Unless the courts intervene, today will be marked down in history as the beginning of the destruction of the New Jersey Pinelands. This morning, in the Grand Ballroom of a Cherry Hill hotel, hundreds of protesters (along with a handful of pro-pipeline advocates) witnessed that historical moment as the Pinelands Commission voted to approve a high-pressure natural gas pipeline through the pinelands.
This project violates the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan in that it provides only risk, with no benefit, to the people and environment within the reserve. It sets a dangerous precedent for other pipelines like Penn East.
As former Chairman Mark Lohbauer describes in this video, this approval is the beginning of a slide toward the bottom for this unique and irreplaceable asset belonging to the citizens of New Jersey.
The meeting was held in a large ballroom after hundreds of people were locked out of the previous hearing due to the size of the hall in which it was held. That was on a day of cold, inclement weather, and rather than wait outside, many people went home without being able to exercise their right to testify. Today’s crowd was raucous, but courteous. It did, however, drown out the actual vote of the Christie-stacked panel (which was 9-5-1, see comments for votes), and protests continued after the voting led by environmental advocates like Patty Cronheim as depicted in the second part of the video.
After the meeting, the New Jersey Sierra Club issued this statement:
“In an act of betrayal of the people of New Jersey, the Pinelands Commission broke their own rules and rubberstamped the South Jersey Gas Pipeline. This decision is a major blow to the Pinelands but the battle isn’t over yet. We will continue to fight against this dangerous and damaging pipeline coming through the Pinelands. We will go back to court if we have to in order to keep this unnecessary project from cutting a scar through our state and threatening our drinking water. We fought to save the Pinelands 40 years ago and we’re going to keep fighting now!”