Archive for November, 2013

Pinelands Commission Is Transparent – Transparently Corrupt, Cynical, and Cowardly

November 29th, 2013 No comments


I’m not sure why you consider the publishing of this document to be cynical; I believe our process is quite transparent, and consistent with our MOA procedure. ~~~ Pinelands Commission Chairman, Mark Lohbauer  11/28/13 personal email to the author’s 11/27/13 objection to the MOA review procedure

“I honestly think the agency is selling its soul for $8 million – It’s late afternoon, before Thanksgiving, and this is the first time we’ve seen any of this language. So everybody is supposed to be prepared a week from Monday to say their final words on this topic?” ~~~ Carleton Montgomery, executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance quoted in Press of Atlantic City, Nov. 27, 13

cyn – i – cal   adj:

  • selfishly or callously calculating
  • selfish and dishonest in a way that shows no concern about treating other people fairly
  • contemptuous, mocking

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving and didn’t allow the Pinelands Commission’s Wednesday afternoon release of the draft Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to interfere with the digestion and family moments.

Aside from the big FUCK YOU to the public implied by the extraordinary timing of the public release – far beyond the well known holiday weekend news dump –  i.e. the 3 minute comment period; the accelerated review procedure (1 hearing on December 9); and the 5 day post hearing written comment period deadline (December 14);  – there are many new major substantive issues now on the table.

Please note, given the large number of individuals that are anticipated to attend and present comment at the public hearing, all speakers will be limited to 3 minutes.

As I predicted, the BL England repowering December 31 go/no go deadline is driving the Commission’s review process. It is obvious that Gov. Christie’s puppet – Pinelands Commission Executive Director Wittenberg – is calling the shots and twisting arms of the Commissioners.

I can specifically recall raising the BL England deadline with the Commission and warning ED Wittenberg that if the Commission were to wait until after the Gubernatorial election and then ram through public hearings in December then their credibility would be destroyed. Well, that’s exactly what happened here.

But, as I feared, instead of listening to the public testimony thus far as a foundation to reject the application, the Commission and South Jersey Gas Co. cynically have used the public testimony at a series of informal public meetings since June to flag major flaws in the application and review process, and have used the draft MOA to correct those flaws.

Essentially, we tipped our hand and the lawyers for SJG and the Christie Administration used it against us. I’ve seen this cynical abuse numerous times. The public is in a catch 22 – damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If you do raise a fatal flaw, the corporations and their captured bureaucrats fix it. If you don’t raise the issue, you have no ability to raise it in court when you sue to stop the project.

There are several examples where this abuse is very obvious –

To document that abuse, all you need to do is compare the draft MOA with Commission staff’s August 28, 2013 presentation of the SJG project and staff review  and the South Jersey Gas Co. September 27, 2013 presentation of the project to the Commission.

There are many substantive documents and issues discussed in the MOA that were never presented to the public or publicly discussed by Commission staff or SJG.

Why does the draft MOA – the culmination of an 18 month review process that began in April 2012 – include new issues and documents that were never publicly presented by staff, or the applicant SJG or discussed by Commissioners?

Some of those issues include major topics, like 1) demonstration of need for the pipeline project; 2) the BL England plant repowering issues;  3) the need for the BL England plant; 4) a POWERGEM energy model allegedly reviewed by staff; 5) the recommendations of PJM regional grid operator;  6) the reliability of SJG system (some of this was discussed); 7) BPU jurisdiction and role; 8. basis for an “equivalent level of protection”; and 9) a DEP air quality modeling analysis requested by the Commission.

Amazingly, NONE of this was presented to the public by the Commission staff or the applicant thus far!

The inclusion of PJM material is particularly disturbing.

I wrote Chairman Lohbauer on 11/12/13 to request that the Commission determine whether the BL England plant had bid and cleared the PJM’s May 2013 power capacity auction.  If they had not, then there would be no need to rush the review of the project because BL England might not be a viable project. Lohbauer rejected that request on 11/14/13 with this claim:

No, I do not intend to contact PJM: their requirements are not pertinent to ours. The Commission is going to follow its process on this application dictated by the requirements of our own inquiry, as it does any other. I do not intend to raise these issues at the P&I Committee for that reason

(PJM is not pertinent? Then why was PJM analyses in the MOA? And I didn’t ask Lohbauer to “contact PJM” – I asked him to determine whether BL England cleared the PJM capacity auction. I contacted PJM and was told that under PJM rules, that information is confidential. But obviously, SJG knows because it impacts the project financing and schedule).

Another means of documenting his abuse is to review the critical flaws I have written about here, based on reviews of the Commission’s meeting minutes and some of the documents in the record (see especially this post where I criticized Counsel Roth’s biased statements in support of the project. Curiously, all of my criticisms are remedied in the draft MOA. But the timing will tell the tale).

Or compare some of Kirk Moore’s excellent news coverage to the MOA (see this and this) – it is clear that the flaws Kirk correctly wrote about were “corrected in the MOA.

Or review the critical testimony of Jeff Tittel of Sierra Club, who flagged many flaws in energy planning and regulatory review issues.

It is a deeply cynical abuse that the Commission used all the public criticism to “beef up” the MOA and correct the flaws in the review process, instead of using it to reject the proposed project.

That abuse is actually far worse that the abusive way the draft MOA was made public – 12 hours before Thanksgiving – and the compressed public hearing procedures.

We have a lot of work to do in a very litttle time, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

More to follow.

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Walnford – Allentown – Crosswicks Loop

November 28th, 2013 No comments

old mill at Walnford Park

Things to be thankful for.

While there are no lovely Hunterdon County rolling hills to get the heart pumping, the nearby rural roads of Burlington County and historical farms and villages provide a great bike ride.

Some scenes along my favorite route from my new Bordentown home: hit links for info on these places: Walnford Park (Monmouth County); Allentown; Crosswicks



Allentown, NJ




Crosswicks, NJ


Crosswicks (Friends Meeting, 1773)



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Taking A Short View on How Spin Works To Mislead People

November 27th, 2013 No comments

How A NJ Environmental Source Supported a Story Praising Gov. Christie on Climate Change

Today, Scott Gurian at NJ Spotlight profiles John Miller, cofounder and legislative committee chair for the New Jersey Association for Floodplain Management (NJAFM). (see:

I have praised Miller for speaking out regarding the science:

Ken Miller was very blunt, and repeatedly called out the Gov. for false statements. Prof. Psuty was very clear and comfortable in talking about the implications of his science, and had the best quote in the AC press story:

“I’m afraid when I hear our local politicians talk about the dunes, they think the dunes solve everything and that is just not the case.”

I also praised Miller for his clear communication on risks and his criticism of NJ’s policy response to Sandy, e.g. see:

And Professor Miller warned:

It is estimated sea levels will rise between 2.5 and 6 feet by the end of the century. If those forecasts prove accurate, New Jersey’s effort to require those rebuilding to elevate at least one foot above the current base flood mark is not enough, said Ken Miller, a geologist and sea level rise expert.

“If New Jersey wants to be moving forward to incorporate sea level rise, there needs to be a minimum of two feet above base flood elevation in the current maps,” he said.

Sea level rise was responsible for an additional 38,000 homes to flood during Sandy, Miller said.

But, moving beyond Mr. Miller, the NJ Spotlight profile provides an opportunity for me to engage in a little inside baseball and followup on a recent post regarding a deeply troubling and highly misleading NY Daily News column.  (see:

Remarkably, that column favorably compared NJ Gov. Christie to NY Gov. Cuomo on climate change policy.

That story not only praised Gov. Christie on climate change and his consideration of coastal development risks, but it stated that he listened to scientific experts and made decisions based on their recommendations, see:

I spent several hours trying to find out how NY Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez could have made that mistake.

No NJ  environmental reporter would ever have written that story, because they are aware of Gov. Christie’s horrible record on climate change and coastal development, if not fully aware of the Gov.’s veto of the Hudson River piers bill.

I called Gonzalez 3 times and left detailed messages on his tape. He did not return the calls.

I called Mr. Miller and left a detailed message on his tape. Miller did not return my call.

But, I got emails from friends and spoke to knowledgeable and involved sources in NY.

Readers will be surprised – and might find it difficult to believe – what I found out.

According to my sources, the embarrassingly wrong Gonzalez story was teed up by former Gov. Corzine aid and current NJ environmentalist Deb Mans, head of NY/NJ Baykeeper. 

I was told that Mans gave Ganzalez the Christie veto message and a letter from NJ Floodplain Assc. requesting a veto. Obviously, providing that information implies that the Gov. based his veto on the NJ Flood Plain Assc. request.

Mans confirmed that in a Nov. 15 email, where she takes credit for the Gonzalez story:

From: Debbie Mans []
Sent: Friday, November 15, 2013 4:14 PM
Cc:; Tim Dillingham; Cindy Zipf (Clean Ocean Action); Suzanne y. Mattei;; Paul Gallay;;
Subject: Re: questions
Hi Marcy

FYI — we worked with Juan on this column.� Debbie

But Mans subsequently backed off that when I confronted and criticizer her for doing that. Mans claimed that she only provided the Gov. veto message and that any mistakes made by Gonzalez in interpreting it were his own.

Pushing back on what I perceived as a lie, on Nov. 19, I wrote to Mans:

Deb – further conversations about the Gonzalez column from those directly involved suggests that you did not give me the full story and in fact, you gave me a misleading half truth.

Specifically, I was told that you gave Gonzalez the Flood plan managers assc. letter requesting a veto AND the veto statement.

You did not reveal the former in your prior note to me.

Obviously, providing both those pieces of info strongly suggests a connection, which Gonzalez made in saying Christie listened to professionals.

So, you spun the narrative.

Deb denied that – An hour later, she wrote me this email response:


I have also heard from people who spoke to you directly and confirmed what I originally emailed you.  You have been told both by me and an independent source that what you wrote below is false.  I would imagine that knowingly publishing something that you know is false is indeed a serious matter.  Debbie

So, there it is – a he said she said pathetic little story – but a huge mistake nonetheless.


In a continuing effort to get to the bottom of this, here are some questions I just posed to Mr. Miller as comments on the NJ Spotlight profile:

Would Mr. Miller like to comment on Gov. Christie’s recent veto of a bill that would have allowed development on piers in the Hudson River?A NY Daily News columnist recently used that veto – and Mr. Miller’s letter to the Gov. urging a veto – to suggest that Gov. Christie is more concerned about climate change risks than NY Gov. Cuomo.However, as Mr. Miller knows, the Gov. veto was NOT based on flood hazard risk to NEW development, but rather federal Flood Insurance Program regulatory requirements to maintain eligibility for EXISTING development.Would Mr. Miller care to correct the public record on that? The NY columnist got punked by CHristie, in much the same way that the NJ Dreamers did.For details and the NY Daily News column, see:When A Good Reporter Makes A Big Mistake On An Important Story
Posted by njpeer1 on November 27 at 12:10 PM
Would Mr. Miller care to comment on the new HUD regulations for NJ’s $1.4 billion second round funding, specifically, on how they conflict with current Christie Administration policy and practice? And how those conflicts are likely to be resolved?For details on that, see: CHRISTIE CLIMATE DENIAL IMPERILS SANDY RECOVERY FUNDS
Posted by njpeer1 on November 27 at 12:13 PM
Would Mr. Miller care to comment on why he has not returned my calls in reference to the Christie veto?Would Mr. Miller care to explain how his letter to the Gov. requesting a veto was provided to the NY Daily News columnist and how that columnist misconstrued the veto and its relationship to Mr. Miller’s letter?These are the kind of questions journalists should ask sources.


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Assembly Abdicates: Sandy Recovery Bill Would Give Gov. Christie a Blank Check

November 26th, 2013 No comments

Bill Would Require that Christie DEP Update Shore Master Plan, But Provides No Policy To Guide Planning

Committee Officially Throws in the Towel On Forming A New Coastal Commission 

Yesterday, the Assembly Environment Committee released a package of bills that is being misleadingly touted in the media as a “shore protection strategy” (e.g. see NJ Spotlight story:



Beyond safeguarding Jersey Shore from extreme weather, one bill would also eliminate separate beach tags, possibly proving a boon to tourism

Using insights gleaned from Hurricane Sandy, state legislators moved yesterday to strengthen and consolidate coastline protections to mitigate damage from future storms.

Wrong, wrong wrong! My god, how could a professional reporter get a bill so wrong?

The story is wrong on facts, wrong on law, wrong on policy, wrong science, and wrong on politics.

The legislation in question (see A3500) provides absolutely no “new insights gleaned from Sandy” – just the opposite – the bill completely ignores Sandy! I encourage you to read it and challenge you to find anything remotely related to Sandy.

The bill would not “consolidate coastal protections to mitigate damage from future storms” – exactly the opposite!

The bill provides no enforceable or even voluntary policies, provisions, or standards at all regarding anything required to craft a shore master plan, including how to consider climate change, sea level rise, more intense coastal storms, adaptation planning, natural resilience,  strategic retreat, buyout programs, roles of beach replenishment, dunes, and land use in shore planning et al.

Instead, the bill provides a blank check to the Christie DEP – merely mandating update of the 1981 DEP Shore Master Plan – take a look at that plan, it looks like it was written on my mom’s IBM Selectric typewriter!

The bill does not even go as far as the recent new HUD Sandy Round 2 recovery fund rules, see: CHRISTIE CLIMATE DENIAL IMPERILS SANDY RECOVERY FUNDS – New Federal Rules Stress Climate Change Adaptation Missing from Jersey Policies

Why would the Legislature draft a bill that does not even meet minimum federal requirements?

Why would the legislature, under Democratic control no less, unconditionally delegate complete control over shore planning to the Christie DEP, especially after the failed policy agenda of the Gov. is so clear on critical issues, like planning for climate change, sea level rise, adapting to more intense storms, including rational land use planning, and involving the public in the planning effort?

Let me give an example of  just how profound this abdication is:

Could you imagine the Republicans in the House of Representatives supporting a bill that authorizes the Obama Administration to simply adopt a health care plan?

Does the Assembly even understand that – as the Legislative branch – they are responsible for setting policy? Or are they just spineless and unwilling to take on Gov. Christie?

Whether spineless or clueless, the effort certainly does not warrant praise.

What this bill would do is known as a “standard less delegation” – political scientist Ted Lowi explained the significance of that in his seminal  1969 classic work: The End of Liberalism – The Second  Republic of the United States (I had the privilege to take Lowi’s Government courses at Cornell).

It is simply hard for me to get get my head around how profound an institutional failure this is – and for it to be praised, instead of denounced, by the media is simply beyond the pale.

I tried, with no success, to delicately broach these issues with the sponsor, Chairwoman Spencer (see note to Spencer below).

And on top of all that, it appears that no one, including my environmental colleagues, seems to understand that this bill (A3500) is the alternative to the far superior bill sponsored by Assemblyman (Senator elect) Barnes to establish a Coastal Commission to conduct shore planning.

But the Barnes bill never received support from anyone, so it is really no surprise that it has been abandoned.

But, what I find astounding is that the coastal groups – including American Littoral Society and Clean Ocean Action –  actually tried to sandbag that bill behind the scenes. In a private meeting with the sponsor just prior to the Assembly Committee hearing on the bill, ALS and COA opposed the bill because it would  usurp home rule and because it lacked sufficient protective standards for the coast!

But yesterday, ALS supported A3500, which not only contains NO STANDARDS to protect the coast, but would delegate complete control over protection of the coast to the Christie DEP, a DEP Administration  that has

  • deregulated Sandy reconstruction – public infrastructure AND other development;
  • denied climate change and sea level rise,
  • dismantled the Commissioners Offices of Climate Change and Coastal Management
  • eliminated the Coastal and Ocean Protection Council
  • diverted $1 billion of clean energy funds, including funds dedicated to coastal restoration
  • waged war on environmental science, regulatory standards, and enforcement as job killing red tape
  • opposed and rolled back public access protections
  • directed DEP staff to provide “customer service” and “promote economic development”
  • appointed a Sandy Rebuild Czar with no transparency, public participation, or accountability

Yet, aside from the public access issue, ALS and COA have been silent about any of these serious Christie DEP rollbacks.

Is this an Administration and a DEP that should be fully and unilaterally  in control of coastal planning?

I don’t think so – but why do Assembly Democrats and groups like ALS and COA think so?

Dear Madame Chair:

I apologize for this last minute communication, but just learned that your bill, A3500 to mandate that DEP update the Shore Master Plan, is up for consideration tomorrow.

I respectfully request that you pull the bill from the agenda, or, at least hear it for discussion only.

A very brief rationale for this request follows:

First, the bill is an alternative to the stronger, more comprehensive and more effective legislation introduced by Assemblyman and Senator Elect Barnes to form a Coastal Commission.

Second, the bill is inconsistent with the most recent HUD Sandy recovery regulations for the $1.4 second round.

Specifically, HUD now requires that, among other things, states consider climate change, sea level rise, and science based risk analyses for infrastructure, including resilience/adaptation planning.

Coastal planning bills heard by NJ legislature should be at least as progressive as federal HUD requirements.

Last, the current DEP Shore master Plan is outdated in terms of science and policy. Update of that plan would require new policy guidance from the Legislature that is absent from your bill.

For links to the new HUD rules and out analysis, see:

CHRISTIE CLIMATE DENIAL IMPERILS SANDY RECOVERY FUNDS New Federal Rules Stress Climate Change Adaptation Missing from Jersey Policies

I appreciate your favorable consideration,


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Walmart CEO Forced Out – Does Sustainable NJ Have At Least The Ethical Standards of the WalMart Board?

November 26th, 2013 No comments

Walmart CEO Resigns In Wake of Bribery and NLRB Violation Scandals

Donna Drewes, co-director of Sustainable Jersey, said the group does not restrict whom it accepts money from as long as the organization is allowed to spend the money that fits their overall mission.  ~~~ The Press of Atlantic City, 10/28/13

For months now, I have strongly urged – both privately and publicly – that Sustainable NJ Director Randall Solomon act to terminate acceptance of funds from the Walmart corporation.

I have expanded that request to The College of NJ, who houses Sustainable NJ, because Walmart is not only an anathema to any notion of “sustainability” (antithetical is a better word), but any relationship with that corporation sullies the academic integrity of the institution.

I also have asked that SNJ funders, SNJ “Green Teams”, and various groups that partner with SNJ use their influence to demand an end to the corrupting Walmart and corporate funding.

Those requests have generated hostile attacks by Mr. Solomon and  – with the exception of the recent protest over the South Jersey Gas Co. support – have fallen on deaf ears in all other places, including the press and the environmental community.

Well, perhaps today’s latest Walmart scandal could be the straw that breaks this camel’s back of denial.

USA Today reports:

Wal-Mart Stores replaced CEO and President Mike Duke and named Doug McMillon, another company insider, as its new leader after a rough period for the world’s largest retailer in which it became embroiled in a bribery scandal.

So, my question is this:

If the Walmart Board wanted no association with and forced out their CEO for corrupt practices, do SNJ and NJ Foundations and environmental groups have at least the ethical standards of the Walmart Board?

Here’s my note to Mr. Solomon:

Mr. Solomon –

Please see below news about the WalMart corporation – links to source: USA Today 

Does SNJ have any policy regarding taking funds from a criminal enterprise?

In fairness, there have been no indictments or convictions yet, merely investigations. But, when the CEO steps down amidst criminal investigations, I would assume that SNJ would be at least as ethically diligent at the WalMart Board.

I renew my request that you terminate acceptance of Walmart funds; issue a public statement repudiating this corrupt corporation; and issue a public apology to Green Team members and the people of NJ for indirectly involving them and sullying their good name by association with this potential criminal enterprise.

Bill Wolfe

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