Archive for January, 2013

An Orwell Kind of News Day

January 21st, 2013 2 comments

With News Coverage Like This ….

I can’t let three news stories today pass without comment, because they all get the story so remarkably wrong it’s actually hard to believe – exactly upside down backwards:

I)   Shore Towns did good planning to avoid harms from Sandy

Regular readers here know that I’ve been writing furiously about how failed coastal land use planning, over-development, and how local and state governments ignored multiple warnings about shore vulnerability all contributed to the devastation of Superstorm Sandy.

Well, you can forget all that folks, because today’s Bergen Record story – with embarrassing support from Jeff Tittel no less – just announced that the shore towns did a swell job in planning!:

Shore towns’ planning helped spare them Sandy’s worst


… Such measures and others taken by towns, agencies and businesses in the years preceding Sandy — including using discarded Christmas trees to bolster dunes — are being credited for speeding the recovery process from the October storm, which rocked the shoreline with storm surges and inland winds.

The initiatives lowered flooding levels and lessened damage, just as they were designed to do.

“One thing we know overall is that when towns protect the environment — whether they pass ordinances for stream buffers or limit development — that all comes to help those communities during storms,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Environmental protections work.”

Yes, “environmental protection works” – but it was ignored by shore towns and DEP.

Shore towns have ignored repeated warnings on vulnerability, opposed sound local and regional planning and State land use regulation at every step, and over-developed the coast – to praise that irresponsible history is absurd.

For example, DEP recently did a pilot study with 3 shore towns and developed specific guidance on “Getting To Resilience”.  

Here it is (again) – and it’s right on point:

Coastal Community Vulnerability Assessment Protocol (CCVAP) is a GIS-based methodology to assist land use planners, hazard mitigation planners, emergency managers, and other local decision-makers in the identification of their community’s vulnerability through virtual mapping. By applying the methods defined in CCVAP to the pilot communities, areas were identified where built infrastructure, sensitive natural resources, and special needs populations overlapped areas of potential inundation. This vulnerability mapping supports community efforts to make the connection between the potential consequences of sea level rise and inundation to their vulnerability – ultimately to guide the community for resilience planning.

Getting to Resilience is a questionnaire developed as a non-regulatory tool to help coastal communities build capacity for resilience to coastal hazards and sea level rise.The application of the survey was intended to highlight positive actions already underway within the pilot communities and to identify opportunities to improve local resilience through planning, public outreach, mitigation, and response mechanisms. This questionnaire validates the hazard planning that the communities have begun to implement and identifies opportunities to incorporate adaptation strategies in broadercommunity planning.

Full post – which identifies several other  ignored warnings:

II)    “Environmentalist” agrees with Dupont that EPA lacks authority to Order mercury cleanup

This Suburban Trends story on Dupont Pompton lakes RCRA permit mercury cleanup managed to get several issues flat out wrong – and has a so called “environmentalist” mouthing what could be a line from a Dupont lawyer:

Pompton Lakes residents want thorough lake cleanup


… In addition to the expanded cleanup, DuPont will be required to test for contamination outside of the Acid Brook Delta area of the Pompton Lake and perform long-term monitoring of the lake.

Ella Filippone, executive director of the Passaic River Coalition, said she was happy with the expansion but advised the EPA to include a provision in the permit to allow DuPont to clean any potential hotspots it may find under the existing permit.

“I don’t think that the permit as it is written now clearly directs DuPont or gives the EPA the authority to demand that hotspots be removed as soon as they are found. (If not) there’s going to be all of this additional discovery, and then there’s going to be a modification, public participation, and all the rest of those long drawn out things before the hotspots can be removed. If they are not removed right away, then they will migrate downstream so the contamination will continue to move. There will be continuous contamination only in areas downstream, which are our water supply areas. We all drink that water, so these are big issues that have to be addressed in this project,” said Filippone.

Where do I begin to correct all that? I’ll start in order of the claims in the quote:

1) Dupont lawyers – and Ella – may say that EPA lacks authority, but the fact of the matter is that EPA has tremendous enforcement authority – the problem is not lack of legal authority, but the political will at EPA to use it.

Besides, that “lack of authority” issue sounds an awful lot like the arguments made by GE in the Hudson River PCB cleanup or the corporate polluters in the Passaic River dioxin Superfund cleanup. Simply stunning to hear that from the “environmentalist” source.

2) Aside from the fact that it is absurd for an environmentalist to oppose “public notice: and “public participation” and “all the rest of those long drawn out things“, EPA is not required to do additional permit modification procedures to Order Dupont to do hotspot removal.  Dupont’s lawyers wouldn’t even argue that.

3) The drinking water threat is a false scare tactic bogeyman.

The contaminant of concern is mercury. The adverse impact of concern is ecological – bioaccumulation  – not water supply/drinking water risk.

If Ella is so concerned about drinking water, she should look at the DEP permits for those 80 or so industrial and sewage treatment plants that discharge tons (literally) of toxic chemicals to the Passaic and Pompton Rivers above drinking water intakes.

Or the failure of DEP to regulate over 500 chemicals DEP has found in water supplies.

Or the failure of DEP to adopt drinking water standards for dozens of chemicals recommended by the DWQI.

4)  The real problem with hot spot removal is the definition of “hot spot” –

In finalizing the Dupont RCRA permit and responding to comments, EPA agreed with Dupont and determined that the background mercury level in lake and river sediments is 0.5 ppm – Dupont can’t be required to remove any mercury below that level.

Did Ella attend or testify at the public hearing on the RCRA permit to raise any of these bogus issues so that EPA could respond to them?  No.

III)    It’s a “tragedy” NOT to build housing on top of old landfills in floodplains

This Star Ledger story is a real doosy:

Somerville may receive nearly $900K county grant for landfill redevelopment.


Building houses on an old landfill with toxic groundwater contamination in a floodplain – gee, what could go wrong?

Here’s the comment I submitted on that:

I get calls all the time from moms and dads hysterical that no one ever told them that their home was built on or near an old landfill.

They find out when the get a letter from a consultant asking to drill holes in the basement floor to measure toxic gas seeping into the house (google “vapor intrusion”).

Or maybe the sidewalks, foundation, floors, and walls crack after a few years in new construction.

Or maybe the air starts stinking so bad they have to close the windows, especially on damp or raining days. When they look into the problem, they find that some dirtbag landfill operator (maybe married to a DEP Deputy Commissioner?) just started taking construction debris and punctured the “cap”, releasing old toxic gas.

Or maybe their kids are sick all the time and have asthma and various respiratory symptoms and red eyes and runny noses.

Or their well is poisoned.

Or they can’t sell the home because the well test came up bad or the deed restriction for groundwater pollution scared away a buyer.

Or maybe they get flooded out and say no one ever told them they were located in a “flood prone area” and they don’t have flood insurance.

Or the nice guy who built the houses has changed corporate names and moved to Florida.

Does stuff like this ever happen to you or people you know, Mr. Driver?

Or Mr. Star Ledger reporer?

Have neither of you never heard these stories, which happen regularly across the state?

Maybe if we had a DEP that enforced environmental laws instead of promoting economic development, things might be different, no?

When reporters write these stories, do they even ask basic questions about similar experiences with building homes on old landfills that were never properly closed?

Do the reporters even read their own newspaper? My goodness, we just went through a major extreme weather flood event – and Fennimore landfill is still smoking right up in Roxbury.

Ask the people in Roxbury that live near the Fennimore landfill what its like when an old landfill gets “redeveloped”:

Four days after it closed, Fenimore Landfill in Roxbury reopens

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Chemical Industry’s War on Science and Public Health (Part 2)

January 20th, 2013 No comments

From Conflicts of Interest to Scientific Fraud and Moral Monstrosity

Recent events provide highly revealing examples of the chemical industry’s arrogance and total disregard for public health, the environment, and human decency. An overview:

I) Disenfranchisement

I’ll start with excerpts of Sandy Bauer’s Philadelphia Inquirer story, which raises two important points in the debate about a bill that would allow the chemical industry to be involved in developing drinking water standards and the science of virtually all other DEP air, water, soil, wildlife, and public health and environmental standards.

Try this one on for size:

Hal Bozarth, of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey, supported the legislation. He said that industry and commercial interests were “disenfranchised from participating in a process which affects them greatly.”

Disenfranchised?  Really?

I thought it was way over the top and really disgraceful for that gun nut to claim that “if he were alive, Martin Luther King would agree with me” –

But Mr. Bozarth is treading on similar insane territory in equating chemical industry lobbying with voting rights. Webster’s:


To deprive of a franchise, of a legal right, or of some privilege or immunity; especially: to deprive of the right to vote

What’s next Hal, one molecule, one vote?

[BTW, Bozarth is flat out lying here – the DWQI is subject to the Open Public Meetings Act, conducts its business openly and  transparently, and provides ample opportunity for the chemical industry to submit their scientific and policy concerns into the process. Following the DWQI deliberations, the chemical industry has another bite at the apple before, during, and after the public notice and comment period required for rule making. For anyone that wants to gets into the15 step  weeds, see this: Running the Regulatory Gauntlet]

II) Conflict of Interest

Bauer’s story also opened the issue of conflict of interest, a debate that is raging at the national level as well.

In testimony Thursday — before the Assembly’s environment subcommittee approved the measure — five environmental groups vigorously opposed the measure.

Bill Wolfe of NJ PEER said that adding industry to the board would “set up conflicts of interests.”

Hal Bozarth testified that his bill was similar to what is going on nationally at EPA, which confirms my argument that the attack we are seeing now in NJ is part of a coordinated national campaign by the chemical industry.

So, again I thought I provide a flavor of that debate on the conflict of interest and scientific integrity front. For excellent analysis, see:


III) Monstrous Ethics – From Blackmail to Bribery

Last month, I wrote about the chemical industry’s threat to shut down NJ chemical plants and lay off 5,000 workers if the Coast Guard and railroad regulators did not re-open the rail line through Paulsboro, see:  Chemical Blackmail In Toxic Train Wreck

Despite the fact that no official accident report was yet complete by the NTSB and the bridge that caused the train derailment was not replaced, government officials caved in to that threat and the line was reopened the next day after  a Friday meeting between government officials and the chemical industry.

Now just this week, taking that blackmail a step further, on page one of the Philadelphia Inquirer I read that Conrail was offering bribes to local residents:

Conrail offers settlements to Paulsboro residents

Conrail is offering cash settlements to Paulsboro residents and businesses impacted by November’s leak of toxic vinyl chloride from a ruptured tanker car – if they waive their right to sue the company for health problems they might discover later in life. […]

Lawyers representing residents who have already sued Conrail lambasted the railroad company for what they said is an attempt to take advantage of people in an economically distressed town.

Mark R. Cuker, an attorney representing more than 50 Paulsboro residents in a suit filed last month against Conrail, described the settlement offer as “draconian.”

By signing the agreement, “you are done, no matter what happens to you the rest of your life,” he said. “What they’re doing is pretty outrageous.”

Yes, it certainly is outrageous.

So, we are calling on Assemblyman Burzichelli abandon his chemical industry bill.

We also demand that the Christie Administration reverse course on a destructive policy agenda that ranges from outsourcing and privatizing DEP science to a Science Advisory Board and a de facto  a moratorium on regulations and environmental standards, to deregulation and a host of related pro-industry regulatory policies we have been writing about here now for ver 3 years.

And we call on environmental groups, media, and Democrats to ramp up their accountability efforts.

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Chemical Industry’s War on Science Gains Support of Christie’s DEP

January 18th, 2013 2 comments

The procedures in EO#2 and the bill are explicitly intended to “reduce regulatory burdens” of existing rules and “to prevent  unworkable, overly-proscriptive or ill-advised rules from being adopted.”

[* Intro note – please hit the comment button in the upper right corner to read a superb comment by my good friend Bill Neil that situates this debate in the proper historical, political, and ideological context.]

At yesterday’s Assembly Environmental Committee hearing on the DWQI/risk assessment kill bill (A2123), Hal Bozarth of the NJ Chemistry Council rejected criticism that the bill was really about “stacking the deck” and weakening public health and environmental standards.

Instead, Bozarth claimed it was all about using the best science and “regulatory reform” – and to make the bill appear mainstream, he mentioned that it was related to a national debate on EPA’s “Integrated Risk Information System” (IRIS). NJ Spotlight:

Beyond adding the three members, others said proposed changes in how the institute can make recommendations for tougher water standards will cripple its efforts even more.

Bill Wolfe, director of the New Jersey Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said the bill would also change how the institute develops risk assessments. He contends those changes could make it more difficult for the institute to adopt tough standards for various chemicals.

“It may not result in a regulatory change, but it is clearly a scientific change,’’ Wolfe told the panel.

Bozarth disputed that notion, saying the changes proposed by the bill are similar to ones already endorsed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

So, to expose those lies, below I discuss the origin of the bill and the NJ and national context for the debate Bozarth himself highlighted.

NJ Context

First of all, make no mistake, the bill is not about regulatory reform. It is about providing “regulatory relief” and blocking new regulations, as mandated under Governor Christie’s Executive Order #2.

Reform makes rules work better and improves protections – in contrast, “regulatory relief” simply weakens them.

The purpose of EO#2 is clear: to provide regulatory relief and to prevent new regulatory burdens.

The terms of EO #2 expose the fact that the Burzichelli bill implements the purposes of EO #2 and is designed to provide regulatory relief. EO #2 states:

1. For immediate relief from regulatory burdens, State agencies shall:

a. Engage in the “advance notice of rules” by soliciting the advice and views of knowledgeable persons from outside of New Jersey State government, including the private sector and academia, in advance of any rulemaking to provide valuable insights on the proposed rules, and to prevent unworkable, overly-proscriptive or ill-advised rules from being adopted. 


3. For long-term relief from regulatory burdens, State agencies shall:

a. Draft all proposed rules and processes so that they promote transparency and predictability regarding regulatory activity, consistency of business regulation within the State, appropriate flexibility, and a reasonable balance between the underlying regulatory objectives and the burdens imposed by the regulatory activity. 

The sponsor of the bill, Assemblyman Burzichelli, is the Christie Administration’s legislative point man on the “red tape” and “regulatory relief” policy.

The bill has nothing to do with science and everything to do with economic and political power – it is the outcome of the chemical industry working with the Governor’s Office and DEP Commissioner, who supports the bill, has prohibited the DWQI from meeting, and has blocked all new DEP regulations.

Burzichelli’s bill would provide regulatory relief by implementing the policies and procedures in Gov. Christie’s Executive Order #2. 

The procedures in EO#2 and the bill are explicitly intended to “reduce regulatory burdens” of existing rules and “to prevent  unworkable, overly-proscriptive or ill-advised rules from being adopted.”

The appointment of 3 chemical industry representatives on the DWQI would allow industry to “provide valuable insights”; to “engage in advance notice”; and “to prevent unworkable, overly-proscriptive or ill-advised rules from being adopted.”

The  requirements of Section 3 of the bill that – prior to the initiation of any risk assessment or standards development work – that DEP

develop, and make available to the public on its Internet website, a prioritized workplan, which  shall include, but need not be limited to, the tasks, priorities, and a schedule or the dates of action and votes. 

also would implement the policy of EO #2 and allow that

the private sector , in advance of any rulemaking to provide valuable insights on the proposed rules, and to prevent unworkable, overly-proscriptive or ill-advised rules from being adopted. “

Similarly, the “call for information” process and requirements in Section 3 provide industry with the same tools “to prevent unworkable, overly-proscriptive or ill-advised rules from being adopted.”

Prior to the department adopting any chemical risk assessment, including any guidelines or policies for evaluating the toxicity of chemicals or health evaluation of a chemical that will be  used in the regulatory process, the department shall first send out to the general public, via electronic correspondence and on the department’s Internet website in addition to any other appropriate means, a call for information on the chemical or chemicals of concern.

Section 3 of the bill would limit the science that DEP may consider:

the department shall evaluate all the submissions that meet and comply with good laboratory practices standards and quality standards.

Good laboratory practices is not appropriate for risk assessment:

  • New Jersey uses the same scientific methodology as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and EPA does not exclude non-GLP studies; and
  • GLP, as its name imply, refers to laboratory studies which excludes human epidemiology studies as well as many other studies of similar or superior scientific value. Epidemiological studies, in fact, are even more relevant for risk assessment than GLP studies.

The development of government public health and environmental standards is inherently an adversarial process.

Contrary to DEP Commissioner Martin’s mandate on DEP’s “culture”, the chemical industry is not “DEP’s customer” in this regard and their “science” is tainted by conflict of interests and lacks basic elements of scientific integrity – independence, objectivity, and disinterest in outcomes.

Football fans out there would understand the implications of a requirement that prior to the snap, the quarterback must consult with the middle linebacker to discuss the play selection.

Baseball fans too: prior to the pitch, the catcher shall consult with the batter to disclose the pitch selection.

National Context 

Most recently, the obvious example is the Republican view that global warming science is a hoax. But for a long time, Republicans have been waging a War on Science (title of a 2005 book)

Here’s the best work that describes how the War is waged –Doubt is Their Product:

In this eye-opening expose, David Michaels reveals how the tobacco industry’s duplicitous tactics spawned a multimillion dollar industry that is dismantling public health safeguards. Product defense consultants, he argues, have increasingly skewed the scientific literature, manufactured and magnified scientific uncertainty, and influenced policy decisions to the advantage of polluters and the manufacturers of dangerous products. To keep the public confused about the hazards posed by global warming, second-hand smoke, asbestos, lead, plastics, and many other toxic materials, industry executives have hired unscrupulous scientists and lobbyists to dispute scientific evidence about health risks. In doing so, they have not only delayed action on specific hazards, but they have constructed barriers to make it harder for lawmakers, government agencies, and courts to respond to future threats. The Orwellian strategy of dismissing research conducted by the scientific community as “junk science” and elevating science conducted by product defense specialists to “sound science” status also creates confusion about the very nature of scientific inquiry and undermines the public’s confidence in science’s ability to address public health and environmental concerns.

Such reckless practices have long existed, but Michaels argues that the Bush administration deepened the dysfunction by virtually handing over regulatory agencies to the very corporate powers whose products and behavior they are charged with overseeing.

In Doubt Is Their Product Michaels proves, beyond a doubt, that our regulatory system has been broken. He offers concrete, workable suggestions for how it can be restored by taking the politics out of science and ensuring that concern for public safety, rather than private profits, guides our regulatory policy.

The bill would inject even more politics into science and provide numerous opportunities and incentives for industry to wage exactly this kind of war on public health and environmental protections.

The Burzichelli bill also would inject additional delay in an already onerous process. The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) issued an excellent Report on that industry strategy, sees:

The Delay Game – How the Chemical Industry Ducks Regulation of the Most Toxic Substances

The EPA IRIS debate is just one of the recent manifestations of this war.

Here is recent academic expert testimony to Congress:

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Edwards, and members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to testify before you today on one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) most important and foundational programs, the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS). Let me get straight to the point. These days, the more important a public health program, the more likely it is to be the subject of relentless, intemperate, and unjustified attacks. IRIS is no exception. What is in fact a sober, well-informed, and carefully conducted scientific effort to synthesize existing research in order to set reference doses for the most toxic chemicals is portrayed by industry lobbyists as an anti-scientific effort to “demonize” such ostensibly benign substances as arsenic, formaldehyde, and dioxin. This deliberate misreading of the science by industry lobbyists is intended to prolong Americans’ exposure to dangerous substances in the service of corporate profit, while at the same time immobilizing the federal agency best qualified to protect public health, the EPA. 

My testimony today makes four points about the future of the IRIS program:

  • From the American public’s perspective, the central and urgent problem with IRIS is not that it rushes to judgment on toxic chemicals. Far from it. The problem is that repeated rounds of redundant “peer review” and interagency comment allow – in fact, invite –chemical manufacturers, the Department of Defense, and other self- interested parties to slow the program to a crawl. Because these delays help to ensure that dangerous chemicals are left in commerce for years longer than necessary, people suffer avoidable diseases and irrevocable neurological and reproductive damage. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has repeatedly warned Congress about the negative implications of these delays. See, e.g., GAO-08-6743T, EPA’s New Assessment Process Will Increase Challenges EPA Faces in Evaluating and Regulating Chemicals (April 29, 2008) and GAO-09-271, HIGH-RISK SERIES, An Update (January 2009). GAO has placed the EPA chemicals program in the “high risk” category reserved for a small number of the most troubled programs in government. It made this important decision in part because IRIS updates are so slow that the data base risks becoming obsolete. It did not make any reference to the distorted critique of EPA science that the chemical industry has developed.
  • Given that IRIS is constantly struggling to avoid capture by the chemical industry and, if anything, gives manufacturers far too many opportunities to befuddle final assessments, the chemical industry’s sudden discovery of its flaws is as opportunistic as it is incredible.
  • The National Research Council’s (NRC) report on formaldehyde does not justify the radical changes sought by the industry. In fact, the NRC explicitly endorsed the program’s continuation and improvement. Its critique of the formaldehyde assessment constitutes robust peer review, not an outright condemnation of the program and EPA science as industry witnesses would have you believe. I wish that the NRC committee had not adopted such a haughty tone in scolding EPA staff. But that tone was the product of political naiveté regarding how its report would be exploited in the existing political climate. It cannot fairly be characterized as a recommendation that IRIS stop—or even slow—its critical work.

The remedies sought by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) are designed to run IRIS off the road, further undermining EPA’s mission to protect public health. I urge the Committee to side with the public, not the manufacturers of toxic chemicals long overdue for assessment and control.

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Hal Bozarth wants to link this bill to the national debate?

Bring it! We’ve got a lot more expertise there than in Trenton.

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Dems Do Christie’s Dirty Business For Him

January 17th, 2013 No comments

Do Dems think the people of NJ want the chemical industry involved in writing their drinking water standards? 

Dems Turn Big Christie Vulnerability Into Their Own Weakness

[Update 1/18/13 – Tom Johnson at NJ Spotlight wrote a good story on the hearing, see: Expanded Role for Industry Doesn’t Hold Water with Environmentalists

Beyond adding the three members, others said proposed changes in how the institute can make recommendations for tougher water standards will cripple its efforts even more.

Bill Wolfe, director of the New Jersey Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said the bill would also change how the institute develops risk assessments. He contends those changes could make it more difficult for the institute to adopt tough standards for various chemicals.

“It may not result in a regulatory change, but it is clearly a scientific change,’’ Wolfe told the panel.

The bill would not only make it more difficult for the DWQI to adopt recommendations. I clarified in my testimony that the risk assessment provisions would not just impact the DWQI and drinking water, but also govern how DEP conducted all risk assessments – air, soil, water, groundwater. And in turn, that this would effect DEP regulations for those media.

You can listen to the testimony at this link – I was too harsh on Chairwoman Spencer in the below post. She very likely got blindsided on this and did go out of her way to note problems with the bill and agree that Burzichelli would listen. And I must say that Dave Pringle did a good job! – end update]

WTF were the Assembly Democrats thinking?

The fact that the Christie Administration, in furtherance of an ideological, pro-business “regulatory relief” agenda, has blocked the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI) from meeting for over 2 years should be a scandal. – Strike 1.

The fact that the Christie DEP ignored a series of DWQI scientific recommendations to tighten drinking water standards for more than a dozen toxic and cancer causing chemicals, prompting the DWQI Chairman, a Dean at Rutgers, to resign in frustration, should be an even bigger scandal and a huge political liability for the Govenror. – Strike 2

[Does anyone even remember this? This promise was almost 3 years ago, and still nothing from DEP – April 30, 2010 Bergen Record story):

Just weeks after refusing to sign a proposed rule to regulate perchlorate levels in drinking water, state environmental commissioner Bob Martin indicated Thursday that he will implement restrictions for the chemical, which is harmful to pregnant women and fetuses.

The commissioner does plan to institute a perchlorate regulation as quickly as possible,” Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for Martin, said Thursday.

The fact that the chief lobbyist for the NJ Chemical Industry openly acknowledged that the bill was a chemical industry initiative, and then further testified that he privately met with DEP Commissioner Martin several times to negotiate what he called “regulatory reform” legislation that would allow the chemical industry to be appointed to the DWQI and erect barriers to DEP science of risk assessment, should be an easy millstone to hang around the Commissioner’s neck.

In my written testimony, I named the bill “The Unsafe Drinking Water and Unsound Science Act” – Strike 3!

Do them Dems think the people of NJ want the chemical industry involved in writing their drinking water standards? Do they need a poll to figure that one out? Hello!

But none of that policy accountability happened today, as all 4 Democrats on the Assembly Environment Committee joined with Republicans in unanimously voting for a bill that would provide a formal role for the chemical industry to control the science and write NJ’s drinking water standards.

Worse, this chemical industry’s bill was sponsored by a Democrat!

At least the Republicans on the Committee were honestly voting in support of their policy, which is to lower the costs of regulation, reduce regulation, and promote industry profits, regardless of negative impacts on public health and the environment.

But what were the Dems voting for?

To avoid embarrassing the sponsor, who is in the South Jersey leadership?

To avoid embarrassing the inexperienced Committee Chair, who should never have posted the bill?

I opened my testimony by asking: What exactly is the problem at the DWQI that this bill seeks to correct?

The Chairwoman could not answer that basic question.

I have been writing for 3 years now to document Governor Christie’s actual policy on the environment and public health.

Those criticisms have fallen on deaf ears, and there has been very little pushback on Gov. Christie by environmentalists (other than Tittel) and Democrats. Had there been, a disgraceful bill like this would never have seen the light of day. When you sit on the sidelines, you create a vacuum and embolden the business and industry community, and the Christie anti-regulatory momentum builds.

The DWQI/risk assessment kill bill is the poisoned fruit of the Christie Administration’s collaboration with the chemical industry to roll back regulation, weaken science, and provide “immediate regulatory relief”. At the expense of public health. And clean water, ecological health, clean air, and real toxic site cleanup.

In this case, the Christie policy agenda glaring conflicts with and sacrifices public health and environmental protections – there is no clearer example.

Do them Dems share that agenda? Or do they put political loyalty before the public interest, science and the safety of your drinking water?

Yet the Dems not only fail to make that case and criticize the Govnror, they went over and joined the dark side.

WTF were they thinking?

Bad politics. Worse policy. And just flat out Disgusting.

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US Fish and Wildlife Service Review Science – Not Dupont – Drove Additional Mercury Cleanup in Pompton Lakes

January 16th, 2013 2 comments

The Bergen Record and the EPA are misleading the public about the reason for the expanded mercury cleanup from 26 – 40 acres of Pompton Lake and new down-river sediment sampling and cleanup requirements.

Here’s what the Bergen Record story lead with today:

POMPTON LAKES — The expansion of DuPont’s plan to clean Pompton Lake was primarily motivated by a company study that found mercury-laden sediment had moved past the lake’s dam and downstream on the Ramapo River in unknown quantities, federal environmental officials said Tuesday.

The EPA is saying that it was Dupont’s own science that convinced EPA to expand the cleanup.

And the Bergen Record reports that uncritically, and even makes a mistake, falsely calling Dupont’s 1/9/12 study a “2011 study” (see technical end note).

[Note: the findings of a Dupont 2011 bathymetric survey were summarized in a consultant’s Report submitted to Dupont on January 9, 2012. The 2012 Report compared elevations in the lake between 2007 and 2011. Aside from getting the Record story date wrong to imply that Dupont’s science was the source of EPA’s decision to expand the cleanup, the 2012 Report found:

  • Comparison of the 2007 to the 2011 lake bottom elevation surfaces indicated that elevations differences over 99% of the remediation project area were within the accuracies of the combined surveys or showed a slight increase in elevation potentially indicative of deposition. The areas where slight decreases in elevation of the lake bottom were observed do not appear to be consistent across the project area which could be the result of methodology interpolation between actual survey points. 

In other words, Dupont claimed the opposite of what was reported. Dupont claimed that sediments in the lake increased in elevation as a result of deposition, not that sediments were eroding (i.e. and lowering lake elevations) and going downstream!]

All that, my friends, is one big boatload of bullshit.

The real reason EPA expanded the cleanup is because the US Fish and Wildlife Service found that Dupont’s science – upon which the original EPA cleanup plan/draft RCRA permit was based – was seriously flawed and not protective (a DEP scientist had previously called Dupont’s science “misleading”).

We broke that story – see:

You can read the complete USFWS comment letter to EPA, which stated:

  • the Service does not believe that the proposed remedial action, as currently planned, will completely address historical releases nor be sufficient to protect against future injury to Federal trust resources from residual contamination originating from the [Dupont] PLW
  • we believe that significant contamination will remain
  • thresholds to evaluate risk to both fish and avian fauna are antiquated and not protective

US Fish and Wildlife Service only got involved in reviewing the Dupont cleanup plan because I brought the issue to their attention.

I had to bring the issue to USFWS attention because EPA failed to consult with USFWS during development and approval of the Dupont cleanup plan, as required under federal RCRA regulations.

I raised the USFWS consultation requirement way back in October 19, 2010 at an informal EPA presentation; again in a detailed January 7, 2012 post, and I testified about this violation of federal regulations at the January 5, 2012 public hearing on the EPA draft permit (read testimony in the hearing transcript – at page 17 – 32).

EPA only consulted with USFWS because I called them out on it on the record at the 1/5/12 public hearing. In a huge mistake, EPA consulted with USFWS only AFTER that criticism and long after the ecologically based cleanup plan was developed and public noticed as a draft permit.

Failure to consult with USFWS is not some minor oversight, because this was an ecologically based cleanup.  It could not have been an oversight.

EPA is now trying to whitewash all that history for the following reasons:

1) failure to consult with USFWS is a serious mistake, it delayed the cleanup, and it was an embarrassment to EPA.

So EPA is now downplaying the significance of USFWS’s review role;

2) EPA has allowed Dupont to retain control over the science and cleanup process, specifically the ecological risk assessment and downriver sampling.

If EPA were to highlight USFWS criticism of Dupont’s “antiquated” science, that would undermine the integrity of Dupont’s science and cast serious doubt on EPA’s decision to allow Dupont to retain control over the cleanup and ecological risk assessment;

3) USFWS’ criticism of Dupont’s science is an embarassment to EPA’s cleanup partners, Dupont and DEP.

Dupont developed the lousy science and DEP approved it. So, of course EPA does not want to highlight that, especially becuase EPA has chosen to allow Dupont and DEP to control the cleanup, despite this awful history of failure.

4) EPA and Dupont do not want USFWS and ecological reviews to become a big part of expanding the RCRA Corrective Action program.

Dupont may also have legal interests in appearing to self disclose down-river mercury contamination – but why did they wait until January 9, 2012 to disclose this info to EPA?

What did Dupont know about downriver sediment transport and when did they know it? Is this another vapor intrusion failure to disclose and warn fiasco?

5) For political reasons, EPA does not want to validate – and thereby legitimize and empower – the criticism of community advocates and critics, including yours truly.

To do so would not only embarrass EPA, but also EPA’s partners, Dupont and DEP.

This is the kind of criticism EPA does not want repeated: from the 2/27/12 Suburban trends article:

US Fish and Wildlife Service recommends more testing in Pompton Lakes

Bill Wolfe, of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said, “This is a highly significant move on the part of the FWS and it completely undermines the prior approval because of the statements it makes about the DuPont science, which it calls ‘antiquated and not adequately protective.’ 

“DuPont has consistently told the public that its cleanup plans reflect sound science and the DEP (NJ Department of Environmental Protection) rubber-stamped that cleanup plan despite the fact that a DEP scientist raised objections,” said Wolfe.

“It is very important that the FWS recommendations be incorporated in the new cleanup plan that the EPA is going to be drafting and that the cleanup plan completely cleans up the site,” Wolfe added.

I’m sure Dupont and EPA made calls to news editors to avoid a repeat of exactly that kind of criticism.

Seems like EPA and the media will say just about anything to avoid embarrassing Dupont or DEP.

Technical End Note: as an illustration of intellectual gymnastics and just how far EPA is willing to bend to avoid embarrassing Dupont and admitting that USFWS review and critical public comment were the reasons why the cleanup was expanded, check out this from the EPA statement of basis for the final permit.

Note how the Dupont study was submitted to EPA on January 9, 2012, 4 days AFTER the public hearing when lack of USFWS review and those technical criticisms were aired:

EPA used the administrative procedures set forth in 40 C.F.R. Part 124 to solicit public comments prior to making its final corrective action and permit modification decision(s) for the ABD. In making this decision, EPA has evaluated all written comments and comments from the public hearing received during the public comment period including one set of written comments that was submitted after the end of the public comment period. Relevant information and comments received on this project have influenced the development of the final permit modification. As required by regulations, EPA also consulted various federal agencies and the state for input on the proposed permit modification. Consultation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Services (“USFWS”) and the NJDEP have also influenced the development of the final permit modification. In addition, Dupont (“Permittee”) provided to EPA, the results of a bathymetric survey, dated January 9, 2012. The survey was performed to compare the lake bed elevation to the 2007 bathymetric survey. This information also influenced the development of the final permit modification. 

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