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Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli, left, and the Democratic incumbent, Gov. Phil Murphy. (Photos: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe.)

Supreme Court’s PennEast decision probably won’t impact N.J. Governor’s race

Murphy, Ciattarelli both opposed natural gas pipeline plan

By David Wildstein, June 29 2021 11:51 am

The U.S. Supreme Court’s PennEast pipeline decision on Tuesday will likely have little impact on the New Jersey Governor’s race since incumbent Phil Murphy and Republican Jack Ciattarelli have identical views on the issue.

Murphy opposed the proposed 116-mile natural gas pipeline, touting that his administration “fought and won in court to stop” the project

As an assemblyman in 2014, Ciattarelli opposed the PennEast plan, which would have gone  through parts of his Central Jersey legislative district that includes towns in Hunterdon County.

“The PennEast Pipeline will permanently scar an exceptionally pristine, rich agricultural heritage that truly defines and sustains residents of the area,” Ciattarelli said in more than seven years ago. “Simply put, this untouched area is, in and of itself, a way of life for local residents, most of whom relocated there purposely to avoid development of any kind.”

Ciattarelli was representing a swing district and in 2015 had won re-election to a third term by just 534 votes over Democrat Maureen Vella.   In that election, Democrat Andrew Zwicker unseated a GOP incumbent, Donna Simon.

The Biden administration supported the pipeline project, asking the Supreme Court to overturn a 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that blocked the use of eminent domain for the project.

The candidates disagree on Murphy’s commitment to transition New Jersey to 100% clean energy by 2050.

“Just to be clear: Jack supports an ‘all of the above’ energy policy, including investments in natural gas infrastructure, and opposes Governor Murphy’s ‘Green New Deal’ which will drive consumer prices up and businesses and jobs out,” said Eric Arpert, Ciattarelli’s campaign manager.

Murphy’s opposition to the pipeline project has come despite strong support from labor unions who want the jobs the PennEast project would bring the state.  Unions that have endorsed so far, including the New Jersey AFL-CIO, are backing Murphy for re-election to a second term.

The New Jersey Globe rates the PennEast pipeline as a LOW IMPACT ISSUE in the New Jersey Governor’s race.  There is not enough of a difference between Murphy and Ciattarelli on this issue — and not enough single issue PennEast voters to cause a significant shift of votes in the November 2 election.

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