Archive for October, 2011

The “Big Map” Lives! Christie Restores “Big Map” Debate

October 23rd, 2011 3 comments


The Christie Administration Reaction to DEP and the “Big Map” – Watch it

Getting to the heart of the matter, the Christie State Plan is all about killing the ghost of the “Big Map” – an obsession that is proven by the Plan’s own text:

The intent of the State Plan Policy Map was to give the goals and policies of the State Plan a geographic context. The State Plan Policy Map became a land use regulation tool as a result of the current linkages between the State Plan and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations for ―planning areas‖ and ―centers.‖ As a result, insufficient consideration is given to essential local and regional planning priorities such as public facilities, affordable housing and economic growth. A perfect example is that the highly-criticized DEP ―Blueprint for Intelligent Growth (BIG Map)’‖ lives within the current DEP Water Quality Management (WQM) regulations. In cross acceptance, DEP negotiated for revisions to the Policy Map to reflect data relied on in its WQM regulations, seeking to position flawed data (for example, DEP’sLandscape Project) above local and regional planning priorities. (page 18)

The Christie economic development plan simply erases this entire debate by eliminating mapping of environmental features  an denying the science – like the Water Quality Management Planning rules and the DEP’s Landscape Project’s mapping of rare, endangered, and threatened species.

This a corrupt practice akin to writing the policies in invisible ink.

BTW, here’s what the NJ State Planning Act mandates for the State Plan *(and just ask a simple question: how can a plan balance, protect and manage natural resources when it doesn’t know where they are, as depicted on a map?) :

§ 52:18A-200. State Development and Redevelopment Plan

The State Development and Redevelopment Plan shall be designed to represent a balance of development and conservation objectives best suited to meet the needs of the State. The plan shall:

a. Protect the natural resources and qualities of the State, including, but not limited to, agricultural devel- opment areas, fresh and saltwater wetlands, flood plains, stream corridors, aquifer recharge areas, steep slopes, areas of unique flora and fauna, and areas with scenic, historic, cultural and recreational values;

b. Promote development and redevelopment in a manner consistent with sound planning and where in- frastructure can be provided at private expense or with reasonable expenditures of public funds. This should not be construed to give preferential treatment to new construction;

c. Consider input from State, regional, county and municipal entities concerning their land use, environ- mental, capital and economic development plans, including to the extent practicable any State and regional plans concerning natural resources or infrastructure elements;

d. Identify areas for growth, limited growth, agriculture, open space conservation and other appropriate designations that the commission may deem necessary;

e. Incorporate a reference guide of technical planning standards and guidelines used in the preparation of the plan; and

f. Coordinate planning activities and establish Statewide planning objectives in the following areas: land use, housing, economic development, transportation, natural resource conservation, agriculture and farmland retention, recreation, urban and suburban redevelopment, historic preservation, public facilities and services, and intergovernmental coordination.

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Christie State Plan A Power Grab That Subverts Environmental Protections

October 23rd, 2011 No comments

Christie Crony Economic Objectives May Not Over-ride State and Federal Environmental Laws

The Asbury Park Press ran an awful “he said/she said” story on the Christie State Plan today, see: Christie Growth Plan – Most Either Love it or Hate It.

Until I put together a more comprehensive analysis, here’s my quick note to reporter Bob Jordan – I hope Carleton Montgomery at Pinelands Preservation Alliance, who was quoted in the story, gets a chance to read it:

Bob – I don’t hate anybody, but I did study regional planning in Graduate School at Cornell and practice for 13 years at DEP at the interface of planning and regulation, so I can say with confidence that Christie’s so called State Plan makes a mockery of land use planning mandated under the State Planning Act and provides an explicit attack on DEP and environmental regulations.

His Plan and EO 78 to implement it also usurp legislative power under the State Planning Act and numerous environmental laws, and concentrates unaccountable power in the Administration’s Planning and Regulatory Czar, Lt. Gov. Guagagno.

It abolishes maps and makes invisible the natural features that are mapped to be protected.

Maps identify places and features and link policy with place. Planning without a map is impossible – like chemistry without chemicals.

It attacks DEP and regulations as “red tape”. It would destroy the independence of DEP, over-ride science and environmental regulations, and put Guadagno in charge.

It has a singular focus on economic development that contradicts the balancing of multiple objectives mandated under law. It would arbitrarily place economic development objectives above environmental protection policies and standards, and thereby violate environmental laws.

The Plan is inconsistent with legislative intent and would violate federally delegated programs under the Clean Water Act, e.g. DEP water quality management planning rules.

If the NJ Legislature fails to engage, I am certain that EPA will intervene to block attempted rollbacks to federally delegated environmental programs and plans.

For details, see:


[Update: I was just advised that Carleton Montgomery of PPA is a Board member at NJ Future.

Was Carleton commenting as an environmental advocate/lawyer, or as a Board member of NJ Future?

NJ Future is a corporate dominated organization that is politically supporting the Governor and his economic development policies. It is my understanding that the NJ environmental community does NOT consider NJ Future a pro-environmental organization, and has a long history of significant disagreements on the State Plan and important DEP regulations. Readers should know this, as it is relevant to the motivation and credibility of his comments.

[Update #2 – Plan Smart NJ is not a professional planning group.

Plan Smart NJ should not be cited in a news story as a planning group – they are a group of corporate (fill in the blanks – I’d say “whores”)

I realize that NJ is an ethical swamp, but I think we’ve broken new ground here.

It’s weenie Halloween here, so WTF is Pringle?

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Iraq Nightmare Ends With a Whimper

October 22nd, 2011 No comments
US Embassy during the fall of Saigon, April 29, 1975.

US Embassy during the fall of Saigon, April 29, 1975.

[Update #2 – Chris Floyd nails what I was driving at here, but lack the writing skills to convey].

Update – 10/24/11: Watch Bush Administration UN Ambassador John Bolton admit – on national TV – that Iraq war was fought for access to oil and cheap oil prices – watch it!

No, this time around, there was no fall of the US Embassy, as in Saigon April 1975.

But, make no mistake about it, the US left Iraq under a similar cloud of shame, for the conduct of an illegal invasion, immoral war, and imperial occupation – all based on lies – that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians and wasted the lives of over 4,400 US troops.

Obama didn’t end the war (he tried to prolong it), he merely honored Bush’s deal.

Observing how the Iraq nightmare ended, there is no doubt that the long shadow of the Vietnam debacle is still with us.

What else explains the US apathy and non-reaction?

President Obama’s speech, (a full 6 minutes!) announcing the official end of the war, was based on and prompted less moral reflection and introspection than I give a weekend camping trip.

Obama’s speech was awful – that line about US troops leaving with their “heads high” was revolting.

Obama’s failure to reflect honestly – or at all – upon the war is proof positive of the continuing Vietnam backlash (yup, those helicopters being pushed off the deck and photos of people hanging from the helicopters leaving the embassy still burn in the minds of the US warmongers.)

The media and US public reaction was similarly superficial and mind numbing – hundreds of thousands killed by an illegal war based on lies, trillions of dollars wasted, and the loss of US standing in the eyes of the world, and this is what we get when it “ends”?

I suppose the Saigon debacle is one of the reasons that the US built a massive fortified embassy in Baghdad, where US Marines will remain.

But make no mistake – there was no honor, and certainly loads of shame – in the Iraq nightmare.

Vietnam, fall of Saigon, April 1975

Vietnam, fall of Saigon, April 1975

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The Blimp of the Perverse

October 21st, 2011 2 comments
(photo credit: Asbury Park Press) - I would never get that close.

(photo credit: Asbury Park Press) - I would never get that close.

Apologies to Mr. Poe, but in reading about Governor Christie’s latest (predicted here) attack on environmental protections (i.e. Executive Order #78), I think I’ve discovered the spirit that animates our morbidly obese Governor:

We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abyss – we grow sick and dizzy. Our first impulse is to shrink away from the danger. Unaccountably we remain… it is but a thought, although a fearful one, and one which chills the very marrow of our bones with the fierceness of the delight of its horror. It is merely the idea of what would be our sensations during the sweeping precipitancy of a fall from such a height… for this very cause do we now the most vividly desire it. …

Examine them and and similar actions … we shall find them resulting solely from the spirit of the Perverse. We perpetrate them merely because we feel that we should not. Beyond or behind this, there is no intelligible principle.

Beyond that, the case is made – no need to wallow in the details of the latest Christie perversity.

All I can say is that the Christie Administration is absolutely perverse in how they design and implement their rollback agenda.

They use the tools and the rhetoric of environmental protection and regional planning, but they DO the opposite to promote economic growth and rollback protections.

The reactionary policy has been clear since the Gov.’s first day in office, when he issued 4 Executive Orders, all targeted on rolling back environmental protections.

Just one point Tom Johnson makes in his story to illustrate –  the landscape project. Well here’s the Christie DEP Transition Report recommendation:

“Immediately suspend the inappropriate use of the Landscape Project mapping of purported Threatened and Endangered species habitat. “

[Update – forgot to excerpt the Christie Plan language:

The intent of the State Plan Policy Map was to give the goals and policies of the State Plan a geographic context. The State Plan Policy Map became a land use regulation tool as a result of the current linkages between the State Plan and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulations for ―planning areas‖ and ―centers.‖ As a result, insufficient consideration is given to essential local and regional planning priorities such as public facilities, affordable housing and economic growth. A perfect example is that the highly-criticized DEP ―Blueprint for Intelligent Growth (BIG Map)’‖ lives within the current DEP Water Quality Management (WQM) regulations. In cross acceptance, DEP negotiated for revisions to the Policy Map to reflect data relied on in its WQM regulations, seeking to position flawed data (for example, DEP’s Landscape Project) above local and regional planning priorities. (page 18)

Why is there any DOUBT at this point about the perversity of the Christie agenda?- why are critics called “skeptics”?

I’ve documented all this for over a year now. All predicted – see this, among many others.

Maybe PlansmartNJ and others who support this move should just read the Executive Order #78 BEFORE they back the Governor?

[Update – below is the sole policy objective expressed in Chrisitie’s EO 78 – it is exclusively promotion of economic development and does not reflect the balance of competing interests that is mandated by the State Planning Act.

As such, the Christie Plan is another example of Executive usurpation of the Legislative policymaking role.

The Christie plan is also an unconstitutional power grab, by consolidating power in the Lt. Governor’s Office. The Lt. Governor is provided power to over-ride State agency functional plans that are adopted pursuant to legislative policies, e..g the DEP Water Quality Management Plan, and several others I’ve previously written about. See: Christie Regulatory Czar Consolidates Power).

In addition to the powers outlined in the EO 78, the Christie Administration tips their hand in the State Plan.

Environmentalists have long opposed the concept that the State Plan could over-ride DEP decisions and DEP regulations, which are promulgated pursuant to environmental laws. The State Planning Act does not amend or repeal any environmental law.

The Christie State Plan would impose exactly the long opposed usurpation of State Plan.

Note how this issue is buried in calls for  “horizontal and vertical integration” and “breaking down silos”.  Those are code for subordinating DEP regulations and institutional independence to economic objectives and the whim of the Lt. Governor:

Success will also require strong leadership and effective coordination. Implementation will be driven from the Executive Branch through a cabinet-level Steering Committee. Effective coordination will result from horizontal and vertical integration that breaks down silos, provides cross-cutting engagement and leverages public and private resources for strategic alignment of policies, people and dollars. The State Planning Commission will continue to perform its duties as described in N.J.S.A. 52:18A-199. […]

Executive Leadership

Alignment of State government is a critical duty of the Executive Branch. Leadership on this issue will come from the top. The Governor and Lt. Governor should take appropriate actions requiring each relevant Department and/or Agency to develop strategies that integrate the mission, vision, goals, objectives of this Plan into:

  •  Program and rule changes;
  •  Annual capital spending plans;
  •  Intra and inter-agency coordination efforts; and
  •  Staff training regarding the role of this Strategic Plan, Guiding Principles and Garden State Values within program delivery.

Therefore, the Legislature should intervene, hold hearings, and reject the Plan as inconsistent with Legislative intent.

WHEREAS, after the SPC adopts a new State Plan, the Executive Branch has the responsibility to lead this coordination and drive the State’s implementation of the new State Plan, thereby reducing onerous and burdensome red tape, improving efficiency, and strategically spurring targeted economic growth;

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Dupont Pompton Lakes Site of National Significance

October 20th, 2011 2 comments

EPA Decisions There Would Set Precedents That Impact Thousands of Sites Across the US

EPA is folding to corporate power and political pressure from States

There was an important discussion yesterday among Pompton Lakes residents that I’d like to expand on today (a reporter from the Bergen Record was copied on the emails, so I am not divulging any confidences).

The conversation began when a plume resident complained to EPA Region 2 Administrator Judy Enck about EPA’s failure to attend and support the “real community advisory group” (CAG).

A CAG is a feature of the Superfund program that Regional Administrator Enck has imported into the RCRA program due to the historic exclusion of the Pompton Lakes community from cleanup decisions, which were driven by Dupont and signed off on by EPA and DEP behind the scenes.

The resident wrote to Enck:

As a Pompton Lakes Plume Resident I find it totally unacceptable that the EPA did not send a representative to our last Pompton Community Advisory Group Meeting on October 17, 2011.

The facts are as follows:

A) The EPA always manages to have at least several or more representatives at the old CAG group (that we originally abandoned after our community leaders were allowed to be ousted).

B) The records show that we have at least 10X more community attendance than the old abandoned CAG and WE are the true public venue for our real plume residents.

C) Sending a representative to every meeting (as our Senators and Congressman regularly do) is a prerequisite in forming a real working relationship with our community.

Seemingly baffled by EPA’s failures, in reply my friend Bob Spiegel of Edison Wetlands weighed in in an attempt to explain and persuade EPA to change course. Bob replied:

I am not sure why EPA is diverting precious and limited resources to a CAG that has almost no attendance and has no community support. The USEPA does not operate like that in other communities and I am at a loss to explain why the EPA is not fully supporting the Pompton Lake Community Advisory Group. I would invite you and others in the community to come to other CAGs in NJ and even NY to see how EPA operates at those CAG’s. It is much different than the Pompton Lakes CAG.

I’d like to shed some light on external reasons why I think EPA has failed to support the community’s efforts to hold Dupont accountable for a 25 year long failure to cleanup massive toxic pollution they caused.

Basically, the Dupont site raises major policy and regulatory issues of national significance that are being watched closely by politically powerful polluters.

These are the same politically powerful polluters and economic elites that forced President Obama to back down and withdraw the EPA’s proposed new ozone standard, that have blocked progress on global warming, and that have stymied EPA efforts to protect public health from air, water, and toxic chemical pollution.

Here is an outline of those national issues and how they relate to Dupont Pompton Lakes pollution and pending EPA decisions.

For each individual regulatory issue, EPA is facing enormous behind the scenes political pressure from polluters and their friends in Congress and the White House.

EPA is not eager to have a spotlight shown on this behind the scenes debate and would like to avoid media and public scrutiny on any single one of these issues.

Yet all of them are raised in Pompton Lakes:

1. Vapor Intrusion

Pompton Lakes is one of the worst – if not the worst – vapor intrusion site in the Country. Over 450 homes are impacted. Elevated cancer rates have been found and may be related to the pollution.

Plume residents – with the support of NJ Senators Lautenberg and Menendez and Congressman Pascrell – have demanded that the Dupont site be placed by EPA on the Superfund “National Priorities List” (NPL)

Earlier this year, EPA proposed a new policy to consider vapor intrusion as a factor in listing sites on the Superfund “National Priorioties List” (NPL).

That EPA proposal was strongly opposed by polluters, because it would add hundreds – perhaps thousands – of additional sites to the Superfund list, and cost industry billions of dollars in new cleanup costs and legal liability associated with vapor intrusion.

The Dupont PL site is the poster child in support of EPA’s proposed new Superfund listing policy.

In addition to the power of chemical giant Dupont, any move EPA makes regarding Superfund and/or vapor intrusion at this site is being closely watched by industry lawyers, scientists, and lobbyists.

EPA is not eager to face public scrutiny on how they’ve responded to vapor intrusion risks.

2. RCRA Corrective Action

The 1976 “Resource Conservation and Recovery Act” (RCRA) and the 1984 “Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendments (HWSA) to RCRA are the two most important national environmental laws that the public has never heard of.

There are orders of magnitudes more RCRA regulated industrial facilities, toxic wastes, and toxic sites than Superfund sites. The risks to human health and the environment from RCRA regulated hazardous wastes and contaminated sites far exceeds the risks from Superfund sites. RCRA costs industry orders of magnitude more to comply with than Superfund.

(take a look at NJ’s RCRA Corrective Action facilities)

In the 1984 HWSA, Congress established a toxic site cleanup process under RCRA, known as the “Corrective Action” program. The RCRA CA program was modeled on the Superfund program, but has significant differences, e.g. RCRA CA  is less transparent, provides for far less public involvement, and is subject to stronger industry influence, compared with Superfund.

Yet, for the most part, the public and the press never heard of  RCRA and Corrective Action – they operate with little accountability and fly under the media and public radar screens.

The RCRA programs are enormously bureaucratic and complex, and few environmental groups get involved.

Polluters like this game.

So, it is no surprise that industry exerts tremendous influence on EPA RCRA activities.

The Dupont site is being overseen by EPA Region 2 under the RCRA Corrective Action program.

EPA is not eager to submit their RCRA Corrective Action Program to public scrutiny, as that would expose, at best, spotty performance, and major failures in regulatory oversight.

Again, any move by EPA at the Dupont site is under a national microscope by industry insiders and subject to enormous industry pressure.

3. RCRA Superfund “deferral policy”

In 1995, EPA enacted a policy under RCRA and Superfund that basically says that they will not list RCRA sites – regardless of risks – on the Superfund NPL.

This is an informal EPA policy – not legal mandate – under RCRA. Both RCRA and Superfund are silent on sites with RCRA overlap.

Thousands of RCRA sites pose equal or greater risks to human health and the environment than Superfund sites.

The deferral policy was adopted more than a decade ago, at the request of industry, who prefer to work the quiet inside game with EPA under RCRA, rather than the far more publicly friendly and high profile Superfund program.

This EPA deferral policy explains why EPA rejected residents demands to list the Dupont site on the NPL.

Obviously, EPA is not eager to talk about all this, because it reopens a debate industry won many years ago, and exposes EPA to public criticism.

4. RCRA Enforcement

Dupont was issued a RCRA Corrective Action permit by EPA back in 1992. We have asked EPA to enforce that permit.

The Dupont site has not been cleaned up under that RCRA permit, and off-site releases and human exposures – EPA’s performance metrics – are not under control.

EPA issued a national RCRA enforcement strategy – several of the policies in that strategy relate to the Dupont site.

There are many controversial enforcement related issues raised by that permit, many of which also have national significance from legal and policy perspectives (including who knew what when about vapor intrusion and whether Dupont complied with notification and disclosure requirements.

Again, polluters and EPA do not welcome scrutiny of EPA’s lax RCRA enforcement policy and practice.

5. Superfund Listing policy – State concurrence

EPA quietly adopted a little known “state concurrence” policy that says that EPA will not list a site on the NPL – regardless of its HRS score and risks posed – without the support of the Governor of the state.


NJ Governor Chris Christie does not support – and would oppose – EPA listing of the Dupont Pompton Lakes site on the Superfund NPL.

Enck & EPA are not eager to publicly defend this policy or to get into a fight with NJ Gov. Chris Christie.

This debate would reveal that politics – as much or more than science or law – governs EPA Superfund listing policy.

6. Federalism – EPA oversight of delegated State programs

Like most national environmental laws like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the RCRA and HSWA Corrective Action are federal programs that are delegated by EPA to states to implement.

EPA works with states to enact equivalent state regulations, and then funds and oversees State implementation. EPA has authority to not only hold states accountable to enforce federal requirements, but can step in and directly enforce federal requirements.

While NJ was delegated the basic RCRA program, more than 27 years after Congress enacted HSWA and the Corrective Action program, NJ still has not received delegation of the HSWA programs, including Corrective Action.

EPA and NJ DEP are not eager to defend this record.

So there you have it – this explains the delays and lax oversight at the Dupont Pompton Lakes site.

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