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Napalming the Pinelands Commission

Christie's veto smells like retribution

Having two months ago rejected a natural gas pipeline that's a pet project of the powerful, the New Jersey Pinelands Commission now finds itself being publicly punished for alleged fiscal heedlessness.

In an acidic letter April 7, Gov. Christie portrayed the commission -- composed of unpaid volunteers -- as a greedy, selfish and power-hungry band of bandits bent on pillaging the state's treasury.  Additional vitriol flowed in and out of the gubernatorial missive, but Christie's formerly semi-entertaining bile has become so...tedious that  it doesn't merit explication here.

The governor went in for the overkill ostensibly because the commission recently voted to explore a solution to the seeming stalemate between its unionized workforce and the state. Employees have been working without a contract for four years, and the commission voted to shift funds within its budget to provide for a raise.

"To say we were 'confiscating' (money) was simply wrong and ... unduly harsh," commission Chairman Mark Lohbauer says. "The harsh language so mimics language used against other agencies the governor went after [that] the impression was we were trying to award ourselves [a raise]."

A Christie spokesman says environmentalists' concerns that the governor's first-of-its-kind veto was an act of political retribution for the pipeline rejection are "disconnected from reality."

(Sounds familiar).

"I have no evidence" that Christie seeks vengeance, Lohbauer says, diplomatically.

But Trenton had pressured one pipeline opponent on the commission to recuse himself. Under protest, he did; the plan was rejected anyway.

Later, it was revealed that a former member of the Christie administration, Christine Genovese Renna, is married to an executive of the parent company of the firm that sought to build it. She resigned a month after the pipeline vote.

And now we're hearing some noise locally about natural gas the pipeline would have carried being transported instead by rail -- through densely populated Camden County towns.

A way of pumping up pressure for a pipeline. and against the commission? Stay tuned.