If Governor Christie gets his way, New Jersey will have to change its slogan from the “Garden State” to the “Pipeline State.” A plethora of natural gas pipelines and ancillary equipment are planned to exploit fracked Pennsylvania natural gas for profitable enterprises domestically and overseas.
The latest attempt to slow down this homage to the fossil fuel industry is a lawsuit, filed today by the New Jersey Sierra Club and Environment New Jersey against last week’s BPU decision to approve the Southern Reliability Link (SRL) pipeline. The line would pose health and safety dangers to the Pinelands and residents in Burlington, Mercer, and Ocean Counties.
In 1979, Governor Brendan Byrne spearheaded the creation of the Pinelands Commission to protect the 1.1 million acres of pristine and environmentally-sensitive land in the most densely populated state. Under Governor Chris Christie, that commission has become an arm of the dirty fuel industry.
In January, 2014, the Commission voted not to approve a proposed high-pressure natural gas pipeline through the Pinelands – against the wishes of the governor and his donors. Not willing to take “no” for an answer, the governor stacked the commission with pro-pipeline people. But rather than risk another vote, his hand-picked Commissioner, Nancy Wittenberg, unilaterally decided that a vote to approve this pipeline was not necessary, and in collusion with Christie’s Board of Public Utilities. she gave the go-ahead.
During a telephone press conference today, New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel talked about the lawsuit saying that this project would cause irreparable damage to the Pinelands water supply. The BPU’s approval, he contended, violates the Pinelands Cct by taking away jurisdiction from local towns. Tittel stated, “We are doing the job that the Pinelands Commission is supposed to do because they have worked with the BPU to sell out the environment to South Jersey Gas.” Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey, said “This lawsuit is about justice for the Pinelands. … [It] is a sneak attack on the integrity of the Commission itself.”
One of Christie’s allies in destroying the environment is the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Last year, the board appointed a pro-pipeline commissioner without any public input or consultation with the Democratic minority.At a meeting last night, the Freeholders reversed an earlier policy of opposing this pipeline, to granting tacit approval by not joining in the appeals to these decisions. Even though the pipeline would create fewer than ten jobs, the Freeholders (who have benefited from the largesse of Karl Rove, Sheldon Adelson, and the Koch Brothers) decided to put the safety of county residents second to their fealty to their donors.
To support the pipeline, a compression station will be built adjacent to the New Jersey Turnpike in Chesterfield Township. This central location of highly-explosive high-pressure natural gas will be unmanned during evening hours, leaving area residents open to dangers from malfunctioning equipment or domestic terrorism.
Jill Popko, mayor of Bordentown said, “I am disappointed in the decision by the BPU to allow the SRL/NJNG pipeline to move forward. I ask all residents of the State of New Jersey to contact the NJDEP and the BPU expressing their opposition to the SRL pipeline and the Transco compression station. These projects are unnecessary and ill-advised, causing lower property values, environmental degradation, and health risks. It is imperative that our local, county, state and national representatives start working together on a clean energy infrastructure plan that can create jobs and save lives.”
Don’t expect any help from the area congressman, Tom MacArthur. In response to a complaint from a constituent, instead of supporting alternate renewable energy, MacArthur stated he would allow energy infrastructure on protected Federal lands, making the problem worse in my opinion.
At best, the Sierra Club/ENJ lawsuit will slow down the inevitable destruction of our environment, the health problems created by leaks, and the long-term effects of carbon fuel emissions. But this suit is a start. A better solution would be to replace these dirty energy elected officials with pro-environment representatives who answer to the people and not the fuel industries.