Senate confirms Murphy-appointed lobbyists on Pinelands Commission

The New Jersey state Senate confirmed Laura Matos and Davon McCurry, two of the three lobbyists Governor Phil Murphy initially nominated to serve as members of the Pinelands Commission like foxes guarding a hen house.

Murphy stunned some of his supporters with the announcement that he wanted 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 New Jersey Pinelands Commission was founded in 1979 to protect the Pinelands following the establishment of the Pinelands National Reserve by Congress in 1978.

By state law, the Pinelands Commission is a 15-member board that consists of seven members appointed by the New Jersey Governor, seven county representatives, and one federal representative appointed by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Environmentalists also objected that Murphy named Matos and McCurry to fill seats previously occupied by two dedicated environmental advocates, the current Chairman, Rick Prickett, and D’Arcy Rohan Green.

Both Prickett and Rohan Green protected the Pinelands for years and were proven advocates for the environment.

New Jersey Pinelands Commissioners Theresa Lettman, Laura Matos and Davon McCurry

McCurry is a government affairs lobbyist for a Danish multinational power company that was fined $5.9 million for its role in a major 2019 U.K. blackout.

McCurry was previously employed as a lobbyist at Princeton Public Affairs Group and on Murphy’s 2017 campaign for governor.

Murphy’s other lobbyist nominee 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.

Matos is a general manager for Kivvit, a lobbying firm that helps corporate polluters, among others, get their way with government officials.

Both the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), are Kivvit clients that advocate the nuclear energy industry.

The company that’s in the process of decommissioning the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant is interested in building a new reactor at the same site in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

Scandal-scarred former Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved $88 million worth of contracts between the State of New York and Kivvit, which also works with companies like Google, Citigroup, and Lyft.

“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 is executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters, after Murphy first substituted the three lobbyists for the environmental champions he nominated prior to his re-election.

Potosnak retreated when Murphy withdrew Montero’s nomination.

“The nominations of Theresa Lettman, Davon McCurry, and Laura Matos paired with the Governor’s pledge to retain Ed Lloyd, the state’s preeminent environmental attorney,” according to Potosnak, “are a solid compromise and a vast improvement over the original plan.”

Jeff Tittel, former director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, called the arrangement “a really bad deal if not a sellout.”

“Governor Murphy has betrayed environmentalists by replacing nominees qualified to serve on the Pinelands Commission with a pack of polluters,” said Lisa McCormick, a progressive Democrat who has been a frequent critic of the Wall Street millionaire.

Carleton Montgomery, executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, said Murphy reduced the number of reliable environmental votes on the 15-member commissioner.

“There’s a net loss of people who have proven their environmental credentials,” said Montgomery, who strongly backed the nomination of Lettman, a 25-year alliance member.

A federal seat on the New Jersey Pinelands Commission will be filled by Jonathan D. Meade, the associate regional director of the National Parks Service and a longtime environmental leader in Pennsylvania whose appointment was made by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.

Lettman was nominated to fill the seat of Candace McKee Ashmun by Murphy in early 2019, when the departing commissioner asked for her but the confirmation process dragged on for three years.  

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