Archive for March, 2014

Would You Provide Billions To Fund This Plan?

March 25th, 2014 No comments

Gov. Christie’s  Hazard Mitigation Plan Is Vague – No Deadlines For Action

Source: NJ Hazard Mitigation Plan (March 2014)

The above table presents “high priority” actions from NJ’s Hazard Mitigation Plan – Section 6 – Mitigation Strategy.

The actions and initiatives involve conducting vulnerability assessment and mitigation planning for critical facilities in the highest risk flood zones – little things, like parking trains in flood hazard areas; and protecting drinking water and sewage treatment plants; and hardening energy infrastructure.

Like all the important stuff that was wiped out by Sandy.

If the print is too small to read, let me summarize:

  • Projected timelines:        “to be determined”
  • Projected resources:       “to be determined”
  • Status:                                “ongoing
  • Responsible agencies: “local/regional authorities”

Understanding the last point, regarding the “responsible agency” is key – note that the State’s Plan makes all that a local government responsibility or the job or regional water and sewer authorities. Total state abdication. Get it?

Would you sign you kids homework if it contained bullshit like that?

So why should Congress, FEMA, HUD, EPA, and the US Army Corps provide billions of taxpayer dollars to fund it?

Of the dozens of actions and initiatives listed, there are two that are rated “highest priority” actions in the plan are 1) to incorporate existing earth quake studies into the plan; and 2) develop local government webpages.

This is not a joke.

Does it surprise you that this shoddy effort is being managed thusly:

The Governor of New Jersey has the overall responsibility for Emergency Management activities in the State.    

A number of federal and State programs support hazard mitigation in New Jersey. The Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding (GORR) was established to lead the recovery efforts after Superstorm Sandy. The GORR taps the institutional knowledge and bandwidth of New Jersey state agencies in recovering from Superstorm Sandy. The working group structure developed by Governor Christie’s recovery team is designed to complement the federal long-term recovery structure, allowing the State to efficiently identify federal resources and coordinate New Jersey’s recovery.

Given the Christie Administration’s supreme competence and stellar performance in Sandy recovery and administering federal grant money, don’t you just feel so much safer now?

But how could the NJ press corps miss this story? For details, see this.

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Christie DEP Spinning Out of Control on Why Drinking Water Quality Institute Was Shut Down

March 24th, 2014 No comments

DEP Commissioner Martin Pulled the Plug, Based on Dupont and Chemical Industry Opposition

DEP Allowed To Use “Defuse” and “Spin” Tactics

Star Ledger story derails critical Associated Press expose

It’s time to set the record straight on the Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI).

I’ve written about all this multiple times, so now that the story has finally broken in the press, I am compelled to set the record straight.

Simply put, Ryan Hutchins’ Star Ledger story today is a muddled piece of he said/she said crap. Hutchins got the story badly wrong.

Worse, after giving the DEP press office a pass to flat out lie, Hutchins took it upon himself to inject this innuendo, and attack the “narrative” allegedly presented to him by some un-named “lobbyist ” with this editorial gem:

“Toward the end of the Corzine period, I grew tired because those sort of people stopped paying attention to it,” Robson said, contradicting a narrative presented by some lobbyists who had suggested the professor resigned over tensions with Christie’s team. “It’s nothing to do with the Republican Party. It has nothing to do with the new DEP commissioner.”

It is rare for a reporter to note any “contradiction” between the spin of his sources, so Hutchins is really injecting his own assessment of credibility and therefore obligated to expand on that assessment and at least identify the discredited “lobbyist” whose narrative he rejected.

Hutchins didn’t call us for a comment, but here is what we wrote on Chairman Robson’s resignation, way back on May 5, 2010:

In February 2010, the longtime Chair of the DWQI, Dr. Mark Robson of Rutgers University, resigned when it became clear that the DEP under outgoing Gov. Corzine would not act on the DWQI’s March 2009 recommendations. His successor will presumably be announced at the upcoming DWQI meeting this Friday, May 7. That meeting, the first under Christie, may also reveal the future of the DWQI itself. ~~~ PEER: Tighter NJ Drinking Water Standards In Oblivion (May 5, 2010)

So, with that upfront clarification in mind, here we go.

  • Journalistic backstory

At the outset, keep this quote in mind from the recent NJ Spotlight killer analysis: What’s wrong with Christie’s government?. It precisely describes the role DEP press spokesman Larry Ragonese – a former Star Ledger reporter who knows how the media works and obviously still has relationships there – is being allowed to play:

“As a division director, I could talk to reporters whenever I wanted, and if something happened, I had relationships I could call upon to defuse the story,” recalled one former state official who served under three governors. “But Christie’s cabinet isn’t allowed to talk the press, so they don’t have any ability to spin stories. They just go into a foxhole and wait for the bombardment to end.”

With that quote about how to “defuse” or “spin” bad news or critical stories, first, let’s take a step back to Hutchins’ story last week on March 19, where he thinks he “broke” the story of the resumption of meetings by the Drinking Water Quality Institute, see: Water quality board to meet for first time in four years.

Check out the free pass Hutchins gave to Larry Ragonese of DEP to “defuse” and “spin” the reason for the 4 year hiatus at the DWQI:

The board has not held a meeting since early 2010, around the same time its chairman resigned.

The board stopped meeting because we ended up with less members than we needed,” Ragonese said, adding that the administration was preparing new appointments when it was delayed by Hurricane Sandy.

The “Institute” (not the “board”) last met on September 10, 2010, not “early 2010″, so Hutchins got his chronology wrong. (and that’s over 2 years before Sandy struck)

The DWQI did not lack a quorum, so the DEP spin “we ended up with less members than we needed” is an obvious lie that Hutchins allowed to go unexamined.

Hutchins’ false chronology also tied what he mistakenly believed was the last DWQI meeting to the resignation of former Chairman Robson, thereby falsely implying some relationship, e.g. the reason that the DWQI stopped meeting involved the resignation. That is not an inadvertent or minor mistake. Hutchins was told this by a source, most certainly DEP spinmeister Larry Ragonese.

The fact that Hutchins got that chronology badly wrong is not an accident, because the entire reason the DWQI was ordered by DEP Commissioner Martin to stop meeting was a result of the what went on at the September 2010 meeting, not the February 2010 meeting when Robson resigned.

Hutchins based his initial 3/19/14 story on Gov. Christie’s appointments of DWQI members. By writing that story based on the “news hook” of Gov. Christie’s 3 appointments to the DWQI, Ryan took the bait and he didn’t do any real reporting.

The bait Hutchins took was an effort to derail a real piece of investigative journalism by Geoff Mulivihill of the Associated Press.

DEP’s Ragonese knew that AP’s Mulvihill was working on a DWQI story – and from the OPRA’s Mulvihill filed and the questions he was asking, it was obviously going to be an explosive and critical story.

So, Larry Ragonese of DEP “defused” the AP Mulvihill story and used Hutchins as his chump.

In fact, I strongly suspect that it was Mulvihill’s investigative work that prompted the Gov.’s announcement of his 3 new DWQI appointments.

  •  Who Shut The DWQI Down and Why?

I’ve told this story multiple times, so let’s look elswhere.

According to Delaware Riverkeeper’s July 24, 2013 memo (Riverkeeper has done great work on the DWQI, PFOA, and PFNA):

New Jerseys’ Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI) was in the process of developing a safe drinking water standard (maximum contaminant level) for PFOA in 2010 when they were inexplicably shut down by the current Administration, an unprecedented situation. There have been no public meetings of the DWQI since the fall of 2010.

Riverkeeper exposed DEP’s efforts to cover this all up, including denying OPRA records requests:

Delaware Riverkeeper Network has filed several Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for a 2009 Occurrence Study Report on perflourinated chemicals (including PFOA1 and PFOS2) in the State’s drinking water but our requests have been refused by the agency on the grounds that the report is “deliberative”.

But the shut down of the DWQI was not at all “inexplicable” – nor was the DEP’s efforts to cover up the  story by denying OPRA requests.

Associated Press reporter Geoff Mulvihill did some real investigative work on those questions – including filing his own OPRA requests.

Here is what AP’s Mulvihill found, in a story that the Star Ledger’s Hutchins forced AP to publish prematurely (curiously, an important AP story not picked up by NJ media):

The Drinking Water Quality Institute, formed under a 1983 law, has long been watched closely by industry and environmental groups.

Its last meeting was in September 2010, when a subcommittee proposed that limits be considered on how much perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA — a chemical used to make everything from Teflon to waterproof clothing — should be permitted in the water supply.

The request upset the Chemistry Council of New Jersey, a group that represents manufacturers that use chemicals. The month after the proposal, the council complained to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The Associated Press recently obtained dozens of communications between the industry group and the DEP concerning drinking water standards and the institute. The correspondence showed that the Chemistry Council repeatedly sought and received meetings with officials to discuss the institute’s structure. The AP also requested similar communications between the DEP and environmental leaders, but the state said there were no similar letters from environmentalists.


How can a scandal like that not be reported by NJ media?

So let’s recap what happened, according to the AP story:

1) The DWQI last met on September 10, 2010;

2) at that meeting, there were efforts to regulate PFOA, a Dupont manufactured chemical;

3) the NJ Chemistry Council objected to that, intervened behind the scenes, attacked the DWQI, and was granted private meetings with DEP.

My sources told me a very similar story to that reported by AP. I was told:

1) DEP Commissioner Martin was blindsided and angered by a September 16, 2010 NJN TV news report by Ed Rogers on the September 2010 meeting, in which I was interviewed and praised the action taken that day (sorry, had to link to my update because the original NJ TV link was dead);

I previously, in April 2010, caught and called out Commissioner Martin for a lie on killing the perchlorate drinking water standard, a claim validated by a killer 4/25/10 Bergen Record story and an April 30, 2010 followup highly critical editorial “Cleaner Water”, so I was on Martin’s shit list for sure:

Cleaner water 

… Martin’s new opinion came about after he was embarrassed publicly. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility released e-mails sent to Martin from the EPA that made clear that even if the agency imposed a limit, 6 1/2 years could elapse before the rule was in place, Staff Writer James O’Neill reported. Martin would have been playing Russian roulette with the public’s health.

Perchlorate is linked to thyroid dysfunction. In fetuses and infants (through formula or breast milk), high levels of perchlorate can cause developmental delays and learning disabilities. No parent would ever choose to give perchlorate-laced juice to a baby, and no pregnant woman would ever drink a caffeine-free beverage if she knew it included a rocket-fuel additive.

The previous commissioner had proposed a sensible perchlorate limit of 5 parts per billion, far below a possible federal limit. The state limit would leave it in a good position if later scientists find that even 15 parts per billion is too high.

Martin has not said what the perchlorate limit will be. We know what it should be: 5 parts per billion.

Ouch! (BTW, DEP never adopted the perchlorate MCL, no did EPA).

2) Shortly thereafter, Commissioner Martin directed DEP staff to the DWQI to stop meeting;

3) Commissioner Martin also retaliated against DEP professional staff that were involved in the September 2010 meeting;

4) In addition to the NJ Chemistry Council, the Dupont Corporation was involved in attacking the science of DEP professionals and the credibility of the DWQI.

I’ve written about all this multiple times, so now that the story has finally broken, I am compelled to set the record straight.

The almost 4 year shut down had nothing at all to do with a lack of a full set of DWQI members or with the resignation of former Chairman Robson.

The DWQI was shut down because they were in the process of recommending regulatory standards that were strongly opposed by Dupont, the NJ Chemistry Council, and other corporate interests (there was another key standard under development for toxic heavy metal chromium found at over 100 NJ toxic sites. That too was aggressively opposed by powerful corporate interests.)

The anti-regulatory and pro-business Christie DEP agreed with that industry attack, and sacrificed public health to industry profits.

It’s as simple as that – and there is a huge paper trail to prove it – had only intrepid Star Ledger reporter Mr. Hutchins filed an OPRA, cracked a file and read the record – instead of being spun by Ragonese.

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When The Spell Is Broken

March 23rd, 2014 No comments

After Spell of 3 Years & 7 Months, the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute To Meet Again

All your magic and your ways and schemes
All your lies come and tear at your dreams
When the spell is broken 
(Can’t cry if you don’t know how)
When the spell is broken
Now you’re handing her that same old line
It’s just straws in the wind this time
When love has died, 
There’s none starry-eyed
No kiss, no tears, 
No farewell souvenirs
Not even a token, when the spell is broken

Don’t swear your heart 
From the very start
Love letters you wrote 
Are pushed back down you throat
And leave you choking, when the spell is broken   ~~~ When the spell is broken (Richard Thompson)

Richard Thompson version (listen)

Bonnie Rait – Blind Boys of Alabama version (listen)

The spell is broken.

(We know who imposed the spell and why the spell was imposed.)

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin, champion of "customer service" and "regulatory relief"

DEP just posted a note on their website that the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute will meet on April 29, 2014, after a 3 year and 7 month spell.

Here is the Agenda for that meeting.

Because it appears that DEP will be pursuing an MCL for PFNA, I need to update this recent post, where I questioned DEP’s motives and accused the DEP of evading the MCL route in favor of an Interim Specific Ground  Water Quality Criteria.

But, according to the agenda, there is no clarity regarding the “status of (prior) DWQI recommendations”, so I still question DEP’s motives.

To see what those prior DWQI recommendations are, see this post, which I wrote after the last DWQI meeting on September 10, 2010:

For a clarification and expansion on that post, see this post, which I wrote a few days later:

Should be an interesting meeting on April 29, 2014 – hope to see you there.

Hal Bozarth, lobbyist for the NJ Chemistry Council (AKA "The Godfather of Toxics")

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Town Hall Protest Not The First Time Christie Administration Used State Police To Intimidate Critics

March 22nd, 2014 2 comments

Pure coincidence? Or just more evidence of a pattern of abuse of authority?

I am reposting the below April 13, 2010 post in light of today’s Star Ledger editorial, which calls for an explanation of why the NJ State Police were photographing protesters at Gov. Christie’s Town Hall last week, see:

I wrote DEP Commissioner Martin to request a similar explanation at the time – letter below – never received the courtesy of a reply from Mr. Martin.

Pure coincidence? Or just more evidence of a pattern of abuse of authority?

"New World Order" at DEP (Source: NJ DEP powerpoint slide displayed at meeting) (4/13/.10)

Ironically, the DEP PowerPoint briefing title was “New World Order”

DEP held an important meeting today to brief consultants and environmental groups about implementation plans for the new privatized controversial toxic site cleanup Licensed Site Professionals (LSP) program. Here is the DEP’s April 5 email public announcement and agenda:

A Site Remediation Advisory Group meeting has been scheduled for April 13, 2010 at 1:30in the Public Hearing Room at the Department of Environmental Protection Headquarters.  The agenda will be as follows:

1.Update from each of the Site Remedation Reform Act teams
a. Measures of Success
b. Near-term Priorities
c. Technical Regulations
d. Guidance Documents
2. Presentation of the draft Remedial Priority System
3. Open forum

I was forwarded this email by an environmental colleague (See below for email and those on the email, primarily folks like Dupont, the Chemistry Council and Petroleum Council lobbyists, and consultants). I have gone to SRAG meetings in the past, which have been open to the public and included a public comment opportunity. Given the importance of the agenda items, particularly the DEP’s new draft Remedial Priority System, I decided to attend and report to the public about these issues via this blog.

I arrived at the DEP building, signed in, and entered the meeting in DEP’s public meeting room. There were well over 50 people in attendance, mostly consultants and LSPs.

While I was having an informal conversation with a Deputy Attorney General, DEP Security advised me that Commissioner Martin directed me to leave the meeting. I asked him on what basis this Order was issued and was told the meeting was by invitation only. I replied that if this were the case, then Martin should try to enforce that restriction, as I was under the impression the meeting was open, and not by invitation, having attended open SRAG meetings before. Other  NJ environmentalist were invited, so this was not a private confidential industry only meeting.

Shortly thereafter, 3 state police officers showed up, directed me out of the public hearing room, told me that Martin has asked them to eject me, and took my personal identification information for their police action report.

Today’s over the top use of State Police is part of a troubling an unacceptable pattern by Martin to shut down public involvement in DEP decisions.

New World Order indeed!

Dear Commissioner Martin:

I am writing to condemn your decision to ask the State Police to eject me from the Site Remediation Advisory Group (SRAG) briefing by DEP staff, which was held today at DEP’s public hearing room.

Such heavy handed tactics are un-American, and have no place in state government.

I have attended SRAG meetings in the past.

I testified throughout the legislative debate on the Licensed Site Professional bill, the subject of today’s briefing.

I testified in the legislature specifically on the topic of the risk based priority system, which also was on today’s briefing agenda.

I received the DEP’s email invitation last week, which was forwarded to me by an environmental colleague. So the meeting was open to other environmental and public interest advocates.

There were dozens of people in the room. No DEP staffer requested identification at the door to assure that all in attendance were on an invitation list. So it is obvious that I was targeted for removal.

It is also obvious why I was targeted, because I am an intense, vocal, and visible advocate of the public interest and transparent government.

In light of this episode, I ask for your support towards reforms to make all DEP advisory group deliberations are open and accessible to the public, transparent, accountable, objective, and subject to ethical standards, as provided by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).


Bill Wolfe, Director
NJ PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)

—– Forwarded Message —–
From: “Maria Cardona” <>
To:, “Stephen posten” <>,,,,,,, “Simpson anjec” <>,, “David Stout” <>, “brian diepeveen” <>, “Joseph McKeon” <>,,,,,, “gregory miller2″ <>,,,,,,, “bruce amos” <>,, “sandra stiles” <>,, “warrenw ” <>,, “George Schlosser” <>,,,,,,,,, “Rick Konkowski” <>, “brent b archibald” <>, “john hannig” <>,,, “Lisa Hamilton” <>,,,, “benjamin alter” <>,,,,, “christine togno” <>,,,,,, “gail conenello” <>, “john spinello” <>,,,,,,, “megan keeper” <>,,,,,,,,,,,, wberk@ps&, “Bruce Preston” <>, “Michael Hornsby” <>,,,,,, “leroy bealer” <>,,,, “Andrew Thomas” <>, “Chris McCardell” <>, “Denise Waite” <>, “John Bolakas” <>, “Michael Gonglik” <>, “Mike Malone” <>,,,, “gary shelby” <>,,, “edward j lutz” <>, “Jenny Liu” <>, “Sheryl a telford” <>, “saile eng” <>,,
Sent: Monday, April 5, 2010 2:27:09 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: Site Remediation Advisory Group Meeting

A Site Remediation Advisory Group meeting has been scheduled for April 13, 2010 at 1:30 in the Public Hearing Room at the Department of Environmental Protection Headquarters.   The agenda will be as follows:

1.Update from each of the Site Remedation Reform Act teams
a. Measures of Success
b. Near-term Priorities
c. Technical Regulations
d. Guidance Documents
2. Presentation of the draft Remedial Priority System
3. Open forum

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The Depravity of a Christie “Town Hall”

March 20th, 2014 No comments

It’s All About Christie

Every Issue Is Turned Into An Attack on Public Employees 

Desperation Disguised As Political Circus

Citizens treated Like Children

Gov. Christie ignores questions from "Bridgegate" protesters at Flemington Town Hall (3/20/14)


“I think we’ve been through a period where too many people have been given to understand that if they have a problem, it’s the government’s job to cope with it. ‘I have a problem, I’ll get a grant.’ ‘I’m homeless, the government must house me.’ They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour. People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations. There’s no such thing as entitlement, unless someone has first met an obligation.” ~~~ Margaret Thatcher 10/31/87

I had the distinct displeasure today to attend my first Christie “Town Hall” in Flemington. Never again.

I went and arrived early with the intent to to join protesters or hecklers, or to support the work of intrepid journalists.

I thought maybe I’d at least get to photo some State Police abuses, especially after the Attorney General embarrassed them with his Order to stop taking pictures of protesters.

I found none.

During the performance, I did manage to cough out a few “Wolff & Samson” and “Koch Brothers” (like the “Blowjob” scene in Animal House) during the Governor’s  demagoguery, but the media guys I was standing with were outright hostile or quietly embarrassed by my lame attempts – which made me want to shout out a good question like:

Last week you tried to kill the electric car.

Why did your BPU just kill off shore wind?

But there was to be none of that today.

The Gov. spent the first full 40 minutes self promoting – eating up time for questions from the people he claimed to have come to listen to.

His soliloquy was a bare knuckle partisan attack on public sector workers, their pensions, their health and retirement benefits, their ability to organize and represent their interests, and the Democrats in the legislature who protect those labor rights and interests.

Christie attacked teachers for not wanting to “compete” as individuals – he claimed he got all this from his mother.

But what I heard was not motherly love and compassion, but the Ayn Rand radical individualist, anti-social, ravings of Margaret Thatcher. At root, Christie agrees with Thatcher that “There’s no such thing as society” – he is on a mission to attack all things public.

The Gov. faced mostly softball questions, which he turned into an attack on public employees every time.

But he also faced 4 critical questions – implementation of medical marijuana, higher education funding, the firing of Bridgette Kelly of Bridgegate fame, and self promotion in “stronger than the storm” ad campaign.

Yet he still managed to turn valid criticism into attack.

He attacked the individual questioners, or he attacked the sources of information they relied upon – he called NJ Policy Perspective a Corzine front group –  or he attacked the media for propagating false and misleading information.

The hypocrisy was stunning – as the Gov. used ad hominem tactics, half truths, spin, and flat out lies to attack his critics.

The entire perverse show was a circus – a scripted stunt – from the introductory music to the “We Take Care of Our Own” Springsteen finish.

It is shocking that the NJ and national media don’t simply ridicule this format and the Gov.’s sickening and depraved rantings.

handful of protesters outside Flemington Town Hall

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