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Bad Sign of the Times - PennEast Partner Sign Over Lambertville

New Jersey Sierra Club press release

There is a new banner on Main Street in Lambertville, NJ that reads “Welcome to Lambertville.” The banner also includes the Enbridge logo. Enbridge is a major partner in the PennEast Pipeline. Another partner in the PennEast pipeline, South Jersey Industries, is represented by the lobbying firm that Lambertville Mayor Julia Fahl works for. 

 

According to NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) forms, Mayor Fahl works for Tonio Burgos and Associates, a lobbying firm. Her clients include South Jersey Industries (SJI). Fahl registered as a lobbyist for Tonio Burgos on August 28, 2018.

 

Photo of the Lambertville Welcome Sign, with the Enbridge logo in both bottom corners. Additional photos attached.

 

“People in Lambertville were shocked when they saw a welcome banner that was sponsored by Enbridge. People were outraged that a major partner in PennEast was allowed to sponsor a welcome sign in the community when Lambertville is supposed to be fighting PennEast. Enbridge is not only a 20% partner in PennEast, but they just finished building the Lambertville East Project. This is the interconnection between PennEast through Enbridge to Elizabethtown Gas, which is owned by South Jersey Industries,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Mayor Julia Fahl works for a lobbying firm that represents South Jersey Industries (SJI). She is registered as a lobbyist for SJI and hasn’t disclosed this relationship to the people of Lambertville or tried to recuse herself on issues.”

 

The PennEast Pipeline is currently in court to try to obtain the power of eminent domain to acquire properties belonging to the state of New Jersey along the pipeline’s route. In June 2020, the U.S Supreme Court did not issue a decision on whether they will consider a request by PennEast. The Supreme Court instead issued an order asking the Justice Department’s solicitor general to file briefs in the case. As a result, PennEast has split their project into two phases so that they continue working on the Pennsylvania part of the pipeline.

 

“It is troubling that Lambertville has allowed a welcome sign to be sponsored by a company like Enbridge. The company just finished the Lambertville East Project in West Amwell, which is supposed to take gas from the PennEast pipeline and distribute it  locally to Elizabethtown Gas and PSE&G. PennEast has put up a welcoming sign in Lambertville, but they are not welcome here,” said Tittel. “Mayor Fahl says that she is opposed to PennEast, but her actions speak louder than words.”

 

A Quarterly Report of Lobbying Activity filed with the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJELEC) from the Burgos firm shows another member of the firm meeting with the Governor’s Office to lobby for the pipeline. We also hear rumors that they have been lobbying against Governor Murphy’s Pinelands appointments. The Court ordered the Pinelands Commission to rescind approval for the pipeline, but Christie’s appointees are blocking it. We want to replace those nominees, but instead  now we’re going to have to go back to court.

 

“The City of Lambertville should never have signed off on allowing this welcome sign, and we would like to know how that happened. I don’t know which is worse, Enbridge putting up a welcome sign or the Mayor not disclosing that she’s been a lobbyist for South Jersey Industries since before she took office. It is alarming that a partner of PennEast can sponsor a welcome sign in a town that is supposed to be fighting the pipeline. PennEast will put a large gash through this beautiful area. It will also bring destruction and air and water pollution. The pipeline is targeted at open space, which people have spent decades and millions of dollars of public money preserving. Lambertville has resolved to fight this pipeline, yet the Mayor is letting her clients push their agendas,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This is not just about taking down the sign. This is about holding elected officials accountable when it comes to fighting PennEast and any potential conflicts of interest. This is as much about democracy as it is about the future of Lambertville.”

 

In addition, South Jersey Gas is part of South Jersey Industries (SJI) and one of Fahl’s firm’s clients. South Jersey Gas is building a pipeline through the Pinelands using 20% of the gas from PennEast that would flow through Lambertville. The pipeline was originally intended to connect into the B.L. England plant. Now that B.L. England will not be reopened, the company continues to pursue the pipeline claiming it will improve system resiliency. Last year, the Attorney General asked the Appellate Court to remand the South Jersey Gas pipeline case, Docket No. A-3310-16, back to the Pinelands Commission. The SJ Gas pipeline in the Pinelands was originally intended to repower the B.L. England plant. Owners of B.L. England have now closed the plant permanently, eliminating any need for the pipeline.

 

Tittel added, “We have been battling the South Jersey Gas pipeline for almost 6 years. Governors Byrne, Whitman, Kean, and Florio all came out against this pipeline and every major newspaper editorialized against it. They want to cut through this environmentally sensitive area for SJ Gas to repower a coal plant that Sierra Club has been fighting for over 20 years. This only adds to the conflict for the Mayor, as she appears to be  on the other side of the strong desire of our residents to stop the PennEast pipeline.”

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