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State of the Shore

May 27th, 2010 No comments
Yours truly, landing a small bluefish hooked by Benson Chiles on Sandy Hook point. (photo by Benson)

Yours truly, landing a bluefish hooked by Benson Chiles on Sandy Hook point (photo by Benson)

[Update: Star Ledger coverage and Asbury Park Press story]

I went out to Sandy Hook today for the 8th annual “”State of the Shore“, sponsored by the NJ Marine Sciences Consortium.

Given the Consortium’s science focus, this PR oriented event is generally criticized by environmental advocates as just another typical shore tourism photo op stunt.

So I was pleasantly surprised that the event’s agenda provided more than just the typical tourism promotion and a singular focus on the DEP beach bacteria sampling program. 

Dr. Jon Miller, Assistant professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, gave a brief presentation of the “State of the Shore” in terms of  2009 storm impacts on beaches. During the 2009 season, the NJ coast was battered by a series of severe storms that were the worst in the last 20 years of monitoring in terms of storm intensity, beach erosion, and storm damage.

While some desperately hoped that the damaging 2009 storm season would not become “the new normal”, I couldn’t help but think about global warming model predictions of far more severe storm frequency and intensity. So get used to it – global warming is here and the 2009 season was just the beginning of global warming impacts.

Of course, no invited scientists spoke about this inconvenient fact, or, for that matter,  said anything at all about global warming driven sea level rise, shore vulnerability, the need for adaptation of NJ’ over-developed shoreline, or limit development in high hazard areas.

Dr. Louise Wooten of Georgian Court University gave a brief talk about the invasive dune species, Asiatic sand sedge (Carex kobomugi). According to Wooten, at curent rates of invasive species colonization, there will be no native dune vegetation in NJ in the next 20 years!  I found this the most shocking statement all day.

Dr. Josh Kohut of Rutgers University gave a brief talk about efforts to get a better understanding of dangerous rip currents.

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin emphasized that New Jerseyans want 3 things for beaches: that they are safe, clean, and open.

He said Governor Christie’s made shore protection a priority and illustrated that by the Governor’s oppostion to off shore oil drilling (before the Gulf spill); his opposition to off shore LNG plants; and his support for beach replenishment project funding.

Curious, while opposing hypothetical off shore LNG, Christie has done nothing to protect NJ from real threats of natural gas drilling, known as “fracking”, in neighboring NY and Pennyslvania. This gas drilling represents a serious threat to the Delaware River and NJ’s water supply. 

Martin clearly backed away from his press release earlier this week announcing the NJ gulf oil spill monitoring team. Martin went out of his way to downplay any Gulf oil spill risks to NJ beaches. I got the sense that he realized the his prior press release was ill advised and in poor judgment.  [Update: just read the NBC TV interview, and must revise this conclusion. Martin is ramping up the gulf oil fear, not tamping it down. I think this is just plain irresponsible given the low probability and deeply hypocritical given that Martin's own deregulatory policies are what led to teh Gulf blowout]

Unfortunately, Martin did the same old DEP dance, by touting the limited and misleading beach bacteria sampling program, while ignoring broader ocean/coastal ecosystem health concerns.

I was disappointed but not surprised by the fact that Martin failed to talk about the 800 pound Gorilla in the room i.e. lessons from the gulf oil spill in terms of the failures associated with lax  regulatory oversight by the federal Minerals Management Service and how that failure would influence his NJ state policy and DEP oversight of NJ industries. 

Martin emphasized the $40 billion economic value of shore tourism. But he failed to note the economic benefits of eco-tourism, birding, and the value of recreational and commercial fisheries.

Martin also failed  to mention NJ’s newly legislatively enacted ecosystem based management policy, and the newly created Coastal and Ocean Protection Council. Governor Christie has yet to nominate appoitments to that Council, while Martin has failed to embrace or fund ecosystem based managment.

Of course, all of the above is unlikely to be reported in tomorrow press, which I predict will focus exclusively on the “Top 10 NJ Beaches”.[Update - TV 12 took the tourism bait, but I was wrong on this too - see news story links above]

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A “Big Map” for Toxic Site Cleanup?

May 27th, 2010 No comments

We all recall the “Big Map“, right? [full disclosure: I worked closely with former Commissioner Brad Campbell on this failed initiative]

“Big Map” was a futile DEP effort to regulate development based on a map (see NY Times post mortem if you are unfamiliar with that controversial failure: War on Sprawl In New Jersey Hits a Wall 

Nine months after Gov. James E. McGreevey promised to wage the nation’s toughest anti-sprawl campaign in its most crowded state, his bold growth-control proposals are all but in tatters.

The governor and his staff conceded in recent interviews that a divided Legislature and opposition from builders made it pointless to introduce the most far-reaching anti-sprawl laws he outlined in a fiery State of the State address in January, when he vowed to take on ”those who profit from the strip malls and McMansions.” …

… on Friday, the administration abandoned the BIG map, for Blueprint for Intelligent Growth, which had divided the state into areas open for more growth, some growth and no growth.

Well, after Monday’s public hearing at DEP, where DEP rolled out their new map based toxic site cleanup priority scheme, I had echoes of  “Big Map” ringing in my ears. 

If this latest DEP initiative gets anywhere near the scrutiny of “Big Map“, a similar outcome is assured. Here’s why.

Last year, the Legislature enacted a controversial law that privatized much of the State toxic site cleanup program by creating a radical new model, led by private contractors called ”Licensed Site Professionals” (LSPs). The new law put control of cleanups in LSP hands,  not the Department of Environmental Protection.

To reduce the obvious huge inherent risks of abuse of any program that puts polluters in charge of toxic site cleanups, the law attempted to limit the kind of toxic sites that LSP’s could handle and sought to retain DEP control of the highest risks sites.

Under the new scheme, private LSP’s focus on the lower risk sites, such as simple home heating oil tanks and minor gas station cleanups. In contrast, DEP keeps the big, complex and high risk major industrial sites that represented serious risks to public health and the environment. At least, that’s how it was supposed to work and how the law was written.

The toxic site cleanup cases were to be divied up between LSPs and DEP based on a new risk prioritization scheme – known as the “Remedial Priorty System” (RPS). The RPS was required to consider all significant risks to human health and the environment and rank sites based on those risks. Based on the RPS ranking, DEP not only would retain the high risk sites, but could take over control of sites from LSP’s if they were ranked as high risk sites.

The RPS system is a complex and extremely important undertaking, because risks from toxic sites come in many forms. The RPS was required by law to be adopted by May 7, 2010.

The aggressive 1 year May 7 deadline for RPS was established basically for two reasons: first, the RPS is an essential component in the design of the new LSP program, which really can not be implemented without a robust RPS system in place to assure adequate oversight and safeguards are in place BEFORE case management decisions are made. 

Second, the RPS was mandated 28 years ago in the 1982 amendments to the Spill Act.

In 2006, we disclosed internal DEP documents that showed that DEP had not only failed to comply with this 1982 requirement, but intentionaly abandoned the effort (see below from PEER). In response to our disclosure, then DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson was forced to pledge that her “first priority” was developing a RPS system. This Jackson commitment got written into the LSP law.

Obviously, communities, homeowners, environmental groups, polluters, and the business community have intense and competing  interests in knowing of the risks of hazardous sites – which are the worst risks?

For years, DEP dodged these controversial questions by not adopting an RPS system and ranked list of toxic sites for the public to see.

So all eyes were on the DEP’s new RPS, which they rolled out at a public hearing on Monday.

Unfortunately, despite highly competent technical work, overall, the DEP RPS failed badly.

DEP staffers presented a draft RPS that was limited only to a portion of groundwater pollution impacts (i.e. potential risks to drinking water wells).

But other groundwater related risks, such as serious risks of volatile toxic chemical vapor intrusion into thousands of homes, schools, daycares, etc, were ignored. DEP requires that vapor intrusion risk be considered in the cleanup process, so failure to include them in the RPS is baffling. 

Ignored also were risks from polluted groundwater that migrates to rivers, streams and wetlands and  harms fish, wildlife, and natural resources.  DEP regulations require that surface water, natural  resource impacts and ecological risks be considered, so failure to include them in the RPS is baffling.

Ignored also were risks of ingesting or inhaling contaminated soil or dust from a toxic site, which are a major category of risk that drive many human health risk and exposure assessments. In fact, most cleanup standards are based on soil risks. DEP cleanup regulations require sampling, delineation, and cleanup of contaminated soils, so failure to consider them in RPS is baffling.

Most importantly, the RPS is supposed to set priorities for cleanup. So it is vital that not only all potential human exposure pathways and ecological risks be considered, but that the cumulative risks of multiple toxic sites and other pollution burdens  be considered as well. Many older and urban communities in NJ have multiple pollution sources concentrated in their neighborhoods. 

These cumulative risk – of multiple toxic sites, multiple industrial pollution sources, and mutiple chemical pollutants – have been ignored by DEP for years, despite emerging science documenting serious risks.

Equally, the disporportionate burden born by poor and minority communities – and the unique health and social vulnerabilities of residents of those communities - must be considered in any cleanup priority scheme.

DEP itself recently found that race and income were correlated with environmental pollution burdens. Implementing an EJ policy has been and allegedly continues to be a priority of Commissioner Martin. Yet, amazingly, the DEP RPS compeletly failed to consider what are known as “disproportionate  impacts” and “environmental justice” concerns.

The current draft RPS DEP released is based on a fairly sophisticated “Geographic Information System” (GIS) model. The GIS component of the model has multiple environmental data layers reflecting land use, natural reosurces, water, etc. which are overlain by toxic site information. Toxic sites neaby sensitive receptors, such as homes, are assigned various points to rank potential risks.

The RPS’ landscape mapping approach, GIS systems, and data layers are the same ones used for the “Big Map” initiative, so, in addition to flagging fatal RPS flaws, I urged DEP staffers to learn the lessons of the prior “Big Map” failure. The technical and political lessons are many.

For example, in developing “Big Map”, DEP GIS experts repeatedly warned the Commissioner that the GIS data layers were not designed for site specific regulatory purposes. Inaccuracies and errors in the data were used to discredit the entire enterprise: builders were quick to find and politically exploit many examples where a DEP mapped wetland was now a Walmart. Toxic site issues make all these land use problems far more complex and open many new cans of scientific and political worms, e.g. proximity to receptors is not necessarily a good surrogate for presumed risks of a full exposure pathway.  As such, the RPS has a huge potential to break down into numerous site specific risk asesment battles, as polluters challenge the lack of science to support risk estimates in order to downplay those risks and control site cleanups though the LSP program. 

DEP claimed that currently ignored vapor intrustion, soil, and ecological risks would be considered in future updates of the model over the next year or so (perhaps longer). However, ANY implementation of the new LSP law requires that a robust RPS be in place BEFOREHAND.

In response to critical questions from EJ advocates and EJ Advisory Committee members Dr. Nicky Sheats and Ana Baptista of Newark’s Ironbound,  DEP conceded that the RPS model was not designed to consider cumulative risks or EJ concerns. DEP staffers explained that the RPS model considered only toxic sites in terms of impacts on proximate receptors. In contrast, a cumulative impact based approach would have to look first at the receptors,  and then consider them in terms of multiple toxic sites and multiple other pollution sources.

Comparing the DEP RPS model with an alternative cumulative impact or EJ model is like comparing a microscope to a telescope – they are designed for completely different purposes. So you can’t just tweak the DEP RPS model to get it to consider cumulative impacts and EJ concerns.

So, after DEP conceded this model desing problem, I was disturbed by Dave Pringle’s attempt to claim that this “might be” the first effort to fulfill Governor Christie’s campaign pledge to inject cumulative impacts and EJ concerns  into DEP decisions.

Instead, it is a huge missed opportunity and failure to do so. 

And Bob Martin owns that failure.

 For full details and links to the documents, see below release from PEER

 

For Immediate Release: May 26, 2010
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

NEW JERSEY TOXIC CLEAN-UP PRIORITIES MISS PUBLIC HEALTH MARK — Belated DEP Toxic Site Priority System Ignores Vapor Intrusion and Migration

Trenton — New Jersey took its first step this week toward a long overdue system for prioritizing the need to clean up thousands of toxic sites. Unfortunately, the state ranking only looks at risk to drinking water sources while overlooking human inhalation, ingestion and other exposures as well as effects on wildlife and the environment, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The single-track toxic priority system will allow serious public health problems to fester, such as –

  • Subsurface vapor intrusion into homes and occupied buildings, as occurred at Pompton Lakes and at the DuPont site where 450 homes were contaminated by vapors from untreated groundwater;
  • Migration of chemicals through soils into building basements, as occurred when chromium poisoned hundreds of households in Garfield; and
  • Indoor exposures from conversion of industrial buildings, as occurred with the mercury contamination in Hoboken or inside Kiddie Kollege, the now infamous day-care center.

“The one lesson that we should have learned from decades of debacles in New Jersey is that there is no quick-fix for toxic waste,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, noting that the state is also ignoring exposure to workers, ecological impacts on fish and wildlife, cumulative effect of multiple chemicals and “environmental justice” communities already overburdened with pollution. “If your home is uninhabitable because of toxic vapors what good does it do you that your well water is potable?”

The Legislature first ordered the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to create a “Remedial Priority Scoring (RPS)” system 28 years ago under 1982 amendments to New Jersey’s toxic clean-up law. In 2006, PEER revealed that DEP officials had intentionally allowed its priority rating system “to expire,” leaving the state without any guide for deciding which sites were most in need of remediation. Former DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson then testified that developing a priority system was her “first priority” but despite her pledge no priority system emerged during her tenure.

The RPS was again mandated as a core element of the 2009 Site Remediation Reform Act. Under that law, the RPS serves as the basis for assuring that DEP retains full oversight of the highest risk sites, while newly created private “Licensed Site Professionals” handled the clean-up of lower priority sites with little or no DEP oversight. Under §39 of that law, DEP is supposed to adopt an RPS that can measure and rank each site’s risk to human and ecological health, considering defined receptors, by May 7, 2010.

“The concern is that privatized site clean-up consultants will use this flawed RPS to evade DEP and community oversight at sites where drinking water is not the primary risk,” Wolfe added, pointing out that by DEP’s own admission, its RPS failed to address other key human and ecological risks. “In New Jersey, we have no excuse for taking a half-assed approach to addressing our glaring legacy of toxic sites.”

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See New Jersey’s new toxic priority system

View growing vapor intrusion problem

Read the PEER recommendations on how to fix the RPS system

Look at how toxic ranking had been abandoned

Revisit broken pledges to fix toxic ratings

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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Lessons of Gulf Oil Spill Lost On Martin

May 25th, 2010 No comments

Martin needs to stop coddling the oil and chemical  industries as “customers” and ramp up regulatory oversight and enforcement

[Update 5 : 5/29/10 NY Times: Documents Show Early Worries About Safety of Rig

In the documents, company officials apologized to federal regulators for not having mentioned the type of casing they were using earlier, adding that they had “inadvertently” failed to include it. In the permit request, they did not disclose BP’s own internal concerns about the design of the casing.

Less than 10 minutes after the request was submitted, federal regulators approved the permit.

Update 4 - 5/27/10 - Star Ledger editorial - they get it in criticizing the federal MMS, but miss the story that right here in NJ, lax  MMS oversight is Christie policy]

Update 3 – Mike Miller, Atlantic City Press has a good story on the Coast Guard’s spill response plan for the Delaware Bay . The story focuses on risks from shipping oil, so one point I might add are risks at the refineries themselves, which are under-regulated. The Coast Guard is the spill response lead on the water agency and their approach is a refreshing contrast with DEP. The Coast Guard sent about 20 staff to the Gulf to help out and learn hands-on technical lessons to strengthen their programs. In contrast, DEP, a minor support agency for spills, sits in Trenton and issues press releases about virtually zero probability risks of Gulf oil hitting NJ beaches, all while cutting resources and weakening important land side regulatory programs at the refinery and chemical facilities. Recall that a BP Texas oil refinery had a major fatal explosion and fire in 2005. Those risks obviously impact the water and are managed by DEP.] 

Update 2: Philly Inquirer:  N.J. monitors spill, prepares action plan

“Let’s just say I’m flabbergasted by the irony,” said Wolfe, a former DEP employee and now a frequent critic.

He said Gov. Christie’s current policies, including more self-regulation of industry, “are exactly the kind of problem that caused the oil spill to begin with.”

“There are so many issues that it masks,” he added. “It leads to the appearance that the department is actively engaged and has the staff resources and leadership to respond. None of that exists.”

[Update 1: keeping it simple: If we had a functioning press corps (instead of stenographers that regurgitate DEP press releases), here are the kinds of questions for DEP Commissioner Martin that would have been prompted by today's DEP press release:

1. You have spoken of the need to change DEP culture and treat regulated industries as "customers". The federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) has a culture that views BP Oil as a "customer". Do you still think DEP should view regulated industries as "customers"?

2.  You have criticized DEP "red tape" and emphasized the need for waivers from environmental requirements to provide flexibility and promote economic development. You have made it a priority to streamline and expedite DEP environmental reviews.  The MMS granted BP oil drilling wiavers from NEPA and expedited environmental reviews. In light of MMS policies, do you still stand by those policies and priorities?  

3. You have said that DEP should play a "major role in economic development" The MMS viewed their role as promoting the oil and gas industry's production. Do you still believe that DEP should promote economic development?

4. You have enacted a new Department-wide policy based on cost benefit analysis (CBA). The MMS oil drilling regulations are heavily influenced by CBA. Do you stand by a policy to place greater emphasis on CBA in DEP decision-making?

5. Executieve Order #2 requires adoption of federal standards. The Red Tape Report recommends that 15 DEP rules be reconsidered to be consistent with federal standards. You abandoned a DEP state drinking water standard for perchlorate pending federal EPA recommendations. Federal standards and federal oversight obviously were inadequate in protecting the gulf region. Do you still support a policy to make NJ standards consistent with federal minimums?

6. You supported the Corzine administration's privatized toxic site cleanup law that greatly reduced DEP oversight and provided even more control by industry. Given the failure of BP self regulation and lax oversight, do you still support more private control and less DEP oversight of pollution risks?]

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin today issued an over the top press release touting his efforts.

The spin and huge ironies force me to call BS on it all – while Martin hypes a low probability hypothetical risk from the Gulf,  his policy increases significant real risks in his own backyard:

“The probability is fairly close to zero, but it’s not zero,” said Josh Kohut, an assistant professor at the Rutgers Coastal Ocean Observation Laboratory. (link)

COMMISSIONER CREATES GULF SPILL TEAM TO CONSIDER  POSSIBLE  IMPACTS OF LOUISIANA OIL SPILL ON NEW JERSEY

IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                              Contact: Lawrence Ragonese
(609) 292-2994
May 25, 2010
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795

(10/P47)TRENTON — While it is improbable the BP oil spill off the coast of Louisiana will have any effect on the Jersey Shore or the State’s fishing industry this summer, the Department of Environmental Protection is not taking any chances. Commissioner Bob Martin today announced formation of a special Gulf Spill Team to closely monitor the situation, to create a unique scientific model of the likely path of the contaminated waters, and to develop a plan of action if the oil should reach New Jersey.  …

Scientists have told the DEP it is not likely the oil will reach New Jersey beaches, making it clear that for the oil slick to hit the Jersey coast, “it would require a sequence of unlikely events.’’

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been the lead agency in dealing with the situation nationally, providing daily briefings to New Jersey and other states that could be affected by the spill. But Commissioner Martin has directed the special Gulf Spill Team to create a unique model of the potential course of the oil for New Jersey.

“We want to gather the best scientific data available to help guide us,’’ said Commissioner Martin. “We have to be fully prepared to protect the interests and residents of this state. But we expect, at this point, that our beaches will be open and we’ll have a great summer season in New Jersey.’’

Martin’s press release both exaggerated the threat (in conflict with scientific advice) and created a misleading appearance of aggressive regulatory oversight by DEP at NJ facilities and in oil/chemical accident spill prevention and response.

Worse, the press statement has at least 3 glaring conflicts with Martin’s own policy:

1) Need for precaution and strict environmental regulations

If nothing else, the Gulf oil spill shines a bright light on what happens when lax regulation, cozy relationships between regulators and  industry, and an emphasis on cutting costs and maximizing economic production prevails.

Taken together, this is an industry dominated and economically driven culture.

It represents the opposite of a precautionary policy (e.g. first do no harm – when in doubt, err on the side of safety) and strong regulatory culture, which views regulated industry as an adversary, not a “customer”.

Governor Christie and Commissioner Martin have pushed exactly the same policy agenda and culture that created the BP oil blowout. Today’s press release does nothing to alter that reality.

The DEP Transition Report called for DEP “to do less with less“. From then on, it only got worse. 

On his first day in office, the Governor issued a series of Executive Orders that elevated cost benefit analysis to at least the equivalent of  environmental and health protection. It also put industry in the driver’s seat to block regulations they oppose as too costly or burdensome. 

Lt. Governor Gudagno’s “Red Tape Review Report” and Martin targeted DEP and demonized environmental “red tape“. Martin blasted DEP culture and blamed DEP for the economic and budget crises. Martin repeatedly has demanded that DEP culture must change and treat industry – including the oil industry – as customers, not adversaries.

But now, Martin claims he’s not willing “to take any chances“.

If Martin wants to learn the lessons of the Gulf disaster and protect the Jersey Shore and Delaware Bay, he need look no further than his own back yard, which is home to major oil refineries and chemical plants that are accidents waiting to happen. 

Martin surely knows that the BP Gulf oil well blowout was preceed by a deadly 2005 Texas oil refinery fire – the same thing could happen here.

Martin needs to stop coddling the oil and chemical  industries as “customers” and ramp up regulatory oversight and enforcement.

2)  Need for State role and more stringent state standards than federal minimums.

While under most environmental laws, State’s can act to go beyond federal minumums, but for the most part, federal regulators are in charge in the Gulf.

But the Gulf blowout exposed lax federal regulatory oversight of the oil industry, which has been compounded by a less than aggressive federal spill and cleanup response effort, where BP has been allowed to call the shots.

State and local concerns have ben given short shrift in the BP dominated federal response.

Martin repeatedly has emphasized the need for “waivers” from compliance with strict NJ State regulation to promote economic development (waivers are mandated by EO#2). He has said there is little need for DEP to go beyond federal minimums (adoption of federal standards and federal consistency reviews are mandated by EO#2).

But now, Martin apparently sees the light. Martin now recognizes the need for strong and independent state regulatory power and the need to go beyond federal minimums.

Yet, under an industry supported policy seeking federal consistency so that NJ can be economically competitive,  Governor Christie’s Executive Order #2 (as well as pending legislation backed by the Administration) would rollback NJ’s strict regulations in favor of a federal minimums.   

3) Role of independent public science   

Martin now realizes that an independed scientific capability to support government decisions - free of regulated oil industry bias – is key.

Yet, Martin just appointed an industry dominated and biased Science Advisory Board.

And Martin recently over-rode the recommendatrions of his own scientists in abandoning a proposed drinking water standard for perchlorate.

As I said, the contadictions between Martin’s press release on the gulf spill and his policy are just too great.

As we move forward, which will prevail? the precautionary rhetoric in today’s press release – or the rollback policies  in Christie’s Executive Orders and Red Tape Review Report ?

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Trenton Protest Against Christie Budget

May 22nd, 2010 No comments

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[Update: the Governor's spokesman's comments in the Star Ledger article on the protest reveal a dangerous arrogance. 

The governor’s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said the protesters are "blinded by their own rhetoric and are on the wrong side of history."

So the Christie administration views itself as "history's actors" ? Those remarks echo the ignorant hubris of the Bush Administration. Recall the killer NY Times Sunday Magazine story "Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush" that nailed the Bush fatal flaw with this famous quote:

The [Bush] aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Christie is NJ’s George Bush – creating his own false reality. Ideological. Ignorant. Arrogant – but with a bullying mean streak even frat boy Bush couldn’t match.]

Better Choices for NJ held a protest today in Trenton against the several assaults by the Christie Administration on public institutions and public employees, particularly on public education and those most in need. Better Choices’ position:

The FY 2011 budget cuts millions of dollars from critical services that working families rely on. New Jersey’s economic crisis is too severe to rely on cuts alone. We call on our legislators to adopt a balanced approach that includes fair, fiscally responsible revenue solutions to protect vital services and invest in our future. 

Some photo’s – large crowd, estimated at over 30,000, largest in NJ history – and I got some lemonaide! (interview starts at time 2:57).

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DEP Caves to Trucking Lobby

May 21st, 2010 No comments

During the gubernatorial campaign, candidate Christie promised to reduce air pollution from diesel trucks (specifcally, per the NJ Environmental Federation, who endorsed Christie, “an Executive Order to reduce killer diesel soot pollution“).

More recently, Christie’s  DEP Commisisoner Bob Martin has made public statements that DEP would act to reduce serious public health risk of diesel truck pollution (specifically “implement a program to accelerate the retrofit of diesel engines“)

To the contrary, DEP caved in to the demands of the trucking lobby and abandoned an important ban on truck idling.

The Bergen Record reports today: Truckers can run engines while they sleep, state says

Truck drivers will be allowed to keep their engines running while they sleep in the back of their cabs for at least one more year under a recent move by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

A ban on almost all truck idling was expected to begin this month as the DEP tries to curb air pollution. But the agency, at the request of transportation officials, the state police and trucking groups, determined there were not enough alternatives for drivers to stay warm in cold weather and cool in warm weather other than running their engines.

We wanted to be fair to the trucking industry,” Larry Ragonese, a DEP spokesman, said.

What about fairness to the people of NJ who are forced to breath toxic diesel fumes?

Read DEP’s own health assesment of the huge impacts of diesel pollution – click on these links:

DEP rule proposal

DEP fact sheet

I now understand why the Port Authority’s support of the NY City garbage trucking plan was so hyped by Governor Christie’s press office - it provided green cover for this fold to the trucking lobby. But will news reporters get wise to these games?

 

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