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Murphy’s picks for Pinelands Commission draw criticism from environmentalists  

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance identified the nominees as Elvin Montero, the deputy executive director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey; Davon McCurry, head of marketing and government affairs for the offshore wind power company Ørsted; and Laura Matos, the general manager of a public relations company who has worked in various government policy roles under Murphy and Hillary Clinton in 2016 when Clinton ran in the presidential primary.

Credit:  Amanda Oglesby | Asbury Park Press | Dec. 7, 2021 | www.app.com ~~

Environmentalists dissatisfied with the newest appointments to the state Pinelands Commission met with Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday to express their worries over his picks and the future of a million acres of forest, farms and wilderness-adjacent communities in New Jersey.

Two groups – the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters – said the governor’s three new picks to the 15-member commission will replace longtime environmental advocates who protected the Pinelands. By contrast, the new nominees instead represent industry and business interests, according to environmentalists.

The Pinelands Preservation Alliance identified the nominees as Elvin Montero, the deputy executive director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey; Davon McCurry, head of marketing and government affairs for the offshore wind power company Ørsted; and Laura Matos, the general manager of a public relations company who has worked in various government policy roles under Murphy and Hillary Clinton in 2016 when Clinton ran in the presidential primary.

None of the three was immediately available for comment. The Governor’s Office did not return Press requests seeking comment. On Monday, representatives of the two environmental groups said their organizations met with the governor to express their concerns.

There was no immediate word on the outcome of the discussions.

Rhyan Grech, a policy advocate at the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, said the nominees could threaten the success of environmental protection efforts of the Pinelands Commission.

“The commission, as an agency, is really struggling,” she said. “There are currently four vacant seats. So there are only 11 commissioners right now, and a number of them can’t even be bothered to attend the monthly meetings.”

The commission is tasked with protecting the unique forest as well as the aquifer under the Pinelands. Much of that protection comes from steering residential and commercial growth toward the periphery of the forest.

That’s no small feat for an area that covers seven counties and 22% of New Jersey. Given federal protection in 1978, the Pinelands National Reserve is the largest area of wilderness between Richmond and Boston, according to the commission.

It’s protections are primarily laid out in the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan, which establishes the land use rules throughout the region. To enforce the plan, the commission employs 41 environmental reviewers, planners, scientists, analysts and other staff the guide development in the Pinelands growth zones and limit development in the protection zones.

“This is a larger area than Yosemite (National Park),” said Grech. “There are plants and animals that don’t exist anywhere else, (and) are found in the Pinelands. And then there’s the aquifer (underneath)… It’s approximately 17 trillion gallons of pristine water.”

That aquifer provides drinking water to about 1 million people and irrigation for 200,000 acres of farmland, according to the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

But with one of Murphy’s new commissioner nominees serving as a chemical industry advocate, the Pinelands’ environment will not be a priority for all on the board, Grech said.

“There are a number of Superfund sites within the Pinelands,” she said, referring to pollution sites that receive special federal funding for cleanup. “Chemical contamination is a huge issue here, of a major concern, and to have a commissioner with that sort of (chemical industry) experience and background would not serve the Pinelands or the people that live within it, or our natural resources.”

Last week, the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters joined the Pinelands Preservation Alliance in criticism of the governor’s Pinelands Commission appointments and called on Murphy to reconsider his selections.

“This slate of nominees amounts to a massive corporate giveaway of one of New Jersey’s greatest environmental treasures in a move so brazen that not even Chris Christie would have attempted it,” New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Ed Potosnak said in a statement. “Adding insult to injury, these three nominees would replace longstanding environmental champions.”

Potosnak said the nominees do not match Murphy’s history of environmental advocacy.

To be finalized, the New Jersey Senate must approve Murphy’s nominees.

Source:  Amanda Oglesby | Asbury Park Press | Dec. 7, 2021 | www.app.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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