Archive for October, 2012

Taking a Closer Look at Christie DEP Changes

October 23rd, 2012 No comments

DEP Commissioner Robert Martin

Under the Christie Administration – with little protest by environmental advocates or media coverage – some of the most crucial and highest priority DEP policies and programs have virtually been abandoned, gutted, downsized, outsourced, and/or foisted off on totally unprepared local governments. They are:

  • greenhouse gas emissions reduction
  • climate change adaptation planning
  • sustainability
  • water supply planning
  • watershed planning
  • Category One waterbody upgrades
  • environmental justice
  • Drinking Water Quality Institute – drinking water standards
  • Surface and ground water quality standards
  • Pollution Prevention
  • Stricter regulation of Hazardous Air Pollutants
  • Regulatory Integration and Reform (AKA “Big Map”)

We have written about all of these debacles.

So instead of further exploration of what has been destroyed under DEP Commissioner Martin’s tenure, after almost 3 years, we thought we might change gears somewhat and take a brief look at the sweeping changes at DEP Commissioner Martin has imposed and explore the vision and priorities he has championed to see how they are working out.

So, to begin the research for that exercise, this week I began filing Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests on the following DEP Offices, programs, and initiatives – we ask for any information readers and DEP employees may have to inform this research phase:

(I wonder whatever became of the “performance metrics” Martin talked so much about?)

I plan on at least a week of information gathering before I start to write, so stay posted and please send your cards and letters to me at: 

So, a note to DEP press office – be forewarned! Prepare to engage your spin cycle!

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Why Do 72 – 79% of NJ Residents Rate the Quality of the Environment as “Excellent” or “Good”?

October 21st, 2012 No comments

A Poll of Readers

[Update – this superb NY Times piece explains what might be going on politically: The Opiate of Exceptionalism ]

Last week, I was astonished to read that a Monmouth University poll showed that from 72 – 79% of NJ residents rate the “quality of the environment in the area that you live” as “excellent” or “good” (see: “Environmental Quality – Polls Versus Facts“).

What explains this high rating? What explains what appears to be a contradiction between perception and reality? Are people’s opinions always right? (i.e. perception is reality? That people no longer care about or live in the “reality based community”? That facts don’t matter and are always biased partial depictions of reality?)

This is a serious question – I’ve thought about it and have my own possible explanations (which are embedded in the leading questions below):

1) Is it because people “live” locally and always have a positive view of the “area that they live”?

2) Is it due to simple lack of facts and knowledge on how to evaluate environmental quality?

3) Is it the result of a narrow definition of what constitutes the “environment”?

4) is it because the air and water look “clean”? (former DEP Commissioner Scott Weiner used to call this the “see your toes” water quality test – if people could see their toes at the beach they were satisfied that the water was clean).

5) is it because the air and water are clean? A lot cleaner than they used to be?

6) Is it because the media have either failed to educate or mislead the public?

7) Is it because government officials have either failed to educate or mislead the public?

8)  Is it because environmental groups have either failed to educate or mislead the public? (e.g. they’ve bought into the “good news/positive solutions” myth that they must avoid “doom and gloom” because it dis-empowers activists and drives away funders?)

9)  Is it because educators, academics, intellectuals, and university researchers have either failed to educate or mislead the public?

10)  Is it because corporations have either failed to educate or mislead the public through self serving propaganda?

11) Is it because this is NJ and people just naturally prefer the smell of diesel in the morning, a wastewater laced cup of coffee, a suburban bright green lawn, a smoggy skyline at noon, see wildlife as roadkill on the drive home, and enjoy an ozone red sunset?

Or is it a combination of these factors? If so, do a sensitivity analysis and tell me which 2 or 3 are dominant.

I’d like readers to submit comments with their own explanations.

How do you define “the environment”?

How do you rate the quality of what you view as your environment?

How do you explain the 72-79% favorable poll results?

What are examples of effective methods to influence public perception and shape public opinion and motivate public action on the environment?

Are environmental groups doing a good job with that?

Comment away!

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The Way It Was

October 19th, 2012 No comments


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Last Chance to Register for A Trenton Garden Party

October 18th, 2012 No comments

If you gotta play at garden parties, I wish you a lotta luck.
But if memories were all I sang, I rather drive a truck.  ~~~ Ricky Nelson Garden Party (1972)

Tomorrow (Friday, 10/19/12), the NJ Work Environment Council (WEC) will hold an important forum: Standing Up for Safety, Health and Environmental Protection! Your Right to Act Without Employer Retaliation

Buy your tickets for $75 and make a contribution here – but don’t any of you 47% per centers out there seek a free ride, WEC “can’t afford to subsidize people”. 

Every worker should be able to speak up about workplace hazards – before a coworker is hurt or killed or there is a toxic release to the air and water we all breathe.

But too often management awards workers with prizes or other incentives for not reporting dangers to employees or our communities. And sometimes workers are harassed or fired for speaking up.

At this dynamic Work Environment Council program you’ll learn about: 

•  Your rights to organize and speak out under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health Act, NJ Conscientious Employees Protection Act (CEPA), National Labor Relations Act, and federal environmental protection laws.

•  Action to help ensure that you and coworkers won’t be targeted before you speak out.

•  OSHA’s new policy that management practices to blame workers for accidents or to discourage or penalize reporting of work-related injuries and illnesses can be illegal.

•  Management obligations to report injuries, illnesses, toxic releases, and off-site consequence impacts to government regulators.

This message is brought to you free of charge by – speaking personally – the leader of the NJ Chapter of an organization whose mission is to support and defend whistleblowers, and is written by a real whistleblower who’s been there and done that.

A real NJ DEP whistleblower who guides other DEP whistleblowers.

Who spends time and effort to write about their struggles with corporate giants and DEP retaliation and DEP denial and repression.

And whose work has led to the only pending legislation (S787) to expand NJ’s whistleblower law.

David Tykulsker, Esq.

And who has many knots on his head to show for it.

Enjoy –

and don’t mind certain embarrassing un-revoked organizational ties to Gov. Christie’s endorsement by any presenters, avoiding that minefield is obviously more important than history or “subsidies”.


FDR's New Dealers break bread with the 47 percenters



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Declining EPA Funds Provided with Less Oversight to Failing NJ Clean Water Program

October 18th, 2012 No comments

Stonybrook Regional Sewage Authority wastewater treatment plant - over 30 year old technology in need of upgrades

EPA needs to step up its State oversight game

NJ Spotlight (“Where issues matter”) posted $78 million as their number of the day  today.

Because we’ve focused on infrastructure deficits –  climate change adaptation and water in particular – we thought we’d provide some context for the Number of the day.

NJ Spotlight reported:

New Jersey’s water infrastructure is in dire need of repair, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the state $78 million, to be used in a revolving fund of low-interest loans to upgrade sewage plants and drinking water systems around the state.

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund received $57.7 million, which will be used to make improvements to wastewater treatment systems and control pollution from rain water runoff. The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund received $20 million to finance improvements to drinking water systems, particularly in small and disadvantaged communities.

The Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel used the announcement to take aim at the Christie administration, charging them with backing off on stormwater and floodwater hazard regulations, as well as weakening protections in the Highlands and Pinelands, which are critical water-supply areas. Although Tittel welcomed the EPA investment, he said the state has a backlog of $25 billion in needed repairs. “This shows the EPA is more concerned about our water quality than the Christie administration.”

So what is the context here? What are the real policy issues? What are the facts? What is NJ’s infrastructure deficit? As indications of “commitment”,  what are the trends in EPA and State funding and regulatory policy?

I) NJ State Issues

First of all, as we reported in August of last year, NJ has a $28 billion water infrastructure deficit (drinking water and wastewater, exclusive of climate change adaptation, additional drinking water treatment for unregulated contaminants, and CSO).

Through the NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust, the State of NJ provides more than 10 times more money for water infrastructure than US EPA.

[President Reagan, as part of his federal government dismantling effort, ended the federal funding commitment to water infrastructure when he abolished the original Clean Water Act’s EPA Construction Grants program and created a state funded program now known as State Revolving Funds.]

II) Federal Resources and Oversight Declining

As we reported back in February of this year, Obama Budget Cuts EPA and Clean Water Funding – reducing aid to State’s for water infrastructure.

Yes, we know those big bad Republicans in Washington are waging a “War on the Environment”, but this was President Obama’s budget and he initiated EPA cuts and he failed to fight for more funding for clean water – he didn’t even try.

Here is the recent EPA CWSRF data – (Source: USEPA – hit links below – FY ’09 omitted due to one time Recovery Act stimulus funds)

 Fiscal Year      EPA Region 2            NJ Share            National Total

FY 2010               $345                        $84                     $2.1 billion

FY 2011               $250                        $61                     $1.5

FY 2012               $239                        $58                     $1.5

In term of federal EPA oversight, back in the day, EPA funding used to come with strings attached – EPA would use federal funding to leverage state performance.

III) Bottom Line

So why is EPA awarding ANY money to NJ when the Christie Administration is rolling back water quality protections across the state?

These rollbacks are happening at a time when NJDEP is:

EPA needs to step up its oversight game and leverage federal resources, not reward NJ and the Christie administration for rollbacks and failure to perform.

EPA needs to threaten to withhold federal funding if NJ fails to meet its obligations under the Clean Water Act.

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