Murphy Appoints New Pinelands Chair- Good Move, Long Overdue
Governor Murphy has appointed Rick Prickett as the new chair of the Pinelands Commission. Mr. Prickett joined the Commission as a gubernatorial appointee in January 2012. Prickett was a member of the Pemberton Township Council from 2002 to 2012. He served as Council President in 2002 and 2006 and was a member of the township’s Planning Board from 2003-2005. Mr. Prickett retired in 2006 after teaching high school science in the Lakewood School District in Ocean County for 26 years. There, he taught advanced placement biology, environmental science, physical science and chemistry. Mr. Prickett was named the Lakewood Township Teacher of the Year in 2004, and he was recognized by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance as an outstanding Pinelands educator in 2005.
“This is the first real step Governor Murphy has taken to protect the Pinelands. This appointment was long overdue. As long as he has been a commissioner, Rick Prickett has been dedicated to protecting the Pinelands. He has always voted the right way and put Pinelands Protection first. His appoint was long overdue and we hope with him as chair we can move the Pinelands Commission forward with important issues like climate change and Pinelands protections,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Governor Murphy should have replaced Sean Earlen on his first day. Sean is a developer and the Republican chair Burlington County. As chair, Earlen of the commission, he pushed an anti-environment agenda. This delay in a new appointment has stopped the Pinelands Commission from moving forward and has actually hurt the protections of the Pinelands. Not dealing with critical issues of climate change and dealing with pipelines has cost the Pinelands.”
There are two pipelines that would cut through the Pinelands, the SJ Gas and NJNG’s Southern Reliability Link (SRL). The Pinelands Commission tabled a vote to rescind their approval for the SJ Gas pipeline and have yet to put SJ Gas back on their agenda. The SRL pipeline has already started construction in Ocean County despite still being in ongoing litigation.
“Now that the Pinelands Commission will have a new chair, we need Governor Murphy to make addition pro environmental nominations to Commission. Murphy needs to get Theresa Lettman’s nomination through the Senate. More importantly, he needs to replace Nancy Wittenberg and find a new direction that will help the Pinelands Commission to move forward on pipelines in front of us. The Commission need to fix the CMP and how to deal with infrastructure. They also need to update the Pineland rules on dealing with climate change,” said Tittel. “The Commission need to rescind their approval for the SJ Gas pineland and put a stay on SRL pipeline. NJNG should be prohibited from beginning any construction on their pipeline until the entire project is approved.”
The Pinelands is the largest open space on the eastern seaboard and recognized for its biodiversity by the United Nations. When the Pinelands Act was passed forty years ago, one of the major reasons was to prevent pipelines coming through to connect offshore oil to refineries in south Jersey.
“The Pinelands is the country’s first National Reserve and holds 17 trillion gallons of water in its aquifer. There is nothing like it in the world. That is why we have been fighting over 40 years to protect it. Now we have someone as chair who supports the Pinelands mission, but we have a lot of work to do. Now we need to get the new appointment moving forward so that the Commission can address the problems the Pinelands is facing like unnecessary and destructive fossil fuel infrastructure and climate change.,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The New Jersey Pinelands is a crucial ecosystem that provides drinking water for millions of people. It is important that the Pinelands Commission now has a new chair that will put the Pinelands first.”