Head of NJ LCV Attacks DEP – Op-Ed Smears Critics of Open Space Diversion
Unfortunately, rather than spending their time protecting New Jersey’s environment, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and its surrogates are spreading misinformation about Public Question 2, the best and only opportunity to ensure stable funding for the now-depleted Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland, and historic preservation programs. ~~~ Ed Potosnak, NJ LCV
Finally, not only is the debate engaged, but the mask if off, showing the ugly face of the proponents of open space.
Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters (NJ LCV) has an op-ed in today’s NJ Spotlight in support of the Open Space ballot question:
I’ll be damned if I’ll sit back and stand for the absolute load of drivel he spews.
Mr. Potosnak’s hit piece is so false and so vile, it forces me to expose the misleading assertions, historical revisionism, smears, innuendo, and outright lies in that piece – lies of both commission and omission.
Because Potosnak is a political hack that lacks subject matter experience, expertise, or training on the issues he writes about, we can only assume that behind the scenes leaders from other conservation organizations – members of the LCV Board and those that created NJ LCV – are Potosnak’s puppeteers. We challenge them to come forward and take their masks off as well, lest they too have their reputations tarred by Potosnak’s filthy smear.
[Context: A reader correctly notes that LCV failed to endorse Senator Barbara Buono for Gov. in 2013, despite her being a longstanding champion of environmental and public health protections. Compounding that failure, LCV witheld criticism and gave Christie cover for his failure to honor his 2009 campaign pledge to secure a dedicated open space funding source, gave him cover for his horrible environmental record, and gave him cover for vetoing new taxes or revenues or new debt to fund open space, thus forcing this horrid rob Peter to pay Paul scheme.]
Lies of Commission
- spreading misinformation
Exhibiting classic cowardly smear tactics, Potosnak accuses un-named DEP officials and their “surrogates” for spreading un-specified “misinformation” in unspecified ways.
The “misinformation” spread by DEP that Potosnak appears to be referring to are:
1) remarks by DEP Assistant Commissioner Dan Kennedy which were quoted in an October 1 NJ Spotlight Op-Ed: BALLOT QUESTION TO PRESERVE OPEN SPACE COULD HURT MORE THAN IT HELPS and
2) an anonymous DEP staffer’s personal email, written on personal time, from their personal home computer that I posted (*thanks to Scott Olson).
So, let’s take those claims one by one.
First, Kennedy basically is quoted as saying the ballot measure would severely cut current funding for groundwater, surface water and water-quality regulation and toxic site cleanup programs, resulting in 250 layoffs. On top of that, another 100 layoffs would occur in the site remediation program.
I personally contacted and confirmed the quotes with Kennedy – he told me he had read the piece and that he was accurately quoted in the Spotlight Op-Ed.
Kennedy is a professional planner with many years of government and public service. His is a man of unquestioned and highest integrity. And he has a lot more information than Potosnak does.
Without even the courage to cite the claim, Potosnak just smeared Kennedy for “spreading misinformation”.
Second, the anonymous DEP staffer went out of their way to explain that they wrote the email on their own time, not DEP time. They wrote:
I obviously am sending this on my personal time, from my personal email account, from my personal computer, from my own home! It’s my personal opinion!
Yet Potosnak smeared the DEP staffer with this lie, which obviously implies that the DEP email was written on work time (i.e “rather than spending time protecting NJ’s environment”):
Unfortunately, rather than spending their time protecting New Jersey’s environment, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and its surrogates are spreading misinformation about Public Question 2,
But Potosnak does not stop with attacks on nameless DEP employees – he also attacks and smears again un-named “DEP surrogates”.
So, who could these un-named DEP surrogates be?
Given the recent criticism of the Open Space ballot reported in the NJ press just prior to Potosnak’s Op-Ed, that could only be three people: 1) former NJ Senator and head of NJ Policy Perspective Gordon MacInnes who wrote this Op-Ed: Vote No On Open Space Referendum;, 2) well known energy and environmental lawyer Bill Potter, and 3) myself. (see Bob Jordan’s story in the Asbury Park Press that quotes MacInnes and myself: Environmentalists Split on Open Space Referrendum)
Potosnak just smeared a well regarded former state Senator and tireless public interest advocate as a “surrogate” of DEP.
The same holds for Bill Potter.
And does anyone think I am a DEP surrogate? Since 1994, I have been the most prominent and persistent critic of DEP.
- DEP salaries
Potosnak criticizes DEP for using Constitutionally dedicated funds for DEP salaries:
The current corporate business tax (CBT) funding formula is out of date and being misused by the NJDEP to cover salaries. The constitution is not the best place to dedicate salaries and Question 2 fixes an endemic problem, putting more revenue into projects throughout the state that preserve our land and safeguard our clean water.
Its hard to know where to start on this idiocy. Potosnak has no idea what he is talking about.
DEP staff are the people who implement and enforce our environmental laws and actually work to protect public health; air and water quality; natural resources; wetlands, and open space.
I began my career at DEP in 1985. Since then, virtually all environmental and conservation groups have supported and defended DEP budgets, which include salaries for DEP staff, and opposed DEP budget cuts. The entire community consistently fought for adequate funding to implement environmental programs.
In response to diversions of $500 million of environmental money by the Florio and Whitman administrations, exacerbated by deep budget cuts at DEP by Whitman, in 1996, as a result of a community-wide campaign, the first CBT dedication was established, see Article VIII, Section II, paragraph 6 of the State Constitution
I led this effort – There was never any disagreement about the need to support DEP funding, including staff salaries. There was never any attempt to rob Peter to pay Paul.
Potosnak now changes all that history and attacks DEP staff funding.
Will his LCV Board members and member groups back him in that outrageous attack on DEP as an institution, complete misunderstanding of how environmental programs are implemented, personal smears, and warped historical revisionisms?
Does Potosnak think the corporations, land developers, chemical industry, oil & gas industry, and the water and sewer authorities magically just do the right thing without DEP oversight? DEP regulations? DEP science? DEP inspectors?
The current CBT dedication provided $103 million to DEP in the FY 2015 budget (DEP section starts on page D-105).
Since 1996, 4% of the revenue annually derived from the tax imposed by the Corporation Business Tax Act (P.L.1945, c.162) has been dedicated to the Department. A portion of this dedication has been used for the following purposes: watershed-based water resource planning and management, financing the cost of water quality point and nonpoint source pollution monitoring, nonpoint source pollution prevention projects, Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) development and implementation, as well as lake restoration and grants. Conducts planning on watershed management, water quality, water supply, coastal zone management, nonpoint source control, stormwater management, and other planning requirements associated with the federal Clean Water Act and the New Jersey Water Quality Planning Act. Also administers the National Estuary Program and federal Section 604(b) water quality management planning.
Here is how the current CBT funds are allocated among DEP programs (all of these will be cut under the Open Spsce Ballot diversion):
- $16 million goes to science and technical programs (water supply, science support, & land use regulation)
- $53 million goes to site remediation and waste management
- $18.1 million to environmental regulation
- $16 million to natural resource management (development and conservation of recreational lands)
DEP salaries were always authorized by the 4% CBT dedication – besides, the Legislature approves the budget, not DEP. So they are responsible for use of CBT funds for DEP salaries that Potosnak complains about. How can someone who is supposed to be a lobbyist not understand the budget?
- making shit up about public health protection
With absolutely no supporting facts or logical connection, and in direct contradiction to what the Ballot question would actually do, Potosnak makes this outrageously false claim:
Additionally, passage of Question 2 will help improve public health by reducing our exposure to cancer-causing chemicals and pollutants.
How is that going to occur, Ed? How does purchase of open space REDUCE CURRENT EXPOSURE to cancer causing chemicals?
Actually, the Ballot question would SLASH funding for toxic site cleanup and water quality programs, and thereby INCREASE risks of exposure to toxic chemicals by reducing DEP science and regulatory oversight of toxic cleanups and water pollution, with this punishment to boot:
The proposed constitutional amendment also would no longer dedicate any funding to pay for administrative costs associated with the State’s hazardous substance discharge cleanup program.
How about we prohibit any administrative costs or funds distributed to private conservation groups?
Yes, open space can prevent future new exposures to cancer causing chemicals by limiting development.
But unless the money is spent on buying toxic sites to block development and clean them up, that claim is absurd and an Orwellian lie.
- spinning the benefits with no mention of the costs
Here’s where Potosnak strays into lies of omission.
He just fails to mention that the Ballot would divert existing revenue.
Ironically highlighting the need for the voters to have facts, notice how he only mentions support of various groups, without any real facts of how the Ballot would divert existing environmental funds:
New Jersey voters need to know the facts, including that Public Question 2 is supported by the state’s leading environmental and preservation organizations, including the NJ League of Conservation Voters, the NJ Sierra Club, and the more than 185 conservation, agricultural, and historic preservation groups that make up NJ Keep It Green. That should speak volumes to voters concerned about protecting New Jersey’s land and water.
Seventy-one percent of the dedicated funds will be allocated to Green Acres, Blue Acres, farmland and historic preservation, and the remainder to DEP programs currently funded through the CBT including watershed management, brownfields, underground storage tank removal, and public cleanups of polluted sites.
However, funding levels will grow over time when the percentage increases in 2019, and as corporate business tax revenues grow.
While I disagree with their endorsement, at least Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club admits that there would be diversions of existing finds and recognizes the need to fight to restore them in next year’s budget (see Bob Jordan’s APP story).
You want facts, Ed?
Let voters read the OLS Fiscal Note, which clearly presents the diversions of exiting environmental money. These are CUTS – not INCREASES – even with the increase of CBT revenues from 4% to 6%.
LOOK, Ed, just look at the numbers, from OLS:
This post is getting too long and rambling – I close it up now and will finish part II tomorrow.
There are many other things Postosnak says that are either untrue or misleading and I need to point them all out, very precisely and explain exactly why they are false, with links to the evidence.
I want especially to explain why diverting the current $32 million dedicated to State Parks and pooling that into a $70+ million Open Space fund of competing uses would severely shortchange parks funding.
There are also many other things Potosnak fails to mention, including the fact that the new “stewardship” funds he touts can be used for projects that include commercial logging and herbicide & pesticide application on State lands. He elides the controversial debate on the “Forest Stewardship” bill.
Potosnak also conveniently fails to mention the huge – and undisclosed – conflicts of interests his member groups have.
NJ LCV member groups would economically benefit from the Open Space and stewardship funds they support.
Failure to discloses that interest is a deeply unethical way to roll.
And the mask comes off when people begin to discuss all that.