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Polluters Design Privatized Toxic Cleanup Program In Secret

By Invitation Only – Privatization Run Amok

Last year, Governor Corzine signed legislation that privatized NJ’s Toxic Site Cleanup Program. That new law placed control of the “cleanup” of over 18,000 toxic sites throughout NJ in the hands of  industry consultants under what is known as the Licensed Site Professionals (LSP) program.

DEP is NOW developing final regulations to implement that law. Polluters opposed DEP interim regulations, which were adopted without any public comment. Interim rules were adopted under an expedited provision in the law designed to give DEP control over the technical content of the program. DEP control over the cleanup program regulations was intended to assure program integrity and compensate for the fact that the LSP law surrendered direct DEP oversight of cleanups.

Now that polluters have gotten the law privatized, they are pressuring DEP to gut the regulations – and the Christie DEP is playing right along with them.

We have written extensively about obvious fatal flaws in the DEP and LSP programs (for examples, see this and this and this and this).

For all you need to know about the values, ethics of DEP Managers who run the LSP program, and policy priorities that informed the design of that program, read this NY Times story: Memo Shows Agency Knew of Danger in Child Care Building and this more recent blog post:  ”According to DEP: Real Estate Value Trump Public Right TO Know About Nearby Toxic  Sites”

We predict that environmental, health, and financial disasters are now in the works, as LSP private consultants with huge economic conflicts of interest cut corners and sacrifice public health for private corporate bottom line profits. LSP’s will have very strong incentives to cut costs in order to maintain clients and market their firms as consultants that represent industry interests – which are to minimize cleanup costs and maximize profits.

But now, DEP has gone even beyond the legislature with promotion of privatization at the expense and exclusion of public interests.

Despite the need for MORE public involvement to oversee the privatized toxic site cleanup program, amazingly, DEP has now privatized the process for developing regulations, standards, and scientific protocols to implement the new privatized program.

DEP has formed several committees to write the new LSP toxic site cleanup program requirements. These committees are composed exclusively, (as far as we know, because members and those invited have not been disclosed by DEP), of private consultants, polluters, and industry lobbyists. There are no public meetings scheduled.

Perhaps worse, those meetings are by invitation only and closed to the public and the press! So they will do their dirty business in the dark – so much for Governor Christie’s Inaugural Day promise of a “new era of accountability and transparency”!

The private consultants are now writing the technical requirements for the private program – that’s the fox designing the hen-house, building it, hiring the guards and not letting the hen-house owner even know about any of it! (with a fig leaf of web “transparency“)

Here are the essential public health and environmental protections now being written for that program -

Site Remediation Steering Committee Meeting: Invitation only
July 21, 2010, 9:00 a.m. – 12 Noon
August 18, 2010, 9:00 a.m. – 12 Noon
September 15, 2010, 9:00 a.m. – 12 Noon
October 20, 2010, 9:00 a.m. – 12 Noon
November 17, 2010, 9:00 a.m. – 12 Noon
December 15, 2010, 9:00 a.m. – 12 Noon

Near-Term Priorities Committee: Invitation only
July 13, 2010, 9:00 a.m. – 12 Noon.  Meeting is usually scheduled one month ahead.

Measures of Success Committee: Invitation only
July 20, 2010, 9:00 a.m. -12:00 Noon
August 17, 2010, 9:00 a.m. -12:00 Noon
September 21, 2010, 9:00 a.m. -12:00 Noon
October 19, 2010, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 Noon
November 16, 2010, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 Noon
December 21, 2010, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 Noon

Technical Guidance Committees: Invitation only

  • Presumptive Remedies, June 21, 2010, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 Noon
  • Ecological Evaluation, June 23, 2010, 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
  • Vapor Intrusion, June 24, 2010, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
  • Alternate/Clean Fill, June 28, 2010, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Compliance/Attainment, June 30, 2010, 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
  • Natural Remediation, June 30, 2010, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
  • Conceptual Site Model, July 14, 2010, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Technical Regulations Committee: Invitation only
June 29, 2010, 8:30 -10:30 a.m.
July 28, 2010, 8:30 – 10:30 a.m.
August 20, 2010, 9:00 – 11:00 a.m.
September 23, 2010, 2:30 – 4:30 p.m.
October 20, 2010, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
November 15, 2010, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
December 13, 2010, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Unprecedented – totally outrageous – and completely unacceptable. (even WORSE than my state police escort out of a recent DEP meeting, and that was a disgrace).

We urge the Legislators who sponsored and approved the LSP law to contact Commissioner Martin and demand that these meetings be open to the public and that environmental and public health interests are fully represented.

Financial and technical assistance should be provided to public interest group representation, as those groups lack resources and expertise to effectively participate, and are no match for industry hired guns.

Letting the polluters design the regulatory requirements - including DEP oversight and public involvement – for a privatized toxic site cleanup program is a formula for certain disaster.

Here’s my letter requesting legislative oversight:

Chairmen Smith and McKeon, and Senator Buono:

AS you know, DEP is developing final regulations to implement the LSP program.

DEP has formed numerous committees to develop that work. For details see this DEP webpage:

As you will note, the meetings are by invitation only and closed to the public and the press.

Obviously, this does not serve the public interest, and can not possibly be what Governor Christie meant in his Inaugural address where he called for a “new era of accountability and transparency”.

DEP’s closed rule development process can not comply with the pre-proposal participation provisions for rule-making in Christie’s Executive Order #2 or the negotiated rule-making requirements of the NJ Administrative Procedure Act.

As I close this essay

“We urge the Legislators who sponsored and approved the LSP law to contact Commissioner Martin and demand that these meetings be open to the public and that environmental and public health interests are fully represented.

Financial and technical assistance should be provided to public interest group representation, as those groups lack resources and expertise to effectively participate, and are no match for industry hired guns.” (emphasis supplied)

Letting the polluters design the regulatory requirements - including DEP oversight and public involvement – for a privatized toxic site cleanup program is a formula for certain disaster.”

I appreciate your prompt and favorable reply.

Sincerely,

Bill Wolfe, Director
NJ PEER
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