Archive for June, 2013

Gov. Christie’s Vetoes Reflect Right Wing Priorities That Are Out of Touch With NJ

June 29th, 2013 2 comments

Christie Defends Privatization, Corporate Power, Guns & Attacks on Women

Democrats Neutered by Sham “Bipartisanship” 

[Update: 7/10/13 – Colleen O’Dea at NJ Spotlight writes a good story:  Christie Vetoes Bill That Would Check His Power to Privatize – good fit with my initial observations with exception of the “balance” thing, which creates a form of false equivalence. As usual, the commenters get it – end update]

The Star Ledger budget signing story today mentioned that Governor Christie vetoed 8 Democratic bills in its headline, but failed to report exactly what those bills were,  explain why the Governor vetoed them, or draw any meaning from the Gov.’s exercise of the veto power.

I guess Trenton insiders are familiar with the substance of the vetoes, but the 99% of the rest of us aren’t.

This is the typical Trenton Statehouse biased journalistic way of hiding the Governor’s controversial and unpopular moves – while making him appear bipartisan.

No wonder the Gov. remains popular in the polls – the media consistently fails to report the substance of his unpopular policy agenda, while the Democratic leadership is complicit, thereby squelching progressive voices.

So, I figured I check out the Gov.’s website and find out what he was up to in exercising more record breaking veto power – what has been called “executive over-reach”.

On that website, the vetoes were summarized and a link was provided to an  “Omnibus Veto Message”, but the document is not formatted correctly and mostly illegible as posted, but seems to state that the vetoed bills were:

not part of the negotiated appropriation, were proposals that would deplete the state’s fiscal resources, restructure government in a significant manner, and alter the policy and spending priorities set forth in the appropriations Act.

As suspected, the Governor’s veto’s illustrate his right wing policy agenda and political commitments to privatization and corporate power, and opposition to women’s health.

This is what the weekend and compromised Christiecrat Democrats get by playing “bipartisan” political games.

Here is the list of the 8 bill’s Christie vetoed:


SCS for S-968, 1494/A-998 (Weinberg, Turner/Vainieri Huttle, Watson Coleman) – ABSOLUTE – Establishes procedures and standards regarding public service privatization contracts

S-2188/A3775 (Gordon,Weinberg/Wagner,Eustace,DeAngelo,Benson)  ABSOLUTE – Requires employer notification when relocating call center services outside the United States

S-2644/A-4233 (Vitale, Gill, Weinberg/Oliver, Prieto, Quijano) – ABSOLUTE –  Expands Medicaid eligibility pursuant to federal “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”

S-2825/A-4172 (Weinberg, Greenstein, Sarlo/Mosquera, Lampitt, Stender, Jasey, Watson Colman, Wisniewski, Caride) – ABSOLUTE – Makes FY 2013 supplemental appropriation to DOH for $7,453,000 for family planning services

A-3668/SCS for S-2467, 2471 (Jasey, McKeon, Cryan, Johnson, Quijano/Gill, Weinberg, Codey) -ABSOLUTE – Prohibits investment by State of pension and annuity funds in companies manufacturing, importing, and selling assault firearms for civilians use

A-3807/S-2595 (Caputo, Tucker, Wagner, Eustace/Rice, Gill) – ABSOLUTE – ‟Corporate Disinvestment Property Tax Relief Act”; appropriates $13.5 million

A-3878/S-2673 (Conaway, Riley, Lampitt, Eustace/Gill)  ABSOLUTE- Requires Commissioner of Banking and Insurance to establish public awareness campaign about new federally required health insurance exchange

A-4171/S-2824 (Wagner, Vainieri Huttle, Stender, Quijano, Eustace/Weinberg, Gill) – ABSOLUTE – Provides Medicaid coverage for family planning services to individuals with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level

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South Mountain Reservation Tree Cutting Scheme Improved Slightly

June 27th, 2013 6 comments

After Criticism, County Agrees to Exceed DEP’s Minimum 2 inch Twig Replacement Size

DEP can’t see the forest for the basal area of the twigs

DEP surely can’t see the park’s history, aesthetics and users’ enjoyment 

Olmstead they’re not

[Updates below]

[Note: This post focuses on DEP tree replacement regulations and policies, not the merits of the South Mountain project. And yes, I understand that these rules are “stricter” than the “no net loss” standard]

The State House Commission today heard a DEP proposal (see agenda item #11), acting on behalf of Essex County, to divert public park lands as part of a project in South Mountain Reservation, along a 1.6 mile stretch of South Orange Avenue County Rt. 510 (which bisects the park).

The plan involves cutting down 360 mature trees.

DEP’s Green Acres diversion regulations were applied by a state certified forester for Essex County. DEP approved the forester’s tree replacement calculations for those 360 trees. The replacement plan on the SHC agenda was for 8,500 trees of a 2 inch caliper.

DEP diversion rules require:

i. All reasonable efforts shall be made to preserve trees of significant size (with a DBH of 18 inches or greater), including, but not limited to, if feasible, relocation of infrastructure, roadways and buildings. Removal of trees of significant size (with a DBH of 18 inches or greater) from parkland requires the specific approval of the Department and may require additional compensation;

ii. The plan shall indicate the total number of trees over six inches DBH to be removed, the size and species of each such tree to be removed, and the total number of each species to be removed;

iii. The number of replacement trees to be planted shall be calculated on a square inch by square inch basis; however, the number of replacement trees may include trees required to be planted as a mitigation measure by another Department permitting program for the same project for which the disposal or diversion of parkland is proposed or the substitution of comparable wooded replacement land;

iv. The size of the replacement trees shall not be less than two ­inch caliper;

v. The plan may take into account the condition of trees which are dead, dying or diseased, and may assert preexisting legal rights pertaining to tree removal (such as tree clearing rights in utility corridors), in proposing replacement trees or monetary compensation for tree replacement;

I don’t know if all reasonable efforts were made to avoid cutting large trees.

I do know that, despite existing regulations that allow DEP to require more compensation when large mature trees are cut, DEP agreed to the minimum requirements and allowed the County to replace those 360 mature trees with 8,500 2 inch trees, not much more than twigs.

I testified to the SHC in opposition to the DEP approved Essex County plan with respect to tree replacement.

I reminded the SHC that this was similar to my prior testimony to the SHC regarding DEP’s sweetheart lease deal with Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. for gas pipelines across State Parks and forests.

That prior testimony had an impact. It: 1) convinced the SHC to quadruple (4x) DEP’s negotiated lease price and 2) prompted Senator Smith to sponsor legislation (S826, which is stalled) that would revise the way DEP calculates the value of state leases, to better reflect their true market value.

Similar to the way DEP technical appraisal methods and regulations undervalue state lands that Tennessee gas exploited, DEP’s tree replacement methods greatly undervalue trees.

Trees have many positive features and characteristics that are not considered in DEP’s diversion regulations.

[Note; in a rare moment of professionalism, DEP’s testimony, to their credit, specifically acknowledged that I was correct on this criticism.]

In addition, there are locational factors that strongly influence the ecological, historic, aesthetic, visual, recreational, and land use “value” of a tree.

Trees have market and non-market values.

For example, for obvious reasons, a beautiful mature tree in Central Park is “worth” far more than the exact same tree in a Sussex County forest.

But DEP’s tree replacement regulations do not allow those obvious reasons to be considered. They consider only “basal area” and “caliper”.

South Mountain Reservation – an Olmstead brothers design – is a key part of the oldest County Parks Department in the country.

It serves as an urban greenbelt, dividing some of the most densely populated land in the world.

Thousands of people drive through, walk in, see, enjoy, and use South Mountain Reservation every day.

Clearly, DEP minimum 2 inch twig “tree replacement” requirements are totally inadequate for compensating for cutting mature trees in South Mountain Reservation.

After I made these points clear to the SHC, and urged them to respond the same way they did to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline lease giveaway, a forester representing Essex County rose to speak.

He agreed to go beyond DEP’s minimum 2 inch twig requirements and agreed to plant 4 inch trees – at least 6,500 of them. (It was unclear just when this 4 inch 6,500 tree replacement plan arose. It was not the DEP approved plan on the SHC agenda.)

So, this amounts to about a 50% increase over the DEP approved 2 inch twig plan.

Advocates for Essex County Parks and South Mountain reservation need to monitor the County to assure that this agreement is honored.

Based on the County’s testimony, it is not clear that final plans are in place for this tree replacement work. Additionally, the County indicated that the project was federally funded, so the money to honor this pledge may not be 100% federal funded, which may be resisted by the County.

At any rate, we’ll consider this a small victory and a valuable use of a few hours.

We plan on approaching Senator Smith to see if he is interested in a bill to expand DEP’s tree replacement methods and standards with legislative ones to assure that this doesn’t happen again.

This is more of the kind of abuse we see – certified by a state certified forester – on issues related to cutting trees.

DEP can’t see the forest for the basal area of the twigs.

DEP surely can’t see the park and its history and aesthetics and users’ enjoyment – Olmstead they’re not.

I hope the folks at NJ Audubon et al that support the “Forest Stewardship” bill reconsider in light of exactly these kinds of problems.

[End Note – for those interested in Senator Smith’s reform bill, we previously wrote;

Economic Value of State lands  – S826

This bill grew out of the debacle over the Tennessee Gas Pipeline lease.

I wrote about this set of issues numerous times:

According to the bill summary:

  1. This bill would provide that, when determining the value of
  2. lands based upon their intended use upon conveyance, the revenue
  3. generation potential of the land, i.e., how much revenue would be
  4. generated from the land if the sale, exchange, lease, easement,
  5. right-of-way, or other similar property interest is granted, would be
  6. required to be taken into consideration and calculated as part of the
  7. value of the land, and this amount would be the minimum value that
  8. may be accepted by the State in exchange for the conveyance of the
  9. lands, with one exception.

[Update  #1 – I am getting some pushback from knowledgeable forestry friends about my characterization of a 2 inch caliper tree as a “twig”. Specifically:

FYI, friend just told me that 2″ caliper trees are about 10-12 years old, 12-14 ft high with a 6 foot canopy, not really a twig. 4″ caliper would be approx 20 feet tall, 12 foot canopy and weigh 1200lbs each – a bear to plant.

I stand by that, in the context of comparison to 100+ year old mature trees that are being cut in an Olmstead designed park.

And none of those details about 2 inch caliper trees takes away from my essential points: the facts that: 1) DEP regulations ignore critically important features and that 2) DEP approved the minimum that their own flawed rules would allow, despite the ability to require more aggressive tree replanting.

or that Essex county agreed to DOUBLE  DEP’s minimum 2 inch caliper.

[Update #2 – The Lorax takes liberties with language.

Is it technically accurate to describe a 2 inch caliper young tree as a “twig”?

Of course not. Friends warn me that I destroy the credibility of my criticism by doing that.

But is it an appropriate way to describe them in the context of DEP tree replacements for cutting mature trees in an Olmstead Park? (particularly when DEP’s so called regulatory tree protection standards basically boil down the beauty of a tree to biomass and basal area.)

I think so, or I wouldn’t have used the word. I’m not writing here for an audience of professional foresters or for a scientific journal.

And yes, I know that about 1,500 trees in the Park were blown down by Sandy – far more than will be cut by this project, some of which will be replanted.

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Support NJ Dreamers

June 25th, 2013 1 comment

“Get up, Get down – there’s a People’s Movement in this Town!”

Urge Assembly to pass the “Tuition Equality Act” (A4225)

NJ Dreamers rally on State House steps (6/24/13)

Last week, I went to Trenton for the familiar rag: in this case, to the Assembly Budget & Appropriations Committee to testify against the “forest stewardship” bill.

I always get there early, and typically am the first person in the room.

But, something was very different this time.

The hearing room was jammed – and not with the same old tired and cynical faces of the corporate lobbyists who work the dark side in Trenton.

Nope. The room was packed with hopeful and pumped up young people – the youngest and most diverse crowd I’ve had the pleasure to be among at a Trenton legislative hearing. This is what democracy looks like! Quite refreshing! (and I didn’t have my camera!)

There were so many people attending, the Chairman asked them to leave temporarily due to fire/safety codes – and to come back when their bill was called, the “Tuition Equality Act” – Assembly Bill No. 4225.

I later listened to their amazing and powerfully inspiring testimony – of how they worked hard to overcome what seem to me to be almost – by design – insurmountable legal, economic, political, and cultural barriers to their fair shot at the American Dream. An oppressive scheme to lock in a disadvantaged underclass and deny opportunity and mobility.

As their testimony washed over me, I realized that I really had no idea – at a personal and emotional level – of how ugly, oppressive, unfair, and shameful the economic and political system in which they struggle for equality really is.

Those compelling stories of struggle and overcoming brutal injustices really made what I had gone to Trenton to discuss seem so small, almost trivial.

These were the NJ Dreamers, asking only for a fair shot and to be treated just like any other NJ resident and be charged in state tuition at NJ’s public colleges and universities.

Assemblyman Jay Webber (R-Morris) relaxes before Assembly session (6/24/13)

As expected, they faced rampant and thinly veiled ignorance and anti-immigrant animus by Republicans on the Committee, backed by a grand total of 2 people who testified to oppose the bill.

Assemblyman Webber  (R-Morris) took the lead in this attack, and he should really be ashamed of – and shamed for – his performance. Webber hit all the right wing anti-immigrant talking points, but did a good job of masking them with his Harvard Law School training and rhetorical skills. A real dangerous man to watch.

[For glaring examples of the hatred, ignorance, and racist anti-immigrant sentiments Webber is channeling, just see the reader comments  on this Star Ledger story. Shame on the Democrats for capitulating to this garbage and not calling it what it is. Dems are unprincipled Cowards.]

I was so happy when a brave young woman called out one person whose testimony referred to them as “illegal aliens”.

I spoke with her after the hearing to compliment her on that pushback.

Yesterday, I again came across the NJ Dreamers.

Their bill was not posted for an Assembly vote – hopefully, it will be posted and pass tomorrow, which is effectively the last opportunity to vote on it before summer recess.

Support NJ’s Dreamers! Reach out to your legislators and demand that they pass the “Tuition Equality Act” – Assembly Bill No. 4225.

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Coroner’s Report: Open Space Funding and “Forest Stewardship” Bills Suffer Similar Fate

June 25th, 2013 2 comments

Before Rigor Mortis Sets In, A Quick Anatomy of Two Debacles

Yesterday, the Assembly effectively killed the proposed $17 billion sales tax diversion to fund open space for the next 30 years (for news coverage, see Tom Johnson’s at NJ Spotlight Open Space Funding Could Be DOA” – although Angela Dellisanti of AP “Vote Delayed on Open Space Ballot Question” has a more optimistic, and I think mistaken, take.)

Counterintuitively, in passing the “Forest Stewardship” bill and sending it to the Governor’s desk, the Assembly likely killed that bill too, because in an unusual outbreak of democratic floor debate, Republicans spoke out strongly against commercial logging in State forests and marshaled 27 party line votes opposed to the bill. Whether that was just an opportunistic partisan jab or a sincere policy opposition remains to be seen (news coverage: Star Ledger: “NJ Assembly passes “forest stewardship” bill to allow logging in state forests).

So, before rigor mortis sets in and all the forensic tests and lab results arrive, I’d like to provide a rapid preliminary Coroner’s Report describing the likely causes of death:

I) Open Space Funding

The most basic reasons why the “Keep It Green” (KIG) coalition failed were:

1) A toxic mix of Support for, Fear of, and Deference to Governor Christie.

Gov. Christie made  a firm commitment to secure a sustainable source of funding for open space.

The KIG  coalition never once demanded that he honor that pledge and never held the governor accountable to that promise (and still hasn’t – and likely never will – hold him accountable for failure to deliver).

Instead, KIG allowed Christie to dictate the policy terms of debate on the issue, a formula that was designed to fail.

Specifically, the Governor simply said no new taxes and no new debt. That posture killed the most appropriate means to fund the program.

Instead of pushing back against the Gov.’s  arbitrary and ideologically imposed  constraints – especially on the open space funding issue which the Gov. himself had promised to address –  the KIG coalition again deferred to the Gov.

That deference and the acceptance of those constraints is what led them to manufacture the seriously flawed proposal to divert the sales tax.

It also put the political onus on Democrats in the legislature to craft a solution. And that came back to bite KIG in the ass, big time.

2) Lack of a Plan – financial, strategic, land use, and for allocation of the money

It seems that basic information and analysis were lacking from the entire debate and that the KIG coalition failed to do their homework.

That’s why they were blindsided at the last minute by the OLS analysis that showed the program would divert $17 BILLION in sales tax revenues. That destroyed KIG’s credibility.

In addition to that huge failure on the revenue side, the KIG also seemed to lack an effective way to convey answers to basic questions like how much land is left now, how much will be lost to development, how much is regulated, and what $17 billion would buy.

The KIG coalition also never proposed reforms to longstanding flaws in the open space program, especially the lack of a strategic plan to target resources, political manipulation of priorities, and restrictions on purchase of regulated and undevelopable lands.

KIG also seemed to fail to articulate the urban investment side of the open space program,sufficiently to give urban democrats sufficient cover to support the program

3) Hubris and Selfishness

The KIG coalition – a largely elite, wealthy, white, suburban, republican leaning group – was righteously blind to the interest groups, the legislative politics, and an appreciation of how their proposed sales tax diversion scheme would be perceived.

It was way over the top and grossly selfish.

[Note: while we’re on the credibility front, KIG cites county and municpal Resolutions, impliedly in support of the sales tax diversion bill. But that is highly misleading. Those Resolutions support the following, NOT the sales tax:

_____ County supports establishment of a long-term, dedicated source of state funding for these purposes.

And in the process, KIG embarrassed McKeon and Smith, the bill’s sponsors, who could not convince their Democratic leadership or colleagues to go along, while giving Republicans rope to hang them.

Other than all that, the KIG ran a fine campaign – way to go! Heck of a job Tommy!

It was only their demure and deferential politics, fear of the Gov., lack of analysis, strategy, tactics, and message that failed.  No biggie, right?

II) “Forest Stewardship”

The fact that I – as well as the main stream media – have to put the title of the bill in quotes basically says it all – the initiative lacks credibility and can’t pass the straight face test.

Or as one sage public official put it:

Cutting a 100-year-old oak is about as popular as shooting puppies,” Allen said. ~~~ Star Ledger 12/12/11

My sense is that Gov. Christie will veto the bill – I can’t see him ignoring Republican colleagues in the Assembly.

Plus, DEP’s June 10 letter rejected the Forest Stewardship Council’s oversight, which is the main structural pillar of the bill and an essential safeguard. That letter basically sets up a veto.

The lack of a fiscal analysis also helps the Gov. claim that the program is an expensive new initiative that NJ can’t afford right now.

Christie’s other option would be a conditional veto, but I can’t see how a CV can resolve all the issues raised by Assembly Republicans and the bill’s opponents. including Sierra Club, Environmental Federation, Delaware Riverkeeper, and NJ Envrionmental Lobby, who all will seek a veto. Those groups have larger memberships  and stronger media and political clout than supporters.

The conservation groups that support the bill – NJ Audubon, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, Highlands Coalition, and NJ Conservation Foundation – are going to have to defend that support, especially in light of DEP’s rejection of FSC. The FSC certification was their cover for supporting the bill.

It could get very ugly, if reporters start asking questions about Audubon’s forestry work and FSC certification, particularly in light of DEP’s opposition to FSC.

It would be very interesting if the Gov. CV’d to eliminate the FSC – that would isolate Audubon, as I’m sure the other conservation groups supporting the bill would not support legislative concurrence with the Gov.’s CV.

Best guess at this point is that the Gov. will issue an absolute veto. DOA.

And that’s the view from the Coroner’s desk.

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Are There Bad Faith Dealings on “Forest Stewardship” Bill?

June 24th, 2013 1 comment

 Legitimate Differences in Intepretation? Or Misleading Statements?

The Bill’s Supporters Must Clarify – In Writing – Before Any Asssembly Vote Today

The Star Ledger finally reports on the recent development on the controversial “forest stewardship” bill, which is scheduled for full Assembly floor vote today (see: Bill up for vote in N.J. Assembly would allow logging on state land).

After reading the Ledger story, there seems to be, at best, a serious misunderstanding of the bill (which I doubt), or flat out bad faith dealings by the sponsors.

[and this is stated as the scientific rationale for the bill:

The idea, on its surface, is simple: Clear out trees from overcrowded land and open up the forest canopy, letting in sun light and spurring new growth.

Surely, the sponsors know that more forest disturbance and sunlight on the forest floor create more edge habitat and bring more invasive species, respectfully, that make the deer population larger and the browse problem worse. That’s why they passed the Highlands Act, to preserve large contiguous tracts of forest, severely restrict any forest fragmentation and disturbance, and maximize canopy cover. WTF are they thinking? Or are the just being spun by the foresters and the mitigation whores and covertly seeking to attract a timber industry to NJ?]

The misunderstanding revolves around three major things (which should not be in doubt this late in the game):

  • the role of the Forest Stewardship Council and FSC standards and certification;
  • exactly how the public is involved in forest planning and management decisions; and
  • whether the various protective environmental  “standards” in the bill are enforceable

All of these issues are impacted by a recent change in law recommended by Gov. Christie’s “Red Tape Commission”, which flat out prohibits DEP enforcement of what are known as “Guidance documents” (see P.L. 2011, c. 215).

This law applies, because all the technical standards that serve as safeguards, including the FSC standards and certification process, are left to the DEP’s discretion and implementation of them will be via what are legally the equivalent of “Guidance documents”. The bill does not require that DEP adopt regulations to administer the forest stewardship program or that the safeguards in the bill be adopted as regulations. Without regulatory status, those safeguards are purely voluntary and left to the DEP’s discretion.

[Example: DEP has a “by invitation only” stakeholder process. DEP has a list of friendly supportive “stakeholders”. DEP used this list and met secretly with them in negotiating this bill. The public was excluded. Is DEP going to rely on the same sham for public involvement in forest management plans? DEP could never get away with that in a regulatory permit program.]

According to the Ledger story, the sponsors insist that the FSC standards and certification will govern the DEP’s forest planning and management process.

But many who’d objected previously now support the bill or have remained silent as it moved through committees in the Assembly. McKeon said that’s because he made numerous changes, the biggest of which was adding a requirement the program meet standards set by non-profit Forest Stewardship Council and that DEP seek certification from it.

But, as I wrote last week, DEP has rejected the FSC certification, and nothing in the bill mandates that DEP comply.

Here is DEP’s official position on FSC:

While we respect the FSC and recommended incorporating FSC standards into the legislation, this mandatory certification is an un-nececessary and costly requirement. The DEP is the steward of NJ’s environment. We do not need our work validated by somebody else. Moreover, this un-necessary requirement adds a significant financial cost to the program

The Ledger reports that the sponsors met to discuss these issues, and are pointing the finger at the Office of Legislative Services:

He and the Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel met last week with McKeon and state Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), another primary sponsor, to ask for changes. The lawmakers, relying on guidance from the Office of Legislative Services, said the changes were unnecessary.

My bullshit meter is pinned.

I virtually guarantee that the sponsors can not produce a written OLS opinion to that affect. I’d be glad to eat my words, but am sure they won’t. So, Smith and McKeon, consider this a public challenge.

Since the inception of the bill, I have testified in support of [the need for regulations] and have advocated that the bill include regulatory standards.

The sponsors fully understand the issues. They rejected a regulatory approach and now are embarrassed to defend a voluntary bill, especially after DEP rejected independent FSC overnight.

They have refused to require that DEP promulgate regulations because of two reasons:

1) the forestry industry strongly opposes regulation of logging practices; and

2) after 4 years, the DEP still has failed to promulgate “forest stewardship” standards and regulations required under a 2009 law for private lands. (See P.L. 2009, c. 256).

The current forestry bill provides that the DEP public lands “stewardship plans” be “consistent with” these private land regulations required under PL 2009, c. 256.

The sponsors know that the term “consistent with” is not legally equivalent to the term “comply with”.

So, if this is the alleged regulatory hook, it is no hook at all, its a fig leaf.

They played the same BS game with the provision that the plans be “consistent with” the Highlands Act. What does that mean? Who determines “consistency” and how?  On what basis? Do they think we are stupid?

Plus, DEP has failed to propose these regulations so we have no idea if they are adequate safeguards in them. Rules just don’t exist. Virtually every major DEP program operates under rules. Why should logging of public lands be any different?

Instead of confronting DEP about this failure to implement the 2009 law and adopt regulations, Senator Smith has dodged a confrontation and refused to repeat what he views as a mistake.

At any rate, at this point, the conservation groups the Ledger claims still support the bill – after DEP rejected FSC – must public clarify their position, as I urged in an open letter to them.

Here’s what the Ledger says: (but fails to note that DEP rejected the FSC certification that garnered their support):

The measure has received support from the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, the Highlands Coalition, New Jersey Farm Bureau and the Audubon Society. “All of the major environmental groups are a part of signing onto this,” McKeon said, noting two big exceptions.

Those groups must speak out publicly, and right now.

Here’s my letter today to Speaker Oliver:

Dear Speaker Oliver:

I request that you postpone the scheduled vote today on A2837 (“Forest Stewardship”).

In its current form, the bill lacks adequate safeguards to require public involvement in forest management planning and decisions and that any commercial logging in our state forests be done in an environmentally responsible way to protect NJ’s natural resources and water quality.

The sponsors promised to draft additional amendments that would provide those safeguards, to assure that the voluntary standards in the bill could be enforceable.

This is made necessary due to a recent change in law that prohibits the enforcement of Guidance documents (see P.L. 2011. c.215)

Additionally, conservation groups only agreed to support the bill under the assurance that the independent Forest Stewardship Council would certify state DEP forest management plans and oversee the DEP program.

However, in a last minute June 10, 2013 letter to Chairman Albano, DEP rejected the FSC certification model.

The bill does not mandate that DEP adopt FSC standards and certification program, so they will not do so.

Given that FSC certification was the basis for conservation groups support and that is now gone, good faith dealing requires that the bill beheld.

I appreciate your favorable consideration.

Bill Wolfe, Director, NJ PEER

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