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Father of Environmental Justice Movement Speaks at Drew

February 24th, 2010 1 comment
Dr. Bullard speaks at Drew University (2/24/10)

Dr. Bullard speaks at Drew University (2/24/10)

Dr. Robert D. Bullard, of Clark Atlanta University, the man known as “the father of the US environmental justice movement” spoke today at Drew University. Bullard pioneered mapping the relationships between race, income, and pollution.

It only took NJ DEP 35 years to apply Dr. Bullard’s mapping methodology in NJ – see: “DEP Discovers Discrimination – Dumps Environmental Justice Issue in Christie’s Lap” (and 30 years to engage the issue in Camden – and just 3 years to betray those commitments)

Dr. Bullard’s talk was titled “Growing Smarter: achieving healthy and livable communities for all” .

Knowing of Dr. Bullard’s groundbreaking and politically powerful work, I gotta say I was initially disappointed by the title – it sounded like just another wonky technocratic presentation of the benefits of smart growth and land use planning.

But Bullard did not disappoint.

He spoke armed with science, facts, passion and humor to bluntly and clearly illustrate the savage racial and income inequalities in America and the disproportionate pollution and adverse health burdens borne by predominately black, poor, and/or minority communities.

Paterson, NJ - liquor open - public housing closed

Paterson, NJ – liquor open – public housing closed

Bullard had great photographs and slides to illustrate his data on everything from the lack of access to fresh vegetables at local grocery stores (despite a preponderance of liquor stores), lack of green space, limited recreational opportunities, and unhealthy schools and homes located right next to industrial pollution sources like chemical factories and power plants.

Citing a closed hospital in a black neighborhood in Atlanta, he said the message it sent to the community was “shut up and die“.

Bullard seamlessly integrated basic health prevention (diet and exercise) with spatial analysis of land use, transportation, energy, health, educational and environmental polices.

Bullard’s overarching theme was “we must put health at the center of our policies” – and that citizens and communities must organize to fight for sustainable, just, and healthy communities.

Invigorated and inspired, I’m off right now to operationalize some of Bullard’s ideas at a public hearing in Paterson on the DEP community air toxics study. (there was a prior closed door meeting, where DEP briefed the Mayor’s friends on Feb. 9)

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Court Orders DEP To Release Documents on Industry Lobbying on Science Board

February 23rd, 2010 No comments

[Update: Star Ledger story: N.J. DEP must release names of 108 candidates for Science Advisory Board – Prior SL coverage: NJ environmental groups fear science panels will be pro-development end update]

Back in September, we filed a lawsuit against DEP under the NJ Open Public Records Act (OPRA). We were seeking to obtain documents that showed how industry was exerting political pressure behind the scenes to secure appointment of industry scientists to the newly created Science Advisory Board.

DEP denied our OPRA request in an effort to cover that lobbying up, so we sued them (see: New Front in War on Science – Lawsuit Filed to Obtain Smoking Guns and This is Why We Need Transparency at DEP).

DEP’s lawyers from the Attorney General’s Office filed righteous legal briefs that defended DEP’s OPRA secrecy because they claimed that public disclosure of this information would compromise the integrity of the SAB selection process.

DEP claimed they needed to keep the whole thing secret to avoid “unwanted pressure to select candidates based on the goals and philosophies of groups that had this information“. DEP argued that public disclosure of this information might even “cast a pall over the process” and compromise “independent scientific peer review” and undermine “public confidence in the process” (see page 7 of Judge Feinberg’s opinion).

But literally at the same time DEP lawyers were filing those legal briefs and making those righteous claims about protecting the integrity of the process from political pressures, in a remarkable show of hypocrisy, DEP was actually meeting with lobbyists for the chemical industry to discuss SAB appointments of industry scientists and consultants (including Dupont)!

Here is what was actually going on behind the scenes at DEP – we caught them red handed – and ironically, this meeting was held on October 1, 2009, the same day we filed our lawsuit:

We Won! See PEER press release , including links to Judge Feinberg’s opinion below:

COURT ORDERS RELEASE OF NEW JERSEY SCIENCE BOARD NOMINEES –

Successful Open Records Suit to Reveal Industry Sponsorship of Science Board Picks

Trenton – A state superior court has ordered the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to surrender records on industry efforts to pack a new Science Advisory Board, according to the ruling posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Under the court order, the names, resume’s and sponsorship letters will be released to PEER.

On September 29, 2009 PEER sued DEP for violating the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) when it denied a PEER request seeking public records related to industry nominees and political lobbying for the Science Advisory Board (SAB). The DEP had broadly claimed that requested documents were OPRA-exempt, claiming that information about pending Board appointments is analogous to job applicant forms and thus confidential, even though SAB members would not be DEP employees and would be unpaid.

In a decision dated February 18, 2010, Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg brushed aside DEP’s legal position as without merit and ordered the agency to provide the SAB materials to PEER, whom she declared the prevailing party. PEER’s case was argued by Michael Pisauro of the Princeton-based firm of Frascella & Pisauro, LLC.

In her ruling Judge Feinberg indicated that DEP had “finalized its recommendations of candidates for the SAB on January 15, 2010″ but that a final decision by holdover Commissioner Mark Mauriello was “held in abeyance” at the behest of the incoming Christie administration. That list of final recommendations contains several affiliated with DuPont, private water companies, and some of New Jersey’s largest consulting firms which advise industry on environmental standards and permit requirements. Notably, Mauriello had met with the Chemistry Industry Council concerning the composition of the SAB.

“Regulated industry and their consultants have an obvious and enormous interest in influencing DEP scientific positions,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, noting that the controversial 12-member board was created by former Commissioner and current EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson when she abolished the DEP Division of Science & Research. “Our concern is that advisers with an economic dog in the fight will bring biases that make them unsuitable sources for objective scientific advice.”

The Administrative Order creating the SAB specifies a conflict of interest review of nominees but does not specify what standards should be applied to determine “financial or personal interest”, nor does it define what those terms mean in the context of the SAB. In recent months, DEP scientific studies have been subjected to intense industry lobbying efforts on public health topics ranging from the effects of chemicals, such as PFOAs made by DuPont, to cement dust blowing through Camden.

“We went to court because the selection of scientific advisers should be done out in the open so that any industry ties are known in advance”, Wolfe added. “We call on the Christie administration to reconsider the SAB concept and provide real safeguards, so that affected industries cannot use the process to inject influence and delay, weaken, or derail scientific assessments that are used to set health standards”

###

Read Judge Feinberg’s opinion

Look at the PEER complaint and what led up to it

View industry affiliations of nominees chosen by Corzine administration

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DEP Protecting Polluters, Not People

February 20th, 2010 No comments
Okonite Cables, Paterson, NJ - polluter located nearby homes & schools, as well as other industrial polluters, like Atlantic Battery (aka XXXX)

Okonite Cables, Paterson, NJ - located nearby homes & schools, as well as other industrial polluters, such as Atlantic Battery (aka Power Battery). Total emissions raise cumulative impact and local toxic hot spot concerns

[Update: 3/4/10 – DEP has revised the Paterson study and posted a new Final Report version dated 2/24 – disregard criticism of the deletions described below. More to follow on exactly how the changes to the Report happened] –

I want to examine 2 recent controversial cases in Pompton Lakes and Paterson NJ in some detail. A thorough review will clearly illustrate how DEP systematically elevates the protection of the economic interests of polluters over protection of public health.

Those are strong claims that require supporting evidence. Below, following a brief summary, I provide links to numerous documents supporting that claim.

Atypical of most similar cases in NJ, the Bergen Record has extensively covered the issues (and this) and as a result, both communities have become knowledgeable and active. In addition, Edison Wetlands Assc. is involved in helping PL residents, while Paterson community groups are getting technical assistance from Joe Morris of ICO. Very few of the remaining 565 NJ towns where there are similar problems get anywhere near this level of media attention or environmental group technical assistance.

So read on and consider both the facts individually as well as the consistent pattern and systemic nature of DEP’s actions. Consider who benefits and who bears the risks by each DEP action.

Each DEP action, taken individually, raises concerns.

Considered together as a whole it is an egregious pattern of conduct – the record is damning.

The pattern is characterized by the following DEP behaviors – please consider the cases below with these features in mind:

1) DEP withholds relevant information, erects barriers to the release of public information (particularly to activists), and fails to timely warn and fully disclose complete and accurate information to the public, while at the same time working behind the scenes confidentially with polluters;

2) DEP prepares public information (press releases, FAQ’s, advisories, Citizen’s guides, etc)  and interprets information in a way that minimizes threats to public health and the environment, while portraying polluters in the most favorable light;

3) DEP resolves scientific uncertainty to the benefit of the polluter, not the public;

4) DEP provides inordinate consideration of the economic costs of compliance rather than impacts on public health, delays or forgoes common sense actions to prevent exposures, rejects the precautionary principle, and flagrantly fails to err on the side of caution;

5) DEP interprets laws, regulations, and guidance documents as narrowly as possible, in a way that narrows the scope of their responsibility, jurisdiction, authority, and scientific basis to regulate and protect the public;

6) DEP fails to aggressively use existing regulatory authority and permit and enforcement tools to reduce risks;

7) DEP does not aggressively pursue opportunities to force polluters to pay and restore and reimburse the public for damages suffered;

8. DEP recently testified in support of legislation to reduce notification to those who live nearby toxic sites on the grounds that current notification requirements were harming real estate values;

9) DEP maintains Open Public Records Act (OPRA) policies that illegally withhold public information on sham grounds of “executive” and “deliberative privilege” loopholes; and

10) DEP has taken steps to weaken existing soil and groundwater standards and vapor intrusion requirements; refused to honor promises to strengthen the cleanup program by enforcing cleanup schedules, imposing permanent remedies, and promulgating hot spot “acute soil standards“; and yet supported privatization of the program.

I) The Pompton Lakes Vapor Intrusion and Cancer Cluster story (for details, see this)

standing rioom only in Pompton Lakes hearing on cancer cluster assocaited with the Dupont pollution (12/15/09)

standing room only in Pompton Lakes hearing on cancer cluster associated with the Dupont pollution (12/15/09)

a) What did Dupont and DEP know and when did they know it?

Residents have demanded to know when Dupont and DEP discovered the vapor intrusion problems and why it took them so long – until May 2008 – to notify residents and begin sampling air inside homes and take steps to reduce risks. I don’t know when Dupont and DEP discovered problems at the PL site. But I do know when they should have known. DEP knew, back in early 2002 – at the highest level – that vapor intrusion was a serious statewide problem at hundreds of volatile organic compound groundwater pollution sites across the state. DEP Commissioner Campbell was warned that the current groundwater standards and cleanup approach (i.e. natural attenuation/passive remedies) would NOT protect public health. According to a February 2002 warning memo to Commissioner Campbell. Despite this warning, DEP took no quick action in PL (see the 2002 DEP Vulnerability Assessment, page 5 last paragraph):

Indoor Air from contaminated groundwater

The issue is relatively new as it relates to vapors from dissolved constituent plumes entering homes at above chronic levels. This issue is not an isolated incident (Wall Township) and has become an issue across the country. As more cases of this type surface it may cause the protectiveness of sites with natural attenuation remedies and the protectiveness of groundwater quality standards to be reevaluated.

As far as we know, 8 years later, DEP still has not revised groundwater standards to address risks from vapor intrusion or inventoried and responded to all cases where vapor risks may be present.

b) Which way does DEP err under uncertainty?

Data is always incomplete and science always uncertain. This forces policy choices to be made under uncertainty.  The choices generally revolve around collect more data and wait, or err on the side of caution and take protective regulatory action. Action costs polluters money and delay increases public health and environmental risks. DEP invariably chooses delay and hides behind uncertainty. Polluters manufacture scientific uncertainty as a means of stalling regulatory action. Many DEP programs are designed to perpetuate uncertainty and avoid taking action. (see this and this)

c) What explains the delay in notifying homeowners and sampling indoor air in homes

See a and b above for answers to that. DEP recently took steps to make this problem worse at hundreds of other sites across the state. DEP adopted changes to the VI Guidance to accelerate indoor air sampling at “sensitive receptor” sites (i.e homes, schools, daycare center) in August 2009, but reversed those changes in November 2009.

d) DEP blaming homeowners – DEP manipulating uncertainty regarding the source of the problem

In a Feb. 19 Bergen Record article, DEP Assistant Commissioner Kropp blamed homeowners who live on top of the Dupont plume for toxic indoor air – virtually echoing the denial excuse of the chemical industry to point the finger elsewhere. This remark reads like it is from a Dupont press release or legal brief:

One challenge of testing indoor air is that items typically found in a home, including bathroom cleaning products and chemically-treated carpet, can produce high readings for toxic vapors, Kropp said.

DEP even builds this polluters defense into the fine print of their vapor intrusion guidance document. You can see how that gets reflected in  the fine print buried on page 17 of the Dupont Vapor Intrusion plan, one comes across what appears to be a benign statement (but is really an effort to blame the homeowner for any chemicals detected in indoor air):

“A building survey and chemical inventory will be completed during sample collection. The presence of consumer/household products and materials and building characteristics will be documented on a Building Survey Form (see Appendix G), adapted from Appendix B of NJDEP’s Vapor Intrusion Guidance.”
http://www.state.nj.us/dep/srp/community/sites/dupont_pompton_lakes/final_virmwp.pdf

e) DEP failed to provide information to homeowners regarding eligibility to file Spill Fund damage claims to receive compensation

No PL residents have filed NJ Spill Fund claims to receive compensation for property value reductions associated with DuPont contamination. Why is that? Because DEP hasn’t advised them that  they are eligible to do so. DEP is not likely to provide that advice, because they are seeking to minimize claims against that fund. Outrageously, DEP complained in December 14, 2009 legislative testimony about how new notification requirements to residents near toxic sites were increasing Spill Fund claims. Spill Fund revenues come from a very small surcharge on major corporate polluters, primarily the oil and chemical industry. If DEP cared about protecting people, they would publicize this information and inform residents. But instead, DEP protects polluters by keeping the Spill Fund a secret to avoid public pressure on raising the surcharge when it becomes obvious that claims greatly exceed funds. DEP Guidance to the public on how to file a Spill Fund claim is limited. (See the above link to Spill Fund regulations for Spill Fund eligible reimbursements for “damages“.)

f) DEP failed to enforce toxic site cleanup, hazardous waste management, and clean water laws against DuPont

The Dupont “cleanup” has been overseen by DEP for 22 years. During that time, we are not aware of any formal DEP enforcement action filed against Dupont (e.g. Administrative Orders, Spill Act Directives, fines or penalties collected) under delegated federal RCRA or Clean Water Acts, or the tremendous DEP enforcement powers under NJ State Spill Act, Solid Waste Management Act, or Water Pollution Control Act for violations by Dupont.

g) DEP failed to impose Natural Resource Damages to compensate Pompton Lakes

DEP entered into a sweetheart deal with Dupont, yet not one penny went to Pompton lakes who have suffered enormous damages to natural resources and public health by Dupont pollution. (see this)

II) The Paterson community air toxics story (for media, see this and this)

Atlantic Battery, (AKA xxx) directly across the street from abandoned public housing project.

Atlantic Battery, (aka Power Battery) directly across the street from abandoned public housing project.

Following leaks to the press, DEP recently released a major $740,000 joint EPA/DEP funded scientific research project on toxic air pollutants in Paterson, NJ.  (see this). Aside from unacceptable cancer risks from numerous toxic pollutants detected in Paterson air, the study raised significant issues of scientific integrity and politicization of science. Here are verbatim DEP scientists findings that were deleted from a draft Study, followed by other serious scientific, regulatory, and policy issues that were either downplayed, sanitized, or ignored entirely in the Final Report (discussed in more detail here):

a) DEP deleted scientific research study findings in the Final Report released to the public:

1) elevated rates of respiratory disease, especially in children.

The following draft Report findings were deleted in their entirely from the final Report:

Paterson has more than three times the state average for hospitalization rates due to asthma (Wallace, 2003). A study in Paterson (Freeman et al, 2002) found that 21% of third graders had been diagnosed with asthma or a related health problem. Paterson… has the fifth highest hospitalization rate for asthma in NJ (NJDHSS, 2003). Twenty eight air toxics (Leikauf, 2002) have been associated with exacerbations of asthma and the 1996 [EPA] National Air Toxics Assessment identified fourteen air toxics which are causing elevated cancer and non-cancer risks (NJDEP, 2003) in Passaic County

2) local industrial emission “hot spots”, located close to homes and schools:

The following draft Report findings were deleted in the Final report:

[Paterson] was selected because it qualifies as an air toxics “hot spot” due to the industrial (e.g. textiles; dyes; chemicals; metal fabrication, refinishing and recovery; plastics; printing; electronics; paper and food products, etc) commercial (e.g. dry cleaning; photo labs; commercial heaters/boilers; print shops, etc) and mobile sources (US I-80, Rt. 19) dominated sectors… Schools have been chosen as monitoring site locations allow UCAMPP the unique opportunity to monitor air toxics where children, a susceptible subpopulation, spend a portion of their time.

Worse, the community was provided a false rationale as to why Paterson was selected for the study.

3) Why was Paterson selected for thee study – race, ethnicity, and income statistical profile (plus “toxic hot spots”).

The following draft report findings were deleted in the Final report:

Paterson was chosen for this project because it is a mixed-use urban community with high population density and many of the characteristics of an environmental justice community. …

Paterson has all the characteristics of an environmental justice community with a disproportionately large percentage of families living at or below the poverty level. Nineteen percent of the families in Paterson live at or under the poverty level compared to 6.3% for the state. There are 149,000 residents, of which 1/3 are white, 1/3 black and the balance are some other race. Fifty percent of the population considers themselves to bee Hispanic or Latino. The population density is over 17,210 people per square mile.

4) relationship to prior Camden Pilot study and Environmental Justice concerns

The Paterson study was the next phase in north jersey, of a pilot community environmental justice initiative begun in Camden, NJ. The Camden case is highly significant, as a DEP air permit issued there to St. Lawrence Cement was stuck down by a US District Court judge on environmental justice grounds. US District Court judge Olofsky found:

“Much of what this case is about is what the NJDEP failed to consider … It did not consider the pre-existing poor health of the residents of Waterfront South, nor did it consider the cumulative environmental burden already borne by this impoverished community. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the NJDEP failed to consider the racial and ethnic composition of the population of Waterfront South.” ( emphasis mine  South Camden Citizens in Action v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 145 F. Supp. 2d 505 (D.N.J. 2001). )

The final Report sanitizes and contains no reference to this historical, policy, and scientific context (see this and this)

abandoned public housing, directly across street from Power Battery pollution.

abandoned public housing, directly across street from Power Battery pollution.

b) DEP suppressed consideration of cumulative impact risks presented in the draft report

Significantly, the Paterson study was the first DEP attempt to calculate “cumulative risk” by estimating “combined cancer risks” of multiple pollutants – this is a cutting edge EJ public health issue, see: EJAC 2009 Report: Strategies for Addressing Cumulative Impacts in Environmental Justice Communities-March 2009 – yet  all this is ignored. [Update: the risk assessment and “combined cancer risks” in the draft report have been deleted from the Final Report posted on DEP website]

The draft Report calculated “combined cancer risks” (inhalation) from multiple chemical pollutants detected in the air. Combined risks were estimated from 210 to 710 TIMES NJ’s cancer risk policy standard of one in a million lifetime excess cancer risk.  (see page 61 of draft Report here)

In addition to suppressing the draft Report’s unacceptably high “combined risk” findings, the final report also failed to even mention the basic public health science concepts of cumulative and synergistic risks of multiple pollutant (or multiple pathway) exposures. The Final report failed to include any discussion of the pressing issue of cumulative risk that was presented to DEP in a March 2009 Report to DEP by DEP’s own Environmental Justice Advisory Council. According to the Council’s report: (see: EJAC 2009 Report: Strategies for Addressing Cumulative Impacts in Environmental Justice Communities-March 2009

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) documents define the term “aggregate risk” as the risk from all routes of exposure to a single substance, and the term “cumulative risk” as the risk from all routes of exposure to a group of substances. They are silent on the issue of multiple sources. 2 In order to have a clear and intelligible discussion about cumulative impacts, it is important for the NJDEP to agree on the definition of terms that are used. Appendix A provides some examples from various sources that might be useful. The choice of definition is not as important as assuring that everyone involved in a single conversation are all using a term with the same definition in mind.

In the mid-1990s, the EPA also developed a “Cumulative Exposure Project” that incorporated multiple pollutants, multiple sources, and multiple pathways (air, food and drinking water), but did not directly address duration.3 However, the EPA has not been able to extend this effort beyond the inhalation pathway which continues to be addressed by the National-Scale Air Toxics Assessment Project. (see: EJAC 2009 Report: Strategies for Addressing Cumulative Impacts in Environmental Justice Communities-March 2009

In another effort to conceal important information and misleadi the public, the final Report deleted findings that the cancer risks exceeded EPA risk range policy. EPA funded the study and EPA has legal oversight over NJDEP’a air program. When EPA’s own risk range is exceeded, they are required to act to reduce those risks under EPA policy adn regulations. So the deletion of this “unacceptable risk” finding is highly significant. The draft Report found:

The combined cancer risk at all four sites were at the high end of that the USEPA considers “acceptable risk”, i.e. 1×10(-4) to 1×10(-6). The combined cancer risk was greater at the Paterson sites than at the background site. The greatest risk was observed at the C site 7.1×10(-4) [My Note: that is 710 in a million, from 7-710 TIMES HIGHER THAN EPA acceptable risk].

c) DEP downplayed the risks to minimize public health concerns -  DEP spun the health risks to the community

DEP systematically downplays public health risks of the pollution levels they found by omitting key scientific findings from the study, the high air pollution related health problems cited above, while inserting claims not found in the original study. For example, DEP claims:

  • “There is no immediate public health concern” – this is a conclusion that ignores evidence of significant long-term and cumulative effects – “immediate concern” is a totally inappropriate standard to apply in this case, where health effects are the outcome of chronic exposures;
  • “The air quality in Paterson is consistent with that of the entire state” – this is a vague statement that ignores that the study was designed with a background monitoring station in Chester, NJ and many other specific findings such as chlorine levels in Paterson more than 100 times higher than EPA national model estimates; and
  • “The cancer risk [for p-dichlorobenzene, one of 132 toxics measured] calculated at the one site in Paterson where the elevated concentrations occurred would be 205 in a million”. This statement neglects to mention that this is more than 200 times the one in a million cancer risk guideline used by DEP and that even higher cancer risks were found at other monitoring sites
  • DEP completely fails to mention that the study found the “combined cancer risk” from exposure to toxic chemicals at the high end of what the U.S. EPA considers acceptable risk, and over 700 times higher than New Jersey’s cancer risk standard of one in a million

c) DEP failed to release industrial emissions inventory

One original objective of the study was to inventory all industrial emissions source within a 1 mile radius of each monitoring station. Yet that facility specific inventory is not included in the final report,. Rather, DEP clasims that from 153 to 227 facilities were considered. This failure makes it impossible for the community to know where all the toxic pollution emissions are coming from and the status of DEP permits and enforcement actions at each polluting facility.

Such withholding of vital information only benefits and protects the polluter. It totally frustrates citizen efforts to hold DEP and polluters accountable to clean air laws.

To obtain this information, on December 9, 2009, I filed an OPRA public records request to DEP. That emissions inventory  information has been denied.

d) DEP sanitized Report findings of flaws in DEP air permit database and permit program.

Significantly, this information is required in order to determine the status of Clean Air Act MACT compliance requirements and enforcement issues. Without the information, compliance and DEP permit performance can not be assessed by the community.

The draft Report (@page 19)  under a headline “Needed Improvements to NJDEP Emissions Databases” – made highly significant negative findings and specific regulatory improvement recommendations that were deleted from the final Report. The draft Report found:

Based on the UCAMPP and other projects done by the Department, it has been recognized that NJDEP needs to improve emissions databases. This can be accomplished by expanding current permit requirements so that facilities would have to submit stack specific speciated VOC’as and HAP’s. This would greatly reduce the resources needed to generate a detailed emissions inventory. The current requirements that major facilities report 36 HAPs at a facility-wide level in theri emissions statements needs to be expanded to include additional air toxics (possibly all those with risk based health numbers), be stack specific adn be a requirement for all sources of air emissions not just major sources and reporting thresholds need to be revised to reflect risk. The goal of any model is to try to accurately represent  what is really happening in the given area of study. This can only be achieved through the input of accurate and complete data into the emissions inventory.

e) DEP failed to mandate risk reduction measures on known emission sources- DEP limited the scope of the Report and followup risk reduction measures to voluntary measures, i.e outreach adn education.

This arbitrary restriction is scope again only benefits polluters because it fails to educate citizens about the full suite of regulatory and enforcement tools available to DEP to reduce pollution and public health risks in Paterson neighborhoods.

f) DEP has conducted limited to no followup source trackdown investigations and air permit and enforcement to mandate emissions reductions and reduce risks.

d) DEP is ignoring – at best – a potential lead hot spot (and could be covering it up)

(more to follow soon on suspected lead hotspot)

abandoned public housing project - within a few hundered feet of major industrial polluters. Did DEP cosnider cumulative impacts or EJ concerns in air permits and enforcement actions?

abandoned public housing project - within a few hundred feet of major industrial polluters. Did DEP consider cumulative impacts or EJ concerns in air permits and enforcement actions?

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Christie’s “Ministry of Truth” Running Away From DEP Transition Report

February 19th, 2010 No comments

Today’s Bergen Record runs an important story on DEP and Christie Administration plans to weaken the so called chemical “vapor intrusion” requirements: “Don’t change indoor air testing in New Jersey, environmentalists say”

Last month, we put out a national alert on this issue. In NJ, we broke the story, and we have written about that issue several times in detail here, most recently on Feb 4 in “Despite Pompton Lakes Tragedy, DEP Weakened and Now Christie Considering Nixing “Vapor Intrusion” Requirements” and again on February 12 “Questions for EPA Tweets

But aside from the complex environmental and public health issues involved, there is a simple matter of credibility in the Christie press office.

Mike Drewniak, Christie’s press spokesman sounds like he’s with Orwell’s Ministry of Truth:

Here’s Drewniak in a Jan. 31, 2010 Bergen Record story on the DEP Transition Report “N.J. Gov. Christie’s transition team has harsh words about state’s environmental department

Christie’s spokesman said last week that the report will be a cornerstone of the governor’s environmental policy.

“This is not some blue-ribbon panel report that’s published, gathers dust on a shelf and then is thrown out when a new administration comes in,” said Michael Drewniak. “This is something that we will look over and take the best ideas from.”

But here’s Drewniak again, on the same issue, in the same paper, today (Feb 19, 2010: “Don’t change indoor air testing policy in New Jersey, environmentalists say”

“Christie spokesman Mike Drewniak dismissed the criticism as unfair. “None of the transition documents are administration policy,” Drewniak said. “These are all for our consideration for formulating policy moving forward. You’ll find some recommendations that are counter to the known policy of the governor. We wanted all opinions gathered, and some will be rejected outright.”

Wow! How do they go from the Transition Report as “the cornerstone of the governor’s environmental policy” to full retreat (e.g. “some recommendations that are counter to the known policy of the governor” and “some will be rejected outright“)?

Does that have something to do with the horrible press coverage Christie has received on that Report? Has there been a change in policy or PR?

So it looks like either Christie has made a religious conversion on the environment, or they are spinning big time.

Which is it?

Or are they amateurs? Or do they think we are stupid?

We’ll keep you posted.

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NJ Subsidizing Oil and Gas Pipelines That Cross State Lands

February 18th, 2010 No comments
XXXX

Texas Eastern and Algonquin Gas pipeline crosses State Park lands in West Amwell, NJ

Today’s Assembly Environment Committee hearing on a A2232, a bill to dedicate $150,000 in Island Beach State Park revenues to certain purposes, provided an opportunity to talk about increasing revenues to State Parks simply by collecting money that is owned to the State.

Amazingly, existing oil and gas pipeline and electric power-line easements across state lands – including State Park Lands – that distribute BILLIONS of dollars in products, are based on below market rates in agreements almost 100 years old – some for as little as $1 per day! DEP has failed to renegotiate these easements and leases to reflect current market value. It’s as if you could rent Jay Gatsby’s mansion for $100 per month, the market rate in 1929.

Worse, as far as I know, even that paltry revenue is not being collected!

Texas Eastern & Algonquin Gas pipeline

Texas Eastern & Algonquin Gas pipeline

For several years now, I have been trying to get attention focused on the failure of the DEP Office of Leases and Consessions to collect revenues owed to the State of NJ. See: NEW JERSEY PARKS LOSE MILLIONS IN UNCOLLECTED LEASE PAYMENTS – Park Closures Could Be Averted by Reaping Concessionaire and Easement Revenue

That press release relied on a prior 2003 OLS Audit that found that DEP had not addressed prior Audit reports of lost lease revenue.

We also disclosed internal DEP documents – please read this absurd situation documented by D&R Canal Park Supervisor. The memo describes how flawed the lease arrangements are at just one state park, D&R Canal State Park

Despite 2 prior Audits with adverse findings and OLS questions of DEP during recent budget reviews, I am unaware of any documentation or evidence that State Audit deficiency findings were ever fully corrected. I am unaware of evidence that DEP ever responded to prior OLS requests and quantified the status of revenues of the Office of leases and concessions, particularly with respect to easement revenues and the status of renegotiating prior easements to reflect current market values. (see page 9 of DEP

Commissioner’s Testimony

In this time of fiscal crisis and budget cutting, it is vital that NJ collect all revenues owed, particularly from the deep pockets out of state oil and gas corporations.

So why was my testimony today on this issue before the Assembly Environment Committee ignored? Why did the Committee Chairman take the highly unusual step to try to rule my testimony out of order as “off the bill” (see A2232) (you can listen to my complete testimony at the conclusion of this link)

In 2003, the State Audit found:

Office of Leases and Concessions

The Bureau of Parks, Office of Leases and Concessions mission includes developing and providing facilities for visitors to state parks. As part of that mission, they are responsible for the leases and concessions located within the parks. There are a wide variety of agreements including leasing of fields and orchards for agricultural uses and leasing of historic structures, cottages and dock rights for residential use. In addition, there are other agreements for easement and pipeline crossings. …. During fiscal year 2003, concession payments and lease rentals deposited into the General Fund totaled [only] $750,000 with over half attributable to the Senator Frank S. Farley marina lease. It does not appear that the monitoring of leases or collection of rent is a priority of the Office of Leases and Concessions. Our reviews of both the leases and concession components of the office noted the following issues.

Timeliness of Lease Agreements

  • The Office of Leases and Concessions has not sought to replace expired lease agreements.
  • Three expired leases noted in our previous audit issued in 1999 have not been renegotiated and reissued. The tenants continue to operate under a special use permit in holdover status. The terms for two of the previous leases, including rental amounts due, have remained unchanged.
  • Leases formerly administered by the Division of Water Resources were turned over to the office in fiscal year 1992. We noted that 15 of 20 leases are expired and need to be renegotiated.

These sweetheart deal easements must be renegotiated to reflect current market rates. And the landlord needs to start collecting the rent.

electric powerline cuts thrugh forest - how much is this easement worth?

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