Archive for July, 2016

Clinton’s VP Pick Is A Climate Disaster

July 23rd, 2016 No comments

Kaine Supports Off Shore Drilling, Fracking, Coal and Nuclear – and the TPP Trade Deal

Pro-Wall Street – Neoliberal economic regulation and labor policies just as bad

Everybody seems to wonder, what it’s like down here
I gotta get away from this day to day runnin’ around
Everybody knows this is nowhere
Everybody, everybody knows, everybody knows ~~~ “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” Neil Young

[Update: 7/30/16 – very similar view on Kaine, from the left:

But one of Kaine’s most worrying positions may be his support for the fossil-fuel industry. Kaine continues to push fracking, and he doesn’t oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 550-mile natural gas pipeline that would transport dangerous fossil fuels right through the heart of Virginia. Seemingly unaware of the dire climate change reports that keep appearing, Kaine argues that an all-of-the-above energy policy — including drilling off the coast of Virginia — is the best path forward. ~~~ end update]

I try to stay way from national issues and partisan politics, but I just read this and had to share.

Read Professor Bill Black’s take on Wall Street and economic policy implications. Bill is one of my favorite’s on economic regulation.

While the source below on energy policy is the Republican Party, and it is spun and I don’t know if all these warped views are his current thinking, it is factual and well documented.

See you in Philly on the street.

Kaine Supports Energy Sources That Sanders Wants To Do Away With

In 2013, Kaine And Fellow Virginia Democrat Senator Mark Warner Introduced Legislation To Lift The Moratorium On Offshore Drilling. “U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine introduced legislation Wednesday that would lift the federal ban on exploration and drilling for natural gas and oil off the coast of Virginia. The moratorium, which lasts through 2017, was put in place by President Barack Obama’s administration following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.Warner and Kaine want the moratorium lifted so that decades old maps of Virginia’s offshore energy resources can be updated and leases for offshore gas and oil drilling as well as wind farms can go into effect in 2020.” (Todd Allen Wilson, “Sens. Warner, Kaine Hope To End Offshore Drilling Ban,”Daily Press, 5/22/13)

In 2007, Kaine Wanted To Expand Offshore Drilling After Exploration Off The Coast Of Virginia. “Kaine’s plan addresses the possibility of natural gas reserves off the coast of Virginia, but does not change his administration’s previous position on offshore drilling: that only exploration should be allowed at this time before leases are sold to allow actual drilling and production.” (Patrick Lynch, “Kaine Pushes Conservation In His Virginia Energy Plan,” Daily Press [Newport News, VA], 9/13/07)

  • Sanders Has A “Consistent Record Opposing Offshore Drilling.” “Bernie Sanders’ campaign on Thursday contrasted his consistent record opposing offshore oil drilling with Hillary Clinton’s support for a bill that allowed more drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.” (“Sanders In Florida Puts Focus On Climate Change And Offshore Drilling,” Press Release, 3/10/16)

In 2008, Environmentalists Criticized Gov. Kaine For His Support Of Dominion’s New Coal Plant In Southwest Virginia. “Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has been battered by criticism from environmentalists over his support of a new coal-fired power plant for southwest Virginia, which Dominion Virginia Power says is essential to the state’s energy needs but which could also lead to higher utility rates for consumers statewide.” (Tim Craig, “Kaine Irks Environmentalists By Supporting Coal-Burning Plant,” The Washington Post, 3/30/08)

  • Kaine Said The U.S. Would Not “Abandon Coal” As A Source Of Energy. “We are not going to eliminate coal, a native source that we have, as one of the sources that will power our country,’ Kaine said in a radio interview. The portion [of the energy supply] that is coal is going to get smaller, and it is going to get cleaner, but we are not going to abandon coal from the portfolio.” (Tim Craig, “Kaine Says Coal-Burning Power Plant Is Necessary,” The Washington Post, 3/30/08)

Kaine Supported Nuclear Power As A Solution To Meeting Virginia’s Energy Needs. “In Virginia last week, a panel on reducing climate change appointed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) considered adding nuclear power to its menu of recommendations. The governor’s energy plan also supports nuclear power as one solution to meeting the state’s energy needs, which are expected to grow by the equivalent of a million homes in the next decade.” (Lisa Rein and Christy Goodman, “Little Outcry On Nuclear Reactor Proposal,” The Washington Post, 8/4/08)

Sanders Wants To End The Country’s Dependence On Coal And Nuclear.”Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders unveiled a climate change plan on Monday that seeks to end the country’s dependence on oil, coal and nuclear energy and could pressure party front-runner Hillary Clinton. The Vermont senator’s plan envisions 10 million new jobs in clean energy such as wind, solar and geothermal power. It would ban oil and gas lobbyists from working in the White House, end new fossil fuel lease sales on public lands, and would cut carbon emissions faster in coming decades than the goals set in President Barack Obama’s clean power plan.” (“Bernie Sanders Unveils Climate Plan To End US Oil, Coal And Nuclear Dependence,” Reuters, 12/7/15)

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Christie DEP Will Hold Public Hearings On Water Permits For Controversial Pinelands Pipeline and Compressor Station

July 23rd, 2016 No comments

Public Hearings Held Just As Activists Begin To Target Key DEP Water Quality Power

Christie DEP will no longer get a pass for rubber stamping pipeline permits



There are important developments in the NJ Natural Gas Pinelands pipeline known as the “Southern Reliability Link” (SRL) and Transco compressor station in Chesterfield.

Before discussing them, first, let me rehash important points to set the context:

  • During the April DEP dewatering permit review process for the compressor station, I raised objections regarding failure to comply with DEP’s wetlands and Clean Water Act 401 water quality certificate regulations, among other things that it was premature to issue the dewatering permit before the DEP wetlands permit and Water Quality Certificate (WQC) were issued for the compressor station and pipeline.
  • On May 9, 2016, Bordentown and Chesterfield filed a rehearing request to FERC that argued, among other things, that FERC improperly granted approval before NJ DEP Water Quality Certification (WQC) was granted.
  • On June 30, 2016, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) granted numerous public and local government requests to hold a public hearing on the wetlands permit (and WQC) for the Chesterfield compressor station, known as the Transco Garden State Expansion Project.
  • The next day, in a July 1, 2016 letter, Transco asked FERC for approval to commence construction of the compressor station, despite not having all DEP permits and a 401 WQC.
  • On July 6, FERC denied that Transco request until “Transco obtains a Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certificate and Section 404 Permit from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection”

For the irony of FERC finally triggering a long ignored public focus on NJ DEP permits and WQC, see:

Since then, activists have held protests and organized locally, generating local Resolutions and scores of letters to DEP Commissioner Martin demanding that DEP deny the water quality certificates for the compressor station and the NJNJ SRL pipeline.

People Over Pipelines protest (North Hanover, NJ - 7/16/16)

People Over Pipelines protest (North Hanover, NJ – 7/16/16)

Those efforts are growing – the Christie DEP will no longer get a pass for rubber stamping pipeline permits.

The DEP’s June 30 letter said that there would be a public hearing, but it didn’t say when and where it would be.

There was longstanding confusion over exactly what DEP permits were required for the compressor station and the NJ Natural Gas SRL pipeline, how these permits related to the Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification, and what the status of those permits was.

I wrote that DEP was allowing Transco and NJ Natural Gas to illegally segment the compressor station and pipeline for purposes of DEP permits in violation of DEP permit regulations (others had made a segmentation argument with FERC regarding the NEPA environmental assessment process, but that argument is very weak and NEPA has no regulatory teeth).

So, with that context in mind, the July 20, 2016  DEP Bulletin published the following public hearings on August 22 and September 7 for BOTH the compressor station and pipeline:

1. Compressor station:

Garden State Expansion – Compressor Station


Application # – 0300-15-0002.2 FWW150001

Public hearing Monday, August 22, 2016, Ramada Inn, 1083 US 206, Bordentown @ 6 p.m.

Written Comments by September 6, 2016

2. Southern Reliability Link pipeline

New Jersey Natural Gas – Southern Reliability Link


Application #’s – 0000-15-0007.1 CAF150001, FWW150001 and FHA150001

Public hearing Wednesday, September 7, 2016, Ramada Inn, 1083 US 206, Bordentown @ 6 p.m.

Written Comments by September 22, 2016 (15 days from hearing)

Public notice will appear in the August 3, 2016  DEP Bulletin

These two public hearings provide a HUGE opportunity for mounting a concerted attack on the pipeline project.

The Water Quality Certificate issue will be front and center in both the wetlands General Permit and the CAFRA Individual permit.

Between now and the first August 22 public hearing, the activists really need to organize and ramp up public pressure on the DEP and assure a huge turnout for those hearings.

At the same time, activists need to craft a regulatory strategy on how best to attack these permits – and collect data to support that attack. I will be writing more specifically on these issues in upcoming posts.

Unfortunately, the very late start of the activists campaign in targeting the DEP 401 WQC and permit issues makes this a huge challenge.

Transco submitted permit applications to the DEP way back in July 2015.

Prior to that, they certainly had MONTHS of behind closed doors “pre-application meetings” with DEP professional staff and political managers.

Those meetings very likely ironed out the details and laid the groundwork for DEP approvals – all without any public awareness or organized opposition by activists.

Amazingly, a DEP permit staffer wrote that NJ Natural Gas had not submitted an administratively complete permit application until very recently, July 8, 2016:

we did not have an administratively complete application for NJNG until July 8, 2016.

The administrative complete” determination is the FIRST step in the permit process. That means DEP reviewed the NJNG permit applications is LESS THAN A MONTH!

In comparison, Transco compressor station permits were under review for over a year.

We can not longer tolerate this abuse and must stop allowing it to happen.

This is not a wasted effort – Gov. Christie is gone soon and a Governor’s race issues agenda is being framed up right now – this issue must be on that agenda and its our job to put it there.

pipe wq9

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Christie DEP Denies Public Records Request For Emails On Highlands Act Science and Legislative History

July 22nd, 2016 No comments

Emails between DEP Commissioner’s Office and the State Geologist shine light on legislative intent for septic density standards in the Highlands Act

The DEP just denied my request for emails between the DEP Commissioner’s Office and the NJ State Geologist regarding the science and policy objectives considered in developing the technical approach to the septic density standard provision incorporated into the Highlands Act.

That information is very important in the current debate regarding whether the DEP’s current proposed rollback of the septic density standard is “inconsistent with legislative intent“.

Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex) has introduced a Resolution (see: ACR 192) that declares the DEP proposal “inconsistent with Legislative intent”. That is the first step in a legislative veto of the proposal.

McKeon recently said a companion Resolution would soon be introduced in the Senate by Senator Bob Smith, Chair of the Environment Committee.

On June 23, 2016, I requested the following public records under OPRA:

I request all emails between Jeffrey Hoffman, NJ Geological Survey and Bill Wolfe, NJDEP Commissioner’s Office of Policy, Planning and Science, regarding NJGS GSR 32, nitrate dilution models, and the concept of “deep aquifer recharge”. The period of these emails was roughly March 2002 – June 2004.

The DEP denial was based on the “deliberative privilege” exemption under OPRA. But importantly, DEP confirmed that those records consist of 7 emails and that those emails still exist. On July 5, 2016, DEP wrote:

This request has been denied on the basis that the requested records (i.e. 7 emails) are not considered government records pursuant to N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1.1, being intra-agency advisory, consultative, and deliberative material

At the time of this email correspondence with State Geologist Hoffman (at the time, he was not yet appointed State Geologist but was the lead scientists and expert at NJGS on the issues at hand), I was working on the Highlands Act and the policy and technical approach to the Act.

In that capacity, I worked for DEP Commissioner Campbell and staffed Governor McGreevey’s Highlands Taskforce (see their Report, p.40 to confirm).

I also represented Commissioner Campbell on Senator Smith’s small workgroup (myself, and 2 OLS staffers) that drafted the introduced version of the Highlands Act (see Senate, No.1). 

The S1 was the version of the bill before Senator Sweeney and others weakened it with all the exemptions and pro-development amendments that were incorporated in the Senate Committee Substitute, S1 [1R] version – read it and take a look at all the new underlined language, including new Section 30 – exemptions. I had no role in any of that.

At any rate, as I recall the email exchange, I was asking Mr. Hoffman to respond to the criticism a well respected NJ licensed geologist provided to me on the NJGS statewide nitrate dilution model known as GSR32, specifically its failure to reflect Highlands slopes, soils, and geology with respect to groundwater recharge and water available for nitrate dilution.

That GSR32 model was producing septic densities of 4-10 acres in the Highlands, which I told Hoffman was a lot size far too small to prevent the degradation of surface an groundwater quality and preserve large blocks of intact forest, the fundamental policy goals of the Highlands initiative.

That email exchange between myself and Hoffman is what led directly to the “deep aquifer recharge” provision I wrote into the Highlands Act.

The Governor’s Office, DEP Commissioner, OLS professionals, and legislators were aware of that scientific and policy debate I had with Hoffman and agreed to my policy recommendation and legislative language.  The language subsequently was passed by the Legislature and signed by the Gov. and upheld by the Courts.

Obviously, that email exchange and the scientific and policy discussion it reflected, are very important to the question of Legislative intent.

The emails are also directly relevant to the current DEP rule proposal. I testified at the DEP public hearing on the proposal and discussed this issue and filed the OPRA to provide factual evidence to support my testimony. The proposal is not only facing Legislative veto but also is pending DEP consideration, so the emails involve a current regulatory controversy.

It is outrageous that the Christie DEP is denying an OPRA request for these important public documents.

The good news is that the documents still exist – so they are discoverable in a lawsuit or under a Legislative subpoena.

We discuss those issues in our next post.

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Ah, Pastoral! – A Pipeline Runs Through It

July 21st, 2016 No comments
Copper Creek

Copper Creek Preserve, Hunterdon County, NJ – what’s that red and yellow sign?

I was just looking at some old photos, and came across these shots, taken 5 years ago, back on July 11, 2011.

The location is the Copper Creek Preserve, also known as “Horseshoe Bend Preserve“:

Copper Creek5In summer 2011, the Hunterdon Land Trust, NJ Conservation Foundation and their government partners announced the completion of a major preservation project on the Delaware River bluffs in Kingwood Township. The partnership was the culmination of 10 years of negotiation, relationship-building and sheer persistence. And the effort paid off handsomely. More than 450 acres of open space and farmland were permanently protected, creating a contiguous belt of preserved land stretching across more than 800 acres.

The park is huge – 477 acres in all – including a section on the east side of Horseshoe Bend Road now known as Copper Creek Preserve. It’s one of the most beautiful spots in western Hunterdon County, with rolling hills, lush forested ravines, and sweeping vistas of the Delaware River Valley.

Its high meadows are home to meadowlarks, bobolinks, redwing blackbirds, and many other grassland species. Bald eagles and hawks are believed to nest here. Copper Creek and other small streams flow through the park before tumbling down the bluffs into the Delaware River. Improvements on the property include an 11,000-square-foot equestrian center, barns and other farm structures as well as seven miles of existing trails.

what's that red and yellow sign?

what’s that red and yellow sign?

This might be news to the PennEast crowd, but that’s a Buckeye Oil Pipeline!

Buckeye Petroleum pipeline

Buckeye Petroleum pipeline

A Category One (C1) stream drains the land – I was involved at DEP in this C1 upgrade circa 2003

(funny, that fact is not mentioned by the Hunterdon Land Trust. Why is that? C1 designation protects 300 feet on both side of the stream from development – and on all those hunted on stream Delaware tributaries from Lambertville to Frenchtown. Those protections didn’t cost taxpayers a dime):

Copper Creek6

I wonder what the DEP and/or NJCF easement/lease revenues, mitigation, and and possible natural resource damage arrangements are on this one. Buckeye paid someone for those easements.

Was the pipeline there before the Preservation acquisition? Assume so. Certainly before the C1 upgrade.

Stuff to think about, for sure.

copper creek7

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Trump – Pence Logo

July 21st, 2016 No comments

Trump - Pence

Something about this photo reminds me of the Trump – Pence logo.

Could it be the penetration?

Or the fact that we’re all screwed?

This one does a better job of symbolically reflecting Trump’s energy policy.

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