Thursday, December 2, 2010

New enviro-execs for NJ's Meadowlands & Pinelands

New executive directors have been named to lead two important regional environmental commissions in New Jersey.

Marcia Karrow
Marcia Karrow, a former state senator and assemblywoman from Hunterdon County, was appointed yesterday to head the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, the planning and zoning authority for parts of 14 municipalities in the northern counties of Bergen and Hudson.

Karrow, who recently has been familiarizing herself with Commission operations and has been meeting with area environmentalists and other key stakeholders, officially starts in the position on Jan. 1. She and succeeds Robert Ceberio, who worked for the  commission for nearly 30 years, including the last eight as executive director. He is retiring Dec. 31.

Karrow was a state assemblywoman when she was elected to the state Senate in January 2009 at a special convention of Warren and Hunterdon county Republicans. She defeated then-Assemblyman Michael Doherty, who would go on to win the Senate seat over Karrow in the Republican primary election that June.

After leaving the Senate, she was active in gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie's election campaign. After his election, Christie named Karrow to head up a transition team that examined operations of the Department of Environmental Protection. The team presented a report recommending a long list of changes at the agency, many aimed at streamlining the review of permit applications and making the bureaucracy more "user friendly."

The report prompted stinging criticism from the NJ Sierra Club's Executive Director Jeff Tittel. Yesterday, Tittel was less negative about Karrow's appointment, saying ""As a legislator she was good on a lot of open space issues and sprawl issues. She beat up on some of the bad projects."

Bill Sheehan, head of the Meadowlands regional  Hackensack Riverkeeper organization, met with Karrow for two hours on Monday and told The (Bergen) Record:

"I walked out of there pretty well assured that no major changes are going to take place in the Meadowlands."  Sheehan said he had been worried that the Christie Administration "would come in guns a-blazing and change everything. I'm happy to give her the benefit of the doubt."

Nancy Wittenberg - Kirk Moore photo/Asbury Park Press

On Tuesday, Assistant DEP Commissioner Nancy Wittenberg was appointed  by the New Jersey Pinelands Commission as its next executive director.  Similar to the Meadowlands Commission, The Pinelands Commission controls land-use planning and development over an expansive area of southern New Jersey encompassing some 1.1 million acres over portions of seven counties and all or parts of 56 municipalities.

Wittenberg has had two careers at the DEP, separated by several years as an environmental adviser to the New Jersey Builders Association.

Most recently, she has lead Air Quality, Environmental Safety and Health and Solid and Hazardous Waste Programs and has managed the Office of Climate Change and Energy. She was formerly DEP Director of the Division of Environmental Quality and Director of the Office of Energy.

Some environmental organizations howled when Lisa Jackson, who headed the DEP under Governor Jon Corzine, wooed Wittenberg back to the department from the builders' organization. The news of her appointment to head the Pinelands Commission prompted more positive reviews.

"I think Nancy is a very knowledgeable and talented person," the Sierra Club's Jeff Tittel told the Asbury Park Press. But "she looks at land use very differently than environmentalists do."

Carleton Montgomery, whose Pinelands Preservation Alliance focuses on the Pinelands Commission, said:  "I'm optimistic that she will turn out to be a good choice. She brings a wealth of skill and experience to the job...and has a reputation for intelligence and savvy management that could stand her well in the new job."

What do you think about the appointments and the challenges that Marcia Karrow and Nancy Wittenberg face?  Let us know in the comment box below.  If one isn't visible, click on the tiny 'comment' line and it will appear.  


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