A New Commissioner
This is a recap of the Pinelands Commission Meeting held on April 12, 2019. The first order is business attended to was swearing in of the new commissioner representing Atlantic County, Jerome H. Irick. Irick resides in Buena Township where he works as a farmer and engineer.
A Clear Cut
The first notable action was concerning a resolution to clear cut a section 16 acres of trees around a fire tower in Bass River State forest. This historic section of trees was planted by the Civilian Conservation Court in the 1930s. The DEP requested this permit because these trees obstruct the view from the fire tower. Opponents to the resolution suggest using alternative measures and technology such as drones, satellites, or airplanes. The Commissioners debated whether this action was necessary or if alternative measures could be used.
These trees are over 90 years old and have been referred to by the public as the Cathedral of Pines. In public comments, residents suggested building a new fire tower or moving the tower to an alternative location. Another resident suggested topping the trees rather than clear cutting them. The fire service dismissed these alternatives as being too costly. No report was filed concerning costs associated with clear cutting the trees.
The tower in question is over 90 years old and its future lifespan is unknown. Many commissioners expressed a lack of time for full discussion and failure of communications that need to be addressed moving forward. Given the pressing concerns for damaging fires the commission moved forward with the vote and passed the resolution.
A Legal Concern
The second notable vote was originally slated to be a vote to rescind approval for the South Jersey Gas Pipeline which the commission has previously approved. The morning of the proposed vote Cozen O’Conner (the law firm representing South Jersey Gas) demanding the Commission not proceed with the vote on the grounds they no longer hold jurisdiction and another hearing would be required.
The Commissioners adjourned into private session and returned with a vote to table the resolution. This should be concerning for any environmentalists. While we were celebrating a victory lap, SJG is still plotting ways to pursue this pipeline. South Jersey Gas is threatening legal action to try to keep this unwanted and unnecessary project alive.
This threat of legal action demonstrates SJG is not going to give up without a fight. They want a pipeline and will use any means necessary to force that pipeline though. Those who care about the pinelands region, climate change, or even their gas bill going on need to keep a clear eye on future developments.