City PennEast Pipeline Committee Steps Up Activities
LAMBERTVILLE TOWN MEETING ALERT
YOUR WATER & COMMUNITY IS AT RISK
The PENNEAST PIPELINE must be stopped!
Come to a PUBLIC MEETING of the Mayor and City Council of the City of Lambertvilleto be informed and empowered to stop this significant threat to our life!
Attendees will include the Lambertville Governing Body and representatives from the Lambertville Coalition against PennEast. In addition, there will be an attendee from Suez Water.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10TH
PITTORE JUSTICE CENTER, 25 S.Union Street
TOPICS to be covered:
-Overview of the PennEast Pipeline
-Impact of pipeline to Lambertville
– Actions taken by our Governing Body
-Actions YOU can take
We can do this if we band together!!! See you November 10th.
Thanks to the Sierra Club for being the driving force to form the Lambertville Coalition Against PennEast, the Lambertville City pipeline committee and for the generous use of their list serve to email you. Please provide your email address to our Lambertville sign-in sheet upon your arrival November 10th
to receive our Monthly Update on what is happening and what you can do to continue our fight to
Victory for the Pinelands Against South Jersey Gas Pipeline
Court Decision Attached
In unanimous and published decision, the Court ruled in favor of Sierra Club against Pinelands Commission and the Board of Public Utilities’ approval of the South Jersey Gas pipeline. This pipeline will destroy environmentally sensitive land, threaten our water supply, and keep a polluting power plant outside of the Pinelands open. Despite previous rejection by the Pinelands Commission, the Executive Director of the Pinelands Commission unilaterally determined the pipeline was consistent with the Comprehensive Management Plan, when it clearly does not meet the needs of the Pinelands. This decision circumvented a public hearing and further vote by the Pinelands Commission, which the Court ruled was against the Pinelands Protection Act. The Court revoked both the Commission’s decision and the BPU’s removing of local jurisdiction and the approval will go back to the Commission for a new determination and public process.
“This is a major victory that upholds the protection of the Pinelands against the Christie Administration’s attempts to ram through the South Jersey Gas pipeline. The Court ruled the Pinelands Commission’s Executive Director did not have the authority to approve the pipeline in place of the Pinelands Commission. They also said that the BPU could not approve the pipeline either because they never had Pinelands Commission approval. The South Jersey Gas pipeline would cut an ugly scar through the Pinelands, threaten the U.N. biosphere reserve, and 17 trillion gallons of drinking water. This is a huge setback for the Christie Administration and puts this damaging and destructive pipeline on hold,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The Court have agreed with us that the Pinelands Commission Executive Director was unlawful in unilaterally approving this project. This means the BPU approval does not go forward because they have not gotten Pinelands Commission approval.”
Two years ago the same Pinelands Commission staff and Executive Director said this pipeline was not a private development and did not meet the needs of the Pinelands because it was serving a power plant outside of the Pinelands. However, in August, Pinelands Commission Executive Director, Nancy Wittenberg unilaterally decided that the pipeline will serve the Pinelands. The Court ruled in our favor against Wittenberg’s decision because they said, “There also is no provision in the Pinelands Act that confers upon the Executive Director authority to render a final decision for the Commission in the coordinated permitting process.”
“In a slap in the face to Nancy Wittenberg’s abuse of power, the Court said that her approval was a violation to Pinelands rules. The Court have agreed with our two main points in the court case because she prohibited the Commission from a further vote and prevented the public from having a hearing. The Court agreed that the Pinelands Commission never approved the project so this decision says what the Executive Director did was ultra vires. Since the Court agreed with this, the decision to approve or reject the pipeline now goes back to the Commission who will come up with a public process and new determination. They also said the Commission could take this decision to the Administrative Law Judge,” said Jeff Tittel. “The Court decision is based on procedural grounds, but there is a good chance we may win against future approvals because it clearly violates the Comprehensive Management Plan.”
When South Jersey Gas originally proposed this project they said it was a public utility in the Memorandum of Agreement and the Pinelands Commission voted it down. Last year, South Jersey Gas amended its application, though it never fixed the original discrepancies noticed by the public or the Pinelands Commission. They did not change the application nor the proposed route. However, the BPU has allowed this harmful project to go through as a private utility for use outside of the Pinelands, which is still not permitted under Pinelands rules. The Court also ruled against BPU’s approval by saying, “We therefore conclude that the Board’s reliance upon Wittenberg’s determination was misplaced. Consequently, the Board’s December 16, 2015 order must be amended to state that approval of SJG’s MLUL petition shall be conditioned upon issuance of a final decision by the Commission finding that the pipeline project meets the minimum standards of the CMP.”
“The Court agreed that the BPU had no reason to approve this pipeline, which is a big win for the enviornment. Now that the approval is going back to the Pinelands Commission any further action will be halted by the BPU. The BPU would have never approved this project if Wittenberg didn’t hand it off to them,” said Jeff Tittel. “As a unanimous published decision, this ruling takes precedent. We raised the same issues here we raised in the Southern Reliability Link so we believe it may help us win that case.”
The Pinelands is the largest open space on the eastern seaboard and recognized for its biodiversity by the United Nations. It is also the country’s first National Reserve and holds 17 trillion gallons of water in its aquifer. Sierra Club and Environment NJ were represented by Renee Steinhagen of NJ Appleseed in this lawsuit. Pinelands Preservation Alliance and 3 former Governors also filed against the case.
“Even though this is a major victory, we have a big battle in front of us. The Pinelands Commission will have to make a determination about what Wittenberg did. However, we are concerned because Governor Christie stacking the Pinelands Commission with pro-pipeline Commissioners. We must continue to protect the Pinelands because South Jersey Gas pipeline will create irreversible harm to wetlands, streams, as well as damage important open spaces, and threaten one of the largest sources of fresh drinking water on the east coast,” said Jeff Tittel. “This pipeline does not benefit the people living in the Pinelands and violates the Comprehensive Management Plan.”
Former Governors Brendan Byrne, Christine Whitman and James Florio, have filed a brief that states the role that the Board of Public Utilities and the Executive Director of the Pinelands Commission were “clearly erroneous in finding that the proposed pipeline conforms to the Comprehensive Management Plan.”
“This is a big win because the Court has upheld the Rule of Law against the abuse of power and arrogance by the Christie Administration. They upheld the integrity of the Pinelands Act and the environment against the Christie Administration that cases more about taking care of South Jersey Gas than the environment. This pipeline is so damaging and unnecessary that three former Governors filed litigation against the Standing Governor. This shows how bad the Christie Administration has been when it comes to New Jersey’s environment and protecting our Pinelands, but the Court has stood up to them,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This is the biggest Court decision in protecting the Pinelands since the Pinelands Act was passed 40 years ago. We will continue to fight to save the Pinelands for the next 40 years.”