Ocean City environmental activist honored for Pinelands pipeline fight

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Ocean City resident Georgina Shanley receives the Environmental Achievement Award from Clean Water Action New Jersey Saturday, March 1 during the 28th annual conference, “Inspire, Organize, Energize,” at Georgian Court University in Lakewood. Ocean City resident Georgina Shanley receives the Environmental Achievement Award from Clean Water Action New Jersey Saturday, March 1 during the 28th annual conference, “Inspire, Organize, Energize,” at Georgian Court University in Lakewood.  OCEAN CITY — A local environmental advocate was honored over the weekend for her leadership during the controversial Pinelands pipeline hearings, which resulted in the denial of an application to run a natural gas pipeline to the BL England plant in Upper Township.

Georgina Shanley of Ocean City received the Environmental Achievement Award from Clean Water Action New Jersey Saturday, March 1 during the 28th annual conference, “Inspire, Organize, Energize,” at Georgian Court University in Lakewood.

According to Clean Water Action, “the annual event brings together citizens, organizations, students, scientists, and policymakers to discuss the most important environmental issues facing New Jersey.”

The Grassroots Leadership Award was given to Shanley for her “unflagging and inspiring leadership during the epic fight to save the Pinelands, a nationally preserved and protected world biosphere, from a proposed 22-mile high pressure gas pipeline that would have cut through the forested area and opened the forest gates to industrialization,” the website states.

Shanley said she was humbled by the recognition.

“I felt very uncomfortable because I honestly feel that this award belongs to every single person who stood up, spoke out who came to a meeting and who wouldn’t let the issue die,” she said. “The only way I can get my head around this is to feel I am accepting this award on behalf of those other people.”

Shanley, who was born in Ireland, has lived in Ocean City 29 years. She is married to Steve Fenichel and has two sons and a daughter-in-law.

Shanley leads the Amnesty International chapter in Cape May County, and is a founding member of the rainforest advocacy group, “Friends of the Rainforest.” A few years ago, the group was successful in ending the purchase of tropical hardwood for use on the boardwalk in Ocean City.

Shanley co-founded Citizens United for Renewable Energy after the Gulf oil spill, which joined other environmental groups to fight for the defeat of a proposed coal plant in Linden.

Her involvement in this latest effort, she said, just felt right.

“It almost starts like an itch,” Shanley said. “In this fight, I saw a notice in the newspaper that the (New Jersey Board of Public Utilities) was holding a hearing in Upper Township about a pipeline that would go through the Pinelands.

“Something inside of me thought, ‘Oh my goodness.’ There’s something that didn’t sit right with the pipeline through the Pinelands, then I started the process of questioning.”

Shanley said she got as much education as she could on the issue, including the effects of a very high pressure pipeline through preserved forest. She attended the meeting and began to organize with others who were also in attendance, forming the Don’t Gas the Pinelands Coalition.

“From there, I got in touch with the Pinelands Preservation Alliance,” Shanley said. “It became something that in every cell of my body I felt was wrong.”

She said science supported that sense.

“From there, we started writing letters to the newspaper, holding educational meetings. One person, Michael Sheridan, started a change.org petition online and got about 19,000 signatures,” she said.

Shanley and the other activists went from door to door in Tuckahoe, attended every Pinelands Commission meeting, which are held in Pemberton, and reached out to the Sierra Club and to Food and Water Watch.

“And we ended up really networking with people from all over the country, including Michigan and upper New York state,” she said.

Alluding to what she called “political shenanigans” forcing a 7-7 tie vote on the matter, which ultimately killed the proposal, Shanley said she was still happy with the outcome.

Now, she said, she is preparing for round 2. State Sen. Jeff Van Drew is throwing his support behind the pipeline, asking for it to be reconsidered.

“The proponents of the pipeline basically have always gone after three things: jobs, it’s good for the economy and it’s clean energy,” Shanley said. “The Pinelands Commission themselves, in order to approve a pipeline, they have to decide not on any of those issues. Their only requirement is to decide whether this infrastructure would benefit the people that live in the Pinelands only.”

Shanley said the pipeline is not to benefit the people of the Pinelands, and that there is overwhelming evidence that wind creates many more jobs and has a beneficial impact.

She said the arguments are the “Same old, same old.”

“Really and truly, at the end of the day, what is the price of our soul?” she said.

“We will definitely fight until this attack on the Pinelands is over.”

Shanley said it’s not really about jobs. She said that the pipeline would create 75 jobs for nine months while they were laying the pipeline. She said there have been so many accidents with pipelines across the county and while she is concerned about workers and the economy, she would rather see workers being trained to work with renewable energy sources like wind turbines, solar and tidal energy.

Quoting George Orwell, Shanley said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

“And we are telling the truth,” she said. 


Related: 

Former governors add voices to local pipeline opposition 

Battle lines drawn on proposed Pinelands pipeline agreement 

Fate of BL England plant up in the air after Pinelands pipeline denied 

Van Drew seeking state help to have BL England pipeline built 


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