Archive for August, 2016

Hundreds of Pipeline Opponents Force DEP To Cancel Public Hearing On Controversial Compressor Station Wetlands Permit and Clean Water Act Certificate

August 22nd, 2016 No comments
street scene outside Ramada in on Rt. 205, 15 minutes before hearing. Significant traffic jam and safety issues as pedestrians tried to cross bust Rt. 206.

street scene outside Ramada Inn on Rt. 206 in Bordentown, 15 minutes before hearing. Police had to manage a traffic jam and safety issues as pedestrians tried to walk on shoulder and cross busy Rt. 206, a 4 lane highway at that location

[Update: 8/24/16 – NJ.Com has a good story, with a video of some of the chaos:


The DEP was forced to cancel – at the public hearing – the hearing on a highly controversial DEP wetlands permit and federal Clean Water Act Water Quality Certificate .

Whoever selected the public hearing location KNEW it was totally unacceptable and was designed to frustrate and limit public participation and enable them to stack the hearing with a hundred intimidating union members.

Transco and DEP KNEW of the huge public and local government opposition to their project because of the huge turnout at a prior DEP permit hearing on the detewatering permit for the compressor station.

That prior DEP public hearing was held in a public building (the Chesterfield Elementary school). It was in a driver and pedestrian safe location, with reasonable parking, reasonable public access, and plenty of seating capacity to accommodate the large crowd that attended. Hundreds of people attended. So DEP and Transco KNEW a large crowd would be there tonight.

In contrast, the Ramada Inn venue was exactly the opposite of all that and was selected to frustrate public participation, the first that would focus on the Clean Water Act WQC issue.

This was DEP’s hearing. Would whomever selected the location please raise your hand?

It was in a horrible location as a private facility. It lacked adequate parking. The highway location and lack of adequate parking forced scores of people to park far away and walk to the building. The Ramada location is on Rt. 206, a 4 lane State highway with a 50 mph speed limit. All those attributes put many pedestrians at risk in walking on the shoulders and crossing a 4 lane 50 mph State highway to get to the public hearing. All of this forced a huge police presence to manage the traffic and pedestrians.

Worst of all, the hearing room lacked adequate seating capacity and violated all kinds of fire safety codes (and likely electric codes as well).

Hundreds of people could not fit in the tiny room at the Ramada Inn. Scores more could not even enter the room to sign up to testify.

The hearing room’s fire code capacity was 180 people, forcing well over 200 people to jam that room. A few hundred more packed the Ramada lobby and could not enter the room. Scores were being turned away.

large crowd in lobby blocked from entering hearing room

large crowd in lobby blocked from entering hearing room

The proposed compressor station has long been opposed by local governments and hundreds of residents and environmental activists.

Prior to the hearing, many people warned DEP that the venue for the hearing – the Ramada Inn – was poor because it lacked sufficient capacity to accommodate the large crowds of people who opposed the pipeline and were certain to turn out in large numbers.

DEP failed to heed those warnings or reschedule the hearing. They asked for the chaos that ensued tonight.

The chaos that ensued tonight illustrates the abdication by DEP of their responsibility to assure that the public is afforded basic due process protections and an ability to participate in decisions affecting their lives.

What went down tonight

As I arrived, I noticed a table set up by union officials just outside the entrance – they were handing out pizza and soft drinks to union members.

I made my way through the crowd in the lobby and entered the hearing room about 10 minutes prior to the scheduled 6 pm start (see clock in photo above). I was pissed off but not surprised to see half the seats and standing room already taken by LiUna union members – Hillary just loves to build fossil infrastructure, you Go Girl! Maybe you can frack more gas and build more miles of pipeline than Obama!-  while over 100 people could not even enter the room:

Liunna union member pack the hearing room - that's a union organizer with a clipboard on the left

LiUna union members pack the hearing room – that’s a union organizer with a clipboard on the left

I began shouting, asking all the union guys that are paid to attend to raise their hands (several actually did!)

DEP Assistant Commissioner Kopkash then threatened to eject me from the hearing.

I told her she had no authority to do so before the hearing began and that if she proceeded to hold the hearing that DEP would have a lawsuit on their hands due to gross due process violations.

She ignored me and I struggled through the crowd to the sign up table to sign in to speak.

I began shaming and taunting the union guys, asking them – in a loud voice for the crowd  – why they let themselves be used and paid by corporate energy giants to frustrate democracy.

Those were not the kind of values and labor and working class solidarity that my union family inculcated in me.


Not willing to be intimidated, I found one of the only seats left and sat down in the midst of the sea of orange union shirts.

It got ugly fast – one large union guy put his hands on me (twice) and forcibly ejected me from my seat, prompting me to shout for police.

Others began shouting about the fire code violations, complaining about all the hundreds of people who could not even get in, and demanded that the hearing be shut down. It was chaos and very close to violence.

The DEP hearing officer then timidly tried to begin the hearing – she was repeatedly shouted down, including from me.

As soon as she finished her opening statement, I raised a point of order and objected – on the record – to the gross due process violations and demanded that they shut it down.

All hell began to break lose and DEP finally was forced to shut it down.

The DEP will reschedule the public hearing – we’ll keep you posted.

The next hearing for DEP permits and WQC for the NJ Natural Gas pipeline is scheduled for September 7 in the same location – I assume that hearing also will be rescheduled to another more appropriate venue.

DEP Hearing Office tried to speak and was shouted down

DEP Hearing Office tried to speak and was shouted down – interesting electrical system on the floor, no? Do you think a licensed union electrician laid those wires and signed off on that?

End note – I just read the Burlington County Times story – Public hearing on compressor station postponed due to large crowd and want to throw up.

Mayor Jill Popko is the only one with the courage to get it right:

“It was a boondoggle from the get go, just like the pipeline and compressor station,” Bordentown Township Mayor Jill Popko said. “They had no business scheduling (the hearing) in a room that only holds 200 people.”

Worse is that PennEast NJCF people who have done jack shit nothing on the WQC issue or to support local activists got quoted Tom Gilbert and Ms. Cronheim. And their quotes showed deference to DEP, who allowed this farce to proceed, despite warnings and pleadings form local officials and activists.

Gilbert and Cronheim risked NOTHING – they were silent spectators.

While I and several others led the charge, aggressively took on the DEP and the union crowd – literally risking bodily harm and assault to protect people’s rights and shut the thing down.

When you put your ass literally on the line and chumps like Gilbert and Cronheim get the quotes, something is seriously wrong.

Same for O’Malley who praised DEP for canceling instead of condemned them, who cowered before the union guys and DEP, but managed to find the press.

Note to friends – Mr. Douglass was not referring to a soundbite:

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. 


Dave Levinski crossed Rt. 206 to interview me as I was leaving and the dust was settling. Scores of union thugs were threatening me, driving by, giving me the finger, honking their horns  and yelling out the window that I’d get my ass kicked at the next hearing – I assume his editors cut out my hard hitting criticisms of DEP for the location, problems decribed in his story as mere “gripes”.

I got news for you folks, constitutional due process is NOT A GRIPE.

Here is the Burclo Times photo – I’m shooting a pic:


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Climate Science Trumps Political Science

August 22nd, 2016 No comments

Bad News for All Those Hillary Supporters Out There

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park (summer 2007)

Another devastating monthly report on climate chaos from Truthout reporter Dahr Jamail – shocking science news that is rarely reported by mainstream corporate press:

I was struck by the contrast between the science and what’s called “mainstream” politics – not the first time – (more photos of Glacier NP here).

If this is not a sufficient basis to vote for Jill Stein/Green Party – the only political party that comes even close to advocating for the “the abrupt, mandatory, wide-scale emergency actions necessary to cease most CO2 emissions immediately” required to dampen climate catastrophe – I don’t know what is:

As far as the US election goes, Donald Trump’s ACD denial has reached new heights, even for the Republican Party.

Not only does he call ACD a “hoax,” he has gone on to state he will rescind President Obama’s ACD rules, pull the US out of the climate accords agreed upon in Paris last December, call for more drilling of fossil fuels and, of course, implement fewer environmental regulations, if he is elected president.

Although his opponent, Hillary Clinton, acknowledges the reality of ACD and has incorporated some of the rhetoric of the Bernie Sanders campaign into her platform, she is calling for the building of more roads and airports, which would, of course, only set the stage for even greater amounts of CO2 to be emitted. This is in addition to the fact that she chose Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate.

Kaine supports offshore drilling, as well as the fast-tracking of natural gas export terminals. While he was governor of Virginia, he supported one of the last coal plantsthat was built in the US.

Even if Clinton is elected, the abrupt, mandatory, wide-scale emergency actions necessary to cease most CO2 emissions immediately — a vital first step towards attempting to mitigate ACD — are simply not on the table.

Meanwhile, recent polls indicate that a growing majority (66 percent) of US citizens believe ACD is real. At the same time, the number of people polled who believe there is no solid evidence of ACD is now at a record low of 15 percent, down from 24 percent just one year ago, according to recent polling.

glacier np1

glacier np3

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The Weight of the Flag

August 21st, 2016 No comments

Once in awhile, the AP gets it right

Buried in another AP story about the US “Ugly American” Olympic scandal, the AP inadvertently deployed a powerful metaphor:

Phelps carried the flag into the opening of what he says will be his final games, and now the bearer role — as well as maybe the role of being the face of the U.S. Olympic team — belongs to Biles.

“It’s a huge honor,” said the 4-foot-8 Biles, though she noted she’s a bit worried about handling the weight of the flag.

Yes, the US flag is quite heavy – it’s loaded with baggage – 400 years worth:

Mexico City: Tommie Smith and John Carlos mad ea protest in 1968 on the podium

Mexico City: Tommie Smith and John Carlos protest in 1968 on the podium

What explains the current lack of visible Black Lives Matter protests?

I only watched a few games of US women’s soccer – did I just miss it?

Corporate endorsements?

That seems to be the biggest problem US media found with Lochte’s lie – that he would lose millions in corporate endorsements.

Oh, how far we’ve fallen into the Neoliberal culture of me, my, mine corporate values.

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Ford Ringwood Superfund Debate on Chemical 1,4, Dioxane Illustrates Flaws In Drinking Water Standards

August 20th, 2016 No comments

Is the Pandora’s Box of “unregulated contaminants” finally opening?

This is what they don't want you to see behind the fence - Ringwood Mines Superfund Site (Bill Wolfe, 1/3/12)

This is what they don’t want you to see behind the fence – Ringwood Mines Superfund Site (Bill Wolfe, 1/3/12)

Scott Fallon of the Bergen Record has another good story today on the Ford Ringwood site– see:

Fallon is really getting into the weeds and listening to his primary source Michael Edelstein, a Ramapo College professor, and for that we say Bravo! – those interested in going deeper into the weeds, see page 5 of this EPA Technical Fact sheet.

EPA is fully aware of the lack of reliability regarding sampling and analytical methods for 1,4, Dioxane and simply has never publicly discussed that issue or taken steps to mandate that Ford use the most sensitive analytical methods.

That’s strike two for EPA, after failing to disclose the problem for almost a year after detecting the chemical in groundwater.

But Fallon buried the lead on the underlying source of the problem and does not explain the significant implications of the problem. That’s really strike 3 for EPA (again, a critical problem EPA rarely discusses publicly).

The underlying problem is that 1,4, dioxane – like over 500 chemicals found in NJ drinking wateris not regulated by EPA and there is no federal drinking water standard (“maximum contaminant level” – MCL) for 1,4, dioxane or any of those other 500+ chemicals millions of people drink every day!

[NJ DEP has a State enforceable “interim specific groundwater quality standard” (0.4 ppb) and “practical quantitation” limit” (PQL) (0.1 ppb) for 1,4, dioxane, but under the federal Superfund program, EPA is not required to comply with the state standards, but merely consider it as a “applicable and relevant” requirement. EPA made another mistake by not adopting NJ DEP’s ISGWQS and more sensitive PQL that would have required that Ford use more sensitive analytical methods – although the recent sampling by the Boro produced results even more sensitive than DEP’s PQL.

The Christie DEP should NEVER have approved and signed off on the EPA remedy without insisting that EPA enforce NJ DEP’s strict standard!  The State of NJ concurred with the EPA approved Ford scheme (see Appendix V of the EPA ROD for the DEP State Concurrence letter).]

If 1,4, dioxane were regulated by federal EPA and there was an MCL established, there would be an EPA approved analytical method Ford would be required to use, Ford would be required to comply with the MCL in designing the site specific cleanup, there would be treatment required NATIONALLY to remove the chemical from drinking water, and there would be public disclosure of test results (if only via the Consumer Confidence and Source Water Protection program).

Here’s how the Bergen Record story explains that to readers – 9 paragraphs into a complex story:

A clear liquid used as a solvent and found in many products, including paint strippers, dyes and greases, 1,4-dioxane is considered an “emerging contaminant” by the EPA. The agency has yet to develop uniform health standards for 1,4-dioxane as it has for many hazardous substances, including others present at the Ringwood site. Still, several government agencies have said 1,4-dioxane is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

Now that the Record has finally opened the can of worms on “unregulated contaminants” in drinking water, let’s hope they do followup stories that advise readers of the implications of that loophole.

Here’s a place to start – and here is a solution:

Trenton — New Jersey should filter its drinking water to remove hundreds of chemicals, most of which are unregulated, from its drinking water supply, according to a rulemaking petition filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The plan to screen many chemicals out of tap water was actually developed by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) but has been in limbo for the last six years.

State testing has detected “approximately 600” chemical compounds “in 199 samples collected” including five brands of bottled water, according to a recent DEP white paper. The vast majority of these chemicals, including pharmaceuticals, hormones, and cleaning products, are not regulated by either the federal or state government. As a result, there is no regulatory effort to reduce or eliminate them from drinking water.

The April 2010 DEP white paper, entitled “Investigations Related to a ‘Treatment-Based’ Regulatory Approach to Address Unregulated Contaminants in Drinking Water,” advocates used granular activated carbon filtration and other techniques to remove most chemicals in drinking water, noting that carbon filtration alone removed more than half of identified chemicals.

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Beach Access Debate Is Bullshit And A Diversion From Climate Change and Real Ocean and Coastal Issues

August 18th, 2016 No comments


NY/NJ Baykeeper Praises The Corzine DEP CAFRA Public Access Rules – The Same Rules The Group’s Lawsuit Convinced The Courts That The Christie DEP Lacked Legislative Authority To Adopt


I decided that this year it wasn’t worth the carbon emissions to drive down to Toms River for the annual Joint Legislative Environmental Committees summer hearing on the shore.

The origin of the event is linked to Superstorm Sandy, but the roots are in Gov. Corzine’s Shore Summit: “Confronting Climate Change in New Jersey“, which was held on September 25, 2006.the Gov. Corzine’ 2009 Mid Atlantic Governor’s Agreement on Ocean Conservation.

After a promising start and some solid substantive legislative oversight of DEP – including controversial Sandy oversight – over the years the joint Legislative event has devolved into a joke – a political dog and pony show and excuse for a party (key legislators have shore and Barnegat Bay homes, a conflict they never disclose as they make coastal policy).

Nothing new in that political ploy:

The context for this year’s [2012] hearings is framed by another year of stinging jellyfish and growing threats of ecological collapse and harmful algae blooms in Barnegat Bay –

But even far more serious problems lay buried beneath the radar. …

For example, the recent Monmouth County water pipeline break was a perfect illustration of NJ’s multiple vulnerabilities to global warming – extreme weather, storm surge, sea level rise, coastal hazards, infrastructure, and climate change adaptation.

The joint Legislative Committees will not focus on any of that – instead, their hearing agenda is very narrowly crafted.

This year, I emailed in my testimony, which is certain to be ignored (just as my testimony at the hearing would have been, if history is a guide, by the Committee and the media).

But I do need to respond to how the media is reporting the hearing and narrowing focusing on – and missing – the public access debate and public trust doctrine issues.

As usual, in virtually all complex policy issues, they are getting the story badly wrong and completely missing the point that the beach access issue is a diversion from dealing with real serious ocean and coastal issues and huge failures by both the Democratic controlled legislature and the “Rebuild Madness” Christie Administration.

For example, see this recent article by one of NJ’s best investigative reporters, Jeff Pillets of the Bergen Record, which was one of the very few news stories to discuss the State’s long term economic cost obligations of the federal beach replenishment program, and the fact that those costs and the beaches are not sustainable and therefore support a policy of “strategic retreat”, see:

Legal fees mount as N.J. dune battle drags on

“The costs, the whole idea of perpetually replenishing a beach, is simply unsustainable,” said Norbert Psuty, a retired professor from Rutgers University who has spent his life studying shifting sands.

Psuty said excessive development along the shorefront and bays prevents natural forces that build and reshape dunes and their tendency to migrate toward the land.

“The beach, the dunes, are always moving and reshaping themselves,” he said. “In the short term you can do patch work, you can move people out of harm’s way. But in the long term you’re not going to be able to survive.”

Let me explain why the whole event today – and the news coverage – is total bullshit:

  • Public Access problem the result of Pyrrhic legal victory by environmental groups

In this Politico story, it is remarkable that Deb Mans, head of NY/NJ Baykeeper, praised the Corzine DEP public access rules. (aside from the undisclosed fact she worked for the Corzine Administration as the Governor’s environmental policy advisor – a gross bias that needs to be disclosed):

“One of the things that the 2012 rule did was set a really high bar before you triggered public access,” Mans said. “Before if you had an expansion of the footprint or you were rebuilding your bulkhead you would trigger a public access … If you couldn’t provide for it on-site you would have to do it off-site.”

Mans was right to oppose the Christie DEP public access rule. It was very bad and it repealed a far better Corzine DEP rule.

But Mans successfully sued to block the Christie DEP rule, so first of all, we need to understand the legal attack and unintended results of that lawsuit.

That lawsuit made a radical “ultra vires” legal argument  that DEP LACKED LEGISLATIVE AUTHORITY TO REGULATE TO ENFORCE THE PUBLIC TRUST DOCTRINE.

That legal argument also claimed that DEP lack legislative authority to provide or require financial compensation for off site public access if a facility could not provide on site access.

How can Mans now praise those rules if DEP lacked the power to enact them?

How can she praise Corzine DEP rules for requiring provision or finance of off site access if she eliminated DEP’s legal ability to require provision of compensation for off site access? HELLO!

NJ/NJ Baykeeper’s lawsuit filed by Ms. Mans created the current problem – she made radical anti-DEP legal arguments that even the strongest opponents of DEP’s public access rules – i.e. the shore towns, Marinas, Chamber of Commerce, NJBIA, and NJ Builders Assc. – would never even try to make!

This is a classic example of A Pyrrhic victory

If you want to understand the arguments with links to court decision et al, see:

On top of all that, following the Court’s decision striking down the DEP rules for lack of legislative authority, Senator Smith had huge leverage and he absolutely blew it by passing emergency legislation that merely effectively codified the bad Christie DEP rules in statute.

For that story, see:

Finally, all the real issues that are all being ignored today – especially climate change – are laid out here:

this is the NJ shore at sunrise

this is the NJ shore at sunrise

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