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The Only Heat Christie Gets from Trenton Is The Weather

July 21st, 2015 No comments

No Accountability For Abysmal Record, as Christie Works The Hustings

I had hope the Democrats in the Legislature and media would make it a long hot summer for the Christie Administration by holding an intensive series of oversight hearings on Governor Christie’s abysmal record over the  last 5 years so that voters (and national media) in primary campaign states would know what they’re voting for.

Clearly, after the Exxon deal, we know that the Dems sure know how to put on a show.

I even teed up a list of environmental issues that illustrate that record (see this). We’re in a target rich environment.

In addition to pushback from Trenton Democrats, I had assumed that – as a leading chronicler of Christie’s environmental record – my phone would be ringing from Democrats doing oppo research and press doing accountability on Christie’s record.

Forget about that –

It seems like – whether its privatizing NJ’s water infrastructure or the toxic site cleanup program – half the Democrats in leadership are still working the “bi-partisan” Christie-crat rollback agenda and the press has other compelling things to write about, like Trump’s latest racist or ignorant remarks and whether Christie is polling at 2% or 5% (or even just 1%).

For example, DEP just adopted coastal management regulations that WEAKEN existing protections for the shore and – in the wake of Sandy – promote new development in hazardous shore locations (vulnerable to coastal storm surge and sea level rise) and remarkably IGNORE climate change and sea level rise.

But Democrats never mounted any effort to promote their own coastal policy alternative to Christie’s “rebuild madness” and privatization and outsourcing of climate adaptation work, which was Senator Barnes’s Coastal Commission bill that died in silence, as Barnes fell on his sword and coastal environmental groups were AWOL.

[* Not only were they AWOL is building public support for the bill, but coastal groups were prepared to OPPOSE Barnes’ bill – ask him how I had to argue vehemently, at a Trenton meeting I wasn’t even invited to but crashed, to stop them from OPPOSING the bill. Barns thanked me several times for that. Ask him, or the enviro leaders who were in the room.]

Similarly, DEP just proposed regulations under the Flood Hazard Act that weaken flood protections and would essentially eliminate one of the most effective land use and water quality programs of the last two decades, known as “Category One” 300 foot buffer protections.

Bergen County’s Senator Bob Gordon proposed legislation to strengthen that program and update decades old flood maps, so one would assume that he would want to be first in line in defending NJ’s stream protections, particularly given the persistent flooding in North Jersey.

But how can Gordon, who Chairs the Senate Regulatory Oversight Committee or Senate Environmental Committee Chairman Smith hold hearings on the Christie DEP’s proposed weakening of NJ’s flood protection and stream buffer protection program when Senate President Sweeney said THIS about the DEP’s buffer protection program during the Corzine Administration, who was weakening the program at the time but apparently didn’t go far enough for Sweeney.

404. COMMENT: The proposed Category One designations would appear to be more about curbing development than enhancing water quality standards. Unfortunately, this new regulatory proposal tips the balance even more against the economic prosperity of the areas, district 24 and 3. (127, 221)  (source: DEP regulatory document) 

Commenter #127 was Republican Senate leader Bob Littell – does that “bi-partisan” stuff sound familiar?

Oh, and I forgot, the Trenton environmental groups are similarly compromised, because they blindly supported Corzine DEP Chief Lisa Jackson on this C1 rollback in 2008 (I think I called it”Betrayal by the Brook”)

But who knows – maybe they’ll be a massive turnout and protest at the August 11 Energy Master Plan public hearing that rivals the People’s Climate March.

Keep Hope Alive!

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Christie DEP Adopts Climate Denying Coastal Rule

July 20th, 2015 No comments

Legislature Must Veto Irresponsible Christie Plan To Rebuild Coast

In North Carolina, the State Legislature drew national scorn by passing a law that prohibited State regulators from considering climate change and sea level rise in coastal planning and development decisions.

Here in NJ, Governor Christie just accomplished the same objective by merely ignoring the climate issue.

Despite receiving almost 20,000 negative public comments, the unified opposition of the environmental community, rare public criticism by leading professionals and the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance, and a ton of bad press, the Christie DEP just adopted new coastal Zone Management rules that not only ignore climate change and sea level rise, but actively promote development in hazardous and environmentally sensitive locations, while scaling back DEP and public oversight of important coastal land use and development decisions.

I wrote about the rule when DEP proposed it last year, urging legislators to use their Constitutional power to veto the rule as inconsistent with legislative intent, see:

We repeat that veto request today, but instead of rehashing prior posts, will let the words of others make our case. (and look at THIS legislative precedent!)

The following is from the DEP’s response to public comments document – each commenter is named and given a number. But keep in mind that these are DEP’s translations and summaries of the comments. DEP typically softens criticism.

I chose Jon Miller’s comments because they are on point and it is very unusual for a professional association to make such strong public criticism. That is an indicator of just how irresponsible these DEP rules are – and there are additional powerful criticisms regarding destruction of natural resources; e.g. promoting restaurants and marinas in shellfish habitat, which previously was prohibited:

Jon Miller,  on behalf of the New Jersey Association for Floodplain Management:(#96)

76. COMMENT: Sea level rise, driven by global climate change and by geological, climatic, and human factors particular to our region, poses a growing risk to New Jersey, threatening property, infrastructure, ecosystems, and livelihoods. Intensifying development in increasingly vulnerable coastal areas will magnify this risk. The proposed rules do not consider the effects of sea level rise; incorporating sea level rise into the permitting process is critical if it is to meet its goal of not putting the inhabitants of the New Jersey shore at risk. The Department should address this issue when revising the rules.

Half of the housing stock in northern New Jersey is about 50 years old, and approximately one-sixth is over 80 years old. Construction that takes place today has the potential to place shore residents in harm’s way for much of the rest of this century. Failure to incorporate sea level rise in permitting coastal development is not consistent with sound risk management.

In addition, rules that encourage further development in areas that will become increasingly vulnerable to flooding over the course of the century will be costly in both economic and human terms. The Department is strongly urged to revise the rules taking into consideration the effects of sea level rise on flood hazard areas. The commenters provided citations to reports/studies that they assert support their position see Kenneth G. Miller et al., “A Geological Perspective on Sea‐Level Rise and Its Impacts along the U.S. Mid‐Atlantic Coast,” Earth’s Future 1 (2013): 3–18, doi:10.1002/2013EF000135; John Church and Neil White, “Sea‐Level Rise from the Late 19th to the Early 21st Century,” Surveys in Geophysics 32, no. 4 (2011): 585–602, doi:10.1007/s10712‐011‐9119‐1; ; and Trevor Houser et al., American Climate Prospectus: Economic Risks in the United States (Rhodium Group, 2014), http://www.climateprospectus.org/. (76, 96)

121. COMMENT: The consolidation and simplification of the rules is supported; however, there is concern with respect to increased development in high risk areas. Public safety, property protection, and reducing risk which strengthens local and State economies are paramount. This position is also supported by the New Jersey Legislature through the enactment of CAFRA, at N.J.A.C. 13:19-2, and the Wetlands Act of 1970 at N.J.S.A. 13:9A-1 and 2. The legislative intent of these laws is violated by intensifying density and uses in coastal high hazard areas. The proposed rules do not consider increased risk in coastal development in the impact assessment, whether to the financial interests of local, State, or Federal taxpayers and to the NFIP and other disaster assistance programs well utilized after Superstorm Sandy.

The proposed rules are inappropriate after the lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy and the lack of integration of future conditions such as sea level rise is reckless in a regulation proposed at this time. The rules need to be reflective of the realities of sea level rise and the storm damage that happened as a result of Superstorm Sandy. Expansion of water dependent uses, easing infill oversight, and revising setbacks from water bodies are intensifying risk.

The extension of permits previously issued and individual permits that allow building on piers waterward of the mean high water line are opposed as these permits are in violation of the building codes and the NFIP. Further, the redevelopment of Atlantic City and the Hudson River Waterfront must be accomplished thoughtfully to minimize flood risk. (96)

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Solidarity With The Greek People

July 17th, 2015 No comments

As Oligarchs & Banks Crush The Greek People, We Stand In Solidarity

greeks1

greeks2

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DEP Letter to FERC on Environmental Review of PennEast Pipeline Has Huge Gaps

July 17th, 2015 No comments

Ignores Climate Change, Water Quality, and C1 Stream Protections

Nishisawick Creek

Nishisakawick Creek (C1) Frenchtown, NJ

[Updates below]

Tom Johnson at NJ Spotlight has an interesting story today on a DEP July 2, 2015 letter to FERC regarding DEP review and permitting for the Penn East pipeline – read the whole thing.

I just read the DEP letter and think the favorable reception it is getting is exaggerated. The DEP concerns raised were boilerplate regulatory requirements and none could support a denial of permits for the project.

Aside from the issue of private property owners denying access for surveys (ironically, those same private property rights arguments are used to defeat environmental and land use protections –  a tactic that won’t work, see this primer), the DEP regulatory review had some serious flaws, which I will just briefly note here for project opponents to follow up on. (and why are they not aggressively targeting Christie and demanding DEP permit denials? Read on).

Amazingly, the DEP omitted the one regulatory tool it has to sustain a denial of permits for the pipeline from FERC preemption – compliance with Clean Water Act requirements.

1) Category One Streams Ignored

The Freshwater fisheries and storm water groups at DEP – whose review comments were included in the DEP FERC letter – are both directly involved in implementing Category One stream protections, so it was very curious that both failed to mention that the pipeline would cross Category One streams that currently have 300 foot buffers.

Those streams were designated under Clean Water Act mandated State surface water quality standards as C1 based on “exceptional ecological significance” due to the presence of aquatic dependent species (which are legally “existing uses” of the streams).

Category One streams are designated under the EPA approved NJ Surface Water Quality Standards required by the federal Clean Water Act. The C1 300 foot buffers are designed as water quality “Best Management Practices” under the storm water management rules. Those C1 stream buffers and BMP’s were used by DEP to demonstrate compliance with federally mandated “anti degradation implementation procedures” for the State’s anti degradation policy, which also is required under the Clean Water Act. Finally, local ordinances to implement the stormater buffers are a required part of the EPA mandated MS4 municipal storm water permit program, so there are multiple federal hooks associated with C1 buffers.

In addition to a 300 foot buffer and protection for all “existing uses”, C1 streams are protected from  any measurable change in exiting water quality. That is known as a State anti degradation policy required under the Clean Water Act.

A pipeline disturbance of a C1 buffer would have to demonstrate that existing water quality would be maintained and that all existing uses (including aquatic dependent species and their habitat) are protected.

I don’t think omission of C1 streams was accidental – that is obviously intentional because DEP just proposed to REPEAL C1 buffers. It would be awkward telling FERC and activists about that, eh?
2) The Clean Water Act tool that could form valid basis for DEP to deny permits was ignored 
There was no water quality standards or water quality impact or water quality certification requirements mentioned –
The Clean Water Act requires a water quality certificate by DEP that the pipeline meets State water quality standards, including protection of wetlands and compliance with anti degradation policy (c1 “no reduction in existing water quality” (measurable or projected)..
That tool was used by Connecticut to stop a proposed pipeline from Connecticut to NY under LI Sound – upheld by federal Court of Appeals.
It is the State’s strongest tool to defeat FERC pre-emption (the only other State legal tool is the Coastal Zone Management consistency determination)
The C1 streams that would be crossed have a strong Clean Water Act based water quality standard and anti degradation policy- no reduction in existing water quality.
Those requirements could kill the pipeline and it was left out by DEP! 
 [Update: for those reluctant to take my word for this, see this helpful overview of State permit requirements  and FERC from our friends in Connecticut:
Federal law requires that an applicant for a federal license or permit to conduct an activity that may result in a discharge into navigable waters obtain a state certificate (a “401 permit”) that the discharge will comply with the federal Clean Water Act and state water quality standards.

401 PERMIT

An applicant for a federal license or permit whose activity may result in the discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable waters, including wetlands, must obtain a state Water Quality Certificate under § 401 of the federal Clean Water Act (33 USC 1314). (Navigable waters are generally considered those subject to the flow of the tide, and used in interstate transport or foreign commerce).

Certification is generally made in conjunction with issuance of a state permit under the structures, dredging and fill laws. Conditions contained in a water qualify certificate become conditions of the federal permit or license.

In reviewing an application for a 401 permit, DEP must consider the effects of proposed discharges on ground and surface water quality and on the existing and designated water use. Such discharges could include the discharge of dredged and fill material or storm water during construction, in the incidental discharge of sediments during dredging operations, and any excavation, land clearing and grading in, or affecting, navigable waters.

3) Climate change impacts Fugitive and Lifecycle Greenhouse gas emissions ignored
The air quality review failed to consider fugitive pipeline emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that is regulated under NJ DEP regulations as an air pollutant.
The air quality review did not consider lifecycle and cumulative GHG emissions, from fracking through gas combustion – again, this is a MAJOR issue.
If DEP were serious about killing this pipeline, they would have began to build the administrative record to do so, based on Clean Water Act requirements.
They are not serious. They’re ducking and hoping private landowners can erect enough barriers and delays so they PennEast withdraws and they won’t have to make a decision.

{END NOTE:

Given that DEP has the power to deny Clean Water Act based permits and sustain a legal challenge from FERC preemption, why are pipeline opponents not focused and demanding that Governor Christie kill this project?

(HELLO! Just like he exercised his veto power to kill the first off shore LNG project.)

Why instead are opponents focused exclusively on local tactics and land use issues that can not kill but can only delay the project?

Update: 7/23/15 –  We really don’t enjoy saying “I told you so”, but for those duped by the DEP letter to FERC and under the delusion that the Christie DEP would aggressively oversee and enforce environmental laws, PLEASE read today’s NJ Spotlight story:

Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the DEP, said PennEast did obtain a permit for the operation in order to go deeper than 50 feet.

The driller contacted the well-permitting program before proceeding and got the necessary permit,” Hajna said. “The driller has the permission of the property owner for the current activities.”

Hajna said the company obtained potable water from a local fire department ahead of time, casting doubt on DRN’s claims that the company was drawing water from the pond.

It’s hard to tell what really went on without visiting the site and doing a file review, but it sounds like Riverkeeper or reporter Jon Hurdle missed the permit that PennEast failed to get: a NJPDES discharge permit for the water discharged to the pond.

But that just shows major flaws in the permit process and DEP oversight, because apparently PennEast got well drilling permit, but no one seemed to know about that and it lacked adequate conditions regarding the source of water and the discharge of wastewater.

Bottom line: the Christie DEP is NOT going to aggressively enforce environmental laws against pipeline companies.

Furthermore, environmental regulations are flawed – they have gaps and loopholes.

Regardless of the eutrophic state of that pond, a man made discharge to it requires a permit under NJ’s Water Pollution Control Act.

PennEast did not secure such a permit and DEP failed to enforce those requirements.

Note also how the well drilling permit was issued by DEP without adequate public review or onsite compliance inspection during drilling activities. The manpower requirements of environmental regulations are another major flaw, as DEP is downsized and lacks an effective field compliance and enforcement presence.

Note how PennEast benefitted from technical uncertainty about the source of discharge to the pond – whether it was groundwater seep or a man mane discharge. This is another typical game polluters play to violate regulatory requirements and evade enforcement action.

Don’t be fooled by DEP or the so called ability to effectively regulate a pipeline.  ~~~ end update]

Wicheoki Creek

Wickecheoke Creek (C1) Delaware Township, NJ

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Banned At BlueJersey (Again)

July 15th, 2015 No comments

No Effective Criticism of Democrats Allowed By NJ Tribe

[Update: 7/18/15 – looks like I have at least 1 friend at BlueJersey – hahahaha! That BJ reader should know why Rosi banned me the first time, back in December 2009 email, she wrote:

Winston/Bill, there are other people who contribute here regularly who don’t do a tenth of the self-promotion that you do. Your constant flogging of your own site has the effect here of overwhelming almost any point you make and dulling your credibility, not enhancing it. 

And there doesn’t seem to be a shred of evidence justifying the relentless tone of superiority you take when you comment on the writing of other people. You’re going to need to curb both of those things if you want to continue posting anything at Blue Jersey. Rosi Efthim

That schoolmarm scolding prompted my exit shot.  My BJ friend may want to look at that post, especially the comments on it from Rosi and her supporters.

PS – Last time around, Rosi flat-out lied, so readers hold know that here is the obnoxious response I got on 7/10/15 (just after my 2 critical posts) after my Tom Paine login was blocked and I thought I used the wrong password:

You said you forgot your password.  Here it is, so you can log on to your account athttp://www.bluejersey.com:

Username: Winston Smith
Password: bye-bye   ~~~ end update]

I once had a column at the Star Ledger’s “NJ Voices” page, a citizen’s journalism page where editors chose me to be the “voice” of the citizen interested in environmental issues. I didn’t call and ask them, they called and asked me. I think their choice was based on this Op-Ed that they had recently published.

But that (voluntary, unpaid) gig didn’t last too long, as I progressively stepped on more and more toes and pissed off people in high places. I’m sure reporters and editors were offended by the fact that my writing (and photographs) appeared under the SL banner and was indistinguishable – to the reader – from theirs.

The final straw for SL editors that led to my ban was a post opposing a bill introduced by US Senator Joe Lieberman in the wake of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. For obvious reasons, I opposed that as an outrageous act of censorship.

That bill, supported by Obama, would amend the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to exempt certain military or national security photos. In that post, I included a link, with a warning to readers about graphic content, to the Abu Ghraib torture photos, which at the time were censored and not being published in US media outlets, but were published virtually everywhere else in the world.

Not 10 minutes after posting that link, I got an angry call from a SL editor, who claimed I violated their contract and could no longer be trusted to use their site and they pulled the plug. In challenging any “contract” violation on my part, I appealed to senior editors, noting that the “contract” I signed said nothing about pre-publication review or editorial control on their part. Those discussions gave me a front row seat into the mind of traditional media and their thoughts on the band of “dirty hippy internet bloggers”, who they blamed for killing traditional journalism.

The SL ban turned out to be a good thing, because it prompted me to create Wolfenotes where I could write whatever the hell I wanted to – as long as I believed it and had some facts to support those beliefs.

During the initial period writing here, I cross posted what I thought were posts relevant to Democrats over at BlueJersey, under the pseudonym “Winston Smith”.

For some reason that cross posting was perceived over at BJ as either shameless blog promotion or sock puppetry or trolling or whatever internet term small minded people use to label and shun “the other” with whom they disagree but can’t mount an effective argument to rebut.

In short order, after a few cross posts at BlueJersey that were critical of Democrats – surprise, surprise! – I was banned there too. Rosi Eftim sure is no Karl Popper!

No big deal.

But after several years went by, I recently decided to try to re-engage the BlueJersey crowd, given the focus of my work on criticizing Gov. Christie, this time under the pseudonym “Tom Paine”.

I started small, by posting comments on their environmental coverage – just like I do at NJ Spotlight – pointing out issues they overlooked or didn’t get quite right. No problems emerged. I had some positive exchanges with BJ readers.

I presumed I would be welcome there – I was wrong.

Of course, my criticism is not limited to Gov. Christie and Republicans, but extends to Democrats too.

Here are the two recent posts that just got me banned again –

Curious, like the SL ban leading to more fun, literally the same day BJ pulled the plug I got another set of huge bills for bandwidth overuse resulting from the hack and bot attack on Wolfenotes – the costs are so high I may have to shut down – and an inquiry from Rutgers University Press to write a book on Christie and environmental policy.

Think we’ll look into that.

Now all I need to do is find a real job.

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