Archive for May, 2014

DEP Water Supply Advisory Group Briefed on Climate Change Impacts

May 18th, 2014 No comments

DEP Says More Delay Expected In Update of Long Awaited Water Supply Plan

DEP Says Gov. Christie’s Office Directly Involved

[Update below]

The NJ Water Supply Advisory Council met Friday (5/16/14) for their regular monthly meeting, this time at the NJ American Water Co.’s Canal Road treatment plant.

Hot issues on the agenda included:

Here’s a quick summary of the mostly bad news that emerged from the meeting – wonks may want to continue reading for a brief discussion of each bullet provided below:

  • climate change is happening now, but continues to be ignored by Gov. Christie and all things DEP;
  • the update of the Water Supply Plan is bogged down in the Gov.’s Office politics & incompetence;
  • DEP continues to rely on ineffective voluntary guidance to implement what are largely rhetorical (PR) infrastructure resiliency and asset management policies;
  • water companies are pressuring DEP to relax technical assumptions regarding water demand in order to promote more new development despite water supply and infrastructure deficits; and
  • the findings & policy implications of a recent Rutgers/NJ Future Report regarding NJ’s water infrastructure crisis were not on the radar screen of the WSAC.
  • Climate Change impacts

Dr. Anthony Broccoli from Rutgers made a presentation that focused on: 1) increasing temperatures; 2) changing patterns of precipitation; and 3) sea level rise.

As we previously wrote, the Christie Administration is not addressing these serious issues in any meaningful way.

Dr. Broccoli then outlined various mitigation, adaptation, and geo-engineering response options.

I’ve seen it several times now and it has gotten press coverage – it is Broccoli’s canned presentation – so I will not go into details again here. All I’ll say is that perhaps Broccoli should consider presenting his science in the context of the policy needs of his audience. The farmers have different needs than the water supply managers, yet his presentation to both groups is virtually identical.

All the effects of climate change Broccoli outlined impact the available supply and demand for water, and will require that infrastructure be upgraded to adapt to various aspects of climate change, particularly sea level rise and increased frequency and severity of heavy rainfall and river/stream flooding.

[Brocolli noted that land use changes and increased impervious surfaces alter hydrology and exacerbate impacts.]

The presentation was unusually well attended (literally standing room only crowd, including a member of the press!) and there was a good discussion by members of the WSAC and attendees raised good questions, including:

1) Warmer temperatures will increase water demand, lengthen the growing season, and thereby increase evapo-transpiration. Projected extended dry spells, punctuated by more frequent and severe heavy rainfalls, will result in less recharge and more runoff. These dynamics will reduce stream flows and groundwater levels, putting more pressure on an already stressed natural ecosystems and infrastructure;

2) The same dynamics will “put a premium on water storage”.

3)  The current regulatory regime relies on statistical constructs (e.g. 100 year rainfall event, delineation of the flood hazard area; drought and water availability; flood elevations (FMA BFE’s and insurance FIRM’s); stream flows (passing flows), Safe Yield, assimilative capacity, etc) ) that are no longer scientifically valid or adequately protective.

The statistical concept of “stationarity” is no longer valid because climate change has changed the underlying causal dynamics. The future will not be like the past. Projections of future conditions can not be based on time series data from the past. This requires a radically different approach to policy – along lines of what Broccoli called the engineering “margin of safety”, but some call precaution.

4) Dr. Broccoli presented 1 slide that compared the carbon emissions from various carbon fuels per unit of energy produced. The Broccoli data slide showed that natural gas emitted less than half of the carbon emission that coal produces.

I called him on that slide as partially true but misleading in light of lifecycle analysis.

I asked him whether he was familiar with the research on lifecycle carbon emissions from natural gas and EPA’s recent findings of higher than expected ambient methane concentrations they trace back to gas production.

I asked him to put an asterisk on that data to note the current scientific controversy. He did not agree.

Surprisingly, Broccoli claimed that lifecycle analysis was a new scientific development he was not familiar with. (Note: while at DEP, I worked with researchers on product lifecycle analysis in the early 1990’s)

5) The issue of the need for additional treatment was ignored (but did get some attention later during the discussion on the recent Drinking Water Quality Institute meeting).

6) I asked DEP and  the individual members of the WSAC, particularly the municipal and private water companies, specifically when they would start to implement the climate science in water supply management decisions. I criticized the State’s lack of leadership. I noted that there was an undue concern about costs to the public, but that when I was at DEP in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, we quadrupled the cost of environmentally sound solid waste management, as a result of leadership from the Governor on down.

Response: crickets.

  • What ever happened to the Update of the Water Supply Master Plan?

Let me put this issue in context by quoting the recent legislative testimony of former DEP Commissioner Mark Mauriello:

“…we have a State Water Supply Plan that is 17 years old. It’s an embarrassment… [The] Water Supply Management Act requires that this plan be updated every five years. It hasn’t been updated since 1996. When I took over as Commissioner and had the authority to really boss people around, I had our Water Supply Division, in one year, complete a final draft update of that plan, which was being reviewed in December of ’09. Unfortunately I ran out of time due to the circumstances of the election… that plan has languished. And the word from DEP now is that they have ‘parked the plan.’ That’s a quote from the highest levels of the agency. We have to get the plan out of park.”  ~~~ (8/15/13, hit link for complete hearing transcript)

I felt bad for Jeff Hoffman, DEP’s representative to the WSAC.

Jeff was asked point blank about the status of the Update to the Water Supply Master Plan.

Jeff honestly replied that the draft Plan was done and is in the Gov.’s Office. Jeff said that the draft Plan Update has not moved and is not going anywhere.

Jeff went on to note that DEP has had to brief a new cast of policy people in the Gov. Office, who continue to raise questions and have ideas about “new directions and recommendations on how to change it”.

This fits the paradigm, at best, outlined in the NJ Spotlight story “What’s wrong with Christie’s government” and at worst the model of incompetence and political decision-making exposed by the GW Bridge scandal.

  • Relaxing water demand criteria for new development 

The WSAC has formed a Committee to look into the current DEP and residential site improvement standards (RSIS) regulatory requirements for estimating water demand from new development. This was euphemistically and misleadingly described on the meeting agenda as “Firm Capacity/RSIS Subcommittee Report”.

The intent seems to be to relax these demand projections to make it cheaper and easier to issue water allocation permits to new development and to back DEP off enforcement of exceedences of water allocation permits (look at DEP database here).

Water purveyors – and developers – argue that actual water use is far less than the amount assumed under various regulatory demand estimation methods (approximately 100 gpd per capita).

If these assumptions are relaxed, that would “free up” or create enormous new water capacity to serve new development and otherwise offset current and projected deficits that limit development.

Other water officials opposed the current DEP method to base compliance on the highest monthly water use over a  5 year period. They complained that sometimes they have an anomalous “bad month” with unusually high water demand.

Jennifer Coffee of Stonybrook Watershed – a new WSAC appointee – questioned what this means, especially in light of the impact of low flows on aquatic life in streams.

This is a really bad idea that needs to be strangled in the crib.

If water companies and developers want more capacity freed up, they should start with aggressive water conservation measures and fixing the leaks that cause losses in the range of 20 – 30% in some water systems.

  • Rutgers – NJ Future Reports 0n NJ’s Infrastructure Crisis

I was really surprised that these important Reports were not on the meeting agenda and that members were not aware of it. See:

I had to coax WSAC member and Rutger professor and Report author Dan Van Abs to even mention them.

The Report should be required reading for all water resource professionals;, public officials, journalists and environmentalists.

The WSAC will next meet on June 20 – location not set.

[Update 5/19/14 – With respect to point #3 above, I’ve written about but forgot to mention at WSAC meeting that President Obama’s Executive Order on Climate Change Adaptation includes a new policy about projection of future conditions, including:

Section 1. Policy. The impacts of climate change — including an increase in prolonged periods of excessively high temperatures, more heavy downpours, an increase in wildfires, more severe droughts, permafrost thawing, ocean acidification, and sea-level rise — are already affecting communities, natural resources, ecosystems, economies, and public health across the Nation. These impacts are often most significant for communities that already face economic or health-related challenges, and for species and habitats that are already facing other pressures. Managing these risks requires deliberate preparation, close cooperation, and coordinated planning by the Federal Government, as well as by stakeholders, to facilitate Federal, State, local, tribal, private-sector, and nonprofit-sector efforts to improve climate preparedness and resilience; help safeguard our economy, infrastructure, environment, and natural resources; and provide for the continuity of executive department and agency (agency) operations, services, and programs.


(ii) reform policies and Federal funding programs that may, perhaps unintentionally, increase the vulnerability of natural or built systems, economic sectors, natural resources, or communities to climate change related risks;

NJ needs an adaptation policy.

NJ DEP should be systematically reviewing exactly the type statistically based regulatory constructs I briefly mentioned above in light of projected climate change conditions.

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Was Traffic a “Bottom of the Barrel” Issue for the Christie Administration?

May 14th, 2014 No comments

Drewniak and McKenna have contradictory views on traffic and politics

Often, it seems, that the most in the weeds arcane details can reveal or suggest larger issues – a world in a grain of sand.

I listened to the testimony of Michael Drewniak yesterday, Gov. Christie’s spokesman.

He made a heroic effort to portray the Gov.’s narrative of betrayal and befuddlement – that’s what spokesperson’s do – but struggled at times with the details and chronology.  It seemed he was particularly off stride in responding to questions about when and what he told Charlie McKenna, a point I’ll get back to in a moment.

Drewniak’s notorious fangs were revealed just once, in his refusal to respond to Assemblyman Moriarty’s critical “narrative”.

In those regards, his testimony and how he was treated by the Committee stood in some contrast to the prior testimony of Christina Renna of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

Drewniak, the nasty partisan who was the Gov.’s personal long time attack dog and defender, got a more formal, respectful, and deferential posture than the friendly, naive, cooperative, lower level, public service oriented Renna.

Asm. Moriarty and at times Sen. Gill deviated somewhat from that overall approach in how the Committee treated Drewniak, who got little pushback despite the fact that his testimony, starting with his opening statement, was provocative, basically portraying the investigation as partisan and asserting his own and the Gov.’s honor and innocence.

Drewniak’s testimony revealed not only the highly partisan “us v. them” worldview of the Administration, but a seemingly implausible role limited to passing along factual information and making an awful lot of assumptions about what others did with that information.

Back to McKenna –

Drewniak walked back several portions of his testimony on the chronology of McKenna and he could not recall critical details on his interactions with McKenna. Given that Ms. Renna also was flummoxed and dissembled somewhat with respect to Mr. McKenna, I went and read his Mastro interview after the hearing and came across this gem, which, among many other things, contradicted Drewniak’s “bottom of the barrel” characterization of the traffic issue.

Prior to and during the week of the lane realignment (September 9–13, 2013), McKenna had no knowledge of the lane realignment. Had McKenna known about the lane realignment at the time, he probably would have done something to stop it, not for the reasons described in Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye’s September 13, 2013 email, but because traffic jams were simply not good for the Governor. At some point between September and October 2013, there was a major traffic jam on the Garden State Parkway because a contractor was late in completing a project on the highway, which forced certain lanes to remain closed for several hours longer than expected during the morning rush. The traffic jam was reported in the press and when McKenna learned about it, he called New Jersey Department of Transportation (“DOT”) Commissioner Jim Simpson that day, asked Simpson what was going on, and emphasized that people were going to be very unhappy with the Governor if they were sitting in traffic. Because traffic jams on State- owned roads were usually blamed on the Governor, this was something that McKenna would have wanted to avoid, especially in the months leading up to the election. 

A few things are revealing in this excerpt (and in the curious detail McKenna spouts about the alleged FBI officer’s tip to him on how to on use the Ft. Lee access lanes as a shortcut, clearly a subtle strategy to justify the discredited “legitimate traffic study” cover story.):

1. Note that McKenna, a lawyer, Christie’s Chief Legal Counsel, and former criminal prosecutor at the US Attorney’s Office, has no interest whatsoever in Foye’s allegations of violations of federal and state law. He is solely motivated by public perception and the political and electoral interests of the Gov. Keep in mind that McKenna knew that the Wall Street Journal had this memo.

That just is not credible.

Drewniak also tap danced around this same issue – why was no one looking into Foye’s claim of illegal behavior?

2. Note that McKenna thought traffic was such a significant issue for the Gov., that he had previously personally called DoT Commissioner Simpson “asked Simpson what was going on, and emphasized that people were going to be very unhappy with the Governor if they were sitting in traffic.”

That conflicts with Drewniak’s testimony that traffic was a “bottom of the barrel” issue.

The conflict either suggests that:

a) Drewniak is downplaying the traffic issue to provide an excuse for his lack of curiosity and followup, or that

b) McKenna is using the issue to reinforce his claim of no prior knowledge of the lane closures (or else he would have acted to stop them to protect the Gov.  “in the months leading up to the election.” or

c) BOTH of them are using the traffic issue to spin their “narratives” – i.e. cover story.

As IF Stone proved, you can find some amazing stuff in the weeds.

[End note: at his dinner with Wildstein, Drewniak was shown a file with a bunch of emails and drawings. Drewniak “assumed” that this was evidence of a legitimate traffic study. That testimony suggests that Drewniak is incompetent – he’s never seen a real transportation study? – or lying.]

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Fenimore Landfill Litigation Shines Light On NJ’s Waste Laundering Schemes

May 9th, 2014 No comments

From Dirty Dirt to Asbestos, Lax DEP Oversight Allows Waste Laundering

“When will they ever learn?”

“This stuff happens again and again and again, and nobody is connecting the underlying dots,” Wolfe said. “Are there laws in place to do this, and who is responsible for enforcing them? The answer is there are laws in place, but the government is completely asleep at the wheel. And the towns are left holding the bag.” ~~~ “More tests done on closed Teaneck Park”, Bergen Record, Feb 8. 2012

Litigation in the Fenimore Landfill case has opened another of NJ’s Pandora’s boxes: the practice of laundering various large volume and often hazardous waste streams in order to avoid costly environmentally sound disposal. (see:

These large volume waste streams range from construction and demolition debris, to industrial slags, sludges,  &  residuals, and asbestos, to toxic laced soils from contaminated site cleanups (AKA “dirty dirt”). These waste streams frequently are laced with all sorts of toxic chemicals and heavy metals, like mercury, cadmium, and lead.

Environmentally sound disposal of these hazardous materials can be very expensive, frequently requiring long haul bulk transportation to out of state disposal facilities.

The generators and haulers of these waste streams have huge economic incentives to avoid those costly disposal requirements.

Over the last 20 years or so, as disposal costs have skyrocketed, the generators of these various waste streams have lobbied regulators for various less costly beneficial reuse” or “recycling” management alternatives. Veery few people are aware that US EPA and DEP allow industrial toxic waste residuals to be reused in many products, ranging from concrete, to compost, to cosmetics.

Under those slogans, DEP and EPA regulators have created all sorts of dangerous regulatory loopholes and backed off vigorous “cradle to grave” monitoring and enforcement oversight of these waste streams.

Numerous examples of abuse occur, e.g. where contaminated soil or construction debris has been used as “clean fill” in public parks or housing developments across the state of NJ, forcing towns to have to pay for costly excavation and cleanup.

Which brings us to the Fenimore landfill case, where litigation has exposed a series of loopholes created by DEP regulators:

Property owner Strategic Environmental Partners (SEP), petitioned the State Appellate Division on Wednesday, April 30, to permit soil samples at the site, where 375,000 cubic yards of construction and demolition material was dumped.

“We have asked the DEP to test the Hurricane Sandy debris brought to the landfill but the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has denied our request. The DEP stopped the Township of Roxbury from testing the material,” SEP attorney Matthew Fredericks said in a statement. …

“The protocol for testing issued by the DEP did not require SEP to test materials coming from DEP-licensed facilities,” Fredericks said.

“SEP reasonably relied upon the DEP facilities to send only approved, permitted materials. Now we want to see what was sent to the landfill by the DEP Class B recycling centers but the DEP won’t permit the testing.

Fredericks also maintains that the material arriving at the Fenimore site should have already been “screened” by the DEP as being acceptable to be dumped there.

“SEP was not required to test materials coming from DEP-licensed Class B facilities, except for sulfur content, because the material should have already been tested and separated by and at the Class B facility to ensure that the material contained no contaminants,” Fredericks wrote.

“In this way, the Class B recycling center acts as a “gatekeeper” to prevent contaminants from reaching brownfields and landfill capping projects like this one,” Fredericks wrote.

As a result of not being required to, Fredericks said that SEP never tested the materials being dumped on the site.


Fredericks wrote that “it is possible that fill material transferred from the permitted Class B recycling facilities contained materials and contaminants for which SEP was not required to test, but which are otherwise not permitted under SEP’s approvals.”

In July of last year, Fredericks wrote, a test performed by the state revealed the presence of asbestos-containing material.

“Although SEP was not required by the approved closure plan to test for asbestos, SEP nevertheless received asbestos from a DEP-permitted Class B recycling center, which is required to source-separate materials in order to prevent the transfer of asbestos containing materials,” Fredericks wrote.

This scenarios exposes a series of major gaps and loopholes and lax regulatory oversight that DEP has known about for many years, yet DEP has failed to close those loopholes and beef up monitoring and enforcement.

Stories like this are like groundhog day.

As I wrote, almost 8 years ago, I testified to the Legislature about several of these regulatory problems:

It’s a complex story, so of course few depleted main stream outlets or reporters will spend the mental energy and time investigating it.

Yet, highly visible problems and costly controversies regularly erupt from the resulting contamination. The stories and problems caused by lax oversight are legion and statewide: fromEncap, to toxic soil from a Ford Edison plant cleanup used at 19 residential construction sites in central NJ, to pesticide contaminated soils at schools and School Construction Corp. sites, and to the importation of contaminated soil that cost taxpayers $25 million at Trenton’s Martin Luther King School construction fiasco.

As I testified to the Legislature way back in June 2006, risks from dirty dirt included lax oversight of the cleanup process (e.g. contaminated soils are laundered and commingled and sold as clean fill). Reforms I suggested, included::

  • Impose cradle-to-grave management requirements for contaminated soils and demolition waste;
  • Prohibit any “beneficial reuse” of contaminated materials in residential areas;
  • Establish a DEP and local health officer monitoring presence on scene during active critical stages of the cleanup process;

But instead of closing these loopholes and beefing up enforcement, DEP is focused on PR stunts related to far less serious problems of litter in State Parks.

To quote our recently departed hero Pete Seeger: When will they ever learn?

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The Model for Gov. Christie’s “Office of Intergovernmental Affairs”

May 8th, 2014 No comments


Christie's first term Inaugural

Christie’s first term Inaugural (Jan. 19, 2010 – Bill Wolfe)

On top of the Mastro Report interview summaries, with the testimony of Christina Renna, the former Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA), there can be no doubt that IGA was a political operation designed for and fully integrated into the Christie re-election campaign.

I have called it Christie’s CREEP.

The NJ media has not gone there yet, but that is clearly the direction the Legislative investigation is going, as evidenced by yesterday’s subpoena to Michael DuHaime, Christie’s re-election political strategist.

So, I thought I’d offer up a little historical research to frame and feed the shifting investigative focus.

For just a tiny taste of the many striking parallels between President Nixon’s CREEP and Gov. Christie’s IGA, check this excerpt out, from the official Nixon Library on the Administrative history of CREEP:

“Malek’s other task when made the head of the White House Personnel Operation was the “responsiveness program,” a way to gain political support for Nixon’s re-election by using federal resources and grants to influence key states and voting blocs, especially minority groups (the Senate Watergate Committee later investigated and censured this program). While still running the personnel operation, Malek played an active role in the Committee for the Re-Election of the President by applying the methods and information used in the “responsiveness program” to CRP programs.

Obviously, IGA was serving exactly the same purpose and function as CREEP, i.e. to use governmental resources, programs, powers, and funds “to gain political support for Nixon’s re-election by using federal resources and grants to influence key states and voting blocs”.

That is the true scandal – not some traffic at the GWB and Ft. Lee.

And, like Nixon, the coverup is criminal and should result in similar political consequences.

[ps – and how did Christie ever dodge the Karl Rove US Attorney scandal? And why did NJ press never connect the dots like this: Chris Christie’s Entire Career Reeks – It’s Not Just the Bridge]

 Richard M. Nixon takes the oath of office as President of the United States.  Date:   January 20, 1969  (Source: Nixon Library

Richard M. Nixon takes the oath of office as President of the United States.
Date: January 20, 1969 (Source: Nixon Library)


President Nixon points out the NVA sanctuaries along the Cambodian border in his speech to the American people announcing the Cambodian incursion.  Date:   April 30, 1970  (Source: Nixon Library)

President Nixon points out the NVA sanctuaries along the Cambodian border in his speech to the American people announcing the Cambodian incursion.
Date: April 30, 1970 (Source: Nixon Library)


President Nixon delivers his Farewell Remarks to the White House Staff in the East Room, with his family looking on.  Date:   August 9, 1974 (Source: Nixon Library)

President Nixon delivers his Farewell Remarks to the White House Staff in the East Room, with his family looking on.
Date: August 9, 1974 (Source: Nixon Library)


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First Bridgegate Testimony Leaves Key Issues Unaddressed

May 7th, 2014 No comments

Port Authority Dismantling a Prelude to Privatization

Fear and Loathing In Chris Christie’s Government

Mark Magyar at NJ Spotlight wrote a superb analysis today on yesterday’s first witness testimony to the Legislature’s Select Committee on Investigation regarding Bridgegate, see:

I listened closely to the hearing and thoroughly enjoyed Magyar’s analysis, but feel compelled to add the following observations:

  • The Role of IGA – Important Issues Ignored

The Office of Inter-Governmental Affairs (IGA) has become Gov. Christie’s CREEP (for Nixon’s “Committee for the Reelection of the President).

As such, everything IGA was involved in warrants investigation.

Renna’s testimony provided an opportunity to probe 4 issues that I’ve been working on, all of which were laid out in the Mastro interview summaries:

1) IGA intervention at DEP in general;
2) IGA involvement in the “rollout” of DEP flood hazard regs ( adopting FEMA ABFE’s);
3) IGA involvement in the Hazard Mitigation Grants, including energy; and
4) IGA invitation of Rockefeller Development Group to DEP meetings

Not one question was asked on any of that and Mr. Mowers’ name was mentioned only once.

Mowers is a political animal and Stepien’s “kid”. Mowers was the one who invited Rockefeller to the Cabinet level Commissioners of DEP & DCA & Mayor Zimmer meeting on March 5, 2013.

What was a very young, inexperienced, and political partisan like Mowers doing with Rockefeller Group?

  • Port Authority

Magyar also discusses developments at the Port Authority, particularly yesterday’s move by Governors Cuomo and Christie to control the reform efforts.

For deep ties between Christie and Cuomo cronies involved at the PA, see:

The Port Authority is far too important a regional institution to allow it to be dismantled in order to protect the political ambitions of two governors.

So, I am shocked by the lack of a high profile defense of the Port Authority’s mission and regionalism in general, and the way the press has simply gone along with this dismantling exercise.

[Update: 5/8/14 – The Record editorial writes an excellent strong criticism of the Cuomo/Christie move “Not a Port Authority Fix“, but it is hardly the spirited defense of regional planning and the Port’s mission that needs writing – or the warning about the end game I see. –

5/8/14 Update #2 – I just read this superb May 5 Star Ledger editorial, which says many things that needed to be said.  But if the Ledger wants to make “Soviet” analogies, it should be to the one I make: privatization threats.  ~~~ end update]]

Dismantling of the Port Authority would set the stage for a massive privatization and fire sale of Port Authority capital assets and facilities to billionaire profiteers on a scale not seen since the Russian Oligarchs ascendance in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

That is the end game.

Where are the professional planners and historical advocates of regionalism, like the Regional Plan Assc.?

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