Newest Nomination to Pinelands Commission Joins Four Others Waiting

Tom Johnson | June 25, 2019 | Energy & Environment
Murphy wants to remake commission, ending Christie-era focus on building pipelines through the preserve, but state Senate letting confirmation hearings languish

Credit: Pinelands Preservation Alliance
Robert Jackson has been nominated by Gov. Phil Murphy to the Pinelands Commission.
Robert Jackson, a former commissioner, is being nominated for another term on the Pinelands Commission, a nomination that brings to five the number awaiting confirmation by the state Senate.

Jackson’s nomination by Gov. Phil Murphy was praised by conservationists, who have pressed the governor to appoint new members who care more about preserving the 1.1-million-acre Pinelands National Preserve than opening it for development.

In recent months, Murphy has sought to address that goal by nominating new candidates to serve on the commission, but as of yet, none have been confirmed by the state Senate.

Jackson, who served on the commission from 2008 to 2015, was onboard during disputes over the South Jersey Gas pipeline, a 22-mile-long project through parts of the Pinelands to supply fuel to the B.L. England plant in upper Cape May County.

Dead in the water

That project, long litigated in the courts, appears dead after the owners of the former coal plant abandoned their efforts to convert it to natural gas. The initiative has been remanded to the Pinelands Commission, which is expected to decide it sometime next month.

“The governor has made another great nomination for the Pinelands Commission, nominating Bob Jackson, who had served with great distinction until he was replaced by Gov. Christie,’’ said Carleton Montgomery, executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

Jackson’s nomination is the latest by Murphy to reshape the focus and direction of the commission, which had approved two new pipelines through the Pinelands despite vigorous opposition from environmentalists, and in some cases, four former governors.

Five proposed nominees have been recommended by Murphy, including one as long ago as Theresa Littman, in January. None have had a confirmation hearing yet scheduled, and are unlikely to do so before the Legislature breaks for its summer recess. They include three new nominees, and one holdover, longtime commissioner Edward Lloyd.

“You have five nominations for the Pinelands and nothing is happening,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We have five good nominees. We need to fight to get them through.’’