Home > Uncategorized > NJ Chemical Industry Invokes Gov. Christie’s Executive Order to Block DEP Drinking Water Standards for Toxic Chemicals

NJ Chemical Industry Invokes Gov. Christie’s Executive Order to Block DEP Drinking Water Standards for Toxic Chemicals

Wonky Regulatory Policies Have Real Life and Death Consequences

With Gov. Christie’s help, the polluters are literally killing us

Bear with me on this, you will be appalled by what is going on behind the scenes – what you don’t know literally can kill you.

I wrote a wonky post on Monday about technical legislation that would undermine DEP’s and other state agencies’ ability to protect public health and the environment, see:

To support my arguments, I provided one illustration of how that legislation would effect actual field conditions in the environment, i.e. the DEP’s “Category 1″ regulatory designation to protect vegetated stream buffers and water quality from the encroachment and impacts of development.

Today, I’d like to provide a more current, ongoing, and compelling example: how the NJ chemical industry is working behind the scenes to use Gov. Christie’s Executive Order #2 to block much needed drinking water standards for harmful toxic chemicals.

Those same chemical industry interests are backing the red tape legislation mentioned above.

But bear with me as I need to provide a brief background and context before I disclose the chemical industry’s lobbying effort.

  • Background

Back in April 2014, responding to strong criticism of years of inaction and a very high profile case of drinking water contamination, DEP announced, to much media fanfare, that they reconvened the Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI):

Philadelphia Inquirer story: NJ water quality panel ends long hiatus:

“It’s good to have them back,” said Bill Wolfe, a former DEP official and director of New Jersey Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

But from the meeting’s start, he and other advocates made clear that they would give the panel close scrutiny, fearing that industry and special interest groups would wield undue influence on its proceedings and that it would be slow to set certain maximum contaminant levels. […]

The DWQI had been blocked from meeting for almost 4 years. For the full story on that, see:

At their April 29, 2014 meeting (see agenda), the DWQI pledged to develop new drinking water standards, known as “Maximum Contaminant Levels” or MCLs, for a class of toxic chemicals known as perfluorinated chemicals, individually known as  PFNA, PFOA, and PFOS.

DEP also announced that they were currently conducting “cost benefit analysis” on prior science and health based DWQI MCL recommendations for 2 contaminants, radon -222 (February 2009) and 1,2,3 trichloropropane (March 2009)

[*The March 2009 Report recommending MCLs for hazardous contaminants and the October 2005 Report recommended MCL for perchlorate  seem to have fallen into oblivion.]

Previously, on March 24, 2014, DEP’s Office of Science requested public comment on a pre-proposal to set an “Interim” groundwater standard for PFNA (a DEP groundwater quality standard is legally and scientifically different from a drinking water standard MCL, which I won’t go into here).

On May 28, 2014, the DWQI issued a broader request for public comment on PFC’s PFOA; PFNA; and PFOS. The notice re-affirmed the prior commitment to develop MCL’s:

The Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI) was established (Title 58:12A-20) to make recommendations including the development of maximum contaminant levels (MCLs), development of appropriate testing techniques to measure MCLs, and testing frequencies for implementation by the Drinking Water Quality Program of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The DWQI is currently developing MCL recommendations for three perfluorinated compounds. .

  • The Chemical Industry Responds

As noted above in the Philadelphia Inquirer story, We pledged to closely scrutinize the DWQI, given our

fear that industry and special interest groups would wield undue influence on its proceedings and that it would be slow to set certain maximum contaminant levels.”

So, what did the Chemical Industry do?

At a strategic level, they took a dual track attack.

First, on the policy level – in a perfect example of exactly the kind of abuse we have been warning about – they invoked Gov. Christie’s “regulatory relief” policies adopted by Executive Order #2.

Specifically, in a June 27, 2014 letter to the DWQI, the NJ Chemistry Council strongly opposed the DWQI’s proposed MCLs for PFC’s by citing policies in Christie’s EO #2 (boldface mine):

First, CCNJ must point to the “Common Sense Principles” established by Governor Christie in Executive Order No. 2 (EO #2) issued on January 20, 2010. Among the principles outlined in the Order were the following:

o Engage in the “advance notice of rules” by soliciting the advice and views of knowledgeable persons from outside of New Jersey State government, including the private sector and academia, in advance of any rulemaking…

o Employ the use of cost/benefit analyses, as well as scientific and economic research from other jurisdictions, including but not limited to the federal government when conducting an economic impact analysis on a proposed rule.

o Detail and justify every instance where a proposed rule exceeds the requirements of federal law or regulation. State agencies shall, when promulgating proposed rules, not exceed the requirements of federal law except when required by State statute or in such circumstances where exceeding the requirements of federal law or regulation is necessary in order to achieve a New Jersey specific public policy goal.

The CCNJ believes strongly that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), to date, has failed to give appropriate consideration to EO #2 with respect to its PFNA regulatory actions. DWQI must ensure that these principles are followed when reviewing scientific data and making a recommendation for a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for PFNA or any other contaminant. 

So there it is – we’ve written about exactly these abuses for 5 years now – exactly Gov. Christie’s pro-industry/anti-regulatory biased procedures, sham cost benefit analysis, and a misguided federal consistency policy harm the public interest – literally blockading any new regulatory protections.

But we couldn’t have stated it more clearly ourselves exactly how Gov. Christie has sided with chemical industry and other polluters in blocking necessary public health and environmental protections.

Second, on the science issues, the NJ Chemistry Council absolutely validated the thesis of Professor David Michael’s superb book:  Doubt Is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault On Science Threatens Your Health (listen to interview).

This is the thesis of Professor David Michael’s book:

Opponents of public health and environmental regulations often try to “manufacture uncertainty” by questioning the validity of scientific evidence on which the regulations are based. Though most identified with the tobacco industry, this strategy has also been used by producers of other hazardous products. Its pro- ponents use the label “junk science” to ridicule research that threatens powerful interests.

This strategy of manufacturing uncertainty is antithetical to the public health principle that decisions be made using the best evidence available. The public health system must ensure that scientific evidence is evaluated in a manner that assures the public’s health and environment will be adequately protected.

So, at this point, it appears that the Chemical Industry lobbying behind the scenes has again blocked regulatory action by the DWQI and DEP on protection of public health and the environment.

As evidence to support this conclusion, we note that the DWQI pledged to meet again in September 2014 but has not done so.

Similarly, DEP has not gone forward with a formal rule proposal to adopt an interim groundwater quality standard for PFOA.

With Gov. Christie’s help, the polluters are literally killing us.

[*End Note: Dear DEP Commissioner Martin – make me eat these words – just take regulatory action!]

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