Archive for February, 2013

Transparency – For Some

February 23rd, 2013 No comments

The issue of transparency got a lot of attention in Trenton political and media circles this week, so, as a proponent of transparency,  I thought I’d point out two high profile examples to probe the unmentioned but glaring contradictions and hypocrisy implicit in those debates.

There seems to be a double standard operating in when, where, and upon whom transparency is a desired objective – what I will call “transparency for some“. Follow me into the weeds for the backstory.

I)  Transparency at the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute

Hal Bozarth wants more transparency at the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute and DEP.

Hal is head of the NJ Chemistry Council – the folks who brought us all those Superfund sites, two headed trout and deformed frogs, toxic air and water pollution, and chemical body burden.

Hal wrote an Orwellian Op-Ed for the Star Ledger:  N.J. water panel benefits from more voices

Recommendations made by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Drinking Water Quality Institute are of critical importance and affect us all. Such a body should base its work on sound science, have representation from all stakeholders, and comprise individuals with academic and professional experience that allows them to fully consider and understand all available science.

That’s why I believe that openness, sound science and transparency should be the underpinnings of DWQI’s process or of any regulatory process.

Gee, looks like Hal just forgot to mention the fact that the DWQI has not met since September 10, 2010 – for over 2 1/2 years.

Established by the Legislature back in 1985, they previously met on a regular quarterly basis, but have not met as a direct result of the chemical industry’s lies and attacks, which led the DWQI Chairman to resign in frustration and convinced DEP Commissioner Bob Martin to shut the DWQI down and outsource all DWQI and DEP science and standards development to the Science Advisory Board.

There have been no DEP standards proposed or adopted sinceabsolutely none – an unprecedented and radical departure by the Christie Administration from DEP’s history of proposal and adoption of aggressive and stringent regulatory standards.

Curiously, DEP Commissioner Martin shut down the DWQI just at the moment they were about to make recommendations on the chemical known as PFOA, which just so happens to occur in groundwater nearby Dupont’s south Jersey Chambersworks site (for the background and links to documents on the PFOA and DWQI debate, see this and this) (and chromium too, another longstanding controversial risk assessment and standard setting process opposed by powerful industry with major implications at a hundred or so chromium sites in north jersey).

In another unprecedented and extraordinarily ugly move (on a different chemical and standard, perchlorate), Martin even attacked DWQI science as “shoddy”:

Under questioning from state Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono during budget hearings on Tuesday, Martin said he originally intended to sign the proposed rule until he realized “our science was shoddy and I refuse to sign anything that doesn’t have adequate science to back it up.”

He said of the DEP researchers: “The data they provided was poor, not organized, anecdotal at best.” Martin also said nobody was able to document the public health risk of the chemical to his satisfaction.

In attacking the DWQI, Martin – who has no scientific training or environmental background – was merely parroting the lies Hal and Dupont whispered in his ear (and fabricating stories all his own).

See this Dupont letter as an example of those lies- this Dupont letter is the smoking gun that connects the dots between the DWQI shutdown and the PFOA risk assessment and standards issues.

[Update: Sorry for my error in failure to cite Delaware Riverkeeper for great work on PFOA and for disclosing that Dupont letter.]

Hal also forgot to mention that the facts directly contradict his assertions and nasty innuendo:

1) the DWQI is nationally recognized for the quality of its science;  NJ DEP and DWQI professionals serve on national expert workgroups; and those professionals meticulously consider and understand all available science (Amazingly, Hal also fails to note that his recommendations would not only put biased industry scientists with gross conflicts of interest on the DWQI, but also limit the science DEP and the DWQI could consider through the stealth use of an esoteric phrase “Good Laboratory Practices” in the bill);

2) the DWQI is not some informal “Stakeholder” body that balances competing interests, but is instead a rigorous scientific regulatory standards development body with its mission and composition set by law to emphasize science, not politics or economics;

3) the DWQI membership includes “individuals with academic and professional experience  that allows them to fully consider and understand all available science”; and

4) the DWQI operates transparently and its recommendations are subject to DEP rule-making procedures before they can be implemented.

Ah, but I’m getting deep into the weeds –  lets not get bogged down and diverted by all that, our topic is transparency, which we must get back to.

When he’s not writing Orwellian Op-Ed’s, here’s Hal in his natural habitat, doing his day job, lobbying at DEP to gut enforcement of DEP regulations or install chemical industry scientists on DEP’s “Sience Advisory Board”:

Hal Bozarth (L) & Tony Russo (R) lobbyists for chemical industry sign in at DEP (10/1/09)

We petitioned DEP to get those sign in books and meeting notes to make Hal’s lobbying transparent, see:

NEW JERSEY ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCY WRESTLES WITH TRANSPARENCY Proposed PEER Openness Rules Being Studied for “Feasibility and Practicality

But DEP denied our request for transparency, see:

DEP Invokes Nixon’s Watergate Argument to Conceal Private Meetings

Hal also played a key behind the scenes non-transparent role in killing DEP proposed standards to protect wildlife from the effects of toxic chemicals, see:

NEW JERSEY DEP ABANDONS TOUGHER TOXIC STANDARDS – Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon Warnings on Mercury, DDT and PCB Unheeded

So, yes, we agree Hal – we want your creepy lobbying fully transparent!

II)  Transparency for Sandy Response

NJ Senate Democrats want Governor Christie’s rebuild efforts to be transparent

TRENTON – Due to the influx of federal dollars entering the state to clean up and repair areas destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, Senator Jim Whelan has sponsored legislation that would protect taxpayer dollars by ensuring greater transparency of lobbying efforts aimed at influencing local government activities. The bill was unanimously approved today by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.

Ooops, perhaps I meant to say that they want some of Gov. Christie’s rebuild efforts made transparent – and only after the fact, when the inforrmation can do nothing to influence any decisions.

The Senate Democrats are not seeking transparency for the Governor’s Sandy rebuild policies and decisions –

The Gov. is required to submit a plan to Obama Administration officials in order to secure federal relief funds. The Democrats are not demanding that the Gov. provide any transparency – or oversight – about developing that plan.

Nor are they seeking transparency for the informal legislative consultation process that is producing the backroom deals on billions of taxpayer dollars and determining the future of the NJ shore behind closed doors.

What about transparency for the Christie Rebuild Czar?

Nope, there will be no transparency for any of that.

Like I said, it’s Transparency for some.

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Flood experts seek to revamp federal coastal policies after Superstorm Sandy

February 22nd, 2013 No comments

“Rebuild Madness” Drives Out Policy Debate 

“There’s a lot of signs that the pace of restoration is being prioritized above … building resiliency into our future conditions,” Miller said yesterday at a conference for floodplain experts. (2/21/13)

I have long argued that a toxic combination of factors have blocked any serious policy discussion of climate change or coastal land use policies in the wake of Sandy, including:

So, instead of repeating all that, in another case of “we told you so”, let me just post the complete text of a national article that makes those points, particularly Obama CEQ head Nancy Sutley, who confirmed my point.

I just wish Professor Miller had made those strong criticisms when and where it mattered, like in his recent testimony to the Senate Sandy oversight Committee. It might have helped NJ press corps get it.

Flood experts seek to revamp federal coastal policies after Superstorm Sandy

Evan Lehmann, E&E reporter

Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013

A New Jersey flood expert believes the state is emphasizing speed, rather than increased protection against climate change, in its massive rebuilding effort following Superstorm Sandy. The analysis comes as flood professionals try to fix policies that they say have exacerbated water damage for decades.

Gov. Chris Christie (R) has put a premium on resurrecting oceanfront highways and has allowed municipalities to dictate their own standards for rebuilding and land use — conditions that suggest the state may miss an opportunity to craft stronger flood protection strategies, said John Miller of the New Jersey Association for Floodplain Managers.

There’s a lot of signs that the pace of restoration is being prioritized above … building resiliency into our future conditions,” Miller said yesterday at a conference for floodplain experts.

He pointed to a directive by Christie following the October storm allowing state agencies to rebuild infrastructure like roads and utilities without a permit.

“Basically, ‘Hey, if you want to build it back the way it was, go for it, you don’t have to wait for us to approve that,'” Miller said, describing the state’s attitude. “That was kind of the calling sign of, ‘Hey, we may not get resiliency out of this thing.'”

With multiple disasters striking the East Coast in consecutive years, experts are calling for stronger building techniques and smarter land-use policies to reduce future damage associated with rising seas and more inundation. Sometimes that means reforming federal policies that invite future flood damage, like using guidelines that say infrastructure and homes should be rebuilt to its condition at the time it was damaged.

Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told the group yesterday that the Obama administration is crafting new guidelines to help improve the resiliency of infrastructure.

Federal aid may be ‘excessive’


“Traditionally, as you know, projects that are damaged are rebuilt to their original condition rather than updated to withstand a changing climate and making them vulnerable to further damage,” Sutley said. “We need to focus on resiliency and sustainability when we plan for more restoration.”

Other harmful policies identified by experts include low-priced flood insurance and disaster assistance, both of which can make people feel overly safe in dangerous areas.

“Our [nation’s] generosity has been so excessive that the risk and the perception of risk is now externalized to the federal government,” said Chad Berginnis, executive director of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, which hosted a conference that ended yesterday.

The group brought a coalition of flood experts together to develop a framework for improving water management along the nation’s coastlines, which scientists say face current threats from warming temperatures and rising sea levels. The challenge of climate change is pronounced by the coasts’ rapid real estate development, which creates more damage during disasters and increases flood damage.

The group’s recommendations focus on creating a “holistic” approach to water management that balances “appropriate human occupancy” on the coasts with sustainable efforts to reduce flooding, which usually means fewer structures like seawalls and more wetlands.

The plan calls for “NTSB-style investigations” after each big coastal flood event to determine what happened and how it can be avoided in the future. That is patterned after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates plane crashes and other accidents.

Land-use restrictions needed to limit damage


The group also wants the nation to determine the extent of its coastal vulnerabilities to hurricanes and floods, reform federal programs that encourage unwise coastal development and study the economic and social impacts of restricting land use to avoid flooding. It also expresses concern that development is overtaking much of the nation’s natural areas that diminish flooding.

“If you look at economics at a whole, we are not truly valuing or considering the fact that we have resources that are on verge of crashing or on the verge of being lost,” said Doug Plasencia, a specialist in floodplain management.

Climate change is a key theme in the short document. Each recommendation touches on minimizing future flooding, which scientists expect will increase as seas rise and precipitation increases.

The group unveiled its ideas one day after Christie announced a plan to use $1.8 billion in federal recovery aid to provide community development block grants for the elevation of homes. Raising homes is one adaptation policy to higher seas and storm surges. Christie also recently approved interim flood maps developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that could spur communities to raise the height of new and rebuilt homes.

Roy Wright, the deputy associate administrator for mitigation at FEMA, said there are signs that states and communities struck by Sandy are making better rebuilding decisions than in the past. For example, he said FEMA has had discussions with officials in New York and New Jersey about rebuilding water treatment plants 2 feet above previous heights. He also said higher premiums for federal flood insurance authorized by Congress last year is encouraging homeowners to rebuild better, so they can pay a lower rate.

Wright also said that FEMA is considering whether to place more stringent conditions on the federal emergency aid approved by Congress to ensure resilient rebuilding.

Coastal life becomes ‘more challenging’


David Conrad, a water specialist who has been following the flood program for years, said the $1.8 billion in federal funding being used in New Jersey to elevate homes sends the wrong message to homeowners. He said the funding could free residents from paying anything to raise their homes. That could encourage others to build, or rebuild, in areas that are likely to be damaged again the future, he said.

The recommendations come weeks after the U.S. Global Change Research Program released a draft report outlining the latest scientific findings related to climate change. The nation’s coastlines are experiencing more erosion, flooding and saltwater intrusion as sea levels rise, the rate of which has increased since 1990, the draft says.

Storms strengthened by the warming Atlantic Ocean are possible, and increased rainfall is already being seen in some regions. That rain can cause a different risk of flooding than storm surges: Runoff toward the coast will get heavier as more precipitation courses over more impermeable surfaces, the draft says.

In 40 years, sea-level rise will turn floods seen in today’s 100-year storms into events that occur once a year in places like Southern California and Georgia. Other regions will see centennial floods happen every two years, or five, 10 or 20 years.

“Humans have heavily altered the coastal environment through development, changes in land use, and overexploitation of resources,” says the draft. “Now, the changing climate is imposing additional stresses, making life on the coast more challenging. The consequences will ripple through the entire nation, which depends on the productivity and vitality of coastal regions.”

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Senate Dems Again Defer to Gov. Christie’s Complete Control of Sandy Rebuild

February 21st, 2013 No comments

Oversight Bills Do Not Provide A Legislative Role or Opportunity for The Public To Influence Coastal Rebuild Policy or In Setting Priorities on Use of Billions of Taxpayer Dollars 

Stunning Abdication of Legislative Role

[Update #2: Here’s something you won’t read in NJ press – but that AP reported in a national story:  NJ panel advances oversight of Sandy funds

At a brief hearing Thursday, one speaker, Bill Wolfe, director of the New Jersey chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, asked lawmakers to consider not just requiring the state administration to report on spending, but also to offer a chance for public input on those decisions.

Lawmakers did not take up the suggestion.

[Update #1: The federal appropriations bill requires that NJ develop and submit a plan for the money. Here is the HUD block grant language. Where is that plan? Where is it? Where is it? Why can’t I see it! Here is what federal law requires:

        “That as a condition of eligibility for receipt of such funds, a grantee shall submit a plan to the Secretary detailing the proposed use of all funds, including criteria for eligibility and how the use of such funds will address long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing, and economic revitalization in the most impacted and distressed areas” – end update

The Senate State Government Committee released two important Sandy related bills today to create “Integrity monitors” (S2536 – Sweeney) and promote “transparency” (S2566 – Sarlo).

There was no testimony on the “integrity monitor” bill and I was the only person to testify on the “transparency” bill. Where the hell are coastal advocates, the environmental lobbyists, and the public interest community?

(You can listen to the testimony here).

I reminded the Committee that setting policy and priorities for the expenditure of taxpayer funds is a core legislative function.

I urged the Committee to amend the bill to strengthen the legislative role and provide a meaningful opportunity for the public to participate in huge economic and land use decisions that will affect the future of the shore.

I urged the Committee to amend the bill to require either:

1)  the Gov. submit a proposed plan to the Legislature for the expenditure of monies to formalize and make transparent legislative consultation,

[Note: informal consultations between the Gov. and legislative leadership are ongoing, behind closed doors. Those negotiations require transparency as well.] or

2)  to establish a planning process to facilitate legislative oversight and public involvement in the priorities, policies, and plans for expenditure of taxpayer funds for shore rebuilding and natural resource protection.

I stressed the importance of consideration of climate change, sea level rise, and more intense storms in Sandy rebuild planning and funding decisions.

I advised the Committee that Gov. Christie stated that these were “esoteric” concerns that he had no time even to consider and that he felt that the public did not “give a damn about” them anyway.

I cited a series of technical flaws with the bill, including failure to specifically track uses of funds for natural resource protection, resilience, adaptation, climate change mitigation, and other specific policies and purposes set out in President Obama’s Executive Order and the Congressional appropriations bill (for law, see this).

I urged the Committee to drill down on these issues to make the transparency provisions meaningful and send a message to the Gov. that these objectives were important (this is particularly important given his rejection of them).

The Dems on the Committee were silent, but I got some pushback from Senator Thompson (R-12th), who defended the Gov. and took exception to any legislative incursion on the Gov.’s powers.

I can not imagine why progressive Democrats Senator Turner (D-Mercer) and Weinberg (D-Bergen) would sit back add raise no objections to things like Gov. Christie’s:

  • rejection of climate change science in rebuild decisions;
  • priority on business grants when thousands of mostly low and moderate income people remain homeless;
  • Rebuild Czar and consolidation of total control of decisions on more discretionary spending than the entire state budget; and
  • touts spending $215 million on rebuilding Rt. 35 on a barrier island, so that those big Escalade and BMW SUV’s can avoid pot holes on the way to their shore summer homes (while thousands remain homeless)

It is simply mind boggling that progressive Democrats would sit back and allow the Governor unilateral power to set policy, control billions of taxpayer dollars, and make these kind of bad decisions with no legislative role or public participation.

It remains a stunning abdication.

[End notepolitical intel: high level sources told us that “the FEMA maps are wrong” and confirmed our suspicion that Senate Dems are prepared to legislatively veto the DEP Emergency Rule that adopted the FEMA ABFE maps. A Resolution to kill that rule is being drafted as we speak.]

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Humpty Dumpty: After the Fall, It’s Better Than Ever

February 20th, 2013 No comments


NJ DEP Said Former Lead Smelter – Newark Public Housing Site – Was Clean 

Adjacent Playground Had Extremely High Lead Levels

DEP Environmental Justice Program in Action

“A Billion Bullets to the Brains of Newark’s Kids”

  “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” ~~~ Lewis Carroll “Through the Looking Glass” (1871)

b. The department shall perform additional review of any document, or shall review the performance of a remediation, if:

(3) the contaminated site is located in a low-income community of color that has a higher density of contaminated sites and permitted discharges with the potential for increased health and environmental impacts, as compared to other communities; (Section 21,  Site Remediation Reform Act (2009)

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All The King’s Horses and All The King’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Back in 2008, after a series of high profile botched cleanups by the NJ DEP, including the infamous “Kiddie Kollege” daycare fiasco,

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

Governor Corzine, with the support of NJ DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson, convinced the Democratically controlled legislature that the DEP toxic site cleanup program was so broken that it could not be fixed.

All The Kings Horses and All The Kings men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

So broken it could not be fixed, the DEP cleanup program was privatized.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection knew in 1994 that a building that later housed a Gloucester County day care center was so dangerous that state inspectors were instructed to use respirators when entering the building, according to an internal memo obtained by The New York Times yesterday. (NY Times)

Cleanups at NJ’s 20,000 toxic waste sites would now be governed by “Licensed Site Remediation Professionals” (LSRPs), men in white hats who, according the fairy tale in the statute, did not require DEP oversight and would act like Marcus Wellby, MD: (no, not the 1970’s good guy MD, his modern version):

A licensed site remediation professional’s highest priority in the performance of professional services shall be the protection of public health and safety and the environment. 

No longer required to spend all that time overseeing cleanups at those 20,000 sites, the 600 or so DEP staffers in the Site Remediation Program would be free to work on more important high priority matters.

So, how’s that working out?

Back on December 4, 2012, the superb USA Today’s series on old lead smelters exposed continuing lax NJ DEP oversight of former NJ lead smelter sites.

Lead is perhaps one of the highest priority environmental health issues, especially in NJ’s over-burdenened urban communities, where poor and black children continue to suffer severely from high blood lead levels.

(3) the contaminated site is located in a low-income community of color that has a higher density of contaminated sites and permitted discharges with the potential for increased health and environmental impacts, as compared to other communities; 

In response to USA Today’s reasonable question about why the DEP required no sampling or cleanup of these lead smelter sites, DEP expressed “frustration”

(When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.)

Note particularly how NJ DEP relies on the Big Lie – the “very stretched” resources and burden of those so called 14,500 sites that are now managed by LSRP’s – as an excuse

“I believe we have accomplished a lot,” said David Sweeney, an assistant commissioner at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). He expressed “frustration” with questions about why some neighborhoods got soil tests and others didn’t, noting that the state’s resources are “very stretched” with 14,500 contaminated sites of all types needing attention.

The New Jersey DEP said their risk assessments of 31 sites focused only on areas within a former factory’s property boundaries. If a home was built directly atop a portion of the factory property, the state tested soil for contamination. No soil testing was done if homes were merely next to the former factory property.

It’s very difficult “to try to understand after 50 or 100 years how the contamination may have been dispersed out of a stack,” said Ken Kloo, a director in the department’s site remediation program. “It very possibly may not have been deposited anywhere near the site.”

How can DEP possibly be “very stetched” after the cleanup program was privatized and LSRP’s now oversee cleanups? What are those 600 staffers who used to oversee this work doing all day?

(3) the contaminated site is located in a low-income community of color that has a higher density of contaminated sites and permitted discharges with the potential for increased health and environmental impacts, as compared to other communities; 

Focusing only within the property boundaries has no scientific basis and is absurd, because we  know lead travels off site to adjacent properties, from air emissions and wind and water erosion of contaminated soils.

The DEP’s response is beyond incompetence and borders on criminal negligence.

More recently, let’s look to Newark, NJ, a ground zero test of NJ DEP’s so called “Environmental Justice” program.

USA Today reported on February 15, 2013:

EPA tests show the soil in a grassy New Jersey playground area contained as much as 15 times the amount of lead the agency considers hazardous for children’s play areas.

The series of articles has revealed widespread government failures to investigate the dangers left behind in soil by lead manufacturing plants that operated in the decades before environmental regulations. It has prompted soil testing and cleanups at several locations across the country.

In September, USA TODAY examined the government re-assessments done of the old factory sites in New Jersey and found regulators had closed the books on several without doing any soil testing — despite their close proximity to residential areas where children live and play. Lead exposure is particularly dangerous for children, whose developing brains can be irreparably harmed when they ingest even tiny amounts of lead dust by putting dirty hands or toys in their mouths.

The playground at the Newark Housing Authority’s Terrell Homes is just across the property line from the former site of Barth Smelting, which operated from at least 1946 to about 1982, records show.

So, what does DEP say about that?

(3) the contaminated site is located in a low-income community of color that has a higher density of contaminated sites and permitted discharges with the potential for increased health and environmental impacts, as compared to other communities; 

Why did they say the site was clean without taking any samples at a PUBLIC HOUSING PROJECT ON TOP OF AN OLD LEAD SMELTER, , especially at the children’s playground adjacent to the site?

New Jersey DEP officials, who wrote a report last year saying no further investigation was recommended, did not respond to USA TODAY’s questions about whether they erred in their conclusion. New Jersey DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said in an e-mail: “The DEP worked closely with EPA in a thorough and cooperative investigation of these sites, and has provided the federal agency with detailed results of our work. As we have stated previously, it is appropriate for EPA to explore this issue. We will continue to work with the agency to provide any information it may need.

As of Friday afternoon, residents of the Terrell Homes remained unaware of the danger, and children were still playing in the contaminated area, said the Rev. Fletcher Harper, executive director of GreenFaith, a New Jersey environmental justice organization that followed up with local community leaders after USA TODAY shared the EPA’s test results.

“Kids at Terrell Homes, and lots of other communities of color and poor communities, are getting exposed to toxins at a dangerous level,” he said. “They deserve a clean, healthy environment. And they deserve regulators who aren’t afraid to hold polluters accountable.” Harper has served on the New Jersey DEP’s environmental justice advisory council, which seeks to ensure residents are equally protected from pollution regardless of race or income.

Humpty Dumpty. After the Fall, Better than Ever.

I hope the people of Newark keep this DEP performance in mind for Thursday night’s public information session DEP is holding on the Newark garbage incinerator air permit.

(3) the contaminated site is located in a low-income community of color that has a higher density of contaminated sites and permitted discharges with the potential for increased health and environmental impacts, as compared to other communities; 

DEP has showed the same level of disdain for protecting the health of the kids of Newark from lead emissions from that facility as they did at old lead smelters (see: Dissenting Report Rips Christie DEP Commissioner Martin On Environmental Justice).

I’ll close with this haunting note from a prior post:

I am haunted by a line by my friend Peter Montague, NJ’s legendary environmental justice and anti-toxics advocate.

Opposing the DEP’s renewal of the 25 year old Essex County garbage incinerator air pollution permit, Montague wrote (paraphrasing) that the huge lead emissions from the facility amounted to “a billion bullets to the brains of Newark’s kids”. 

That’s not hyperbole  the science of pollution dispersion modeling and neurotoxic and developmental effects of lead on children are well known.

That’s why EPA banned lead as a gasoline additive, why industry was forced to spend billions removing lead from paints and other consumer products, and why EPA enforces strict lead abatement programs.

So why is that – or any other – lead source or garbage incinerator allowed to continue to operate?


[Update: 2/21/13 – US EPA is getting hammered in today’s USA Today story – but don’t blame EPA, it was NJ DEP’s decision that no further investigation was required, a decision NJ DEP made LAST MAY (2012)see these documents. EPA signed off on that and is now trying to correct that mistake, while DEP remains in denial.

Newark residents should ask why community advocates are giving  NJ DEP a pass. Where has NJ DEP’s Environmental Justice program been??? – USA Today broke this story a long time ago.  end]

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Governor Christie’s Sandy “Rebuild Madness” (TM) is Deeply Unpopular with New Jerseyans

February 19th, 2013 No comments

No Rush to Rebuild – Large Majority Prefer “Go Slow” Approach That Assesses Implications Before Rebuilding

“74 percent – say life here is not back to normal after Superstorm Sandy, nearly four months ago. Moreover, most see it as a transformative event, and want rebuilding the shore to go slowly to give time to assess the implications of rebuilding“. Rutgers -Eagleton poll, February 14, 2013

An important Eagleton Institute NJ public opinion poll has gotten very little media coverage. [I could not find one single article on this poll. But did find a bunch of good news puff pieces on the Eagleton poll about “Sandy not spoiling shore-goers’ plans” – and that ought to tell you something, so read on.]

The captioned quote above is by Rutgers (“A Post Sandy Followup”), which summarizes the findings of a Rutgers Eagleton Institute poll, whose results were released on February 14, 2013 – (poll results).

A key finding of that poll was:

Residents in no rush to rebuild shore but want government to pay 

More than six in 10 residents (62 percent) are cautious about rebuilding at the shore and believe assessments of the potential for future damage should be made before rebuilding, compared to the third who want to rebuild before the summer tourism season. 

Those results confirm that Gov. Christie’s reflexive and emotionally driven rush to rebuild – what I have dubbed “Rebuild Madness” (TM)  – is deeply unpopular with the people of NJ.

Significantly, the most recent poll findings on rebuilding directly contradict strong public support for Gov. Christie’s response to Sandy. That strong support is the only factor driving the Governor’s favorable ratings.

Thus, the Governor is highly vulnerable, politically. His only strength is actually a major weakness. Here’s why.

The strong public support for the Gov. response to Sandy – and the Gov.’s constant self promoting PR – have created a dominant media narrative that presumes Christie’s political invincibility.

At the same time, that media narrative has completely shut out any conflicting public opinion results, and prevented the emergence of any policy discussion on shore rebuilding that might conflict with Gov. Christie’s approach.

Yet the public strongly prefers – in fact demands – that the implications of rebuilding be fully assessed BEFORE we rebuild.

Once this reality sets in, the Christie bubble – inflated by the media – bursts.

I) Poll Results Are Not In Conflict But are Being Spun and Misread

The public strongly prefers an “assessment of the implications” of rebuilding before rebuilding occurs.

That term “assessment”, in polling parlance, translates in governing parlance, to what functionally is called planning – openly establishing a collective public vision, exploring alternatives, setting goals and objectives, creating a plan, developing a strategy to implement the plan, etc.

A reasonable assessment obviously includes consideration of the effects of climate change, sea level rise, and projected increasingly severe coastal storms.

So, although the question has not been polled, logically, presumably those poll results mean that there is strong public support for planning and perhaps even a Coastal Commission to direct that planning effort (in fact, a December  Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll found exactly that support):

A new Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll released Dec. 10, 2012, indicates that the overwhelming majority of New Jersey residents want the Jersey Shore rebuilt, but in a thoughtful, responsible and cost-effective manner. The poll also showed strong support for using tax dollars for almost all rebuilding and resilience efforts.

Among the most important findings for policy-makers, the poll shows more than 70 percent favor establishment of a regional entity such as a coastal commission to coordinate planning and rebuilding, and two-thirds favor allowing state regulators to determine which coastal areas can be rebuilt, based on storm risk assessments.

So, how do we reconcile these apparently contradictory poll results?

How can Gov. Christie simultaneously have strong favorable ratings for his response to Sandy while the public strongly opposes his approach to rush to rebuilding?

And why is the media narrative driving out any reporting of that contradiction, or the planning and policy issues?

Poll results are simply being misread and spun.

The Gov.’s popular immediate “response” to Sandy is being confused and conflated with his deeply unpopular policies for rebuilding (what I have deemed “Rebuild Madness” (TM)).

The public’s opinion was formed and the public supports what they saw of the Gov. on TV and in the newspaper in the immediate aftermath of the storm – that of a caring, responsive, empathic and competent man, boldly directing a capable and prepared government to help people in need.

The facts and record show otherwise. (e.g. see: The Deafness Before the Storm).

And how does an Administration go from a policy of DEP deregulating shore rebuilding to – just weeks later – issuing an Emergency DEP Rule strictly regulating rebuilding, with absolutely no one calling out that contradiction? Why no criticism of the closed door Rebuild Czar?).

Obviously, that legitimate emotional response by the public has nothing to do with the Governor’s policies,  which directly contradict the emotional image he has cultivated and that the media has so dutifully reported.

II)  Media Coverage Created the Contradiction and Inflated The Christie Bubble

The lack of reporting on substantive issues and contradictions in opinion polls is similarly easy to explain –

Once a dominant narrative is formed by the media, it is virtually impossible for facts or issues that contradict that narrative to be reported.

That’s just how the media works.

Facts or events that reinforce the dominant narrative are selected and reported. Those that undermine or contradict are either flat out rejected or relegated to a marginal role (“some critics say…”).

Second, the media, institutionally, is cowed by Gov. Christie, who is a demagogue.

Third, the media has economic interests in rebuilding – those real estate ads are perhaps the last remaining major source of income to the papers, as subscriptions, advertising, and readership all dwindle.

Fourth, media professionals are depleted, editors are clueless, and the reporters lack the time, resources, knowledge and experience to do real investigative stories.

Last, the advocacy community (i.e. environmental groups) is making no demands, offering up no alternatives, and making no criticism of the Gov. or his policy (KIG explains all that).

The political opposition (i.e. democratic party) have simply abdicated. Senate President Sweeney appears to be more worried about losing the legislature than taking on the Gov. (again, because the press has decreed that he is invincible, because they are misreading the polls).

So reporters can’t even do what they do best: report a conflict – because  there is no conflict to report (and they all certainly do their best to marginalize critics and dirty hippie bloggers, like myself).

But, keeping hope alive, maybe they can hide behind the Eagleton poll findings cited above and start to report the real story.

If so, Christie crashes faster than Wall Street 2008.

Of course, our friends in the environmental community and the democratic party could always wake up, find their integrity and spine, and help this process along.


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