Archive for August, 2016

California Groundwater Fracking Story Sheds Light On Similar NJ Loopholes and Abuses

August 31st, 2016 No comments

Exemptions to groundwater standards exploited by corporate polluters

Look at the CEA database, by municipality and find many examples!

Investigative journalist extraordinaire Abrahm Lustgarten at ProPublica has another major story documenting how the fracking industry continues to exploit loopholes and how California and EPA regulators are badly mismanaging increasingly scarce groundwater to promote fracking – read the whole thing:

The California story sheds light on related abuses of arcane regulatory policies and loopholes here in NJ that threaten the availability of drinking water supplies.

While NJ has a longstanding and far more elaborate regulatory framework to protect groundwater quality and manage the allocation of groundwater quantity than that recently enacted in California via passage of a 2014 State groundwater law, there are loopholes that NJ DEP allows major corporate polluters to exploit, at the large majority of over 6,000 toxic groundwater pollution sites in NJ.

(look at this 2002 DEP “Vulnerability Assessment” Report to then DEP Commissioner Campbell that documents that 95% of contaminated groundwater sites were granted CEA’s, 90% of them for “natural attenuation”, bureaucratic jargon and euphemism for “just leave it there“)

Many times across the state of NJ, these loopholes and lax groundwater protection policies have led to toxic contamination of drinking water wells and migration of toxic chemical vapors into homes, schools, and daycare centers.

Like the exemptions at the root of the California story, NJ DEP issues similar site specific exemptions from groundwater standards under state toxic site cleanup laws.

In NJ, these exemptions are called “Classification Exception Areas“” (CEA’s).

“Classification exception area” means an area within which one or more constituent standards and designated uses are suspended in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.6.

A CEA exempts a specific toxic site from meeting the groundwater standards. Basically, that means that a polluter is NOT required to cleanup groundwater to meet the groundwater standards set to protect public health.

Here is the text of that loophole:

7:9C-1.6 Exceptions to the classification system

(a) The Department may establish a Classification Exception Area only when the Department determines that constituent standards for a given classification are not being met or will not be met in a localized area due to: natural quality; localized effects of a discharge approved through a NJPDES permit action; pollution caused by human activity within a contaminated site as defined by the Department in the context of an applicable regulatory program (for example, Site Remediation Program); or an ACL as approved by the Department pursuant to NJPDES. In the context of an applicable regulatory program, the Department shall determine or describe appropriate boundaries for each Classification Exception Area and include the written description of the boundaries in the appropriate permit action along with specifications as to which constituents the exception applies. Classification Exception Areas may only be established when constituent standards are not being met or will not be met due to the conditions set forth above and shall not be established for the purpose of sanctioning violations of constituent standards.

That massive loophole is called an “institutional control” under NJ toxic site cleanup laws. It has saved polluters BILLIONS of dollars in groundwater cleanup costs and allowed toxic groundwater pollution to persist for decades without any cleanup requirements at thousands of toxic sites.

Groundwater mapped as a CEA is essentially written off as a potential future water supply, in direct contradiction of NJ DEP groundwater classification regulations, which classify almost all NJ groundwater as potable and potential future water supply.

Look at how DEP lets pollers get away with that: (@ NJAC 7:9C -1.6)

(b) Where natural quality for any constituent contravenes the criteria established in N.J.A.C. 7:9C-1.7 such that the primary designated use is not viable within a limited area, the Department may establish a Classification Exception Area within which the Department shall define appropriate designated uses and constituent standards, based upon the natural quality. Such Classification Exception Areas shall remain in effect as long as the primary designated use of the original classification area is not viable using ground water at natural quality.

To prevent exposure and avoid the further spread of groundwater contamination, DEP prohibits the drilling of a water supply well into a CEA contamination plume or nearby these mapped CEA toxic sites. This practice by DEP essentially condemns the land and extinguishes private property rights and opportunity to develop land above and adjacent to a groundwater CEA. (for that perverse “protective” restriction that DEP imposes because groundwater is not cleaned up, see: NJAC 7:9C-1.6(d)

The Department shall restrict or require the restriction of potable ground water uses within any Classification Exception Area where there is or will be an exceedance of the Primary Drinking Water Quality Standards (in N.J.A.C. 7:10).

To make matters worse, the toxic polluters are not required to compensate the public or nearby landowners negatively impacted by this.

Could you imagine the outcry by developers and land owners if a local zoning ordinance did this?

A delineation of the contaminated groundwater (e.g. a map) and a groundwater model that predicts dilution or a lowering of the concentration of pollution over time is all that is required (plus, contamination is supposed to remain “on site”, but often does not).

When toxic groundwater migrates off site, it sometimes poisons drinking water wells our migrates into people’s basements.

On top of this site specific loophole, there are regulations that would allow exactly the abuse that is occurring in California.

All groundwater in NJ is classified as potable water. NJ DEP has a mechanism under the groundwater standards to allow a polluter to request a reclassification of an entire aquifer as non-potable and thereby exempt many sites from meeting groundwater standards.

But that groundwater reclassification mechanisms has not been used by polluters because it is a scientifically rigorous regulatory process.

Maybe some enterprising NJ journalist is reading this – there are MANY examples where a CEA has migrated off site and has contaminated drinking water wells and/or allowed migration of vapors into occupied buildings. Just look at the CEA database, by municipality and or file an OPRA and you are certain to find many examples!


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God Knows, I Was Feeling Alive

August 28th, 2016 No comments


I’m on my way home from your place.

Well my time went so quickly, I went lickety-splickly out to my old ’55
As I drove away slowly, feeling so holy, God knows, I was feeling alive.

Now the sun’s coming up, I’m riding with Lady Luck, freeway cars and trucks,
Stars beginning to fade, and I lead the parade
Just a-wishing I’d stayed a little longer,
Oh, Lord, let me tell you that the feeling’s getting stronger.

And it’s six in the morning, gave me no warning; I had to be on my way.
Well there’s trucks all a-passing me, and the lights are all flashing,
I’m on my way home from your place.

And now the sun’s coming up, I’m riding with Lady Luck, freeway cars and trucks,
Stars beginning to fade, and I lead the parade
Just a-wishing I’d stayed a little longer,
Oh, Lord, let me tell you that the feeling’s getting stronger.

And my time went so quickly, I went lickety-splickly out to my old ’55
As I pulled away slowly, feeling so holy, God knows, I was feeling alive.

Now the sun’s coming up, I’m riding with Lady Luck,
Freeway cars and trucks, freeway cars and trucks, freeway cars and trucks.   ~~~ “Ol ’55” (Tom Waits, listen)

(but it was an ’89 Volvo 240 wagon on the rural roads of Hopewell and West Amwell, NJ)

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The Origin and Demise of New Jersey’s Open Market Emissions Trading Program

August 26th, 2016 No comments
Climate scientist Jim Hansen

Climate scientist Jim Hansen speaks to activists outside NRDC building , NY City (11/30/09)

“Cap and trade with  offsets would guarantee that we pass climate tipping points, locking in climate disasters for our children. Cap and trade benefits only Wall Street and polluters, sacrificing humanity and nature for their profits.” Dr. Jim Hansen (remarks at NY protest on Nov. 30, 2009)

The Hillary Clinton campaign sometimes suggests the need for inquiry into the record of her husband Bill Clinton’s administration.

So we thought we’d rehash an obscure but significant battle in this history, which shines a light on the Clinton – Gore – [Gingrich] “Reinventing government” initiative.

That initiative was a concession to the radical assault of the Newt Gingrich “Contract With America” and expanding power of the State’s rights Federalist Society. It promoted a Neoliberal corporate agenda to expand the use of market mechanisms, reduce regulatory burden and EPA oversight of State programs, and promote economic growth – all of which had dramatic impacts in weakening environmental policy.

From Gingrich to Gore to Whitman

Over 15 years before the myth of “free markets” and “third way” environmentalism were discredited by the failure of “cap and trade” climate legislation and the powerful critique in the 2014 book Green Capitalism: The God That Failed, we opposed and quietly killed a major air pollution trading scheme known as “OMET” – for Open Market Emissions Trading.

In 1996, in the midst of Clinton/Gore “Reinventing Government” and as the Neoliberal market oriented policy model was expanding, the “Open For Business” Whitman Administration followed the Clinton EPA lead and proposed a radical new air pollution trading scheme called OMET.

At that time, we were the Whitman Administration’s harshest critic, serving as Policy Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club. Of course, we worked hard to kill that proposal and ultimately succeeded in doing so.

After more than 5 years of behind the scenes bureaucratic warfare with US EPA, on Feb., 2002, Alex Nussbaum then with the Bergen Record wrote:

The federal Environmental Protection Agency gave preliminary approval to the plan last year, but it has yet to make the decision final a move that could clear the way for the New Jersey plan to be replicated elsewhere in the country. Now, the approval could be held up by the review of the EPA’s inspector general, an independent watchdog within the agency.

A bad report could be a rebuke for EPA chief Christie Whitman, New Jersey’s governor until she joined the Bush administration. She ushered in the trading program while in Trenton and has said she wants to use similar market-based efforts in other environmental areas.

Environmentalists, though, say the Open Market Emissions Trading plan could be a blueprint for avoiding controls on pollutants linked to smog, cancer, and global warming. The program relies on companies to report their own reductions, but it has no serious mechanisms to prove that the reports are accurate, the critics say. …

Critics who requested the audit last year welcomed the scrutiny.

“I think we raised significant and valid concerns about how the program originated and some of the flaws, and how New Jersey companies illegally used credits to violate the Clean Air Act,” said Bill Wolfe, policy director for the state Sierra Club.

Working with PEER and an EPA expert, we convinced the EPA Inspector General to investigate the OMET program, a move that resulted in a critical IG report that ultimately led to the program’s cancelation by Gov. McGreevey’s DEP Commissioner, Brad Campbell. See:


Rebuked EPA Weighs Enforcement Against Companies Using Credits

Sep 16, 2002 


Whitman Trading Plans Emerge as First EPA Policies

The Origin and Demise of New Jersey’s Open Market Emissions Trading Program

A significant deficiency in New Jersey’s OMET program derives from an inability to communicate and to confirm the program’s actual environmental benefit. The federal OMTR  was clear in its intention to simultaneously reduce the cost of compliance and to promote emissions reductions that provided immediate public health benefits. Federal guidance already in place also stipulated that any state seeking to incorporate EIP’s had to ensure they were “designed to benefit both the environment and the regulated entity.”49 The OMET program clearly violated this condition on all accounts. New Jersey’s own state implementation plan (SIP) submission to EPA for OMET’s approval boldly stated that “no VOC or NOx emissions reductions were projected to be associated with the implementation of the NJ OMET program.”50

However, the absence of any reductions in the state’s SIP did not thwart state efforts from promoting or publicizing the program’s ability to improve air quality. NJDEP administrators, elected officials, and corporate managers that had successfully lobbied for OMT regularly identified and promoted OMET on the basis of the program’s environmental benefits. For instance, they regularly stated that the emissions trading component of the 1995 air pollution control law amendments would result in lower pollution overall and companies expressed the program would clean up the air.51

Former NJDEP Commissioner Shinn went as far as to assert the program resulted in 10,000 tons of emissions reductions between 1995 and 1996,52 a statement that gave the impression that the OMET program was not merely an additional compliance option for industry, but also an innovative way to achieve environmental improvements.

The foundation for OMET’s environmental benefit claim, though, was masked by an overall goal to provide industry “with a flexible compliance alternative in meeting its continuing, shrinking emission reduction requirements, and, on the same hand, offering an environmental benefit, in that it encourag[ed] early emission reduction and guarantee[ed] a 10 percent retirement of emissions upon use.”53 While news organizations widely reported this claim of a 10% retirement benefit for the sake of the environment, no one publicized the fact that, according to one respondent, EPA officials would not allow the state to claim those reductions as a means to show that companies in New Jersey were spewing out less air pollution. In other words, EPA was in fundamental disagreement with New Jersey’s claim that its own guidance was sufficient to deter the production of bogus emissions credits.

Twenty years later, we continue to expose the lies, but the press has gotten a lot worse in reporting the true story.

And since then, despite being a leader of some very big wins in NJ – both defensively and offensively – we’ve been effectively marginalized from the NJ debate under the current Foundation Funded weenie regime.

We need to get more militant – as Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein say, the game is rigged.

Jim Hansen gets arrested at Obama White House

Jim Hansen gets arrested at Obama White House (Aug. 29, 2011)

[End note: While the Clinton – Gore Reinventing Government initiative has impacted almost all federally delegated or federally funded air, water, land, and waste programs, see these posts for examples of ongoing effects of


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National Park System History “Not a Bed of Roses” – A “Bitter Struggle” Against “Private Exploitation At The Hands Of The Selfish Few”

August 24th, 2016 No comments

Can we re-imagine and replicate a Green New Deal?

History provides a political and programmatic roadmap

CCC camp in the Tennessee Valley

CCC camp in the Tennessee Valley (Source: The Federal Art Project)

As we celebrate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service (NPS) – the government agency, not the national parks there are many lessons directly relevant to today’s emerging and inter-related climate and economic catastrophes. Perhaps the first and foremost lessons are political.

The key political lessons that reverberate today are the need for an expansive role of government: 1) to plan for the future and the benefit of the public, objectives not served by private “free market” values and institutions; 2) to check the greed and power of narrow private commercial interests who exploit both man and nature for short term selfish profit; and 3) to create a massive jobs program that is driven by environmental goals.

A largely forgotten chapter in the history of our national parks and the NPS was the New Deal era, the leadership of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), and the role of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was one of the most popular New Deal programs, an idea which originated in State programs in California and New York.

A marvelous brief history of the role of the CCC in the national parks is “The Civilian Conservation Corps and the National Park Service, 1933 – 1942″.

President Roosevelt’s primary goal for the program was to take unemployed youths out of the cities and build up their health and morale while contributing to the economic recovery of the country. Not only would they receive wages for their work, but money would also be sent to their dependents so that the program would provide benefits to the greatest number of people. The work was to restore the enrollees to physical health and increase their confidence in themselves and the nation. A secondary goal of the program was to effect needed conservation measures on forest, park, and farm lands. A related goal was to provide the nation with increased recreational opportunities. The Park Service saw the program as a way to accomplish conservation and development within the national parks and to assist in the creation and enlargement of a nationwide state parks system. [1]

The first accomplishment of the CCC was having 250,000 young men working within three months of its establishment–the greatest peacetime mobilization of American youth. The next major accomplishment came in the coordination and development of a nationwide state parks program, one that was instrumental in establishing the first state parks for Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, Mississippi, and New Mexico. In 1934, Oklahoma and Montana designated their first parklands. New parks were added or existing parks were expanded in 17 other states, including New York, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, California, and Michigan, as a direct result of the program. The state parks program also gave the Park Service an opportunity to set standards for park development and planning throughout the nation. Concerning national parks and monuments, the Park Service asserted that during the first few months of operation the ECW [CCC] advanced the cause of forestry work dramatically. It was estimated that millions of dollars of annual losses caused by forest fires, tree diseases, insects, rodent infestation, and soil erosion were prevented by this conservation effort. [2] [ …]

By the time the CCC was terminated in 1942 a total of 2 million enrollees had performed work in 198 CCC camps in 94 national park and monument areas and 697 camps in 881 state, county, and municipal areas. Through the CCC program 711 state parks had been established. …

Today, people look back on the Civilian Conservation Corps as one of the most successful New Deal programs…. In almost every presidential campaign, one candidate or another proposes to inaugurate a new CCC program. In less than 10 years the CCC left a lasting legacy for America and the National Park Service. The extensive development and park expansion made possible by the CCC was in large part responsible for the modern national and state park systems.

FDR aggressively promoted both the national park system and the CCC and – like Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein today – FDR championed a strong role for government and called out what we now refer to as the 1% and lambasted their selfishness and shortsighted greed.

Here’s an example of FDR’s leadership and rhetoric – a Radio Address from Two Medicine Chalet, Glacier National Park, delivered  on August 5, 1934

We should remember that the development of our national park system over a period of many years has not been a simple bed of roses. As is the case in the long fight for the preservation of national forests and water power and mineral deposits and other national possessions, it has been a long and fierce fight against many private interests which were entrenched in political and economic power. So, too, it has been a constant struggle to continue to protect the public interest, once it was saved from private exploitation at the hands of the selfish few.

It took a bitter struggle to teach the country at large that our national resources are not inexhaustible and that, when public domain is stolen, a twofold injury is done, for it is a theft of the treasure of the present and at the same time bars the road of opportunity to the future.

We have won the greater part of the fight to obtain and to retain these great public park properties for the benefit of the public. We are at the threshold of an even more important battle to save our resources of agriculture and industry from the selfishness of individuals.

Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein is calling for a Green New Deal to respond to the joint climate and jobs crises, but her campaign platform has yet to flesh that proposal out:

Create millions of jobs by transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and investing in public transit, sustainable agriculture, and conservation.

In addition to lacking substance to support her wonderful idea, Stein also has missed the opportunity presented by the highly visible national celebration of 100th anniversary of the NPS to link that call to the original New Deal and the role of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in our National Parks.

Like I said, history provides a political and programmatic roadmap.

Will we, as Paulo Freire said, make that road by walking?

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Protesters Denounce Christie’s “Apartheid” School Funding Plan

August 23rd, 2016 No comments

Bordentown Mayor Joe Mallone Praises Christie’s Divisive Attack on Public Education

Christie vomits up assaults on affordable housing and the independence of the judiciary

Bordentown NJ (8/23/16)

Bordentown NJ (8/23/16)

[Update: 8/26/16 – Hiding behind pre-school, the Star Ledger Editorial Board is having buyers remorse for drinking Christie’s Charter School Kool-Aid:

His plan is an ugly attempt to inflame the worst tensions in New Jersey — white v. black, suburban v. urban — and he doesn’t want to take the heat. ~~~ end update]

Gov. Christie was literally in my backyard this morning, just a block away at the Bordentown Hope Hose Firehouse, so I figured I’d check out the show.

Supporters of public education were out early and in numbers to protest the Governor’s plan, which would slash aid to NJ’s 31 “Abbott” school districts – mostly poor and black – and reallocate State funds to more wealthy and white suburban towns.

The Gov.’s plan for “equal” per pupil state aid is a retrograde and racist throwback to the days of separate but equal, with a toxic mix of blame the victim and anti-tax, anti-government, anti-intellectual sentiment.

It is designed to play upon the worst motives and resentments that wealthy white suburbs have for the redistribution of State funding to poor and black cities.

Christie’s policy “solutions” to urban poverty, educational disadvantage, housing, jobs, economic and social injustice, and appalling de facto segregation was the Neoliberal playbook: eliminate local school boards and democratic impediments to corporate “management”; provide labor “flexibility:”, (e.g. attack teachers unions and union rules, seniority, tenure, mandate a longer school year and school day, etc); more privatization & Charter schools; more corporate subsidies to relocate suburban jobs to places like Camden – policies, all of which, even if they work, provide no educational benefits to the kids and the people who live there and just stimulate gentrification, perpetuate segregation and social injustice, and generate windfall profits to real estate speculators and developers and nothing for existing communities.

Paging George Norcross!

(in fairness, the Gov. did say ONE good thing in response to a mom who lost a child to drug addiction & overdose: a change in policy favoring drug treatment over incarceration and the need to shut down prisons and convert them to treatment centers. Don’t know if that was just rhetoric or whether its actually happening though.)

I stayed for the Governor’s presentation and 15 minutes or so of questions from the audience, but had to leave, a little disoriented and sick to my stomach from the ugly assault I heard by the Governor.

Aside from the the Governor’s warped views on education, race, and urban issues, perhaps the lowest point was when Christie demagogued the “legislators in black robes” in an open attack on the Constitutional role of the judicial branch and judicial independence.

christie b4

Christie is no scholar, but as a trained lawyer and a man that swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, his attack on the Court and individual judges was shameful and unforgivable.

And shame on Mayor Joe Mallone for praising the Governor for speaking out on the issue.

Some pics:

christie b2

christie b3

christie b1

PS – after last night’s near riot at the DEP hearing – where I was physically thrown out of my seat by a big union guy I got a kick out of being asked by a State Policeman to enforce the reserved seat next to me – here’s his SP colleague – sitting in the right place! Surely just a coincidence!

source: Agnes Marsalla, People Over Pipelines (8/23/16)

source: Agnes Marsala, People Over Pipelines (8/23/16)

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