Stop Flogging RGGI To Score Political Points

March 21st, 2017 No comments

Symbolic gesture is deeply flawed and not a model for next Administration

The bill is silent on ALL these key issues and must NOT become the model for the next administration – so why are environmentalists supporting such a FLAWED symbolic empty gesture?

NJ Spotlight reports that the Senate Environment Committee heard a bill yesterday designed to restore the RGGI program, see:

I wish the NJ Democrats would stop flogging RGGI to score political points. I’m tired of the pure politics and “sending a message” with empty symbolic gestures. And flogging RGGI is not only a symbolic gesture, it diverts attention from much needed reforms.

President Trump and his EPA Administrator Pruitt do not care about RGGI or the NJ Legislature.

Furthermore, the Obama Clean Power Plan is on hold and before the US Supreme Court, so EPA Administrator Pruitt doesn’t even have to repeal it, just have the AG Sessions Justice Department not continue to litigate it, petition the Court to dismiss the case, or simply ignore enforcing it on the State’s

(BTW, few people seem to understand that the Obama EPA – following the Bill Clinton Administration’s “State Partnership” policy that effectively gutted EPA oversight of State programs to appease Newt Gingrich’s “Contract On America” “federalists” – delegated implementation of the Clean Power Plan program to the State’s via Clean Air Act SIP amendments. Sates can drag their feet, or EPA could simply look the other way in oversight of State CPP SIP amendments. Or EPA could relax compliance dates and technical requirements, effectively gutting the program in ways that environmental groups would be virtually powerless to stop.)

Worse, the NJ Senate bill – if passed in its current form and signed by the next Gov. – ignores serious flaws in the current RGGI law and would make the problems WORSE. It is NOT a model for the next administration (unless you’re PSEG or a refinery or a natural gas power plant, all of whom get huge subsidies and breaks under RGGI). Even the sponsors of the bill realize that Gov. Christie will veto it, as he has done twice before.

That’s right – the bill would allow a significant INCREASE in current emissions of greenhouse gases. Here’s why:

1. The bill is tied to the negotiated 2005 RGGI states MOA – not only has that MOA been renegotiated for, among other reasons, to ratchet down on the initial cap, but that means the NJ emissions cap would remain FAR ABOVE CURRENT NJ EMISSIONS.

If the legislature is serious, they must REDUCE THE CAP!

2. PSEG has shut down 2 fossil plants and announced the shutdown of 2 more since the 2005 MOA and NJ cap allocation.

The bill would essential grandfather old PSEG emissions, allowing PSEG to profit from the sale of non-existent emissions! That is the kind of abuse of market trading schemes that we were able to use to kill the “Open Market Emissions Trading” (OMET) program. If you doubt any of these conclusions, please read the RGGI bill:

3. The existing RGGI law has a $7 per ton “reset”. If RGGI auction allowances exceed $7 per ton, all bets are off and the program must be reviewed by the Legislature. That $7 per ton reset is FAR TOO LOW – the social costs of carbon is over $100 per ton according to EPA. Other research suggests an even higher SCC.

If the Legislature and next administration are serious, that $7 per ton “cost containment” provision must be repealed and the 2005 cap reduced and the MOA renegotiated.

4. The current RGGI law fails to address methane emissions and lifecycle emissions. That is a critical omission, because NJ has become so heavily reliant on natural gas and fracking has boomed. When lifecycle methane emissions are considered, recent research suggests that fracked gas is as bad or worse than coal from a global warming perspective.

AGAIN, if the legislature and next administration are serious, methane and lifecycle emissions must be included in NJ’s emissions baseline and part of the enforceable regulatory emissions reductions requirements.

5. The Christie DEP abandoned a greenhouse gas emissions inventory rule – so we no longer have an accurate emissions baseline – that problem needs to be remedied by the Legislature.

6. The RGGI MOA and program are too narrow in scope and are limited to the power sector.

If emissions trading is to replace command and control regulation, it MUST BE BROADENED to address all sectors.

7. The RGGI law fails to address emissions from power consumed in state but generated in another state. Those emissions must be included.

8. The RGGI law can be interpreted to serve as the market based substitute for DEP regulation of GHG emissions, and thereby effectively replace regulation.

The Legislature needs to explicitly affirm DEP’s authority to regulate emissions from all sectors and tie those regulations to attainment of specific numeric emissions reductions goals and timetables. They can look to and strengthen the Global Warming Response Act for an example of goals and timetables.

The bill is silent on ALL these key issues and must NOT become the model for the next administration – so why are environmentalists supporting such a FLAWED symbolic empty gesture?

[End Note: The hypocrisy here is stunning.

The sponsor of the bill, Senate President Sweeney, was the sponsor of several amendments that gutted the original RGGI bill.

The Sweeney amendments to the original RGGI bill were SO BAD, that environmentalists not only withdrew their support for the bill, but actively OPPOSED its passage.

We do not forget this kind of bullshit –  wonks can read the Statement on the Senate Committee substitute amendments and read the substitute bill S2976[SCS] to document that claim.

But apparently others do. ~ end]

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Environmentalists Must Publicly Challenge Congressional Republicans On Trump EPA Budget and Regulatory Policy

March 20th, 2017 No comments

NJ Spotlight ran a story today – quoting various “experts” – about the impacts of President Trump’s EPA budget, see:

Tell me something I don’t already know.

Aside from the lack of relevance and edge to the story (and grave omissions, like proposing to eliminate the Chemical Safety Board), the usual suspects took the usual cowardly path. Let me explain.

The Trump budget proposal is essentially just red meat for the base. It is written like a press release or campaign statement.

In numerous national press stories since the Trump budget was released, it has been described as “DOA” on a bi-partisan basis by members of Congress.

So, the story now migrates to how Congress – particularly Republicans in the House – will react.

Environmental group leaders obviously know this and know that they need to be pressuring NJ Republicans to publicly speak out against the Trump budget and regulatory policies, which amount to an across the board attack on EPA as an institution and would dismantle science and critical protections for public health and the environment.

So, are these groups asking NJ Republican Congresspersons to speak out against Trump cuts?

Republicans like Lance, Frelinghuysen, MacArthur, LoBiondo, Smith must speak out publicly to defend environmental protections (regulations, enforcement) and EPA as an institution (science, staffing, and budget).

Maybe Rodney can do a dog and pony at Superfund sites and talk about Trump cuts? Where is “coastal champion” Lobiondo? What about the “devolution” of Lance? How about Chris Smith, who thinks he “scored big”?

Environmentalists have to publicly pressure the Republicans in Congress. If they fail, they are cowards.

The criticism can’t be limited to budget issues, and must focus on the Trump regulatory policy and ideological commitment to “federalism” and “states rights”.

States can NOT assume EPA national responsibilities. They lack resources and are under undue influence of economic and political pressure by polluting industries.

My Congressman, MacArthur, just refused to oppose them and refused to take any public position until it’s time to vote on the House floor on the full budget.

Here’s how my CongressmanTom MacArtur responded in a letter today to that kind of pressure from me, acting as a constituent, without the big Foundation Funded megaphone and resources that the environmental groups have. I wrote MacArthur and demanded that he speak out publicly against the Trump attack – so note the cowardice (in bold, which defects and dodges the issue: (MacArthur wrote)

As you may know, I will not have the opportunity to vote on this legislation until it is approved by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies and the full Appropriations Committee. Please know that I will certainly take your views into consideration should such legislation come to a vote before the House of Representatives.

In addition to NJ environmental groups failing to put this kind of pressure on NJ Congressional Republicans, there are additional hypocrisies that arise.

Where were all these groups when NJ Gov. Christie was doing virtutally the same thing as Trump, on both the budget and regulatory policy side?

Did NRDC or NJ Audubon or the Delaware Watershed Wm Penn Foundation grantees do ANY work on Barnegat Bay (as Christie DEP abdicated CWA TMDL requirements) or the Delaware River and Bay TMDL?

Or on DEP issued NJPDES permits for new treatment plants on lower Delaware tributary Crosswicks Creek? Or when Gov. Christie’s regulatory freeze killed DEP climate emissions inventory and Global Warming Response Act programs? (aside from RGGI, which NRDC did work on). Or DEP’s abdication of the NY Harbor TMDL or floatables plan? Or climate adaptation? Or numerous clean water regulatory rollbacks? I could go on.

The Obama EPA they consistently supported was no bowl of cherries either.

In a related matter, Trump’s Executive Order regulatory freeze ends tomorrow.

Will NJ Spotlight and all these groups focus on that?

BTW, in a huge irony, it was NRDC litigation that gave us the “Chevron” doctrine on agency deference.

That legal issue is paramount in today’s US Senate Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court candidate Gorsuch.

Where are these well endowed groups on THAT?

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NJ “Citizen’s” Group Gives “Public Service” Award to Corporate CEO

March 17th, 2017 No comments

Brazen Corporate Capture of sold out “progressive” organizations

How does a so called “Citizen’s group”, with an avowed mission of promoting democracy, give a “public service” award to a corporate CEO? (an award named after a corporate CEO)

Via email from Harry Pozycki, Chairman of NJ’s “No blame, Only Solutions” “Citizen’s Campaign”:

Dear Bill —

It is with great pleasure that we announce that Bernie Flynn, President & CEO of the New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company, will receive the first ever Koeppe Award for Exemplary Public Service at our gala dinner on April 17th. Ann Koeppe will present the award after remarks by Sharon Taylor, Senior Vice President, Corporate Human Resources, Prudential Financial and Chair, The Prudential Foundation.

Should I be mollified by the fact that tickets for a Table start at only $1,500 – or that individual tickets are a bargain at $150?

But the “Citizen’s Campaign” isn’t the only so called “public advocacy” group captured by corporate cash and corporate oriented elite Foundation grants, as I’ve written here numerous times – NJ Audubon, Sustainable NJ, NJ Future, and Mike Catania and the Duke Foundation are just as bad or worse than Citizen’s Campaign and are full bore sold out corporate whores.

Other NJ groups are headed in that sold out direction, with corporate, Foundation, and fundraising stunt money driving priorities, programs, and tactics, e.g. the Highlands Coalition, NY/NJ Baykeeper, Ironbound Community Corp, ALS, Clean Ocean Action, NJ LCV, et al. – (readers: shoot me a note if I missed someone).

Other reputable groups like PPA, NJCF and Stonybrook Watershed are on the bubble due to sham, destructive, diversionary, and/or compromised weenie initiatives like the Keep It Green Coalition, Rethink Energy NJ, and the Penn Foundation’s Delaware Watershed scam.

It is a disgusting display, particularly in light of the national emergency exacerbated by the the Trump circus. Resistance to that demands unity, which is made far more difficult by the corporate whoring.

Full disclosure: I’ve purchased NJ Manufacturers home and car insurance for over 30 years. During that time, I filed exactly one claim for a minor car accident in my own driveway (slid on ice).

I have been satisfied with the NJM service, until very recently, when they raised my car insurance rates dramatically – by over 25% – based exclusively on my economic situation and downgraded credit rating!

So, NJM discriminates against people based on low income –

Maybe Mr. Democracy Harry Pozycki might ask the NJM CEO about the “public service” justification for that.

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“In Other Words, It’s A Joke”

March 16th, 2017 No comments

Groundhog Day for Food Waste

Impacts of animal agriculture ignored 

Legislation portrayed as innovative actually is weaker than historical policy

We put our conclusion in the headline – logically ass backwards, but totally fitting and appropriate for this issue.

On Monday, the Senate Environment Committee heard a package of bills related to food waste.

Cynics might see that as cover for special septic legislation I wrote about, which just so happened to be the last bill considered, after the food waste love-in transpired and the press was long gone.

NJ Spotlight loyally reported that cynical spoon fed spin, see:

But today, I want to write about the historical perspective on food waste.

I was prompted to mentioned it briefly in my testimony to the Committee, after former Gov. Codey asked me how long I worked at DEP during my testimony on the Special Septic bill.

The Florio Administration’s DEPE  – no typo: Gov. Florio had the vision to integrate energy into the environment to form DEPE – based upon Gov. Florio’s 1990 Executive Order #8 and the recommendations of the Solid Waste Assessment Taskforce,  developed enforceable numeric goals, policies, and programs for food waste way back in the 1993 Solid Waste Plan.

Food waste has high moisture content and low BTU content, so the incineration engineers did not oppose diversion of food waste from the then dominate incineration technology.

The issue of climate change – then called global warming – and the impacts of animal agriculture were not sufficiently developed by the scientific community at that time, so they were not foundations of the 1993 Plan or food waste policy.

The 1993 DEP Solid Waste Plan included mandatory county planning, financing of food waste programs from disposal tip fees, and integration with DEP solid waste permit regulations. The Plan was based on a new materials management based waste analysis, material specific recycling goals, and a new source reduction policy. (Sorry, I can’t seem to find the 1993 Plan on-line, so can provide no excerpts or links).

At that time, all of these were innovations and national management models.

Shortly after its adoption, the Florio solid waste planning initiative was attacked by the Whitman/Shinn DEP in 1994 and was safely ignored by the Counties and never enforced by the DEP.

But again, 13 years later, in the 2006 Solid Waste Plan Update, DEP revived and reiterated this food waste policy, noting:

The establishment of programs designed to encourage the increased recycling of food waste is recommended. Supermarkets, grocery stores, bakeries and institutions, such as hospitals and universities, generate large amounts of food waste. Residents also generate significant quantities of food waste in their homes. At this time, much of this waste is not recycled, but rather landfilled. In fact, 15.1% of the food waste generated in New Jersey was recycled in 2003. In light of the fact that the tonnage of food waste generated per year in New Jersey is greater than the combined tonnage of old newspapers, glass containers and aluminum cans (three of the most commonly recognized recyclable materials), food waste recycling represents a great opportunity for achieving recycling gains in this state. If new programs are developed to the extent where the tonnage of food waste recycled is twice the current rate, New Jersey would realize the recycling of nearly an additional 300,000 tons of food waste.

Not much was done to implement the 2006 plan either.

The food waste legislation discussed yesterday by the Senate Environment Committee and loyally reported in the NJ Spotlight story actually WEAKENS the historical DEP policy and program – the goals are less ambitious, the program is VOLUNTARY, ASPIRATIONAL, UNENFORCEABLE, the PRIVATE SECTOR GETS A PASS, and there is NO FUNDING.

In other words, it is a joke.

We’re going backwards, folks. Celebrating rollbacks as progress. We know what works – and we know that voluntary unfounded programs do not work. Don’t be fooled.

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Pay to Play On Special Septic Certification

March 13th, 2017 No comments

Why are Democratic legislators attacking a Christie DEP regulation as “burdensome”?

Should a Maine based company that installs septic systems be able to convince the legislature to pass a bill that would over-ride a specific DEP regulation and open the NJ market to their technology and the company’s installers?

Should that Maine company parachute into NJ and – with virtually no public debate or environmental analysis – be able to get in front of very long lines in the legislature and DEP of those seeking changes to environmental laws and regulations?

Should that Maine septic company be granted market access in NJ, to the detriment of existing NJ based companies and professional engineers who currently do that work?

Should Democrats in the Legislature correct a problem created by Christie DEP regulations, under the guise of removing “burdensome” regulation?

Well, that’s exactly just what happened today, as the Senate Environment Committee approved a bill, S2914 (Greenstein – D, Mercer):

This bill would prohibit the Department of Environment Protection (DEP) from imposing certain certification requirements … the additional credential requirements for installation are inappropriate and burdensome for small businesses.

I testified in opposition to the bill on principle as violating separation of powers doctrine because the Legislature was trampling on the Executive’s regulatory role, in the absence of any substantive or factual legislative record or a demonstration that the bill’s proponents had exhausted multiple opportunities for a regulatory remedy by DEP.

The bill is a terrible precedent that could open the floodgates to many regulated industries seeking regulatory relief via special legislation – the very essence of pay to play.

Those floodgates are already wide open in Washington DC as the Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress are seeking to dismantle “the administrative state”, and environmental regulation in particular.

Why would NJ Democrats want to go there?

I also questioned whether allowing this company and technology and installers into the NJ market would impact the environmental performance or homeowner costs of septic systems.

Things got very animated after the bill’s proponent – a spokesman for a company from Maine –  interrupted my testimony to ask who I was!

Listen to the testimony – hit the link to “view or listen to prior testimony”.

I got some pushback from Chairman Smith, who cited the recent legislative consideration of the Highlands Septic Density Standard. I had to remind him that there was a robust public regulatory process by DEP and that his Committee held a rigorous oversight hearing on that issue. The Legislature was proposing a veto of those rules under a specific veto provision of the Constitution approved by voter referendum, not broad legislative power to block a regulation on behalf of a single (out of state) company. In addition, testimony during that process revealed significant flaws and loopholes in current DEP septic regulations, suggesting that they needed to be strengthened, not over-ridden as “burdensome”.

After the hearing, I spoke with the Man from Maine. He shook my hand and said “no hard feelings” and in frustration complained that he had anticipated the problem with the DEP rules and hired a Trenton consulting firm back in 2012 and “spent a ton of money” on securing the relief under the bill.

That sounds a lot like pay to play to me. And special legislation too.

So I just sent the below follow-up testimony:

Dear Chairman Smith:

I’d like to clarify the record and supplement my testimony this morning on S2914 as follows:

1. Separation of powers

Separation of powers issues remain despite the amendment to make the bill identical to the Assembly version A4350[1R]

http://www.nj.gov/dep/workgroups/docs/septic-20161216-invite.pdf

The amendment states that the bill would become “inoperative” upon adoption of future DEP regulations. By definition, that means that the legislation would apply upon enactment in the absence of DEP rules and until the adoption of DEP rules.

As such, the legislation would target and over-rule a duly promulgated administrative regulation.

2. Special legislation

In addition to Constitutional separation of powers issues, based on the testimony today and lack of clarity from thee sponsor Senator Greenstein, the bill may suffer problems as a result of restrictions on special legislation.

The bill appears to apply to, benefit, and be based on the lobbying of a specific named individual company from Maine that installs a specific septic technology.

3. Role of DEP Office of Legislation

Senator Thompson defended the bill based on a lack of opposition from the DEP Office of Legislation.

For the record, I worked in the DEP Office of Legislation and Intergovernmental Affairs as a legislative analyst for 4 years (1990 – 1994). At that time, there were at least 8 professionals assigned to that Office. The Office served a policy role, representing the views of the Commissioner and/or the Governor’s Office.

In contrast, today, John Hazen is a virtual 1 man operation. The volume of bills has not decreased since then.

But even with a staff of 8, it was not unusual for a bill considered by a Committee to not undergo technical review by the DEP program impacted by the bill.

It was also not unusual for the Department’s position on a bill to over-ride the concerns of technical program staff, or be influenced by policy or political concerns. There were also cases where the DEP would stand down on a particular issue and let the Legislature take the policy lead.

Accordingly, lack of opposition by DEP Office of Legislation should not be interpreted as support for it or a lack of concerns with it.

4. DEP Septic Stakeholder process

The lobbyist for the Maine based septic installed stated that the DEP had conducted a “public process” regarding the relevant regulations.

Please be advised, as I stated during my testimony, that that claim is factually false.

Specifically, on December 16, 2016, DEP held a a stakeholder meeting regarding “Standards for Individual Subsurface Sewage Disposal Systems” regulation (N.J.A.C. 7:9A) See:

http://www.nj.gov/dep/workgroups/docs/septic-20161216-invite.pdf

That meeting was not “public”. It was “By invitation only”, see the following notice from DEP’s website:

12/16/2016 – Standards for Septic Systems Stakeholder Meeting- Invitation Only
December 16, 2016 11:00:00 am

Invitation (pdf)
Rule requirements for authorized septic installers, for discussion (pdf)

However, by removing a regulatory barrier and effectively open the market to this company and its technology, there could be significant implications with respect to protection of groundwater quality from septic discharge, should the bill be enacted into law. There were no facts entered into testimony today that addressed the environmental implications of the legislation or the environmental performance of the septic technology described.

I again urge you to abandon this bill. At best, DEP has made a technical regulatory blunder that should be remedied by DEP regulation, not special legislation.

Please include these comments in the record for the bill.

Respectfully,

We’ll keep you posted.

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