- The state Senate has confirmed Republican Gov. Chris Christie's nominee to sit on a board overseeing a million-acre pine preserve despite complaints from environmentalists.
Robert Barr's nomination to the Pinelands Commission succeeded yesterday after initially falling two votes shy of passing, but then Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney, who favored Barr's nomination, held up the vote and returned to it later.
Members of the public in the gallery booed the final decision.
"This is a sellout of the Pinelands, the environment and the legislative process," said New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel.
Democratic state Sen. Jeff Van Drew defended Barr, who serves as president of the Ocean City Community Association. He said Barr is suited for the job.
"Robert Barr is an upstanding individual who has dedicated a great deal of time to serving his community," Van Drew said in a statement. "He has the highest standards of integrity and unquestionable character."
The vote represents a victory for Christie and for Sweeney, who is not typically an ally of the governor but has expressed support for a proposed pipeline through the region.
Christie picked Barr to succeed Robert Jackson last year, but the nomination was criticized. The dispute stretches back to a vote in January 2014, when the commission blocked a plan from South Jersey Gas to connect a pipeline from Maurice River Township in Cumberland County to the BL England plant in Upper Township, Cape May County.
The Christie administration supported the project, but environmental groups and Jackson opposed it.
Democratic Sen. Bob Smith, who abstained during the vote, said the nomination seemed designed to stack the deck with regard to the pipeline.