Archive for September, 2011

Of Monster Algae Blooms and Monstrous Lies

September 15th, 2011 No comments

Where the hell is Politifact when you need them?

There is no partisan agenda here

There is no partisan agenda here

[Update 9/25/11 – We found Politifact – with their head located far up Gov. Christie’s ass! Disgraceful “journalism”.

Proliferation of spineless jellyfish isn’t limited to the Barnegat Bay section of the NJ shore.

No, human invertebrates populate the shore these day, their proliferation fueled by an effluvia of nutrient rich bullshit oozing from the Governor and DEP press Office.

You know, stuff like this:

Christie, in a news conference in Bergenfield today, said his environmental record is strong and that the ocean “is the cleanest it’s been in decades.” The beach this year, you saw no type of debris, no type of waste coming up on the beach this year”, Christie said.

The Governor is given a pass on those lies by the media and some shore advocacy groups.

Which is kinda hard to stomach, given screaming news headlines like this about the decline of ocean ecosystems and Governor Christie’s bad environmental record (these are just a small sample and not from my APP editorial or Wolfenotes, but mainstream media):

More Kirk Moore reports:

BRICK – Swimmers, boaters and kayakers should avoid the area around Seaweed Point near the mouth of Kettle Creek, where new washups of rotting sea lettuce and algae have been seen, officials with the Ocean County Health Department said Monday.

Hydrogen sulfide gas from the rotting weed has made life miserable for three weeks and even sickened residents, said Linda Chris of the Seawood Harbor Property Owners Association, which has been pressing government agencies to clean up the shoreline.

“I grew up here. You always got a whiff of swamp gas coming off the marsh, that’s part of life here”, Chris said. “But it’s never been like this. It’s the sick condition of the bay.”

NRDC Reports released by Clean Ocean Action directly contradict the Governor’s statements:

Syringes, Sewage, and Swimmers  A Dangerous Mix

The annual report, “Testing the Waters” prepared by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and released in New Jersey by COA and Environment NJ, reviews national beach closures and advisories in 2008 ( The report shows 20,341 days of beach closings and advisories nationwide at ocean, bay, and Great Lakes beaches in 2008. In New Jersey, there were 208 days of total closures/advisories in 2008, an increase from the 142 days of closures/advisories in 2007. Many of the closures were preemptive due to medical waste or trash that washed up on the beach (120 days) and heavy rainfall 56 closures at five beaches with known storm water problems (56 days).  Fecal pollution caused 31 closures, most of which occurred at NJ’s bay and estuary beaches.

Clean Ocean Action’s own Reports directly contradict Governor Christie’s statement:

In 2010, 8,372 volunteers came together in record showing to collect an unprecidented (sic) amount of debris from the New Jersey shores. Volunteers collected and recorded 475,321 pieces of debris, turing two days of work into a legacy of information that will drive policies and programs for years to come.

Kirk Moore reports on Rutgers professor Mike Kennish’s latest Report on the continuing declining ecological health of Barnegat Bay (See: State of the Bay Report: 2011)

New bay study cites declining trends

Underwater seagrass meadows in Barnegat Bay have lost 50 percent to 88 percent of their plant mass since 2004, a measure that researchers say is a critical indicator of the bay’s declining health.

The seagrass situation is a big part of the 2011 State of the Bay report being presented today at Ocean County College in Toms River. Of 19 key health indicators selected by the report authors, 11 have shown no improvement or are in decline.


And more Christie lies like this:

“There are some folks in the environmental movement who will never give me credit for anything I do, because they didn’t support me in the election and they’re Democrats, so they’ve got a political agenda”, he said.

So where the hell is Politifact when you need them?

[Update: Full disclosure photo. I went on to serve in McGreevey DEP. Does that make me a partisan hack and hypocrite and prove Christie’s point? No.

I wasn’t providing McGreevey with political cover and went on to huge environmental accomplishments at DEP, including Highlands Act, Category One Waters, and phosphorus effluent limits. After leaving DEP – just like before arriving – I resumed strong and independent policy criticism of Democrats and Republicans alike.

Wolfe (L) Gubernatorial candidate Jim McGreeevey (R) (Labor Day 2001, Belmar, NJ)

Wolfe (L), w/Gubernatorial candidate Jim McGreevey (Labor Day 2001, Belmar, NJ)

A challenge to my colleagues to stand up:

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” –
—  Winston Churchill

Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels was the master of the “biglie” tactic in which a lie, no matter how outrageous, is repeated often enough that it will eventually be accepted as truth. Goebbels explained:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Christie – Koch Brothers RGGI Scandal Is Old News

September 15th, 2011 No comments

With all the recent media firestorm about the Christie – Koch brothers meetings and cancellation of RGGI, we thought we’d toot our own horn and note that we wrote that story almost 6 months ago – on March 28, 2011:

Christie Bowing To Koch Brothers on RGGI

March 28th, 2011

Governor Christie is getting national press attention for recent controversial remarks in Nutley, suggesting that he was considering unilaterally pulling NJ out of the northeast states’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

The RGGI was negotiated by former Governor Corzine’s DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson, who is now Obama’s US EPA Administrator.

But RGGI was enacted by the legislature, an authorization that makes the program a key electric sector component to meeting the emission reduction goals of NJ’s Global Warming Response Act legislation.

So, Christie again is catering to right wing conservatives, subsidizing major polluters and setting up a battle with the legislature.

According to E&E News, a subscription beltway trade journal (no link available):

Christie suggests he might take N.J. out of regional greenhouse gas control program (3/28/11)

Christa Marshall, E&E reporter

New Jersey’s governor is floating the idea that he might take his state might out of the upper East Coast’s greenhouse gas regulatory program, raising questions about the future of the nation’s only operating cap-and-trade system.

The comments from Republican Gov. Chris Christie also prompted further speculation about the governor’s presidential ambitions and whether he is catering to national voters’ suspicions of emissions caps.

At a town hall last week in Nutley, N.J., Christie expressed concern that the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, is putting his state at a disadvantage because neighboring Pennsylvania is not a participant. He said he would decide within two months about the state’s role in the program, which has been capping carbon dioxide emissions of utilities in 10 Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states since 2008.

“Is there enough of a benefit to the state to keep it going, or is it too much of a detriment on business? And the thing I’m most concerned about is that it doesn’t seem to be working in the entire region. The value of these credits are getting less and less as we continue to go further and further out, and so the value of the program is becoming less and less,” Christie said in response to a question from the audience.

“And in addition, I’m concerned about the burden that it places on our businesses, making them less competitive with Pennsylvania, because our businesses have greater costs involved than in Pennsylvania. So we are evaluating all that, and within the next two months, I’ll give you a definitive answer on whether we are going to continue it,” he said.

The re-evaluation of RGGI would come as part of a new energy master plan for the state that Christie said he would release in the “next couple of months.”

Of particular significance is that RGGI has been targeted by the billion dollar right wing Koch brothers, an oil and chemical industry giant. The Koch’s are the money behind the TeaParty and the failed attack on California’s global warming legislation known as AB32. NJ’s Global Warming Response Act was modelled on California’s AB32.

Koch group mounts anti-RGGI campaign

The group Americans for Prosperity, which has been running advertisements against RGGI, has an active presence in the state via Internet postings and state meetings. The state director of the group, Steve Lonegan, slammed the “RGGI scheme” at a local event last week, partially because of what he called “speculators” playing the carbon market, according to Americans for Prosperity was co-founded by oil billionaire David Koch.

It is not clear whether New Jersey law allows Christie to unilaterally leave the initiative, said one legal expert. “If he were to try it, there would most certainly be a legal challenge,” said the expert.

According to official RGGI documents, the other participating states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic would “appropriately adjust” allowances bought and sold in the trading market to account for the withdrawal of one state.

In the case of a New Jersey departure, the issue would be more political than technical, at least initially, said Stacy VanDeveer, an associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire.

The program’s cap on emissions is too small at this point for any New Jersey action to matter much in terms of how the trading platform operates, he said. Instead, the action of state representatives during an upcoming regional review of the initiative is more important, he said. New Jersey’s sheer size  “and percentage of emission allowances” means its viewpoint could sway the outcome of things under consideration, such as whether the cap is strengthened, he said.

It also takes “momentum away” from the program at a time when climate legislation is defunct on Capitol Hill, he said. The initiative is also facing a challenge in New Hampshire, where Republicans have moved a bill through one chamber of the Legislature to exit the regional plan.

And once again, the Christie Administration’s signals are crossed.

It looks like DEP is doing another Schundler, by making press statements directly at odds with the Governor’s statements. Or perhaps DEP is providing cover for the Governor:

Spokespeople in the governor’s office and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection denied there was any movement to leave the program.

“At the moment, we’re not going anywhere,” said Lawrence Ragonese, a spokesman for the Department. A Christie official said it would “be crossing a bridge we not have come to” to speculate about how the state procedurally would leave the greenhouse gas initiative.

At the moment, I think they’re full of crap.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
Comments (4) Trackbacks (4) Leave a comment Trackback
  1. Pat
    March 28th, 2011 at 13:28 | #1

    Corzine is not looking so bad.

  2. March 28th, 2011 at 13:54 | #2

    Hi Pat – I play it straight on this issues, and was a Corzine/Jackson critic, but obviously, compared to Christie, he looks good.

    You should reach out to NJEF, who endorsed Christie, and ask them to revoke that endorsement. It embarrasses and hurts us all.

  3. March 29th, 2011 at 09:39 | #3

    How can a governor pull an entire state out of a greenhouse gas initiative? Aren’t there any public hearings? Anyone?

    If I could afford to leave NJ, I would.

  4. March 29th, 2011 at 12:39 | #4

    @Warren Bobrow

    I agree Warren, that would seem to be an abuse of power. As I wrote, the original RGGI agreement was negotiated by the Executive Branch but adopted into law by the Legislature.

    But Christie has a very large view of his Executive power, and the Democrats who control the legislature have lacked a spine – for the most part – to stand up to those powers.

    Most recently, Dems have folded in taking on the Governor on his powers at the DRBC, where he is supporting the DRBC prposed rules.

    They also failed to take on teh Gov. in mandating a TMDL for Barnegat Bay.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Mercenaries Now Fully In Charge of Toxic Site Cleanup in New Jersey

September 13th, 2011 6 comments

Deregulation and Privatization Combine to Return NJ To A Toxic Polluter’s Haven

mer·ce·nar·y [mur-suh-ner-ee] working or acting merely for money or other reward; venal. Any hireling.

Just ask yourself these kinds of questions:

  • Is the guy with a dump truck and backhoe that’s been removing gas station tanks as credible, reliable, and professional as your Doctor, lawyer, engineer, or architect?
  • Is the industry paid “consultant” with who knows what academic credentials as trained, trustworthy, and credible as a University professor?
  • Is there a Hippocratic Oath (First, Do No Harm), developed science, accredited academic program, established professional code of responsibility, and ethical culture guiding these mercenaries? Is it possible to wave a legislative wand and create all that in one stroke and dismantle government oversight?
  • Would you put the health of your family in these mercenaries hands, with no effective government oversight?

The “regulatory relief” driven Christie DEP thinks so.

After working quietly behind closed doors for over a year with a private industry group I will call mercenaries (AKA “Licensed Site Professionals – or LSP’s, the guys the Christie DEP calls “customers”) and lobbyists for the chemical industry and Chamber of Commerce, the DEP today held a 9:00 am early bird Trenton public hearing on final rules to govern the cleanup of toxic sites.

The DEP proposal is a hefty 946 page tome (read it here). DEP conducted no public outreach on this proposal and there were no fact sheets or other explanatory FAQ like documents for public consumption. And because most news reporters don’t roll out of bed till after 9 am, of course they were not there to report on the hearing.

The magnitude of the proposal, the complexity, the public health significance, the dominant industry influence, the lack of public involvement in and transparency of the stakeholder process, and the manner in which the public hearing was conducted are extraordinary and unprecedented in my 30 year career.

Gee, one might rationally think that DEP was intentionally trying to limit public participation.

The process for drafting these rules was so dominated by regulated industry that it makes the notorious Dick Cheney Energy Task Force seem like the League of Women’s Voters – the May 31, 2011 Bergen Record wrote about that alone (see: Polluters rewriting rules for site cleanup

Key committees writing rules for New Jersey’s new program to clean up contaminated sites are made up entirely of the polluting companies and their contractors.

The 16 committees, which have been putting together rule and guidance documents, include no one from environmental or resident advocacy groups, no health specialists, and no outside experts who aren’t affiliated with the cleanup industry.

The linkage between political “pay-to-play” donations and access prompted a Star Ledger editorial about how one engineering firm dominated the process:

Langan Engineering & Environmental gave $25,000. It received $2 million from state agencies last year, and a senior associate of the firm sits on the state’s Site Remediation Professional Licensing Board, which oversees cleanups of contaminated sites.

None of this is criminal. To qualify as a bribe, evidence would have to show that these payments were explicitly linked to winning government favors. No one has alleged that here.

But Christie himself, when he was a federal prosecutor, favored the ban on big donations from firms doing business with the government.

He understood that it’s a sleazy practice that puts both parties within winking distance of a bribe, and that it engenders widespread mistrust.

Aside from these corrupt tendencies, the rules themselves represent a massive bait and switch.

While the mercenaries and their polluter paymasters did “convince” the Legislature to privatize the broken DEP cleanup program in 2009,  the law did provide some safeguards of the public interest, including:

But those backstops have been abandoned and thrown out the window in the rule-making phase.

  • The rules do NOT include the “Remedial Priority System” (RPS) mandated by law and necessary to assure that DEP retains the high risk sites.
  • The rules would put the mercenaries fully in charge of determining if a site is polluted, how to clean it up, and when its been cleaned up, with no DEP oversight.
  • The mercenaries can now merely certify that a site has been cleaned up and no further action is required. Incredibly, this certification eliminates any future liability from State lawsuits to compel cleanup
  • Mandatory regulations are being abandoned in favor of voluntary and unenforceable Guidance
  • audit requirements are vague, and do NOT include field audits, making fraud detection and enforcement very unlikely

These decisions – how to delineate the extent of soil and groundwater pollution, how to cleanup, and whether an site is adequately cleaned up and safe – not only involve many millions of dollars, but require the exercise of professional judgements that determine whether nearby residents will get cancers from drinking polluted water, ingesting toxic soil, whether kids breathing toxic vapors in their basements are safe, and whether we have healthy fish and wildlife.

These are all essential government functions that should never be made by private mercenaries with an economic stake in the outcome.

Does anyone think that private LSP firms will attract corporate clients by stringently protecting public health in a way that costs their corporate clients tons of money? Or that an individual employee of an LSP firm will advance their career, get raises, and be promoted for being a hard ass and diligently doing his/her job?

The economic incentives and lax oversight mechanisms actively promote cutting corners and continuing the LSP role to act as a mercenary, not a professional.

Obviously, any rules to implement such a program with inherent conflicts of interest would require strong transparency, monitoring, public oversight, auditing, and enforcement safeguards. Academic and professional credentials would need to be robust (far more than DEP “integrity review” for the solid waste industry).

But none of that happened in the rules DEP proposed.

Even more absurd, the rules even remove DEP from any role in determining the validity of LSP certifications in revoking false certifications, instead relying on LSP’s to revoke their own false certification.

Now how stupid is that? Does DEP think an LSP will voluntarily revoke their own certification? That’s about as likely as a bank robber voluntarily giving back the money and putting on the handcuffs.

But enough of the process and background issues, let’s get to today’s hearing.

The DEP hearing officer opened the hearing with a brief statement that called the mercenary drafted rules a “new paradigm”.

But the testimony of the mercenaries themselves was more blunt – they called the rules “The New World Order” – seriously, that’s a direct quote from the testimony of a gentleman named Nick DeRose (phon.)

But the mercenaries were not satisfied with merely having privatized the program, written the rules for the program, and controlled the LSP Board that will license, oversee, audit, and sanction their work.

This level of control is extraordinary – by analogy – it basically equivalent to writing the speed limit, calibrating the radar gun that measures speed, and employing the cops, the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the jailor.

But today the mercenaries wanted even more.

Mike Egenton, lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce, was given preference and the first to speak.

Egenton whined that the cleanup deadlines would be too tough to meet, would cost a lot of money to meet, and asked for more “flexibility”.

But the time-frames DEP proposed are a joke, they don’t even apply to actual site cleanup, but just the various steps in the process.

Egenton focused on the May 2014 deadline – but that comes from the statute, not DEP regulations – for completion of the “remedial investigation”. That is just the first phase in the cleanup process.

So after 30 YEARS of stalled cleanups, the Chamber of Commerce is bitching about having to take the first step by May 2014! That ought to tell you something.

His colleague, Tony Russo of the Chemistry Council, was next up (we’re sure DEP just happened to pick these heavyweights first to speak because they were the first to sign in – NOT).

Russo also complained about the time frames for remedial investigation, but he mounted a broader attack.

At the outset of his testimony, Russo thanked DEP for providing 4 years of access to chemistry industry, so that lobbyists could influence and write the law and DEP regulations.

But Russo was disappointed that there were some things the chemical industry requested that were not provided by the DEP stenographers in the rules.

Specifically, Russo didn’t like enforcement penalties – but Russo was just blowing smoke here, because he knows that actual enforcement is highly unlikely, because the DEP has proposed most of the technical requirements as Guidance which is subject to the LSP’s discretion, not enforceable regulation.

Russo also didn’t like the fact that DEP would not allow his Fortune 500 clients to use corporate self guarantees to back cleanup. DEP financial assurance requirements for cleanup do not allow these non-liquid risky financial instruments, which are about as solid as Wall Street toxic assets and junk bonds.

A lawyer for the mercenaries took strong exception to what might be the most absurd aspect of the rule.

Under the proposal, when a LSP certifies a site as clean (called a “Remedial Action Outcome” – RAO), its over. Fini!

This lawyer opposed DEP’s abdication of their responsibility under the law to review the RAO and make a final determination as to whether a site is fully cleaned up.

But the DEP rule – Pontious Pilate like – washes its hands of the LSP RAO determination.

The lawyer – correctly in my view – complained that not only did DEP abdicate its responsibility to be the final arbiter, but that this would undermine finality and erode confidence in the RAO.

To their credit, Bob Spiegel and Dana Patterson of Edison Wetlands Association, and Jeff Tittel of Sierra Club were the only other member of the environmental community to testify.

We all asked DEP to extend the public comment period by at least 90 days and hold hearings in communities across the state at times and places that make them accessible.

In addition to high risk sites, Dana Patterson of EWA sagely suggested that all sites in NJ DEP designated Environmental Justice Communities be eliminated from eligibility in the LSP program.

This DEP proposed rule is massive, complex, and will have significant impacts on communities across the state.

People and communities across the state at NJ’s more than 20,000 toxic waste sites have no idea how this rule will effect them.

This rule needs to be closely scrutinized and must not be adopted unless and until adequate safeguards are put in pace.

We will be writing more on this topic.

[Update: 9/14/11 – I want to make four more important points:

1) thank goodness for federal law: Superfund and RCRA. EPA Region 2, at the request of NJ Sierra Club, had to pressure DEP to make it clear that federal sites are exempt from the program.

This legal reality reminds me of Lisa Jackson’s US Senate confirmation hearing testimony for EPA Administrator, where Jackson faced harsh questioning from Chairwoman Boxer about her role in NJ DEP and was forced to state that she would NOT support privatization of EPA cleanup programs under RCRA or Superfund.

2) The Langan Engineering spokesperson who testified was so obnoxious he claimed to welcome the “publicity” I have provided for their firm for “volunteering their services” to DEP.

But his hands were trembling so badly I thought he might drop the written testimony – of pass out. And if Langan is so righteous, where was Jorge Berkowitz?

3) And speaking of profiles in courage, its a shame that the careerist chickenshit creators of this steaming pile of shit also were nowhere to be seen – having dumped this on fire bag of shit on the front porch of career DEP professional and new Assistant Commissioner Dave Sweeney.

4) As I wrote: “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown”

Amazingly, not even the fact that 60 toddlers were poisoned in a daycare center located in a toxic former industrial mercury thermometer factory could match the political muscle of the toxic polluters in NJ.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Obama EPA Ignores Public Health Lessons of 9/11 — Legal Action to Restore EPA Ombudsman Office Whitman Abolished in 2002

September 10th, 2011 No comments

no fishingYesterday, we wrote about how Christie Whitman’s 9/11 actions were very similar to how she downplayed public health risks from eating freshwater fish contaminated with toxic mercury as NJ Governor (see: Toxic EPA Corrosive Dust Standards Uncorrected a Decade after WTC).

Recall that back in 1994, Whitman offered this false and misleading public statement as an excuse for downplaying toxic mercury risks:

Before we put out advisories and scare people about what they can and can’t eat, let’s be sure we are talking about contaminant levels that are really hazardous to human health. Of course, the minute we find anything like that we will be out there very strongly with advisories. (Newark Star Ledger, 3/22/94)

Today, we write about another strong parallel.

Back in 1994, when a NJ DEP whistle-blower exposed Whitman’s false and misleading public statements about health risks and embarrassed her in the press, Whitman viciously retaliated. Whitman attacked the messenger, forcing his resignation from State government.

In 2001, when the US EPA Ombudsman initiated an investigation of Whitman’s false and misleading public statements about health risks, again, she viciously retaliated. This time, even more outrageously, Whitman abolished the EPA Ombudsman’s Office .

Read the remarkable story below from our friends at PEER:

News Releases

For Immediate Release: September 9, 2011Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

OBAMA EPA IGNORES PUBLIC HEALTH LESSONS OF 9/11 — Pending Legal Action to Resurrect EPA Ombudsman Function Shuttered in 2002

Washington, DC — As the 10th anniversary of the attacks nears and 9/11 First Responders experience increasingly severe health effects from their heroism, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) demands that the Obama administration resurrect the Ombudsman role at the Environmental Protection Agency.   A review by the National Ombudsman in 2002 predicted these health effects among First Responders and others in Lower Manhattan after it investigated the EPA response to the attacks.

The EPA abolished its National Ombudsman in the middle of its investigation of charges that the EPA lied to the public and did not perform their mandatory duties to protect the public after the attacks.  The Ombudsman acted as a neutral party to resolve citizen and industry complaints about EPA’s performance.

“With the Ombudsman abolished, the EPA is not accountable for malfeasance,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein who is co-counsel with Regina Markey at Beins, Axelrod, PC in an ongoing environmental whistleblower action filed by former Ombudsman Chief Investigator Hugh Kaufman which seeks to restore the office.  “A viable Ombudsman function at the EPA is the only way to assure that the public can make EPA answer questions.”

Five EPA press releases issued within ten days of September 11, 2001 reassured the public that the air was safe, prompting residents, office workers and children to return to Lower Manhattan.  A September 18, 2001 EPA press release, for instance, quoted Administrator Christie Whitman saying “Given the scope of the tragedy last week, I am glad to reassure the people of New York and Washington, DC that their air is safe to breath [sic] and the water is safe to drink.”

After those statements, under court protection against threats by Administrator Whitman to terminate his office, National Ombudsman Robert Martin managed to hold two hearings in Lower Manhattan to take testimony from witnesses and experts in response to charges that EPA’s 9/11 response was imprudent, if not outright dishonest.  As a result of those hearings, the Ombudsman found that –

  • EPA officials knew the collapse of the World Trade Towers filled Lower Manhattan with carcinogenic asbestos-containing-materials, but refused to follow proper rules on protecting the public from it; and
  • EPA’s false assurances about the safety of outdoor and indoor air in Lower Manhattan insulated insurance companies from having to pay claims that arose out of exposure to released toxins.

After the Ombudsman made these findings, in April of 2002, EPA prevailed in court and terminated the office, locking Martin out of his office while he was testifying about the EPA response before the New York State legislature.  In 2003, EPA’s own Office of Inspector General confirmed the Ombudsman’s public pronouncements.  The Inspector General also found that the Bush White House skewed EPA press releases and that “the desire to reopen Wall Street” factored into EPA statements.

Chief Investigator Kaufman was shunted off to an inconsequential job but he kept up his legal fight to restore the Ombudsman office through the Bush years.  After the Obama administration came in, it continued to resist Mr. Kaufman’s action.  The case is currently before the Department of Labor Administrative Review Board.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Toxic EPA Corrosive Dust Standards Uncorrected a Decade after WTC

September 8th, 2011 No comments
xxx“Sweet 14″ Fire House at 14 East 18th Street, Manhattan NYC

Whitman’s suppression of the NJ mercury issue a prequel to 9/11 response


[Update: Propublica story provides further documentation of exactly what I’ve been saying:  New Docs Detail How Feds Downplayed Ground Zero Health Risks

As another 9/11 remembrance plays out, we must again remind the public of the destructive role of former NJ Governor and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman. See:

A federal judge found that Whitman’s 9/11 response actions as EPA Administrator, specifically her statements – contradicting the data and EPA scientists’ recommendations –  that the air in southern Manhattan was safe to breath, “shocked the conscience”.

While Whitman was held publicly accountable for her 9/11 role, few realize that Whitman also set back efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions by over a decade via her reversal of the Clinton Administration’s legal conclusion that GHG were “pollutants” under the Clean Air Act. ( hit the links in this post for a detailed chronology and the EPA documents).

Whitman brought to EPA one of her NJ legal counselors, Bob Fabricant. Fabricant is the Bush EPA lawyer who wrote the legal opinion reversed by the US Supreme Court in the groundbreaking Massachusetts v. EPA case.

Fabricant argued for the big polluters, concluding that green house gases were not “pollutants” under the Clean Air Act and therefore could not be regulated by EPA. In an historic decision, the Supreme Court reversed Fabricant’s pro-industry analysis. (see Robert Fabricant’s August 2003 Memorandum denying that the EPA has authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act. Download PDF.

Those destructive actions at EPA were entirely predictable for those who followed her record as NJ Governor.

During Whitman’s US Senate confirmation hearing to become EPA Administrator, we warned the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that Whitman’s motto as NJ Governor was “NJ is Open for Business”. (see page 120 – 132 of Whitman’s Senate hearing transcript).

We explained, in depth, exactly how that economic priority drove strongly anti-regulatory environmental policies, including a comprehensive strategy to provide “regulatory relief”.

In addition, Whitman also showed a disdain for science and public health. Whitman was deeply influenced by what she called the “Alar scare” (a prior EPA warning about risks of pesticide residue on apples, that led consumers to boycott apples and a $100 million loss to the food industry).

According to Wiki, “alar scare” was:

“shorthand among news media and food industry professionals for an irrational, emotional public scare based on propaganda rather than facts.”

Whitman saw chemical risks and public health warnings through the prism of the “alar scare“: as fear-mongering that harmed industry profits.

So, here’s what Whitman said to explain her rejection of DEP scientists recommendations and failure to issue fish consumption advisories after high levels of toxic mercury were found in NJ freshwater fish:

Before we put out advisories and scare people about what they can and can’t eat, let’s be sure we are talking about contaminant levels that are really hazardous to human health. Of course, the minute we find anything like that we will be out there very strongly with advisories. (Newark Star Ledger, 3/22/94)

Reflecting that view shaped by the “alar scare”, Whitman lied about the science – a scientific report and data had been submitted months before. Whitman then directed her DEP Commissioner to suppress the science and fail to warn the public about health risks from eating mercury contaminated freshwater fish.

I was forced out of DEP for blowing the whistle on that.

Whitman’s suppression of the NJ mercury issue was a prequel to her 9/11 response action.

Although it is dangerous to speculate and create “alternate history”, we can’t help but wonder that had the US Senate listened to our criticism and declined to confirm Whitman – or had the media been more aware and skeptical of her “Alar scare” ideology – then maybe a lot of first responders might not be dying of preventable deaths caused by 9/11 exposures.

A decade later, serious EPA problems remain unaddressed, as noted by our friends at PEER

News Releases

For Immediate Release: September 8, 2011Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

PREVENTING ANOTHER 9/11 FIRST RESPONDERS TRAGEDY – Irresponsible EPA Corrosive Dust Standards Uncorrected a Decade after WTC

Washington, DC:  On September 11, 2001, “First Responders” to the World Trade Center conflagration and nearby residents waded into dust so corrosive that it resulted in chemical burns to their respiratory system.  These New York City police and firefighters were needlessly sacrificed due to woefully lax U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards which remain in effect but need correction, according to a rulemaking petition filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

After the horrific World Trade Center (WTC) implosion, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman assured a worried nation and terrified residents that the airborne hazardous substances at the site were “below background levels” and no worse than a “typical smoggy day.”  She could not have been more wrong.

WTC First Responders were subjected to dust so caustic as to cause respiratory disabilities and deaths.  Yet, if a similar scenario occurred today, the same results would recur.  That is because EPA misapplied the international corrosivity standard and then systematically failed to test and communicate the caustic properties of WTC dust.  As a result, the EPA standard is ten times more lax than the presumed safe levels for alkaline corrosives set by the United Nations (UN).

Despite persistent efforts by one of its senior chemists, EPA has not reconsidered its mistake.  Dr. Cate Jenkins, a determined 31-year agency employee, charges that the refusal to tighten the standard is fueled by both a fear of liability and industry pressure because the same health dangers, though on a smaller scale, attend workers and spectators at most building demolitions and people living around cement plants.

“This petition will right a monstrous wrong left uncorrected by official gross negligence,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, who co-filed the petition today with Dr. Jenkins. “It is past time for EPA to ensure that the heroic sacrifice of the WTC First Responders is never repeated.”

The petition demands that EPA dramatically tighten its corrosivity standard so that responders would be alerted to use personal protection equipment to prevent lung respiratory damage.  The petition would bring the U.S. into line with standards in force in the European Union and Canada, and adopted by the UN.

Robert Dellinger, one of the responsible EPA officials, explained the agency position in 2007:

“It seems that agency made a policy call to exempt these wastes by raising the pH level of the corrosivity characteristic. This was done in public manner, no law suit was filed, no petitions have been received asking us to change pH to 11.5.”

“It is not the public’s responsibility to detect falsifications by EPA, nor should they have to submit petitions or bring law suits to force EPA to perform its duty to act honestly in protecting the public,” said Dr. Jenkins. Now that we have petitioned EPA to correct the standard, the agency has lost even this flimsy excuse for inaction.”

After raising this issue to the EPA Inspector General, then Congress, Dr. Jenkins was isolated, harassed and ultimately removed from her position this year by EPA based upon a claim of threatening behavior.  Dr. Jenkins is soft-spoken, petite, and suffered from polio as a child.  The charge that she intimidated her 6-foot male supervisor has been upheld at a preliminary level, however.

“Unfortunately, senior EPA managers responsible for failure to protect the First Responders are the ones behind Dr. Jenkins’ removal,” added Dinerstein, one of the PEER attorneys representing Dr. Jenkins in legal challenges to restore her to her position at EPA. “The only thing Dr. Jenkins is guilty of is not suffering fools gladly.”

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: