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Trenton Enviro Action: A Half Step Forward, Three Miles Backward

All the News Too Hot and Complex to Print

[Update below]

You won’t read about any of the following stories in your newspaper – they involve Trenton legislative and regulatory actions too complicated and too controversial for the depleted and demoralized State House press corps to even cover.

No, you won’t read anything about the stunning arrogance and corruption of the NJ legislature, in pushing an anti-environmental agenda just days after environmentalists held their “Trenton Lobby Day”where hundreds of citizens turned out to support the environment.

You will hear nothing about major corporations, like Dupont, that are corrupting science and attacking public drinking water protections. Nope. Not that.

Nothing about “privacy” loopholes in NJ public records laws that protects corporate interests and allows DEP to meet in secret with corporate lobbyists, where they can negotiate multi-million dollar enforcement and regulatory relief deals free from any transparency, accountability or public oversight.

No, none of that stuff. But you will read puff pieces like this, however, that dupe the public and provide cover for the rollbacks underway across a series of environmental program areas.

So, enough of the context –  let’s get started.

I wrote yesterday about the package of bills on Barnegat Bay (that’s the half step forward)

So, today I write about other legislative actions – the three miles back.

Each one of these stories warrants media attention, yet these huge trees fell in Trenton’s forest, and no news outlets were there to cover them:

I)  Forest “Stewardship” – Commercial Logging on Public lands


What do so called pro-environment Senate Environment Committee Chair Bob Smith, South Jersey political boss Senator Norcross, and right wing Warren County Republican ALEC Chairman Senator Oroho have in common?


Sponsorship of a “forest stewardship” bill (S1085 [SCS]) bill that declares:

forest lands are an irreplaceable component of the environment and worthy of conservation and stewardship


We’ve written about major flaws in the bill (see this and this and this and this).

The bill was released from the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee yesterday and is now before the full Senate. I sense an effort to push this bill through by June 30 under cover of the chaos of budget deals.

II)  Red Tape Attack Continues Un-abtated

A trojan horse bill (A2315) that would allow the business community, under the slogan “regulatory flexibility”,  to challenge and gridlock virtually all DEP rules, was released by the Assembly  Regulatory Oversight Committee yesterday.

The bill has its roots in right wing ALEC ideological attacks on government and environmental regulation. It has sponsorship by a Democrat, who was praised on lobby day. The Red Tape attack is Bipartisan, as we’ve written.

We previously wrote about serious flaws in the bill – see: Regulatory Flexibility Bill A Formula for Gridlock and Rollback

Anything could happen between now and June 30 – who will tell the people?

III)  Huge Costs of Energy Deregulation Exposed – Law Stifles Competition

Once in a rare blue moon, the doors of truth open wide in Trenton, exposing the massive ripoff and corporate corruption of what I have called the Twilight Zone of Energy Policy.

One of those rare truth moments came about yesterday, during testimony in the Senate Environment Committee on A2316 [1R], a bill that would  authorize municipal and rural electric cooperatives to establish shared municipal energy services.

Power to the people – right on!

According to the OLS Fiscal analysis, the bill would save consumers up to $67 million, in just 9 small towns!

If public power were done on a larger scale, the consumer savings would be huge – possibly billions per year! Do the math.

The testimony on the bill revealed that municipal cooperatives produce significantly cheaper power – I think the price was $94 per megawatt by the public power versus $176 per MW at the private investor owned monopolies!

The private investor owned power monopolies were forced to admit – openly – that they can not compete on price with public power and that the purpose of the energy deregulation legislation was to stifle competition!

It’s Chinatown, Jake!


(oh, I forgot to mention that someone got to the sponsor of the  Senate version, Senator Beach, who took the highly unusual step and killed his own bill. And Beach didn’t even have the balls to show up to the hearing and explain himself!)

IV)  Turning Back the Clock on Fisheries Management

Again, under the guise of  the”flexibility” slogan, an Assembly Committee approved a Resolution (AR 32 [1R]in support of Congressman’s Pallone’s federal bill with the Orwellian title “Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2011.

The Resolution appeared to have been written by shortsighted and extreme anti-regulatory fishing lobbyists. There were flat out errors that were used to attack federal fisheries scientists, in a transparent  attempt to discredit successful fisheries management.

I testified to warn the Committee that the Pallone bill is seriously flawed and would turn back the clock on fisheries management to the bad old days, and reverse tremendous progress in US fisheries management that has turned the corner in limiting over-fishing of many species.

The current law already provides adequate flexibility and explicitly allows consideration of social and economic factors in fisheries management decisions. There already is flexibility to extend rebuilding plans for overfished stock beyond 10 years.

The result of the Pallone bill would be to promote more overfishing.

The summer flounder management is a huge success story.

Flounder populations have been rebuilt because the National Marine Fisheries (NMFS) scientists and Mid Atlantic Regional Council imposed strong science based quota’s on catch. Had NMFS and the Council caved to pressure by fishing interests, the stock would have continued to be over-fished.

Instead of attacking NMFS scientists and federal fisheries management, why aren’t recreational fishermen bitching about the fact that commercial fishing gets allocated 60% of the  quota? That commercial fishermen can take smaller 14 inch fish? The huge by catch in the scallop industry kills huge numbers of flounder that are not reflected in the quota? Why are there no funds to support fishery science and management in NJ?

None of that is fair or good management – and fixing all those problems would benefit recreational fishermen and the health of the fishery. Why is Jimmy D. at RFA silent about all that?

For those seeking additional analysis of the Pallone legislation, please see my old friends at PEW’s end over-fishing campaigns.

[full disclosure: I worked as Pew’s mid-Atlantic region fisheries manager for a year]

[Update: Oh darn! Did I forget to mention that all this – and more – are OK and worth it because Dems are again going to pass safe and symbolic fracking ban legislation that they know the Governor will veto? (that’s snark!)

Fracking is sucking up huge resources and taking the oxygen out of Trenton, providing cover and at a huge cost.]

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