By Lauren Wanko
They’re calling it a great victory.
“I’m still processing it all. It’s a really a great day,” said Michael Sheridan.
Opponents of the 22-mile natural gas pipeline proposed to run through portions of the Pinelands applauded this morning, after New Jersey Pinelands commissioners rejected the proposal in a 7 to 7 vote.
When asked if he was surprised by how the commissioners voted, Chairman Mark Lohbauer said, “Well in a way. I certainly was unsure of how they outcome was gonna go. I do know the commissioners were weighing this heavily and thoughtfully for months.”
“What the Pinelands Commission did today was really stood up for the rule of law, stood up for the environment and stood up for the people of New Jersey,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.
South Jersey Gas would have run the gas line through the forest — primarily along Route 49. The company planned to extend a high pressure line to the BL England Power Plant in Cape May County.
“This project was really being put forth by South Jersey Gas Company, a private entity. They were joined in application by NJ BPU, which on surface gave the idea that this is a governmental entity, but many of us felt it wasn’t a governmental entity application but a private entity and therefore shouldn’t be entitled to access of the Memorandum of Agreement exception,” explained New Jersey Pinelands Commission Chairman Mark Lohbauer.
South Jersey Gas Vice President Robert Fatzinger wouldn’t speak to NJTV on-camera, but released this statement: “We were disappointed with what happened today. We think South Jersey Gas took the right approach. We believe this decision is not in the the best interest of both our customers and the residents of South Jersey.”
Fourteen of the 15 commissioners voted on the proposed agreement today. One of the Commission members was required to recuse himself from voting. The Pinelands Commission requires eight votes to pass a measure.
“We had commissioners that stood by their guns and regardless of who they’re appointed by voted their conscience and voted to protect the Pinelands and that deserves a lot of praise,” said Doug O’Malley of Environment New Jersey.
As for South Jersey Gas, Fatzinger says the company is evaluating its options.