Archive for December, 2008

The Watchdogs Have Become Lapdogs

December 30th, 2008 No comments

EPA is not the only one caving to the chemical industry

Under a blaring boldfaced banner “Watchdog Reports”, in a fine example of investigative journalism we seem to have lost the ability to produce here in NJ, the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal reports:

EPA veils hazardous substances
By Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger of the Journal Sentinel
Dec. 20, 2008

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency routinely allows companies to keep new information about their chemicals secret, including compounds that have been shown to cause cancer and respiratory problems, the Journal Sentinel has found.

The newspaper examined more than 2,000 filings in the EPA’s registry of dangerous chemicals for the past three years. In more than half the cases, the EPA agreed to keep the chemical name a secret. In hundreds of other cases, it allowed the company filing the report to keep its name and address confidential.”

Wow, imagine that – a newspaper reporter actually doing research of government records!

On the environmental front, with the exception of Jeff Pillets at the Bergen Record, I am unaware of similar efforts by members of the NJ press corps.

Well, let’s look and see what else a real investigative reporter uncovered:

“The newspaper’s findings are just the latest example of how EPA administrators more often than not put company interests above the needs of consumers. Over the past 18 months, the Journal Sentinel has reported on numerous EPA programs that bow to corporate pressure, frustrating health and environmental advocates and disregarding the agency’s own mission to inform the public of potentially dangerous chemicals.”

Just how does EPA “bow to corporate pressure”? Well, – of course – they cut budgets and staff and reduce enforcement.

After the hard work of reviewing government records, just how does a reporter source these kinds of stories? Do they talk to insider environmental lobbyists and look for for the sexy sound bite? Or do they go to expert EPA staff?

“It’s been frustrating to see the program “starved of resources and generally abandoned,” said Myra Karstadt, a toxicologist who worked on the EPA’s program from 1998 to 2005. “It’s a very worthwhile program but only if it’s given a chance to work.”

Hint: these programs and policies are not unique to Wisconsin and the EPA.

Take a peak under the hood over there at 401 East State Street – that address is better known as the DEP headquarters.

Let me know if you need any help in filing the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests and understanding the several DEP regulatory programs involved.

And Gee Whiz, maybe your research could be part of the US Senate Confirmation hearings of former NJ DEP Commisisoner Lisa Jackson as EPA Administrator.

Stop Cheerleading – start Watchdogging!

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Environment and Media – The Year in Review

December 27th, 2008 1 comment

It is a sad fact that New Jersey newspapers continue to downsize and fail to cover important environmental news, especially policy stories out of Trenton.

The few issues they do cover reflect constraints imposed by news deadlines or space limits that prevent in depth substantive coverage.

Complex topics or policy issues are avoided in favor of human interest puff pieces. Coverage often is inaccurate, or reflects the self serving spin of government officials or vapid political soundbites from friendly lobbyists.

These trends do not bode well for the health of our democracy or the environment: for example, witness the dearth of substantive coverage of the record of NJ DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson after she was nominated by President Elect Obama to be EPA Administrator.

Despite persistent failures of the media to hold polluters and government accountable, we had quite a year in 2008 writing important environmental stories in New Jersey.

I am taking nominations on your favorites from the long list below! Vote in the comments section. Each story comes with extensive links to supporting documents, provided for the inquiring reader, blogger, intrepid journalist and citizen activist:

February 6, 2008 NEW JERSEY CUTS DEEPLY INTO PROTECTED STREAM BUFFERS — Commissioner Revokes Her Year-Old Order, Leaving Buffers at Mercy of Politics

February 11, 2008 MERCURY IN NEW JERSEY DAY-CARE CENTER 3,000 TIMES STANDARD — State Wants to Demolish Old Thermometer Plant but No Further Testing of Kids

February 25, 2008 NEW JERSEY AIDE GOT TOO CLOSE TO DEVELOPERS — Ethics Complaint Filed Against Personal Advisor to DEP Commissioner

March 25, 2008 NEW JERSEY ASKS BUSINESS TO REWRITE ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARDS — Developers See Slow Economy as Lever to Weaken Anti-Pollution Permit Rules

April 7, 2008 NEW JERSEY TO CONSULT INDUSTRY ON ECO-REWRITES IN SECRET — “Efficiency” Task Force Members Not Barred from Self-Dealing with DEP

April 14, 2008 NEW JERSEY TO PRIVATIZE POLLUTION REGULATION TO SAVE MONEY — Outsourcing Clean-Ups Is Recipe for More Toxic Disasters, Legislature Told

April 17, 2008 CORZINE EMBRACES FAST TRACK LAW HE VOWED TO REPEAL — Quietly Appoints Fast Track “Czar” to Speed Development Permits

April 21, 2008 NEW JERSEY PARKS LOSE MILLIONS IN UNCOLLECTED LEASE PAYMENTS — Park Closures Could Be Averted by Reaping Concessionaire and Easement Revenue

April 28, 2008 NEW JERSEY MODEL FOR PRIVATIZED TOXIC CLEAN-UPS FAILS AUDITS — Serious Violations Found in More than Two-Thirds of Audited Massachusetts Sites

April 29, 2008 NEW JERSEY DONS BLINDERS ON INDUSTRIAL SITE CLEAN-UP — State Retreats from Real Estate Transaction as Leverage for Toxic Remediation

May 7, 2008 NEW JERSEY WILL NOT CLOSE PARKS OR LAY OFF ECO-WORKERS — Governor Orders DEP to Explore Other “Funding Options”

May 7, 2008 NEW JERSEY JETTISONS GROUNDWATER POLLUTION STANDARDS — Drinking Water Supplies for Half the State Vulnerable to Toxic Contamination

May 13, 2008 NEW JERSEY CHEMICAL PLANT PLAN HAS ONLY VOLUNTARY STANDARDS — Corzine Administration Caves on Governor’s Signature Environmental Issue

May 20, 2008 PROBE CALLED FOR IN NEW JERSEY TOXIC HIGH SCHOOL FIASCO — Inspector General Asked Why “Kiddie Kollege” Law Failed Clifton High School

May 27, 2008 CORPORATE DEVELOPMENTS TRUMP NEW JERSEY CLEAN WATERS — Loophole-Riddled Stream Protection Plan: One Step Forward, Three Steps Backward

June 5, 2008 “GRANDFATHER” STAMPEDE IN DELAYED NEW JERSEY STREAM RULES — Statewide Clean Water Protections Honeycombed with Special Interest Exceptions

June 10, 2008 ENCAP DEBACLE LOOMS OVER LATEST NEW JERSEY WATER FUND PLAN — Impending Legislative Approval Fails to Address Root Causes of Smoldering Scandal

June 18, 2008 NEW JERSEY EXEMPTS FLOOD OF PROJECTS FROM FLOOD HAZARD RULES — DEP Confirms Flood Prevention and Stream Buffer Protection Loopholes

June 19, 2008 EPA REPORT BLASTS NEW JERSEY TOXIC CLEAN-UPS — State Failures to Enforce Law Lead to Worst Delays in the Country

July 2, 2008 NEW JERSEY MISSES FIRST GLOBAL WARMING TARGET — Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan Due This Week Delayed Until Fall or Later

July 10, 2008 NEW JERSEY TO SET CARBON CAPS ABOVE CURRENT EMISSION LEVELS — Loopholes, Offsets and Economic Limits Sap Strength from Global Warming Plan

August 28, 2008 WIDESPREAD CONTAMINATION FOUND IN NEW JERSEY DRINKING WATER — Survey of Wells Is Far From Well; State Does Not Follow-Up on Pollutants

September 5, 2008 SPRAWL IS STEADILY POISONING MORE NEW JERSEY LAKES AND STREAMS — Most Waters Unfit for Direct Human Contact; Statewide Fish Health Advisories

September 8, 2008 FEDS PROCEED QUICKLY ON STALLED NEW JERSEY TOXIC CLEAN-UPS — EPA Remediation Plan for Brick Township Landfill Ready for Public Review

September 16, 2008 NEW JERSEY INDUSTRY ENVIRONMENTAL TASK FORCE PUNTS — “Month Late and a Dollar Short” Report Ignores Problems It Finds

September 23, 2008 NEW JERSEY WILL MISS FIRST GREENHOUSE GAS ALLOWANCES AUCTION — Corzine Global Warming Program behind Schedule, Blowing Second Major Deadline

November 17, 2008 CHROMIUM POSES HIGHER LUNG CANCER RISK IN NEW JERSEY CITIES — State Ignored Staff Warnings of Continued Exposure Even in “Remediated” Sites

December 8, 2008 WHY LISA JACKSON SHOULD NOT RUN EPA — Disastrous Record in New Jersey Bodes Ill for Reforming EPA

December 22, 2008 NEW JERSEY GREENHOUSE GAS PLAN FULL OF HOLES — Reliance on Carbon Sequestration, Nuclear and Loose Cap Raises Questions

* Note – Bill Wolfe left NJ PEER on September 28, 2008. The opinions expressed on this blog are solely his own.

“Lilies of the Failed”

December 27th, 2008 4 comments

Bush Unveils White House Portrait of Worst. President. Ever.

Categories: Hot topics, Politics Tags:

Audit finds Energy Star Program Flawed

December 25th, 2008 4 comments

Adverse Findings Call Into Question Half of EPA Global Warming Reductions – Similar Questions Raised About NJ’s Programs
In yet another illustration of failed voluntary market based environmental programs, the Office of Inspector General (IG) of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just released a critical audit of the “Energy Star” Program. See:
The Energy Star audit comes in the wake of a July 2008 IG Audit, that made similar negative findings regarding the performance of voluntary market based programs as alternatives to regulation. The July Audit was titled:
Voluntary Greenhouse Gas Reduction Programs Have Limited Potential:

Read more…

Categories: Hot topics, Policy watch, Politics Tags:

How Many More Christmas’ at War?

December 24th, 2008 3 comments
Categories: Family & kids, personal, Politics Tags: