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If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Buy ‘Em

Did EPA Use Federal Grant Funds to Co-Opt Opposition?

The Green Mafia Strikes Again

I’ve been highly critical of how corporate and Foundation money is used to manipulate and co-opt environmental groups, whom I’ve criticized as “The Green Mafia”.

This story shows that those same corrupt dynamics are not limited to conservation and “sustainability” groups, and that the co-optation funding tactics used by Foundations and Corporations also are employed by State and Federal governments as well to buy political loyalty.

The EPA’s Superfund decision to cap highly toxic dioxin laced sediments in a small portion of the Passaic River – a plan supported by the pro-corporate anti-environmental Christie DEP (of Exxon repute) – left me scratching my head:

Why would environmental advocacy groups that purport to represent the people of Newark – a disproportionally impacted State designated “environmental justice” community who has suffered toxic poisoning for decades –  support EPA’s compromised cleanup plan that caps pollution in the river and not demand a complete permanent cleanup, EPA’s original preferred remedy of bank to bank dredging?

Why NOT demand the most protective cleanup that can be justified by science and technology, particularly with a large group of multi-billion corporations firmly on the hook for the cleanup costs?

For  summary of the issues and positions taken by the various groups, see EPA’s “Community Acceptance” discussion on page 77 of the ROD – especially note this, which is self explanatory:

Companies that have received notices of potential responsibility that submitted comments all opposed a bank-to- bank remedy, and most supported the CPG’s “Sustainable Remedy.”

EPA’s selection of Alternative 3 (Capping @ $1.38 billion) saved the corporate polluters $1.46 billion – the permanent cleanup (Alternative 2 – Dredging) cost $2.84 billion.

EPA has been elevating cleanup costs and partial caps (‘pave and wave”) over more protective and more costly permanent cleanups, as well as equating Superfund law’s clear “preference for a permanent remedy” with “treatment”. This  is an abuse of the Superfund law which was deigned to protect human health and the environment, promote permanent remedies, and hold polluters accountable.

EPA capping plans have saved corporate polluter Ford millions and sold out the people of Ringwood at the Ford Superfund site – and residents righty blasted EPA.

Recently, we saw strong criticism of EPA by residents and environmental groups for similar partial EPA cleanups of the Hudson River, the Quanta Superfund site in Edgewater, the Cornell-Dubilier Superfund site in South Plainfield and the long delayed cleanup at the Dupont site in Pompton Lakes.

What makes the Passaic Superfund site different?

Why was EPA praised by two NJ environmental groups for a partial cap based cleanup when EPA is being severely criticized for that policy virtually everywhere else?

Even more curious is the question:

Why would those same so called environmental groups that are backing the EPA plan openly criticize NJ Sierra Club for demanding the more protective preferred permanent cleanup of bank to bank dredging? See:

Could it be a result of the fact that EPA funds both those local NJ environmental groups that supported the EPA’s Passaic Plan, i.e. NY/NJ Baykeeper and Ironbound Community Corp.?

NY/NJ Baykeeper is funded by EPA and therefore has a conflict of interest.

According to the Record of Decision (ROD) on the Passaic cleanup:

In 2013, the New York/New Jersey Baykeeper applied for and was awarded the [Technical Assistance Grant] TAG, and continues to be the TAG recipient. The TAG advisor also provides technical assistance to the CAG.

But that’s not all – see:

(New York, N.Y.) With support of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “citizen science” grants, two New Jersey community groups have begun their final weeks of summer water pollution monitoring. The New York/New Jersey Baykeeper and Friends of the Bonsal Preserve have been using $25,000 grants to monitor water quality on tributaries of the New York/New Jersey Harbor.

Ironbound Community Corp., who also supported the EPA plan also is funded by EPA and therefore also has a conflict of interest, see:

(Newark, N.J.) In a move that will give the Ironbound community better information about local pollution problems, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it has awarded $100,000 under its Community Action for a Renewed Environment or CARE program to the Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC). The not-for-profit organization will use the funding to identify and address pollution problems in the Ironbound community, with a focus on exploring the cumulative impacts of the multiple sources of pollution and finding ways to reduce the risks that they pose.

And then there’s this corporate shakedown that ICC was involved in also might explain the lack of  focus on “environmental justice” in Newark:

Community Benefits

Environmental Program Funding: [Newark Energy Center] NEC agreed to fund a total of $7 Million Dollars in environmental programs:

  1. NEC will pay $4 Million Dollars to the Brick City Development Corporation (“BCDC”) a not-for- profit corporation headquartered in Newark. A publication about BCDC is located at: http://bcdcnewark.org/cms/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/BCDC_Overview_Flyer.pdf
  2. This $4 Million Dollars is to be used to support programs to be managed by Newark as outlined under the Program Management/Use of Funds section below.
  3. NEC will spend $3 Million Dollars in Newark to retrofit and/or replace older, less efficient, oil burning boilers with cleaner, more efficient, natural gas fired boilers. Commercial and residential structures that use more than 20,000 gallons of fuel oil per year are eligible. NEC provides reports to the City on the program, which is expected to be complete by December 31, 2015.

City Resident Employment Development: NEC agreed to fund a total of $650,000:

  1. NEC has paid $500,000 to the Newark Workforce Investment Board, Inc. (“NWIB”) to fund a First Source Job Placement program. This program is designed to help NEC hire Newark residents. NWIB is a not-for-profit corporation headquartered in Newark. NWIB was created pursuant to a United States law to create state and local boards to provide better access to employment, education, training and information services. NEC promises to make good faith efforts to hire Newark residents.
  2. NEC has paid $150,000 to NWIB for a pre-apprenticeship training program.
  3. NEC will establish a paid intern program to be managed by the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
  4. To encourage city resident and business participation in the project, NEC also is required to includelanguage in its labor contracts encouraging local and minority hiring.

$5 Million Dollars in Payment to the City to Fund Health and Education Programs: The City of Newark decides how to allocate these funds for health and education programs for residents of Newark, and manages and oversees those programs. See the Program Management/Use of Funds section below for details on which projects Newark intends to fund.

Utility Easements/Connection Fees: NEC agrees to pay $11 Million Dollars for a utility easement. Program Management/Use of Funds

General: NEC manages the boiler replacement program, with oversight and input from Newark. All other programs funded by the Agreement are managed by Newark or by the non-profit corporation involved, and NEC has no input or control over them. Section 12 of the Agreement explains how Newark has elected to use the money:

Section12. City Allocation of Funding:

  • $2 Million Dollars for Newark Green and Healthy Homes program that will provide comprehensive energy and indoor air quality improvements in Newark residential structures;
  • $1.5 Million Dollars for Newark’s tree planting initiative;
  • $100,000 for air quality monitoring;
  • $100,000 for anti-idling and truck route enforcement;
  • $200,000 to fund sustainability office staff;
  • $100,000 for Waterfront Park maintenance; and
  • $5 Million Dollars for renovation of Ironbound Stadium.

We must get the corporate money that buys results and corrupts the process out of politics – and so called environmental groups as well.

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