Archive for April, 2010

Christie’s Earth Week: Day 1 – Red Tape Rollback

April 20th, 2010 No comments
DEP HQ - Trenton, NJ

DEP HQ - Trenton, NJ

[Update: Philadelphia Inquirer: Red-tape panel has no easy answers – the claim that environmental groups had mixed reactions is not accurate, unless an off the record source offered a favorable assessment that was not reported in the story]

Today is the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Department of Environmental Protection. [Error – it is April 22, sorry!] More on that tomorrow.

For now, I could say this was adding insult to injury, but let’s just call it DEP’s mid life crisis. News from PEER:

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Contact:  Bill Wolfe (609) 397-4861; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

“Red Tape Review Group” Issues Hit List of Regulations to Toss or Water Down

Trenton – A panel commissioned by Governor Chris Christie recommends that New Jersey jettison an array of anti-pollution, public health and smart growth rules in order to attract businesses and jobs to the Garden State.  The rules targeted for repeal or revision would weaken current standards for air and water pollution, flood hazard reduction, protecting the Highlands, toxic site clean-up and even preventing toxic catastrophes, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

On his first day in office, Gov. Christie issued a series of sweeping Executive Orders one of which established a “Red Tape Review” group under the Lt. Governor to examine all existing regulations.  He also imposed a 90-day moratorium on 160 pending proposed rules, 12 of which emanated from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  The moratorium expires today and yesterday the Red Tape Review Group released its recommendations.

Citing the need to streamline bureaucracy and promote economic development, the Red Tape report calls for regulatory relief from a score of existing DEP regulations, including:

  • Water Quality Management  rules which prohibit sewer line extensions into environmentally sensitive areas such as forests, stream buffers, and endangered species habitat;
  • Rules to protect the New Jersey Highlands, a region of 800,000 acres that provides water supply to over 5 million state residents, from degradation due to over-development;
  • Stream buffers protections and flood hazard reduction regulations;
  • Strict oversight of toxic site clean-ups managed by private consultants, under a new privatized site remediation plan enacted under Gov. Corzine;
  • Coastal zone management protections, including public access rules;
  • Air pollution control to allow wider variances for exceeding permit limits; and
  • Relaxing rules under the Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act to prevent a repeat of the disaster at a Dow Chemical plant in Bhopal, India, where 7,000 people died from poison fumes.  The report cites compliance costs to industry and questions the need for any rules beyond a federal minimum.

“This Red Tape report represents a radical assault on longstanding strict protections of New Jersey’s air, water, land and natural resources,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst, noting that the report lacks any factual basis for declaring listed protections as less than cost beneficial.  “Under the guise of a ‘common sense regulation,’ the Christie folks have compiled a polluters’ wish list.”

Gov. Christie has embraced the Red Tape Review report.  The next step will be for the DEP to begin formal rulemaking on each targeted regulation with either a complete repeal or specified alterations.  New regulations will be viewed through a new cost benefit analysis and a desire to eliminate any state level requirements above required by federal mandates.

“Governor Christie wants to adopt the same hands-off approach to protecting the environment employed by states like Louisiana, which is not a model we want to emulate” Wolfe added.  “More pollutions, dirtier rivers and terrible sprawl are not the building blocks of a sane economic strategy for New Jersey.”


Read the environmental recommendations of the Red Tape Review report

Look at the damage from Christie’s regulatory moratorium

See the abandonment of the state climate change efforts

View the entire Red Tape Review Group report

New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability

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Christie’s Earth Week Preview

April 19th, 2010 5 comments
Senator Buono, Senate Majority leader (R) and Lt. Gov Guadagno at Red Tape hearing in Montlcair

Senator Buono, Senate Majority leader (R) and Lt. Gov Guadagno at Red Tape hearing in Montclair

[Update #2 – glad to see Senator Buono take a stand: NJ Senator distances herself from Gov. Christie’s ‘red tape’ report

The report, released shortly before 11 a.m., says the group had “arrived at a series of unanimous recommendations” — but omits Buono’s name from the cover sheet.

Asked about the omission, Buono said she raised concerns after receiving the language of proposed legislation last week but was told the group wanted to present a united report.

“It’s just unanimity at any cost, even if it means being dishonest,” she said. “Bipartisanship is very different than strong-arming consensus.”]

Update #1: Lt. Gov. just released the Red Tape Review Report – far worse than I imagined. DEP recommendations are found at the very end in Appendix H – its an all out assault. I will be writing in more detail soon. For a copy of the report, click HERE.]

At the outset of NJ Governor Christie’s Earth Week, we thought we’d do a little week in preview to set the stage for significant announcements and political spin out of Trenton on topics we have been writing about recently.

Governor Christie’s Executive Order #1 moratorium on regulations ends on Tuesday April 20. That was the target date for Christie’s Regulatory Czar, Lt. Governor Guadagno, to issue her “Red Tape Review Group” Report.

But ironically, April 20 just happens to be the 40th anniversary of the creation of the DEP. Even the Christie political people realize that would be awkward timing. [Error! It is April 22 – sorry!] So they bumped up the Red Tape Report release for today, April 19. [the motive for accelerating the release of the Report is not that reliably clear]

When we get a hold of that report (obviously we got no advance copy!), we will provide a status update on the 12 DEP regulations frozen under the Executive Order, outline the legislative initiatives underway to implement the Governor’s “common sense regulatory principles”, and conduct a detailed review of the “regulatory relief” policies recommended in the Red Tape Review Report.

On Tuesday – you heard it here first! – Commissioner Bob Martin will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the creation – by the legislature – of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on April 20, 1970.

Forty years ago, the legislature boldly acted to recognize the overwhelming public outpouring of support and activism for environmental protection by creating a new regulatory institution with a mission exclusively dedicated to environmental protection. In doing so, the Legislature greatly expanded the narrow “conservation” oriented mission and eliminated the economic development mission and functions of the previous entity, which was named the “Department of Conservation and Economic Development” .

In a supreme irony – despite harsh editorial opposition, polls showing 79% NJ residents opposed and strong criticism -  in celebrating DEP’s 40th, Commissioner Martin will announce his own unilateral creation of a new Assistant Commissioner of Economic Development, designed to make DEP a major player in economic development. Martin is making this dramatic and controversial move, despite no legislative authorization:

“I don’t see anything in (the state law detailing the DEP’s powers) that has to do with promoting the economy,” said Jeff Climpson, environment section chief in the state Office of Legislative Services, which drafts state legislation. (Push to weigh economic impacts creates stir. Todd Bates. 4/11/10)

Martin also will announce a new Deputy Commissioner and a Department-wide reorganization to promote Governor Christie’s “common sense” policies in Executive Order #2. Those policies include “regulatory relief”, cost benefit analysis, sound science, and a more “customer friendly” culture at DEP.

These policies are explicitly designed and intended to shrink DEP’s mission and force DEP to “do less with less”.

So, Christie and Martin seek a more than 40 year rollback of the clock on environmental protection, back to the bad old days of the 1970 Department of Conservation and Economic Development.

As a prelude to what’s in the pipeline, we note that Martin’s “fresh look” at DEP science already: 1) killed a proposed greenhouse gas monitoring rule, 2) abandoned a drinking water standard for the chemical perchlorate, 3) twisted the findings of an EPA funded air toxics study in Paterson, 4) moved to gut DEP Vapor Intrusion requirements, 5) issued Administrative Order 2010-3 which delayed and weakened water quality management rules, and 6) signaled to a Court a plan to nix the Highlands septic density standards, the core of water resource and land protection in that region.

Due to harsh criticism he and the Governor have gotten thus far for slashing over $300 million in energy conservation, renewable energy, and greenhouse gas cap/trade funds (RGGI), Martin also might go out of his way to mention that he is retaining the DEP’s Office of Climate Change.

Martin may also announce his Science Advisory Board and the new head of the Office of Policy and Planning, formerly headed by Jeanne Herb, an experienced DEP manager who was forced out. Herb was a democratic political appointee (McGreevey), but prior to that had served in important lower management and staff positions, like the Office of Pollution Prevention and staff in the chemical Right-to-Know program, where she made some powerful enemies of Christie supporters, like Hal Bozarth of the Chemistry Council.

Expect Martin to try to sell this radical rollback agenda with some recycled rhetoric about “seeking balance” in “tough economic times“. Martin will attempt to provide political cover for this agenda by forming several (small, hand picked, and closed) “stakeholder processes” and emphasize that he is working to make DEP more transparent. Martin will mention his management emphasis on metrics, but make no commitments to actual enforceable metrics.

We heard a dry run of that rap on Saturday at the NJ Environmental Federation’s annual meeting, where Martin gave the keynote address (a detailed review of that in a future post).

Earth Day, 2005. DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell debates Bill Wolfe.

Earth Day, 2005. DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell (L) debates Bill Wolfe at protest of environmental groups to expose green-washing. This was modeled on a similar 1996 Earth Day protest against Governor Whitman. Will Christie and Martin get a pass?

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Landing In Atlantic City

April 16th, 2010 1 comment
Atlantic City, NJ

Atlantic City, NJ




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“Onerous Regulations” Had Nothing to Do with This Plant Closure

April 16th, 2010 No comments

Just day’s before the release of Governor Christie’s Regulatory Czar’s “Red Tape Review Group” Report, the Star Ledger reports today that a GlaxoSmithKline pharmaceutical plant in Clifton will close and destroy 270 good jobs.

Contrary to the Christie Administration’s simplistic and false rhetoric about “onerous regulations” as the cause of the economic collapse, the company had received its local land use approvals (and probably DEP permits) for the expansion.

“We were rather caught by surprise,” Clifton City Manager Al Greco said of the announcement by London-based GlaxoSmithKline. “They just spent a year going through the planning board to get some expansions approved.”

Glaxo said it will be transfer production of its Aquafresh and Sensodyne brands to upstate New York over the next three years. A spokeswoman said the move was based on “constraints” at the 60-year-old New Jersey plant.

Greco said he suspects Glaxo plans to use more automation in its production process to battle Asian competitors.

“I’m sure they are consolidating,” he said. “They’re competing against the Chinese market.”

These real causes of NJ job losses completely destroy the premise of the Christie Administration’s “Red Tape Review Group” , which is focused exclusively on providing regulatory relief and blaming “onerous regulations“, the DEP, and a “burdensome regulatory framework” for the economic recession and job loss.

But it is clear that economic factors (e.g. competition w/China and globalization) not environmental regulations are the root causes .

But how can NJ workers compete with China’s wages and residents live with China’s lax environmental standards?

Globalization is a race to the bottom for cheap labor and a devastated environment. US trade and investment policies have destroyed the US manufacturing sector, not environmental protections which drive innovation and productivity and create jobs.

At the State level, green jobs is the best path forward for job creation and environmental sustainability – but Christie is going in the opposite direction in slashing renewable energy funds and shredding programs to implement DEP’s Green House Gas Reduction plan.

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Tax Day Essay: “On Civil Disobedience”

April 15th, 2010 No comments
US Treasury Building, Washington DC

US Treasury Building, Washington DC

I never subscribed to the first sentence of Thoreau’s famous essay “Civil Disobedience “(1849).

That lede has been misleadingly overplayed, in terms of distracting from more central points of his essay and it also has served to legitimize certain anti-social individualistic, anti-government, libertarian views:

I heartily accept the motto, – “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which I also believe, – “That government is best which governs not at all”, and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.

When will men ever be “prepared” for pure anarchism? Even if they were sufficiently altruistic, would some form of communitarian organization be preferable? But I digress from the point I am trying to make with this Tax Day post.

Thoreau was a strong opponent of the US invasion of Mexico, and he advocated withholding of taxes as a form of protest – civil disobedience. It was not taxes and government, per se, that were his primary issue concern, but rather his moral revulsion at slavery and the deep injustice of the Mexican war. His conscience and his sense of personal responsibility forced him to not contribute to those efforts in any way.

That principled equality, anti-war, anti-imperial stance and Thoreau’s civil disobedience tactics have not been so relevant since the Vietnam War. Thoreau wrote:

If one were to tell me that this were a bad government because it taxed certain foreign commodities brought to its ports, it is most probably that I should not make an ado about it, for I can do without them. All machines have their friction; and possibly this does enough good to counterbalance the evil. … But when the friction comes to have its machine, and oppression and robbery are organized, I say, let us not have such a machine any longer. In other words, when a sixth of the population of a nation which has undertaken to be the refuge of liberty are slaves, and a whole country is unjustly overrun, and conquered by a foreign army, and subjected to military law, I think that it is not too soon for honest men to rebel and revolutionize. What makes this duty the more urgent is the fact, that the country so over-run is not our own, but ours is the invading army.

Now think of these words in terms of the huge black population now in prison and segregated in hopeless urban ghettos.

Think about US army invasion, war, and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Think of the irresponsible and corrupt failure to respond to global warming.

Thoreau targeted the political source of the problem (as did Martin Luther King over 100 years later in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” where he scorned well- meaning white liberals, and called for direct action non-violent civil disobedience). Thoreau wrote:

Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support, are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform.

Thoreau realized that real social change depended upon individual integrity, which in turn required the courage to act upon one’s convictions – and take bold conscience based actions that put one at risk:

Action from principle, the perception and performance of right, changes things and relations, it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything which was.

Thoreau realized that the individual exercising his conscience in action against the state would be treated harshly and unjustly, particularly the poor and powerless compared to the elite (are there not echoes today in Wall Street bandits not going to jail while millions of young black men serve long prison time for crack cocaine?):

If a man who has no property refuses but once to earn nine shillings for the State, he is  put in prison for a period unlimited by any law I know, … but if he he should steal ninety times nine shillings from the State, he is soon permitted to go at large.

Thoreau laid out the test and summed up the individual’s duty to take action – a call to action that remains extremely relevant today (and echoed in the equally famous “body on the gears” speech by 1960’s Berkelely free speech movement leader, Mario Savio. Thoreau wrote:

If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go; perchance it will wear smooth, – certainly the machine will wear out. If the injustice has a spring, or a pulley, or a rope, or a crank, exclusively for itself, then perhaps you may consider whether the remedy will not be worse than the evil; but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate,  that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.


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