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Ideas and Rhetoric Matter

[with Update below]

I got criticism from friends whose opinions I trust on yesterday’s post about the Christie land use privatization proposal, claiming that I unfairly quoted Dave Pringle out of context.

So I need to do a better job explaining what is going on and why I used only the portion of Pringle’s quote that said “It’s good the DEP would still have final say on permits.”

Pringle opposed the privatization plan, but agreed with DEP on this key point about “final say”.

First off, that lie (about DEP final say) was thrown back in our face by DEP to rebut every criticism we made of the privatization of the toxic site remediation program: “Don’t worry, private consultants can’t undermine environmental protections and act in their client’s economic interests because all final cleanup decisions will be made by DEP”. [Note: As Pringle has acused me of “revisionism” as well, note that DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson and Assistant Commissioner Kropp testified to this effect. Here is a relevant excerpt of Jackson’s April 15, 2008 testimony:

“Under this plan, cases will be addressed more rapidly and properties will be developed to desired uses. We will be cleaning up sites and stimulating economic vitality. We will not compromise on our standards or protection of the environment and public health. Nor will we delegate the inherently governmental functions of site remediation to private entities. The Department will maintain the functions associated with the issuance all NFA’s, review all cases with receptor and off-site contaminant migration impacts, audit cases based on potential risks and expand our oversight for the “worst” cases and for those with recalcitrant responsible parties. … 

But as a priority, the selection of remedies for certain categories of cases needs to be placed back into the hands of the Department. Specifically, we believe the Department should have the ability to select remedies for residential end uses, especially single-family homes on contaminated sites and residential developments on landfills. Additionally, remedy selection for educational and childcare facilities should be subject to greater Department input.” [end quote]

The Senate statement on the bill reflects that DEP oversight lie, despite the fact that the bill surrendered final cleanup decision authority to private consultants via the Response Action Outcome (RAO) certification and rejected the critical new DEP remedy selection power):

The bill would require the department to inspect all documents submitted by a licensed site remediation professional concerning a remediation.  The department may provide for additional review of a document if the professional did not comply with professional standards, there are deficiencies, errors or omissions that result in the inability to determine if the remediation will be protective of public health, safety and the environment, or if the remediation is not protective of public health, safety or the environment.  Further, the bill provides for mandatory DEP review of a submission based upon certain criteria, or for a discretionary review. At a minimum, the department is required to perform additional review of at least 10 percent of the documents submitted annually. The bill requires the board to audit the conduct and submissions of at least 10 percent of all licensed site remediation professionals annually. Finally, the bill authorizes the department to invalidate a response action outcome under certain circumstances

I think the Pringle practice I am criticizing is called surrendering the major premise – the point is you never legitimize lies or concede the lynchpin of your opponent’s argument.

The right position on an issue, supported by the wrong reasons, is harmful and needs to be called out.


“It is good that President Johnson’s War in Vietnam is preventing southeastern asian countries from falling to Communism like dominoes, but I oppose the war because...

“It is good that President Bush’s War in Iraq is stoppping the terrorists from killing US citizens at home, but I oppose the war because …

It is good that the Constitution gives Congress the final say in regulating abortion, but I support a woman’s right to choose because

“It is good that the Constitution treats slaves like property, but I oppose slavery because …

“It is good that the Biblical injunction “spare the rod, spoil the child” is supported by science, but I oppose corporal punishment because

It is good that the Constitution protects a property owner’s right to decide who eats at his restaurant or sleeps at his hotel, but I oppose Jim Crow segregation because ...

“It is true that studies show that women are inherently weaker than men in math and science, but I support women in science because …

“It is true that women and gays in the military would undermine troop morale and discipline, but I oppose “Don’t ask, don’t tell”  because …

“It is good that the Constitution’s First Amendment protects the unfettered free speach right of corporations to spend unlimited money on elections, but I support campaign finance laws because …

“It is good that free markets promote democracy, freedom, and maximize efficiency and equity, but I support regulation because …

“Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people: (an Obama quote in statement supportng FISA bill), but I oppose domestic spying because … . .

Get my point?

[Update: This is not just some theoretical nit picking exercise – the threat is real. On June 19, I wrote:

Some now are advocating expanding the LSP privatization model to DEP land use programs (wetlands, flood hazard, and coastal zone permits). Those very programs are now undergoing rollback reviews as a result of the Red Tape Review Report, so there is a serious risk that Christie deregulation and privatization policies could merge and radically dismantle these critical natural resource protection programs. 

And proponents of expanding the LSP model are not just right wing ideologues, but also include Bergen County Democratic Senator Bob Gordon, and many other places in the Democratic party.

On May 15, I reported on a Senate Environment Committee hearing:

2) Expand LSP Privatization Model for DEP Land Use Programs?

Senator Bob Gordon (D-Bergen) - seeking expanded privatization at DEP?

Senator Gordon (D-Bergen) really surprised me by suggesting that the controversial toxic site cleanup Licensed Site Professional (LSP) privatization model be expanded into DEP land use permitting programs.

That is a really bad idea that actually goes beyond the radical assault of the Christie Transition Report.

The Senator’s constituents and Trenton ENGO lobbyists need to tell him to drop that foolishness now.

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