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Transforming the garden state into the pipeline state

Whenever someone asks me where I'm from, I tell them, "I'm from the most beautiful place you've never heard of - and it's in New Jersey."

That usually elicits a puzzled look, since, despite its Garden State designation, Jersey isn't exactly known for its natural beauty (at least not in the popular imagination). 

But once I explain that I was raised in the Pinelands, things fall into place. The Pinelands National Reserve is the first national reserve in theUnited States and spans 1.1 million acres (around 445,000 hectares) across seven counties.

It takes me about three hours to get from New York City's Penn Station to my parents' house, and the view on the way down is so intoxicatingly gorgeous, it'll break your heart if you're not used to it. 

You'll travel through silent seas of scaly, blue-green pine trees and rattle down dirt roads the color of bone china beneath the bluest sky imaginable; it's so quiet you can hear deer crunching through the underbrush and crickets singing in the black tea-tinted cedar swamps. 

It's one of the few truly wild places left on the US East Coast, the largest open space between Richmond, Virginia and Boston, Massachusetts - a wholly unique UNESCO biosphere, and an ecological jewel that 43 endangered species call home.
So, of course, New Jersey's controversial Republican governor, Chris Christie, wants to run a pipeline through it.

Last month, it was announced that the Pinelands Commission - the federally supported body that oversees public policy and development projects in the reserve - has approved a new 30-mile natural gas pipeline to run from Chesterfield Township to Manchester Township, right through the protected wilderness of the Pinelands.

The thought of my dad working on these treacherous pipes that will scar the land we've called home for decades makes my heart hurt, but blue-collar, working-class families like mine don't always have the luxury of to choosing where their paycheques come from.

There has been significant community pushback against New Jersey Natural Gas' so-called "Southern Reliability Line", as well as against the South Jersey Gas Cape Atlantic Reliability Project, another pipeline that Christie approved earlier this year that will span 22 miles and also cut directly through the Pinelands.

In addition to protesting the pipelines themselves, a loose coalition of local conservationists, community members, and the New Jersey Sierra Club have condemned Christie's unwavering support for the projects; at a recent public hearing, a woman held a sign reading, "One Jersey Devil Is Enough!" in a clear reference to the perpetually embattled governor (and a hat tip to the Pinelands' own homegrown cryptozoological mascot, the Jersey Devil).

Read Full Article by Kim Kelly…

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