Archive for June, 2016

Tell Senate President Sweeney – No Deals On Clean Water

June 30th, 2016 No comments

Sweeney spins

 Inappropriate to negotiate back room political compromises on regulatory protections

Yesterday former Governor Tom Kean wrote a strong Op-Ed urging the Legislature to veto the Christie DEP’s Flood Hazard rules and today the Star Ledger weighs in with a strong supporting editorial:

My jaw dropped reading this line from Senator Sweeney:

Sweeney’s rationale for the delay is that he’s trying to find a middle ground. He says he plans to meet with the head of the state Department of Environmental Protection to work out a compromise. “You have my commitment,” he said this week. “If we can’t fix this, on Aug. 1, we’ll pass it.”

Compromise? “Fix” it?

The thought of Senator Sweeney meeting with DEP Commissioner Bob Martin to discuss complex regulations and “fix” them absolutely boggles the mind.

It is totally inappropriate to negotiate back room political compromises on regulatory protections (for an example of exactly how Sweeney abuses the process, see: “Political Pressure On DEP: How The Game Is Played”).

Talk about the blind leading the blind! (and Sweeney is expressing no confidence in Senate Environmental Committee Chairman Bob Smith, who has rigorously, openly, and fairly considered the DEP proposal.)

There have been several hours of testimony by experts, including DEP, before the Senate Environment Committee, over a period of months. EPA and FEMA lawyers and experts reviewed the rules as well.

The rule proposal was over 900 pages and there is another several hundred pages of DEP’s responses to hundreds of public comments. And, of course, another hundred pages or more of a “concurrent proposal”.  Of course, DEP Commissioner Martin will tell Sweeney that the proposal has been fixed already.

Sweeney can knowledgeably participate in this debate? Are you kidding me? (Sweeney’s “experts” are likely Dennis Toft and Dale Florio)

Sweeney probably didn’t think he’d face press scrutiny about his failure to post the SCR 66 veto Resolution. He is spinning.

Just as we warned:

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.”

Sweeney has never been a supporter of strong environmental regulations, and he has supported the Christie DEP rollbacks.

Obviously, the Star Ledger editorial board didn’t know that Sweeney opposed the Category One buffers back in 2007.

Back in 2007, then Senator Sweeney joined then Republican Senate President Bob Littell in attacking the C1 stream buffer program:

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)

Tell Sweeney No Deals on Clean Water!

[End note: Truly “fixing” these rules would require, among other things, that stream buffer protections and surface water quality standards are enforced.

As we wrote, that would provide a regulatory basis to kill major development, like pipelines. Legislative veto of DEP rules for failure to protect buffers and water quality would also be used in anti-pipeline litigation.

Sweeney is a strong supporter of not only development, but pipelines in particular.

And we will never forget how he twisted arms to make the Pinelands pipeline happen. ]

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Pipeline Activists Declare Energy Independence In Celebration of the 4th – Urge Sweeney To Block The Pinelands Pipeline

June 29th, 2016 No comments


Taking a pause from the Trenton scene and the veto of DEP flood hazard rules (I’ve done about all I can do on that issue), I went down to Senate President Sweeney’s West Deptford district office today to join with about 40 south jersey pipeline, climate and renewable energy activists. It was great to see lots of folks I haven’t seen in awhile:

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Activists and organizations supporting a transition to clean renewable energy and opposing the pipelines through New Jersey will have a July 4th potluck picnic at the office of Senate President Stephen Sweeney to oppose his support for the oil and gas industry, and invite him to sign a declaration of energy independence. They will deliver 1,000 petitions calling on him to take action to stop pipelines through the Pinelands.

“Senator Sweeney’s support for the oil and gas industry is a direct threat to the Pinelands, and to a sustainable future for New Jersey,” said Food & Water Watch organizer Lena Smith. “He is vocally supportive of the dirty fracked gas pipelines through the Pinelands and is twisting the arms of New Jersey’s elected officials to clear the way for these pipelines to be built.

Sweeney was invited to attend the gathering, which was organized by Food & Water Watch, the Pinelands Pipeline Action Network, the Coalition for Peace and Justice, Unplug Salem, 350 South Jersey, Ramapough Lenape Nation, Don’t Gas the Pinelands Coalition, New Jersey State Industrial Union Council, People Over Pipelines, Citizens United for Renewable Energy and Progressive Democrats of America.

Senate President Sweeney

Senate President Sweeney

Sweeney needs to be told flat out that his chances to be the next Governor are significantly diminished by his continuing support for the fossil energy industry.

With respect to the South Jersey Gas Pinelands pipeline he supports, 4 prior Governors have opposed that, so he is completely out of touch with even main stream NJ bi-partisan politics.

So, let’s rehash the day’s events.

There was a road detour, and I took a wrong turn on “Kings Highway” – a troubling address for a Legislator with Gubernatorial ambitions, no? – on the way there and ironically ended up at massive pipeline and fossil infrastructure:


Arriving at Sweeney’s offices, the view didn’t get much better – he is in the belly of the fossil beast:

the view from Sweeney's Office

the view from Sweeney’s Office

As the group assembled on a grassy knoll in front of Sweeney’s office (ironically a pipeline ROW), the police showed up. Alleging the need to protect us from some non-existent threat of attack from the rear flank and to keep us off private property, the cop wanted the group to move away from the grassy knoll to an island on a nearby roadway. The island location the cop pushed us onto was dangerous, because cars drove by on both sides.


I took exception to the lack of respect for and interference with constitutionally protected activity, especially  in the absence of any no trespassing signs or complaint by the private property owner. I suspect the ROW was public land anyway.

I explained this to the cop with no success – he immediately admonished me for having an “attitude” based on my tone of voice –  so went to Sweeney’s office to ask them to support us, because they didn’t want the political controversy of activists arrested outside Sweeney’s office. They agreed. I told the cop this. He backed off and went in to talk. But came out of Sweeney’s office and said Sweeney’s District Office manager said they merely rented the property and were not authorized to allow us to use the grassy knoll. What two faced wimps.

Here are photos of the event (still learning new camera – a used Sony mirrorless I picked up at a bargain price when I sold my lenses).











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Some Advice for the Open Space Crowd

June 29th, 2016 No comments

Significant environmentally sensitive lands protected by regulation at risk

Time to come down from your Holy Grail

One of the consequences of sprawling development patterns is the loss of important land resources to urbanization. During the 2 decade analysis the Garden State loss substantial amounts of agricultural lands, wetlands and forest lands. Forest loss has been so significant during this time period that by 2007 urban land had surpassed forest land as the most prominent land type covering the state. As of 2007 the Garden State has more acres of subdivisions and shopping centers than it has of upland forests including forests in the Pinelands and all New Jersey’s parks and reserves combined. And the pace of deforestation is increasing. During the early 1986‐1995period of the data (which we label T1) forest loss occurred at 4,300 acres per year. During the middle period of the study (T2 1995‐2002) the rate of deforestation had risen to 5,901 acres per year. The most recent time period of data (T3 2002‐2007) shows that loss jumping to 8,490 acres per year, a 97% increase in deforestation rate from the T1 1986‐1995 period. ~~~ Changing Landscapes In The Garden State, Rutgers/Rowan

The dire findings from the Report above are provided as a reminder and dose of reality.

The reminder is for the conservation groups that formed the Keep It Green Coalition (KIG) to renew the Green Acres program funding. They used to work on land use issues too.

They used to advocate for a host of protective strategies in addition to land acquisition, such as the State Plan, the Highlands and Pinelands regional plans, and various DEP regulatory programs.

That land use planning and DEP regulatory work has largely been abandoned – by their own words – in an obsessive pursuit of a singular “Holy Grail”: (today’s Bergen Record)

“We’ve been searching for this Holy Grail for a long time and now we have it,” said David Epstein, president of the Land Conservancy of New Jersey.

I’ve argued that the selfish obsession is more of a White Whale than Holy Grail, causing all sorts of collateral damage and unethical behavior – starting with stealing funds that were previously Constitutionally dedicated to State Parks and core environmental programs.

But, instead of fighting for new revenues for open space, an approach that has been supported by the voters and funded the Green Acres program for over 50 years, the KIG lacked the stomach for a fight and instead stole existing environmental money.

Consumed with the pursuit of their Holy Grail, conservation groups have remained silent and on the sidelines, as the Christie Administration:

  • abandoned the State Plan
  • undermined the Highlands Council and Pinelands Commission
  • attacked the Highlands and Pinelands regional plans
  • rolled back DEP water quality management planning rules, allowing development of 30,000 – 40,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands;
  • rolled back coastal zone management rules, allowing more development in environmentally sensitive and hazardous areas
  • proposed rollbacks of stream buffer protections along over 2,000 miles of “ecologically exceptional” waters
  • proposed rollback of DEP’s “Septic density standards”, a core protection for the 400,000 acre Highlands Preservation Area
  • ignored climate change and dismantled DEP’s existing climate programs
  • supported the construction of miles of damaging gas pipelines
  • initiated a program of logging Highlands forests
  • gutted enforcement and turned DEP into a pro-business “customer service” agency
  • abandoned Water Supply planning and ecological constraints on water use
  • abandoned the Natural Resource Damage Compensation & Restoration program
  • weakened public access rules and failed to aggressively defend the Public Trust Doctrine
  • reversed 20 years of watershed planning policy by permitting a new sewage treatment plant on Crosswicks Creek, a low flowing environmentally sensitive Delaware River tributary, to serve a massive new sprawl development on farmland.

The pursuit of the Holy Grail is literally losing ground.

Worse, various frauds have insinuated themselves into the vacuum on land use advocacy, including groups like Sustainable NJ and NJ Future and NJ Citizens Campaign and Together NJ.

These groups reject a traditional advocacy role and do not work on State government planning and regulation in favor of demonstrably ineffective voluntary, local, corporate, consumer, and market based initiatives.

These faux “campaigns” divert resources and channel local activists into politically safe symbolic gestures, while they provide green cover for politicians and corporations and the Christie DEP.

Big corporate oriented Foundations like Dodge and Wm. Penn have shifted their funding away from traditional aggressive advocacy work that focused on government planning and regulation, to funding the pursuit of the Holy Grail and politically safe Green cover projects.

But it wasn’t always like this.

Back in 2002, after 8 years of Whitman Administration “Open For Business” rollbacks, the McGreevey Administration launched several land use and water quality initiatives (they are summarized in this post).

That included amendments to the Green Acres law to prioritize protection of water resources, typically some of the most environmentally sensitive and ecologically valuable lands. According to DEP (page 81):


Compare the 4,500 acres of lands acquired to protect water resources with DEP regulatory protections.

According to DEP, there are 18,126 miles of rivers and streams in NJ.

According to another DEP Report, (map below), 29% (5,256) of these stream miles are designated Category One and have 300 foot buffers. Do the math:

(5,256 miles) X (5,280 ft./mile) X (600 ft buffer/ft)/43,560 ft(2)/acre = 382,254 acres

There are 400,000 acres in the Highlands Preservation Area, almost a million acres in the Pinelands, and thousands more acres of wetlands and transition areas – all protected by regulation and all at risk of losing protections via regulatory rollbacks.

So, the obsession with the Holy Grail needs to end and the KIG groups have got to get back to work on traditional land use advocacy work.

That can start with defending rollbacks to C1 buffers and the DEP Highlands septic density standards.

antideg map

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Does Back Room Open Space “Deal” Provide Cover for Democrats To Abandon Veto of DEP Flood Hazard Rules?

June 28th, 2016 No comments

The damage continues from Keep It Green Open Space strategy

Sweeney’s choice

The press is reporting that Gov. Christie and the Legislature cut a last minute deal on open space to avoid an embarrassing over-ride of the Governor’s conditional veto, see:

The text of the open space funding bill (S2456/A4017) is not yet posted on the Legislature’s website.

Therefore, it is impossible to know what the deal really means at this point – and whether additional compromises were made in the DEP budget – regardless of what the press is reporting and legislators and environmental groups are claiming, so I’ll not comment on the merits.

My concerns are:

1) how does the deal fund State Parks and core environmental programs slashed by the Open Space ballot question?

Will $20 million be diverted from the Clean Energy Fund to restore these cuts?

Will other DEP programs be cut or privatized to restore these cuts?

2) Is “stewardship” still an authorized use of open space money? (I assume that urban funding and fundamental allocation fairness issues remain unaddressed)

3) The Blue Acres money is a red herring – a fig leaf. The real issue in the Governor’s Conditional Veto was cuts to State Parks and DEP programs (Christie CV):

Ironically, while proponents of the amendment argued that it was pro-environment because it promised a steady funding stream for open space, the amendment always had the potential to siphon off money from important environmental programs, including site remediation and water quality initiatives.

The Governor was right – the environmentalists have been lying to the media.

4) what effect does the deal have on the pending legislative veto of Christie DEP flood hazard, storm water management, and coastal rules (SCR 66)?

If the political deal was designed to avoid the  first ever and embarrassing legislative over-ride of Governor Christie’s conditional veto, did the Christie negotiators extract a commitment from Democrats also not to embarrass the Governor by vetoing his DEP’s rules?

The media quoted an anonymous Democratic Senator on the political sensitivity of the deal: (NJ.Com)

“Even though we have the votes, if we override him, he could just wait us out for the next 18 months and not fund any open space [initiatives]” explained one Democratic senator, who declined requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations that were still unfolding late Monday afternoon.

We assume that there is a similar “sensitivity” to a legislative veto of Governor Christie’s DEP rules.

The final legislative session is Thursday, June 30. The Democrats have negotiations and deals in the works on budget issues as well.

The legislative veto of the DEP’s flood hazard rules passed the full Assembly weeks ago, but the Senate version SCR 66 has not been posted for a vote in the Senate by Senate President Sweeney.

DEP adopted the flood hazard rules back in May and last week formally proposed the smokescreen, officially known as the “concurrent proposal”. As we predicted, the waters are muddied (pun intended).

The deal on open space is not only designed to avoid embarrassment of Governor Christie. There are political benefits for the Democrats too.

Because the Keep It Green coalition made the veto over-ride appear as the number one environmental issue and the press gave it so much coverage, it makes the Democrats look like environmental champions.

And that provides sufficient green cover that allows them to quietly walk away from the legislative veto of DEP rules (SCR 66) – which the press has ignored.

As we warned way back on March 7 and again on May 21: 

As we warned, the simultaneous adoption and concurrent proposal makes it very difficult to understand what is going on and very easy for DEP to spin the press and Legislators and environmental groups:

This sets up a very dangerous game of bait and switch and spin – DEP could adopt the bad parts and promise to re-propose the fixes but never adopt them.

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.”

So, let us put the latest train wreck collateral damage of the Keep It Green Open Space funding initiative in full context, so that we may understand the full scope of the damage it has caused to both open space and other important environmental programs:

1. At the outset, the Keep It Green coalition (KIG) set very low expectations.

The initial fatal flaw was the failure by open space advocates to seek NEW funding, as had been approved by the voters for 4 decades. Even Christie’s CV makes this point.

Clearly, the KIG folks were intimidated by Gov. Christie’s categorical opposition to any new debt or new revenues and unwilling to fight for new money.

2. Because they would not fight for or seek new money, they diverted about $100 million/year in existing Corporate Business Tax (CBT) revenues.

Those existing CBT revenues were originally dedicated by the voters in 1996 to key environmental programs – including water resources, toxic site cleanup, and State Parks.

The impetus for creating the 1996 CBT was because over $500 million in environmental funding had been slashed and diverted by Florio and Whitman. (Full disclose: I did the analytical work on this and worked on drafting the legislative Resolution that got CBT on the ballot).

The KIG eliminated this funding source and slashed funding for key environmental programs.

3. After failing to work for new money and diverting existing environmental funds, the KIG then pegged their revenue expectations to just $80 million per year, about one third of the average annual open space funding over the previous decade. They stole money and underfunded their own program!

4. Making that low revenue objective even worse, despite the fact that open space, historic preservation and farmland preservation needs far exceeded available funding and the deep cuts in funding, the Keep It Green Coalition supported a huge expansion of eligible uses for funds – for an entirely new program of “stewardship”. They wanted 20% of open space money dedicated to “stewardship” to fund their own pet organization projects, including logging on state lands.

5. Ironically, Governor Christie relied on the new “stewardship” allowable use to restore $20 million in funding to State Parks.

6. To cover up this incredibly poor strategy and weak compromise, KIG then duped voters by failing to tell them about the diversions that amount to deep cuts in core environmental programs.

I’ve spoken to over 100 people and none were aware of this and all would have OPPOSED it had they known.

7. After all this abuse, the KIG Green crowd compounded errors by pushing the veto over-ride and again misleading the public about the implementing legislation and the status of the dedicated open space money.

This gave democrats a pass for supporting open space and making the Gov. look bad (but without doing the heavy lifting to fight for new funding).

Did it also give Democrats cover for running away from the veto of DEP rules?

Right now, it sure looks that way. We’ll know for sure by Thursday.

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Casino Gambling Partners With Farmland Preservation

June 27th, 2016 No comments

Another faction of the Green Mafia


“Vote YES In November For North Jersey Casino Expansion”

I know very little about the politics of the Farmland Preservation program – other than the greed and the attack on the Highlands and the lies of the Farm Bureau – or horse farms and horse racing, and even less about casino gambling.

But what I do know is that the former is associated with idyllic landscapes and enjoys a very favorable public image, while the latter is associated with the mob and various social pathologies and cultural taboos practiced in places like the streets of Atlantic City.

What two enterprises could be more different?

So I was shocked while riding my bike to see pro-casino gambling signs at the lovely Heritage Hill horse farm, just above Walnford Park in Allentown:

Heritage Hill Farm, spanning 500 acres in western Monmouth County, is one of the founding farms of the New Jersey Sire Stakes program. The Heritage Hill – HH – name was given to nearly 100 horses, including the world champion filly HH Shadow who was second in the 1986 Cane Pace and retired with 17 victories and nearly $280,000 in earnings.Heritage Hill stood 1972 Pacing Horse of the Year Isle of Wight, whose offspring dominated the New Jersey Sire Stakes in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The farm no longer stands any stallions – the last was Jaguar Spur — but the Deys breed and foal nearly 100 mares a year.

Thinking this group of signs – like the handful of Trump signs out there –  just a quirky family promotion at one horse farm, I ignored it.

But a week later I saw another group of exactly the same signs at another horse farm in Chesterfield and I knew this was no isolated event, but rather an organized political campaign.

A quick Google reveals that gambling, horse racing, and farmland preservation are linked in politics – see this recent Report by Governor Christie’s Advisory Commission on NJ Gaming, Sports, and Entertainment:

Malinowski and Avenatti predicted in 2009 that the Garden State could lose its premier agribusiness which generated $780 million of economic impact annually, 7,000 jobs, $110 million in federal, state and local taxes and 57,000 acres of working agricultural landscape and open space if racing-related training and breeding farms left New Jersey. Only eight percent of acreage in the Farmland Preservation Program was used for horse-related activities and eleven percent of preserved farms were actually in the horse business (Malinowski and Avenatti, 2009). Acreage supported by equine-related interests made up 25 percent of the total farmland in New Jersey (Gottlieb, et al., 2009). This fact reinforced the argument that the state stood to lose this farmland to development if racing was no longer viable. It was also suggested that racing was not the only equine discipline in jeopardy if New Jersey racing was not sustained. Sport competition and recreational horse users also stood to suffer, as would traditional agricultural interests such as grain, hay, and straw farmers who continue to remain in business and maintain agriculturally productive open space due to the fact that their major customers are horse owners.

Have these folks no knowledge of land use planning and regulation? They assume that all horse farms would be converted to development? That market forces alone determine land use?

This worldview of sleaze and greed really should have come as no surprise, given the self-interested inside money deals, upward redistribution of public funds to wealthy elites, and avoidance of advocacy of “coercive” government land use planning and regulation I’ve seen in the open space preservation program that I’ve called “The Green Mafia”.

So, enterprising investigative journalists out there, I smell a story – how much money is going from the casino industry to NJ horse farms to promote the ballot question? Who is paying who and how much?

I’ll be voting “NO” on the casino question – and find it reprehensible that preservation of the landscape and open space are being used as pawns and a pretext to support the casino industry.


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