Life On The Delaware – Summertime and the Livin’ Is Easy

September 18th, 2017 No comments


Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But till that morning, there ain’t nothin’ can harm you
With daddy and mammy standin’ by ~~~ listen to the Ella Fitzgerald version

The Foundation funding is driving the agenda and the agenda is corporate

On Friday, NJ Spotlight and sister Pennsylvania based media State Impact held a conference on threats to the Delaware River watershed – “Protecting Today and Tomorrow” – see the NJ Spotlight story today for an overview.

The event was sponsored by, among others, the Wm. Penn Foundation.

Wm. Penn also funds NJ Spotlight, at least one of the groups on the event panel, and on top of all that, Wm. Penn funds a major $35 million grant program in the Delaware River watershed.

The world’s largest toxic corporate polluter, Dupont, also funds a Delaware Estuary program – with the Orwellian title “Clear Into The Future” – and a group mentioned in the NJ Spotlight coverage.  Of course, Dupont does not fund science and regulation to hold them accountable for the toxic pollution of the river and bay.

NJ DEP also funds one of the groups on the NJ Spotlight panel.

There are so many conflicts of interest and ethical challenges it is hard to know where to begin.

Of course, none of all that was mentioned in the event coverage by Spotlight.

The reason I even mention this stuff, aside from the ethical issues involved, is because the Wm. Penn, Dupont, and NJ DEP funding comes with huge strings attached – implied or overt – that divert so called watershed protection groups away from controversial and costly science based regional planning and regulatory tools and instead fund work on alternative voluntary and incentive based projects.

The funding is driving the agenda and the agenda is corporate.

I wrote about all that in this 2014 post:

Since then, the problems I wrote about have all gotten much worse. The only good thing is the anti-fracking campaigns, but even that good advocacy work is mis-focused  on FERC instead of State regulatory powers under the Clean Water Act, while it has consumed virtually all resources to wage other battles.

Now Wm. Penn and Dodge Foundations have bought media coverage and sponsors policy conferences that frame the issues and set the advocacy and policy agenda.

Those “protecting” the river have virtually abanded the regulatory tools under the Clean Water Act that have protected the river and need strengthening, including antidegradation policy, NPDES permits and the TMDL program.

Instead those Foundation funded groups focus on feel good measures and politically safe voluntary measures and incentives. Look no  further than the Wm. Penn Delaware initiative for a crystal clear example of the

Worse some take funds fron major toxic polluters like DuPont and state regulatory agencies that they are supposed to be holding accountable. See Dupont’s “Clear Into The Future” program for a very cynical manipulation of the science and policy agendas – including co-opting conservation groups.

A detailed regulatory strategy to protect the watershed was funded by and submitted to Penn Foundation. But they abandoned it. See the above 2014 post for a copy of that strategy and details on all that.

Instead of funding the implementation of the strategy Penn provide grant funding to develop, they ran away from that controversial regulatory agenda and instead funded their $35 million voluntary incentive feel good program.

I submitted a proposal to develop a regional planning scheme for the Bayshore to Dodge Foundation but they declined to fund it. Chris Dagett at Dodge told me to work with ineffective local groups on local voluntary programs and incentives, not a Pinelands modeled regional planning and regulatory scheme to really protect the Delaware Bayshore.

I somehow doubt that any of the esteemed – and well fed – panelists mentioned any of all that.

And for that fealty, the livin’ will remain easy

With daddy and mammy standin’ by 

[End note: After I wrote this, I just went to read Chris Hedges’ weekly column at Truthdig. Of course, Hedges says what I’m driving at much better: (read the complete column)

These dissidents, if we had a functioning public broadcasting system or a commercial press free of corporate control, would be included in the mainstream discourse. They are not bought and paid for. They have integrity, courage and often brilliance. They are honest. For these reasons, in the eyes of the corporate state, they are very dangerous.

The first and deadliest salvo in the war on dissent came in 1971 when Lewis Powell, a corporate attorney and later a Supreme Court justice, wrote and circulated a memo among business leaders called “Attack on American Free Enterprise System.” It became the blueprint for the corporate coup d’état. Corporations, as Powell recommended in the document, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the assault, financing pro-business political candidates, mounting campaigns against the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and the press and creating institutions such as the Business Roundtable, The Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, the Federalist Society and Accuracy in Academia. The memo argued that corporations had to fund sustained campaigns to marginalize or silence those who in “the college campus, the pulpit, the media, and the intellectual and literary journals” were hostile to corporate interests.

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New DRBC Rules Would Rescind Current Moratorium and Open The Door To Fracking In The Delaware Basin

September 13th, 2017 No comments

DRBC likely to allow fracking in Pennsylvania and ban it in New York

[Update below]

I am on the road and don’t have time to adequately document this post, but felt compelled to post a quick note because the environmental community and the media got the story totally wrong and exactly backwards.

The press is falsely reporting that DRBC acted to ban fracking and the environmentalists agree that the DRBC will ban fracking and merely allow disposal of wastewater in the basin from fracking outside the basin.

A NJ Spotlight headline screamed that “DRBC Acts To Ban Fracking In the Delaware Basin”.

That headline is factually false on two grounds.

First, DRBC did NOT “act”.

Here’s DRBC’s own draft Resolution – note that DRBC merely directed staff to initiate rulemaking and postponed formal “action” until November 30, 2017:

Now therefore, BE IT RESOLVED by the Delaware River Basin Commission that:

1. No later than November 30, 2017, the Executive Director shall prepare and publish for public comment a revised set of draft regulations to address certain natural gas development activities within the Delaware River Basin. (emphasis mine)

2. The draft regulations directed by this Resolution shall include and seek comment on:

a. prohibitions related to the production of natural gas utilizing horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing within the Basin;

b. provisions for ensuring the safe and protective storage, treatment, disposal and/or discharge of wastewater within the Basin associated with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing for the production of natural gas where permitted;

c. regulation of the inter-basin transfer of water and wastewater for purposes of natural gas development where permitted.

3. The Executive Director, in consultation with the Commissioners, may also include in the draft regulations other proposed revisions or additions to DRBC rules and regulations.

Second, and more importantly, the DRBC did not direct staff to “ban fracking”. Exactly the opposite is true.

Under current DRBC rules and policy, a basin-wide moratorium is in effect until the DRBC adopts new regulations.

Here is the DRBC Resolution that explains this:

WHEREAS, by Resolution and Order dated December 8, 2010, the Commission postponed the decision on its authority to review natural gas exploratory well activities in shale formations until either the promulgation of final natural gas regulations or the submission of an application;

By deciding to propose and promulgate new rules, the current moratorium is over. By lifting the moratorium, the DRBC is promoting fracking.

The DRBC Resolution specifically directed staff to proposed new regulations related to “natural gas development activities within the Delaware River Basin”.

Nowhere does the Resolution state that the prohibition would be basin-wide. DRBC staff may recommend location based partial prohibitions, like no fracking within 300 feet of a stream or drinking water source.

In fact, the Resolution, by contrasting New York State’s ban with Pennsylvania’s pro-fracking policy, the DRBC Resolution strongly signals that DRBC will allow fracking to occur in Pennsylvania and prohibit fracking in the New York portion of the basin.

Allowing fracking in Pennsylvania and following NY DEC and banning it in New York State is consistent with DRBC’s longstanding and cowardly policy to defer big decisions – especially land use and economic development decisions  – to the compact States.

Paragraph 2.b. is vague and opens the door to fracking “where permitted”. If the DRBC intended this to apply to the entire basin they would have said so. The fact that DRBC noted that fracking was “permitted” is significant. Fracking is permitted in Pennsylvania.

Similarly, by directing staff to allow inter-basin transfers of water – not just wastewater – the DRBC is opening the door to fracking in the basin (because fracking needs lots of water) and not merely just authorizing wastewater management in the basin from fracking outside the basin:

regulation of the inter-basin transfer of water and wastewater for purposes of natural gas development where permitted.

Finally, paragraph #3 clearly opens the door to new rules that allow fracking in the basin:

may also include in the draft regulations other proposed revisions or additions to DRBC rules and regulations.

I haven’t spoken to environmentalists, but assume that they are spinning the Resolution to encourage DRBC to ban fracking basin-wide. Or to cut a deal to ban wastewater basin-wide in exchange for allowing fracking in the Pennsylvania portion of the basin.

But they are playing a very foolish game. False hope is worse that no hope.

Either that, or they are incompetent and simply misread the Resolution.

[Update: 9/14/17NJ Spotlight coverage of yesterday’s DRBC meeting and adoption of the Resolution continues to get the story wrong.

In a completely dishonest, manipulative, and irresponsible move, DRBC Executive Director Tambini perpetuates the misinformation to the public by dodging the policy question entirely:

“People are trying to figure out what the rules are going to say,’’ Tambini said at the packed meeting at Bucks County Community College. “They are not ready yet.’’

The draft rules may not be ready yet, but clearly the DRBC Commissioners and ED Tambini have a clear policy on authorizing fracking in the basin that they are hiding in ambiguous, vague language. Without a clear policy on fracking, staff would not be able to draft rules.

NJ Spotlight and environmentalists continue to misunderstand what the DRBC Resolution actually says and are spinning their own interpretation. Both are getting 2 big issues completely wrong.

The Resolution does not direct staff to draft rules that ban fracking in the entire basin (as is current policy under the moratorium) and therefore the new rules will NOT ban fracking in the entire basin. PERIOD.

The Resolution explicitly directs staff to propose rules that will authorize fracking within the basin.

New rules will lift the current moratorium, which applies in the entire basin.

For a link to the DRBC Resolution and an analysis of what it actually says, see the above:

I posted the above as a comment on NJ Spotlight’s story today. All of my prior comments have been deleted, so I suspect that they will soon delete this one too. ~~~ end update]

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Christie’s Highlands Council Seeking to Privatize Regional Plan Amendment Process

August 30th, 2017 No comments

Christie proposal would frustrate the next Administration

[Update below]

The NJ Highlands Council just proposed for public review and public comment a process to amend the Highlands Regional Master Plan (RMP) (read the complete proposal here).

The proposed amendment process includes a provision which would allow “anyone” – i.e. private individuals, landowners, lobbyists, the NJ Builders Association, the Farm Bureau, law firms representing developers, et al – to propose amendments to the RMP for review, consideration, and approval by the Highlands Council:

Anyone wishing to suggest additional or different changes to the RMP than those proposed in the draft Recommendation Report will be asked to provide the information outlined below to support such changes to the best of their ability. Changes will not be rejected or discarded due to a lack of information; rather supporting information will be used by Council staff to provide context for any such amendment to the Committee:

This essentially is a form of privatization of the planning process – or outsourcing the drafting on plan amendments.

It would allow private entities with economic interests to propose amendments to gut the RMP and promote development. This would not only privatize the planning process, it would also politicize the planning process and the science upon which regional planning is based.

The basis and justification for proposed amendments would not even have to meet basic legal, scientific, and planning standards:

Changes will not be rejected or discarded due to a lack of information

We already know how the NJ Builders Association and NJ Farm Bureau and radical private property rights zealots would like to see the RMP amended. Recall that DEP settled a lawsuit by the Farm Bureau by pledging to weaken the Septic Density standards.

We already know that Gov. Christie and his loyal appointees on the Highlands Council would like to repeal the Act – something they were unable to get through the Legislature – or gut the RMP to promote economic development and compensate landowners whose development potential and property value were reduced under the Act.

Now, just as the failed Christie administration expires and a new Governor will soon be able to appoint a new Executive Director and Council to protect the Highlands, the Council seeks to institutionalize a private planning process.

The proposal – to allow “anyone” to draft and submit proposed RMP amendments –  would bypass and undermine the professional staff of the Highlands Council.

Under the Highlands Act, only the Highlands Council and local governments are authorized to propose and approve amendments to the RMP.

Proposed amendments must originate and be drafted by professional staff and be based solely on the goals, objectives, policies, and standards set forth in the Highlands Act.

The proposed RMP amendment process would allow private self interested entities to interpret the Act in their own interest and draft proposed amendments and then lobby the Highlands Council for approval of their own proposals.

How about RMP policies regarding the availability and allocation of water written by the private water companies? Oil & gas pipeline and utility ROW policies drafted by the energy companies? Land use, redevelopment and housing policies written by the NJ Builders Assc.? And NJ Audubon will certainly submit amendments to include their “young forest” & “forest stewardship” plans in the RMP.

My understanding was that any amendment to the RMP would have to originate with staff. The Act does not create a process or standards for “anyone” to submit proposed amendments.

The Council’s proposal amounts to the regulatory equivalent of a petition for rule making.

The DEP has regulations regarding the process for petitions for rule making, which are authorized by the NJ Administrative Procedures Act. The legislature did not insert such a procedure in the Highlands Act (to my knowledge). Nor is such a plan amendment process included in the Pinelands Protection Act, which was the model for the Highlands Act. (I know, I was involved in drafting the Highlands Act. Similarly, I have filed petitions for rulemaking).

This would subvert the public interest that public regional planning authorized by the Highlands Act is designed to promote.

It is wrong and illegal and must be stopped.


[End Note: 2 closing points:

1. Yes, I understand that the Council would maintain control over the final decision on any proposed amendment. (That’s why I described it as “essentially a form of privatization”.)

However, this still would bypass staff, undermine planning and science, and politically put the Council on the defensive in having to analyze and respond to what could be a barrage of proposed hostile amendments. At best, that is a formula for gridlock.

2. I got the heads up on this proposal from an email by the Highlands Coalition. Sadly, they provided no substantive analysis and took no position on the proposal, other than to recommend that public comments ask for a 60 day comment period.

I guess they are too busy organizing golf outings, car rallies, and pub crawls.

All that incompetence and weak spine is just fine with Chris Daggett at Dodge Foundation, who told the Coalition to “cool it” – or did he say “tone it down”? – in criticizing Gov. Christie during his first year in office. ~~~ end

[Update 8/31/17 : I reached out to Eliot Ruga, “Policy Director” at the NJ Highlands Coalition for his assessment.

Eliot views the proposal as allowing “public input”, equates the Farm Bureau, private water companies, and NJ Builders Assc.’s expertise, resources, and influence with his fellow conservationists, and finds the proposal consistent with the Highlands Act. His reply:

No I’m not saying that Council staff recommendations have the same weight as a private entity’s. And by private entity, it could be Princeton Hydro or Juliette Hirsch representing a developer client, or a non-profit such as NJCF or the Farm Bureau. There has to be a mechanism for the public to have input, which is consistent with the Act. See C.13:20-11.

Eliot: 1) fails to distinguish “public input” on draft RMP written by Council staff and actually writing proposed RMP amendments for the Council’s consideration; 2) fails to understand the difference between a planning document drafted by professional staff employed by a government agency versus one written by a developer’s lawyer of lobbyist; 3) fails to understand how dangerous it would be – both technically and politically – to open the door to direct submission of RMP amendments for the COuncil’s consideration that bypass professional staff; and 4) he doesn’t seem to understand how this would effectively outsource RMP planning.

This is after I provided him with 2 very clear illustrations of the huge differences:

Example: public comment on a proposed DEP regulation versus a petition for rulemaking by a regulated entity.

Example: public comment on a DEP draft permit condition versus a lawyer for a permitee writing the permit condition.

Ruga reveals dangerous incompetence and lack of actual policy, planning and regulatory experience. I guess his background in TV sports production didn’t prepare him adequately. (like his fellow Dodge Foundation funded weenie, Patty Cronheim of Rethink Energy NJ, entertainment background is great preparation for pub crawl promotion, but very poor preparation and experience for public policy analysis and advocacy.

Dodge has very low standards for funding “policy analysis” and “advocacy”.

Full disclosure: Dodge denied funding a proposal I submitted, so I surely have “AN AXE TO GRIND”! ~~~ end update]

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Pacific Northwest

August 27th, 2017 No comments
Cape Flattery, most northwestern point on mainland US

Cape Flattery, most northwestern point on mainland US

After fleeing smoke in Olympic National Park from wildfires in British Columbia, we headed west and around the Olympic Peninsula, and down the Washington and Oregon coasts.

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery

me and Bouy at Cape Flattery

me and Bouy at Cape Flattery

We were in Willamette National Forest along the McKenzie River for the solar eclipse.

McKenzie River

McKenzie River

old growth forest along McKenzie River

old growth forest along McKenzie River

We dodged the eclipse traffic out of Madras Oregon with a great campsite along the Deschutes River:

Deschutes River, Oregon

Deschutes River, Oregon

Central and southwestern Oregon were shrouded in dense smoke from wildfires that still are raging out of control. The smoke and fire risk are threatening northern California.

Here’s some sights:

Washington coast

Washington coast

Astoria Oregon

Astoria Oregon

Oregon coast - Cape Lookout - awesome hike through old growth rainforest

Oregon coast – Lookout Point – awesome hike through old growth rainforest

Oregon coast

Oregon coast

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Slogans “Buy Local” & “Sustainable Birdhouses” Provide Cover For Logging Of Public Lands

August 22nd, 2017 No comments

After you’ve partnered with Trump, it looks like anything goes

“Jersey Grown Wood” masks corruption and logging

[Update below]

I guess when a self-proclaimed “conservation” organization has: 1) formed a “partnership” with Donald Trump; 2) taken money from a Wall Street billionaire to log forests to enhance opportunities for wealthy private hunters; and 3) formed a “Stewardship Council” with major corporate polluters, developers, and pipeline builders; then something apparently benign like a “buy local” sustainable forestry birdhouse program may seem like chump change, and just a short slide down the slippery slope of the Greasy Pole to Gomorrah (a process that Chris Hedges calls “our descent into corporate tyranny.”)

I am referring to NJ’s Audubon’s latest scam, run in cooperation with NJ State Departments of Environmental Protection (“Forest Stewardship”) and Agriculture (“Jersey Grown Wood“).

Here is NJ Audubon’s marketing pitch:


NJ Audubon is now offering bird houses and bird feeders made with Jersey Grown wood sustainably harvested from New Jersey forests. ….. Our bird houses and feeders are made of Atlantic white cedar sustainably harvested under forest stewardship plans approved by the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection.

What could be so bad about that? Sustainable forrest stewardship? Locally grown and crafted products? Birdhouses!

I’m on the road and I’ve written extensively about all this, so I’ll be brief:

1) NJ Audubon and NJ DEP have come under extreme public criticism for their aggressive, scientifically dubious, and fundamentally dishonest campaign to log publicly owned lands in the NJ Highlands Preservation Area.

As we speak, there is an ongoing major public controversy  on DEP and Audubon proposed logging in Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area.

The DEP plan has been legally challenged by Beaver Lake Realty Assc., a nearby group of homeowners and opposed by virtually every NJ environmental group, including Sierra Club, the Highlands Coalition, several independent scientists, and a local group called Friends of Sparta Mountain.

2) The DEP and NJ Audubon attempted to seek legislation to authorize a statewide “forest stewardship” certification program for public lands.

That proposed legislation sparked huge public and environmental group opposition and the bill failed, through more than 1 legislative session.

Gov. Christie even vetoed a version of a stewardship certification bill that did pass both houses of the legislature.

In a brazen example of bureaucratic arrogance and over-reach, DEP and NJ Audubon are now implementing the program – on public lands – that they failed to get legislative approval of.

3) NJ Audubon recently lost certification of their logging program by the national Forest Stewardship Council for failure to meet FSC standards.

Their pals at NJ DEP will now issue the certification that NJ Audubon lost.

4) DEP recently proposed “forest stewardship” regulations.

The joint DEP, Ag and NJ Audubon program is a blatant attempt to deploy slogans and manipulate well meaning people to support a scientifically flawed policy and controversial public lands logging program. The public is not aware of the larger implications of the “forest stewardship” issue on public lands.

Audubon is acting as the PR and marketing arm of both DEP and Department of Agriculture. The relationship is way too close.

The joint DEP, Ag and NJ Audubon program is an end run around the Legislature.

The program has not been authorized by the Legislature and even DEP is just now proposing rules to implement the program.

The DEP and Audubon have undermined the regulatory process.

NJ Audubon and DEP are masking a controversial public lands logging program behind not only slogans, but taking advantage of public support for agriculture by calling logging a form of agriculture.

The program builds institutions, generates funds, and enhances personal, organizational and professional relationships to consolidate a sham “stewardship” program. It serves to subsidize and perpetuate lax regulatory oversight in order to revive and expand a long dead logging industry in NJ.

And the whole thing stinks to high heavens.

But after you’ve partnered with Trump, it looks like anything goes.

[Update: Before I am accused of conflating multiple issues and erroneously claiming that the birdhouses come from Highland logging, yes, I understand that the Audubon birdhouses are made from Atlantic White Cedar from the Pinelands, not the Highlands and Sparta Mt. WMA.

So readers should take a look at what passes for first stewardship and white cedar restoration in the Pines, see:

And yes, I understand the distinctions between DEP’s private versus public lands logging and certification programs and NJ Audubon’s various related efforts. ~~~ end update]

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