Archive for March, 2014

State House Rally for Public Schools, Community Control, & Democracy

March 27th, 2014 No comments

Community Activists Oppose Christie’s “One NewarkPrivatization & Charter Schools Plan

Whose Schools? – Our Schools!

Statehouse steps , Trenton (3/27/14)

Hundreds of people rallied today on the State House steps to protest the Christie Administration’s State imposed dictate, the Orwellian “One Newark” Plan, which would close community public schools, layoff hundreds of teachers, and increase funding for private Charter schools.

Those interested in following the critical issues at stake should visit retired Star Ledger reporter Bob Braun’s Blog. John Mooney at NJ Spotlight education beat has done a good job following some of the issue as well, but not with nearly the edge and passion of Braun’s Blog..

Here is Star Ledger story by Peggy McGlone: Hundreds protest Newark’s plan to close schools and lay off teachers.

The crowd appeared to be mostly from Newark, with some supporters from Camden –

I was a little surprised that there wasn’t a larger presence and organized support from the full spectrum of progressive, labor, civil rights, and community and social justice groups, because what is going on in Newark is part of a much larger organized, well funded, corporate, ideological attack on public institutions, teachers, unions, control of community schools and development, and related core features of democracy.

The Christie Administration is imposing a Wall Street, corporate, Neoliberal ideological model of privatization of public institutions; top down anti-democratic corporate controls on decision-making; cronyism; and a racist forms of gentrification. See:

This model is not limited to the Detroit bankruptcy situation or to only in Newark and Camden, but being imposed across the country in various forms. It is rapidly becoming the dominant urban development model, as corporate investment and real estate values trump all other social values and democratic objectives.

People of good will need to stand together in support of the people of Newark – especially the kids – and defend the institution of the public schools, a core feature of our  democracy and a vital component to any notion of social justice.

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In the Public Interest? Living in Harms Way, at Public Expense, and in Perpetuity, No Less…

March 27th, 2014 No comments

Today, we have a guest post by my good friend and former colleague, Bill Neil.

Bill was the Director of Conservation, NJ Audubon Society and NJ Coastal Coordinator, American Littoral Society, from 1988-2001.

In a letter to Legislators, Bill explains why an important bill that is up today in Trenton is in the public interest. NJ is an anomaly in providing a statutory “right to- rebuild” storm damaged properties. The bill would revoke that “right”.

Enjoy it and realize how much we’ve lost with Bill’s departure. [Note: I took the liberty to edit with links to the bill and a NY Times book review].

Dear Chairman Smith and Senator Barnes:

I write in support of S-62, which would overturn the guaranteed right of affected property owners to rebuild in the wake of a natural disaster. Instead, destroyed or damaged homeowners would have to apply for a permit from the NJDEP, subject to the publicly vetted regulations which might deny, or allow rebuilding, with conditions rooted in science and historical records.   I also support a proposed logical amendment to make the comparable change to the Flood Hazard Area Control Act, an amendment which is based on solid evidence of where, and how frequently, structures are damaged, indicating this is not just a coastal problem.

Please note, for the record, that I was the lead negotiator for the New Jersey and national environmental groups seeking passage of Governor Thomas Kean’s coastal reform bill in 1988-1989, including a Coastal Commission,  when I worked for the American Littoral Society, then under the Direction of the late Dery Bennett. Dery was, without much exaggeration, the “soul” of state and national coastal conservation efforts, and he felt very strongly that preventing an “absolute right to rebuild” for coastal properties destroyed or damaged 50% or more, was a key, core component of any worthy coastal legislation. On that matter, we parted ways with Governor Kean.

In his recent book, “Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time,” [ see NY Times review] Columbia University professor of political science and history Ira Katznelson made a very telling observation about the nature of the American state and legislative process that developed in the wake of the New Deal, what has been described as “pluralist interest group bargaining” but which Katznelson refines to a “pluralist model of procedural politics.” He goes on to give a powerful description of what was more deeply at stake, and I think the parallels are clear for the matters in this bill.  The passages are from the Chapter entitled “Public Procedures, Private Interests”:

But just as planned administrative economic management or corporate forms of political negotiations do not come without cost, neither did this pluralist model of procedural politics.  Unchecked by the pursuit of a public interest, its formal neutrality opened the state to the distortions of private power.  The new public philosophy of group competition abdicated any democratic, as distinct from dictatorial, notions of a civic interest.  Placed under great stress, public authority to achieve common goals thus lacked means to articulate why private interests should not dominate decision making about public policy.

The resulting contest veered between an open and fair competition and a game with skewed rules and a syntax of inequality.  The more diffuse an interest – that is, the more civic and public – the less it could be served by this organization of political influence.  With planning replaced by bargaining, government, too, often came to be ‘captured by too-narrow a range of interests.

In the matter at hand, there is a clear and powerful case to be made that the public interest is being obscured, even though now it is  backed by repeated multi-billion dollar injections of federal money for disaster relief and aid to property owners, and to past and future defensive measures at the coast (and elsewhere), including the nation’s most expensive beach replenishment program.  Science tells us that the costs of defending private building interests at the coast will be going up, not down, due to rising sea levels and more intense storms, thanks to global warming. And let’s not forget that there is an additional cost to this physical situation: the costs of defending the private and public infrastructure that makes this living arrangement possible. The new scientific reality of global warning must be added to the long historical record of damage at the coast due to hurricanes (and inland flooding too, along Raritan Bay, the Passaic River…and other locales noted for repeated immersions) which, even hundreds of years before the global warming factor, tended to have long term but predictable cycles…and New Jersey and New York were  overdue…

Let us be clear, and let me be blunt about what the defenders of the status quo at the coast, and elsewhere, are demanding, enshrined very well in the existing”guaranteed right to rebuild” provision:  they are asking for unlimited federal and state dollars to defend their right to build, and re-build in demonstrably dangerous places, documented not in environmental imaginations or “planner’s projections” but by the boundaries drawn in reality by nature herself.  Or by acts of God, if you would prefer.  And they want that right to continue in perpetuity.   In their best case, they claim that the gold mine which is the NJ coast pays for itself, which conveniently ignores the fact that it could continue to due so, assuming that claim might be true,  at a much safer distance from the danger zones, ones which will continue to expand and encroach upon human property lines. And claim human lives as well.

Has their ever been a clearer case of the public interest being overwhelmed by a tiny minority of  wealthy property owners, tempered by the acknowledged fact that there are clearly some much poorer citizens also in harm’s way?  And this despite the fact that the public interest side is fully willingly to make the distressed parties “whole,” including relocation expenses.

Thank you for your time and attention to this important matter, of interest to citizens everywhere, not just New Jersey.


William R. Neil*

2008 Gainsboro Road

Rockville, MD 20851

*Former Director of Conservation, NJ Audubon Society and NJ Coastal Coordinator, American Littoral Society, 1988-2001

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Fenimore Landfill Is Not Alone

March 26th, 2014 No comments

Hundreds of Old Dumps Pollute Streams, Groundwater, & Air Quality

DEP Plays Regulatory Games To Waive Their Own Regulations

This is a story about how DEP is playing extremely destructive regulatory games to allow hundreds of old landfills to continue to pollute the environment and to keep that information from the public.

Turning lemons into lemonade, it’s now all swept under the rug by big plans to install solar on a handful of those landfills, as if that will cleanup the huge pollution problem those landfills pose.

We will tell this story in light of the most visible example right now,the Fenimore landfill in Roxbury, NJ.

What DEP landfill regulations require and what DEP actually has done there are completely at odds.

So after you read all those press clips and watch all the TV news videos of hundreds of angry people in Roxbury railing against DEP’s unilaterally imposed – without public opportunity to comment – Fenimore Landfill closure plan fiasco, first take a look at the big picture – from DEP’s 2006 Solid Waste Management Plan Update – section on Landfill Closure Planning:

the Department’s landfill closure objectives are to

  • Identify those landfills which have terminated operations, but have not been properly closed consistent with DEP closure requirements;
  • Identify the closure requirements needed by each of these landfills;
  • Rank these landfills according to the severity and significance of the environmental risks they pose;
  • Identify responsible party or alternative funding sources to pay for proper closure of these landfills;
  • Where necessary, remediate those landfill sites that are polluting the ground and surface waters of the state; and
  • Promote the redevelopment of landfill sites which have been properly closed and remediated with an emphasis on development of parks and open space where appropriate.

Has DEP accomplished any of these objects at the Fenimore landfill?

Next, let’s look at the scope of the statewide landfill problem, again, based on DEP’s own 2006 Solid Waste Plan Update:

Universe of Concern

There are over 600 known or suspected landfills in New Jersey. There have been approximately 400 landfills that registered with DEP and are known to have accepted solid waste, and DEP has fairly detailed records on these facilities. There are approximately 200 additional sites that are known or suspected to contain buried solid waste, but never registered with the DEP. The DEP has very limited records on these unregistered facilities.

Of the approximately 400 registered landfills, more than half ceased operations prior to January 1, 1982, and were not required to submit detailed closure and post closure care plans, although they were required to install and maintain a two foot soil final cover. The DEP commonly refers to these landfills as the “pre-1982″ facilities. Detailed plans are required of the 166 landfills which operated beyond January 1, 1982, as they are subject to the “Sanitary Landfill Facility Closure and Contingency Fund Act” (Closure Act), N.J.S.A. 13:1E-100, which makes those landfills subject to comprehensive regulatory controls upon closure. The Closure Act also imposed a tax on those landfills that operated beyond January 1, 1982, with the proceeds accruing in escrow accounts specifically dedicated to landfill closure. The DEP commonly refers to these landfills as the “post-1982″ facilities. Presently, 146 of the 166 post-1982 landfills have closed, while 20 continue to operate.

Without getting too deep into the legal weeds, keep in mind that DEP has broad and strong legal powers to regulate any discharge of pollution from any landfill – regardless of the age of the landfill or when it operated – to the air, land, surface, or groundwater of the State under multiple State laws, including the NJ Spill Compensation and Control Act (NJ’s State “Superfund” law), the NJ Water Pollution Control Act, and the NJ Air Pollution Control Act.

So please don’t buy DEP’s excuses and lies that they have no power to do the right thing.

[Full disclosure: I was part of the DEP team that drafted the first “Statewide Landfill Closure Plan” in the late 1980’s. That Plan called for a $3 BILLION  fund to properly close over 400 old polluting landfills.

That Closure Plan was presented to then DEP Commissioner Chris Daggett.

Daggett practically laughed us out of his office, with a quip that we must be out of our minds if we thought that he was going to go to Governor Kean with a request for $3 billion to close old landfills.

So, I tend to get a little pissed off when well fed people like  Daggett (Dodge Foundation) and Mike Catania (Duke Foundation) prance around as wise men on a Blue Ribbon Panel urging State policymakers to bite the bullet and make difficult choices to fund environmental and infrastructure programs. What career or personal risks did they take on their watch at DEP?]

But I bitterly digress – lets get back to take a look at what the DEP landfill regulations require:

DEP landfill regulations flat out prohibit: 

(read the entire rule, you’ll be amazed at what is required –  especially

  • 7:26-2A.6. Sanitary landfill environmental performance standards;  
  • 7:26-2A.7 Sanitary landfill engineering design standards and construction requirements;
  •  7:26-2A.8 Sanitary landfill operational and maintenance requirements
  • 7:26-2A.9 Closure and post-closure care of sanitary landfills    

7:26-2A.4. General prohibitions and requirements

(a) Open dumps are declared to be a nuisance, hazardous to human health, and are prohibited.

(b) No new sanitary landfill shall be constructed or any existing landfill continue to operate where solid waste is or would be in contact with the surface or ground waters. This provision shall not apply to cleanfill.

(c) Leachate from any sanitary landfill shall not be allowed to drain or discharge into the surface water or groundwater except as permitted pursuant to the NJPDES regulations, N.J.A.C. 7:14A.

(d) No sanitary landfill shall be operated in a manner that would result in the impairment of the quality of the surface or groundwaters to a degree that would degrade the quality of either the surface or ground waters beyond the classification established by the Department in the Surface Water Quality Standards, N.J.A.C. 7:9-4, or the Ground Water Quality Standards, N.J.A.C. 7:9C.

(e) No sanitary landfill shall be operated in a manner that would result in the degradation of the ambient air quality beyond the standards established by the Department pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:27.

[(f) – (l)]

(m) The owner or operator of an existing sanitary landfill shall be required to design in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:26-2A.7(f)3 or 4, and after Departmental approval of the design, construct, operate and maintain, a gas collection, venting and monitoring system when gas is detected at the points set forth at N.J.A.C. 7:26-2A.7(f)3 or 4;

(n) The owner or operator of an existing sanitary landfill shall install a groundwater monitoring system in accordance with the requirements of N.J.A.C. 7:14A-6.

(o) The owner or operator of an existing sanitary landfill shall be required to design and after Departmental approval of the design, construct, operate and maintain a leachate control collection and treatment system when leachate is determined to be impacting the quality of the surface and groundwaters of the area.

When the DEP authorized the “old” Fenimore landfill – which was not subject to certain closure and permitting portions of the above DEP regulations – to accept 400,000 cubic yards of construction and demolition waste, the landfill became a “new” landfill  subject to all these DEP landfill regulations.

The new disposal operation there also became subject to DEP Landfill closure regulations, which require things like this:

(d) General requirements for a Closure and Post-Closure Plan are as follows:

1. No person shall construct or operate a sanitary landfill without an approval from the Department of a Closure and Post-Closure Plan. Such Plan shall consist of both a Closure and Post-Closure Care Plan and a Closure and Post-Closure Financial Plan in accordance with the provisions of (e) and (f) below, except as otherwise authorized by the Department.

2. The submission for approval by the Department of the Closure and Post-Closure Plan shall be made upon application for new sanitary landfill permit.

Before DEP can issue a landfill permit or closure plan approval, DEP must provide extensive notice and multiple opportunities for public review and public comment.

DEP rules require: (NJAC 7:26- 2

6. Upon determining that the application or Addendum is complete, the Department shall send notice that an application or Addendum has been filed identifying the applicant, describing the type of facility, location of the facility and locations where and when application materials are available for review to the following:

i. The mayor, planning board, environmental commission and the health officer of any municipality in which any portion of the facility is proposed to be located;

ii. The mayor, planning board, environmental commission and health officer of any municipality, the borders of which lie within one mile of the perimeter of the proposed facility; and

iii. The implementing agency for the solid waste management plan of any solid waste management district in which any portion of the facility is proposed to be located;

7. Upon determining that an application or Addendum is complete, the Department shall submit a copy of the SWF permit application materials to the following for review: (same parties)

[8. – 9.]

10. The Department shall publish notice in the DEP Bulletin of the receipt of each new application, and each significant agency action on an application currently before it. Notice shall be given for significant actions including, but not limited to, the determination of completeness, tentative approval, rejection of an application, public hearings on a tentative approval, final decision on a permit, transfer of a permit and permit renewal. Publication of notice in the DEP Bulletin constitutes constructive notice to all interested persons of the Department actions on SWF permits.


13. Not later than 45 days after the granting of a tentative approval of an application for a SWF permit, the Department shall conduct a public hearing on the proposed facility and operator in accordance with the procedures set forth in N.J.A.C. 7:26-2.5.

The public hearing requirements are equally comprehensive and detailed:

7:26-2.5 Public hearing procedures

(a) The Department shall be responsible for scheduling and conducting a public hearing in reasonable proximity to the location of the proposed facility.

(b) The Department shall designate a hearing officer who shall exercise reasonable discretion in the conduct of the hearing and shall encourage general discussion of the proposed facility, including public comment on the proposed operation, tentative approval or other action to be taken by the Department.

(c) The public hearing shall be a non-adversarial hearing at which any interested person may submit oral or written statements and data concerning the proposed operation, tentative approval or other agency action.

(d) The Department may make a presentation at the public hearing, describing the proposed facility and explaining the basis for the issuance of the tentative approval or other proposed action.

(e) The applicant shall appear at the public hearing on a tentative approval and be available to answer questions regarding the proposed facility. Failure of an applicant to appear and answer relevant questions at the public hearing may result in revocation of the tentative approval and denial of the application. The applicant may make a presentation at the public hearing, describing the proposed facility.

(f) The public hearing proceedings shall be transcribed or recorded and the transcript shall be part of the administrative record.

(g) The hearing officer, to the extent feasible, shall conduct the hearing in the following manner:

1. All interested persons shall be afforded the opportunity to appear and comment at the hearing;

2. Time shall be allotted for individuals to present comments where necessary to accommodate those present and to limit repetition;

3. Testimony on irrelevant matters shall be excluded; and

4. The hearing officer shall ensure that the hearing proceeds in an orderly fashion.

(h) To help ensure that relevant questions are answered at the public hearing, such questions may be submitted to the Department no later than five days prior to the public hearing. At the time of the hearing, the Department or the applicant, in the Department’s discretion, will make every reasonable effort to answer these questions and other relevant questions received at the hearing.

The DEP often tried to hide behind the fact that landfills that ceased operations prior to Jan 1982 are not subject to landfill closure requirements under State Landfill Closure laws. These landfills are now described as “legacy landfills”.

But that is just a big lie. And there it is in plain sight, for anyone willing to read the documents.

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The Looming Pitchfork Deficit

March 26th, 2014 No comments

Tar and Feathers In Short Supply

Gov. Christie Finally Admits He Has No Experience

Philip Dawe - "The Bostonians Paying the Excise-man, or Tarring and Feathering" (1774)

“Let me be, once again, the guy to admit that this has not gone perfectly, far from it. This is the first time we’ve ever done this.” ~~~ Gov. Chris Christie, 3/25/14  Belmar  “Town Hall”


Although I’ve urged the media to “starve the beast” and simply stop covering Gov. Christie’s faux “Town Halls”, I will admit that Scott Gurian at NJ Spotlight wrote a surprising good story about the Town Hall in Belmar yesterday, see:

The story captures the human interest aspects, while linking them to specific policy failures of the Christie Adminsitration.

Journalistically, that’s progress, as for the most part, there is a complete disconnect in media coverage between the woes of Sandy victims and the incompetence and worse in high places of the Christie Administration.

The deluge of scandal stories and the torrent of human interest stories and the paucity of policy stories have proceeded on independent paths.

Today, Gurian has managed to weave them together (with the exception of the pass he gave the Gov. on his repeated lies about Federal Flood Insurance and so called “competition” by the private sector.]

But, still, the elephant and naked Emperor are ignored.

Thus, the illustration above and my comment on the story:

If people are frustrated, distraught angry, and depressed now, just think about how bad things will be when the next big storm hits and they get flooded out again.

After swallowing Gov. Christie’s “Rebuild Now!” myth and having been allowed to rebuild in the same vulnerable locations – many without even elevating to the new but still inadequate higher DEP standards – people will be outraged.

And there won’t be billions of dollars in federal aid to bail their butts out.

Then the crap will really hit the fan – but Gov. Christie and his crew – hacks like Bob Martin at DEP – will all be long gone.

Count on it.

As they say, time will tell.

And the science tells us – with absolute certainty –  that it’s not a question of whether, but of when and how bad.

And I can assure you that the “Stop FEMA Now!” crowd will be nowhere to be found.

So keep your eyes peeled at the local hardware store for the pitchfork brigade. Suggest you get yours now – there won’t be enough to go around after the next storm.

Getting In Christie's Face - lot's more of that to come (Flemington "Town Hall" 3/20/14) That's Peter Vernero, former Whitman Attorney General, on the lower left


Gov. Christie, caught in his typical "fuck you" bully mode. Bring it on Fat Man!

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NJ Court Orders Christie To Revisit RGGI

March 25th, 2014 No comments

Posting entire article from subscription E&E – hope they don’t sue me!

N.J. court orders Christie admin to revisit RGGI rules in public

Colin Sullivan, E&E reporter

Published: Tuesday, March 25, 2014


A New Jersey court today gave Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s administration 60 days to strike or revise rules tied to the state’s former participation in a regional cap-and-trade carbon reduction program for power plants.

The ruling, from the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court, gave environmental groups a victory in their campaign to return the Garden State to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Christie, a presumed candidate for the GOP nomination to the White House in 2016, ended the state’s participation in 2011 in what was a 10-state Northeast system and has twice vetoed legislation meant to bring New Jersey back into the initiative.

Now reduced to nine states, the cap-and-trade regime is still humming, and environmentalists want New Jersey back in the game.

The attorney who argued on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environment New Jersey called the ruling an important development because, in her view, Christie subverted the law when he declared RGGI moot without channeling the decision through the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“The rules for participating in RGGI were still on the books and Christie told the regulated community to forget it,” said Susan Kraham of Columbia University’s Environmental Law Clinic. “But the DEP has to repeal those regulations before he can do that. That process is a public process.”

The court agreed, siding with Kraham and the environmental groups over the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, which represented DEP in court.

Kraham told the court that Christie illegally ended participation in RGGI when DEP staff posted a note on its website stating that regulated entities no longer had to comply with carbon dioxide limits or the mechanics of the trading regime.

Her allies said the ruling may pave the way for New Jersey’s return because the 60-day mandate will include comments from the public and stakeholders that may paint RGGI as successful.

“The Christie administration sidestepped the public process required by law,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, in a statement. “New Jerseyans support action to reduce the impacts of global warming.”

The order may also provide some steam for Democrats pushing a third bill to reinstate RGGI in the state Legislature. Kraham said it could start the ball rolling in that direction because Christie could still be bound by a pair of state global warming laws still on the books that set the table for RGGI participation in the first place.

“There’s a real question about whether based on the language of those statutes the administration can withdraw from RGGI and not do something else in its place,” she said.

The state’s electricity industry was also involved in the case and urged the court to stay any enforcement against power plants until the process at DEP has been resolved. The court agreed with that argument because the regulatory entity told the companies to no longer comply with the rules.

In an email, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said the ruling “is under review in consultation with the client (DEP).”

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