Corporate Murder In Newark, New Jersey

July 16th, 2018 No comments

PSEG turns off electric power, killing poor black woman 

A Tale of Corporate Greed and bureaucratic banality of evil

NJ sounding like a failed state

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. ~~~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Awoke to NPR news reports of protests in Iraq – among other things, people are facing record temperatures and they lack electric power.

NPR was quick to blame Iran for turning off the power, while, of course, failing to mention that it was US bombs that destroyed Iraq’s electric grid.

Similar shameful journalistic propaganda is happening in NJ too.

After listening to NPR, reading today’s NJ Spotlight story this morning, I just learned of the murder of a poor black Newark woman named Linda Daniels.

Here’s how NJ Spotlight reporter Tom Johnson casually referred to that murder:

The concerns about high utility bills flared again last week when a Newark woman died after her power was cut off because of an unpaid electric bill to PSE&G, shutting off oxygen that she needed.

Johnson’s “reporting” was cowardly and depraved – but not nearly as morally repugnant and shameful as longtime Star Ledger editorial board member and columnist Tom Moran’s take.

After crying crocodile tears for Ms. Daniels, Moran got down to dollars:

That was no act of God. Electricity rates in New Jersey are among the highest in the country, and one reason is that we lard electric bills with added charges, mostly because raising taxes is a steeper climb, politically, than raising fees.

New Jersey is spending more than $1 billion a year to fight climate change, all financed through regressive electricity bills. Before long, the number could easily reach $2 billion.

So, after this awful death of this good woman, it’s time to take a second look at that. Fighting climate change is imperative. But putting such a heavy cost on the shoulders of people like Linda Daniels is just wrong. …

Gov. Phil Murphy just signed a bill to boost solar subsidies to about $600 million a year, even though our program is the second most wasteful in the nation, measured by the dollar cost of each unit of electricity generated, according to Stefanie Brand, the state’s Ratepayer Advocate.

All that drives up costs for people like Daniels, and it is spinning out of control. Next up is a subsidy for offshore wind.

Did you get that?

The causes of this crime – and the correct focus of the story – are not NJ’s laws regarding electric utility shutoff; or PSEG’s shutoff policy and the bureaucratic banality of evil; or PSEG’s lust for even larger obscene corporate profits; or PSEG’s outright murder of this poor woman.

No, the fault is that were are spending too much on climate change and what Moran euphemistically refers to as “added charges” on electric bills (he is referring to the Societal Benefits Charge and upcoming new RGGI charges).

Of course, Senate President Sweeney – blood on his hands fresh after leading the moist recent mutli-billion dollar PSEG nuke blackmail bailout – piles on:

“I’ve always been nervous about our energy policy, to be honest,” Sweeney says, referring to the add-ons. “If you look at offshore wind, with battery storage, we’re talking about $10 billion, maybe more, to get it up and running.”

Moran then goes even further to basically endorse NJ’s laws and PSEG shutoff policies, while threatening expanded shutoffs:

If that, too, is piled onto electric bills, as planned, then PSE&G is going to be shutting off a lot more families. In 2017, the company shut off 158,000 customers, from a total of about 2 million, according to Brand. PSEG declined to provide numbers, or to say what portion of the cut-offs occurred in Newark.

Instead of condemning PSEG – his former employer, an important fact Moran does not disclose – and calling for Gov. Murphy to impose a moratorium o shutoffs of essential public utilities, for the Attorney General to conduct a murder investigation, and for the legislature to hold oversight hearings, Moran downplays the issue as some minor routine bureaucratic regulatory issue:

In the meantime, the BPU is investigating whether PSE&G broke regulations when they cut off Daniels’ electricity. The company says it had no idea she relied on an oxygen machine and would not comment on regulations that require utilities to check at least twice a year, and to make accommodations for people who are genuinely trying to catch up on their bills.

To ignore corporate greed and murder and shift the focus and blame climate change and renewable energy is obscene and a Big Lie.

Moran has shamed himself beyond repair – he joins fellow market fundamentalist moral monster Neo-liberals like this:

The measurements of the costs of health impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality. From this point of view a given amount of health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that. Lawrence Summers

We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it? Madeline Albright

We came. We saw. He died.  Hillary Clinton

And I hate to inject science and facts into what is purely a moral issue, see this 2013 post:

And here is the breakdown of the components of a typical residential electric bill. See Table 3 from Christie BPU Energy Master Plan: Even a math challenged journalist like Moran can see that “add ons” are a small fraction of the typical bill:

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 11.32.24 AM

[End note – I grew up with and was a friend of Tommy Moran. We were in all the “smart kids” classes. He played the clarinet and I played trumpet. He saw Traffic in concert in the 8th grade. We both kissed Cathy Rosenthal. My mom served with his dad on the local School Board. He’s a lapsed Catholic. But he’s not only not the kid I knew, but he’s also strayed far from Catholic teachings and the social gospel.]

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Murphy DEP Commissioner “Candide” McCabe Effectively Praises Christie Administration Policy and Management Of DEP

June 29th, 2018 No comments

No accountability for Christie climate denial, policy rollbacks and neglect of DEP

Murphy DEP showing continuity with Christie policy, budget, and institutional dismantling

McCabe dithers and looks forward, not back.

The media stenographers and environmental sycophants must focus on what Murphy and McCabe actually do, not on the flowery rhetoric they spew.

Sign of desperation - Gov. Murphy celebrates designation of bog turtle as  NJ's "official reptile". Of course, that PR stunt comes with no additional regulatory protections.

Sign of desperation – Gov. Murphy celebrates designation of bog turtle as NJ’s “official reptile”. Of course, that PR stunt comes with no additional regulatory protections. (Source: NJ DEP website)

It is widely known that Gov. Christie was the worst environmental Governor in NJ’s modern history and his DEP Commissioner, “Culture Change” “Transformation” Corporate Cost Benefit Bully Bob Martin was unqualified and outright hostile to the Agency.

But at least one person in NJ seems either to be unaware of those facts or incapable of dealing with them.

Murphy DEP Commissioner McCabe has echoed the cowardly lack of accountability under the Obama” “Look forward, not backward” approach, a failure that ultimately enabled Trump to act with impunity (and not just on torture, CIA, and national security abuses, but on Wall Street accountability as well).

Gov. Murphy’s DEP Commissioner Catherine “Candide” McCabe feels that DEP is moving in the right direction.

McCabe was confirmed by the Senate on June 7, 2018 and  issued a statement after being sworn into office my Gov. Murphy on June 19, 2018.

It took almost 6 months for Murphy to get McCabe confirmed by the Senate, very likely after backroom concessions and deals with Senate President Sweeney.

And Murphy was in no hurry to swear McCabe into office, waiting for 2 weeks after Senate confirmation to do so.

In McCabe’s statement “upon being sworn in”, McCabe not only made no mention  of Gov. Christie’s environmental, energy, climate and regulatory policies or the management of her predecessor Bob Martin,

Worse, by making no criticism or contrast, she effectively praised them and made further commitments to maintain continuity with them.

So much for McCabe’s self declared “new era in environmental protection“.

This is worse than naive and cowardly

And I haven’t mentioned all the bad decisions McCabe has already made (like this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this).

McCabe actually said DEP is “already moving in the right direction”:

“The scope and diversity of this agency are truly amazing. We are already moving in the right direction in so many important areas. We are acting swiftly to address climate change by moving New Jersey towards a clean energy future and building our coastal resiliency, as well as taking strong steps to protect the quality of our air and drinking water. We are working hard to improve the quality of life in our cities through brownfield redevelopment and creation of urban parks. Contaminated sites are getting cleaned up thoroughly and in a timely manner. We are preserving ecologically fragile lands and wildlife habitats for future generations. And we are working smarter to conserve resources through innovative sustainability practices.

How do I begin to dismantle that load of crap?

  • Acting swiftly to address climate? How, by ongoing RGGI negotiations (for which they denied OPRA public records request – more to follow on that).
  • Moving NJ to a clean energy future? How, by a billion dollar nuclear bailout, diversion of clean energy funds, and caps and other restrictions of expansion of renewable energy that threaten the solar industry and make it impossible to fulfill Gov. Murphy’s pledge of 100% renewables?
  • Building coastal resiliency? How, by following Christie’s shore engineering practices and funding friendly ENGO’s and touting bad USACOE projects and conducting PR stunts?
  • taking strong steps to protect the quality of our air and drinking water? How? Exactly how? By spinning the science? I see no attempts to reverse Christie clean water rollbacks i.e. the recent adoption of revisions to stream encroachment and wetlands regulations that apply to pipelines. Both rule proposals generated strong public opposition and the Legislature almost finally vetoed the stream encroachment proposal as inconsistent with legislative intent. And don’t forget that McCabe pledged to re-propose the Highlands septic rollback. 
  • quality of life in our cities through brownfield redevelopment and creation of urban parks? Say what? Only good news are temporary kills on insane Christie Liberty State Park development and Sparta Mountain logging projects.
  • “Contaminated sites are getting cleaned up thoroughly and in a timely manner.”? WTF? Tell that to the people of Pompton Lakes who you lied to and betrayed.
  • “working smarter to conserve resources through innovative sustainability practices.” These are verbatim Christie slogans! They are the cover for fake grassroots groups like NJ Audubon, NJ Future, Sustainable NJ, et al

But considering the most important performance metric, after almost 6 months into her tenure, DEP has done NOTHING on the regulatory front. Nada. Zilch.

No regulatory proposals at all. Look at DEP’s own website on “current rule proposals” to confirm that fact.

By way of comparison with recent prior Administrations, by the end of June:

1. the Christie DEP, responding to Gov. Christie’s Executive Orders,  had already postponed and re-opened 12 pending rule adoptions , revised the black bear hunting policy,and later killed a drinking water standard for perchlorate.

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin openly attacked DEP as an institution and DEP scientists. In his first budget testimony to the Legislature, Martin said this about DEP:

The DEP is broken and needs to be fixed. We must and will make dramatic changes to how we fundamentally do business at the DEP.  We need to make permitting and inspections timely and predictable. We need to play a key role in the economic growth of the state. All regulations need to be based on science, data, facts, and cost benefit analysis. Individuals and businesses coming to DEP for permits must be treated like customer (sic).

Pursuing those “dramatic changes”, Martin them proceeded to abolish various DEP offices (climate change, especially), create new offices (economic review, especially) and replaced, transferred and reshuffled virtually the entire management team.

He issued sweeping “Transformation” and “Culture Change” Orders and forced all DEP employees to attend “customer service training”.

Martin attacked DEP science: (quotes from Martin’s testimony, per Bergen Record):

Under questioning from state Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono during budget hearings on Tuesday, Martin said he originally intended to sign the proposed rule until he realized “our science was shoddy and I refuse to sign anything that doesn’t have adequate science to back it up.”

He said of the DEP researchers: “The data they provided was poor, not organized, anecdotal at best.” Martin also said nobody was able to document the public health risk of the chemical to his satisfaction.

As I wrote at the time, Martin’s testimony is flat out false.

Martin created a new policy of “by invitation only” “industry dominated Stakeholder meetings.

Responding to Christie Executive Order #2, DEP fundamentally changed the process of developing and proposing regulations. Previously, DEP scientists developed rules and proposed them for public comment in the NJ Register. But under EO #2, Martin opened the door to industry lobbyists and lawyers to review DEP staff proposals BEFORE they were proposed for public review, enabling industry to kill rules in their crib.

Christie slashed DEP budgets and in a huge brain drain, many longtime career employees left or retired – they were not replaced.

With the sole exception of praising DEP experts, Murphy DEP Commissioner McCabe has endorsed ALL of this.

She has not repaired any of the severe damage done by the Christie administration –  in terms of regulatory policy, budget and DEP institutional integrity.

McCabe has not repudiated the Martin “Transformation” “Culture Change” “Customer Service” or policy on “cost benefit analysis” and has retained the high level Offices of Economic Review and back door dispute resolution formed by Martin.

She has not restored the DEP Office of Climate Change and elevated it back into the Commissioner’s Office and hired nationally recognized experts to lead the climate charge.

Instead, McCabe dithers and looks forward, not back.

2. I was no fan of the Corzine DEP, but by this time in 2006, they were not where Murphy and McCabe are now.  I am unable to document this conclusion right now because the DEP website does not go back that far in time and I don’t have access to the NJ Register and the time to do the research.

3. Although I am unable to document these facts right now because the DEP website does not go back that far in time, the McGreevey DEP had reversed Whitman policies, revamped DEP management team, opened up the DEP to public participation and liberal OPRA practices, and proposed major new regulatory initiatives and clean water programs by June 2002, including the C1 program, the phosphorus effluent standard, the Highlands and the failed Big Map.

The media stenographers and environmental sycophants must focus on what Murphy and McCabe do, not on the flowery rhetoric they spew.

[End Note: McCabe’s swearing in statement was politically stupid. She thanked the Gov. but ignored the role of the Senate in her confirmation which enabled the swearing in. That shows disrespect for the Senate and is a backhanded slap in the face to Sweeney. And this damage was done for nothing. If you’re going to step on toes, at least get something for it. What fools.]

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Murphy DEP Approval of Exemption For Highlands Fossil Power Plant Sets Horrible Precedent

June 25th, 2018 No comments

Demolition and new construction is not “reconstruction”

DEP playing a dangerous game by relying on WQMP consistency

What happened to the “moral imperative” to avoid fossil infrastructure?

The Murphy DEP just issued approval of an exemption under DEP’s Highlands rules for a proposed new 700 megawatt fossil fueled natural gas power plant in Holland Township along the Musconetcong River in the Highlands Preservation Area (read the news coverage).

So much for Gov. Murphy’s “moral imperative” to invest in energy infrastucture “that does not produce greenhouse gases.”

In issuing the exemption the DEP did not issue all final DEP permits and approvals. The DEP found the project “inconsistent” with the *Upper Delaware Water Quality Management Plan (WQMP). But that WQMP can be amended to incorporate the project and simultaneously the project can seek other DEP permits while the WQMP amendment process is underway.

Instead of playing regulatory games, DEP had the chance interpret the exemption rules to deny the exemption request and send a clear message that a horrible fossil fueled project in the Highlands Preservation Area that threatens a premier trout river is just not acceptable.

They failed to do that.

The DEP’s “Highlands Applicability Determination” found that the project was exempt from the DEP’s strict Highlands regulations because it was “reconstruction” of an existing building and met the standards  on new impervious surface.

But the demolition of a building and construction of a new power plant is not “reconstruction” of an existing building.

It is demolition. It is knock down and rebuild.

The DEP should have distinguished “demolition” and “new construction” from “reconstruction”.

By failing to do so and instead issuing a green light, the Murphy DEP set a terrible precedent which invites abuse.

It will open the door for this project to abuse other loopholes in DEP permit rules and invite many other projects to exploit this Highlands exemption loophole, which was intended to be a narrow exemption for legitimate redevelopment of existing structures, e.g. conversion of an old industrial building to new commercial or loft residential uses, or historic preservation projects that retain the existing structure.

The “reconstruction” exemption was narrow because it’s sole focus and only restriction was on the amount of impervious surface created by the new development.

In contrast, reflecting the Act’s multiple objectives, the DEP Highlands rules apply to a broad set of environmental conditions, and set significant restrictions on new development in order to discourage development and protect water resources and preserve the natural landscape and natural resources.

But the impervious cover restriction is limited to generation of stormwater runoff, which involves protection of water quality and reduced risks of flooding.

In constrast, the proposed new power plant will have huge impacts completely unrelated to the amount of impervious surfaces, such as withdrawal and discharge of millions of gallons of hot water into one of NJ’s finest trout streams, the Musconetcong River.

And tons of carbon from fossil fuel natural gas (along with fine particulates and other air pollutants).

The Musky is a DEP designated “Category One” (C1) Trout Production (TP) water. DEP regulations protect the river from “any change in existing water quality“, including temperature changes.

Trout require cold water and high levels of dissolved oxygen.

The power plant will discharge hot water contaminated by various pollutants.

The most restrictive water quality standard likely is the temperature criteria.

But DEP surface water quality standards and temperature criteria contain loopholes that the power plant will seek to exploit – including “mixing zones” and “regulatory heat dissipation areas””

“Stream temperature” means the temperature of a stream outside of a designated heat dissipation area.

“Heat dissipation area” means a mixing zone, as may be designated by the Department, into which thermal effluents may be discharged for the purpose of mixing, dispersing, or dissipating such effluents without creating nuisances, hazardous conditions, or violating the provisions of this chapter, the Surface Water Quality Standards.

The temperature criteria for a C1 TP water is as follows:

Temperatures shall not exceed a daily maximum of 22 degrees Celsius or rolling seven-day average of the daily maximum of 19 degrees Celsius, unless due to natural conditions

Consideration of “natural conditions” (e.g. lack of shaded canopy along the river) and averaging open the door to abuse. Good consultants can play games that DEP tends to go along with.

But there is another huge loophole in how this criteria is implemented:

Temperature criteria at N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.14(d) apply unless an alternative effluent limitation is approved in accordance with Section 316(a) of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1326(a).

Properly treated wastewater discharge shall be deemed in compliance with the temperature criteria if the ambient stream temperature measured outside the regulatory heat dissipation area does not increase by more than:

(1) 0.6 degrees Celsius in FW2-TP waters

The DEP’s temperature criteria conflict with the DEP’s Category One anti degradation policy which prohibits “any measurable change in existing water quality”:

“Category one waters” means those waters designated in the tables in N.J.A.C. 7:9B-1.15(c) through (i), for purposes of implementing the antidegradation policies set forth at N.J.A.C. 7:9B- 1.5(d), for protection from measurable changes in water quality based on exceptional ecological significance, exceptional recreational significance, exceptional water supply significance or exceptional fisheries resource(s) to protect their aesthetic value (color, clarity, scenic setting) and ecological integrity (habitat, water quality and biological functions).

But the loophole is created by how changes are “measurable”, e.g. temperature or water quality are measured after a “mixing zone or “heat dissipation area”.

The fact that the Murphy DEP folded on the “reconstruction” exemption does not inspire confidence that they will enforce the C1 water quality standards or other regulations that could block the project.

Those regulations include the Water Quality Management Planning rules and WQMP for the Upper Raritan and the Water Allocation rules.

I could conduct a similar exercise to show loopholes and technical discretion in those rules.

And history has shown that those rules also have loopholes and require the exercise of discretion by DEP. 

The Murphy DEP – like every DEP – has not shown the will the exercise discretion to protect the environment when powerful economic and political forces are involved.

Be warned – if I can think of these loopholes, lobbyists and lawyers and consultants for power companies can too.

Amazingly, there was no public comment on the DEP Highlands Applicability Determination – what the hell are those Wm Penn Foundation funded folks at the Highlands Coalition doing?

[* Correction. Original was based on error in DEP’s letter. DEP wrote “Raritan” instead of Delaware. I transcribed their error. I was thinking 3 paragraphs ahead on regulatory issues as I transcribed the DEP error. Embarrassing mistake. But far worse for DEP to have made it.]

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Memo To Gov. Murphy – The “Green” Honeymoon Is Over

June 18th, 2018 No comments

A First Step on A Path Forward To Implement Your Climate Promises

Gov. Florio’s Executive Order No. 8 Provides A Model

Not 6 months into his tenure, Gov. Murphy’s energy, climate and environmental policy agenda he campaigned on is in disarray and the Legislature has seized control.

I won’t rehash all the details in this post, but the Bergen Record’s recent scathing editorial “A string of losses for the environment” pretty much summed things up:

Big Corporate Polluters 2 — New Jersey, its people and its environment 0.

This is the score we might have expected were Gov. Chris Christie still in office.

On the environmental front, Gov. Murphy has yet to revoke Gov. Christie’s rollback Executive Orders #1 – 4 and Christie appointments still serve as Executive Directors of the Pinelands Commission and Highlands Council.

Murphy’s DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe took 6 months to get confirmed. As we’ve been noting here, McCabe retained many Christie DEP managers and continuity with Christie DEP policies, and has done virtually nothing during her tenuous tenure other than issue press releases and PR stunts that echo Gov. Christie’s initiatives.

On energy policy, Senator Sweeney rammed a nuclear bailout bill through the legislature that seriously compromised the Gov.’s commitment to a 100% renewable energy pledge.

On climate policy, the Gov.’s policy agenda is limited to rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (more on that soon) and directing BPU to revise the Christie Energy Master Plan to promote 3,500 MW of off shore wind.

Murphy has no governing experience and has surrounded himself with either recycled Corzine hacks or young staffers with no Trenton or regulatory experience. Instituitionalizing legislative control over Murphy’s DEP, Senate President Sweeney’s Legislative aide Eric Wachter was installed as DEP Chief Of Staff and Assemblyman McKeon’s legislative aide was installed as Director of DEP’s Office of Government Relations. (see DEP Org Chart)

In that leadership vacuum, the Pinelands pipeline is seeking DEP permit extensions, DEP decisions on controversial pipelines under Raritan Bay (Williams) and the Delaware watershed (PennEast) are pending, and a proposed new fossil fueled power plant on the banks of NJ’s finest trout stream in the heart of the NJ Highlands has emerged.

Given these awful developments, we thought this brief note on the mechanics of exercising Gubernatorial leadership might help.

Gov. Murphy probably does not know – and lame NJ environmental groups are certainly not letting him know – that former Gov. Florio, among others, provides stunning parallels and a directly relevant model to address the situation he faces right now.

Politically, like Gov. Murphy now faces on pipelines, energy, and climate, upon assuming office in 1990, Florio was faced with stiff environmental and public opposition to garbage incinerators.

On reversing prior policy, like Murphy inherited bad policies from Gov. Christie, Florio’s predecessor, the Kean Administration had promoted a pro-incineration policy. To implement that Kean policy,  DEP approved 21 County Solid Waste plans and incinerator permits for more than $3 billion of new incineration projects. These were all bond financed and/or approved by DEP and/or BPU. Worse, the legislature had effectively deregulated BPU economic review of incinerator procurement contracts to promote the industry (i.e the “McEnroe” law).

In terms of commitments, like Murphy, Florio had made promises to environmental groups – who had endorsed him in the campaign – to develop an aggressive solid waste policy that promoted recycling and discouraged incineration.

Florio not only had to reverse the Kean policy and use DEP power to over-rule and embarrass 21 County Freeholder boards, he had to claw back prior DEP planning, permitting and financing approvals – for $3 BILLION in investment.

This is actually MORE difficult to do than for Murphy to kill pending fossil infrastructure projects.

Here’s how Florio did that – and how Murphy can tackle very similar problems on energy infrastructure and climate policy.

On April 6, 1990 (well before Earth Day and in his administration’s “first 100 days”), Gov. Florio issued Executive Order #8, which established a “Emergency Solid Waste Task Force” and laid out a public planning process going forward. PLEASE READ THE WHOLE THING!

Here’s the core provision that put teeth in the policy:

4. During the Task Force’s deliberations over the next 120 days, the following shall apply:

a. The Department of Environmental Protection shall not issue a final approval of any solid waste management plan that sites increases the capacity of or approves financing for waste-to-energy resource recovery facilities;

b. The Department of Environmental Protection shall not issue a approval of Preliminary or Final Environmental and Health Impact Statements for any waste-to-energy resource recovery site or facility;

c. The Department of Environmental Protection shall not issue tentative or final approval of any solid waste facility engineering design now pending or hereafter submitted for any waste-to-energy resource recovery facilities;

d. The Department of Environmental Protection, the Board of Public Utilities and the Division of Local Government Services within the Department of Community Affairs shall not, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 13:1E-136 et seq., issue any approval or conditional approval of any previously submitted proposed contract for the design, financing, construction, operation or maintenance of a waste-to-energy resource recovery facility; and

e. No State agency, commission or organization shall approve the issuance of debt or extend financing to any person or entity for use in planning, designing, acquiring, constructing, operating or maintaining a waste-to-energy resource recovery facility.

Gov. Murphy could issue a similar Executive Order establishing an Emergency Climate Change and Energy Task Force tied to the BPU Energy Master Plan revision process and the DEP Climate mitigation and adaptation planning & regulatory process (including RGGI).

The Order could impose a moratorium on any DEP and BPU approvals of any fossil  energy infrastructure approvals, such as the Pinelands, PennEast and Williams pipeline and the recently proposed new gas plant in the Highlands.

Problem solved.

So why aren’t NJ’e environmental groups advocating this aggressive approach?

That is more than ironic, as they celebrate Gov. Byrne’s Pinelands legacy. Byrne used Executive power to force the Legislature to pass the Pinelands Act. Similarly, Gov. Kean used Exetuvie power to force passage of the Freshwater Wetlands Act. And Gov. McGreevey created a Highlands Task Force that was used to forge the Highlands Act.

The climate crisis if far more serious than the solid waste crisis that Florio inherited.

We call  on Gov. Murphy to step up and follow the path of his predecessors.

[Full disclosure: as a disloyal whistleblowing DEP bureaucrat, I was directly involved in the development of the Floio EO #8. Despite being requested to staff the Taskforce effort by the Gov.’s Office, I was blocked from participating by my DEP managers. Regardless, I was insubordinate and provided much of the technical analysis and backup data the Taskforce relied on and that formed future DEP Solid Waste Plan. As they say that all good deeds go unpunished, I receive formal discipline by DEP managers (a 1 week suspension) for that work.]

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Murphy DEP Given Chance To Kill South Jersey Gas Pinelands Pipeline

June 15th, 2018 No comments

First major test of Gov. Murphy’s Climate Leadership

SJG requests DEP permit extensions

Get a competent lawyer and immediately petition DEP to deny the extension request. This must happen before June 23

[Update: 6/29/18 – Murphy DEP ignored public comments and rubber stamped the extension requests, see Press of Atlantic City story:  South Jersey Gas gets permit extensions for pipeline

The pipeline, called the Cape Atlantic Reliability Project, continues to meet Coastal Zone Management and Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act rules, said the letter from Division of Land Use Regulation Manager Ryan J. Andersen.

The Christie DEP approved pipeline never complied with those permit regulations and their biased permit approvals should have been re-opened.

The Murphy Administration now owns the Pinelands pipeline.

In an attempt to downplay the issue and dodge any responsibility, the approval was issued by a lowly Bureau Chief. Shame on them.~~~ end update]

To avoid expiration, South Jersey Gas (SJG) recently quietly requested that the Murphy DEP extend permits issued for the controversial Pinelands pipeline, which was strongly backed by the Christie administration.

The extensions are requested for a freshwater wetlands “General Permit” (GP) and an individual Waterfront Development permit (IP). The Christie DEP issued these permits in July 2013.

These extension requests are not automatically granted by DEP, but are subject to review. DEP has adequate discretion for denial of the extension requests under DEP rules (e.g. for waterfront development IP extension, see: NJAC 7:7-27.3). DEP denial would force SJG to apply for new permits and begin the permit process all over again, under presumably more aggressive Murphy DEP oversight and purportedly strict climate and energy policies.

After SJG benefitted from green lighting numerous regulatory approvals by the Christie administration, the ball is now in the Murphy DEP’s court.

How DEP handles these SJG requests will be the first major test for Gov. Murphy’s claim to climate leadership. If the Murphy DEP rubber stamps the SJG extension request, they own this project.

Murphy recently signed Legislation (the PSEG nuke bailout bill) that declared a “moral imperative” that the State pursue infrastructure that “does not not produce greenhouse gases“:

Given the overwhelming scientific consensus that fossil-fuel use is causing potentially irreversible global climate change and the attendant environmental catastrophes, it is a moral imperative that the State invest in energy infrastructure within and outside the State that does not produce greenhouse gases. ~~~ Nuke bailout law, P.L. 2018, c.16

The SJG fossil fueled gas pipeline not only “produces” huge quantities of greenhouse gases via methane leaks (methane is a potent GHG: it has 80 – 100 times more warming potential than CO2 in the short run), it also is part of a huge fossil energy infrastructure, which includes re-powering the BL England fossil fueled power plant, which also is a huge emitter off greenhouse gases.

During the original regulatory review of the pipeline by the Board of Public Utilities, DEP, and the Pinelands Commission, SJG made claims that the pipeline was critically needed to avoid catastrophic loss of electric power and gas service to the region. They made claims that the lights would go off and people would freeze in the dark without gas or electric power (i.e. the sham vulnerability and reliability argument). BPU Order summarized as follows:

SJG submits that the Pipeline and repowering of B.L. England are critical to electric reliability of the region. In July 2014, as part of its Regional Transmission Expansion Plan (“RTEP”), PJM studied the effects of a failure to construct the Pipeline and concluded that the resulting shut- down of B.L. England “will have an adverse impact on the reliability of the transmission system.”

To avoid these alleged critical energy infrastructure vulnerabilities –“including the potential for blackouts” (see p. 31)  SJG pressured BPU, DEP and the Pinelands Commission to expedite approvals for the pipeline. BL England made the same arguments about the power plant.

While completely ignoring the science and risks of climate change, the Christie BPU agreed with these SJG scare tactics and concluded (see p. 42)

In this second scenario, during cold weather with an average daily temperature of thirty (30) degrees, 61,058 customers would initially lose gas service, and after the McKee City Liquefied Natural Gas ran out of its supply, a total of 119,820 customers would lose gas service. On days with a lower average daily temperature, approximately 141 ,899 customers would lose gas service. …

The facility is a significant source of base load power generation in Southern New Jersey. B.L. England continued to operate and feed the local power grid supply during Superstorm Sandy in 2012. (@ p. 43)

Amazingly, the Christie DEP press office openly revealed bias in this incredibly unprofessional false statement in support of the SJG scare tactics:

Considine also defended the project on grounds that closing the plant, which sits on Little Egg Harbor in Upper Township, would increase the risk of brownouts in South Jersey. (Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/8/16)

For SJG to now request extension to avoid expiration of DEP permits – after 2 Christie DEP extensions of air pollution compliance deadlines and 5 years of construction delays – exposes the lies they told about the critical and pressing nature of the energy infrastructure vulnerability. 

On that basis alone, DEP should deny the extension requests and force SJG through a new permit review process under the Murphy administration’s “moral imperative” energy infrastructure and climate policy.

But there are additional grounds for DEP to deny the extension requests for failure to comply with DEP regulations.

Specifically:

1) the pipeline and BL England projects have changed;

2) important facts and environmental conditions have changed;

3) DEP regulations have changed. Under DEP permit extension rules, if the rules change, then DEP must DENY the extension request. No wiggle room. They must deny. The wetlands rules have changed regarding: a) GP #2; b) HDD under streams; and c) the definition of water quality certificate changed, a change that effects both the waterfront development and wetlands permit regulations); and,

[CLARIFICATION – rule change is not an automatic basis for denial. The applicant must demonstrate compliance with rule changes. Review and rejection of that demonstration is how the Murphy DEP could reverse Christie DEP regulatory policy.]

4) the original DEP permits were deficient and fatally flawed.

Specifically, neither the applicant SJG nor DEP ever conducted a water quality analysis to demonstrate compliance with NJ surface water quality standards. DEP therefore lacks any factual basis to issue the permit approvals or the water quality certification mandated by law.

Regulatory approvals that lack any factual basis in the administrative record are routinely rejected by courts as “arbitrary and capricious”. Courts do no defer to agency expertise when there is no factual basis in the record to support the agency’s decision.

The SJG extension request now provides the opportunity to re-litigate these issues with the more receptive Murphy DEP.

In addition to the rules governing permit extensions, other DEP regulations specifically include authority to re-open and/or amend or revoke permits if mistakes were made or if material facts were ignored or if material facts have changed.

Pipeline activists must put a full court press on Gov. Murphy and Acting DEP Commissioner McCabe and demand that they deny the SJG extension requests and force SJG back through a de novo permit review process.

DEP has just 15 days – the clock started ticking on June 8, 2018 – to make a decision so advocates must work very quickly and aggressively. Get out a letter to the Gov., issue a press release, and hold an event at the DEP building.

Get a competent lawyer and immediately petition DEP to deny the extension request. This must happen before June 23.

[Update: I just sent this Hail Mary letter requesting legislative oversight:

Dear Chairman Smith:

On June 8, 2018, South Jersey Gas (SJG) requested that DEP extend freshwater wetlands and waterfront development permits issued by the Christie Administration’s DEP to the controversial Pinelands pipeline.

DEP has just 15 days to make a decision under applicable DEP regulations. DEP has adequate authority to deny the SJG request as it does not comply with DEP regulations governing permit extension.

Briefly, the project has changed, material facts have changed, applicable regulations have changed, and the underlying permits were defective for failure to conduct required water quality analysis to demonstrate compliance with NJ surface water quality standards and provide a basis to issue the water quality certification required under DEP’s own regulations.

The Legislature recently found:

“Given the overwhelming scientific consensus that fossil-fuel use is causing potentially irreversible global climate change and the attendant environmental catastrophes, it is a moral imperative that the State invest in energy infrastructure within and outside the State that does not produce greenhouse gases. ~~~ Nuke bailout law, P.L. 2018, c.16

Given this “moral imperative” to avoid investments in fossil infrastructure and the biased regulatory process under which the Christie administration issued DEP, BPU and Pinelands Commission approvals, I urge you to conduct legislative oversight of DEP’s review of the SJG extension request.

Time is of the essence.

I discuss this issue in more detail in the article below.

I appreciate your timely support.

Respectfully,

Bill Wolfe

Murphy DEP Given Chance To Kill South Jersey Gas Pinelands Pipeline

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2018/06/murphy-dep-given-chance-to-kill-south-jersey-gas-pinelands-pipeline/

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