Progressives pan politicians packing Pinelands panel with polluters

Governor Phil Murphy stunned some of his supporters with the announcement that he wants to replace an environmental champion on the Pinelands Commission, Edward Lloyd, with Elvin Montero, deputy executive director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey, a lobbying organization that represents some of the state’s biggest polluters.

The recently-re-elected chief executive also yanked his nominations of two other eco-friendly candidates for the Pinelands Commission and instead named lobbyists with political connections to the panel where they may put their client’s profits ahead of the public interest.

“Governor Phil Murphy has betrayed environmentalists who ardently supported his extremely close re-election effort by dumping a slate of eco-friendly nominees and replacing them with a pack of polluters to serve on the Pinelands Commission,” said Lisa McCormick, a progressive Democrat who has been a frequent critic of the Wall Street millionaire. “Murphy’s plot to put polluters’ lobbyists on New Jersey Pinelands Commission shows exactly what I have known all along: This greedy politician bought a job he is clearly unprepared to do well because he caved to corporate corruption rather than stand for health & safety.”

Murphy also withdrew his nomination of Robert Jackson to replace former Republican Bay Head council president D’Arcy Rohan Green as a member of the Pinelands Commission.

Jackson is a former member who voted against the approval for a proposed 21-mile natural gas pipeline that would cut through the New Jersey Pinelands.

“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,” said Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, the first statewide environmental organization to endorse Murphy in 2017 and the first to endorse his re-election.

Christie, the former Republican governor, had packed the body with pro-development commissioners.

Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions Policy Associate Alex Ambrose, NJLCV Director Ed Potosnak, Governor Phil Murphy and Henry Gajda, public policy director for the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, were all a little more chummy before the re-elected politician decided to hand control over a key environmental panel to corporate lobbyists who make money getting clearance to foul the air, land and water.

Instead of Jackson, Murphy is naming to the panel Davon McCurry, a government affairs lobbyist at Ørsted, the Danish multinational power company that was fined $5.9 million for its role in a major 2019 U.K. blackout that affected 1 million customers and triggered three days of disruption on Britain’s rail network.

McCurry worked as a lobbyist at Princeton Public Affairs Group, and got his start as Burlington County coordinator for Victory 2017, the operation that coordinated campaign activity to help Murphy get elected governor.

Another lobbyist, Laura E. Matos would replace Richard Prickett, as Murphy’s third Pinelands Commission nominee.

Prickett is a naturalist with deep knowledge of Pinelands ecology who has been called “an eminently thoughtful person when it comes to important policy and development issues coming before the commission” while Murphy included Matos on his 2017 Transportation and Infrastructure Transition Advisory Committee.

Matos is a general manager for Kivvit, a lobbying business formed by the 2015 merger of Chicago-based ASGK and New Jersey-centric M Public Affairs, two politically-connected strategic communications firms that help corporate polluters, among others, get their way with government officials.

New York Assemblyman Ron Kim slammed scandal-scarred Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the $88 million worth of contracts between the Empire State and Kivvit, which also works with companies like Google, Citigroup, Tesla and Lyft and employs former Gov. David Paterson.

The New York Post reported that Kivvit has been raking in millions from state deals that were not subject to pre-audits and the attorney general’s investigation found that two managing directors at the firm helped Cuomo “discredit and disparage” sexual harassment accuser Lindsey Boylan.

Kivvit has been contracted by both the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), trade organizations that advocate the nuclear energy industry, which has sought to extend licensing of outdated power plants.

The company that’s in the process of decommissioning one of the nation’s oldest nuclear power plants is interested in building a new reactor at the same site as the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, conveniently located in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

Among Governor Murphy’s nominees is a lobbyist who earns her living as a hired gun for the company that wants to replace one of the nation’s oldest nuclear power plants with a new reactor at the same site in Oyster Creek, conveniently located in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, which the panel is supposed to protect from irresponsible development due to the sensitive environment and critical drinking water supplies.

Lloyd, the Evan M. Frankel Clinical Professor in Environmental Law at Columbia Law School, is a leading expert in environmental legal issues and citizen suit litigation.

He has testified before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives committees on environmental enforcement. Previously, from 1985-2000, he served as the founding director of the Rutgers University Law School Environmental Law Clinic. 

Lloyd has also served as a member of the Litigation Review Committee of the Environmental Defense Fund from 1991-2015 on the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Environmental Litigation. From 1974 to 1985, he served as both staff attorney and Executive Director of the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, where he continues to serve as general counsel.

Calling Lloyd “a hero who is exactly the right kind of person who would protect the Pinelands,” McCormick said, “Governor Murphy is once again demonstrating that establishment Democrats would compromise, capitulate, and surrender rather than fight for principles. I never trusted his integrity and my suspicions are once again confirmed.”

In addition to being an incumbent commissioner of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, Lloyd is the founder of the Eastern Environmental Law Center, a member of the faculty of the Columbia University Earth Institute, and he has received numerous awards for green leadership.

Among those that have recognized his accomplishments are the Maureen Ogden Award from the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC), the Sierra Club Outstanding Environmental Achievement Award, the NY/NJ Baykeeper Award, New Jersey Work Environment Council Award, the Environmental Stewardship Award from EarthShare New Jersey, the Environmental Legacy Award, New Jersey Environmental Lobby, and the National PIRG Alumni Award.

“Rick Prickett is an outstanding choice for Chair of the Pinelands Commission,” said Carleton Montgomery, executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance. “He has spent decades as a teacher, local elected official, advocate, and member of the Pinelands Commission helping others understand what a wonderful resource we have in the Pinelands, and how important it is that we all pitch in to protect this unique part of New Jersey’s natural heritage.”

“Adding insult to injury, these three nominees would replace longstanding environmental champions,” said Potosnak, who also expressed concern that “these nominations are being fast-tracked during the lame-duck session, which will prevent a thorough vetting by legislators and the public.”

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