Archive for December, 2013

Your Orwell Today: Christie DEP Calls Privatization of Toxic Site Cleanup Program “Self-Implementation”

December 19th, 2013 No comments

Chairman Smith Blocks Environmental Testimony on Chemical Industry Bill

Hypocrisy is High for the Holidays

The chemical industry wins another war, while the public interest dies

A quiet, humble, and apolitical man by nature, he practiced the now seemingly lost art of listening respectfully to friends and foes alike … his ability to treat even unreasonable people with the utmost respect have all contributed to the civility of our discourse, and ultimately, the wisdom of our decisions on environmental policies that protect all citizens of New Jersey. ~~~ Mike Catania, Eulogy for Richard Sullivan

Work with me here, as I connect the dots on today’s Trenton lows. Sorry, but you have to wade through some contextual bullshit before getting to the content.

Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith began today’s hearing with a Senate Resolution 131, commemorating the life of Richard Sullivan. He then took the unusual step to read Mike Catania’s entire NJ Spotlight eulogy into the record.

Here’s how I feel about the etiquette of so called “politicization” of the death of public figures, summed up by Glenn Greenwald:

This demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure’s death is not just misguided but dangerous. That one should not speak ill of the dead is arguably appropriate when a private person dies, but it is wildly inappropriate for the death of a controversial public figure, particularly one who wielded significant influence and political power. “Respecting the grief” of Thatcher’s family members is appropriate if one is friends with them or attends a wake they organize, but the protocols are fundamentally different when it comes to public discourse about the person’s life and political acts. I made this argument at length last year when Christopher Hitchens died and a speak-no-ill rule about him was instantly imposed (a rule he, more than anyone, viciously violated), and I won’t repeat that argument today; those interested can read my reasoning here.

But the key point is this: those who admire the deceased public figure (and their politics) aren’t silent at all. They are aggressively exploiting the emotions generated by the person’s death to create hagiography. Typifying these highly dubious claims about Thatcher was this (appropriately diplomatic) statement from President Obama: “The world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend.” Those gushing depictions can be quite consequential, as it was for the week-long tidal wave of unbroken reverence that was heaped on Ronald Reagan upon his death, an episode that to this day shapes how Americans view him and the political ideas he symbolized. Demanding that no criticisms be voiced to counter that hagiography is to enable false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of bad acts, distortions that become quickly ossified and then endure by virtue of no opposition and the powerful emotions created by death. When a political leader dies, it is irresponsible in the extreme to demand that only praise be permitted but not criticisms.

Mike Catania, who eulogized Sullivan in a way that I feel whitewashed and propagandized,  has taken strong exception to what he views as my politicization of Sullivan’s death (see: What Would Richard Sullivan Have Done?)

In reply to comments I made on Catania’s eulogy in NJ Spotlight, which questioned how Sullivan’s legacy could be squared with current policies and controversies, Catania wrote:

Bill – I have made it a point never to respond to a comment on one of my columns, but I have absolutely no intention of allowing you to politicize Richard’s passing and use it for your own purposes. … It is time for you to get a hobby, dude, so that you do not need to spend 24 hours a day telling the world how they should think and act…

Get a hobby dude? That comports with my critique based on the work of Niebuhr?

While Catania attacks me for “politicization” through commenting on his NJ Spotlight Op-Ed, Mike apparently has no problem with a politician “politicizing Richard’s passing”. And he also has no problem with DEP Commissioner Martin – who is the antithesis of the trained professional that Sullivan was and is in the process of dismantling Sullivan’s legacy – with politicizing it either.

But more importantly, Catania can’t see the contradiction and hypocrisy of praising Sullivan for “listening respectfully to foes” and  treating “even unreasonable people” “with respect“, with his open disdain for the thoughts of his readers (i.e. acknowledging that he does not respond to reader comments) and engaging in a full throated fact free ad hominem attack on a thoughtful critic.

I guess that tolerance, respect, and listening applies to everyone except those that criticize Mike’s hypocrisy.

Chairman Bob Smith seems to have a case of the Catania contradictions as well.

Smith began his hearing with Catania’s eulogy, a view he concurred with.

Yet, moments later, in an unprecedented move in my memory, he blocked me from testifying on a chemical industry bill to extend deadlines under the controversial 2009 “Site Remediation Reform Act” (SRRA), which privatized the cleanup of toxic waste sites in NJ (for my analysis of that bill, see: Lame Duck Alert: Polluters Seek Rollback of Key Deadline In Privatized Toxic Site Cleanup Law).

Smith was not present when that bill (S3075)was heard for discussion only on Dec. 5.

After missing the discussion on his own bill, Smith then posted the bill for a hearing last thursday (12/12). But, he unexpectedly held the bill – without taking testimony – allegedly because he claimed that DEP needed to testify.

So DEP showed up today to testify on why the extension in Smith’s bill was justified and to provide a briefing on the status of implementation of SRRA.

DEP wins today’s Orwell for calling SRRA privatization of cleanup “self implementation”.

But DEP also blew a lot of diversionary and misleading smoke to obscure several important issues about exactly how the SRRA was performing, how many sites were being cleaned up, and why the extension of the May 2104 deadline in Smith’s bill was justified.

The biggest misleading data was DEP’s grouping of very simple, cheap, low risk, underground storage tank removals with real cleanups.

DEP can get away with this bullshit because they do not collect and report the data in disagregated form and DEP has failed to developed the legislatively mandated “Risk Priority System” to rank sites by risk.

That DEP spin cried out for rebuttal.

I signed up to testify on the bill, but when that time came, Smith would not allow me to speak.

I objected from the audience, based on the fact that DEP had put new facts on the record and the alleged justification for the bill had entirely shifted.

The original bill, as I wrote Senator Smith on Dec. 12, justified the extension from the May 2014 deadline on 4 very specific and limited grounds:

Dear Chairman Smith and Senator Bateman:

Last week, I testified in opposition to your bill, S3075, primarily because it contradicts the private sector’s promises to expedite the pace of cleanup under the SRRA and fails to address other key flaws in SRRA, including the failure of DEP to adopt  the “Remedial Priority System” mandated by SRRA and failure to enforce other deadlines in SRRA, such as the mandate to secure an LSRP.

Industry representatives offered 4 justifications for the bill:

1) inability to secure off site access to conduct sampling;

2) co-mingled plumes and apportionment of liability;

3) litigation and other events beyond their control (force majeur); and

4) complex federal RCRA and CERCLA joint involvement.

Points #1 – #3 are valid reasons for delay. However, point #4 is false, because RCRA/CERCLA sites were carved out in SRRA.

DEP provided no testimony on the universe of cases impacted by the bill or the validity of the industry’s assertions.

While I remain opposed to the bill, I’d like to suggest narrowing and protective amendments to Section 1, in the event that the bill will be released today.

Amendments should restrict eligibility for the 2 year maximum extension to the justifications in points #1 – #3 above.

But instead of following my recommendation and limiting eligibility for the extension on demonstrating specific legitimate reasons for delay, Smith simply revised the justification for delay!

Today Smith said that the bill was justified for two completely different reasons totally unrelated to the prior justification:

1) Smith claimed that 3,500 of  the 4,300 sites that are not in compliance with the May 2014 deadline were making progress in cleanup, as evidenced by the fact that they has hired LSRP’s. Smith called these “the good guys”; and

2) Smith said that DEP oversight of these 3,500 “good guy” sites – who are not in compliance – would divert DEP resources from the 800 “bad guy” sites who also were not in compliance with the deadline  but had not even hired an LSRP!

On top of that shifting justification and the DEP smokescreen, there was a Senate Committee substitute bill that changed how the 2 year extension would be granted by DEP from a case by case justification and review/approval by DEP (simalar to getting a permit) to a private certification by the LSRP that the delay and non compliance was justified. So they privatized the compliance determination too.

So, we had up for consideration:

  • a significantly revised substitute bill
  • with a totally new justification, and
  • a vote based on completely misleading DEP testimony on the table that demanded rebuttal.

And Senator Smith just shut that down – with no real questions for DEP and by blocking my testimony.

(thank goodness Senator Greenstein saw through the smokescreen and asked DEP good questions – which DEP hard no answers for!)

And Smith did so shortly after touting the legacy of Richard Sullivan.

No politics there – just massive Orwellian hypocrisy.

Happy Holidays!

The chemical industry wins another war, while the public interest dies.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

D&R Canal Commission Rejects DEP Bull’s Island Tree Cut Plan

December 18th, 2013 No comments

DEP Threat to Close Park Put a Gun to Commission’s Head

DEP plan called “The epitome of the nanny state”

Lack of public participation & DEP Strong Arm Tactics Contribute to Embarrassing Defeat

“People do not need a safe corridor to walk through the woods.” ~~~  Bill Wolfe, Hunterdon County Democrat


DEP Commissioner Bob Martin – his initial over-reaction and clear cut plan began the problem. He was embarrassed today.

[Update 12/20/13Hunterdon County Democrat story: DEP plan to remove trees on Bull’s Island rejected end update]

 In a stunning move this afternoon, after more than 2 hours of a DEP presentation, public comments, questions, attempts to negotiate with DEP, and deliberation among themselves  the D&R Canal Commission rejected the DEP’s proposed plan to cut 80-90 trees on Bull’s Island State Park to create a “safe, managed, pedestrian pathway”.

(The Hunterdon County Democrat wrote an excellent set up story:  Eighty ‘old growth’ sycamores targeted for removal at Bull’s Island in wake of camper’s death).

Voting to kill the plan were Robert M. Bostock, Chairman, Mary Allessio Leck, Phillip Lubitz and Bruce D. Stout.

Thank you Commissioners !!!!!

Thank you to all the people who came out today and reached out to the Commissioners to oppose the DEP plan!!

Even those Commissioners who voted in favor of the plan had serious concerns about it and wanted to see significant changes in the number of trees cut and the restoration plan.

The majority of Commissioners questioned DEP’s “risk tolerance” and preferred to simply warn the public about potential hazards from falling trees, not cut any trees, and open the park to passive recreation.

DEP simply flat out rejected that approach, claiming that hazardous trees and liability required trees to be cut.

In contrast to strong opposition to tree cutting, there was consensus on the Commission regarding support for several aspects of the DEP plan, including closing the island to camping, removing infrastructure, and designating the Central and northern portion of the island as a Natural Area.

The plan was strongly opposed by about a dozen residents, the only support coming, ironically, from Emile DeVito PhD of NJ Conservation Foundation who viewed the plan as a means to secure DEP’s commitment to a Natural Area designation for the northern portion of the island.

I was very impressed by and applaud the Commissioners, not just for the outcome of the vote, but by the way they conducted themselves. They all carefully scrutinized the DEP plan, asked DEP tough questions, and listened to public criticism. They deliberated openly and were flexible in seeking a compromise with DEP, but were firm and stood by their convictions in a brave vote.

The Commissioners all were appointed by Governor Christie, so it took courage and a strong sense of independence to reject Gov. Christie’s DEP Commissioner’s plan.  Such courage is rare – and let’s hope it spreads south to the Pinelands Commission!

Frankly, I was very surprised by the outcome of the vote and the quality of the Commissioners. I want to apologize for any inference that may have been created when I criticized Gov. Christie’s wholesale replacement of the members of the prior Commission.

DEP officials did a bad job in defending a bad plan.

DEP’s overt threat and inflexible approach to negotiating with the Commission doomed their efforts. DEP failed to listen and respond to  the Commission’s and the public’s concerns – the Commissioners were willing to provide DEP multiple opportunities to avoid a vote, requested that DEP allow for adequate public participation, and to come back with a better plan that incorporated valid concerns raised by comments.

DEP took a “my way or the highway” approach, threatening that if the Commission did not approve the DEP plan today, then they would close the park to public access for the entire 2014 year (again).

Several Commissioners took strong exception to that “threat”.

Rich Boornazian, DEP Assistant Commissioner for Natural Resources – a real estate man with no environmental training or government experience

DEP Assistant Commissioner Boornazian, frankly, was an embarrassment and did an incredibly poor job responding to public and Commissioners concerns.

At one point he blurted out (this is a quote):

It would have been nice if Sandy just knocked them (the trees on Bulls Island) all down.

State Forester Lynn Fleming presented the DEP plan – she was somewhat condescending and clownish and also could not respond to several inconsistencies, contradictions and flaws the Commissioners and the public pointed out.

And DEP Commissioner Martin’s representative on the Commission, Mark Texel Director of Parks, went off on a rant in defending the DEP threat to close the park, at one point describing trees as “multi-ton fatal weapons” (verbatim quote).

(Maybe Commissioner Martin could send this team down to the Pinelands to threaten those Commissioners too – that might swing the vote for us!)

DEP’s plan was estimated to cost $352,000,  71 % for tree removal ($250,000).

I love Bull’s Islands and visit often. Having been involved in trying to stop the DEP’s poor judgements for more than 2 years now, I am extremely pleased with today’s outcome.

Next steps

1) DEP re-open the park,with warning signs posted at entrance points to the northern portion of the island;

2) DEP form a Bull’s Island park planning group to develop an alternative plan over the next 120 days;

3) that plan should include afforestation of the central portion of the island that previously was the campground; elimination of camping; removal of infrastructure; and creation of a loop trail;  and

4) DEP should form a Bull’s Island Natural Areas designation work group, headed by Emile DeVito, NJCF, who volunteered today to do that work.

Target deadline for all this is July 1.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

DEP Will Try To Ram Through Approval of Bull’s Island Tree Cutting Tomorrow

December 17th, 2013 No comments

DEP Plan Calls for a “Safe, Managed, Pedestrian Pathway” To Replace Mature Forest

This is not what a wild & scenic river park looks like

I just learned that the DEP Bull’s Island State Park tree cutting plan is up for approval tomorrow at the D&R Canal Commission.

The location of the 10 am hearing has been moved to Lambertville, in anticipation of a turnout, so, despite the holiday season, I hope you can find a way to get there and voice your opposition. (see this for details on location, time).

The D&R Canal Commission staff has recommended approval, so looks like the deal is in. The key regulatory flaw I see is that staff exempted the project from the stream corridor standards. The project could not meet the prohibited uses and standards in those rules. Staff applied a truly bizarre logic to do tis by claim the Delaware River did not “flow” into the Canal – the river is the source of the canal!

The DEP backed off the prior insane clearcut plan, but while this plan is scaled back, it still is totally unnecessary, has major public access to and use of the riverfront prohibited, and the design sucks.

You can find the documents and background own the project in my recent post, written before I knew the hearing was tomorrow. Below is a letter I just fired off – apologies for formatting and typo errors, stream of consciousness, so , feel fee to use whatever you agree with.

Dear Director Dooley and D&R Canal Commissioners:
Please accept the following comments in opposition to the DEP’s proposed project in Bull’s Island State Park.
I apologize for the rushed timing and limited nature of these comments, but the DEP application will be heard tomorrow and the new Commissioners need to understand the history and nature of the controversy surrounding this project.
As described in more detail below, the primary flaws with this DEP proposal are:
  • The Commission’s review process is totally inadequate to allow the concerned public and affected park users to review and meaningfully comment on the DEP’s plan;
  • The DEP’s plan would severely limit current public access to and uses of the Park, including prohibited public access north of the wing dam to the tip of the island. A gate will be installed to limit access to the canal side of the island as well.
  • The DEP’s plan will transform a natural mature riverine forest ecosystem to a golf course or development landscape. Just look at the “restoration” of the 400 foot scar along the riverfront, where DEP park managers destroyed existing vegetation 2 years ago for an example of DEP’s design aesthetics, standards, project management capabilities, and maintenance practices.
  • The DEP’s contractor brings a civil engineering expertise, not the required landscape architecture design qualifications for this sensitive and majestic park setting along a Congressionally designated Wild & Scenic River;
  • The DEP’s plan will exacerbate erosion of the island, worsen edge tree blowdowns, and – by removing trees in the floodplain – worsen downriver flooding; and
  • The DEP’s plan is an insult to the more than 20,000 people who cared enough about preservation of Bull’s Island trees to sign a petition PEER drafted. The staff report mentions 80 emails, but it fails to mention that at all, and thereby downplays the magnitude of public interest in Bull’s Island.
I)    The Review process is totally inadequate, and appears to be designed to frustrate public participation

Here is the review chronology I could glean from the staff report, which was just very recently posted on the Commission’s website. I could not locate the DEP plans, or the supporting documents cited in the staff report:
  • Transmittal Letter to ED Dooley November 18
  • Project received on December 11
  • Accepted for review december 13
  • posted for public comment sometime after that
  • Commission review December 18
The project is in the Park (per the staff report).
Rules require: (@NJAC 7:45-3.5)
  1. Any State agency planning to undertake a governmental project in the Park shall submit a complete application together with all supporting information to the Commission. 
    1. The Commission shall, within 45 days of receiving a copy of the complete application and all supporting information, either approve, reject, or approve with conditions the governmental project. The Commission shall notify the State agency of the Commission’s decision within 10 days of that decision in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:45-3.7. 
Contrary to staff’s conclusion, the application not complete as discussed below and therefore the 45 review clock can not have begun.
For starters, the application does not meet Subchapter 10 requirements – e.g. where is this?
A plan showing the location, type and size or dimension of existing trees with diameter at breast height of 12” or greater, rock masses, and all other natural and man-made features, with designation of the features that will be retained in the completed development.
II)   DEP methodology seriously flawed

The DEP has misapplied a cursory and flawed tree hazard assessment methodology and the wrong risk assessment and risk management framework. Please see the paper I previously sent which provides a science based methodology that illustrates these flaws.
Key flaws include:
1. The tree hazard assessment is not comprehensive – root collar and adventitious root analysis are only some factors that must be considered in evaluating the health of a tree and the probability of failure;
2. the risk methodology DEP applied is suited for much higher risk landscapes, urban in nature, where there is far greater public use and more risk in the “target zone”.
Basically, Bull’s Island is not central park.
As evidence of this fundamental flaw, I note that there was no data provided regarding visitor use of the current path or the “safe pedestrian pathway” DEP plans.
Without data there can be no valid risk assessment and without a valid risk assessment there can be no risk management. And without risk management there can be no rational landscape and park management decisions oct plans.
3. DEP has exaggerated the risks – of tree failure and target zones. There is no data to base DEP’s decisions on.
4. DEP closure of the park to camping and planned removal of facilities that invite people into the target zone – i.e. campsites, playgrounds, paved roads, benches, restrooms – is a good idea and an adequate risk reduction strategy.
Given these risk reduction measures, there is no reason to cut any trees, regardless of their health.
5. Without providing data, species, or locations, DEP claims that 30 tress have been downed since the fatality.
I’ve visited the island multiple times since then and highly doubt this number. I challenge DEP to provide evidence in support of that claim – photos and maps.
Furthermore, DEP ignores the fact that there have been 2 hurricanes and a heavy October snowfall since then.
DEP also ignores the fact that there rarely are people in target sones doing storm events that take down trees,
Even worse, DEP provides no baseline data from other nearby locations to put this 30 tree failure in context.
DEP ignores the fact that the trees on Bull’s Island are adapted to riverine flooding sediment and storm conditions.
Based on my anecdotal experiences of walking in forests, it is very likely that Bull’s Island trees  faired much better in the 3 major storms than other trees in nearby forests.
On top of all that, if we were to apply DEP’s policy and methodology to the southern Natural Area – which exhibits very similar forest and sediment conditions –  far more trees would be cut and access restricted there too.
III)  DEP plan is not in the public interest

Because there is insignificant risk, the public access and use restrictions are not justified.
Nor is the destruction of mature trees and are the huge alterations in the landscape and natural character of the park.
There are many far more important uses of scarce taxpayer resources to maintain and manage real problems in NJ Parks and public lands.
IV)  DEP design is bad

Visitors to Bull’s Island do not come to experience a “safe pedestrian walkway”.

They come to obtain a superb natural experience, whether walking, birding, bicycling, canoeing, Kayaking, or fishing.
Visitors understand and knowingly and voluntarily accept the infinitesimal risk that a tree might fall and kill them while they are visiting.

V)   Canal Commission staff report is flawed
1. The prior clearcut plan is not the correct baseline to evaluate this project
The staff report cites pubic opposition to a prior informal DEP clearcut plan. Just because this current proposal is “better” and a scaled back version of the prior insane clearcut plan does not make it acceptable.
2. The exemption from stream corridor standards is in error
The staff report exempted the project from the stream corridor standards. Here is how the applicable regulations define a stream corridor (boldface mine):
NJAC 7:45-1.3

Stream corridor” means any water course that flows into the Park, its tributaries, the 100-year floodplain associated with the water course and its tributaries, and all of the land within a 100-foot buffer adjacent to the 100-year flood line associated with the water courses and their tributaries. For any water course and its tributaries that discharge into the Canal, the stream corridor includes the water course and its tributaries, and either the 100-year floodplain associated with the water course and its tributaries and a 100 foot buffer adjacent to the 100- year flood line associated with the water course and its tributaries, or 300 feet along both sides of the water course or tributary, measured from the top of the water course’s banks, whichever is greater. A stream corridor starts from the point that the water course enters the Park, upstream to the point that the water course or its tributaries drain less than 50 acres.

The Delaware River is the boundary of the park and the source water of the canal.

Of course the river is a “water course that flows into the park” and of course it meets the definitional attributes.

Of course the 100 year floodplain of the river is mapped on park lands that would be destroyed by the DEP plan.

Of course a 100 foot buffer applies to the lands that would be destroyed by this project.

3. Project could not meet stream corridor standards:

The following are  “Prohibited uses”under applicable rules:

  • Regrading of the existing topography;
  • Removal of native vegetation or actions that result in the death of native vegetation except as necessary in connection with activities in the stream corridor permitted by the Commission;
  • Installation of non-native vegetation
The DEP plan violates each one of these prohibited uses. Tree removal and construction of a “safe pedestrian pathway” would regrade existing topography, remove native vegetation and install non-native vegetation (as well as cause a disturbance that would invite invasive species).

4. “Recreational paths” are explicitly included as a conditional use in the stream corridor – so obviously the stream corridor standards apply

5. The Project doe not meet the general visual impact standards that apply to a natural area (7:45-10.2(a))

Here are the general visual impact standards (emphasis mine):


The Commission shall review all projects in Zone A to determine if the project is in accord with the goals for the Park as defined in the Park’s Master Plan. The visual, historic and natural quality impact review is intended to assure that development within Zone A is not harmful to the character of the environmental types identified in the Master Plan as comprising the Park. The environmental types are based upon the character of the section of the Park and its adjoining corridor. The six environmental types are:

  1. Natural: Sign of human impact are non-existent or slight; 

Obviously, cutting 40 inch DGH mature trees will be harmful to the character of the forest.

Obviously, construction of a “safe pedestrian pathway” and 50 foot wide cleared vegetation of each side would be a highly visible and disturbing sign of hum a impact.

6. The project does not meet the design standards (NJAC 7:45-10.4)

Here are the design standards that apply and that are violated by DEP’s plan:


(a) Except as provided in N.J.A.C. 7:45-10.3 major and minor projects in Zone A shall be set back from the Park sufficiently far so that the winter visual and natural quality of the Park is not adversely affected. 

     In natural and rural environments all structures shall be located 250 feet or more from the Park.

     In any area where existing vegetation does not provide adequate winter screening, the project shall include landscaping, or a greater setback, or both, to protect the Park’s      visual environment. 


  1. Major and minor projects in Zone A shall maintain a reasonable height and scale relationship to nearby structures or vegetation.  
    1. For major and minor projects in Zone A, the exterior appearances of a project shall be in keeping with the character of the Park’s individual environments 

Wherever possible, natural terrains, soils, stones, and vegetation should be preserved.  

Let’s start from the bottom:

The purpose of the DEP plan is to cut natural vegetation, so of course it can not meet a standard that requires preservation of natural vegetation.

The purpose of the DEP plan is to excavate and grade soils and stone and create a “safe pedestrian pathway”, so of course this standard can not be met.

A ‘safe pedestrian pathway” as proposed by DEP is obviously not in keeping with the mature forested area of the park it would replace.

The DEP plan calls for cutting down mature 100 foot+ tall trees and repacking them with ground shrubs and 10-15 foot tall bushes and mall trees. This obviously violates the height, scale, and textural relationships that now exist in the mature forest and understory.

The DEP tree removal will be visible year round from the canal path, the park, and the river. It will be seen as a scar on the landscape.

The DEP will build  a new “structure” in the park – not 250 feet from the park, another obvious violation.

Last, there are no set backs or buffers provided by DEP’s plan.

For the above reasons, I strongly urge the Commissioner to procure a qualified landscape architect and park planner to review this project.

I strongly urge the Commission to ask the applicant DEP to provide at least a 60 day public review period before the Commission considers this plan.

If DEP is unwilling to do this, the Commission must reject the application as violate of the D&R Canal Plan and regulations.

Again, I  apologize for the haste, typos, and formatting error in these comments.


Bill Wolfe, Director


Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

DEP Does a Cameo at Pinelands Pipeline Farce

December 17th, 2013 No comments

After Years of hiding under their desks, a trio of Christie DEP bureaucrats emerge

For the first time, whispers of greenhouse gas emissions are heard!

By the time I arrived at last Friday’s Pinelands Commission hearing (@ 9:15 am for the scheduled 9:30 start), the Commission HQ’s small hearing room was packed  and over-flowing.

The paid union puppets had packed the room – with lame copycat signs no less – and outnumbered the 50 or so opponents.

As I signed up to testify, they were already on the 5th sheet, with over 100 already signed up.

Glancing at the sign in sheets, I noted that DEP was there – and not one, but 3 DEP officials! – and they were all right up at the top of the list, in speaker slots #3, #4 and #5.

Now how did they manage to do that?

[A reader sent me a note, explaining how that was done, showing grossly improper collusion:

The DEP names were signed up by the man in front of me, a suit. He had three pieces of paper with one name written on each piece. He carefully logged each name. Another suit also signed up three names. Since I was fifth or sixth in line I could see what they were doing and I called them out on it. – end]

Did they camp out at the Commission’s HQ? Or, more likely,  did they have an inside friend at the Commission sign them up early?

They must have got the same memo the union guys did: get there early, control the message, and dominate the news coverage because the reporters rarely last more than 45 minutes.

These little manipulative public relations games reveal how desperate the Christie administration is and how much they are feeling the heat of the opponents and critical press coverage.

Thus far, DEP has been completely absent from the public review of this project. DEP’s own air and water permit hearings on the BL England and CAFRA permits for the pipeline were invisible – no attendance and no media. That illustrated just how arcane DEP’s permit public participation program is.

Contrary to the Pinelands Commission process, DEP did not hold public hearings or publicize the issues – the public was completely unaware of the DEP draft permits and opportunity to testify.

Amazingly, DEP then used the lack of participation in their BL England air permit process as the reason for rejecting a request by Sierra Club to hold a public hearing on the draft water permit! You can’t make this stuff up.

So, because DEP likes to hide  behind arcane permit procedures, and because DEP has intentionally managed to keep their role in this project below public awareness and the media radar, it was obvious that DEP Commissioner Martin ordered up this little Pinelands Cameo trio brigade and told them to back the project and undercut opponents’ arguments.

Substantively, DEP’s testimony did not inspire confidence – here are the major failures in that testimony:

1) DEP did not even mention or stand by the so called “air quality analysis” that the Pinelands Commission ED falsely stated was done by DEP. That lie should be taken down from the Commission’s website. The only thing by DEP in that “analysis” was the cover transmittal memo to Wittenberg. We are not fooled – for full details, see this;

2) The DEP issued an enforcement Order to the BL England plant that gave the owners of the plant 3 option: a) install pollution controls to meet air quality standards; b) re-power the plant; or c) shut down and retire the plant.

Amazingly, DEP testimony on their evaluation of “alternatives”  failed to mention the alternative in DEP’s own ACO – plant shutdown and retirement. Obviously, that is the best alternative.

That huge omission – alone – is sufficient grounds to seriously question DEP’s integrity.

3) DEP, for the first time, DEP finally admitted that the project would emit 2.5 million tons of greenhouse gases.

DEP called that insignificant, but it would represent over 15% of current NJ electric sector emissions.

As I later noted, RGGI carbon pollution allowances are selling for $3 – $4 per ton. So, had Gov. Christie not taken NJ out of RGGI, the BL England plant would pay $7.5 – $10 million per year just for RGGI emissions. The price of RGGI allowances is projected to rise due to a declining cap. The NJ RGGI law caps the rate at $7 per ton – so a more realistic estimate of BL England costs is $17.5 million per year. For a 40 year operational life, that would amount to $700 million!

And EPA’s estimates of the “social costs of carbon” (SCC) are far higher than NJ RGGI $7/ton cap –a range from $12 – $235/ton. Other economists studies show even higher SCC.

So South Jersey Gas Co. and BL England are causing billions of dollars of economic damage.

That makes the Commission’s one time $8 million bribe for “equivalent protection” not only corrupt, but a joke analytically. 

[oops, forgot to mention that the BPU Order exempts BL England from any RGGI fees – now and prospectively – so in the event that the Legislature, the Courts, or a future Governor manage to get NJ back in RGGI, BLE is safe. Mr. Valeri earned his bonus.]

4) Only 2 of the 3 DEP reps were from air quality, the third was from the “customer service” “one stop shopping” rubber stamp DEP office of permit coordination. Ironically, that office also is responsible for EO 215 EIS reviews, something that has been ignored here.

This Office coordinates with the “Red Tape Czar” Lt. Gov. Guadagno’s Office to assure that corporate interests control policy outcomes.

And all that got nary a word in the press accounts of the  hearing – and of course, Pinelands Commissioners were not given any opportunity to ask DEP questions.

All in the cameo spirit, no? Or should I say the spirit of Vaudeville?

[End Note: Bill O’Sullivan, longtime head of DEP’s Division of Air Quality and a true professional, testified.

Bill’s hands were trembling, and he missed the 3 minute comment deadline. In an uncharacteristic and highly unusual move, Bill defiantly plowed on in his remarks until Chairman Lohbauer was forced to cut him off. It was an embarrassing moment and I felt horrible for Bill. Bill is a mild tempered man, and would never violate hearing procedures.

I assume, like the professionals at the Port Authority, that Bill was “just following orders” of his craven hack Christie loyalist boss, Bob Martin.]

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

What Would Richard Sullivan Have Done?

December 16th, 2013 No comments

Some ironies are too cruel to bear in silence

Let me preface and ground a post that is sure to be denounced as a deeply insensitive and disrespectful attack, in an intellectual tradition.

The philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a classic text “The Irony of American History” in 1952. The work took a painfully honest look at the reality of what he called “the  ironic element in the American situation”.

These ironic contrasts and contradictions must be analyzed with more care presently. Our immediate prefatory concern must be the double character of our ironic experience. Contemporary history not merely offers ironic refutation of some of our early hopes and present illusions about ourselves; but the experience which furnishes the refutation is occasioned by conflict with a foe who has transmuted ideals and hopes, which we most deeply cherish, into cruel realities which we most fervently abhor.

So, in the bold spirit of Niebuhr, let us explore painfully ironic contrasts and contradictions present at our particular moment, caused, as Andrew Bacevich writes, of “dreams borne of a peculiar combination of arrogance, hypocrisy, and self delusion”.

Richard Sullivan, the first Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner and longtime Pinelands Commission Chairman died last week. He was 86.

He led a long and productive career in environmental management, and served as the leader and model for an entire generation of NJ’s environmental managers.

The timing of his death should have prompted reflection on policy and shown a bright spotlight on the health of two institutions his spent his life building, the DEP and the Pinelands Commission.

It didn’t. Just the opposite.

The silence was deafening. The reflection nowhere to be found. The cowardice rank. The delusions palpable. The cynicism dripping.

There was not even an attempt to link Sullivan’s legacy of accomplishment in building institutions and public policies to the current state of affairs in Chris Christie’s NJ.

It was as if the long intimidating shadow of Christie could squelch discussion of a man’s legacy and its relevance to current policy controversies.

Instead, we got the “end of an era” meme – thank Mike for that.

(and you’all be sure to be civil in tone and keep  your  voice down, as the Governor, his minions, and the corporations dismantle everything the man stood for).

That was the thrust of this eloquent tribute from Mike Catania, which at times read more like a lecture on style and the need to speak in a civil tone than on content of Sullivan’s legacy of building strong institutions and policy (see:  THE PASSING OF RICHARD SULLIVAN: THE END OF AN ERA IN THE GARDEN STATE

Aside from the “end of an era” (obviously a disparaging allusion and surrender to notions of the end of big government, regulations, and planning and an acceptance of corporate dominance), here’s how Catania considers Sullivan’s legacy with respect to the Christie regime, closing his essay with this wish:

I shall miss Richard dearly, and I can only hope that the civility, respect, and reliance on sound science that he practiced so fervently will not pass away with him.

Civility, respect, reliance on science – features of character and style – not the substance of a legacy of laws, regulations, institutions, plans, policies, enforcement, and budgets – all of which are contradicted by our current Governor Christie.

And in another painful moment, before the last Pinelands Commission meeting, we heard a personal eulogy from newly installed Commissioner Avery (on recently deceased Commissioner Haas), followed by very brief personal remarks by Commissioner Ashmum regarding her friendship with Sullivan, and then paid along  moment of silence to Sullivan before the Pinelands Commission meeting last friday – the meeting where the Commision sat back in silence as the AG’s Office and State Ethics Commision attacked one of their most prominent members.

The Commission meets in a lovely building named after Sullivan. Is that a contradiction or an irony?

Plumbing the depths of cynicism and contradiction, DEP issued a timely and opportunistic press release, touting the “Christie Administration’s remembrance “– all while the Christie/Martin Team dismantle DEP and gas the pines.

So, lets cut to the chase and ask: What would Richard Sullivan have done in the height of his powers?

Would he have allowed a gas pipeline MOA and an $8 million bribe to sully the integrity of the CMP he wrote and compromise the independence of the Pinelands Commission he helped build?

Would he sit back silently as the former lobbyist for the NJ Builders Association – installed by Governor Christie as the Commisison’s Executive Director – manipulated, misled, and lied to the public and Commissioners in her loyalty to the Gov. in promoting a gas pipeline through the pines in violation of the CMP forest protection standards?

Would he have back sat in silence as hacks from Trenton targeted a fellow Commssioner on trumped up ethics charges?

Would he have allowed the staff and Commissioners to ignore climate change and fracking, perhaps our two most pressing environmental issues, in the course of review of a regional fossil fuel infrastructure project?

Would he have let DEP hacks waltz into a public hearing on the draft MOA – at the 12th hour – to a huge controversy they helped create, and then let them leave without responding to questions from Commissioners and the public regarding their testimony in support of the project?

Sullivan was a gentleman, not a puppet – so, I don’t think so.

Which brings me to two closing points as I wrestle with the absurd contradictions we now face at the Commission:

Kate Millsaps of the Sierra Club made an excellent point during her testimony on Friday opposing the pipeline.

Millsaps told the Commisison a stunning and painful truth:

that the federal Natural Gas Act, a weak federal law written by and for the gas industry, has stricter environmental impact statement and review requirements for interstate gas pipelines than the Pinelands Commission does!!

How could the energy industry dominated FERC conduct more aggressive environmental impact reviews than a regional State land preservation oriented  institution like the Pinelands Commission? How is that possible?

That is similar to a point I previously made, where I criticized the absurdity of the Commission’s review process and exposed the fact that the South Jersey Gas Co. has a greater concern  for climate change and greenhouse gas emissions from their pipelines than the Pinelands Commission does.

South Jersey Gas Co. voluntarily reports to investors current greenhouse gas emissions:

The US Environmental Protection Agency finalized a Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule, which required LDCs like South Jersey Gas to put in place monitoring and recordkeeping systems that are establishing the baselines for reporting that went into effect in 2010.

SJI management understands that there are risks and opportunities associated with this challenge. Our responsibility to customers and shareholders is to prepare for a carbon-constrained economy in the future. Our company has taken action to better understand the sources and magnitude of GHG emissions for our overall enterprise, including an enterprise-wide GHG inventory completed in 2010. Using this information, we are regularly evaluating options to reduce GHG emissions within our operations and continue developing options for our customers to reduce their emissions as well. We are committed to remaining informed about GHG policy developments and to developing strategies that allow us to capitalize on opportunities stemming from climate change initiatives.

So, a question for our current Commissioners at the Pinelands and DEP: what would Richard Sullivan have done about all that?

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: