Archive for September, 2009


September 21st, 2009 No comments

Tabloid Tells Truth About Climate Change and How It Will Affect City, World

The Yesmen hit New York City today with a major stunt – here’s their press release, links at bottom:

Early this morning, nearly a million New Yorkers were stunned by the appearance of
a “special edition” New York Post blaring headlines that their city could face
deadly heat waves, extreme flooding, and other lethal effects of global warming
within the next few decades. The most alarming thing about it: the news came from
an official City report.

Distributed by over 2000 volunteers throughout New York City, the paper has been
created by The Yes Men and a coalition of activists as a wake-up call to action on
climate change. It appears one day before a UN summit where Secretary-General Ban
Ki-Moon will push 100 world leaders to make serious commitments to reduce carbon
emissions in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate conference in December. Ban has
said that the world has “less than 10 years to halt (the) global rise in
greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid catastrophic consequences for people
and the planet,” adding that Copenhagen is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

Although the 32-page New York Post is a fake, everything in it is 100% true, with
all facts carefully checked by a team of editors and climate change experts.Â

“This could be, and should be, a real New York Post,” said Andy Bichlbaum of the
Yes Men. “Climate change is the biggest threat civilization has ever faced, and it
should be in the headlines of every paper, every day until we solve the problem.”

The fake Post’s cover story (“We’re Screwed”) reports the frightening conclusions
of a blue-ribbon panel of scientists commissioned by the mayor’s office to
determine the potential effects of climate change on the City. That report was
released in February of this year, but received very little press at the time.
Other lead articles describe the Pentagon’s alarmed response to global warming
(“Clear & Present Disaster”), the U.S. government’s sadly minuscule response to
the crisis (“Congress Cops Out on Climate”), China’s alternative energy program
(“China�s Green Leap Forward Overtakes U.S.”), and how if the US doesn’t quickly
pass a strong climate bill, the crucial Copenhagen climate talks this December
could be a “Flopenhagen.”

The paper includes original investigative reporting as well. One article (“Carbon
counter counts New Yorkers as fools”) reveals that Deutsche Bank – which erected a
seven-story “carbon counter” in central Manhattan – not only invests heavily in
coal-mining companies worldwide, but has recently entered the business of coal
trading itself.

The paper has the world’s gloomiest weather page, covering the next 70 years
rather than just 7 days. The “Around the World” section describes the
disproportionate effects of climate change on poorer parts of the world, including
extreme droughts, floods, famines, water shortages, mass migrations and conflicts.
Developing countries will bear the brunt of climate change effects even though
they have done very little to cause the problem.

But the paper isn’t all doom and gloom. An article called “New York Fights Back”
notes that the carbon emissions of Big Apple residents are only one third the
national average, and that the city is building 1800 miles of bike paths, planting
one million trees, and replacing its fleet of police cars with hybrids. There’s
also a page of black-humor cartoons (in one, Charlie Brown finds Snoopy drowned),
a gossip section that takes no prisoners, and a number of truly cheerful ads – for
sex (“Awesome. No carbon emissions.”), tote bags, bicycles, and tap water
(“Literally comes right out of your faucet!”).

Another ad promotes civil disobedience, encouraging readers to visit and pledge to risk arrest in a planned global action
November 30, just before the conference in Copenhagen.

“We need strong action on climate change,” said David Solnit of Mobilization for
Climate Justice West, one of the partners in “But history shows
that leaders act only when people take to the streets to demand it. That’s what
needs to happen now.”

This paper is one of 2500 initiatives taking place in more than 130 countries as a
response to the “Global Wake-up Call” on climate change. For more information,

 Contact: The Yes Men <>, 347-254-7054, 646-220-4137
Fake New York Post:
Video News Release:
City report on climate change:
Wake-up call:

Hostile Takeover of DEP Science – Industry Seeks to Stack Board with Cronies

September 20th, 2009 1 comment

I woke up with wood turtles on my mind and was going to write this morning about DEP’s abandonment of wood turtle habitat protections, but that story will have to wait.

A huge shot was fired today in what has been a dirty and expanding covert war on science at DEP – today’s Star Ledger reports:

 Scientists line up to join DEP’s controversial new advisory panel (click for complete story)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More than 100 scientists have applied to join the Science Advisory Board, a panel being created by the state Department of Environmental Protection to provide expert opinions on several environmental questions. ….

Faced with ongoing budget cuts and staff reductions, [DEP Commissioner] Mauriello contends the advisory board is a natural fit for lean times. …But critics claim the board will be a tool for pro-development and industry forces that want to roll back tough pollution standards and circumvent the DEP’s own scientific staff.

DEP Commissioner, Mark Mauriello

DEP Commissioner, Mark Mauriello

This thing was created because the science and research people inside the DEP are perceived at top levels as out of control because they did not let politics and the wishes of the administration get in their way of recommending such things as a tougher chromium clean-up standard in Jersey City,” said Bill Wolfe of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER….

“For 20 years this has been the goal of business and industry: to dismantle the DEP’s Division of Science and the extensive research they have done to protect the public health and environment from developers and polluters,” said Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club.

Behind the scenes, powerful chemical and pharmaceutical lobbyists are aggressively pushing for their own industry scientists to take over control of environmental and public health science at DEP.

This move mirrors a discredited tactic of the Bush Administration, to stack EPA and FDA Science Advisory Boards with industry flacks to promote industry’s economic interest over the best science and public health protection.

There are direct consequences to protections we now enjoy, because independent science is required to establish those protections and to monitor and enforce them.

Questions of science and regulatory policy are inextricably linked. Every day, DEP makes decisions based on scientific standards and protocols, from managing fish and wildlife, wetlands and endangered species protections, enforcing air and water pollution permits, to warning residents about contaminated unsafe drinking water. Science and technical issues can not be isolated from policy and implementation of programs legally put in place to protect the public and regulate harmful actions of  industry. Yet, DEP Commissioner Maurielleo misleads the public by pretending that they are:

Mauriello said he tried to defuse such suspicions through the wording of the May directive he issued to create the board. The work of the panel, according to the directive, would be “limited to specific scientific and technical issues” that the commissioner pitches its way, “not policy or regulatory matters.” Mauriello also said the board will report to the DEP’s staff of scientists, who are helping to select its membership.

Mauriello’s May 2009 Order is riddled with loopholes, but does mention the need to limit scientific bias, but falls far short of a absolute ban on conflicts of interest. This failure invites and opens the door to industry control.

Hal Bozarth, Chemistry Council lobbyist is pushing industry flacks.

Hal Bozarth, Chemistry Council lobbyist is pushing industry flacks.

To provide a sense of just how dirty the covert science war has become, consider the fact that the NJ Chemistry Council is pushing employees of Dupont and Merck pharmaceuticals, some of the largest toxic polluters in NJ. How convenient to have a Dupont employee in control of the scientific health risk assessment of PFOA, a toxic chemical that is manufactured by his employer, Dupont. Risk assessments form the basis of regulations. Control the science and you control the regulations. These industry scientists are NOT independent, they have scientific biases and economic conflicts of interest. They MUST be excluded. Yet again, DEP Commissioner Mauriello misleads the public by saying:

“I respect the fears of the environmentalists,” Mauriello said. “But it can only be a good thing to have an independent group of scientists to look at what we do. The days of thinking we don’t need outside assistance are over.”

In order to reveal this covert war to the public, I filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request . It was denied by DEP. DEP is protecting the chemical industry, NJ Builders Association and Business and Industry Association who are working behind the scenes. DEP is trying hard to keep the public from even knowing about this important debate. It is not just industry that won’t release the names of individual scientists – DEP won’t even reveal documents that show the existence behind the scenes industry lobbying! This DEP secrecy is especially troubling, because the industry’s agenda is made clear:

At least 2 Dupont employed scientists are being considered by DEP Commissioner Mauriello for appointment to the Science Advisory Board

At least 2 Dupont employed scientists are being considered by DEP Commissioner Mauriello for appointment to the Science Advisory Board

Business and industry advocates have long wanted an advisory panel, although one with more official power to alter regulations. They have endorsed some candidates for the new board but have not released names.

Too often the New Jersey Department of Environment Protection has set standards which have not been reflective of scientifically, peer-reviewed studies, said Hal Bozarth, executive director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey. “This has led to the cost of compliance for New Jersey’s manufacturers to become far higher than in other states, Likewise, remediation of sites is far more expensive and often more time-consuming than in other states, while providing little or no extra protection. Therefore, a scientific advisory board comprised of scientific experts will provide many benefits to New Jersey in how it deals with its environmental issues.” 

Former DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson caved to political pressure and abolshed DEP's Division of Science and Research, and promoted a private Science Advisory Board.

Former DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson caved to political pressure and abolshed DEP’s Division of Science and Research, and promoted a private Science Advisory Board.

I was pleased to read that the Star Ledger identified former DEP Commisioner Lisa Jackson as the person responsible for this sell out of scientific integrity to political pressure by powerful polluters. According to the Star Ledger:

Mauriello’s directive came five months after the DEP reorganized its Division of Science, Research and Technology into an Office of Science under a director of policy and planning. That change was put in place by DEP commissioner Lisa Jackson before she left in November to head the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Dave Brogan, NJBIA lobbyists, misleads the public about DEP science and regulatory practices

Dave Brogan, NJBIA lobbyists, misleads the public about DEP science and regulatory practices

But even though this story has been smoked out in the media, the  industry lobbyists and hacks continue to lie. David Brogan, an NJBIA lobbyist KNOWS that DEP considers a broad array of scientific sources – not just in house DEP scientists – and that DEP routinely conducts external peer review of scientific research sponsored or conducted by DEP. Yet he lies nonetheless:

“David Brogan of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association said it is time the DEP heard from scientists outside a state laboratory. …

But even in an advisory capacity, the new board will offer “cutting-edge” information that may otherwise not be available to the state or public, said Elizabeth George-Cheniara of the New Jersey Builders Association,

The only thing “cutting edge” these industry flacks will offer is the company line – which of course – “is not otherwise available to the public“!

Categories: Hot topics, Policy watch, Politics Tags:

Radon v. Chemicals – Simple Comparison Tells All You Need to Know

September 18th, 2009 No comments


This Is Vapor Intrusion

This Is Vapor Intrusion

A simple comparison of how DEP responds to public health risks associated with exposure to indoor radon gas with how they  address similar – or greater – public risks associated with chemically contaminated indoor air is instructive. It basically tells you all you need to know about DEP’s behavior – and how the chemical industry influences that behavior.

Radon is a naturally occurring gas. Chemicals are manufactured by powerful NJ industries. Both cause cancer. Both poison the air in thousands of NJ homes, schools, and buildings. The “exposure pathway” via vapor intrusion into buildings, the associated human exposure potential, and mitigation systems are very similar.

But those risks are managed very differently. To state the obvious: it’s a lot easier – politically – to target a radon bearing rock as a health problem than a chemical factory.

Radon Risk Map - Where is the map for Chemical Risks?

Radon Risk Map – Where is the map for Chemical Risks?

To manage indoor air radon risks, DEP: 1) issues press releases and fact sheets, 2) widely distributes health advisories that unequivocally state that radon causes lung cancer and warns the public about how to avoid cancer risks; 3) provides maps that target areas of high risk; 4) mandates monitoring of schools and day care centers; 5) provides clear guidance to homeowners and urges them to test indoor air and install mitigation systems to reduce those risks; and 6) provides scientific and staff resources to manage a statewide program .

To manage indoor air chemicals risk, DEP does virtually nothing.

DEP has not inventoried or mapped where the vapor intrusion sites are located. They provide no warning or notice to the public who’s homes may be poisoned. Nowhere does DEP unequivocally state that these chemicals cause cancer or warn about ways to mitigate or prevent indoor air exposure (read DEP’s tap dance at just ONE site, no mention of the big “C” )  (we previously wrote about Pompton Lakes here)

Instead of immediately testing indoor air, the DEP “Vapor Intrusion Guidance” document outlines a lengthy voluntary 10 stage process than may take years to complete and isolate the public. The document is riddled with loopholes and “exit ramps” expressly designed to let polluters off the hook and blame other sources, like household products. Worse, they make it HARD for the public to find out about those risks. Even worse, they provide loads of loopholes to the polluters to avoid cleaning up the problems and otherwise incurring legal liability for those risks.

The explanation for the difference is simple: Radon is naturally occurring. Nature, the cause of radon, doesn’t have the chemical industry’s legions of lawyers, lobbyists,and PR hacks to pay off and/or silence state officials and intimidate scientists.  

Hal Bozarth, NJ Chemistry Council lobbyist

Hal Bozarth, NJ Chemistry Council lobbyist

(or pressure DEP to design ineffective voluntary programs to protect polluters from the public)

Very simple. Very corrupt.

This is totally unacceptable and must change.

IMG_3636More to follow on this – but where are our intrepid press corps?

Need to bring back Daryl Isherwood, formerly of the Trenton Times – he wrote great stories, like this vapor intrusion epissode in Hopewell Borough. I spoke – twice – at Town meetings and was told to shut up by Mayor Knights, who had the gall to accuse me (not Rockwell International, the corporate polluter) of creating another Love Canal in his lovely Borough! Many community leaders were more concerned with the Borough’s image and property values than their own health. This was the same local government crew that approved development permits at Kings Path, right on top of the Rockwell plume that showed 400,000 ug/L! TCE levels. These are important reason why strong state standards and enforcement are warranted – the liability and economic pressures to deny the problem are great at the local level.

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Parents Want to Know: Why the News Blackout of This Story?

September 18th, 2009 No comments

IMG_0663NJ’s senior Senator, Frank Lautenberg, is not known to be shy when it comes to issuing press releases and generating press touting his legislative accomplishments for the people of New Jersey.

So, I found it odd that I never saw news coverage of groundbreaking amendments he sponsored creating “Healthy, High Performance Schools.”  (see In Harm’s Way“)

For the first time, that law puts EPA in the role of developing school siting and regulatory guidelines to protect children’s health from environmental pollution while at school.

As experience throughout NJ has shown, this is a highly controversial issue.

But, curiously, I had to do a lot of Googling to find anything about the Lautenberg amendments, and finally found it reported by the small trade journal  Education Week on January 16, 2008:

“Tucked quietly into the federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 is a section that calls for establishing voluntary environmental-health and -safety guidelines for states to consult when locating and constructing schools, and authorizes grants for states to develop programs around those standards.

The measure, which President Bush signed into law last month, marks the first time that a federal agency [EPA] will provide such guidance.”

Given several highly controversial school exposure cases reported across NJ (at schools in Paramus, Kiddie Kollege, Union, Franklin, GarfieldCamden, etc).

I circulated the Education Week article to the NJ press corps in order to give NJ’s parents information about this issue.

Strangely, Lautenberg’s office initially denied enactment of the bill I described. After providing the text of the bill to reporters, Lautenberg’s office ran away from their own law and had no comment, thus the press had no story. Thus parents had no awareness of what was going on at EPA or NJ DEP.

EPA Administraor Lisa JAckson faced criticsim for her handling of toxic school adn day care cases whiel NJ DEP Commissioner. Chairwoman Boxer critically probed her record during confirmation hearing.rg

EPA Administraor Lisa Jackson faced criticism for her handling of toxic school and day care cases while NJ DEP Commissioner. US Senate Environment Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer critically probed Jackson’s record during confirmation hearing.

The 2008 Lautenberg amendments require:


Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of

this section, the [EPA] Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, shall issue voluntary school site selection guidelines that account for (1) the special vulnerability of children to hazardous substances or pollution exposures in any case in which the potential for contamination at a potential school site exists; (link to full text)

The new law was enacted in January 2008, so the EPA siting guidelines were due in June of 2009.

So, it is a good time for NJ press corp to ask EPA about the status of those guidelines. Has EPA adopted them? Here’s what I could find from EPA, which does not inspire confidence:

An EPA-wide work group is currently developing the draft guidelines and EPA anticipates posting a draft for public comment on this web page this summer. EPA will widely publicize the availability of the draft to ensure that a broad spectrum of input is received.

What is NJ DEP doing to implement them?

What are local school districts doing to detect any problems and protect children?

Why do we continue to find problems like this?

The Lautenberg sponsored federal law parallels a NJ law and NJ State programs.

For example, NJ Inspector General Cooper’s Report found that the mismanaged NJ Schools Construction Corporation – later abolished – had purchased contaminated toxic land for schools – including a federal Superfund site in Gloucester City and a radioactive former Manhattan Project in Union City site.

Governor Corzine’s SCC reforms were criticized harshly for failure to address these school siting, toxic land acquisition, indoor air, and cleanup problems.

In January 2007, Governor Corzine signed into law new requirements to set indoor air standards at schools and daycare centers. (P.L. 2007, c.1)

The bill was a response to the Kiddie Kollege tragedy, where toddlers were poisoned by mercury at a day care center that previously was a former mercury manufacturing facility under an un-enforced DEP toxic site cleanup Order.

The most complex and controversial requirements of the new law mandate that DHS and DEP take specific regulatory actions – both DEP and DHSS have failed to do so and are not in compliance with the Act.

This inaction also could affect NJ’s ability to secure grants under the Lautenberg amendments cited above:

NJ Governor Jon Corzine signed the "Kiddie Kollege" law in January 2007. The law has yet to be implemented.

NJ Governor Jon Corzine signed the “Kiddie Kollege” law in January 2007. “This bill will help identify and remediate educational facilities and child care centers located on environmentally high risk sites,” Governor Corzine said. “This puts New Jersey at the forefront of states nationally in protecting children from environmental contaminants while at child care facilities and schools.” (full release here)

“1. a. Within 12 months after the effective date of this act, the Department of Health and Senior Services shall adopt rules and regulations …The rules and regulations adopted pursuant to this subsection shall be protective of the health of children and infants, and shall account for the difference in rate of the absorption, metabolism, and excretion of compounds between adults and infants and children.


b. (1) No construction permit shall be issued for the construction or alteration of any building or structure to be used as a child care center licensed pursuant to the provisions of P.L.1983, c.492, or for educational purposes, on a site that was previously used for industrial, storage, or high hazard purposes, as a nail salon, dry cleaning facility, or gasoline station, or on a contaminated site, on a site on which there is suspected contamination, or on an industrial site that is subject to the provisions of the “Industrial Site Recovery Act,” P.L.1983, c.330 (C.13:1K-6 et al.), except after submission by the applicant to the construction official of documentation sufficient to establish that the Department of Environmental Protection has approved a remedial action workplan for the entire site or that the site has been remediated consistent with the remediation standards and other remediation requirements established pursuant to section 35 of P.L.1993, c.139 (C.58:10B-12) and a no further action letter has been issued by the Department of Environmental Protection for the entire site. (link to full text)

We”ve just seen another children’s toxic exposure disaster repeated in Atlantic Highlands Elementary School, where about 100 parents turned out on Tuesday night to win a major victory. (read here). Yet, that too received no press.

What the hell is going on?

Parents of thousands of kids in scores of potentially poisoned schools want to know.

Could the silence be due to a rumored NJ Attorney General’s opinion that guts the Corzine Kiddie Kollege law by an interpretation that is does NOT to apply to existing schools? (and only new school construction)?

We’ll keep you posted at

Valeror oil refienry dwarfs Paulsboro High School. The refiernry emits thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals to the local air. Major upsets have coated buildings in toxic fallout. Would you send you child to this school?

Valero oil refinery dwarfs Paulsboro High School. Valero’s refinery emits thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals to the local air. Major upsets have coated buildings in toxic fallout. Would you send you child to this school?

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A Win for the Kids and Parents of Atlantic Highlands

September 15th, 2009 No comments

Last week, we called on DEP Commissioner Mauriello to resolve a totally unacceptable situation in Atlantic Highlands.

Children there were being exposed to toxic chemical vapors seeping into their elementary school building, while the DEP failed to enforce the law and require the polluter to cleanup. (click here)

Parents had organized and were working with local school officials, but the polluter was dragging his feet. DEP failed to back local efforts by enforcing State cleanup laws to hold the polluter accountable. As a result, more cleanup delays ensued as the polluter was allowed to flout cleanup requirements. Children were needlessly exposed to toxic chemicals.

We are pleased to note that the organizing and hard work of a committed group of parents paid off – DEP just announced a cleanup agreement. Congratulations to those parents and kudos as well to local school officials.

Irene Kropp, DEP Assistant Commissioner for Site Remediation testifies before the Senate Environment Committee. Kropp was forced to defend DEP after several high profile botched cleanups. to defend DEPtt

Irene Kropp, DEP Assistant Commissioner for Site Remediation testifies before the Senate Environment Committee. Kropp was forced to defend DEP after several high profile botched cleanups.

Three years after DEP first learned of the problems at the school, DEP Assistant Commissioner Irene Kropp finally announced the following:

The DEP case manager attended a meeting at 1:00 PM with the Atlantic Highlands School Superintendent, his attorney and his consultant along with the potentially responsible party (PRP), his attorney and his consultant. The case manager called just minutes ago to advise me of the following:

The outstanding issues between the parties have been resolved;

The Atlantic Highlands School Board will formally approve the installation of the DEP-approved sub-slab vapor mitigation system at tomorrow’s Board meeting;

The PRP’s consultant will begin installing the system on September 21, with an anticipated completion date of October 16;

The system will be installed on a room-by-room basis while school is in session, however, the rooms undergoing installation will be closed for the entire school day;

The cafeteria/kitchen installation will take place between October 9 through 12, while the school is scheduled to be closed;

In light of these developments, we will not be preparing a formal response to Mr. Wolfe’s inquiry.

Please contact Assistant Director Ken Kloo, at 2-1251, if you have specific questions or need additional information.

Irene Kropp
Assistant Commissioner
Site Remediation Program

In a followup post, we will explain the larger context and target what caused the breakdowns – more analysis to follow after we read the fine print of the cleanup documents.