Archive for January, 2012

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Story Lost in the Smoke

January 27th, 2012 No comments

National Story: Obama brags about record oil and gas production

State Story: Impossible to meet deep GHG emissions reductions required by NJ’s Global Warming Response Act via reliance on natural gas.

The Bergen Record ran a story about EPA’s greenhouse gas emissions reporting data (see: PSE&G Bergen Station tops emission list

PSE&G’s Bergen Generating Station in Ridgefield releases more greenhouse gases into the air each year than any other large industrial source in New Jersey, according to a new federal report.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s report is the first-ever list of how much carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases are released by large industrial sites and landfills nationwide. There are 98 such facilities in New Jersey, which release a combined 26.2 million metric tons of gases each year.

WooHoo! First ever!!

But calm down, don’t go getting excited about anything, the story is much to do about nothing.

I’ll just note a few brief points about the real significance and what the focus of the story should have been:

1. National Story: EPA fails to regulate greenhouse gas emissions

Greenhouse gas emissission reporting is an alternative to regulation of emissions.

EPA has yet to adopt mandatory GHG emission reduction regulations under the Clean Air Act.

The new EPA GHG reporting program is an analogue of the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program.

The naive premise of these disclosure programs is that industry will be shamed into making voluntary emissions reductions once the public is made aware of the data.

The premise is false – voluntary measures can not and don’t work. Disclosure merely prompts various gaming strategies to create the paper appearance of reductions.

But there are alternative policy tools that work to reduce emissions – the basic choices are mandatory regulations or market prices.

But reporting requirements that are not linked to either regulation of emissions or setting a market price on emissions are ineffective.

This is all made obvious when one notes that the EPA GHG emissions reporting program was signed into law by President Bush. As EPA noted:

On December 26, 2007, President Bush signed the FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act which authorized funding for EPA to ‘‘develop and publish a draft rule not later than 9 months after the date of enactment of this Act, and a final rule not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this Act, to require mandatory reporting of GHG emissions above appropriate thresholds in all sectors of the economy of the United States.’’ Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, Public Law 110–161, 121 Stat 1844, 2128 (2008)

We all know that President Bush was no champion of climate change or EPA. This is just more Obama continuity with Bush.

2. State Story: NJ’s largest emissions source is a natural gas plant

PSEG Bergen Generating Station is fired by natural gas.

Natural gas is supposed to be a “clean fuel”, right? A “bridge fuel” to a green energy future, right?

WRONG! (“clean” natural gas just another perverse part of The Twilight Zone of Energy Policy).

Governor Christie’s Energy Master Plan promotes a massive increase and heavy reliance on natural gas.

Scientists have found that the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of natural gas are as bad or possibly worse than coal, as I wrote:

Climate Benefits of Natural Gas May Be Overstated

The Propublica article incudes this link to EPA technical documents on revisions of greenhouse gas emissions factors for natural gas:

We can not possibly meet the deep GHG emissions reductions required to comply with NJ’s Global Warming Response Act via an energy strategy or EMP that promotes natural gas.

3.  State Story: RGGI is kicking a dead horse – one that deserved to die anyway

The RGGI game is over until Governor Christie is gone or the Democrats in Trenton grow a spine.

It is a useless exercise to waste bullets shooting that dead horse.

RGGI was fatally flawed anyway, and deserved to die  – unless real emissions reduction based caps and enforceable measures were injected.

Why ignore the NJ Global Warming Response Act and focus on RGGI?

If you want to focus on RGGI, why are EPA data not compared to RGGI caps and NJ Global Warming Response Act targets and DEP emissions inventory?

Why fail to criticize Obama and EPA’s abject failure to move forward on the global warming front? Which brings us to #4.

4. National Story: Obama Collapse

My goodness, forget about Bill McKibben’s misguided praise of Obama’s Keystone XL.

The man has totally collapsed on energy and global warming policy – far worse than Texas oil man Bush (as we’ve written here for some time).

Obama State of the Union address BRAGGED about expanding oil and gas production and yesterday Obama announced 21 million acres of Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases. From the SOTU:

Nowhere is the promise of innovation greater than in American-made energy. Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right – eight years. Not only that – last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years.

Where is the ENGO outrage over that?

5. State Story:  NJ has had its own GHG emissions inventory for over a decade

NJ has a GHG emissions inventory program.

It was created by another Republican Governor who opposed regulation, named Christie Whitman.

Republicans love this kind of voluntary fluff that creates the appearance of progress, but requires business and industry to do nothing to improve their environmental performance.

But current Governor Christie has gone so far to the right he’s blocked even that lame Whitman emissions inventory program, see: CHRISTIE SHREDS NEW JERSEY CLIMATE CHANGE PROGRAMS – Kills Emission Reporting, Diverts Green Energy Fund & Defunds Climate Office

Other huge issues are ignored too, for example, issues that are ignored and/or not quantified, including:

Now these are the issues that ENGO’s should be focused on and the press should be reporting.

But I hear crickets.

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DEP Documents Say Dupont Science “Misleading” – Mercury Has Larger Ecological Impacts

January 26th, 2012 16 comments
Pompton Lake - fish unsafe to eat due to toxic mercury from Dupont plant

Pompton Lake – fish unsafe to eat due to toxic mercury from Dupont plant

US Fish and Wildlife Service Review Could Expand Dupont Cleanup

Today we disclose hot internal DEP documents, including DEP’s review comments on Dupont’s ecological assessment of mercury pollution in Pompton Lakes.

fish consumption advisory - Loss of access to the fishery is a natural resource injury that Dupont must compensate the public for.

fish consumption advisory – Loss of access to the fishery is a natural resource injury that Dupont must compensate the public for.

We disclose that DEP took the highly unusual step and calculated a cleanup standard to protect fish and wildlife from mercury bioaccumulation known as a Bioaccumulation Based Sediment Quality Value for Pompton Lake (“BSQV)“.

DEP calculated a 1 mg/kg (ppm) sediment cleanup standard.

DEP likely developed its own standard to pushback against flaws in the Dupont science. However, the DEP standard was not incorporated in the subsequent Dupont cleanup plan, which raises questions about why.

But we do know that DEP didn’t want us to have this hot document  – DEP denied our OPRA request for it on the sham basis that it is “deliberative”. The DEP documents can not be deliberative because DEP approved the Dupont remedial investigation plan in 2008 and the only pending decision for which deliberation is underway is by US EPA, not NJ DEP.

DEP also found that Dupont science was “misleading” regarding mercury fish tissue concentrations and raised a red flag regarding likely downriver mercury sediment impacts.

This information is now key, because Dupont is seeking to minimize their cleanup obligations and US Fish and Wildlife Service is currently reviewing the Dupont plan.

The Dupont cleanup plan does not consider upland or downriver impacts, and is limited to dredging sediments from a small 26 acre hot spot area of the lake known as the Acid Brook Delta.

EPA must approve or reject the plan, based on US FWS and public comments.

We look forward to the review comments by the ecological professionals at the US Fish and Wildlife Service (US FWS) NJ Field Office – see this for their environmental contaminants program.

US FWS does critically important work – especially in NJ’s toxic landscapes – and something you don’t hear much about from NJ bird conservation groups or press reports.

Read all about it in news from our friends at PEER


DuPont Pompton Lake Pollution May Be Headed Downstream

DEP Scientists’ Questions Could Prompt Feds to Expand DuPont Cleanup Scope

Trenton – New Jersey state scientists have pointed to evidence that mercury from a toxic waste site at Pompton Lakes is migrating down the Ramapo and Wanaque Rivers through contaminated sediment, fish and wildlife, according to agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These documents surface just as federal agencies are reviewing the DuPont dredging plans to determine their ecological adequacy.

Pollution from the old E.I. DuPont De Nemours & Company ammunition plant has proven to be more than a 20-year long nightmare for the 450 homes exposed to deadly vapors and other effects. Now it appears that this pollution nightmare may be spreading.

State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) scientists found much higher levels of mercury in Pompton Lake fish than found elsewhere, raising red flags about bio-availability of the mercury and downriver sediment pollution. They said the ecological assessment in the DuPont plan to dredge a 26-acre section of Acid Brook Delta, a small part of the 260-acre polluted Pompton Lake, was “misleading” particularly in characterizing data on mercury in fish tissue.  Moreover, DEP calculated a sediment cleanup standard needed to protect fish and wildlife but DuPont’s plan did not incorporate that standard.

The adjoining Ramapo and Wanaque watersheds are affected by contaminated sediment flow as are their fish and wildlife, which bio-accumulate mercury through the food chain. The current DuPont dredging plan only addresses a small portion (10%) of the Lake and does not consider downriver sediment impacts.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are now considering and must both sign off on this plan. PEER is urging Fish & Wildlife scientists to revisit the DEP standard during their review of the DuPont plan.

“These federal oversight agencies must look at these DEP findings and should conduct a de novo review of the scientific basis for the DuPont cleanup plan,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, noting that DEP had denied him access to these internal scientific documents under the state Open Public Records Act, claiming they were “deliberative” but had previously released these same documents to a different requester. “Right now we are a critical juncture in the future of Pompton Lakes.”

The DuPont plan is supposed to be based upon a site-specific ecological standard designed to protect fish and wildlife from the bio-accumulative effects of mercury in sediments. Federal review could expand the scope of the proposed cleanup and could also find additional injuries to natural resources for which DuPont must compensate the public.

For more than a century, DuPont’s operations poured heavy metals and other toxins into Pompton Lake. The plume of pollution has spread to groundwater underlying homes and businesses, causing vapor intrusion problems.


Read the DEP comments on the DuPont cleanup

See the memo for the DEP scientists deriving cleanup standard

Look at DEP calculated ecological cleanup levels

View the DuPont cleanup plan

Examine the background on Pompton Lakes

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Nuke Plant Threat? NJ Water Already Radioactive

January 25th, 2012 No comments

According to today’s Asbury Park Press, a Report by NJPIRG claims that nuclear power plants threaten the water supply of 3.3 million NJ residents (see:  Report: Water of millions in peril from nuclear plants

I haven’t reviewed the Report and make no comment on it.

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but there are much more pressing currently existing radiological risks from drinking NJ water.

I’ve written about that here several times, so instead of rehashing all that, see this PEER Press release which has  links to the official documents.

RADIOACTIVE WELLS POSE BIGGER RISKS IN NEW JERSEY — Hundreds of Thousands Exposed Daily to Rad Levels Many Times over Safety Limits

We disclosed that new scientific findings presented at the May 7, 2010 meeting of the state Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI), the extent and depth of radioactivity levels are grounds for renewed concern:

  • Official “Private Well Testing Act” data show that 10.7% of wells in the coastal plain violate the drinking water Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for gross alpha (i.e., radiological contaminants). Levels in excess of 30 times the MCL have been reported;

  • Additional health risks in Northern New Jersey due to uranium are now being discovered; and

  • The treatment system for gross alpha from radium is NOT effective in treating risk for uranium. Thus, homeowners who install certain treatment systems incorrectly think they are protected, when they are not protected if uranium is the source of radiation in their well water.
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Why Does Christie DEP Hate Planners and Maps?

January 23rd, 2012 No comments

Plans, Planners, and Maps in Exile – What Map Next in Line to Be Killed?


Maps depict serious problems - in this case, polluted drinking water wells

[Important Update Below!]

First they abolished the DEP Office of Policy and Planning, killing the State Planning and coastal planning programs.

Then they killed the Landscape Project Map.

Then they whacked the Water Quality Management Planning Maps showing environmentally sensitive areas where sewers could not be extended.

Then they killed the State Plan Policy Map.

I knew they hated maps like above showing “The 51,028 wells sampled represents about 13% of the estimated 400,000 private wells used for drinking water in New Jersey.

I also knew they are hiding maps of toxic groundwater plumes (see p. 15).

And we warned that DEP was suppressing this Big Risk map of toxic sites.

Not to forget that DEP is several years late in releasing the Water Supply Master Plan Update.

So, we all know they hate maps that can be linked to regulations, but what do they have against selling copies of the Wetlands Maps?

2/1/2011: NJDEP Freshwater Wetlands Maps (1986) No Longer for Sale

Effective February 2, 2011, the Department will no longer sell copies of the NJDEP Freshwater Wetlands Maps (1986). While the 1986 mapping is no longer available from the Department, you can access an updated version of the 1986 mapping online through the Department’s geographic information system (GIS) NJ-GeoWeb at and choosing interactive mapping on the sidebar. The layer “Wetlands (2007)” is located under the land section of the layer manager. Be advised that the wetlands mapping is based on aerial photography and has not been ground verified through the Freshwater Wetlands “Letter of Interpretation” process. As such, they cannot be utilized for regulatory purposes.

Full size paper copies of the NJDEP Freshwater Wetlands Maps (1986) were distributed to all municipal clerk and county clerk’s offices for public use. If you have a need for this earlier mapping, please contact your municipality or county for availability and location. If you have general questions regarding freshwater wetlands regulations, please visit the NJDEP, Division of Land Use Regulation’s website at or call (609) 777- 0454 and choose the number one (1) for freshwater wetlands.

[Update: Oops! My bad! I forgot to mention one map that Christie and DEP love (drumroll: see below).

DEP loves it, because radon is naturally occurring. Nature doesn’t have powerful lawyers, lobbyists, and corporate campaign contributors. Any mitigation of radon risks are purely voluntary and the costs are borne by homeowners. And the people impacted tend to be rural northwest republicans.

They love it so much that Christie declared January Radon Action Month – and DEP is doing PR and urging people to sample indoor air in their homes.

But they forgot about the radon risks posed by drinking water and using that water indoors, for showers, cooking, etc.

So, why is DEP continuing to fail to develop drinking water “Maximum Contaminant Levels” (MCL’s) for radon and radionuclides recommended years ago by the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute?

We exposed that DEP inaction here RADIOACTIVE WELLS POSE BIGGER RISKS IN NEW JERSEY — Hundreds of Thousands Exposed Daily to Rad Levels Many Times over Safety Limits

Now contrast DEP “Action” response to radon risks with INACTION in response to very similar risks from chemical vapor intrusion.

Vapor risks are caused by economically and politically powerful chemical companies,who have legions of lawyers and lobbyists. Remediation and mitigation must be obtained by DEP enforcement mandates. The costs are borne by the powerful chemical companies that caused the problem. The risk are borne primarily by urban democrats.

So DEP will not be releasing any Vapor Intrusion Risk maps or urging the public to test indoor air.

In fact, DEP just did the OPPOSITE. And that tells you everything you need to know about this Administration.

Now ain’t that a Tale of Two Risks!

source: Sussex Hereald

source: Sussex Herald

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Christie Guts Vapor Intrusion Safeguards

January 23rd, 2012 1 comment

[Update: Maybe an intrepid journalist or GIS geek out there will open this link and scroll to page 15 – DEP has aerial photography (digital data) and toxic groundwater plume maps. DEP is sitting on this kind of dynamite at hundreds of sites across the state.

Take a look – imagine if that were your home.

And then consider the shitstorm that would ensue if DEP released this information showing hundreds of homes and buildings poisoned by toxic vapors.


From our friends at PEER

DEP quietly gutted technical requirements and allowed private consultants (aka “mercenaries“) to control the program in this arcane and sham legal document: “Varying from a Rule and Applying Technical Guidance” (more to follow on that).

News Releases

For Immediate Release: January 23, 2012
Contact: Bill Wolfe (609-397-4861; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

CHRISTIE GUTS VAPOR INTRUSION SAFEGUARDS — New Jersey Puts Private Consultants in Public Health Driver’s Seat

Trenton — Without public announcement late Friday afternoon, the Christie administration rolled back public health protections against seepage of deadly gases into homes, schools and businesses, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The new state “Guidance” repeals previous protections and instead defers all decisions to the “judgment” of private clean-up consultants.

In an email to industry “stakeholders” at 4 PM on Friday, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) unveiled its new “Vapor Intrusion Guidance” which extends the deregulatory policies of the Christie administration.  The new Guidance repeals the prior 2005 Guidance which mandated abatement of vapor intrusion and instead –

  • Creates loopholes and “exit ramps” to avoid remediation of vapor intrusion. A key loophole would allow a “phased approach” in which residents could be exposed to vapors for years;
  • Allows vapor intrusion risks to be concealed until future development actually occurs; and
  • Puts a private consultant, called “Licensed Site Remediation Professionals,” in charge of key remediation decisions, including when to sample, what chemicals to sample for, where to sample, how to interpret screening levels and when to warn people in impacted buildings.

This new DEP Guidance was developed during the last 18 months by a group of chemical industry lobbyists and consultants. As a 70-page “response to industry comments” document makes abundantly clear, the new Guidance followed industry dictates on virtually every critical issue.

“This represents an appalling abdication by the State of New Jersey of its responsibility to protect public health and the environment,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former long-time DEP analyst. “Oversight against vapor intrusion is a core government function that should not be privatized.”

Vapor intrusion is a major public health problem in New Jersey, the nation’s most densely populated state, where more than 6,500 sites have groundwater contamination which in hundreds of cases is seeping into nearby homes and buildings.  The DuPont Pompton Lakes site has become the poster child for the risks of vapor intrusion. Poison gases from polluted groundwater have been seeping into more than 450 homes.  State and federal health officials have documented elevated levels of cancers related to the DuPont site.

“DEP knows the precise locations of hundreds of volatile organic compound groundwater pollution sites where vapor intrusion threatens the health of people who live and work in those buildings,” Wolfe added, calling upon “DEP to publicly disclose its statewide map of all these groundwater sites.  “Now is when the state should step up to the plate, not hide in the dugout which is what we are doing by outsourcing responsibility to the industry which caused the problem.”

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