View From The Back Of The Bus

June 4th, 2023 No comments

A Peek At The Cascades

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We’ve made it to the Cascades!

Great campsite in Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest just below Hart’s Pass – Slate Peak (see photos of what it looks like up top!).

Bouy is still hanging in there, but almost completely unable to use his back legs.

Curiously, unlike all the western streams and rivers flowing high with record snowmelt, the stream (offshoot of the Methow River) that kept us alive during the 117 degree extreme weather 2 years ago is not flowing at all. Bone dry. Check out how that stream looked in August 2021.

I thought that maybe it was dammed up to stop the diversion off the river and walked upstream a few hundred yards. Nope. The river is just flowing very low. I have no idea why – maybe this eastern side of the Cascades didn’t get the record snowfall, or maybe it’s all melted and runoff (there is no snow on the peaks I can see right now).

We’ll ask around and find out what’s up – curious that the stream would be flowing strong in mid August 2021 but bone dry in early June this year.

[End Note: The headline of this post is intentional snark.

In listening to various BBC or NPR news reports, I just learned that in addition to my white, male, cis, hetero-normative privileges, I apparently enjoy other important privileges and suffer additional guilts.

These now include “thin body” privilege and the fact that I speak and write in “institutional language”.

I am so sick of the identity politics and culture wars. My goodness, I learned about the terms “cis” and “trans” in high school chemistry, terms that defined chemical bond structures.

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NJ Legislators To Consider A Bill To Ban And Label Certain Products Containing PFAS “Forever Chemicals”

June 2nd, 2023 No comments

Bill Needs Work – Significant Gaps And No Industry Funding

The Senate Environment Committee will hear a bill, S3177 (Smith, Greenstein) next Thursday 6/8/23 that would ban and mandate labeling for certain products that contain PFAS, so called “forever chemicals”. (Read the proposed Protecting Against Forever Chemicals Act”.

The bill is “for discussion only”, meaning that there will be testimony but the Committee will take no action on the bill.

The bill was introduced last October, along with a flawed companion bill (S3176). I wrote to criticize that bill which would require a duplicative and unnecessary DEP study of drinking water treatment technologies for PFAS chemicals. That bill is stalled in the Senate Budget Committee, see:

So, it is unclear why the bill was posted for consideration by Chairman Smith (a co-sponsor) at this time or if he’s abandoned the flawed drinking water treatment companion bill.

After a cursory review, I noted that the bill needs some work.

I can’t understand Senator Smith’s strategy. It would be a far better idea to introduce the strongest and most comprehensive bill imaginable, and then negotiate with industry to scale it back, than to introduce the current bill that needs to be expanded and strengthened by amendments.

Although I am not up to speed on these issues, I wrote to suggest amendments to consider to address some of the glaring gaps. Let’s hope the bill gets some strong testimony and media attention.

A legislative ban on products in commerce is a bold tactic that needs to be used more often – the labelling approach, not so much.

The status and role of the DEP PFAS lawsuits also need to be explored in detail (see this and this):

Dear Chairman Smith and Senator Greenstein:

Please accept the following suggested amendments to improve your bill, S3177,  the proposed “Protecting Against Forever Chemicals Act”.

1. PFAS in Food – Including Mothers’ Milk

The bill fails to include food as a source of human exposure to PFAS compounds.

Mothers’ milk and commercial food products, including fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, and certain meats and food crops have been found to contain unsafe levels of PFAS. (Sources: see


FDA PFAS Food Sampling Program:

See also:

IN-DEPTH: What we know about PFAS in our food

Certain food products should be included in the “biota” sampling program established by Section 17.

2. Agricultural Sources

Farms that have land applied sewage sludges have been found to have unacceptably high levels of PFAS in soils and certain crops. Such farms should be included in the DEP PFAS sampling program in the bill. See:

3. Section 16 – Source reduction – Ongoing DEP regulatory program

The bill’s approach to “Source reduction” is inconsistent with and in conflict with NJ law, regulation, and policy pursuant to the Pollution Prevention Act and the Solid Waste Management Act (as amended by the Toxic packaging Reduction Act and Dry Cell Battery Management Act).

Both those laws address and establish a DEP regulatory program for toxics use reduction and impose obligations on the private sector and manufacturers.

With respect to private section PFAS manufacturer obligations, the bill merely requires:

“(1) informational resources targeted to industrial and commercial users of PFAS;”

The bill should be amended to include a definitions of “source reduction” consistent with the above referenced laws and in addition to the bans, require additional reductions in PFAS use. Please see the statutory definition of “Pollution Prevention” and the DEP’s regulatory definition of “Source reduction”.

4. Funding

There is no fiscal note on the State government costs of implementing the bill.

The bill includes a one time $5 million General Fund appropriation. That’s a good start, but far more funding is required to implement the program mandated by the bill.

Importantly, PFAS manufacturers and responsible parties must bear the large burden of funding and the bill only includes small administrative fees.

I understand that DEP is seeking financial recovery of costs through various lawsuits (see this and this), but that recovery is highly uncertain and even if successfully litigated would occur until far into the future (and some recovered funds would be constitutionally dedicated for other uses).

Perhaps a direct fee on the manufacture, distribution and use of PFAS – including historical production – would be an equitable funding approach to recovering these huge costs.

5. Firefighting Foams and other PFAS products

I understand that firefighting foams are a major source of PFAS. They should be included in the bill for bans, phase outs, and source reduction/pollution prevention requirements.

Additionally, there are other products containing PFAS that are not specified in the bill that should be. Here is ATSDR data for your consideration

I appreciate your favorable consideration.

Bill Wolfe

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NJ Soil Conservation Service Says Clearcutting Wetland Forests Is Unregulated Agricultural Activity

May 31st, 2023 No comments

DEP Forestry Wetlands BMP Manual Exempts Forestry From Wetlands Permits

The Supreme Court’s decision to gut wetlands protections under the Clean Water Act has shone a bright spotlight on the importance of clearly defining the scope of what’s know as “regulated activity”, see: Sackett v. EPA

In response to this decision, many falsely claim that NJ’s wetlands are adequately protected under NJ State wetlands laws, see:

Belying those claims, the recent case of DEP’s clearcutting over 20 acres of forested wetlands illustrates huge loopholes in NJ wetlands and other laws and regulations.

Specifically, the DEP wetlands laws exempt forestry and the Soil Conservation Service says that “Woodland / Forestry Management is recognized as a form of agriculture” and exempt from soil erosion and sediment control and other environmental laws.

So, I wrote to Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith to demand that he conduct oversight on and close these loopholes in his upcoming forestry legislation:

Dear Chairman Smith –

I write to you in light of the US Supreme Court’s controversial decision on the scope of the Clean Water Act regulation of wetlands as “waters of the United States”, a decision that highlighted the critical importance of clearly defining the scope and applicability of regulatory requirements (see: Sackett v. EPA ).

Given that you are considering forestry legislation that involves wetlands impacts and regulatory issues, I thought it important to bring the important issue described below to your attention regarding the NJ Soil Conservation Service’s interpretation of regulated activity under NJ’s State soil erosion and sediment control act with respect to “Agricultural or Horticultural Activities” that adversely impact wetlands.

The Gloucester County Soil Conservation District, relying on State law and regulation, has found that the Act is “not applicable” to an over 20 acre clearcut of mature forest and forested wetlands. SCS found that “Woodland / Forestry Management is recognized as a form of agriculture.”

This determination (provided below) was made with respect to the DEP logging at the Glassboro Wildlife Management Area (WMA). SCS regulations apparently define that clearcut logging and wetlands destruction as unregulated “Agricultural or Horticultural Activities”.

As you know, DEP issued enforcement action for the wetlands destruction.

Soil Conservation standards and soil erosion and sediment control permit requirements include, among other things, delineation of wetlands. see Appendix 2

“Delineating of streams, wetlands, pursuant to NJSA 13:9B and other significant natural features within the project area.”

Had DEP’s “forest management” work been subject to SCS permit requirements, the Glassboro WMA wetlands would have ben delineated and not destroyed.

Therefore, the exemption of “Agricultural or Horticultural Activities” that adversely impact wetlands is an important issue, given the scope of that definition as applied to “forestry management”.

In addition, the DEP “Forestry And Wetlands Best Management Practices Manual” (1995) includes “Regulations and Procedures For Wetlands And Buffers”.


That DEP BMP Manual states:

“Forestry activities have been granted a conditional exemption of the requirement of needing a wetlands permit”.

The condition requires approval of a Forest Management Plan by the State Forester.

For private lands, even that approval is not required:

“Normal silvicultural activities, ongoing as of 1987, are exempt from the requirement of a wetlands permit without an approved forest management plan, as long as the practices are conducted in accordance with the BMP’s”.

I strongly urge you to conduct oversight of DEP and SCS regarding these issues and close these loopholes in your forestry legislation.

Bill Wolfe

c: DEP Commissioner LaTourette

———- Original Message ———-

From: Karol Blew <>

To: Bill WOLFE <>

Date: 05/24/2023 5:45 PM PDT

Subject: Re: EXTERNALRe: EXTERNALRe: Fwd: DEP staff false certification of soil conservation application

Mr. Wolfe –

In accordance with N.J.A.C. 2:90, Subchapter 1 – Soil Erosion and Sediment Control on Land Disturbance Activities

2:90-1.8 Clearing or Grading of Land

(a)    Except as provided in (b) and (c) below, a person proposing to engage in or who is engaging in clearing or grading of more than 5,000 square feet of land shall be subject to the act unless such land disturbance is for agricultural or horticultural purposes.  To demonstrate to the district that such activity is related to proposed agricultural or horticultural activities, the owner shall provide proof that the land is enrolled in a farmland preservation program, eligible for farmland assessment, qualifies for right-to-farm protections or possesses a farm conservation plan or forest management plan, timber harvest sale contract or other proofs deemed appropriate by the district.

Non-Applicable Activities

Agricultural or Horticultural Activities:

The Act is not applicable to clearing or grading of land for agricultural or horticultural proposes under certain circumstances.  Proof that the land is enrolled in a farmland preservation program, eligible for farmland assessment, qualifies for right-to-farm protections, or possesses a farm conservation plan or forest management plan, timber harvest sale contract or proofs deemed appropriate by the district must be provided to demonstrate that such activity is associated with agricultural or horticultural activities.

The project in question – habitat creation for the American Woodcock – consisted of clearing wooded/vegetated areas and replanting vegetation in those cleared areas.    The following documents were submitted to the District in support of the Request for Determination of Non-Applicability – U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service American Woodcock Population Status, 2022; USDA NRCS Wildlife Insight No. 89, American Woodcock: Habitat Best Management Practices for the Northeast; American Woodcock Conservation Plan – A Summary of and Recommendations for Woodcock Conservation in North America; American Ornithology Research Article – Migratory status determines resource selection by American Woodcock at an important fall stopover, Cape May, New Jersey; and Glassboro Wildlife Management Area Woodcock Habitat Creation document.

Woodland / Forestry Management is recognized as a form of agriculture.  The project is removing areas of vegetation and replanting other vegetation in those areas.  No impervious areas (parking lots, structures, etc.) are included in this project.

As previously discussed over the phone, a project that is “Exempt” from the Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Act is not required to obtain a Request for Determination of Non-Applicability.


Appeal Process: Any person aggrieved by a decision or action of the district shall first submit a written request for reconsideration to the District within 10 working days of the action taken.  The Request for Determination of Non-Applicability was approved on March 23, 2023.


Oversight: The State Soil Conservation Committee oversees the soil conservation districts.


Karol Blew

Gloucester Co Soil Conservation District

545 Beckett Road, Suite 107

Swedesboro, NJ  08085

(856) 589-5250



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How The Game Is Now Played (We’re Way Beyond “Rigged”)

May 20th, 2023 No comments

A Tightly Knit Circle Of Corporate Corruption And Abuse Of The Public Interest

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(Source: NJ Audubon Annual Report (2022)

One of my favorite writers on media, Caitlin Johnstone, wrote an excellent piece today about the propaganda function of US media:

To support her argument, she used an example of the Council On Foreign Relations (CFR), outlining the relationships between military defense contractors on the CFR Board, lobbying, Pentagon budgets, CFR research and Report topics, and propaganda in support of wars that create demand for military weapons spending to boost the profits of the weapons manufacturers on the CFR Board.

A Tightly Knit Circle Of Corporate Corruption And Abuse Of The Public Interest.

I submitted the following comment on Caitlin’s piece regarding issues I’ve often written about here and offered up an example that closely followed her CFR example:

It’s not just the war profiteers that engage the self interested propaganda game you outline.

Case in point: The NJ Audubon Society (publicly considered wealthy birders) are led by a former Exxon Mobil corporate scientist named Alex Ireland. Mr. Ireland appeared in a recent press release issued by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection announcing a sweetheart settlement deal with corporate chemical giant polluter BASF at a massive 1,400 acre toxic waste site in Toms River NJ that is known to have been the cause of a childhood cancer cluster where scores of children died of rare cancers (read the NJ Dept. of Health Cancer Cluster Report). Ignoring that historical tragedy, Mr. Ireland profusely praised this settlement in terms of its benefits to the local community (it involved creation of a small “nature park”). Mr. Ireland’s quote was widely printed by the media.

New Jersey Audubon enthusiastically supports this use of Natural Resources Damages to create forests and parks in Toms River. … NJDEP and BASF have worked together to clean up and restore a contaminated area for residents to enjoy. This project is particularly significant in that the funding is going directly back to the community that experienced the damages from contamination. said Alex Ireland, President and CEO of New Jersey Audubon. ~~~ DEP Press Release 12/5/22

(Mr. Ireland surely knows that neither BASF nor DEP are “creating forests” and that the site is nowhere near completely “cleaned up and restored” . Just the opposite: Even EPA admits that the site won’t be cleaned up for at least 20 – 30 years:

“The FYR has been prepared due to the fact that hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants remain at the site above levels that allow for unlimited use and unrestricted exposure (UU/UE).” 

And the DEP BASF NRD deal explicitly allows BASF to sell and/or develop a 210 acre forested parcel which will reduce current total forested land cover. So he’s a liar too.) 

Two days before the deal was announced publicly, despite keeping the community in the dark, the DEP Commissioner met secretly with friendly hand picked environmental groups (including NJ Audubon) to request their public support for the deal, which they agreed to do.

Immediately after the deal was publicly announced, the local government passed a Resolution and the Mayor spoke publicly to condemn the dirty deal. Residents were outraged about it and blasted the NJ DEP at a public session held AFTER the deal was negotiated behind their back and executed without their knowledge or input.

Now here are the cherries on top: 

1) BASF (and Exxon Mobil) have been longtime “major donors” to NJ Audubon, a fact that is in NJA annual financial reports (see above and below tables) and not hard to find out, but never reported by media. Curiously, just prior to this BASF deal, NJ Audubon received an “anonymous” (in other words, dark money) “gift” of $6 MILLION, which they openly bragged about as the largest in their organization’s history; and

2) DEP Commissioner LaTourette previously represented BASF as a corporate lawyer, yet failed to disclose that conflict and recuse from BASF involvement.)

So there it all is: 1) revolving door; 2) propaganda; 3) regulatory capture; 4) undisclosed and unreported gross conflicts of interest; 5) dark money; 6) lapdog corporate media; 7) self serving schemes between corporations, so called non-profit public interest groups, and government (conspiracies); 8) secret government; 9) mutually reinforcing funding; and 10) corporate poisoning of people and violations of environmental laws that goes unpunished.

And this is just one example – the same organization NJA formed a partnership with Donald Trump at his Bedminster NJ golf course for which Trump got media praise and corporate tax credits (and preferential treatment – the personal intervention of DEP Commissioner Martin – and lax enforcement by the Christie DEP for significant violations of water allocation regulations and permits.)

Billionaire Peter Kellogg is a “major donor” to NJA too. That’s the same man who paid NJA $330,000 to draft the Sparta Mt. logging plan and bought off NJ DEP staff and conservationists.

And none of this is an anomaly – it’s how even the environmental groups now play the game.


I really can’t understand how a so called environmental organization can take money from a corporation and then advocate specifically for policies that benefit that corporation – and without disclosure – and then the media ignores these egregious conflicts entirely. The rest of the environmental community goes right along and has no problem with this. What the hell has gone wrong?

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Smoked Out On The Gallatin River

May 19th, 2023 No comments

Climate Chaos Becomes Inescapable

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It rained really hard Wednesday night, with hail that covered the windshield and lightening that terrified the dog.

Given that I was parked on soft muddy ground before the rain even started and the Gallatin River – less than 20 feet away and maybe 12 inches below my rear wheels  – was running furiously fast bank to bank full with snowmelt, I started to worry if I would be flooded out or unable to get out of the mud in the morning. Oops!

This storm was the latest in a series of setbacks and disappointments in our spring migration.

It was too cold on Mingus Mountain. The heat drove us out of the valley in Cottonwood, Az. The tourists were thick in gorgeous Sedona so we drove right on through. Our gorgeous mature ponderosa pine forest campsite in the Coconino National Forest just outside Flagstaff was closed due to huge winter snowfall and mud. Heat drove us out of Marble Canyon. The north side of the Grand Canyon was closed until June 2 due to record snowfall. All the forest service roads into Kaibab NF were blocked by snow.

All symptoms of Climate Chaos.

But getting smoked out of Gallatin River in the National Forest was a whole new experience.

I’ve been extremely lucky over the last 7 years of rambling western lands in narrowly missing the western wildfires and smoke. (I was in Paradise Ca. just before the massive wildfire and we were lucky to not die in the record PNW 117 degree heat wave). Only once was I caught in smoke in Oregon, and a drive of 100 miles or so south got me out in a few hours.

But the Gallatin smoke is regional. Huge. Inescapable.

Little did I know that it originated hundreds of miles north in British Columbia.

For me, the smoke began in the Gallatin River valley (just north of West Yellowstone) on Wednesday night. I actually thought it might be morning fog on Thursday after a cold night of hard rain.

Thinking it was smoke from a local fire, I headed north towards Bozeman to get away from it.

For months now, I had been  slowly meandering north up the mountain, with plans to visit Banff (BC, Canada) and loop west across Canada down to the summer spot on Puget sound.

I don’t follow the news or the weather and was unaware of the massive wildfires in British Columbia just north of Banff.

Well, I sure found out the hard way. It was not a local fire.

The choking smoke on Thursday as I travelled Rt. 191 into Bozeman was incredible – you could not see any mountains and visibility was about a half a mile.

I overnighted in the Walmart and this morning it wasn’t any better. I didn’t even go into town. I just got the hell out of there.

I can’t tell you how horrifying this kind of smoke is.

And the physical effects – burning throat, shortness of breath, watering eyes, constant headache – are the smallest part of it.

It is incredibly depressing. It creates an overwhelming sense of oppression and inability to escape. An almost panic like sense of choking and helplessness (“I can’t breath!”). Everything beautiful and that you love just completely destroyed.

Not only no fun, but impossible to be outside. No escape. Living hell. Anger. Rage. Despair.

I drove over 200 miles west to Missoula to get over the continental divide in hopes of escape.

But it’s just as bad here right now, but even worse, because it’s 85  degrees and it will be 95 tomorrow in central Washington where I’ll probably end up before I can make my way west across and get some relief up on Puget Sound PNW Cascadia.

Climate Chaos sucks. And it’s becoming completely inescapable.

[End Note:  I listen to the BBC overnight and am usually half asleep, so can’t provide details, but I heard 2 incredible stories this morning:

1) Canadian researcher spoke about how arctic warming was causing a slow down in the jet stream and how that led to extended high pressure heat domes, which are contributing to the British Columbia record wildfires;

2) another scientist (U Florida) doing west coast Pacific Ocean work found that changes in temperature were leading to changes in stratification, which in turn has an impact on the deep deposit and storage of carbon from algae and small predators (krill). There also were changes in rates of photosynthesis, light penetration, and carbon sequestration. There could be a huge reduction in the role of oceans in storing carbon. Huge implications of that. (PS – This science is not new. Ocean warming, acidification, and changes in habitat, currents, and migratory patterns were primary reasons why we wrote legislation to create a science based Ocean Protection Council back in 2007, including public involvement in that science and policy).

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