Archive for April, 2013

Dupont and EPA Abruptly Cancel Appearance at Ramapo College Event

April 28th, 2013 4 comments

Back out of commitments to participate to avoid critical public debate

[Update: As proof of the EPA lie about why they backed out of this panel discussion, note that EPA spoke in detail about the EAB appeal to a “friendly” audience on April 3, 2013 – see this.]

When I got the invitation to participate in a Ramapo College panel discussion on the Dupont Pompton Lakes toxic nightmare, of course I immediately agreed.

When I was told that my fellow panel members would be Dupont, US EPA, and the Passaic River Coalition (PRC), I knew that panel discussion would never happen –  even though Ramapo told me that all had confirmed their participation.

No way would Dupont and EPA agree to publicly face informed and highly critical scrutiny, like this:

So, despite my reservations, on Friday (April 26), I trucked up to speak at Ramapo College’s 18th annual Watershed Conference:

This year’s conference will present updates on watershed events, including: the Ford paint sludge remediation in Torne Valley in Ramapo, NY;  news from the Ramapo River headwaters in Orange County, NY; recent studies on Eastern timber rattlesnakes (a threatened species in New York and New Jersey); Cropsey’s Castle, Aladdin: the artist’s summer home near Warwick, NY – based on new research by Cropsey expert, Dr. Kenneth Maddox, we will get a virtual tour of  Cropsey’s design for this legendary mansion, destroyed by fire in 1909 (while he lived at Aladdin, Cropsey frequently traveled to paint in the Ramapo Valley) ; the ongoing pollution from the Mulch Pile Site and the problematic DeMarino Soil Site in Tuxedo, NY; New Jersey Highlands issues; environmental impact assessment of natural gas pipeline expansions in the NJ Highlands Region; DuPont pollution and remediation in Pompton Lakes, NJ.

At last year’s conference, there also was a presentation on the Dupont site:

3:30 – E. Durling Merrill, Environmental Officer Pompton Lakes: 1) The DuPont Acid Brook Cleanup  

I wonder if Mr. Merrill disclosed the fact that his salary was paid by Dupont for many years?

This year, in the wake of the controversial EPA issuance of the long awaited final RCRA permit to require Dupont to cleanup a portion of Pompton Lake, the Ramapo agenda included a 1 hour panel discussion of the cleanup – and with a broader set of panelists:

3:00 pm – Acid Brook – DuPont Pollution and Remediation in Pompton Lake: Mike Reinhart, Environmental Specialist, Passaic River Coalition; Jan Barry, Environmental Journalist, Ramapo College Adjunct Professor; Bill Wolfe, N.J. PEER; Ed Merrill, Pompton Lakes Environmental Officer; and a DuPont Representative. 

Both Dupont US EPA Region 2 had confirmed their participation. So did the Passaic River Coalition.

But, curiously, just as I expected, they all backed out.

Why were those highly unusual move taken by those 3 groups?

We were told that the lame excuse EPA gave was that it was due to pending litigation. We don’t know what the excuses from Dupont and PRC were. But  We assume it was when they saw this:

conference announcement notes PEER, Dupont, EPA and PRC panel

So, the panel was reduced to myself and Jan Barry, former Record reporter and now an adjunct Ramapo professor.

Jan did a nice job presenting the history of the site, the Record’s excellent coverage, and the cleanup. Jan noted the explosive public reaction to recent disclosures of the vapor intrusion problem, the cancer cluster, and the down-river migration of mercury.

With EPA, Dupont, and PRC no shows, that gave me lots – lots – more time to rip the various failures (see above posts for most of that). I had fun and held nothing back! I’ll see if I can locate a video, I think it was taped.

And, before closing, I need to call bullshit on this From Passaic River Coalition’s 2012 Annual Report:

Pompton Lake Contamination

The PRC submitted comments to EPA about a proposed dredging plan to remove mercury contamination in Pompton Lake. The PRC felt the plan was not extensive enough and would not adequately protect recreational users of the lake or downstream water supply intakes. At the PRC’s suggestion, EPA consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and subsequently modified the dredging permit to treat a larger area of the lake.

In partnership with the citizen group, Pompton Lakes Residents for Environmental Integrity (PLREI), the PRC received a Technical Assistance Grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to hire Rich Shoyer of Synergy Environmental, Inc. to review technical data related to the site and present it to the public. The PRC also regularly participates in EPA’s Pompton Lakes Environmental Community Advisory Group.

PRC had no historical involvement in the Dupont cleanup and was installed in Pompton Lakes at the request of the DEP Commissioner. They only parachuted into the conflict to receive promised DEP grant funding.

The purpose was to undercut the advocacy of plume residents and to prevent them and the Edison Wetlands Association from receiving DEP and EPA Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) funding and leading the local advocacy efforts.

It was a very cynical and classic divide and conquer strategy – and it worked. The Pompton Lakes community was further polarized and the involvement of PRC and another group called PLREI splintered the community and made consensus impossible.

PRC did not testify at the EPA public hearing (see the transcript). So, that sure is one hell of a curious way of “reviewing technical data related to the site and presenting it to the public”.

And I know from direct first hand conversations with the professionals involved in the decision that the PRC claim taking credit for the USFWS consultation is false and a flat out lie.

PRC may have submitted written comments to that affect – which I will try to determine – but the Dupont cleanup issues were brought to USFWS attention by myself and that drove EPA’s decision regarding when and how to consult with USFWS as required by the RCRA regulations.

[full disclosure: I receive no funding for my work in Pompton Lakes and have no involvement or expectation of receiving funding under any EPA or DEP TAG grants.]

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Legislators Go All in With Gov. Christie On Sandy Rebuild Madness

April 26th, 2013 2 comments

Bills Would Strip Local Land Use Power – No Public Access Required 

Absurd Proposal to Build Homes on Piers in High Hazard Zones

Legislature Joins Gov. In Ignoring Climate Change Threats

To Bill Wolfe, director of the environmental group NJ PEER, “the Rutgers work shows how the FEMA maps underestimate risks.” He wants to see the new tool formally incorporated by the two agencies. ”Buildings and infrastructure like roads, water and sewer and storm water have useful lives of more than 50 years,” Wolfe said. “What we build today will see the Rutgers elevations.” ~~~ Sea-level map offers disturbing picture of Shore’s future – Philly Inquirer, 3/21/13

Back on March 4, a joint Assembly & Senate Environmental Committee hearing considered “for discussion only” a 9 bill package to guide shore recovery. We testified at that hearing and made specific recommendations, several of which were also made by former DEP Commissioner Mark Mauriello, a coastal expert  (see them here).

As a followup, yesterday the Senate Environment Committee took the next step and heard and released a 6 bill package.

I testified and reiterated some of my prior concerns based on the need to conduct FEMA mandated coastal hazard planning that reforms land use in the coastal zone. I advised the Committee of how California’s State Hazard Mitigation Plan describes the land use issues, which are totally ignored in NJ’s plan:

Land use change data for 2000-2005 indicate that hazard information continues to play a very minor role in land use decisions. In addition, land use controls typically remain an insignificant contributor to hazard mitigation efforts. ….

Simply not developing or limiting development to a certain type within hazard areas reduces the potential effects of a hazard dramatically and possibly eliminates any potential losses. While this is a very strong argument for hazard information to play a much larger role in land use decisions (and land use regulation to play a much larger role in hazard mitigation efforts), this change is unlikely to occur due to the inertia of planning and development decision-making.

Governor Christie has rejected consideration of land use reforms and instead chosen to emphasize rebuilding the development that got wiped out. His ONLY reform is reliance on new FEMA building elevations, with reliance on more costly and unsustainable beach replenishment and discredited engineered structures like sea walls and revetments.

[Clarification: The Gov.’s Plan belatedly supported a “neighborhood” scale buyout program from willing sellers, and the Gov. also supports construction of engineered dunes.]

The Legislature has now joined that ship of fools.

(read Tom Johnson’s story at NJ Spotlight:  Senate Committee Passes Package of Bills to Speed Post-Sandy Recovery)

None of our recommendations to consider climate change, sea level rise, vulnerability assessment, adaptation, “resilience”, or a Coastal Commission to oversee regional planning were considered – while horrible bills were moved, including a bill that would actually block reform efforts.

And I really mean “horrible” bills – irresponsible, reckless abdications of the Legislature’s responsibility to learn lessons from the Sandy disaster and reform coastal policies and get serious about climate change.

I)  Grandfather Existing Development – Rebuild the Same  – Repeat Failed Pattern – Block Reform

One bill (S2598) would exempt rebuilding of existing development to meet FEMA “Base Flood Elevations” from local land use laws. This essentially follows Governor Christie’s deregulatory approach.

The DEP already has waived permit requirements for land use reviews under CAFRA, waterfront development and sewer and water infrastructure. Without a DEP permit review, there is no way to implement any reforms – exemption of rebuilding amounts to putting the same highly vulnerable development in the same hazardous locations, a prescription for repeating the mistakes of the past.

Following the Governor’s approach, the Senate bill similarly would block local governments from implementing reforms under the MLUL planning and zoning powers. So, a forward thinking enlightened town could not conduct hazard planning and decide to revise master plans and zoning ordinances to restrict development in high hazard locations, including lands that will be eroded or inundated by high tides, sea level rise and coastal storms.

It will be impossible to implement reforms if existing vulnerable development is allowed to be rebuild with no DEP permit or local land use reviews.

[Note: USGS “LIDAR” is designed to target the most vulnerable locations, so that better protections can be put in place – the bill would block the ability of local governments to plan for a more resilient shore and accomplish USGS objectives:

“This work can help coastal communities understand where they are most vulnerable to future storms,” Stockdon said “and help decision makers at all levels create policies that protect their economic, environmental, and ecological health in the coastal areas most susceptible to extreme storm impacts.”

Remarkably, while the bill was eloquently opposed by the League of municipalities, it was supported – unconditionally – by Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club, who cited a $25,000 cost for a use variance. I was just floored by that. At least Sean Dixon of Clean OCean Action, who also supported the bill, specifically said the exemptions had to be made a part of a more comprehensive reform agenda for coastal resilience.

[Clarification: the exemption from local land use reviews would only apply to rebuilding that met the new FEMA BFE’s, so it would not be as vulnerable as the development that was wiped out. Again, like the Gov.’s approach, the legislature would ignore land use and rely heavily on elevating structures, instead of a “strategic retreat” approach and expansion of current protected areas of the barrier islands and back bays.]

II) Promote New Development on Piers in “High hazard Areas”

But it gets even worse – check this out.

Current law prohibits new residential development in mapped “coastal high hazard areas”. Atlantic City managed to secure an insane loophole from that law, allowing development of casino’s and hotels on piers along the oceanfront. But, thankfully, no one has been foolish enough to build there, even though it is allowed.

The new FEMA maps include new “coastal high hazard areas” along, among others, portions of the Hudson River, thus blocking proposed new development in those dangerous locations.

But, another bill (S2680), would reverse this longstanding State policy and allow new development of homes, hotels, and commercial development on piers in “coastal high hazard areas”.

III) Failure to Require Public Access

Last, a third bill (S2600) would require DEP to establish a plan and State priorities for beach replenishment projects funded and developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers

While the bill represents an improvement over the existing ad hoc situation where beach replenishment projects are developed and negotiated behind closed doors, the bill defers to the Christie Administration’s hostile policy regarding public access.

The Christie DEP has basically walked away from the public access issue and deferred to local governments, who are hostile to public access and state DEP mandates to provide access and supporting facilities, like parking, restrooms and access points along the shore.

Tim Dillingham of American Littoral Society provided superb testimony in support of requirements for public access – TJ quote captures the essence:

“Federal tax dollars should not be spent to protect private beaches where there is no access,’’ Dillingham told the committee.

IV) A Finger in the Fed’s Eye

NJ is appealing to Congress and the Obama administration for billions of taxpayer dollars to bailout the shore.

At a time when President Obama is calling for cuts to social security and Congress is slashing social safety net programs, it is simply untenable to continue to expect federal taxpayers to continue to provide billions of dollars to pump sand on NJ beaches and subsidize second homes on highly vulnerable barrier islands in conflict with federal policy and sane land use.

By acting so irresponsibly and failing to learn any lessons or make any reforms at the State level, the Legislature is thumbing their nose at Congress and the Obama Administration’s reform policies.

At some point in time, Congress is going to stop the bailouts and/or FEMA will ratchet down on hazard mitigation and land use planning requirements.

Passage of these kind of bills will accelerate federal reform efforts, and perhaps even jeopardize federal funding for NJ restoration.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

“Earth Week” Hiatus

April 20th, 2013 3 comments

Round Valley Reservoir

I’ll be going off line for “Earth Week” – just too much spin. I get dizzy even thinking about it.

[And don’t miss King Christie’s “Proclamation”!]

Go outside, read a book, and take in a good movie, like this:

At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like. In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow…
–Tim DeChristopher

Tim DeChristopher monkey-wrenched an illegal oil and gas lease auction in 2008, saving 150,000 acres of pristine Utah wilderness from exploitation. He was jailed for 21 months. Celebrate his release from federal prison on April 21, 2013 by joining our screening of the film BIDDER 70 this Earth Day, April 22, 2013.

When:  Monday, April 22 at 7PM sharp
Where: Darress Theatre, 615 Main St., Boonton, NJ 07005

Donations gratefully accepted. 

Filmtrailer More Info:, If you’re excited about this film, tell your friends about it! You can “like” BIDDER 70 on Facebook: and share BIDDER 70 stories on your personal page. Learn about his story and redefine justice for yourself. Choose your side.

Directions: via Email or call Jo at (973) 838-8576.

Sponsored by the Green Earth Ministry and Seeds of Peace social justice committees of the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Apes on The Beach

April 16th, 2013 1 comment

 Life Imitates Art?


Delaware Bay - Hope Creek Nuclear Plant in distance

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

DEP Budget Hearing a Bust

April 16th, 2013 1 comment

DEP Commissioner Martin (R) testifies to Senate Budget Cmte - Dave Barth (L), longtime head of DEP Financial Management, will retire in June. The look on Dave's face as he glances at Martin's awkward announcement of his retirement says it all. Martin was simply incapable of lauding the stellar career of a longtime public servant.

 Republicans Feel No Need To Lob Softball Questions

Business Lobbyists Sit in Back Rows With Smirks on Their Faces

Climate Change Totally Ignored

Today, the Senate Budget Committee reviewed the Christie DEP’s proposed FY’14 budget (see my series of live tweets of what went down at the hearing). (see also prior post on: Christie’s Warped Budget Priorities)

At a time when NJ is still suffering “unprecedented and widespread devastation” (OLS) that scientists suggest was the result of a climate change influenced extreme weather event, not one word was mentioned about climate change.

At a time when Gov. Christie and DEP are – at best – flat out ignoring climate change and defunding or dismantling existing DEP and BPU programs to secure reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, develop renewable energy, and adapt, legislators asked not one question about climate change. 

At an unprecedented time when DEP has 1) ignored multiple scientific recommendations and not adopted a single new regulatory standard to protect public health and the environment after more than 3 years, 2) adopted a blanket “waiver” rule, and 3) openly acknowledged that Gov. Christie’s “regulatory relief”, cost benefit, and unfunded mandate Executive Orders are blocking action, there was not one question on regulatory policy – or air or water pollution or land use.

Republicans are so confident and smug they didn’t even feel the need to lob softball questions, the typical practice to deflect attention from any critical or adversarial oversight questions posed by Democratic opponents.

Business groups feel so safe that they really didn’t have to show up and lobby – they know by now that DEP Commissioner Martin’s got their backs.

On a positive note, there was bi-partisan support for renewal of open space funding and requests that the Christie Administration support one of three pending bills. Martin failed to respond, stating that was a Governor’s call, not his

I urge you to read the OLS analysisand the DEP “response” to OLS questions, and DEP Commissioner’s testimony.

OLS asked specific questions, many about DEP’s steps to prepare for future storms and plans regarding Sandy, including the need to conduct vulnerability assessments and develop coastal plans. DEP failed  to provide answers, relying on vague and curt replies that essentially blew off the question entirely. The arrogance reeks.

Well, the Legislature now has another reason to pass a Coastal Commission bill – the executive branch is simply non-responsive

Commissioner Martin’s testimony did disclose some new things and he made some embarrasing mistakes:

1) New CAFRA Emergency Rule coming soon

Another DEP Emergency Rule will be enacted soon. This one will be a CAFRA rule, and designed to promote, deregulate and privatize review of Shore rebuilding.

An Emergency rule-making procedure is ill advised – this should be nipped in the bud by Legislators, who should demand that DEP comply with the regular rule-making procedures of the Administrative Procedures Act and not ram another pro development rule down the public’s throat.

Martin also stated that DEP will be issuing a lot of voluntary Guidance – DEP should not be issuing unilateral guidance but instead must rely on rules that are enforceable and allow for public participation.

2) Drinking Water Quality Institute

Senator Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer)

Senator Greenstein asked some questions on the status of the Drinking Water Quality Institute, the lack of a Chairman, and the lack of meetings –

But Greenstein did not ask Martin about what the DWQI failure to meet and DEP failure to implement their numerous scientific recommendations to upgrade drinking water standards means for the health of millions of NJ residents.

Martin simply dissembled and mislead – after 3 years, he hasn’t even submitted DWQI nominations to the Gov. Office for review. He again repeated that the Science Advisory Board was assisting in the science, a blatant violation of the NJ Safe Drinking Water Act, which expressly tasks the DWQI with that role. Martin said nothing about failure to adopt DWQI recommendations for numerous standards. But Martin did concede that the DWQI science was important and that he did not have plans to eliminate it – he’ll just continue to ignore it.

3) Garfield Chromium

Senator Pou asked Martin about the Garfield chromium site, recently listed under Superfund pursuant to a rare procedure due to a finding of significant immediate health threats determined by the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

Martin made a huge error and mistakenly claimed that it was a groundwater problem and there was “no direct impact to the public” –

I guess Irene Kropp didn’t brief him on another miserable example of complete breakdown in DEP oversight of the cleanup. For documentation of that failure, see the Bergen Record story:  A Neighborhood in Peril: Dangerous chromium spreads through Garfield groundwater

4) Recycling Fund diversions

Over $2 million collected to fund municipal and county recycling program is being transfered to Martin’s pet project to subsidize NJ businesses. These subsidies involve direct DEP technical support to business regarding compliance with environmental laws. The business subsidies are hidden behind an Orwellian new Office Martin created when he abolished the Offices of Policy & Planning and Climate Change, called the “Office of Sustainability and Green Energy”. This Office is responsible for Martin’s “transformation”, “economic development”, and “customer service” policies, and Christie’s “cost benefit analysis” reviews.

So, business gets subsidies and protections are rolled back, while effective local recycling programs are slashed.

Additionally, another $21.6 million in Recycling Fund monies are diverted to the General Fund to pay for some of Christie’s $1.5 billion corporate tax cuts.

5) Landfill Claims Funds Diverted 

As solar industry explores the siting of solar on old landfills, longstanding pollution problems at these old landfills due to inadequate closure are again getting public awareness and attention.

The Sanitary Landfill Closure and Contingency Funds were created by the Legislature to provide money to properly close landfills and to compensate nearby homeowners who suffered various injuries, including dimunition in property values, from odor or pollution impacts.

The Christie budget diverts $5 million from the Landfill Contingency Fund – ask the people in Roxbury who live near the Fenimore landfill about that.

6) Dry Cleaner Toxic Scam

Dry cleaners use highly toxic chemicals that cause significant risk to people who live nearby, contribute to violations of health based air pollution standards, and are responsible for hundreds of groundwater pollution and “vapor intrusion” cases.

Due to these severe environmental and public health threats, for years, DEP had been working on rules to phase out the use of these chemicals and require less toxic water based alternative cleaning agents.

Two years ago, Martin abandoned that effort and replaced a regulatory mandate with a voluntary incentive grants program, see:

Well, the $840,000 in funds for that grant program is now gone (see OLS, p. 7), so we now have the worst of all possible worlds:  an abandoned regulatory program and an unfunded voluntary grant program.

This is what happens when short term anti-regulatory ideology trumps sound public policy – we all breathe more toxic chemicals.

6) Transformation

Several times, Martin was asked questions about DEP staffing and Sandy response. Martin was asked about DEP’s preparation for and response to Sandy, particularly with respect to knocked out sewer and drinking water plants.

Martin repeatedly shamelessly lied that his “transformation” initiative had improved DEP’s capabilities to respond. That is just a flat out crock of shit.

DEP got caught with their pants down, and Martin’s dismantling of DEP programs and mismanagement made a bad situation far worse.

7) Sandy excuse for inaction

Martin suggested that Sandy was responsible for delaying several long delayed initiatives that were ready to go prior to the storm.

8. Martin Claims FEMA Recommended Regulatory Adoption of ABFE maps

Senator Sarlo asked Martin if DEP’s emergency rule adoption of FEMA’s draft ABFE maps was premature.

For the first time, to my knowledge, Martin claimed that FEMA recommended that DEP adopt the draft maps and that Gov. Christie followed FEMA’s recommendation.

I wonder if this is true. FEMA has an 18 – 24 month process for peer review and public comment on their draft ABFE maps. The DEP emergency rule derailed that quality assurance process.

A real reporter should get FEMA on the record on this specific question: Did FEMA recommend that DEP adopt the draft ABFE maps?

9) Reductions in CBT revenues not offset by General Fund

According to OLS:

  • Corporation Business Tax (CBT) revenues for FY 2014 total $100.3 million, a decrease of $12 million or 11 percent below the FY 2013 adjusted amount of $112.3 million

In prior years, reductions in dedicated tax funds were offset by increases in General Fund appropriations (OLS questions, p. 13) – but not this year, which means that CBT funded DEP programs are effectively cut.

10) $500,000 in clean water money transferred to cut trees in state forests

Speaking of CBT revenues – the budget proposes to transfer $500,000 in water monitoring and planning funds to the Bureau of Forestry (OLS analysis, p. 8.)

Forestry is developing plans to cut trees on state lands, under the guise of “forest stewardship” and habitat creation for certain migratory birds (more to come on this issue soon!)

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: