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Transparency – For Some

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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