Home > Uncategorized > Star Ledger Editorial Board Joins Kabuki Dance on Christie DEP Clean Water Rule Rollback

Star Ledger Editorial Board Joins Kabuki Dance on Christie DEP Clean Water Rule Rollback

Christie DEP Craps On The Lawn And The Business Lobbyists Call It Miracle Grow

In their understandable eagerness to rub Gov. Christie’s nose in the mess made by his DEP clean water and flood rule rollbacks, the Star Ledger Editorial Board has joined the Kabuki dance, just as I had predicted:

Tom Johnson is NJ’s most veteran environmental reporter. If Tom can’t get it right – and only injects “skepticism” at the very end of the story and sourced from Dave Pringle no less – then how can the typical State house or environmental reporter understand what’s going on?

Tom’s story now becomes the green light narrative for the deal. The Legislature can posture that they forced the Christie DEP to concede and yet the Christie DEP made no substantive concessions and never admitted any error. Kabuki at its worst.

SLEB wrote, in a badly misleading headline:

The lede is just as bad as the headline and it relies on and cites Tom’s story:

In the latest epic stare-down between Gov. Chris Christie‘s administration and the New Jersey Legislature, the administration finally blinked. …

Christie officials appear to be backing off their plan to loosen our state’s clean water rules after an outcry from critics, a warning from the feds and the threat of a Legislative veto. …

The state Department of Environmental Protection now agrees that it will revise its laxer rules, which would have allowed development to further encroach on our rivers and streams. This is good news not just for environmentalists, but for anyone who drinks the water in New Jersey, or doesn’t want to wear duck boots in the house.

But a careful reader will note the use of the words “appear” and “threat“, which flat out contradict the headline and lede, which make unconditional assertions.

As I wrote, in recent testimony to the Legislature, DEP most certainly did not “back down” or “agree” to revise its rules in a way to eliminate the rollbacks and strengthen protections, as the SLEB clearly implies.

The SLEB surely knows that there are two things required to rub someone’s nose in the mess they made: 1) a mess; and 2) a firm grasp on the back of the perpetrator’s neck.

In the case of the DEP clean water rules, we have neither.

First of all, the DEP does not admit that they took a huge crap on our lawn.

More politically significant, the business community and the builders lobby claim that the DEP rule is not a huge pile of shit on the lawn, but a needed application of Miracle Grow fertilizer.

Secondly, the Legislature does NOT have a firm grasp of the back of the Gov.’s fat 23 inch neck and the forearm strength to rub his nose in it.

Most of the Trenton Democrats do not understand the difference between a pile of shit and Miracle Grow, and many are taking money from or support the fertilizer industry.

(and the Democrats have to do this on their own because the Republicans – who also support and take money for the shit peddlers – are still loyal to and walking in lockstep with the Governor, with the exception of Senator Bateman and a very few others.)

If that is not clear enough, let me just say that Senate President Sweeney – and his puppeteer George Norcross – has been known to support the builders when the issue is framed as it has been here by the business community as: “DEP rules versus jobs and economic development“. Case closed.

The SLEB intuitively knows this and implicitly admits as much toward the end of the editorial, where they bring in the caveats from the environmentalists.

The SLEB’s environmental sources shed grave doubts on the entire premise of their Kabuki, which amounts to spiking the football, not in the end zone but on the 10 yard line (SLEB wrote):

Those familiar with the Christie administration’s power grabs and secrecy, though, aren’t ready to declare victory. Because the battle isn’t over yet. Just this week, at a meeting to gather proposed revisions to its 936-page rule proposal, the DEP refused to allow in representatives from the lead groups that protested the changes. How’s that for open government?

The Legislature cannot allow itself to be strung along or hoodwinked. How can we trust that the DEP truly plans to “address many of the concerns we heard from the public as well as from EPA,” after the tightly controlled nature of its last meeting?

As we wrote, the legislature is virtually certain to get “hoodwinked” because the “repair” of a complex rule like DEP proposed is opaque and can make it difficult to tell the difference between a pile of shit and Miracle Grow, and the timing of the regulatory process (June 1 deadline) coupled with multiple horse trading opportunities on the budget, make it very prone to political deals. We wrote:

The public and the Committee will be drowned in the weeds of a lengthy adoption – response to public comments document on the original proposal along with an entirely new and complex re-proposal document. This is a formula for political manipulation. It will take weeks to decipher the documents. Meanwhile, by the time the dust settles, the original proposal will be adopted into law and the Veto Resolution will have withered on the vine (faded into the budget debate) and the Legislature adjourned for the summer.

But despite all this, and after 7 years of observing the Christie Administration in action, the SLB concludes with “hope”:

This isn’t the first time the Christie administration has manufactured its own facts, or relied on secrecy to push its agenda. Let’s hope it’s the one time it actually learns its lesson.

Hope is not a policy and the Christie DEP has already testified to the Legislature that they have not “learned their lesson”.

DEP will crap on our lawn – mark my words.

[End note: As a good analogy to illustrate how murky and opaque things are, consider the recent Volkswagon emissions scandal.

In that case, VW programmers had written code to make the emissions systems appear to comply with EPA requirements, but it wasn’t until years after cars were on the road that the violations were detected by monitoring (and detection may have been random).

Only the VW code writers – and their corporate bosses – really knew what was up.

Writing DEP rules is a lot like writing code – the policy intent and impacts in the real world are difficult to discern by those not directly involved in the drafting, or who have code writing expertise.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.