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How Do These People Sleep At Night?

December 30th, 2009 No comments

I write about John Spinello, a member of Governor elect Christie’s Environmental Transition Team and a rumored candidate for NJ DEP Commissioner.

On November 25, 2009 when Christie’s Team was announced, I wrote:

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.

So let’s take a look at a US Senate investigation report that documents how an “environmental hitman” operates.

Spinello was with DEP while I was there (circa early 1990′s). He later went on to work in the Governor’s Office as legal counsel to former NJ Governor Christie Whitman. In 2001, when Whitman was appointed as the Bush EPA Administrator, she brought Spinello to EPA as legal counsel.

[Note: Whitman also brought another of her NJ legal counselors, Bob Fabricant, to EPA.

Fabricant is the Bush EPA lawyer who wrote the legal opinion reversed by the US Supreme Court in the groundbreaking Massachusetts v. EPA case. Fabricant argued for the big polluters, concluding that green house gases were not "pollutants" under the Clean Air Act and therefore could not be regulated by EPA. In an historic decision, the Supreme Court reversed Fabricant's pro-industry analysis. (see Robert Fabricant's August 2003 Memorandum denying that the EPA has authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. Download PDF. I guess Fabricant joins the infamous lawyer who argued that black children could be separate and equal in segregated schools in the equally historic 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education case.

While Whitman and Fabricant will go down as being on the wrong side of history, lets get back to Spinello's dirty deeds (in addition to being a global warming science denier and defender of criminal polluters and attacking the DEP's legal authority to regulate toxic mercury air pollution (see comment #33)pdf and opposing green house gas emission reductions from the shipping industry). End Note.]

Spinello’s role in “playing fast and loose with the facts and the law” was explored at length in a fascinating US Senate investigation report of how political pressure forced EPA to reverse its own decision to declare a public health emergency in Libby Montana. A careful review of EPA staff interviews and Spinello’s emails reveals that he was deeply implicated in the scandal and worked between EPA and OMB to craft a bogus and discredited legal theory (see paragraph #6 on pages 31-35 –  For full Senate Report, see: United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works …

The Senate Report found (verbatim findings):

1) A public health emergency exists in Libby Montana.

2) EPA Region 8 and Administrator Whitman concurred in a decision to declare a public health emergency in April 2002.

3) the [White House's] Office of Management and Budget (OMB) interfered with EPA’s decision-making process and … discouraged EPA from declaring a public health emergency.

4) EPA’s claims … stem from a concerted effort to avoid declaring a public health emergency, despite evidence that the declaration was warranted and the lack of factual basis [to support EPA's claims].

5) the residents of Libby were denied medical care from the federal government to which they were legally entitled.

6) EPA has delayed finishing a toxicity assessment of the Libby asbestos for over six years.

7) EPA provided misleading information to the residents of Libby.

8 ) EPA has failed to address the national issue of  asbestos contaminated Zonolite Attic Insulation. [Note: this relates to a criminal investigation involving a notorious WR Grace asbestos site in Hamilton, NJ -see "Legislature to Probe Toxic Collapse in NJ"]

Here’s Montana Senator Max Baucus’ statement on the outrageous EPA behavior:

“What we have found is a pattern of intervention from OMB, the White House, and political appointees at EPA that undermined cleanup efforts at Libby, delayed necessary toxicity studies, prevented a Public Health Emergency declaration, and ultimately left the people of Libby – people like my friend Less exposed to dangerous amphibole asbestos with no long term medical care.

EPA and OMB have played fast and loose with the facts and the law. They have put saving money over saving lives. They have failed the people of Libby. And I am outraged.

EPA’s own documents show that a public health emergency exists in Libby. Over 200 people have died, and over 1000 more are sick. No other Superfund site in the country has seen this kind of devastation. In the words of an EPA Region 8 attorney, “EPA rarely finds health problems of the magnitude of those found in Libby. If a precedent is to be set in using this section of CERCLA [to declare a public health emergency], Libby is an appropriate place to do so”.

Our findings show that top level officials at EPA, including then Administrator Whitman appear to have approved of the plan to declare a Public Health Emergency. EPA staff prepared briefing materials for Administrator Whitman and drafted press releases announcing a Public Health Emergency declaration. And as Commissioner Roose will testify later in this hearing, Administrator Whitman herself committed to declare a Public Health Emergency at a town hall meeting in Libby.

Tragically for the people of Libby, the plan to declare a public health emergency was derailed following a top level meeting on April 16th of 2002 between EPA, OMB, CEQ, and the White House.

Concurrent with this meeting, EPA’s Office of General Council at the direction of the Administrator’s Office developed a different legal theory [Note: Spinello served at EPA OGC] for allowing EPA to remove some Zonolite Attic Insulation without declaring a Public Health Emergency. Under this legal theory, EPA claimed that the insulation in homes in Libby was not actually a product because W.R. Grace had given away waste vermiculite, which residents put in their attics instead of store-bought insulation.

There was no factual basis for this claim. In fact, it’s completely bogus. An attorney in EPA Region 8 noted, “there is nothing in our record to indicate that these giveaways were put in people’s attics.”

The political appointees at EPA, OMB, and the White House ignored officials on the ground, ignored the law, and ignored the health needs of Libby. Had EPA declared a Public Health Emergency, the residents of Libby would have been entitled to medical care. They would have been provided with basic help, like oxygen, which many residents need but cannot afford.”

The practice of lying to the people of Libby was not Whitman’s first fib and it reminded me of some history with Whitman.

As NJ Governor, Christine Todd Whitman certainly shocked my conscience as a DEP professional in 1994 when she lied to NJ residents about health risks – particularly to pregnant and nursing women and children – from toxic mercury contamination in NJ freshwater fish (for details of that episode see “New National Mercury Research Confirms NJ Experience”)

Repeating this outrage, a mere 7 years later, Whitman’s false and misleading statements as federal EPA Administrator that the air was safe to breath in southern Manhattan after the 9/11 attacks shocked the conscience of a federal District Court Judge, who wrote:

“The EPA is designated as the agency in our country to protect human health and the environment, and is mandated to work for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people. The agency enforces regulations regarding pollution in our environment and the presence of toxic and hazardous substances, and has endorsed and promulgated regulations for hazardous and toxic materials, such as asbestos and lead. As head of the EPA, Whitman knew of this mandate and took part in and directed the regulatory activities of the agency. Given this responsibility, the allegations in this case of Whitman’s reassuring and misleading statements of safety after the September 11, 2001 attacks are without question conscience-shocking. ”

“No reasonable person would have thought that telling thousands of people that it was safe to return to Lower Manhattan, while knowing that such return could pose long-term health risks and other dire consequences, was conduct sanctioned by our laws. Whitman’s deliberate and misleading statements made to the press shocks the conscience. (Benzman v. Whitman, No. 04 Civ. 1888, 2006 WL 250527 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 2, 2006). That District Court decision was reversed by the Appellate Court see this)

To wrap up, lets get back to Spinello.

Shamelessly, after serving as an “environmental hitman” inside EPA by directly advancing a bogus legal theory that overrode EPA lawyers and scientists for the benefit of corporate killer WR Grace, Spinello took the revolving door. As recently as July 21, 2008 and July 28, 2008, he represented corporate interests at EPA Science Advisory Board followup meetings on asbestos. Spinello has no shame, and affirmatively defends corrupt revolving door practice:

“It’s important to have people in government who can reflect the perspective of the private sector EPA regulates,” said John Spinello, a Bush appointee who served as the agency’s associate deputy general counsel until he resigned last year to take a job as a corporate lawyer in New Jersey (Newsday “Erasing the Rules“)

So, does “three strikes and you’re out” apply to high level government officials like Whitman and Spinello?

How are they allowed to maintain a credible voice in environmental policy after such gross betrayals of the public trust?

How do these people sleep at night?

[PS – I should have mentioned that the St. Louis Post Dispatch broke this story way back in 2002:

BY ANDREW SCHNEIDER
12/27/2002

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency was on the verge of warning millions of Americans that their attics and walls might contain asbestos-contaminated insulation. But, at the last minute, the White House intervened, and the warning has never been issued.

A public health emergency declaration had never been issued by any agency. It would have authorized the removal of the disease-causing insulation from homes in Libby and also provided long-term medical care for those made sick. Additionally, it would have triggered notification of property owners elsewhere who might be exposed to the contaminated insulation.

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Worst Place in Jersey – What Meets Your “Dark Satanic Mill” standard?

December 26th, 2009 No comments


Newton-WilliamBlakeBlake_ancient_of_daysAnd did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills
?

Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire.

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land

~~~ “Jerusalem”   William Blake, 1757-1827

Worst Place in Jersey – Toxic Torture

We are seeking nominations from readers for “The Worst Place in Jersey”.

While I was with NJ DEP, I ran a program where we sought nominations from citizens to increase protections for their local streams – we were very successful (if you’re interested in this initiative, I suggest you read this DEP webpage now, before the Ministry of Truth over there finds out that it still exists. Even they will figure out that it legitimizes their worst critic and exposes serious program weaknesses – when they do, they will take that page Down Orwell’s Memory Hole):

PUBLICLY IDENTIFIED WATERS FOR CATEGORY ONE

To date, DEP has received over 47 public nominations from individuals, groups and public entities for Category One designations. These public nominations include approximately 337 named rivers and streams equaling 7,655 linear waterbody miles and 23 reservoirs, lakes and ponds representing 6,593 surface acres. A map of the public nominations is available at www.nj.gov/dep/antisprawl/c1map.html.

DEP has not had the opportunity to fully evaluate all the public nominations for Category One but will seriously consider all public nominations over the upcoming months. DEP is continuing to accept public recommendations for Category One water designations. Public recommendations for Category One water designations should be sent at this time to Bill Wolfe.

View Map of PUBLICLY Identified Waters

Anyway, I thought I’d take that same approach – sort of start a Wiki of NJ’s Worst Places.

Comment here or shoot me an email nominating your NJ nightmares – if possible, include a photo and a brief explanation. I will visit the place, take photo’s and post them here. Depending on responses, at some point I’ll put together a list and we can vote on the worst of the worst – democracy in action.

Who knows, if this thing takes off, we just might shame the responsible corporate and government officials to improve the conditions we expose. Just think of the progress made by visual expose’s by Jacob Riis (“How the Other Half Lives“); Dorothea Lange (Great Depression labor and landscapes) , and Michael Harrington (“The Other America“) (and if you were alive then, I’m sure you remember the images of the self immolation by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and the napalmed Vietnamese little girl). When Americans got sick of seeing body bags from Vietnam in their living rooms on the evening news, the Vietnam War ended (which is why we see no photo’s of Iraq and Afghanistan killing). Some of the shots of forest clearcuts and mountaintop removal have had deep and lasting impacts. And then that photo of the Earth from the moon changed everything.

Possible nominating categories include (feel free to suggest others, whatever pushes your button):

1) Worst traffic; 2) Worst sprawl; 3) Ugliest, most garish McMansion; 4) Toxic Nightmare; 5) Littered or poorly maintained Park; 6) Polluted Waterbody; 7) Destroyed Natural Landscape; 8) Industrialism and/or rationalism Run Amok; 9) Beastly beach; 10) worst flood zone; 11) deepest injustice or disproportionate burden’ or 12) most flagrant unenforced violation .

Let me submit the first nomination – with an explanation and photos.

Today, I will nominate the area around Doremus Avenue in Newark surrounding Essex County Jail as “The Worst Place in Jersey”. Take a look at all these toxic emission sources – and this is not counting the Port, which creates regional impacts. All that toxic pollution isn’t just blowing over to Staten Island! Inmates and staff of  Essex County jail are being “air boarded” every day! (We’ve heard about episodes of waterboarding at Guantanamo and torture at Abu Ghraib, but not about daily “toxic air boarding” at Essex County Prison.)

right next door to Essex County jail

right next door to Essex County jail

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the VOC emissions in this area were so strong they literally made me sick

the VOC emissions in this area were so strong they literally made me sick

Kuehne chemicals - one of NJ's "Fatal Fifteeen" where an accidental release could KILL over 100,000 people nearby

Kuehne chemicals - one of NJ's "Fatal Fifteeen" where an accidental release could KILL over 100,000 people nearby

the end of Doremus Ave.

the end of Doremus Ave.

toxic pollution from cars, trucks, and refineries poisons the area - DEP does not consider cumulative impacts of all these sources

toxic pollution from cars, trucks, and refineries poisons the area - DEP does not consider cumulative impacts of all these sources

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diesel crosses Doremus Ave. - diesel emissions are a major source of toxic air pollution but are generally not regulated

diesel crosses Doremus Ave. - diesel emissions are a major source of toxic air pollution but are generally not regulated

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DEP Releases Global Warming Report Under Cover of Christmas

December 24th, 2009 No comments

I had not planned to post anything other than landscape photographs until after the Holidays, but unfortunately DEP forced my hand.

I just got the email – DEP finally released the long overdue Report mandated by the 2007 Global Warming Response Act (for an analysis of the GWRA, see this Star Ledger Op-Ed: No Teeth in Tough Pollution law” – for our analysis of the Dec. 2008 draft Report, see: NEW JERSEY GREENHOUSE GAS PLAN FULL OF HOLES — Reliance on Carbon Sequestration, Nuclear and Loose Cap Raises Questions).

Section 6 of the GWRA mandated that:

No later than June 30, 2008, the department, and any other State agencies, as appropriate, shall prepare a report recommending the measures necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to achieve the 2020 limit.  The report shall include specific recommendations for legislative and regulatory action that will be necessary to achieve the 2020 limit.

The timing of DEP’s release speaks for itself.

I will touch briefly on just 2 critical issues to illustrate fundamental flaws in NJ and DEP’s program and show why they can not achieve their stated emissions reduction objectives.

1. Lack of Regulatory authority to implement and enforce real emissions reductions

Bear with me as I walk briefly thorough the background on this.

The issue of a mandatory agreement with binding and enforceable emissions reductions and timetables is what caused the recent Copenhagen conference to collapse.

The same issues are present in the US policy debate under the banner of “regulatory mandates” (implemented through EPA, per recent “endangerment finding“) or “market mechanisms” (through cap and trade programs, like the northeastern states’ and NJ RGGI program).

There is much confusion about the issue of regulatory mandates versus market based cap/trade. Supporters of cap/trade  mistakenly claim that a cap/trade for GHG can work by pointing to the EPA acid rain cap/trade program which effectively reduced SOx pollution from coal power plants by 50%. This is a false analogy because the SOx cap/trade program was backed by EPA legal mandates and enforceable State Implementation Plan (SIP) and plant specific air permit limits under the Clean Air Act. There were no “offsets” and “leakage” for SOx and only one discrete source: coal power plants. None of that is true for GHG emissions from coal plants and other sectors and sources. A market approach can not work without enforceable standards and legal mandates.

That controversial and critical policy choice is swept under the rug and buried in the NJ DEP Report released today.

At the federal level, this fundamental issue has gone to the US Supreme Court and is now before Congress.

The global warming bill that passed the House of Representatives would adopt the market based approach. That bill (Waxman-Markey – HR 2454) also would revoke EPA authority to regulate GHG under the Clean Air Act (Title VIII, Part C) (see NY Times for implications Greenhouse Gases Imperil Health, E.P.A. Announces“.  Industry strongly opposes EPA regulation.

On June 26, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Waxman-Markey climate change bill — the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454)– by a narrow vote of 219-212. As voted on by the House, this bill would amend the Clean Air Act to enact a cap-and-trade program (see Part VI.B.3) to reduce emissions of multiple greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, some hydrofluorocarbon emissions, perfluorocarbons, and nitrogen tetrafluoride. Each gas would be given a carbon dioxide equivalent value, and the emissions trading program would apply to electricity-generating and other industrial sources that emit more than 25,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalent. The program would seek a reduction of 17% from 2005 emissions levels by 2020 and an 83% reduction by 2050. Until 2025, electric and natural gas utilities and home heating oil suppliers would receive 55% of the emissions allowances for free, to protect consumers from energy price increases.

In addition, the bill would repeal the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions through the Clean Air Act’s existing programs. (link – scroll down)

That issue went before the US Supreme Court in the “Massachusetts v. EPA” case, where the Court decided the question of whether GHGs are “pollutants” under the federal Clean Air Act and therefore whether EPA has authority to regulate GHG emissions. (see below chronology).

NJ participated in this historic decision.

In Feb. 2003, NJ Attorney General Harvey joined Massachusetts and other states in threatening to sue EPA for failure to regulate GHG’s.

Shortly thereafter, in August 2003 then EPA Administrator Christie Whitman’s Chief Counsel, Bob Fabricant, (who had been her counsel in NJ) wrote a legal opinion that reversed the Clinton Administration’s legal position and concluded that EPA did NOT have that authority.

The Supreme Court (in an April 4, 2007 decision) reversed Whitman/Fabricant and  said “yes” GHGs are pollutants.

The Supreme Court directed EPA to either issue regulations or explain why they would not regulate.

This decision – not any leadership – is what forced Lisa Jackson’s EPA to make the recent highly touted “endangerment finding”.

So, with that background in mind,  I looked to the DEP Report to find how that key issue was addressed. I found it on buried on page 4 of Appendix 3: New Jersey Accomplishments and On-going Efforts with Respect to Greenhouse Gas Legislation, Regulations, Policies and Programs

CO2 as a Pollutant

In November 2005, New Jersey adopted a regulation under the authority of New Jersey’s Air Pollution Control Act to classify CO2 as an air contaminant. The adoption was published in the New Jersey Register on November 21, 2005. This rule enabled the State to implement its responsibilities under RGGI and to enact additional rules to reduce CO2 emissions from other sectors as necessary. Prior to this, in 2003 New Jersey added CO2 and methane to its emission statement program reporting requirements. The emission statement program requires the annual reporting of emissions of 50 air contaminants from approximately 600 of the largest stationary sources of air pollution in New Jersey.”

DEP has done NOTHING with this regulatory authority for 5 years now (other than to monitor emissions – DEP has set no emission reduction requirements in permits and no emissions fees, like for most other major pollutants).

I argue that this is because the NJ Global Warming Response Act revoked DEP authority – something Lisa Jackson was never held accountable for -  just like the Obama/Jackson supported Waxman-Markey bill seeks to do to EPA at the federal level. This would be a disastrous mistake.

For the wonks out there, here is the detailed chronology:

(1) Jonathan Cannon’s 1998 Memorandum for the Clinton Administration’s EPA, arguing that the EPA did have authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide as an air pollution. (Cannon was recently forced to withdraw as Obama EPA Deputy EPA Administrator) Download PDF

(2) The International Center for Technology Assessment’s (ICTA’s) 1999 Petition to the EPA, requesting that the EPA regulate carbon dioxide. Download PDF

(3) The National Academy of Science’s controversial 2001 report on climate change, on which both the EPA and the D.C. Circuit relied. Download PDF

(4) Several States’ February 2003 Intent to Sue Letter to the EPA, threatening litigation over carbon dioxide. Download PDF

(5) Robert Fabricant’s August 2003 Memorandum for the Bush Administration’s EPA, denying that the EPA has authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. Download PDF

(6) California’s August 2003 Petition for Review of the Robert Fabricant memorandum. Download PDF

(7) The EPA’s September 2003 denial of ICTA’s petition. Download PDF

(8) An edited version of the D.C. Circuit’s 2005 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. Download PDF

(9) The D.C. Circuit’s denial of rehearing in Massachusetts v. EPA. Download PDF

(10) The petition for certiorari. Download PDF

2. Claimed RGGI Reductions

The DEP RGGI emission reduction numbers are smoke and mirrors – I will do a thorough review, but based on my preliminary review:

1. Per Appendix A, the Report projects a RGGI reduction by 2020 of 8.5 MMT CO2 equivalents (Table A1.1). Appendix 1: Greenhouse Gas Emission Reductions Expected by 2020 from the Core Recommendations

2. The 2007 in state electric emissions from RGGI sources increased from 19.8 MMT in 2005 to 22.7 MMT in 2007. (Table 1 Inventory – hit link to find)

3. The RGGI agreement and NJ State RGGI law allocated 22.9 MT to NJ .

This key fact curiously is not mentioned. Worse, the Report misleadingly claims that RGGI reductions are regional and difficult to allocate to a state. Both omission and misleading claim are evidence that DEP is seeking to suppress critical NJ RGGI facts.

4. The RGGI agreement provides for a 10% reduction between 2014-2018 -

I am not absolutely sure what the baseline for the 10% is but it could be from 19.8 MMT – 22.7 MMT (or slightly more) – so that 10% reduction  under RGGI comes to less than 3 MMT.

So where is NJ going to get 8.5 MMT from RGGI?

That is not possible to understand from this Report – which to me shows it as a sham.

And the Christmas eve release speaks for itself.

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Glacier National Park

December 22nd, 2009 4 comments

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“Letter to Santa Christie” is A Dangerous Betrayal

December 22nd, 2009 1 comment

We all are familiar with the continuing public corruption scandals in NJ – perhaps not so familiar with far larger and more damaging private corporate corruption on Wall Street.

To be honest, in this post-modern age of skepticism (some say cynicism) and low expectations (some would say disillusion), perhaps all that is no big surprise and disappointment to many.

But, virtually no one is focused on a more insidious form of corruption – intellectual corruption and political cowardice – and in such high minded places, like the Dodge Foundation and NJ advocacy groups.

My head is exploding right now after just reading a Dodge product, in the form of a not so cute “Dear Santa” letter to Governor-elect Christie.

I find it obnoxious, dangerously politically naive, intellectually corrupt, and ethically bankrupt.

Harsh words? Yes. True? You decide.

The “Dear Santa” letter seeks to find “common ground”. The letter purports to be the product of 15 housing, transportation, environmental, and planning groups. It is intended to convey a “policy vision” and provide the incoming Christie Administration with a “policy platform”.

A Dodge blog post distributed the letter. That post rather arrogantly emphasized the intellectually high minded tone of the letter. This was not done as some genteel gesture, but specifically to attack and dismiss what Dodge views as the unseemly advocacy of some. In Dodge-speak:

I hope, too, that you take note of the tone of the letter. It is not a demand that the incoming Governor forsake his agenda for some righteous social and environmental agenda; rather, it is an invitation for the Governor-elect to call upon these resource and planning experts to help him meet his agenda and New Jersey’s challenges

Right.

We wouldn’t want to make any “demands” of our elected officials – that’s too democratic. The rabble must know their place! And of course we must always defer to “experts”, never be”righteous” in our pursuits, and always use a civil tone in addressing our elite betters (and wash our face and shine our shoes).

In terms of the stale content and vague policy elements of the so called “policy platform letter to Governor-elect Christie” – which took only “months” (and how much Dodge money?) to develop -  I feel compelled to note the following to inject just a little political reality into the lofty deliberations of the Dodge funded empire:

Affordable Housing – Governor Christie has pledged to “gut COAH” (while alleviating the constitutional municipal obligation and supporting low cost policies to transfer that obligation from the predominantly white suburbs to the predominantly black urban core). We all know that this advances the economic and political  interests of an exclusionary and racist elite suburban white constituency that has worked tirelessly for years to keep NJ’s poor and minority populations segregated in NJ’s urban ghetto’s. NJ is one of the most segregated states in the country – by income and race.

Transportation - Christie has sworn not to increase the gas tax -we all know that this is a reckless, ideologically driven, reflexive anti-tax policy which is virtually certain to bankrupt the NJ Transportation Trust Fund. How could you possibly look the other way on this issue?

EnvironmentChristie has promised to impose a moratorium on regulations, streamline bureaucracy, and eliminate red tape. We all know that those are code words for dismantling environmental programs under the pretext of promoting economic growth. His Transition Team is headed by an anti-environmental rural right wing zealot, (despite NJ’s glaring racial and income urban environmental health injustices); it is stacked with corporate types, and includes just one token “environmentalist” (who has a deep conflict of interest due to his organization’s political endorsement of Christie). The DEP Water Quality Management regulations cited in the letter are about to be killed legislatively. A extension of the Permit Extension  Act is pending as well.  To ignore those realities, while sending the Governor vague “policy vision” platitudes amounts to providing political cover and collaboration in ongoing attacks on the environment.

Common Ground – Christie promised to cut the income tax of NJ’s wealthiest – at a revenue loss of $1 billion at a time when the State is faced with a $4 billion structural budget deficit. Major education, health care, and social programs are being slashed. There can be no common ground when the wealthy are granted tax cuts while all others suffer.

It must be nice to issue such silly and sanctimonious edicts from the lofty and well fed offices of Dodge Foundation Morristown Offices.

But the rest of us are squarely facing and struggling to defeat an ugly reality from less vibrant locales.

In this economic and political context, progressive communities need to seek common ground in order to circle the wagons for the oncoming onslaught of the Christie Administration.

Grovelling and providing political cover not only betrays the progressive mission, but is a noxious form of self denial that undermines the very movement solidarity it purports to advance.

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