N.J. Sierra Club Calls Christie Pinelands Commission Moves a ‘Purge’

Chris Christie is planning to replace two Pinelands Commission members who voted against a natural gas pipeline he supported.

Chris Christie has nominated two new members to the Pinelands Commission, replacing two who voted against allowing a Christie-supported pipeline to cut through the Pinelands. The new appointees are New Hanover mayor Dennis Roohr and Robert Barr, president of the Ocean City Community Association.

The two will replace D’Arcy Rohan Green, of Bay Head, and Robert Jackson, of Middle Township, who both voted against the pipeline. New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel told the Burlington County Times the moves are the beginning of a “purge” of those who voted against the governor’s pipeline plan.

The pipeline, which would connect a natural gas pipeline to to B.L. England plant in Cape May County, was defeated after a deadlocked 7-7 vote in January. The New Jersey governor appoints 7 members to the Pinelands Commission, with seven more seats coming from the seven counties that contain the Pinelands. The secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior names the 15th member; there was one recusal in the January vote. “Voting yes for this project would sound the death knell for Pinelands protection,” commissioner Leslie Ficcagia told the Associated Press.

Christie’s nominations came a month after Ficcagia was not renominated by Cumberland County; she, too, voted against the pipeline. The incidents have triggered a back-and-forth between Christie and environmental groups:

“This is alarming,” said Carleton Montgomery, executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, which opposed the project. “The only inference I can draw given the timing and what’s been happening is this is going to help Rockland Capital get their pipeline.”

Kevin Roberts, a spokesman for Christie, defended the nominations, saying they were two objectively qualified individuals who have deep roots and extensive service in their communities. “Suggesting otherwise is not only disrespectful to Mr. Barr and Mr. Roohr, it is another sign that this is just more baseless nonsense from overwrought partisans who oppose any action by this administration, no matter how factual the policy is,” Roberts said.

[Burlington County Times | NJ Spotlight]