Watch what they do – not what they say
Magicians – like pick pockets, three card monty artists, and politicians – are able to pull off tricks because they are masters of deception and diversion: the left had diverts your attention while the right hand picks your pocket.
While no one expects the press to cover street level flim flam artists, we all do expect that they will expose (and certainly not cover for) the frauds and diversion of the politicians in Trenton.
So, with that expectation in mind, let’s examine just one recent episode that I view as part of a disturbing and expanding pattern (there are several more examples I will write about that fit this pattern).
Try this one out for size: At the same time Governor Corzine and DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson were touting their leadership in reducing global warming green house gas emissions and commitments to clean air for Warren County residents, DEP quietly increased the capacity of the Warren County garbage incinerator by 22%. Not only that, but DEP denied the request of the Warren County Environmental Commission to hold a public hearing on the unilateral DEP permit modification to approve the increase (a most convenient way to avoid critical public scrutiny from pesky environmental advocates and the press).
More burned garbage translates directly into more global warming emissions, more air pollution in Warren County, and less recycling – exactly the opposite of what the Governor and DEP Commissioner claim to be trying to achieve.
While ignoring the Warren County garbage incineration story (DEP does not issue press releases touting their hypocrisy), last week the Star Ledger editorial “Applying air pressure” bemoaned the plight of Warren County residents and applauded DEP for its leadership on clean air:
“Folks in Warren County on the border with Pennsylvania have long had to suffer with pollution from dirty coal-fired power plants just on the other side of the Delaware River…
Fortunately, New Jersey and some other states have taken matters into their own hands. Warren County residents should benefit.
New Jersey regulators a few days ago filed suit against Reliant Energy Mid-Atlantic Power Holdings, the company that owns a coal-fired power plant on the Delaware in Portland, Pa.
The lawsuit is simple: It says Reliant should install up-to-date pollution controls or shut down its dirty units. The reason is simple, too: Reliant did lots of work on the plant, increasing its ability to pump out power. But the company didn’t install new anti-pollution devices, as federal environmental law requires.”
But it’s always a lot easier for DEP to point fingers at the Bush Administration and to file lawsuits against out of state polluters, than it is to take enforcement action right here at home in New Jersey.
The Jersey polluters have lobbyists and political power. Enforcement of pollution controls at NJ sources comes with a real economic price. These realities tend to dampen the enthusiasm of the Trenton regulators, who frequently put economic and political interests above protection of public health and the environment.
It takes real leadership and commitment to enforce NJ’s environmental laws against NJ sources.
But going after the out of state pollution sources and the Bush administration are a free ride.
And the press needs to start recognizing this fundamental distinction and stop applauding the status quo.
We all lose when public relations displaces public policy.