Archive for June, 2014

Christie DEP Hands Drinking Water and Chemical Safeguards to DuPont

June 26th, 2014 1 comment

Dupont Official Put in Charge of Scientific Report on Risks of Unregulated Chemicals

DEP’s Science Advisory Board Report Recommended Dupont’s Method

DEP Clueless On Blatant Conflict of Interest and Scientific Bias

“Under this plan DuPont would be in charge of determining the public health impacts of its own chemicals polluting our waters …  We should all be embarrassed that this report is now what passes for environmental science in New Jersey.”

[Update: 6/27/14 – I don’t want to pick on Dupont – DEP welcomes undue corporate influence from other big boys and polluters too. Amazingly, the last slide of the SAB’s powerpoint presentation (see Appendix A) says this- not one public interest rep:

Added After SAB Meeting

  • Chemistry Council of NJ
  • NJ Business and Industry Assc.
  • AWWA
  • Environmental Authorities of NJ  – end update]

The Christie DEP’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) just quietly posted a Report on the DEP website on important public health and ecological issues regarding chemical safety, risks, and how best to regulate hundreds of currently unregulated toxic chemicals found in our drinking water, air, surface and groundwaters, soil, sediments, and fish and wildlife.

DEP Commissioner Martin directed the SAB to produce the Report.

Curiously, the final SAB Report formally was submitted to DEP Commissioner Martin almost two years ago, and just posted to the DEP website without explanation of the delay or a press release announcing the controversial recommendations of the Report.

Ever since the SAB members were appointed, we repeatedly have raised concerns regarding the membership of a Dupont corporate official, noting violations of basic scientific ethics related to conflict of interest and scientific bias.

It is mind boggling that DEP has now confirmed our fears and seems to be totally clueless about these issues – read the whole story from our friends at PEER:


Press Release 

For Immediate Release:  Thursday, June 26, 2014

Contact: Bill Wolfe (609) 397-4861; Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337 

New Jersey Hands Drinking Water Safeguards to DuPont

Corporate-Dominated Science Board Asks DuPont to Self-Assess Chemical Effects 

Trenton —Without public announcement, New Jersey has released a report urging that the assessment of emerging chemical contaminants in drinking water be handled by a system developed by the state’s largest chemical manufacturer.  This latest development caps a corporate campaign to kill a multi-year effort to address rising levels of unregulated chemicals in New Jersey drinking water supplies, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The report is a product of the 16-member Science Advisory Board filled by Christie administration appointees to address the state’s entire portfolio of eco-science.  Despite its broad charge, the Board has produced only a few fragmentary work products.  This week the Board posted a report on “Contaminants of Emerging Concern” which was transmitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) back on September 20, 2012.  The transmittal letter thanks a DuPont corporate executive serving on the Board for his “significant input.”  The skimpy seven-page report concludes –

“It is recommended that the hazard assessment be conducted using a platform called METIS (Metanomics Information System) developed by DuPont. METIS is a chemical informatics platform that provides a screening level view of potential environmental fate and effects, human health concerns, and societal perception concerns”

“Under this plan DuPont would be in charge of determining the public health impacts of its own chemicals polluting our waters,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst, noting that DuPont has already pressured  the state to water down its public health assessment of its Teflon-related compound known as PFOA.  “New Jersey now conducts its environmental science so that the fox not only guards the henhouse but also weighs the chickens and sizes the eggs.”

A decade ago, New Jersey was a national leader in identifying a growing number of new chemicals and compounds in drinking water supplies.  The DEP even developed a plan to filter many of these chemicals out of drinking water.  Meanwhile, its 30-year old Drinking Water Quality Institute was working to set new or tighter standards for a number of these emerging compounds of concern.

Under Governor Christie, however, all that prior work ground to a halt or went into reverse:

  • His administration rejected a PEER rule-making petition to enact the state’s own plan to filter harmful chemicals out of drinking water;
  • The Drinking Water Quality Institute was disrupted and did not meet for more than three years.  Its proposed chemical drinking water standards were all abandoned; and
  • State environmental scientific work on virtually every topic has either been dismantled or channeled through this industry-dominated Science Advisory Board.

“New Jersey’s drinking water is steadily becoming more contaminated and the only solution being offered is ‘let’s go ask DuPont,’” added Wolfe, pointing out that the newly released 2012 report offers no solutions on what to do about the growing flow of unregulated pollutants once they are quantified.  “We should all be embarrassed that this report is now what passes for environmental science in New Jersey.”


Read the curious “Chemicals of Emerging Concern” report

Contrast 2003 DEP findings on drinking water

Look at corporate takeover of Science Advisory Board

Visit sleepy Science Advisory Board webpage

View dismantlement of the Drinking Water Quality Institute

Revisit DuPont pressure to water down PFOA science

Examine Christie rejection of water filtration

See spread of unregulated contaminants in U.S. drinking water


New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability


Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

“A Day in the Life” – What Happens If Climate Change Validates Models

June 25th, 2014 No comments

Climate Change Impacts You Wont Read In The News

“Adaptation and Its Limits”

I recently read portions of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report  in Chapter 4 “Terrestrial and Inland Water Systems” and Chapter 11 “Human Health Impacts” and was extremely disturbed – to put it mildly – by what I learned.

Since then, I had been planning on posting excerpts of 3 absolutely devastating climate change impacts that you won’t see presented in the news or even by environmental groups.

The sections on “Limits to Adaptation” and “Phenology” (Chap. 4) and “Physiological Limits to Heat Tolerance” (Chap. 11) were deeply depressing. Literally the end of the world catastrophic. Read it and support “forest stewardship” and keep on planting that milkweed folks! (that’s snark).

Well today, I am prompted to do so by an email from a stranger requesting that I post her “World Infographic” on a “Day in the Life of Global Warming (hit link to view)So, for those who find those “Infographich” style displays helpful, by all means, hit the link.

And for those who prefer reading a more complex text, here are the 3 absolutely devastating projected climate change impacts you will rarely if ever see discussed: (boldface in original)

Strike 1:

There is a high risk that the large magnitudes and high rates of climate change associated with low-mitigation climate scenarios (RCP4.5 and higher) will result within this century in abrupt and irreversible regional-scale change in the composition, structure and function of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, especially in the Amazon and Arctic, leading to substantial additional climate change (medium confidence). There are plausible mechanisms, supported by experimental evidence, observations, and model results, for the existence of ecosystem tipping points in both boreal-tundra Arctic systems and the rainforests of the Amazon basin. Continued climate change will transform the species composition, land cover, drainage and permafrost extent of the boreal-tundra system, leading to decreased albedo and the release of greenhouse gases (medium confidence). Adaptation measures will be unable to prevent substantial change in the boreal-arctic system (high confidence). Climate change alone is not projected to lead to abrupt widespread loss of forest cover in the Amazon during this century a (medium confidence), but a projected increase in severe drought episodes, together with land-use change and forest fire, would cause much of the Amazon forest to transform to less dense, drought- and fire-adapted ecosystems, and in doing so, put a large stock of biodiversity at elevated risk, while decreasing net carbon uptake from the atmosphere (medium confidence). Large reductions in deforestation, as well as wider application of effective wildfire management, lower the risk of abrupt change in the Amazon, as well as the impacts of that change (medium confidence). [,,,, Figure 4-8, Box 4-3, Box 4-4]

Strike 2

11.8. Adaptation Limits under High Levels of Warming

Most attempts to quantify health burdens associated with future climate change consider modest increases in global average temperature, typically less than 2° C. However, research published since AR4 raises doubt over whether it will be possible to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures (Anderson and Bows, 2011; Price Waterhouse Coopers, 2012; Rogelj et al., 2009). It is therefore increasingly important to examine the likely health consequences of warming beyond 2°, including extreme warming of 4-6°C or higher. Predictions of this nature are limited by uncertainty about climatic as well as key, non-climatic determinants of health including the nature and degree of adaptation. Here, we instead focus primarily on physiological or ecological limits that constrain our ability to adapt and protect human health and wellbeing (Section 16.4.1).

It can be assumed that the increase in many important climate-related health impacts at increasingly higher levels of warming will be greater than simple linear increments; that is, that the health consequences of a 4°C temperature increase will be more than twice those of a +2°C world (see Figure 11-6). Nonlinear and threshold effects have been observed in the mortality response to extreme heat (Anderson and Bell, 2011; McMichael, 2013a), agricultural crop yields, as key determinants of childhood nutrition and development (Lobell et al., 2011a; Schlenker and Roberts, 2009), and infectious diseases (Altizer et al., 2006) , for example. These are also briefly elaborated here.

11.8.1. Physiological Limits to Human Heat Tolerance

In standard (or typical) conditions, core body temperatures will reach lethal levels under sustained periods of wet- bulb temperatures above about 35°C (Sherwood and Huber, 2010). Sherwood and Huber (2010) conclude that a global mean warming of roughly 7°C above current temperatures would create small land areas where metabolic heat dissipation would become impossible. An increase of 11-12°C would enlarge these zones to encompass most of the areas occupied by today’s human population.

The above analysis is likely a conservative estimate of an absolute limit to human heat tolerance because working conditions are hazardous at lower thresholds. The U.S. military, for example, suspends all physical training and strenuous exercise when the wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) exceeds 32°C (Willett and Sherwood, 2012) while international labor standards suggest the time acclimatized individuals spend doing low intensity labor such as office work be halved under such conditions (Kjellstrom et al., 2009a).1 One estimate suggests global labor productivity will be reduced during the hottest months to 60% in 2100 and less than 40% in 2200 under the RCP 8.5 scenario in which global mean temperatures rise 3.4°C by 2100 and 6.2°C by 2200 relative to 1861-1960 (Dunne et al., 2013). It is projected that tropical and mid-latitude regions including India, Northern Australia, Southeastern USA will be particularly badly affected (Dunne et al., 2013; Willett and Sherwood, 2012).    (emphasis mine)

  • Strike 3:

11.8.2. Limits to Food Production and Human Nutrition

Agricultural crops and livestock similarly have physiological limitations in terms of thermal and water stress. For example, production of the staple crops maize, rice, wheat and soybean is generally assumed to face an absolute temperature limit in the range of 40-45°C (Teixeira et al., 2011), while key phenological stages such as sowing to emergence, grain-filling, and seed set have maximum temperature thresholds near or below 35°C (Porter and Semenov, 2005; Porter and Gawith, 1999; Yoshida et al., 1981). The existence of critical climatic thresholds and evidence of non-linear responses of staple crop yields to temperature and rainfall (Brázdil et al., 2009; Lobell et al., 2011b; Schlenker and Roberts, 2009) thus suggest that there may be a threshold of global warming beyond which current agricultural practices can no longer support large human civilizations, and the impacts on malnourishment and undernutrition described in Section 11.6.1 will become much more severe. However, current models to estimate the human health consequences of climate-impaired food yields at higher global temperatures generally incorporate neither critical thresholds nor nonlinear response functions (Lake et al., 2012; Lloyd et al., 2011), reflecting uncertainties about exposure-response relations, future extreme events, the scale and feasibility of adaptation, and climatic thresholds for other influences such as infestations and plant diseases. Extrapolation from current models nevertheless suggests that the global risk to food security becomes very severe under an increase of 4-6°C or higher in global mean temperature (medium evidence, high agreement) (Chapter 7, Executive Summary).

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Blue Blood 1 %’er Tom Kean Jr: The Fate of the Free World Is In The Balance

June 24th, 2014 No comments

The Richter Scale Shakes: so many examples, so over the top, so little time

[A flourish of trumpets, and two pieces goes off]

What does this mean, my lord?

The King doth wake to-night and takes his rouse,
Keeps wassail, and the swagg’ring up-spring reels;
And as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,
The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out
The triumph of his pledge.
Is it a custom?

Ay, marry, is’t,
But to my mind, though I am native here
And to the manner born, it is a custom
More honor’d in the breach than the observance,

Hamlet Act 1, scene 4, 7–16

I read that Tom Kean Jr – the epitome of what Paul Krugman calls the rise of “The New Gilded Age – is really, really mad – to the point of Statehouse protest! – about the Democrats’ attempts to raise taxes on millionaires and corporations.

Why, he feels that the fate of the Free World hangs in the balance: (Star Ledger):

These tax increases make this a much more difficult place to live, to work, to raise a family, to vacation, to raise tourist dollars, to really be a beacon for people around this country and around this globe to really believe in economic growth and opportunity,” state Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) said

He joins his corporate cronies from the Business and Industry Association and the Chamber of Commerce:

Bergen Record:

David Brogan, first vice president of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, said rolling back the business tax cuts or increasing taxes to address the state’s budget woes “would be devastating.” 


“We’re in a fiscal crisis right now, but probably it is only going to get worse,’’ said Michael Egenton, a senior vice president of the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, said at a public hearing Monday that allowed the measure to move forward.

In capturing the essence, once again, my friend and superb writer Bill Neil gets it just right in this email note:

If you and the taxers are not nicer to them, they will move to Pennsylvania and tap into the freely flowing  gas.  And just as they say, the Democrats aren’t going after millionaires, they’re  going after small businesses who just look like millionaires on their balance sheets, but we know that is not the full story.

They’ve got every angle on the revenue sources covered Bill, a self-sealed envelope with no visible seams; pry at any point for more revenue and the universe collapses inward upon everyone.  This is not unlike the perpetual motion machine; its a perpetual protection scheme balanced just so.  Move one little weight on those scales of economic justice and oblivion is just around the corner.  Always.  Look what happened in France in the spring of 1789 when the king convened the nation’s ancient processes to try to solve a very similar problem: le deluge followed.  Do you want a state run by unemployed writers and bitter lawyers who have been reading too many Chris Hedges opinion pieces?  Better leave well enough alone.  With the Keans you’ll always be in good hands, always have been.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Gov. Christie’s Climate Denying Coastal Management Rule Must Be Blocked By The Legislature

June 24th, 2014 No comments

Legislators Now Understand That Sandy Recovery Was Bungled

The Same Crew Is Bungling Regulations

Legislature Has Power To Veto Christie Rules as “Inconsistent with Legislative Intent”

[Update #4: 7/9/14 – See Asbury Park Press story:  Critics make last pitch against NJ coastal rules

Watch NBC TV 40 coverage of the final public hearing on the rule – end update

Update #3 – 7/6/14 – Here’s an amazing coincidence – this superb Washington post story on North Carolina coastal/sea level rise – climate change debate ran June 24, 2014, the same day as this post. Just reading it now as a link to this NY Times piece on  science “When beliefs and facts collide” – end update.]

Update #2: 6/29/14 – Star Ledger editorial gets it and nails Gov. Christie, but gies legislature a pass, see:

Update #1: 6/26/14 – Press coverage of first public hearings on proposed rule is good, see this from AP. Glad to see Tim D. speak out.  -end update]

Back on June 4, 2012 (prior to Sandy), national comic Steve Colbert absolutely nailed it in skewering North Carolina Republicans, who advocated State legislation that would outlaw consideration of sea level rise due to global warming  – watch Colbert’s June 4, 2012 “Word” – Sink or Swim

If science gives you a result you don’t like, pass a law, problem solved.

The NC law targeted the Coastal Commission, who, among other things, regulates land use and development in the coastal zone.

While NJ doesn’t have a Coastal Commission – a bill to create one died last session and Coastal advocates strangely are not supporting this session’s bill – NJ does have DEP Coastal Zone Management regulations and a law use law known as “CAFRA” (Coastal Area Facilities Review Act).

While the CAFRA law is riddled with loopholes – including the poison provision known as the “right to rebuild” storm damaged properties, which virtually assures perpetual repetition of coastal chaos like Sandy –  IF the DEP Commissioner had the will to do so, there are other NJ State environmental laws that could be cobbled together under a CAFRA umbrella to support stronger regulations that would reduce the risks of climate change along the coast and better protect natural resources.

The corollary to Colbert’s “just pass a law” to block consideration of climate change is “just ignore the science and the problem” – the result is exactly the same.

Which takes us to the situation in Chris Christie’s NJ – which is actually worse than the North Carolina case, which received national ridicule.

While North Carolina’s Republicans affirmatively outlaw consideration of climate change, Gov. Christie’s administration blatantly ignores it and fails to include it in coastal management programs, policies, and regulations.

But what actually makes the NJ scenario worse than North Carolina is that the people of NJ are being strongly urged by Gov. Christie to rebuild in coastal hazard zones and the State government is using all its resources, policies, and regulations to incentivize that “rebuild madness”.

All of which takes us to the topic of this post, just the most recent example of Gov. Christie’s irresponsible climate denial I have called “rebuild madness”.

The Christie DEP just proposed new Coastal Zone/CAFRA regulations. The first of 3 public hearings on them begin tomorrow.

Jeff Tittel of Sierra Club wrote a killer Op-Ed on the rules in today’s Press of Atlantic Cityread the whole thing:

The Department of Environmental Protection has proposed new rules to regulate development on our coast for the first time since Hurricane Sandy. Instead of looking to strengthen coastal protections and encourage more regional planning, these rules propose more loopholes and further weaken coastal protections. They do not address climate change or sea-level rise, coastal resiliency or restoring natural systems.

These rules would eliminate protections for our coast, allowing more sprawl and overdevelopment and putting more people and property in harm’s way.

In addition to the devastation from Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey has experienced storm surges and sea-level rise at an alarming rate. Instead of moving New Jersey forward to mitigate against these climate impacts, we are instead opening our coast up for more development in these hazardous areas.

What Tittel did not mention is that the Legislature has the Constitutional power to veto this reckless Christie rule proposal as “inconsistent with legislative intent”.

It is critically important that they do so, because the DEP rules would be in effect for at least 7 years – over that period of time, an enormous amount of new development could be built in harm’s way, not only wasting billions of taxpayer dollars, but putting thousands of people’s very lives at risk.

The legislative veto- unlike yesterday’s failed effort on the “Sandy Bill of Rights” – would not require super majorities needed to over-ride the Gov.’s veto.

A mere majority vote in favor of a Concurrent Resolution in both Houses would do. The Democrats have majorities in both Houses and could readily veto the Gov. coastal rebuild a scheme.

Ironically, it took 18 months for Legislative Democrats to realize that the Sandy recovery was badly bungled. Well, that same crew is in charge of regulations, and we can expect similar disastrous results we saw in oversight of Sandy recovery.

So, in closing, let me briefly outline how to make this legislative veto “inconsistent with legislative intent” argument. Follow.

The lawyers at DEP have a bag of strategies and tools to justify and defend DEP rules from legal and political attack. One of the most important tactics is found on the cover page of all rule proposals, known as the “Authority” – as in statutory authority – to propose the rule.

If DEP lawyers anticipate an attack on the DEP’s legislative authority to propose a rule, then they trot out a very long list of statutes that allegedly authorize a rule, including the very broad mandate under DEP’s enabling or “organic” authority, the statute that created DEP, NJSA 13:1D.

If DEP proposes a rule that creates new requirements that stray beyond the scope of a specific statute and could be vulnerable to challenge, then DEP lawyers are sure to include related statutes.

A good example of this was DEP’s new “stream encroachment” regulations authorized under the Flood Hazard Act. That law, and the historic DEP stream encroachment regulations focused on flood risks. But DEP’s new rules expanded that focus to include water quality. Because of that expanded scope, DEP lawyers were sure to include a suite of water pollution/water quality laws.

And if a DEP rule creates an entirely new controversial program or policy, DEP lawyers are sure to cite virtually every environmental law on the books. The most recent example of this was the Christie “Waiver Rules”, where dozens of laws were cited as the “authority”.

The lawyers at OLS, who advise the Legislature, are no less sophisticated in making arguments to take down the DEP rule as “inconsistent with legislative intent”.

The DEP rule in question cites 3 laws as “authority”: N.J.S.A. 12:3-1 et seq., 12:5-3, 13:1D-1 et seq., 13:9A-1 et seq., and 13:19-1 et seq.

But DEP forgot all about NJ’s most important State law to guide coastal management: the Global Warming Response Act (GWRA).

This failure is simply incomprehensible and intolerable in a post Sandy coastal management regulation.

Here are some of the relevant findings of the GWRA that relate to coastal risks of climate change:

The Legislature finds and declares the internationally the issue of global warming has caused alarm, awareness, and action concerning climate changes occurring around the globe attributed to the high level of certain gases called “greenhouse gases” – gases that increase temperatures in the atmosphere and the risk of catastrophic changes to the Earth’s ecosystems and environment; that, while this global warming may be a theory to some, the effects of increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are accepted by many respected scientists and members of the international community as seriously detrimental to the ecosystems and environment of the world; that, ultimately, if steps are not taken to reverse these trends, the effects on human, animal and plant life on Earth may be catastrophic; 

The GWRA also included a mandate that DEP submit a Report to the Legislature outlining a plan on how to implement and meet the goals of the GWRA.

In December 2009, the DEP submitted that Report to the Legislature, see: Meeting New Jersey’s 2020 Greenhouse Gas Limit: New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act Recommendations Report

Here is one of the most relevant DEP recommendations from the GWRA Report that has been totally ignored and/or violated by the Christie DEP for 5 years and by the current CAFR rule proposal:


Despite our best efforts to mitigate climate change in New Jersey, we must recognize that emission reductions alone are not a sufficient policy response to climate change. Once emitted, CO2 and other GHGs reside in the atmosphere for decades or centuries.10 Even if all GHG emissions were stopped immediately, there would still be a time lag between mitigation of emissions and cessation of warming. Because of New Jersey’s uniquely diverse terrain, nearly all the impacts of climate change, from rising temperatures in our urban areas to sea level rise jeopardizing our coastal ecosystems to threats to our unique agricultural industries, will be experienced throughout the State. Each of these impacts threatens the public health of New Jersey residents, as well as the ecology and economy of State.

This report recommends that the State develop adaptation strategies to minimize climate-related risks to public health, the environment and the economy. The report recommends that experts from academia, government, non-governmental organizations, and the business community develope policy recommendations on the most pressing adaptation policies New Jersey should adopt to significantly reduce the State’s risks from climate change impacts. By bringing together various constituencies to develop a statewide climate change adaptation plan, New Jersey can be proactive in fostering adaptive capacity in the built and natural environment and public health infrastructure statewide to respond to climate change.

Therefore, because the DEP proposed new coastal management rules:

  • ignore climate change science and the associated risks of more frequent and intense coastal storms and sea level rise;
  • contradict the policies and legislative findings expressed in the GWRA, and
  • ignores DEP’s own recommendations on adaptation;

the DEP rule is inconsistent with legislative intent.

The Legislature must step up and veto this rule proposal.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Foundation Fail: Green Band-Aids Will Not Put a Dent In Water Infrastructure Crisis

June 22nd, 2014 No comments

Jersey City Manifesto An Exercise In Magical Thinking Under the Guise of Leadership

Whitman & Dodge Foundation should dust off Professor Burchell’s 2001 Infrastucture Impact Assessment from the State Plan

Where Was Dodge 25 years ago when Gov. Florio issued Executive Order #114?

[Updated and corrected : 6/23/14 – NJ Spotlight reports today on their Friday panel discussion. I did not attend the event. I find it very interesting that today’s Spotlight story’s focus is on high costs and the need for significant rate increases is the exact opposite of the story below.  So I went back and re-read the Dodge/NJ Future Report (as I wrote below, I first read the report “quickly”) and discovered a serious error, which I correct below. I stand by the “green band-aid” and “regulatory driver” and Zimmer criticisms, but not the “no need for rate increase” claims.- end update].

Last week, I ridiculed NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust Executive Director Zimmer’s testimony to the legislature for downplaying the need for major new revenue sources by implying that NJ’s $40+ billion water infrastructure deficit and crisis could be addressed by “efficiency” and cost cutting.

I wrote:

Amazingly, as the DEP panel gained momentum in their testimony, it all got so over the top that at one point, citing Camden County as a model, NJEIT Director Zimmer  suggested that infrastructure investments would LOWER user rates – he implied that lower interest payments on NJEIT loans, more efficient equipment (e.g. energy costs savings) and budget CUTS essentially would pay the debt service.

For a $40 billion deficit? Are you kidding me?

I wonder if that’s the kind of “financial” approach that Zimmer pursued in his private sector days as an investment banker working in “structured finance”.

Of course, Zimmer can crunch numbers and knows that “efficiency” and cuts can not possibly put even a minor dent in the deficit.

But politically, he has to say that because his boss, Gov. Christie, has flat out vetoed any new local or state revenues to pay for the huge deficit – things like water taxes or ratepayer increases in water user fees.

So, given the obvious political basis for Zimmer’s statement, I was rather surprised to learn that Zimmer’s spin was not unique, and seems to be coming from a larger, Foundation funded, playbook.

Specifically, in a set up piece for their Round Table panel on Friday, NJ Spotlight reported  (following a quote by Christie Whitman, of all people)

A proposed “agenda for change’’ laid out by policymakers who met in Jersey City last month suggested a number of steps, including working regionally, identifying a variety of funding sources, and implementing “green first’’ solutions wherever possible. That third recommendation involves using vegetation and soil to manage rainfall, rather than pipelines.

So, I hit the link and quickly read the Jersey City Manifesto (JCM): “An Agenda For Change for NJ’s Urban Water Infrastructure“.

Zimmer is not alone in his denial of the need to raise lots of new revenues and his delusions of “efficiency” and cost cutting.

The Jersey City Manifesto (JCM) – another Dodge Foundation product – shares those delusions, PLUS magical thinking about low or no cost “green” solutions:

Because green infrastructure solutions have the potential to control some of the flows that cause CSOs at the lowest cost with multiple benefits, municipalities should take a “green first” approach, including mapping strategic locations for green infrastructure projects, making local policy changes that facilitate implementation and building demonstration projects that make neighborhood benefits tangible.

[Correction – the Dodge/NJ Future Report does identify the need for rate increases, my initial “quick” read missed this:

Diversify Funding Sources.

Even with optimization and effective asset management, the cost of controlling CSOs and upgrading other aspects of urban water infrastructure will be expensive and will need to be phased in over time, with most cities and utilities ultimately requiring new and/or increased revenue streams to meet these challenges.  – end correction]

In addition to the magical thinking about green band-aids, the JCM calls for bold leadership, but amazingly lays out an “Action Agenda” that shares Gov. Christie’s “no new tax” views on the need to generate new revenues to fund the deficit:

Before seeking ratepayer support for investment in major capital improvements, water utilities and departments should take aggressive action to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of their existing systems and business practices. In addition, these entities should develop and implement asset management plans that sustain efficiency over time. Taking these foundational steps in a visible and transparent manner, and demonstrating the associated cost savings, will help utilities and departments build trust with ratepayers and establish credibility to pursue necessary but costly infrastructure upgrades. 

What kind of “leadership” is that?

Dodge thinks water utilities need to “build trust” and “establish credibility” – but they call for no new money and green band-aids as an “Action Agenda” to address a $40 billion infrastructure crisis? [see correction above]

Are you kidding me? You can’t tell people there’s a crisis, but tell them that if we could only cut the fat, they won’t have to pay for it. That’s snake oil, not leadership. [see correction above]

In my book, anyone who says that we face a $40+ billion crisis and in the same breath says we should approach it without new revenue and rate increases has no credibility whatsoever. [see correction above]

Worse, this kind of magical thinking reeks of hypocrisy and reinforces the Gov.’s premise that government and local authorities are at best bloated, wasteful, inefficient and incompetent bureaucracies, and at worst corrupt.

It reinforces transparently racist myths propagated in places like the Highlands that all those black folks in the cities are wasting “our water” that we have to surrender our development rights to provide (I’ve heard this almost verbatim at meetings in the Highlands).

And it will only generate further animosity towards those elite Foundation fed suburban “environmentalists” coming to preach to urban NJ about how to get their infrastructure house in order.

The most likely outcome is that CSO cities will use the low expectations – no new revenues and “low cost” “green infrastructure” – as cover for doing little or nothing.  Despite this lack of real action, the Foundations funded “advocates” will continue to be well fed. An agenda for the status quo.

Rather than “playing in traffic”, better that Christie Whitman, the Dodge Foundation, and NJ Future – strong historical backers of the State Plan – dust off Professor Burchell’s 2001 Infrastructure Impact Assessment from the State Plan.

Oh, but they can’t do that either, because – just like a call for new revenues and rate increases – that would embarrass Gov. Christie too. Christie has killed their much loved State Plan.

So, I’ll end on a delicious irony:

For many years, I and many others have criticized the State Plan as “toothless” and worked in vain to give it regulatory teeth in DEP programs. Dodge and State Plan proponents have opposed or not supported those efforts.

So, lets just say it  was a jaw dropping moment to read a Report where Dodge, NJ Future, and the State Plan crowd quietly admitted their decades long huge strategic error.

Specifically, the JCM expressly notes that DEP regulations were the “driver” and create an “opportunity”:

the most immediate driver for action is the federal and state regulatory requirement that 21 cities must control combined sewer overflows (CSOs) – a problem caused by aging combined (sanitary and stormwater) sewer systems and exacerbated by increasingly intense rainfall events. In late 2014, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) is slated to issue final permits requiring the responsible cities and utility authorities to develop, adopt and initiate the implementation of CSO Long-Term Control Plans (LTCPs). 

Where was Chris Daggett and Dodge 25 years ago when Gov. Florio issued Executive Order #114 on integrating the State Plan in DEP regulations?

So wrong for so long and then they  pull the regulatory rabbit out of the hat! Now that’s one mean feat!

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: