from organizations large and small who showed up over and over again to testify — put their time, their energy, their resources and their passion for protection to good use.

We are all, quite frankly, ecstatic.

Delaware Riverkeeper Network sent this short message, with a link to emerging press coverage of today’s vote and its meaning:


Tie vote by Pinelands Commission kills pipeline proposal 

Protecting Our Waters representatives testified about a dozen times at the series of meetings from July through January, and put out as many public alerts, proud to be an active part of this vital struggle. We are even prouder of local New Jersey galvanizers like Georgina Shanley, Margo Pellegrino, and others who never hesitated and never gave up.

Barred owl chicks: one of many species protected in the Pinelands. Photo: Wikipedia

Today’s vote is an affirmation of the heart and soul of organizing political will against the odds. And it affirms the wisdom of calling for the best qualities of decision-makers to emerge, while consistently confronting bias and bullying at every turn.

The public’s demand for health, safety and a sustainable future aligned with passion far and wide for keeping the Pinelands as wild, as flourishing, as powerfully alive as possible.

Relentless Persistence

The decision-making process seemed almost to be designed to maximize the frustration of the concerned public.

The public testified, then were told their testimony wasn’t recorded. The public demanded an expert witness, restoration ecologist Kevin Heatley, be allowed to present as much information to the Commission as South Jersey Gas had been allowed to present, and the request was denied. “Final votes” were called repeatedly, then turned out not to be final. Suddenly scheduled and re-scheduled meetings forced activists to mobilize repeatedly, in challenging times and places. Many people sacrificed, having to give up work, school, and family responsibilities to come through to protect the Pinelands.

This strategy is called “Relentless ‘Persistence,” and it worked! On behalf of climate, we won. On behalf of forests, wetlands, wildlife and waterways, we won. On behalf of public safety — enough with the fracking fireballs! — we won. On behalf of public health, we won. On behalf of air quality and safe drinking water quality, we won. On behalf of the people and democratic control as it is meant to be exercised, we won.

Sustainability and Democracy Join Forces: “The Pinelands are Not for Sale”

Today’s victory is also a victory for sustainability. While the pipeline’s advocates claimed it was exclusively for domestic beneficial use, other indicators suggested it would be used to export fracked gas as LNG — liquified natural gas — overseas.

“We are proud the Commissioners did their job to protect the Pinelands region, its water supply, and its unique ecosystem from a polluting fossil fuel pipeline.  Even with all the bullying and arm twisting, protection of the environment prevailed.  With this vote today the Commissioners stood up to protect the Pinelands, ensured better air quality for the region, stopped dirty energy in the region, stopped the potential for LNG exports, and shut down the BL England plant,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, in a press release today.

He added, “This is a victory for democracy over bullying, a victory for the Pinelands and more important, for the people.  This is the biggest environmental victory under the Christie administration.  The Commissioners did not cave to polluters and special interests.  Today the Commissioners said the Pinelands are not for sale.”

Opposition Wide and Deep

In its statement today, the Sierra Club summarized, “The ill-conceived project is widely opposed.  Four former New Jersey Governors and a number of state legislators had come out in opposition based on concerns with the legality of using an MOA for project approval, the lack of a proven compelling need for the project, the existence of alternatives that do not violate Pinelands regulations, and the lack of public process in the proceedings.  Newspapers across the region have written editorials in opposition based on the significant negative impacts associated with the project.  The Pinelands Commission received thousands of letters (over 1600 during the official comment period and many more beforehand) and petitions in opposition to the project and hundreds of people spoke out against the project at public hearings before the Commission.”

  1. January 10, 2014 4:04 pm

    This is an incredible victory for the environment, the people and democracy. But eternal vigilance is needed to protect the Pinelands and the rest of spaceship Earth.

  2. Temma Fishman permalink
    January 10, 2014 4:40 pm

    This is a victory for all of us, no matter what side of the issue we stand on. Unspoiled wild places, clean water and air are for everyone. Today, the Pinelands Commissioners did their job by upholding the Comprehensive Management Plan designed to preserve and protect the Pinelands. They did us all a great service. This was government in action not for profit, but for the greater good.

  3. January 10, 2014 5:52 pm

    Think of ‘their’ MO- buy a government then be ruthless in the pursuit of fossils, trash land, water and people who stand in their way- in the middle east, africa, south america, central america, all bear the scars of their quest. we were silent then, we were complicit in what they have done. it is no wonder the world fears and hates this country. by us standing up now, in their face and in their business maybe we can somehow right some horrible wrongs done in the name of cheap energy. this is one victory won, but have no doubt we are at war. 2000 people showed up in Albany the other day to send the message- NO MASS!! & cuomo didn’t do the walk of shame in front of us, but a few of shell shocked reps did.

  4. Ann Dixon permalink
    January 11, 2014 9:51 am

    Yay for us!

    People can send a thank you to the Pinelands Commission at this address:

  5. Ann Dixon permalink
    January 11, 2014 9:54 am

    Sorry address for thank you didn’t get added. Write to commissioners:


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