Archive for June, 2011

DEP Photography is Revealing

June 27th, 2011 No comments

Every Picture Tells A Story – Which Do You Prefer?

Shooting a photo is fun, and often revealing, in what you choose to put inside and leave out of the frame. Do you “enhance” the original with photoshop?

The below photo is posted on DEP’s Barnegat Bay Restoration website, so one would assume that it is supposed to illustrate something positive about  Barnegat Bay – not the Lighthouse. And everyone knows that Lighthouses are vertical.

So note how the DEP photo of the Barnegat Bay Lighthouse emphasizes verticality, and in so doing brings the ugly green algae slime on the rocks prominently into view in the foreground. Was DEP trying to emphasize the fact that the bay has a eutrophication problem? (algae is an indicator of excessive nutrient pollution). And the un-natural exaggerated green color suggests the original photo was color enhanced via Photoshop to bring out the red of the Lighthouse and blue sky. Engineered rip-rap (rocks). And note what it leaves out: No public access, No people, and No dunes or any other natural features: 


In contrast, note how I avoid that nastiness and bring other desirable features of the Bay into the picture – water, boat, sand, and public walkway to access the Lighthouse:


In the alternate, one can shoot the Lighthouse from the back, and show dunes and vegetation and those ugly imported rocks: BB3

Or one can shoot the view from the top of the Lighthouse, and emphasize over-development and how vulnerable all those homes are:


Or you can emphasize the human aspects – picnic benches, walkway, seagulls overhead, and guy sunning himself on the rocks at left:


Or you could simply depict everyday people accessing and enjoying themselves on the Bay/Shore:BB7

Or you can suggest irony, in a fisherman, with the Oyster Creek nuclear plant aquatic life slaughter machine just over his shoulder on the far horizon:


Or boating


Or what we’re fighting


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Obama on Technological Innovation and Renaissance of US Manfacturing

June 24th, 2011 No comments

“We don’t just keep up with changing times, we set the pace”


[Update 2 : 6/26/11 – Just read the NY Times story. So, in addition to a questionable corporate co-chair, Obama provided no policy agenda and no real funding. How is it possible to stimulate what Obama described as a “renaissance” without policy or money? As the Times story alludes to, Obama is beginning to deliver the same message in swing states. So, my take is that this initiative is more rhetoric and political message, than policy. It is an “umbrella”,  not for policy coordination, but as a political shield against criticism on the jobs front.

Again, this is a huge missed opportunity, because Obama could have really used this initiative as a way to pivot from his economic austerity (budget deficit dominated) agenda driven by Wall Street finance and Republican Teabaggers, to a major New Deal like Keynesian jobs and domestic investment program, and political response to: 1) Depression Era unemployment; 2) huge infrastructure deficits; and 3) tremendous renewable energy opportunities.

Update 1: 6/25/11 – a supporter delicately let me know that the Obama’s “Advanced Manufacturing Partnership” initiative is co-chaired by Dow Chemical Corp. That’s not a very good sign. Dow is not the kind of innovation or manufacturing we need. The chemical industry expects that the Dow appointment will result in favorable regulatory policies  for the chemical industry. Dow co-chair also champions free trade – which has been used to destroy US manufacturing, offshore jobs, and implement a corporate race to the bottom strategy of cost reduction by sacrificing environmental and labor protections for windfall profits. This is the crap I hate most about Obama – the rhetoric soars and the fine print sucks. Gotta fine print and fact check everything with this guy. That’s a real problem when he can smoke a hard core skeptic (borderline cynic) like myself. Or maybe I’m just getting lazy and just was looking for some good news on a Friday afternoon. But at least the Universities that are participating are all elite.]

President Obama spoke today at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) about technological innnovation and reinvigoration of the US manufacturing sector (watch it).

Here is the text of the speech (with more pictures from White House blog)

Not only did I enjoy the speech, but I’m proud to say that both my kids attend CMU, a world class University with roots in Pittsburgh’s steel mills (Andrew Carnegie’s motto: “My heart is in the work“).

My son just graduated with honors and will move on to a PhD program in computer science at Johns Hopkins. My daughter just finished her junior year at CMU’s Tepper business school. (Ironically, I declined a full scholarship from Carnegie Tech in 1975).

As someone who views these issues from environmental and economic justice perspectives, I was pleased by Obama’s linkage of innovation to renewable energy and green jobs and focus on domestic opportunities.

As a member of the Luddite school (the Luddites got a bum rap), a skeptic of technology, and a critic of the positivists and technological utopians, I was comforted that Obama, at the outset, explicitly recognized that there were social and economic dislocations associated with the “creative destruction” of technological innovation.

However, I wish he had gone further and talked about the devastation caused by the conscious deindustrialization of America and structural flaws in our finance driven economy.

And Obama may have gone over the line in reinforcing the great American myth. He praised the “adventurous pioneering spirit” of the sole technological innovator (you know: the unfunded and obscure individual – from Henry Ford and Thomas Edison to Steve Gates – working in the garage, that produce great breakthroughs).

In contrast to the myth of the 19th century rugged individualist, innovations in science and technology today are driven by large institutions, huge public investments, and collaborative efforts.

Obama himself recognized this reality by noting the critical role of the University in conducting research that was does not have an immediate commercial application and thus does not attract private capital investment.

These economic investment realities (what I learned were “public goods” and “market failures”, back in the day of “industrial policy”) are what drive the need for public investment – and university development and incubation.

These are major policy premises of Obama’s “Assuring Leadership in Advanced American Manufacturing“.

I hope these critical issues get more attention by both the media and the political process.

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University

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Science Advisory Board Makes Findings on DEP Nitrogen Model

June 24th, 2011 No comments

Potential Good News For Bays, Estuaries, and Coastal Streams – Bad News for Highlands

The controversial Science Advisory Board recently issued important findings regarding DEP’s current nitrate dilution model.

The model is used in various DEP planning, land use, and water quality regulatory programs.

The model is used to determine development potential and the allowable density of septic systems, and thus has a huge impact on land use and water quality.

The model and its applications have been under attack by builders for many years.

Yet environmentalists claim it is flawed, fails to consider adverse ecological impacts of nitrogen, and allows far too much development to occur that pollutes surface and groundwater resources.

A variant of the model is implemented as the basis for the controversial 88 acre “septic density standard” in the Highlands.

The Farm Bureau sued to block that Highlands standard. But that attack was rejected by an Administrative Law judge and affirmed by the Corzine DEP Commissioner.

But, as the Farm Bureau case moved into the Court’s, current Christie DEP Commissioner Bob Martin agreed to reconsider the standard and requested a delay in the Court case. (for details and links to documents, see: Is Bob Martin Sabotaging The Highlands Septic Density Standard?

To mask a transparent direct attack on the Highlands, as a part of the Farm Bureau litigation reconsideration, Martin charged the SAB with a broader series of science, regulatory, and policy questions regarding the DEP’s nitrate dilution model.

But Martin ignored the fact that the SAB was designed to stick to the science, and stay out of policy and regulatory issues.

Now, in response to Martin’s questions, the SAB provides several findings that involve science, policy, and regulation. Dangerously, the SAB findings may serve as a pretextual scientific basis to unravel the Highlands septic density standard in the DEP Highlands regulations.

I will discuss those technical issues in detail in a subsequent post.

But for today, we need to make one narrower but important point made by the SAB.

This narrower focus is timely, in light of the discussion on Kirk Moore’s Pinelands story about water quality studies to support Barnegat Bay “Special Area Management Plan” (SAMP).

We have argued for a Clean Water Act “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL) as the vehicle to address the Bay’s ecological collapse.

But Governor Christie vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature that would have mandated a TMDL for the Bay.

We have called on EPA to mandate a TMDL, given NJ’s continuing gross violation of the Clean Water Act and prior TMDL commitments with EPA.

We believe there are many reasons why this science based TMDL regulatory stick is preferable to the current Barnegat Bay Partnership locally driven management model and Christie Administration’s voluntary SAMP approach.

Now the SAB agrees with us.

The SAB findings explicity supported the TMDL approach for Barnegat Bay and coastal plain streams. The SAB found:

The most sensitive receptors for for excess nitrate are likely to be estuaries and low nutrient coastal plain streams. Given the nature of estuaries, a load-based regulatory approach (TMDL type approach) would make the most sense. Such an approach, furthermore, would be based on total nitrogen, not nitrate alone. (@ page 8)

We will be closely watching how Commissioner Martin implements these SAB findings. They have tremendous implications. More to follow.

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Christie Agenda Comes to the Pinelands

June 24th, 2011 No comments

Surprise, Surprise!

We last visited the lovely Pinelands in this December 2010 post: Christie Names Former Builders Lobbyist As Head of Pinelands Commission

When a Governor and his DEP Commissioner’s entire world is in thrall to the economic development hammer, protection of the environment becomes little more than a regulatory nail.

Kirk Moore reports in today’s Asbury park Press:

Pinelands director talks of streamlining


PEMBERTON TOWNSHIP  – With its budget slashed and workforce reduced by 30 percent, the state Pinelands Commission is looking for more ways to streamline its regulatory process and be prepared when economic recovery brings builders back to the region, Executive Director Nancy Wittenberg said Thursday.

It’s bad enough that funding is slashed and regulations and programs are being gutted.

But it is vile that depleted staff resources, priorities, and policy planning are focused on preparing to stimulate future economic development.

First of all, promoting economic development is a totally inappropriate role for the Pinelands Commission to play, as it violates their fundamental mission, which is to preserve the Pinelands National Reserve, and only allow compatible development.

The primarly goal of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan is:

to preserve and protect the significant and unique natural, ecological, agricultural, archaeological, historical, scenic, cultural and recreational resources of the Pinelands

There is nothing in that statutorily established mission and federally approved management goal to promote economic development. [Note: do I have to draw a map? Hint: federal oversight].

And there is a HUGE difference between regional planning and regulation to allow compatible development – the Commission’s historic role and preservation oriented priority – and the new Christie policy to streamline regulation to stimulate, promote, and anticipate future economic development.

Second, any future development boom is very unlikely to come any time soon.

So the Commission has plenty of time to focus on core mission critical tasks, like preservation of habitat and forests, and protection of water quality.

Last, although Wittenberg talks positively about working with DEP on Barnegat Bay restoration, we note that Governor Christie’s Comprensive Management Plan  for Barnegat Bay does not provide a role for the Pinelands Commission and does not even mention the Commission.

This omission was no accident.

The Commission was cut out of the game because Governor Christie, his DEP Commissioner, and developers hate regulation, especially the kind of regional land use planning and preservation oriented regulation implemented by the Pinelands Commission.

In fact, the Governor’s Plan clearly retains the voluntary (non-regulatory) Barnegat Bay Partnership as the co-lead with DEP. Here’s what the Governor’s Plan says:

Establishing a Special Area Management Plan: Develop a Special Area Management Plan in conjunction with the Barnegat Bay Partnership to improve coordination among jurisdictions in the Barnegat Bay watershed and recommend any additional required research to the DEP.

Like we’ve repeatedly warned, that voluntary and local approach is designed to fail.

Be sure to read the full APP story here.

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Funeral for a Friend

June 23rd, 2011 No comments

Trenton Today





[End Note:  Iam without words. But Assemblyman Cryan and Senator Buono said the right thing about values, priorities, and choosing sides. They need to regain control over the Democratic Party.]

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