Polluters’ Lobbying Conference Stacked With Former DEP Officials

May 23rd, 2024 No comments

This Is What Revolving Door Corruption Looks Like

Murphy DEP Sends An Assistant Commissioner

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[Update below – Amended Ethics Complaint]

The NJ Business and Industry Association (NJ BIA) is holding an “Environmental Regulatory Conference” on June 4. The public Registration fee is a cheap lunch, only $185.

You can register and see the mug shots of all the hired guns and former DEP officials at this link.

The speakers include 9 former high level DEP officials, one current, and one Governor’s Office legal counsel:

Chris Daggett (Commissioner); Ray Cantor (Deputy Commissioner); Irene Kropp (Deputy Commissioner); Michele Siekerka (Deputy Commissioner); Dennis Hart (Assistant Commissioner); Dan Kennedy (Assistant Commissioner); Sean Moriarty (Deputy Commissioner); Gary Sondermeyer (Chief of Staff); Ray Bukowski (Assistant Commissioner) and John Valeri (Christie Gov.’s Office). Current Assistant Commissioner Haymes is speaking on site remediation (I’m sure that’s just fine with current Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, who himself is a former corporate lawyer who worked for some of NJ’s largest corporate polluters to defeat DEP enforcement, including site remediation and recovery of natural resource damages).

(I worked with many of these people and could dish a lot of dirt, but for now, will mention only one: Mr. Ray Bukowski was directly involved in a very dirty deal directly involving Donald Trump and he lied about it. He also served as a political hack to defend DEP logging on Sparta Mountain.)

I recently filed an ethics complaint against former Murphy DEP Deputy Commissioner Sean Moriarty for potential violation of post employment restrictions, see:

Ironically, that complaint focuses on ethics restrictions on post employment regarding actions to “provide information not generally available to members of the public” – or inside information.

NJ BIA’s priority regulatory agenda includes land use, site remediation, implementation of the environmental justice regulations, and – my favorite: (emphases mine):

How to Improve DEP Regulatory Programs: Lessons Learned from the Inside and Outside

There have only been a few professionals who both led major regulatory reform efforts while a leader at the DEP, and then left the department for a career in the private sector. What did they learn from their unique experiences and what advice would they offer future department leaders on how to create efficient and effective regulatory programs.

Did you catch that?

NJ BIA is openly celebrating the revolving door.

They are touting the corporate benefits of former DEP officials who “provide information not generally available to members of the public.”

Meanwhile, while the corporate community is hiring former DEP regulators and making significant investments in regulatory policy, the NJ Environmental Community has virtually disappeared from substantive engagement on the regulatory policy scene and devolved to a state of cheerleading the DEP Commissioner.

Seated (L-R) 1) Anjuli Ramos (Sierra Club NJ Chapter) 3) DEP Commissioner LaTourette) 4) Doug O'Mallley (Environment NJ)

Seated (L-R) 1) Anjuli Ramos (Sierra Club NJ Chapter) 3) DEP Commissioner LaTourette) 4) Doug O’Mallley (Environment NJ)

The NJ BIA conference is an egregious illustration of revolving door abuse of the public interest.

The fact that they openly brag about that pretty much sums up the current state of corruption of government we are now witnessing.

Not much else I can say right now.

[Full Disclosure: I am a former (for 14 years) DEP professional that “led major regulatory reform efforts while a leader at the DEP”.]

[Update: Amended Ethics Complaint

I just sent this note to the State Ethics Commission:

Dear Ethics Commission – I would like to amend my May 10 complaint below with the following information, which provides additional evidence of potential violations of post employment restrictions.

Former DEP Deputy Commissioner Sean Moriarty is speaking at the June 4 NJ Business and Industry Association conference on “regulatory policy”, see:

https://njbia.org/events/erc2024/

The agenda for that conference includes at least 3 major regulations recently adopted by DEP that Moriarty participated in and directly managed in his portfolio as Deputy Commissioner: 1) environmental justice regulations; and 2) land use regulations, including the flood hazard (inland and coastal) regulations.

He also participated in confidential legal policy deliberations on Natural Resource Damage lawsuits that are currently active and will have prospective effects.

In those capacities, Moriarty obtained sensitive “information not generally available to the public”, and is now selling that information to corporate clients.

I appreciate your prompt and favorable consideration.

Bill Wolfe ~~~ end update]

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An Open Letter To Gov. Murphy’s Environmental Lapdogs

May 21st, 2024 No comments

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This is a deplorable record that you should be denouncing, not praising.

You are a corrupt and cowardly crowd that should be ashamed of yourselves.

My letter below is a reply to an Open Letter from “environmental” groups thanking and praising NJ Gov. Murphy. It has all the signs and smells of a political sham led by Ed Potasnak of NJ LCV, Gov. Murphy’s biggest “green” cheerleader, see:

Former Friends and Colleagues:

I was appalled – but not surprised – by your most recent effort to praise Gov. Murphy and DEP Commissioner LaTourette, and again mislead the public about numerous State Parks related issues.

Let’s begin with some context and important facts you left out of your letter:

1. According to DEP Commissioner LaTourette’s testimony to the legislature on DEP’s budget, there is a $720 million unfunded deficit in State Parks maintenance.

2. The Murphy administration’s non-response to this deficit is privatization via EXACTLY the SAME private Parks Foundation institution and non-transparent process that has been deployed in the Liberty State Park “debate”, an initiative you absurdly praise.

3. This deficit was greatly exacerbated by your own “Keep It Green” campaign, which stripped the CBT Constitutional dedication of $32 million per year to Parks (approximately $250 million since passage) and greatly reduced historic annual Green Acres funding (some of which funds parks). Since 2016, that deficit has grown from $400 million to $720 million – a HUGE backlog.

https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/environment/2017/06/28/archive-budget-cuts-doom-state-parks-disrepair/400817001/

4. Gov. Murphy killed the CBT surcharge, which reduced Open Space (and parks) funding by over $60 million so far and will continue to do so.

5. The Murphy DEP’s failure to enforce current land use and water resource regulatory authority to reduce development and land conversion has led to the loss of thousands of acres of farms and forests and wetlands and an explosion of hundreds of millions of square feet of new warehouse development.

Instead of enforcing existing law and regulation to slow that development, the administration now supports expensive buyouts, see the most recent $27 million deal:

https://www.njspotlightnews.org/video/residents-rejoice-after-preservation-plan-prevents-warehouse-development/

6. The Murphy Administration supported the siting of solar on farmlands, thus leading to hundreds of acres more losses.

7. The Murphy administration blocked the Highlands Council from pursuing more stringent forest protections, leading to the loss of more forest resources.

8. The Murphy DEP continues to pursue scientifically sham forestry management projects and has failed to close current regulatory and statutory loopholes, thereby needlessly logging and burning hundreds of acres of forests.

9. The Murphy administration has been abysmally slow and lax in addressing the destruction of Pinelands forests and wetlands by off road vehicles.

10. The Murphy administration has interfered with and undermined the independence and strength of the Pinelands Commission, just as bad as Gov. Christie did.

11. The Murphy DEP denied a petition for rulemaking to strengthen policies to reduce risks from development in high wildfire hazard locations. Yet DEP logs Pinelands forests allegedly to reduce these risks.

12. The proposed DEP “REAL” coastal sea level rise flooding regulatory initiative is based on the failed engineering approach of the past (e.g. elevated buildings and structural remedies, including beach replenishment). The proposal rejects a DEP role in saying “NO” to development proposals and it ignores real solutions like “strategic retreat’. The Murphy administration has failed to request legislative amendment to eliminate the “right to rebuild” storm damaged properties, which is a major source of the problem and driver of NJ’s nation leading repetitive flooding FEMA claims.

13. The DEP’s inland Flood hazard regulations are deeply flawed and are based on a scientifically obsolete and unreliable 100 year storm frequency statistic.

14. The DEP has not kept pace with proposal of Category One waters designation, which is allowing sensitive stream buffers to be destroyed and water quality to degrade.

15. The Murphy DEP has failed to repeal and strengthen several land use and water resource regulatory rollbacks by the Whitman and Christie DEPs.

16. There were numerous stealth efforts by the Murphy administration to privatize Liberty State Park. The examples are too detailed to mention here, but Sam Pesin is fully aware of them and can brief you. The Gov. did not support legislation to block privatization.

17. The final plans for “redevelopment” of Liberty State Park will be made in Trenton by the Legislature, not DEP. So, DEP is not in control of the final disposition of their plans at this point in time.

18. The Murphy administration has turned the State Plan from a land use plan to an economic development and business promotion platform (worse than Gov. Christie’s “Red Tape” Commission).

19. Finally, the Murphy Administration is the first Democratic administration in my career horizon (40 years) that I recall has no land use protection or environmental legacy.

And this list is just off the top of my head – I missed several others.

This is a deplorable record that you should be denouncing, not praising.

You are a corrupt and cowardly crowd that should be ashamed of yourselves.

[PS – instead of kissing the Gov.’s ass, right now you should be conducting a full court press to demand a veto of the bill to gut the Open Public Records Act. DEP already abuses that law to suppress science and operate in secrecy.] 

Bill Wolfe

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National Lawsuit Challenging Biden EPA’s Failure To Update Industrial Pollution Control Requirements Has Huge Implications For NJ

May 16th, 2024 No comments

EPA’s National Pollution Control Technology Requirements Are 30 – 50 Years Old

NJ Industrial Polluters Are Subject To These Obsolete Lax Standards

NJ Environmental Groups Abandoned Regulatory Work A Decade Ago

A coalition of over 50 national and local environmental groups recently filed a lawsuit against US EPA (only the Raritan Riverkeeper signed on from NJ).

The lawsuit challenges EPA’s failure to update critically important industrial pollution control technology requirements for major industrial polluters, see:

The lawsuit addresses major industrial toxic polluters, including Organic chemical and plastics plants, Plastics molding and forming, Fertilizer plants, Inorganic chemicals, Nonferrous metals Manufacturing, and pesticide plants.  (Notification letter to EPA):

In a 2019 opinion addressing national technology-based pollution limits, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit made clear that, “The Act therefore mandates a system in which, as available pollution control technologies advances, pollution discharge limits will tighten.” The court then chastised the agency for taking so long to revise discharge limits for power plants that dated back to 1982, “…the same year that saw the release of the first CD player, the Sony Watchman pocket television, and the Commodore 64 home computer.”

EPA has continued to ignore its statutory mandate and the Fifth Circuit’s warning. As can be seen in the chart below this letter, the discharge limits for 40 of the 59 industries subject to these standards are between 30 and 50 years old, including those applying to Inorganic Chemicals (1984), Petroleum Refining (1985), Fertilizer Manufacturing (1986), and the makers of Organic Chemicals, Plastics, and Synthetic Fibers (1994). As a result, many chemical plants, refineries, and other industrial facilities continue to discharge high volumes of nitrogen, phosphorus, salts, and chemical toxins that contribute to algae growth, endanger fish and other aquatic life, or limit the public’s use of river, lakes, and estuaries. Excepting the recently revised wastewater limits for coal-fired power plants, EPA has not completed action to bring the technology-based standards up to date for any industrial category for at least twenty years.

Because many industrial pollution sources in NJ are subject to these obsolete and lax EPA national standards, there are huge implications for NJ in terms of public health and environmental quality. This is especially critical because NJ relies on surface water (rivers) for drinking water supply and these rivers receive millions of gallons of toxic industrial discharges. DEP does not mandate state of the art treatment to remove these chemicals from drinking water.

I wrote about this issue 12 years ago, see:

It is difficult if not impossible to understand the full implications for NJ, because the NJ DEP no longer issues annual Reports that historically provided this information.

As DEP’s website – which hasn’t been updated for over a decade – states:

In 1990, the Legislature enacted substantial amendments to the Water Pollution Control Act (WPCA), commonly known as the Clean Water Enforcement Act, P.L. 1990, c. 28 (CWEA). The CWEA requires the department to inspect permitted facilities and municipal treatment works at least annually. Additional inspections are required when the permittee is identified as a significant noncomplier. The CWEA also requires the assessment of mandatory minimum penalties for violations of the WPCA that are considered serious violations and for violations by permittees designated as significant noncompliers.

The CWEA requires the department to submit a report on the implementation of the CWEA’s requirements to the Governor and the Legislature by March 31 of each year. The statute also specifies the items that the department must include in the report. The department has organized the required information into several categories, including Permitting, Enforcement, Delegated Local Agencies, Criminal Actions, Fiscal, and Water Quality Assessment.

(I took a screen shot, because this page will almost certainly be taken down).

The NJ DEP has not issued the legally mandated annual CWEA Report since 2010, 14 years ago!

I wrote to NJ legislators and DEP Commissioner LaTourette to demand that DEP comply with CWEA Reporting requirements and upgrade NJ State water pollution discharge permit limits based on current science and technology. Let’s hope our environmental groups and press corps wake up, see:

———- Original Message ———-

From: Bill WOLFE <b>

To: senbsmith <SenBSmith@njleg.org>, sengreenstein <sengreenstein@njleg.org>, “senmckeon@njleg.org” <senmckeon@njleg.org>, “asmScharfenberger@njleg.org” <asmScharfenberger@njleg.org>

Cc: “shawn.latourette@dep.nj.gov” <shawn.latourette@dep.nj.gov>, “fkummer@inquirer.com” <fkummer@inquirer.com>, “wparry@ap.org” <wparry@ap.org>, “jonhurdle@gmail.com” <jonhurdle@gmail.com>, “ferencem@njspotlightnews.org” <ferencem@njspotlightnews.org>, domalley <domalley@environmentnewjersey.org>, “agoldsmith@cleanwater.org” <agoldsmith@cleanwater.org>, “dpringle1988@gmail.com” <dpringle1988@gmail.com>, Anjuli Ramos <anjuli.ramos@sierraclub.org>, “Taylor McFarland, NJ Sierra Club” <taylor.mcfarland@sierraclub.org>, Maya K van Rossum <maya@forthegenerations.org>, “tracy@delawareriverkeeper.org” <tracy@delawareriverkeeper.org>, MJ King <trhugger@yahoo.com>, Julia Somers <julia@njhighlandscoalition.org>, Ruga Elliott <elliott@njhighlandscoalition.org>, Mark Lohbauer <mlohbauer@jgscgroup.com>, “ben.spinelli@highlands.nj.gov” <ben.spinelli@highlands.nj.gov>, “keith.cooper@rutgers.edu” <keith.cooper@rutgers.edu>

Date: 05/16/2024 8:43 AM EDT

Subject: Clean Water – Lawsuit

Dear Chairman Smith and Legislators:

I write to bring your attention to NJ specific implications of a recent lawsuit filed by 50 environmental groups challenging US EPA’s failure to update Clean Water Act pollution control technology requirements and effluent guidelines for industrial pollution sources, see:

Coalition Takes Action Against EPA for Failing to Implement Clean Water Act

https://environmentalintegrity.org/news/action-against-epa-for-failing-to-implement-clean-water-act/

The discharge limits for 40 of the 59 industries subject to these standards are between 30 and 50 years old, including those applying to Inorganic Chemicals (1984), Petroleum Refining (1985), Fertilizer Manufacturing (1986), and the makers of Organic Chemicals, Plastics, and Synthetic Fibers (1994). As a result, many chemical plants, refineries, and other industrial facilities continue to discharge high volumes of nitrogen, phosphorus, salts, and chemical toxins that contribute to algae growth, endanger fish and other aquatic life, or limit the public’s use of river, lakes, and estuaries. Excepting the recently revised wastewater limits for coal-fired power plants, EPA has not completed action to bring the technology-based standards up to date for any industrial category for at least twenty years.”

https://environmentalintegrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/Updated-CWA-sign-on-letter-5.2.24.pdf

There are many industrial facilities in New Jersey that are subject to these obsolete EPA effluent guidelines. The NJ DEP issued water pollution control permits (NJPDES) for many of these facilities are governed by the flawed industrial effluent guidelines. According to DEP’s most recent CWEA Report (2010),DEP regulates 640 point source discharges to NJ waters.

As a result, the large majority of NJ’s waters fail to meet surface water quality standards. This is particularly important to public health and environmental quality given NJ’s industrial legacy, population density, reliance on surface waters for drinking water supplies and lack of state of the art drinking water treatment systems to remove toxic chemicals.

It is difficult to determine even approximately how many facilities in NJ are subject to these obsolete and lax industrial effluent guidelines and where those pollution discharges are located (e.g. upstream of water supply intakes), because the NJ DEP has failed to issue the annual Report mandated by the Clean Water Enforcement Act for 14 years. That’s right: DEP has failed to comply with the CWEA for 14 years. See:

https://www.nj.gov/dep/enforcement/report-cwea.html

Similarly, NJ DEP’s Clean Water Act water quality Reports mandated by Section 303(d) and 305(b) have been seriously watered down over the last 15 years such that there is literally no information or data analysis provided to the public about water quality conditions, permit issues, or compliance and enforcement status.

Given these facts, I urge you to conduct oversight of NJ DEP’s water pollution control permitting program and enact much needed mandates to NJ DEP to comply with current reporting requirements under the CWEA and adopt NJ specific effluent guidelines and pollution control requirements given US EPA’s failure to update them.

Bill Wolfe

End Note: I wrote about a US GAO Report on these EPA failures 12 years ago, so NJ DEP is fully aware of these issues, see:

GAO Report Finds EPA Fails To Control Industrial Water Polluters

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2012/10/gao-report-finds-epa-fails-to-control-industrial-water-polluters/

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Blinken’s Twisted Theft Of Neil Young Is The Epitome Of The Biden Administration

May 15th, 2024 No comments

Slogans And Ill Timed Symbolic Gestures Mask Catastrophically Failed Policy

Arrogant Clueless Faces In High Places

As If Nixon Sang “Ohio”

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Bill Clinton was known for “triangulation” – so we need to craft a similarly notorious term for Biden’s cynical hypocrisy, where he says one thing to provide political cover for doing the exact opposite. (“Bidenocrisy”?) ~~~ just 3 days ago

Biden Secretary of State Blinken is being widely mocked on the Internets for his ridiculous “performance” of Neil Young’s classic “Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World” in a bar in Kiev, Ukraine.

But actually, his absurd Karaoke of Young comes very, very close to perfectly revealing the essential Modus Operandi (MO) of the Biden Administration: i.e. cluelessness, incompetence, arrogance, Orwellian doublespeak, delusion, and a pattern of ill timed empty slogans and symbolic gestures designed to mask policy failures.

Blinken’s performance came precisely at a moment when US and western media are finally recognizing that the Russians are on the verge of a humiliating dominating military victory in the Ukraine proxy war – exposing a massive strategic failure by the Biden Administration.

Blinken’s performance exposed the fact the he had absolutely no clue about the substantive content and meaning of his performance. No clue about the timing of his display. No clue about how he is received by a world audience or the people of Ukraine, who have suffered over 500,000 dead and had their country wrecked by a US led proxy war. As Professor Mearsheimer wrote way back in 2014: Ukraine has been led down the garden path:

U.S. and European leaders blundered in attempting to turn Ukraine into a Western stronghold on Russia’s border. Now that the consequences have been laid bare, it would be an even greater mistake to continue this misbegotten policy.

Blinken has shown exactly those same flaws in his official capacity as Secretary of State.

The perverse irony is that Neil Young’s song was written in 1989 to savage the cruel Neoliberal lies of the Reagan trickle down economics and Bush I Administration’s war machine, which are now perfectly replicated by the Biden team:

There’s colors on the street
Red, white and blue
People shufflin’ their feet
People sleepin’ in their shoes
But there’s a warnin’ sign on the road ahead
There’s a lot of people sayin’ we’d be better off dead…

We got a thousand points of light
For the homeless man
We got a kinder, gentler machine gun hand
We got department stores and toilet paper
Got Styrofoam boxes for the ozone layer
Got a man of the people, says keep hope alive
Got fuel to burn, got roads to drive

Listen to Neil perform it.

What’s next?

An AI generated version of Nixon singing Ohio? (turn up your sound!)

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NJ Democrats Pushing Legislation To Sue Citizens For “Interfering With Government Operations” For Requesting Public Records

May 13th, 2024 No comments

Bill Would Gut Open Public Records Act

Current Law Already Routinely Abused To Keep Documents Secret

Redacted

Redacted

I admit that I’ve been “interfering with government operations” for decades now.

The inteference began in 1985 as a government employee at DEP, fighting from the inside as a guerrilla bureaucrat for the public interests against incompetent, corrupt, and improperly motivated careerist colleagues. It expanded as a whistleblower forced out of DEP in 1995 (weeks before vesting in the pension system) for blowing the whistle on lies about and suppression of science on the risks of toxic mercury, and continued until the present as an advocate and activist.

So, I have some skin in this game and frankly am appalled – but not surprised – by efforts by NJ Democrats to gut the State’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

I have reached out to NJ reporters hundreds of times over those decades to point out the specific abuses of the OPRA law by DEP bureaucrats seeking to coverup bad policy or suppress science. Not once have they ever written a news report about any of that.

I’ve worked with former Senator Weinberg on OPRA reforms to close loopholes and correct judicial opinions that have severely narrowed the scope and effectiveness of OPRA, but those efforts went nowhere. Again, NJ media provided very little support and coverage.

So, I have a bit of a problem with the NJ Press Association’s sudden wakeup and strong opposition to the rollback of OPRA – had they done their jobs over the years and defended and supported OPRA, there would be far less chance for legislators to think they could get away with this bullshit rollback.

Good editorial today by my former colleague Dena Mottolla in NJ Spotlight that correctly frames the issue.

Below is my letter to Legislators that provides a few stunning examples of what I’ve disclosed under OPRA:

———- Original Message ———-

From: Bill WOLFE <b>

To: “sensarlo@njleg.org” <sensarlo@njleg.org>, sengreenstein <sengreenstein@njleg.org>, senbsmith <SenBSmith@njleg.org>, “asmScharfenberger@njleg.org” <asmScharfenberger@njleg.org>, “senmckeon@njleg.org” <senmckeon@njleg.org>

Cc: “tmoran@starledger.com” <tmoran@starledger.com>, “O’Neill, James” <ONeillJ@northjersey.com>, “wparry@ap.org” <wparry@ap.org>, “fkummer@inquirer.com” <fkummer@inquirer.com>, “ferencem@njspotlightnews.org” <ferencem@njspotlightnews.org>, “jonhurdle@gmail.com” <jonhurdle@gmail.com>, “shawn.latourette@dep.nj.gov” <shawn.latourette@dep.nj.gov>

Date: 05/13/2024 7:50 AM EDT

Subject: OPRA Bill – Just Say NO!

Dear Legislators:

According to your OPRA bill, for decades, I have been “interfering with government operations”.

I’ve been “interfering” by filing hundreds of OPRA requests, by twice successfully suing DEP for denying my OPRA requests, and by publicly distributing the results of OPRA responses that reveal everything from: 1) DEP Gag Orders issued to scientists to suppress scientific research on chromium and “forever chemicals”, 2) to memoranda authorizing building schools on radioactive and hazardous toxic waste sites, 3) to knowing failure to protect toddlers from toxic mercury they knew was present in a day care center.

If you find the latter claim incredible, read this NY Times story:

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection knew in 1994 that a building that later housed a Gloucester County day care center was so dangerous that state inspectors were instructed to use respirators when entering the building, according to an internal memo obtained by The New York Times yesterday.

But the site remained contaminated, and as far as the department knew, unoccupied, until inspectors visited it in April and found that Kiddie Kollege, a day care center serving children as young as 8 months old, was operating in the building. Yet the center, which is in Franklin Township, was allowed to remain open for more than three months, until state environmental investigators determined in late July that the site was still contaminated. […]

The internal memo, dated Oct. 12, 1994, said “Level C at a minimum is required for entry into the building,” meaning respirators were required, said Bill Wolfe, a former department employee who is the director of New Jersey Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group that provided a copy of the memo.

I spent 13 years at DEP and am fully aware of the data, science, and policy documents and deliberations that DEP generates and restricts from public knowledge.

Over those decades, DEP has denied scores of my OPRA requests, by abusing various loopholes in OPRA or invoking judicial case law that has severely narrowed the scope of OPRA.

DEP routinely denies my OPRA requests as “overly broad”; “deliberative privilege” and requiring the “conduct of research”.

It is rare to be provided internal emails on virtually anything. Virtually everything is classified “deliberative”, much in the same way that tobacco and chemical industry scientists stamped their research as “attorney client communication” to keep their science and professional opinions secret.

The current law and agency implementation of OPRA are an abuse of the public and principles of democratic government, transparency, and accountability  – the law must be expanded, not rolled back.

Bill Wolfe

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