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DEP Dims the Lights on Clean Water

November 30th, 2011 No comments
martin cwc

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin speaks to joint meeting of NJ Clean Water Council and Water Supply Advisory Council – Martin apparently learned the lesson on bottled water: his staff advised me that the plastic bottle Martin used as a visible prop is a refillable, with source Trenton public system.

On Monday, NJ Spotlight held a policy roundtable on NJ water supply (see my prior post).

Today, considering similar multi-billion dollar water infrastructure deficits and financing issues, but in a very different format, the NJ Clean Water Council (“Council” or “CWC”) held its annual public hearing.

For water wonk insiders, the Council’s first ever joint meeting with the Water Supply Advisory Council (WSAC) was a quiet rebuff to DEP Commissioner Martin’s ill advised and failed recommendations to consolidate the North Jersey District Water Supply Commission and the New Jersey Water Supply Authority and combine the Clean Water and Water Supply Advisory Councils, pursuant to Governor Christie’ Executive Order #15.

The joint meeting with WSAC also served to shed light on DEP’s long delay in updating the Statewide Water Supply Master Plan, which the Chair of the Water Supply Advisory Council said would be “forthcoming shortly”.

Last year, the Council’s hearing focused on infrastructure deficits and asset management.  At that hearing, I testified to urge the CWC to 1) oppose Martin’s EO 15 recommendations to consolidate; 2) to recommend regulatory mandates for asset management; and 3) to recognize the public health significance of so called “end of pipe” regulatory mandates, not disparage them  (see hearing transcript at page 42, line 15).

So while I was pleased to see issues #2 and 3 of my testimony last year reflected in the Council’s 2010 recommendations to Commissioner Martin, I was disappointed that the topic for this year’s 2011 hearing – which was set by Commissioner Martin – was a repeat of last year’s hearing: Infrastructure Asset Management.

Despite Martin’s direction to the Council to recycle the infrastructure issue, Martin failed to include infrastructure as a priority in his recently issued 2010 DEP vision and priorities document.

Martin has directed his DEP staff to “do less with less; to focus on his “transformation” and “core mission” priorities; and to identify and eliminate non-core or redundant functions.

While ignoring infrastructure financing, those (warped) priorities do include:

  • adherence to “customer service principles”;
  • streamlining permitting;
  • privatization and outsourcing;
  • expanded access for regulated entities in permitting;
  • elimination of the landscape project habitat map in DEP regulatory programs

In response to Martin’s directives, DEP staff have told me that DEP Mangers have told them that if an environmental program or regulatory function are not included as a Martin priority, then they will not do that work – regardless of statutory and/or regulatory mandates requiring them to do so.

But enough of Martin’s mismanagement, let’s get back to today’s Clean Water Council hearing.

As mandated by the Legislature, the Council holds an annual public hearing, to provide an opportunity for the public to weigh in on clean water priorities.

Typically, the Council, in consultation with the DEP Commissioner, selects a single topic to focus on, and invites expert panelists to make presentations on it.

The expert presentations and public testimony are considering by the Council, who then issue a set of recommendations to the DEP Commissioner.

In the last five years – ignoring many other pressing water issues –  the Council has held 4 hearings on the infrastructure issue (2007, 2008, 2010, 2011).

Yet, DEP has failed to follow through and implement the Council’s recommendations.

For example, last year’s Council recommendations, conveyed in a November 17, 2010 letter to Martin, included the need for DEP to adopt regulations (boldface mine):

Ensuring Effective Asset Management

All utilities should be required to establish and practice asset management. Asset management should include three general elements:

  • a means of routine asset condition assessment;
  • a programmed and preventive maintenance (“PPM”) system; and
  • a procedure for evaluating the life-cycle cost impacts of repair or replacement decisions.

Any State regulations adopted to require the implementation of these general elements should not mandate specific methods or thresholds across all utility types and sizes unless they are recognized industry standards. Fair, reasonable and consistent regulations are needed. NJDEP should regulate water supply utilities regarding leakage control and water accounting to ensure effective water resource management, to limit system leakage and to allow for proper baseline water auditing. Similar threshold-based indicators are needed for wastewater (e.g., infiltration and inflow, sanitary and combined sewer overflows) and stormwater infrastructure. Based on the regulatory benchmarks, NJDEP should assess utility success regarding maintenance of physical utility assets that are critical to the protection of environmental quality and public health and safety, and make the results available to the public. … [...] …

NJDEP should identify and apply the most critical and useful threshold-based infrastructure and environmental indicators, using cost-effective methods for monitoring utility status. NJDEP should then use existing regulatory provisions of its NJPDES and Safe Drinking Water Programs to ensure use of these indicators and implementation of proper asset management by wastewater utilities, municipal stormwater systems and water supply utilities.

Yet DEP has done nothing to implement last year’s Council recommendations.

And today, we heard only rhetoric from Commissioner Martin, who stated that DEP “was developing an Asset Management Strategy”.

DEP should be proposing rules by now!

There were too many interesting things said today to rehash here, so, for those interested in the details, I will post a link to the hearing transcript when it is made available by DEP.

Other than myself and Jeff Tittel of Sierra Club (who delivered a tour de force on NJ’s longstanding serious water problems), the environmental community and the press corps were AWOL.

That is a shame, because this is an annual event to weigh in on clean water issues.

The NJ Environmental Federation, who sits on the Council and ostensibly represents environmental and public health interests, did not even testify and their rep arrived 40 minutes late (missing their friend Commissioner Martin’s remarks).

Dave Pringle, NJEF (R) shares deep thoughts with DEP Commissioner Bob Martin (L).

Dave Pringle, NJEF (R) shares deep thoughts with DEP Commissioner Bob Martin (L).

[Note: a reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes that "NJEF is the NJ affiliate of the national DC based group Clean Water Action (CWA). As the CWA affiliate, this should be their big issue/ big event - instead they are an embarrassment to CWA"]

I did not come prepared with written testimony, but did make a few extemporaneous remarks along the following lines:

1) regulatory mandates have been a success and should not be disparaged by slogans – we need more regulations and more enforcement.

2) I complimented the presentation by Dennis Doll, the President of Middlesex Water Company, who refreshingly highlighted the key barriers to progress: money, politics, and leadership.

Doll said, several times, that professionals seeking prudent solutions often go against the political grain, and do so at tremendous personal and career risk.

So, I advised the audience, composed mostly of water resource professionals, that PEER’s job is to defend scientific integrity and the front line professionals, who should never have to suffer career harm or retaliation for doing the right thing.

I urged anyone subject to that kind of pressure to contact me anonymously and with total confidentiality.

3) Governor Christie’s Strategic Economic Development Plan and EO 78 require that State agencies conform their functional plans to the State Plan.

This represents a threat to DEP functional plans mandated by statute, including the Water Supply Master Plan and the Water Quality Management Plan. I urged the Council to consider and make recommendations on these issues.

4)  Mr. Doll also emphasized the need for leadership and building credibility to secure public confidence and support.

I completely agreed with that.

I then said that Governor Christie’s failed leadership, including his demagogic attacks on local authorities and public employees, along with his ideological opposition to government, taxes/fees or revenues, and regulatory intervention, were serious problems and exactly the opposite of the kind of leadership we need.

I urged the professionals in the room to address those issues head on and generate some pushback to the Governor.

5) In response to statements by Dean Noll that local governments were illegally diverting infrastructure money to other purposes, I urged the professional aware of those situations to blow the whistle: name names!

More to follow. In the meantime:

Turn on the bright lights,

Turn on the bright lights,

What a fool I have been.

I believed

I believed that you loved me

But I was sure taken in. ~~~  ”Turn on the bright lights” (Jerry Garcia – 1974)

[Update 12/1/11 - wanted to include a few more points:

I) A Kinder, gentler, less greedy NJBIA?

NJBIA testified and took a different approach to paying for water than they are taking on paying for energy (which is: reduce our costs now, the public and the future be damned!).

Sarah Blum of NJBIA was on her best behavior, and meekly asked the Council and or DEP to estimate the costs on ratepayers, so that businesses could plan to include them in the cost of doing business!

But, if you listened closely, she still held out the threat by dropping the "R" word: recession (translation: don't dare raise our costs in a recession).

II)  Ironic history

Back in 2005, when there was no buzz on infrastructure financing and asset management, I testified to the Council as follows: (transcript at page 112 - 113):

  1. that's the first fundamental point I  think I made in terms of imploring the Council to
    
  2.  2      recommend to the incoming administration the need
    
  3.  3      to grapple with the money question and to come up
    
  4.  4      with some stable source of funding to deal with
    
  5.  5      the clean water issues in the state.
    

My 2005 written testimony:

Testimony to the Clean Water Council October 31, 2005

Bill Wolfe, Director NJ PEER

A public investment strategy and regulatory agenda to protect public health, quality of life, drinking water and preserve remaining high quality streams, lakes, rivers, wetlands, forests, & farms.

Need for Public Investment - Financing environmental infrastructure deficits

The first priority of the Clean Water Council should be a strong recommendation to the next Administration to get the environmental infrastructure deficit issue on the political and policy radar screens. The Council should focus on the fact that environmental infrastructure deficits are a serious and long ignored problem that threaten NJ’s economic future, quality of life, public health, and ecological integrity. The Council needs to emphasize that water resource and environmental infrastructure expenditures are investments. The Council should recommend the absolute need to establish creative new funding sources to finance this critical deficit.

Straw Man proposal

III) Empty suits and Empty chairs

Shared organizational traits - it's not just Pringle

Shared organizational traits - it's not just Pringle

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Spotlight on NJ Water Supply for the 21st Century

November 28th, 2011 5 comments

BPU President Solomon Says Fracking Poses No Risk to NJ Water Supply

Outgoing Christie BPU President Lee Solomon gets a laugh about bottled water at a water utility conference

Outgoing Christie BPU President Lee Solomon gets a laugh about bottled water at a water utility conference

[Important updates below]

NJ Spotlight held another event in their policy roundtable series at Rider University today titled: New Jersey’s Water Supply in the 21st Century (see this for agenda and panelists).

The event was moderated by Tom Johnson, veteran energy and environment reporter.

I won’t even try to rehash everything that was said, but instead simply touch on the highlights and lay out my major impressions (that’s why this site is called Wolfenotes! Interested readers can find followup info by hitting the links).

The panel was comprised of outgoing Christie BPU President Lee Solomon and 4 water industry representatives. There was a lack of countervailing expertise and balance in terms of academic representatives, public policy experts, and environmental advocates.

I was surprised that even DEP was not represented (although DEP did have at least 3 senior middle managers in the audience).[Correction: these were DEP senior professionals, not middle managers].

Although Tom Johnson asked some good questions, the panelists tilted the discussion towards the industry perspective and narrowed the focus to private sector economic and financing issues.

However, audience members were given ample opportunity to ask questions, which generated the best discussion of the day.

I asked 4 questions (which got addressed in some way) as follows:

1) What is the water industry’s take on the long delay in DEP update of the Statewide Water Supply Master Plan? What are key industry issues in that plan?

2) How are competing water uses, i.e. for ecological health, recreation, and fishing purposes, protected in water supply planning and management and DEP water allocation permitting?

3) What are the public health risks and economic concerns in upgrading treatment systems to remove over 500 currently unregulated contaminants USGS and DEP have detected in NJ water supplies?

4) What are the implications of global warming for NJ water supply?

(I forgot to ask about the collapse of the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute, which has been quietly killed by DEP Commissioner Martin).

Outgoing BPU President Solomon – who was outed as the Christie Cabinet member who denied the reality of global warming - made the most newsworthy and provocative claims.

He began by predicting that although we spend a lot of time and attention on energy issues, “water will be the crisis issue of the 21st century“.

Solomon almost seemed to welcome the controversy and to use the panel as an opportunity to take a few parting shots, particularly at environmentalists who he claimed used misleading “rhetorical, unsubstantiated allegations” against fracking. He stressed that we must not let that rhetoric determine what we do.

During the Q&A session, Solomon was asked by Tom Johnson whether we needed stronger regulations and then “what threat fracking posed to NJ water supply”.

Solomon replied “none” (mimicking Christie’s “frack off”)

Here is what the DRBC impact assessment identifies as impacts and risks of fracking:

Lifting the current DRBC moratorium would open the door to over 18,000 wells in NY and Pennsylvania, according to DRBC. Those wells would use over 100 BILLION gallons of water; generate more than 25 BILLION gallons of toxic hazardous wastewater with unsafe levels of radioactive contaminants; and destroy over 150,000 aces of forests and farms, more than all the land protected by the NJ Highlands Act.

In response to a subsequent question, where Tom asked panelists if they’d like to challenge Solomon’s remarks on fracking, Solomon tried to walk that comment back by claiming that there was “no evidence” that horizontal fracking had ever caused methane gas to migrate to a water supply well.

Solomon said that because horizontal fracking occurs more than a mile below the aquifer that it was geologically “impossible“. He claimed that there has “never been a case of gas migration into a water supply”.

(this is the gas industry spin and it totally  misrepresents the totality of the risks and impacts of fracking. The evidence is too abundant to lay out here).

Solomon then went on a rant against environmental activists who he said had used movies and rhetoric to scare and mislead the public.

By comparison, fellow panelist Karen Alexander, President of the NJ Utilities Assc., didn’t attempt to deny the risks of fracking. Instead, she admitted that there were impacts and risks, but that they were due to “bad players” and small companies. (funny, Karen didn’t mention the fact that the risks from well casing of fracking wells are the same as the casing cement job and lax pro-industry regulatory oversight that caused BP Gulf oil blowout. )

wallAn audience member posed a question to the panel about what the profit rate was for the water companies.  After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Solomon jumped in and proceeded to spend 15 minutes defending Wall Street investor interests. He explained why Wall Street investors needed to receive at least a 10% guaranteed return on investment (comparing that to the fact that average people earn a paltry 1% or less on bank deposits).

Never was it made so obvious that Wall Street investors hold NJ water consumers hostage to their profits. Thanks Lee, you did a heckofajob!

Solomon arrogantly chuckled that he was glad he didn’t have to face the voters, as he even mocked democracy by claiming that voter referendum was a threat to privatization of water systems. He used the recent Trenton experience, where voter referendum struck down a proposed privatization scheme as his example.

Solomon exhibited perfect Christie style: defend Wall Street investors, promote privatization, mock democracy, attack environmental advocates, and defend and echo the spin of the gas industry.

The majority of the discussion focused on the water industry issues agenda, and the need for government to:

1) educate the public about water issues and the real value of water;

2) increase investment is water system infrastructure

3) increase ratepayer water use charges (average household rate is $42 -$48/quarter – rate cases filed that seek a 25% increase)

4) provide regulatory incentives for investment and privatization (e.g. allow appraisal value to be automatically passed on into rate base rate of return; make it easier to consolidate and privatize public systems, et al)

5) be sensitive to the costs of upgraded treatment systems to meet costly new EPA requirements (EPA unregulated contaminant monitoring rule and new trihalomethane requirements came in for specific criticism)

6) increase beneficial refuse of wastewater

7) deflect and better manage (ill informed) public perception about the risks of contaminants -

The Dupont PFOA south jersey litigation was used as an example where the water company took precautionary preventive actions based on perception of PFOA, even though DEP and EPA did not require it.

But no one talked about any of this: (see: Dupont – Too Big to Jail)

In response to those recommendations by DEP scientists:

8. reduce the use of road salt

All the panelists downplayed  the existence of

  • water supply deficits and constraints to growth;
  • the public health risks of water pollution;
  • the ecological, river/stream flow, and other competing non-human needs;
  • the need for planning and/or more regulation;
  • the role of water conservation; and
  • controversial issues surrounding privatization of public water systems.
  • Wednesday, NJ  Clean Water Council holds its annual public hearing at 9 am in the DEP building – see link for agenda and details. They are recycling last year’s topic!

    [Update 1: water industry panelists repeatedly stated that bottled water was “unregulated” (curious, the corporations who should be looking out for clean drinking water had no problem with the fact that fracking is exempt from federal environmental laws, like the Safe Drinking Water Act!).

    But it is NOT true that bottled water is unregulated in NJ).

    Pursuant to (N.J.S.A. 58:12A-1)., according to the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services:

    Specific standards have been developed for impurities that have been detected in ground and surface water supplies. Bottled water sources must meet the same water safety standards that have been developed under the State’s Safe Drinking Water Act and the regulations establishing New Jersey Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) for public drinking water supplies. …

    In addition to the potential for chemical contamination, source water supplies can also be subject to microbiological contamination. Spring water supplies can be vulnerable to the infiltration of surface water and pathogenic microorganisms including protozoa, such as Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium parvum. These pathogens may enter the ground water strata from which a bottler draws their supply. While pathogenic bacteria are readily eliminated through disinfection, standard disinfection techniques employed by water bottlers such as ozonation and ultra-violet light (UV) treatment do not eliminate protozoan cysts. In order to address this potential problem, the DHSS established rules that require water bottlers to evaluate their source of supply for direct surface water influences. Microscopic particulate analysis or other hydrologic evaluations are conducted and the bottlers must certify that their water is not under the direct influence of surface water or employ additional treatment, which includes submicron filtration to eliminate the potential for the presence of protozoa.

    Pants of fire!

    The reason the water industry LIES about this is because it is a State level regulation -

    They have convinced the Christie Administration to forego state standards at DEP, so they don’t want to talk about State regulations at all – even those that BENEFIT their industry!

    [Update 2: Water industry panelists strongly opposed the idea of reducing reservoir storage in advance of a storm to reduce flooding. Solomon agreed with them, and threatened that if pending legislation were passed (see A4287 and A4320), then State regulators would impose (unspecified) new costly infrastructure requirements in response.

    I was aware of that issue in the Delaware, where a United Water reservoir release may have caused flooding damage, but now see that it is an issue in north jersey as well, see today’s Bergen Record story: Tough questions on flooding in New Milford for United Water oficials

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    From Alexandria to Zuccotti Park – They’ve Been Destroying Books for 2,000 Years

    November 26th, 2011 No comments

    books

    (superb essay reprinted in full, without author Mr. Eskow’s permission. But I have that poster framed on my wall. h/t CrooksandLiars)

    From Alexandria To Zuccotti Park: They’ve Been Destroying Books For 2,000 Years

    By Richard RJ Eskow

    Fahrenheit 451: The temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns.

    They’re back.

    But then, they’ve never gone away. The Book Killers have always been with us. Before recorded history they were with us, murdering the scholars and storytellers and mystics of every tribe they ever conquered.

    They were there when Great Library burned in Alexandria 2,000 years ago. They destroyed the library known as the House of Wisdom when the Mongol Empire invaded Baghdad in 1258. They say the invaders took the books from every ruined library in Baghdad and piled them into the Tigris River, to serve as a bridge for their soldiers and chariots.

    They say the river ran black with ink for years.

    In 2003 the United States invaded Iraq with an indifference, incompetence, and arrogance that led to anarchy in the streets. There was widespread rioting, vandalism, and looting of priceless ancient antiquities and manuscripts. The National Library burned, and the flames lit the skies for miles around.

    Seven centuries later, the great library of Baghdad died again.

    Always before it had been like snuffing a candle. The police went first and adhesive-taped the victim’s mouth and bandaged him off into their glittering beetle cars, so when you arrived you found an empty house. You weren’t hurting anyone, you were hurting only things!

    - Fahrenheit 451

    Now the book assassins have come to Wall Street. They removed the people and property from Zuccotti Park, destroying or damaging thousands of books in the process. Occupiers and Supporters brought the surviving books to a press conference this week. They were “torn, wrinkled, coverless and even mangled,” as Gianna Palmer reported for McClatchy. “Among the books visible on the table were a leather-bound copy of the Bible, a collection of Chinese mythology and a volume of selected poems by Allen Ginsberg.”

    Bloomberg hasn’t apologized. In his press conference announcing the raid he wore the same arrogant look of self-satisfaction that humanity has seen for thousands of years. It was the face of every Mongol chieftain, every Roman centurion, every officious book-destroying official that has ever lived.

    Bloomberg and his compatriots would undoubtedly be horrified at any comparison to these vandals and barbarians. If Bloomberg ever does deign to apologize, which might only happen if there’s enough political pressure, he’ll undoubtedly say it was an accident.

    And since things really couldn’t be hurt, since things felt nothing, and things don’t scream or whimper, as this woman might begin to scream and cry out, there was nothing to tease your conscience later.

    But it was no accident. As Captain Ray Lewis explained to Piers Morgan, police procedure demands that receipts be provide for any personal property that is confiscated. The property must then be stored carefully. Negligence is no defense for the destruction of any property. And a society that values knowledge should be especially horrified at the destruction of books.

    Bloomberg and his minions ignored police procedure. His police, aided by a private militia, disregarded property rights that are safeguarded for any suspected criminal.

    But then, they knew they weren’t dealing with criminals. They were dealing with something much more threatening to their system: Independence.

    You were simply cleaning up. Janitorial work, essentially … Who’s got a match!

    Rights are inalienable, which means they can’t be sold or transferred. Somebody should tell that to Bloomberg and any other politicians. It means you can’t designate a public area as “privately owned” and then retroactively suspend civil liberties there. Somebody ought to give Mayor Bloomberg a copy of the Constitution.

    I’m sure the Occupiers would have been happy to lend him theirs.

    Rights are also indivisible. If you discard one or two of our legal safeguards, you’ve discarded them all. Nobody gets to decide how many of our freedoms we’re allowed, when or where they may be granted or denied. That’s not freedom at all.

    Books in the Occupy Library were literally treated like garbage. Their owners were finally allowed to reclaim their shredded remains – at the Sanitation Department.

    But that shouldn’t be a surprise. Bloomberg and his forces were already treating the Constitution like trash and police manuals like toilet paper. Why behave any differently toward a library? After all, Bloomberg and his peers must have been furious at what they would have considered the arrogance, the impertinence, of Zuccotti Park’s residents. A library? A library is for a community!

    And we decide who is a community and who isn’t, say the Book Killers.

    A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind.

    Even worse, books contain ideas. And information. You only have to read one or two of them to realize how transparently Mayor Bloomberg is lying – about human rights, or about the cause of the financial crisis of 2008. One of the Occupy movement’s great victories has been the unmasking of Michael Bloomberg, who until now had been the false face of a “centrist” mythology designed to hide the corruption behind today’s politico-economic dynasty.

    Billionaires sometimes endow libraries, but they don’t want people creating their own. Knowledge is power, and power must be centralized. The centralization is well underway. As the book publishing industry shrinks, that power will be concentrated in the hands of fewer and larger corporations.

    At this rate, the “Firemen” in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 will soon be obsolete. So will Bloomberg’s batallions. Soon a faceless bureaucrat or corporate lackey will be able to destroy every single copy of any “unauthorized” book – instantly, simultaneously, and permanently – with a single electronic command.

    “It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.”

    Have you seen the video clips of the Mayor announcing his crackdown? It’s the look of a man who was, as Southern aristocrats used to say, “taking his pleasure with his social inferiors.” But some pleasures extract a high price on the soul.

    In the end it doesn’t matter whether the destruction of Zuccotti Park’s library was “deliberate,” or just the byproduct of a vandal’s disrespect for the written word. Either way it showed us the values of the Bloomberg Administration. We’ve seen those values for 2,000 years.

    Books were destroyed in Alexandria? Too bad, but we needed to burn the waterfront. Books were destroyed in Baghdad? Too bad, but we needed a bridge. They’re all the same, these Book Killers. When it comes to the written word, their indifference and contempt reveals their brutality and hatred.

    Destroying books is the instinctive act of tyrants and their servants. Subconsciously or consciously, they’re driven by a desire to crush the minds of others, the awareness of others, the memory of others. Most of all, they’re driven by a desire to destroy their own awareness and memory, because deep inside themselves they know what they’re doing is wrong.

    The Book Killers. Every time they destroy a book, they destroy a piece of themselves. They can ruin the physical objects, but they can’t ruin the spirit that creates them, reads them, and shares them.

    The Book Killers. In every age, they return. They come back to destroy the books, and they often succeed. But they never kill the minds, the memories, or the insights behind them. They can never kill knowledge, or passion, or justice, or wisdom. They’re always trying, but they always fail.

    And in the end, that’s why they always lose.

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    Welfare for Marinas, Boats, and Homes on Lake Hopatcong

    November 25th, 2011 1 comment
    Marina on lake Hopatcong. Owners have ld political fight to block user fees to fund lake management.

    Marina on Lake Hopatcong. Owners have led political fight to block user fees to fund lake management.

    Governor Christie insists that we are broke and is slashing spending.

    In fact, the Governor has disproportionately targeted DEP and clean energy funds for cuts and diversions.

    But, despite this alleged State fiscal crisis, his DEP just coughed up money to subsidize the marinas, restaurants, and lakefront property owners that line the shores of Lake Hopatcong.

    According to the Star Ledger, reversing a decade long policy, the DEP will fund weed removal on the lake from constitutionally dedicated watershed management funds. (see: State to assume responsibility for Lake Hopatcong weed-harvesting operation

    The Ledger story fails to mention two critical facts:

    First, local political pressure blocked the Lake Hopatcong Commission – which was created to manage the lake – from imposing small users fees to pay for the program that protects the asset that provides economic value to the region, including commercial marinas and restaurants, as well as residential property values

    For an example of these selfish local politics at play and to get a flavor of the crude local debate, see:

    Narrow and selfish local interests have blocked all efforts to raise necessary funds locally.

    Second, the DEP watershed moneys that will now fund the project were Constitutionally dedicated by the voters to specific purposes.

    Surely, voters did NOT intend to subsidize lakefront property owners, luxury boaters, and businesses who refused to pay their fair share.

    In fact, it was exactly this kind of politically driven patronage pork that created public outrage and the need to dedicate environmental money.

    Shame on DEP Commissioner Martin for allowing partisan crony politics to drive DEP funding decisions.

    For further info, I have witten about and photographed the Lake – those interested can see:

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    Thanks

    November 24th, 2011 No comments

    thanks1

    Of course, I’m most thankful for my wonderful kids – but right up there this year is the Occupy Wall Street Movement, which has inspired hope and rekindled activism.

    OWS has created both political and reflective space to imagine political alternatives, restore the public sphere, and build a better future for all people and the planet.

    thanks2

    thanks3

    thanks5

    thanks6

    thanks7

    thanks8

    thanks9

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