A plan for a 22-mile gas pipeline through the protected Pinelands in New Jersey quietly dodged a major obstacle Friday.
The proposed South Jersey Gas pipeline had been rejected two years ago by the Pinelands Commission. But the commission’s executive director, Nancy Wittenberg, told commissioners that the pipeline doesn’t need their approval after all.
Doug O’Malley of Environment New Jersey attended the meeting, even though the public agenda listed nothing about the pipeline.
“This is a dark day for the New Jersey Pinelands, because the Pinelands Commission staff essentially just ran an end-run around the Pinelands Commission members,” O’Malley said.
The natural gas pipeline still must be approved by the Board of Public Utilities, which is controlled by Christie.
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, called the decision by Nancy Wittenberg, the executive director, a sneak attack. “If her decision stands, there will be no public hearing, public input, and the Pinelands Commission does not have a voice or vote on this decision,” Tittel said.
Wittenberg told the commission the decision does not need to come before them for a vote because the project is a private development for use only within the Pinelands, and the gas pipeline will feed a power plant that will provide electricity to the area.