Archive for November, 2009

Token “environmentalist” appointed to Christie Transition Team

November 25th, 2009 1 comment

[12/5/09 update: Mixed reviews for Christie environmental group

Yesterday, we were disappointed but not surprised by the NJ Environmental Federation’s press remarks. NJEF joined the chemical industry, NJ Builders Association, and business groups in supporting Governor elect Chris Christie’s controversial proposed moratorium on state regulations and state mandates.

Dave Pringle of NJEF seems to fail to understand the difference between refraining from criticizing Christie, versus supporting his policy. Guess Dave will have to learn the hard way – and do some thinking on where his loyalties lie. Credibility is at stake as well, because the policies Christie has already announced have long been condemned by NJEF when implemented by Christie Whitman and prior Governors.

We assumed that this rancid political cover was a result of the NJEF endorsement of Christie.

Dave Pringle - token enviro on Christie transition team

Dave Pringle – token enviro on Christie transition team

But today we learn things are both more complex and corrupt – Dave Pringle of NJEF was named as the token enviro on the Christie “Environmental Protection” transition team. Previously, we wrote about the lack of balance and environmental representation on the original Transition Team announced by Christie (see: “Christie Transition Team – MIA on the Environment”)

No wonder Pringle provided cover on the regulatory moratorium – the transition team appointment was the reward for the  endorsement. Of course Dave couldn’t be expected to tell the inconvenient truth about his new boss or get out front of his new corporate pals on the “team” .

The environmental committee is chaired by Marcia Karrow, who we described last week here:

Christie, by the way, just announced that Marcia Karrow, a Hunterdon County legislator and vigorous opponent of the Highlands Act and DEP regulations, will chair the transition team’s environment subcommittee.

(see this for an example of Karrow’s style and take a look at some of the bills she sponsored: 1) an overt attempt to gut DEP rulemaking or 2) this radical property rights bill or 3) the Polluters Defense Act) or 4) this all out attack on the Highlands Act, the Council and DEP regulations: 0r 5) repeal of core elements of the Highlands Act and DEP water regulations; or 6) farmers water giveaway (and I left out lots of other crazy right wing stuff, like mandating English as the “official” state language (I wonder how environmental justice advocates feel about that), restoring the death penalty, expanding gun rights, radical property rightsattacks on urban NJ and public employees, and promotion of the dysfunctional California minority rule.)

So, meet the Christie environmental transition team – we must note one error: I worked with John Trela while he was at DEP and he was never DEP Commissioner. I worked with John Spinello while he was at DEP (before he went to EPA with Christie Whitman) – he is highly competent, but has been known to be an “environmental hitman“. I worked with Rhea Brekke while she was at DEP and will be kind and just say I am not impressed. Anthony Mauro has right wing tendencies – he accused NJ environmental groups of “providing cover for eco-terrorists“. See this blog post and exchange I had with Mr. Mauro.

We will be writing more about the backgrounds of each member in subsequent updates – I’ve provided quick Google links below to corporations (warning: these are not confirmed). My initial take is that this looks like a high powered corporate anti-environmental group.

Environmental Protection
Chair, The Honorable Marcia Karrow
Former State Senator, 23rd District

John Abene President,
Delphi Energy

Peter deNeufville
Chairman, Voltaix, L.L.C.

Anthony Mauro, Sr.
Chairman, New Jersey Outdoor Alliance

David Pringle Campaign Director,
New Jersey Environmental Federation

Steve Santola, Esq.
Executive Vice President/General Counsel, Woodmont Properties

John Spinello, Jr., Esq.
Former Associate General Counsel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Edward Walsh
President, The Walsh Company

Anthony Slimowicz
Director, WCD Capital Partners, LLC

John Trela, Ph.D.
Former Commissioner, Department of Environmental Protection

Rhea Brekke
Executive Director, New Jersey Corporation for Advanced Technology

Tony Monteiro
CEO, Dynamic Insurance Inc.

John Sartor
Exectuvie (sic) Vice President, Paulus, Sokolowski & Sartor, LLC

Joseph Riggs
Group President, K. Hovnanian Homes

Bruce Katcher, Esq.
Partner, Manko Gold Katcher & Fox LLP

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Environmental Federation Joins Chemical Industry, Builders, & Business Groups in Support of Christie Rule Moratorium

November 24th, 2009 2 comments
Dave Pringle, NJEF - providing political cover for Christie already

Dave Pringle, NJEF – providing political cover for Christie already

It is no secret that the NJ Environmental Federation (NJEF) endorsement of Chris Christie prompted harsh criticism by environmentalists.

It is also no secret that, during the campaign Christie sent some extremely disturbing signals about his environmental policy.

Since the election, Christie’ two most concrete acts of concern are an early betrayal of his promise to require installation of cooling towers at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant to protect the aquatic life of Barnegat Bay; and his plans to impose a moratorium on regulations and state mandates to make it “easier for business” (while seeking “horror stories” about rules from the Chamber of Commerce, and appointing fiercely anti-environment Hunterdon County legislator Marcia Karrrow to Chair the environment transition team).

In the clearest indication of the shape of things to come, remarkably NJEF today joined the chemical industry, NJ Builders Association, and business groups in supporting Christie’s controversial proposed rule moratorium. Today’s Asbury Park Press reports:

Eco-Lobby frets over rules freeze

By TODD B. BATES  – ENVIRONMENTAL WRITER – November 23, 2009 Gov.-elect Chris Christie won a surprise endorsement from an environmental group during his campaign, but some activists are wary of his plan to freeze proposed state rules and review red tape. …

But business and builder groups like Christie’s stance.”We applaud the governor-elect’s efforts to do what he can to streamline Trenton,” said Amy J. Whilldin, communications director for the New Jersey Builders Association. … Hal Bozarth, executive director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey, an industry trade group, thinks the rule freeze and red tape review are good ideas and hopes the focus will be on things that make New Jersey anti-competitive.

Not surprising, exposing the game early, the Christie folks used the NJEF endorsement as cover for their clearly anti-environmental policy, choosing not to defend that policy and instead to rely solely on the NJEF endorsement as political cover for the regulatory moratorium:

Obviously, Chris has a strong commitment to environmental protections” that was demonstrated by the New Jersey Environmental Federation’s endorsement of him, said Maria Comella, Christie’s spokeswoman.

And NJEF went right along with the charade – a transparent attempt to avoid embarrassing criticism for their hugely mistaken endorsement:

David Pringle, campaign director for the New Jersey Environmental Federation, said “the state has a lot of inefficiencies and overlapping and conflicting rules, and there’s plenty of things that have absolutely no impact on environmental and public health protection.”

But flat out contradicting Pringle’s spin, the APP reports on just some of the DEP environmental rules that would be impacted (for a full list, see this post)

The Department of Environmental Protection, for example, has 18 proposed rules, including one that would cover wind turbines and solar panels in the coastal zone. …

In a letter last week, Christie asked Corzine to freeze all pending regulations that would result in additional spending.

Pending DEP proposals would readopt safe drinking water and water pollution control rules; require lower-sulfur, less-polluting fuel oil; set standards for wind and solar facilities in the coastal zone; and set a limit for perchlorate, a rocket fuel chemical, in drinking water.

Something is seriously wrong when a purported environmental  group becomes incapable of telling the truth, and instead engages in all sorts of political spin to mislead the public and avoid criticism of their guy, Chris Christie.

Telling the truth would amount to self criticism for their endorsement – and I guess, in politics, that’s too much to ask.

But, NJEF is a purportedly democratic organization.

So those that are members of NJEF or that write checks for financial support to NJEF fundraisers should let the NJEF Board know about their concerns.

PS – Pringle thinks NJEF has some kind of “assurance” from the Christie folks –

We’ve received assurances and are confident that whatever transpires will not (undermine) environmental and public health protection,” he said.

Hey Dave, if you have that deal locked up, then why didn’t the Christie’s spokesperson confirm it? Hell, they didn’t even acknowledge it! (or are you still naive enough to think they will go against their business backers and side with protecting the environment?)

Notice that Camela, Christie’s spokesperson said NOTHING about any commitment to NJEF or plans to exclude environmental rules from the moratorium.

You got suckered, plain and simple. Best to admit that now, tell the truth, and stop digging the hole you’re in deeper.

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The Case For Government Regulation

November 23rd, 2009 No comments

[Update: Watch CSPAN Book TV of Spitzer at MIT on 4/26/11 lecture on his book “Government’s place in the market“.

Spitzer presents 3 principles as the justification for government intervention in the marketplace, very similar to those he spoke of at Harvard: ) 1 enforce standards for market integrity; 2) incorporate externalities; and 3) protect core values. Noting that regulation can never been the only tool, he closes by recommending shareholder power.]

Last night, I watched (and strongly recommend) C-SPAN’s tape of former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer’s address at Harvard, “On Government and the Market Economy” (Spitzer’s suggested title, which I like better than CSPAN’s, was: “From Ayn Rand to Ken Feinberg: How Quickly the Paradigm Shifts“).

Spitzer spoke about 3 things:

1) parameters and principles to justify government intervention in the market;

2) the current financial crisis, major flaws in the Wall Street bailout, and the need for specific reforms, particularly to promote jobs; and

3) flaws and needed reforms in corporate governance.

I will focus here only on the first, the justification for government regulation.

Given that I’ve spent my career in government on regulatory policy, and recently have been writing about our new Governor’s environmental policy, I thought it might be a good opportunity to lay out Spitzer’s justification for government intervention. His arguments have direct relevance not only to current policy debates over financial markets and regulation, but for drug safety, consumer protection, and environmental protection regulation as well, which are driven by the same market forces. The transparency, integrity, and market failure issues are broadly relevant to even the field of science, which relies on complete disclosure of data. Spitzer illustrated this with a disturbing drug safety case, where the pharmaceutical industry failed to disclose adverse health effects data from clinical trials.

I also can’t avoid taking this opportunity to note the huge intellectual and ideological contrasts between Spitzer (a former NY Governor and 2 term Attorney General) and the NJ Governor elect, a former US Attorney. Hands down, Christie is far outmatched by Spitzer – it’s like the NY Giants versus the local high school team. If you don’t want to take my word for it, just consider the simple contrast that Spitzer has spent his career prosecuting big time Wall Street fraud, while Christie has focused on small time local government crooks. Or watch the C-SPAN show (link above) and decide for yourself.

Whether you agree with Spitzer or not on policy, you must agree that he is both far more articulate and intellectually powerful than Christie, who comes off as a lightweight by comparison.

Spitzer managed to be substantive and accessible, without being theoretical, pedantic or lawyerly. While he focused on policy, he didn’t hesitate to talk about the political aspects, including calling out those personally responsible for policy and market failures, as well as the flawed and failed theory and public policy that caused the current financial collapse.

His inside story about a personal threat from lawyers from Merrill Lynch was chilling. A ML lawyer tried to intimidate Spitzer and back him off his prosecution with the mob-like threat: “Be careful, we have powerful friends“. (I wonder, were they the ones who arranged for Spitzer’s prostitution wire taps et al?)

Spitzer began by noting the collapse of financial institutions, which he attributed to failures of government regulation and markets. He stressed the need for analysis and dialogue of the causes of these failure, and for reform. But, in a somewhat elitist fashion, he found the voices of those he called “the angry populists” as unhelpful as the ideological libertarian followers of Ayn Rand who caused the problem.

He traced the recent policy history, and noted the vast shift in the intellectual paradigm from Reagan free market libertarianism to a far more interventionist approach, which he illustrated by a government bureaucrat, Ken Feinberg, controlling Wall Street CEO compensation. He used this observation to note how quickly the paradigm had shifted, given the financial collapse.

He then laid out 4 parameters that justified government intervention in the economic marketplace:

1. Only government can enforce rules related to integrity and transparency in the marketplace.

Spitzer rehashed his successful criminal investigations of Wall Street fraud and corruption. He outlined gross conflicts of interests and lack of transparency that corrupt market transactions. Basically, when faced with the choice of integrity or profits, or integrity and market share, Wall Street chose profits. The market drove those rational decisions, which destroyed the integrity of the market, and created systemic risks, which in turn ultimately led to market failure and financial collapse. Individual firms could not be honest, because that would put them at a competitive disadvantage. They needed system-wide rules. Competition and the drive for profits and market share led firms to lie.

Transparency, honesty, and integrity are preconditions of functioning markets. Contrary to libertarian and free market ideologists, the market can not police itself. Only government can police the market.

2. Only government can prevent exercise of monopoly power and ensure effective competition through anti-trust law enforcement.

Markets tend toward monopoly. Monopoly is inefficient, blocks technological innovation, reduces productivity, and deprive consumers of the benefits of vibrant competition.

3. Only government can intervene to change the way the market behaves and mitigate externalities.

Externalities are costs (or benefits) that are not accounted for in a market transaction (i.e the price of a good or service). Spitzer spoke of a classic example of air pollution from mid-western coal power plants. To meet local air quality standards in Ohio, those plants built tall smokestacks that shifted pollution costs from Ohio to NY state. This externalized the costs or electric power. As NY Attorney General, Spitzer sued these plants under the Clean Air Act. Only government can mitigate externalities, which are pervasive in the environmental policy arena.

(Note: although Spitzer didn’t specifically mention them, there are at least two additional solid justifications for government intervention. The first is what economists call “public goods“, like clean air or clean water. The second is what is called “inter-generational equity” or considerations of the future. Residents of the future can’t participate in current market transactions.)

The aggregate of excess debt is an externality. Too much debt is a threat, or systemic risk. Government has to intervene.

4. Only government can protect core social values from the ravages of the marketplace

Spitzer called this the most elastic of the justifications, but the most important. He used discrimination and minimum wage as examples.

Free market theorists’ arguments that discrimination is inefficient and therefore will be eliminated by competitive markets is just wrong. Social factors over-rode market rationality, so discrimination persisted. Only government intervention via laws was effective. Similarly, we have made a societal value judgment in minimum wage, There is no market justification for social policy. Ayn Rand and the libertarian free market fundamentalists are wrong. The angry populists are equally wrong. Government must be active in protecting  consensus core social values.

On the whole, I found Spitzer’s policy diagnosis right on the mark and his aggressive prescription refreshing, especially compared to the weak kneed response of the Obama Administration, which is captured by Wall Street.

The only thing I was turned off by was his politics, which amounted to an elite dismissal of the “angry populists”, who I think are an important allie and required to create the bottom up movement like political pressure to force a policy solution.

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“A Law Without Enforcement Has Little Meaning”

November 22nd, 2009 No comments

A law without enforcement has little meaning.

Although I strongly agree with them, those words are not mine, but ironically come from a property rights radical and ardent opponent of the NJ Highlands Act named Debra Post.

But Post does not spout the irrelevant ramblings of a radical right wing disgruntled landowner – she was published today in an Op-Ed in the Morris Daily Record, the home turf of the Christie Administration.

So let’s examine Post’s arguments, because they so clearly lay out the massive threat posed by the new Christie Administration.

Christie, by the way, just announced that Marcia Karrow, a Hunterdon County legislator and another vigorous opponent of the Highlands Act and DEP regulations, will chair the transition team’s environment subcommittee.

How much more writing needs to be on the wall before the Trenton based environmental lobbyists wake up and engage?

The environmental threat posed by the Christie agenda was just doubled by the announcement of Marcia Karrow’s role overseeing the DEP transition (see this for an example of Karrow’s policy wisdom and these bills she sponsored: 1) an overt attempt to gut DEP rulemaking or 2) this radical property rights bill or 3) the Polluters Defense Act) or 4) this all out attack on the Highlands Act, the Council and DEP regulations: 0r 5) repeal of core elements of the Highlands Act and DEP water regulations; or 6) farmers water giveaway (and I left out lots of other crazy right wing stuff, like mandating English as the “official” state language, restoring the death penalty, expanding gun rights, radical property rights,  attacks on urban NJ and public employees and dysfunctional California minority rule.)

But enough on Marcia Karrow – let’s back to Post’s arguments.

Here’s where Post’s arguments align perfectly with Christie’s stated policy agenda and promise to impose a moratorium on regulations. Post wrote:

“Christie has promised that his first executive action would be to freeze all recent regulations and assemble a task force, led by his lieutenant governor, to review the ridiculous reams of rules issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies that have an economic death stranglehold on our state.

A suspension of the Highlands DEP regulations removes all teeth from the Highlands Act and will jump start much-needed economic activity in northwestern New Jersey.” (see:  Independence lives up to its name

Perhaps, given that they’ve appointed a radical as chair of environmental transition, the Christie team will next announce that Debra Post is the Director of Communications – they should, because Post so clearly presents the radical anti-environmental agenda championed thus far by the Christie administration.

I am sure that Marcia Karrow – and many powerful Morris County Republicans are listening and shares those views, such as:

Freeholder Jack Schrier, vice chairman of the New Jersey Highlands Council, said he’d be “thrilled” to be of service to the new administration. He talked about the need for more flexibility in dealing with building applications in the Highlands, among other things. [link to full story]

One would think that my fellow environmental advocates would recognize the nature of this threat, and at least have the courage to call a spade a spade. But no, they have a more favorable view:

” Slow to act on a long list of appointments, departing Gov. Jon Corzine has effectively handed Gov.-elect Chris Christie a chance to reshape the membership and even the direction of the Highlands Council, which controls development in the water-rich region spanning seven northern New Jersey counties. …

“We are not so much concerned about Christie as we are those close to him,” said Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club. “The night of his election celebration in Parsippany, one person in the back of the room yelled, “Get rid of the Highlands.” Because of Jon Corzine’s failure, Christie will have more of an impact on the make-up of the Highlands Council than anyone since the Highlands Act was passed.” (see Star Ledger: Highlands Fate Uncertain with Council Seats Open

So let’s recap what’s happened thus far and connect the dots to understand the comprehensive nature of the threat:

1. Christie campaigned on an aggressively pro-business agenda. This included promises to slash DEP’s budget and dismantle DEP programs, while using slogans to bash “bureaucracy” and “over-regulation”, which he claimed (with no factual support) were killing the economy;

2. Christie vowed to fight with the Obama EPA over policy, revealing a radical state’s right’s approach to federal oversight:

3. Within hours of being elected, Christie promised to impose a moratorium on regulations and rollback state mandates;

4. Within days of being elected, Christie betrayed one of his few pro-environmental campaign promises by refusing to support cooling towers at the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant which is killing aquatic life in Barnegat Bay;

5. The Christie transition team solicited “horror stories” on regulations at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast in order to provide ammo to support the upcoming rollbacks;

6. Christie appointed his Lieutenant Governor to Chair a “Red Tape” review process, which is “by invitation only”;

7. Christie appointed a fierce opponent of the Highlands Act and DEP regulations to chair his environmental transition committee

A closing note for my enviro friends in Trenton:

And though my lack of education
Hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall

~~~~ “Kodachrome” Paul Simon

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Christie Governing: “By Invitation Only”

November 21st, 2009 1 comment

We have been closely following and writing in depth about the Christie transition process, particularly the threats to the environment posed by a planned moratorium on regulations (see this post and this and this and this)

But a well crafted quote can often better portray what’s going on than thousands of words of analysis – especially when it is from the horse’s mouth.

In this case, Lieutenant Governor elect Guadagno managed to let the cat right out of the bag.

In one quote, she revealed both how Christie thinks about governing, and exposed WHO that governing will serve:

Guadagno said Christie will evaluate all of New Jersey’s regulations to see how to make things easier for businesses that want to invest in the state. He’s looking at what he can freeze by executive order when he takes office, Guadagno said.

There will be 15 meetings between now and Christmas with groups throughout the state, but most of the meetings are by invitation-only, Guadagno said.

Guadagno is in charge of what will be known as the Red Tape Review group – or commission. They’re still working out which word to use, because one carries certain legal connotations, Guadagno said.

It’s just to get an idea of where we’re going,” she said.

[complete Star Ledger story here: – hey, maybe some intrepid reporter out there will grow a spine and ask about the “horror stories” being sought by Christie]

So let’s recap what Guadagno just said:

1. The prime objective is to make things easier (code for more profitable) for business;
2. The process is closed to the public and will be driven by business interests;
3. The Christie team has no clue “where they are going” and will rely on business interests to set priorities and the direction of policy;
4. Christie will use slogans like “red tape” and “bureaucracy” to mask his agenda and smear government and public employees.
5. The Christie team is so inexperienced with actual governing that they don’t even know the vocabulary and can’t even name the process they are establishing.

Only the beginning.

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