BREAKING: PINELANDS COMMISSION REJECTS FRACKED GAS PIPELINE!
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.
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:
“THANK YOU TO ALL WHO TOOK PART IN THIS FIGHT! HUGE VICTORY!!”
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.
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.
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.”