Archive for October, 2016

Quick Note To My Highlands Friends and Pipeline Foes

October 31st, 2016 No comments

I hear some people
been talkin’ me down,
Bring up my name,
pass it ’round.
They don’t mention
the happy times
They do their thing,
I’ll do mine.

Ooh baby,
that’s hard to change
I can’t tell them
how to feel.
Some get strong,
some get strange,
But sooner or later
it all gets real.

Walk on, walk on,
Walk on, walk on.  ~~~ “Walk On” (Neil Young, 1974)

I could get hit by a bus – or, as it’s Halloween, killed by terrorist clowns or Zombies – so I figured I should set the historical record straight.

A recent conversation with my People Over Pipeline friends made it obvious that some people – very likely the creeps from ReThink Energy NJ who I have criticized – are talking me down in an attempt to discredit me.  This time, the backstabbing was related to the Highlands Act.

Specifically, there was a suggestion made that the Act was weak and had loopholes that allowed pipelines and power lines to criss cross the Highlands and that I was somehow complicit in this.

Now this is rich, coming from folks who initially opposed a Highlands Act and supported and benefitted from PSEG mitigation money (e.g. Susquehanna Roseland power line $60 million for the Delaware Watergap deal and $17 million to the Highlands Council).

So, let me rehash the legislative history of the Highlands Act and my role in all that.

From 2002 – 2004, as a policy advisor to DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell, I staffed Gov. McGreevey’s Highlands Taskforce and later was part of a small group that drafted the introduced version of the Highlands Act. I was the architect of and wrote many of the environmental provisions. The policy framework was based upon the prior “Category 1″ waters approach I helped craft and lead at DEP.

The introduced version of the Highlands Act was Senate, No.1.

The S1 bill was introduced on March 29, 2004.

The introduced version of the bill did not include, among other bad things, the exemptions in Section 30.

The introduced version of S1 was amended in the Senate Environment Committee and released on June 7, 2004 (see the Senate [1R] versionAs reported by the Senate Environment Committee on June 7, 2004, with amendments.”).

You will note that the amended version S1 [1R] has a new Section 30 (starting on page 61) that includes 17 specific exemptions. For our purposes today, see exemption #11 for upgrades to utility lines. (Also note the forestry exemption, which is the precursor for our current battle on logging Highlands forests under the guise of “stewardship”.)

There are many other weakening provisions in the amended version that seriously weakened the introduced version of the bill.

Talk to Senators Sweeney and Smith if you would like to understand the political deals that led to all those amendments.

I had nothing to do with them and would have fought them vigorously, including blowing the whistle publicly on them (as I had in the past and have continued to do so).

I submitted my resignation from DEP on April 12, 2004.

That was 2 weeks after the S1 version of the Highlands Act was introduced and 2 months before it was compromised.

What makes this bullshit so intolerable was that the very same folks that are now badmouthing me actually opposed the concept of a regulatory oriented Highlands Act, preferring the voluntary weenie approach of the 4 state Highlands Coalition and the toothless NJ State Plan.

That 4 State version of the Highlands Coalition instead supported designating the Highlands as a region of special significance under the toothless NJ State Development and Redevelopment Plan.

Those weenies include leaders of today’s NJ conservation community – some of them, who serve publicly, still exercise that weenie control of the money and policy agenda. For example, one of these leaders opposed a campaign to try to stop the Pinelands Pipeline, in fear of retribution by Gov. Christie. This person is a current Pinelands Commission member (hint: it was not Ed Lloyd).

Their political judgement was that a Highlands Act with regulatory teeth (“a Pinelands in the Highlands”) was not politically feasible and would generate a backlash of opposition that would undermine voluntary State Plan, municipal planning, and private land conservation efforts that they were working on.

The 4 state weenie Highlands Coalition – led by Tom Gilbert, now at Rethink Energy NJ – was ignored.

Other NJ environmental leaders formed a NJ only Highlands Coalition.

After I left DEP, that new, aggressive, NJ Highlands Coalition paid me $40,000 as a consultant to help the negotiations on the DEP Highlands rules. That is how we got the 88 acre minimum lot size (septic density) in forested lands inthe Preservation Area that the Christie DEP is now seeking to roll back.

That density is the strongest land use restriction in the country, as far as I am aware.

So, Tom Gilbert and your unqualified but entertaining side kick, please eat shit and die, and stop misleading people by creating the false impression that you know or understand science and regulatory policy.

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Delaware River Approaching Drought Flow Threshold

October 29th, 2016 No comments

Drought Emergency Could Impact Power Plants

“Trouble Ahead”?


Jon Hurdle at NJ Spotlight just wrote an important story about the implications for drought in the Delaware River basin – specifically regarding migration of the salt line towards water supply intakes for the cities of Camden and Philadelphia – read the whole thing.

I am glad Spotlight got it right, because NJ American really spun the Philadelphia Inquirer to create the misleading impression that South Jersey and the Delaware did not face drought conditions like North Jersey (read that story too).

After reading them both, I checked the Delaware River flow at Trenton – see the above chart is from the USGS monitoring network.

The most recent flow data at Trenton is 3,190 CFS.

I also looked at the DRBC Drought Operating Plan to get a sense of the implications of a worsening drought, particularly the DRBC policy for curtailment of water allocations to users.

Power plants are by far the largest water users. A terrible irony that the fossil plants that are driving climate change – which exacerbates drought – are most at risk from drought.  From DRBC:

Within the basin, uses related to power generation (thermoelectric) account for the majority of water withdrawals (68%). The next largest use is for public water supplies, or PWS (11%). However, in managing water resources, the withdrawal volume may not be as important as where and when the water is returned to the system. Water not immediately returned is considered consumptive use (see sec on 1.2).

More from DRBC

Power from Water

While water and electricity are usually not a good mix, making electricity traditionally requires a lot of water – 77% of all water use in the basin is involved in power generation. As our need for electricity has increased in the last twenty years, so has our use of water to generate it. How much is actually “consumed” (see above) depends on the type of cooling system used. Once-through systems use a heat absorber, use more water, but have a lower consumptive use (<1%). Systems that use tall evaporative cooling towers need less water, but have a high consumptive use (>90% is evaporated). The amount of water used to create electricity now accounts for one third of all the water used consumptively. Recently, rules were changed to require recirculating systems at new power generating plants. While requiring less water to run, such plants will have a higher percentage of consumptive use. This is a mixed result, since more water can remain in the rivers, but less will be immediately returned to be used again.

♦ Learn more about tracking supply and demand (pdf 4.1 MB; TREB Ch.2, pgs. 2-5)

According to Delaware River Basin Commission rules, when the flow at Trenton goes below 3,000 CFS for 5 consecutive days,

Lower Basin Drought

Just as there is minimum flow objective of 1,750 cubic feet per second (cfs) at Montague, N.J., the DRBC Water Code sets a minimum flow objective of 3,000 cfs at Trenton, N.J. (head of tide).

Why is there a Trenton flow target? The DRBC lower basin drought management plan focuses on controlling the upstream migration of salty water (referred to as the “salt front” or “salt line”) from the Atlantic Ocean through the Delaware Bay into the tidal river. The salt front’s location fluctuates along the tidal Delaware River as freshwater streamflows traveling downstream increase or decrease in response to hydrologic conditions, diluting or concentrating chlorides in the river. DRBC-directed releases from Blue Marsh Reservoir (located on the Tulpehocken Creek, a tributary of the Schuylkill River) and Beltzville Reservoir (located on the Pohopoco Creek, a tributary of the Lehigh River) to meet the Trenton flow target are used to help repel, or flush back, the salt-laced water in order to protect the drinking water intakes in the downstream urban areas of Philadelphia and Camden. Water supply storage in these two lower basin reservoirs, both owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is financed by surface water users under a water charging program implemented by the DRBC.

Storage in Blue Marsh and Beltzville reservoirs is used to trigger drought warning and drought operations in the Lower Delaware River Basin – that portion of the basin downstream of Montague, N.J. This allows for reductions in the Trenton flow target and the New Jersey diversion when lower basin conditions are drier than in the upper part of the basin. Accordingly, lower basin operations are controlled by both basinwide or lower basin storage triggers, with the most limiting restrictions controlling.

Merrill Creek Reservoir, a pumped storage facility located near Phillipsburg in Warren County, N.J., releases water to replace evaporative water losses (“consumptive use”) caused by power generation when the basin is under DRBC-declared drought operations. Releases are made during both basinwide and lower basin drought warnings and droughts whenever the flow at Trenton drops below 3,000 cfs for at least five consecutive days.

Merrill Creek is owned by energy corporations and is designed to augment  flow in order to allow power plants in the basin to continue to operate during drought conditions. According to DRBC:

u. Each electric generating unit which is a Designated Unit from EXHIBIT III of ATTACHMENT 2 shall be exempt from curtailment by the DRBC so long as the freshwater equivalent consumptive use resulting from the operation of that unit is being replaced by Compensation Releases from the MCR or from other sources approved by the Commission.

PSEG has significant interests in Merrill Creek, including assuring sufficient river flows to operate existing power plants and to provide sufficient polling water for their proposed new nuclear plant.

DRBC may find this PSEG testimony to NRC of interest, particularly regarding drought induced migration of the salt line:

As discussed below, the Merrill Creek Reservoir is not required for any safety cooling purposes for a new plant at the PSEG Site. PSEG considers it likely that it could transfer water rights from another PSEG-owned facility or it could obtain the water rights from a third party, if necessary, for a new plant at the PSEG Site. If PSEG proceeds with a combined license (COL) that references the ESP, then PSEG would need to consider any new and significant information related to water use and availability, which would include water allocation from the Merrill Creek Reservoir. The NRC Staff would consider PSEG’s new and significant evaluation and could consider other information related to water rights from the Merrill Creek Reservoir.

Q8. What is the purpose of the Merrill Creek Reservoir?

A8. The Merrill Creek Reservoir is used for low flow augmentation of the Delaware River during times of drought. The Merrill Creek Reservoir allows certain power plants, classified by the DRBC as “designated units,” to continue to withdraw water from the Delaware River for power generation during declared drought warnings or emergencies. The DRBC approved a Docket, authorizing construction in 1984 with the reservoir being placed in service in 1988. The current Docket for the Merrill Creek Reservoir is provided as Exhibit PSEG014.

Q12. What would happen if there was negligible flow in the Delaware River?

A12. As stated in Safety Evaluation Report (SER) Section (Exhibit NRC003), even with negligible flow at Trenton, NJ (1.0 cubic feet per second (cfs)), tidal flow rather than freshwater flow is capable of providing ample and sufficient cooling water supply for the PSEG Site.

Isn’t it comforting to know that PSEG engineers have concluded that their nuke plants would continue to operate, while the Delaware River virtually ran dry (1 CFS) and there was a regional water supply crisis?

As DEP scientists warned, perhaps there is “trouble ahead” if drought conditions persist.

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The Answer Is Blowin’ In OWEDA

October 26th, 2016 No comments
Senator Sweeney (L) responds to Wolfe (R) - Earth Day 2005. Had he listened, things would have turned out differently.

Senator Sweeney (L) responds to Wolfe (R) – Earth Day 2005.  (no typo, 11 years ago) Had he listened, things would have turned out differently.

In celebration of Senator Sweeney’s declining the Governor’s race – which just so happened to coincide with Bob Dylan’s receipt of the Nobel Prize in Literature – we play on his words.

As I’ve previously written, the Off Shore Wind Energy Development Act (OWEDA) is based on flawed economics and contained a poison pill that allowed Gov. Christie’s appointed energy industry cronies at BPU to kill the development of off-shore wind.

This poison pill is known as the “cost test”.

Gov. Christie duped Senate President Sweeney by suggesting a false commitment to develop off shore wind and in state manufacturing jobs associated with making NJ the east coast home of windmill manufacturing. (Christie used the same lie to secure the endorsement of the NJ Environmental Federation).

Here’s how and DEP Commissioner Martin – a former energy industry consultant – and Gov. Christie sold OWEDA:

The bipartisan measure will spur economic growth in the Garden State through the development of renewable energy resources and the creation of green jobs.  The legislation will establish an offshore wind renewable energy certificate program (OREC) and will make available financial assistance and tax credits from existing programs for businesses that construct manufacturing, assemblage and water access facilities to support the development of qualified offshore wind projects.

“The Offshore Wind Economic Development Act will provide New Jersey with an opportunity to leverage our vast resources and innovative technologies to allow businesses to engage in new and emerging sectors of the energy industry,” said Governor Christie. “Developing New Jersey’s renewable energy resources and industry is critical to our state’s manufacturing and technology future.  My Administration will maintain a strong commitment to utilizing energy as industry in our efforts to make our State a home for growth, as well as a national leader in the windpower movement.”

“This is a terrific step for New Jersey,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin.”It makes us a leader environmentally, while at the same time providing New Jersey with a major economic boost from jobs that surely will be created by this green industry. Certainly, we would rather have wind turbines, and the environmental and economic benefits they offer, than oil rigs off the coast of New Jersey.”

“We are far ahead of most other states in developing a technology that is better for the environment and will help the state’s economy,” Commissioner Martin said.

Measure that spin in light of reality 6 years later.

Gov. Christie never had any intention of developing off shore wind – instead, we got the opposite of renewable energy: 5 new natural gas plants and a proliferation of gas pipelines.

Incredibly, the Gov.s climate change denying – anti-renewable and pro-gas policy agenda – was announced in plain sight – 3 months prior to passage of OWEDA – in the BPU Energy Master Plan.

The OWEDA deal is paradigmatic of Christie’s corrupt “transactional” deals with NJ’s Machine Democrats (Norcross in South Jersey and Joe D. in Essex County/North Jersey).

Senate President Sweeney was the puppet who implemented these corrupt deals.

Perhaps had he not been such a Norcross and Christie Puppet, Sweeney would still be a candidate for Governor.

Like I said, the answer to those questions in Blowin’ In OWEDA.

[End Note: As I said, OWEDA is paradigmatic of Sweeney – Christie dirty deals

I could cite many more, like the Pinelands pipeline, the sellout on the Legislative veto of DEP flood hazard rules, and the most recent and perhaps most egregious that has flown under the media radar: appointment of a chemical industry rep on the Drinking Water Quality Institute.]

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DEP Pipeline Hearing: Trump Has Not Cornered The Market On Deplorable

October 21st, 2016 No comments

NJ Natural Gas Uses Non-Profits To Promote Pipeline

ReThink Energy NJ Engaged In Equally Dirty Dealings

Wednesday night, the DEP held the third of 4 public hearings on various DEP permits and approvals required for NJ Natural Gas Co.’s Pinelands pipeline, with the Orwellian name “Southern Reliability Link” (SRL).

Not since the chemical industry used Catholic Nuns to try to rollback the Clean Water Enforcement Act back in the early 1990’s have I seen such shameful tactics and flat out lies.

NJ Natural Gas and Their Deplorables

Specifically, various non-profit groups appeared to testify in support of the pipeline – including advocates for the homeless, developmentally disabled, senior citizens, black business women, and faith groups. (I later urged the interfaith group’s liar to read  Pope Francis’ encyclical “Care for Our Common Home” – but by the time I testified (7:30 pm), he was long gone. I arrived early and signed in at 4:00 pm with just a small handful of people ahead of me on the list of speakers, but DEP buried me until over 3 hours had gone by. A little after 7 pm, when I approached the microphone to ask DEP why I had not been called, the State Police moved in – and I called them on that needless intimidation.)

They all parroted the same discredited talking points – i.e. “clean, safe, reliable natural gas will prevent the kind of damage done by Superstorm Sandy” – so it was obvious that they were reading from a script prepared by NJ Natural Gas Co. or their lobbyists.

I guess NJ Natural Gas’ PR mavens realized that deploying the Union Thugs and then the State Police had backfired.

Here’s how Burlington County Times reporter Dave Levinsky described the (ob)scene:

Supporters included union leaders, affordable housing developers and advocates, business groups and providers of services to seniors and disabled residents. They cited the extended loss of power and heat following Superstorm Sandy, while arguing that the pipeline was needed to provide resilient and reliable energy for Ocean and Monmouth County residents.

“Our families rely on public utilities like New Jersey Natural Gas no matter what the weather gods hold for them on any given day,” said Paul McEvily, associate executive director of Interfaith Neighbors, an Asbury Park nonprofit that provides social services to needy families.

“Our seniors need their gas service and are very dependent on this lifeline service,” said Pat Bohse, executive director of the Senior Citizens Activities Network.

NJ Natural Gas must have spread a lot of money around the non-profit communities in Monmouth and Ocean Counties in order to get good people to prostitute themselves like that.

ReThink Energy NJ and Tom Gilbert Are Equally Deplorable

But NJ Natural Gas and their non-profit whores were not the only deplorables to testify at the hearing.

To get a sense of that other group of deplorables, first, we must make a brief detour for context.

For over a year, I’ve been trying to get the pipeline opponents – particularly those like Rethink Energy NJ that have huge financial resources required to hire lawyers and technical consultants like Princeton Hydro – to focus on the DEP’s Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certificate issue: (one recent example specific to these hearings):

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.

I again emphasized the importance in a more recent post: Advice for PennEast and All NJ Pipeline Opponents On Upcoming DEP Permit Hearings:

So, let’s hope that those groups who have refrained from making the various Clean Water Act Section 401 WQC and wetlands arguments publicly thus far show up and bring their A game.

I am referring specifically to PennEast opponents and Rethink Energy NJ, who have focused on FERC thus far, as well as groups like Delaware Riverkeeper who has raised and litigated the 401 WQC issue in other states.

Be there and bring your lawyers and consultant experts. Put your analysis in the record. If you fail to do so, it will come back to bite you.

But instead of mounting a campaign focused on DEP and the 401 WQC issue, the ReThink Energy NJ staff consistency diverted attention from the issue – frequently issuing diversionary press releases or holding events on the same day that 401 relevant issues should have gotten both the activists and the media’s attention. (Mutually Dodge Foundation funded NJ Spotlight consistently ran with the ReThink diversions – in fact, Spotlight did not even mention the 401 WQC issue until last week’s story by Jon Hurdle.)

(In today’s NY Times story about the Clinton campaign’s dirty tricks, I just learned that these kind of diversionary tactics are called “bracketing”.)

Now, with that background, let’s get back to Wednesday night’s hearing.

First of all, there was ZERO expert testimony on the DEP 401 Water Quality Certificate issue. None.

I had expected a technical Report by Princeton Hydro on the 401 WQC issues and strong legal testimony from competent pipeline lawyers, including those representing Bordentown and Chesterfield. That didn’t happen.

Tom Gilbert from Rethink Energy NJ attended and testified at the hearing. He failed to heed my warnings and advise about the need to bring his A game and put a scientific and legal rationale on the record.

Gilbert did not specifically mention the Section 401 WQC issue, but he did allude to the Clean Water Act.

But more significantly, Gilbert’s testimony used and emphasized two very distinct regulatory phrases. Both dealt very precisely to something about the public interest versus private gain. Both were beyond Gilbert’s training and expertise.

Portions of Gilbert’s testimony sounded just like the activists from People Over Pipeline who read text from the NY State DEC’s 401 WQC denial on the Constitution pipeline – it was obvious she was reading what experts had written.

Those phrases both sounded curious and they rang a bell with me, but it wasn’t until after the hearing that I recalled where I had read them and the significance. When I did realize the source, the pieces of the puzzle all fell together.

Long story short, it is worse than I imagined.

The source of the two phrases Gilbert parroted was the concurrent proposal of the Flood Hazard Rules regarding Category One (C1) stream buffers.

These are officially called “Improvements to riparian zone protections (N.J.A.C. 7:13)” –  more specifically, the Additional protections for the inner 150 feet of a 300-foot riparian zone (7:13-11.2(d)).

You can read the proposal in depth here (language starts on page 16), but this is the smoking gun language that Gilbert parroted:

Proposed N.J.A.C. 7:13-11.2(d)3 requires the applicant to demonstrate that the proposed regulated activity is in the public interest. The Department will determine if a proposed activity is in the public interest by considering the factors proposed at N.J.A.C. 7:13-11.2(d)3i-vi. These factors are similar to the factors considered by the Department in determining public interest in the context of individual freshwater wetlands and open water fill permits. …

Under proposed N.J.A.C. 7:13-11.2(d)3ii, the Department will also consider the relative extent of the public and private need for the proposed regulated activity in determining if a proposed activity is in the public interest. If the project serves primarily a private need, such as a development that services only the residents of a private residential development, the Department is less likely to determine that the activity is in the public interest.

What this means is that Gilbert and the ReThink Energy NJ crowd have ben duped by DEP political appointees into believing that the concurrent proposal language will provide an adequate basis for DEP to kill the PennEast pipeline.

In exchange for that, Gilbert and Company have muted criticism of DEP, diverted focus on DEP and the 401 WQC issue, and even praised DEP.

Most recently, this explains their silence on the DEP’s Permit By Rule decision on the SRL stream encroachment permits for 43 stream crossings. That horrible decision set precedent for ALL pipelines, including PennEast.

WORSE, as I previously wrote, the sham concurrent proposal was the political cover that derailed the Legislative Veto of the DEP’s Flood Hazard rule proposal.

So Gilbert has actually created THREE DISASTERS:

1) he is undermining activists opposing the PennEast pipeline because he has been co-opted by DEP and mistakenly thinks he has a deal to kill the pipeline;

2) he is undermining activists opposing the NJ Natural Gas SRL pipelines on the 401 WQC issue;

3) behind closed doors, he cut the deal on the concurrent proposal that killed the legislative veto (SCR 66) of DEP’s horrible Flood Hazard rules.

That, my dear reader, is DEPLORABLE.

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NJ Reservoirs Drained While The Christie DEP Diddled

October 20th, 2016 No comments

No Water Supply Plan –

No Demand Management and Conservation During Summer


[Update: 10/21/16 – This pretty much sums things up. Keep in mind that DEP Assistant Commissioner Dan Kennedy is a licensed professional planner – but just look at how he rejects the concept of and need for planning, just to serve his political hack boss Bob Martin: (Bergen Record):

At Thursday’s hearing, environmental advocates also urged the DEP to release an updated state water master plan. The plan was last updated in 1996 — 20 years ago — even though state law requires the agency to update it every five years.

Kennedy said an update is in the works but could not say when it might be ready. “We have all the data and tools we need to manage any water crisis regardless of the age of the master plan,” he said.

At some point, the professionals must start telling the truth or just resign. ~~~ end update.]

After months of sitting on the sidelines and ignoring scientists warnings while drought conditions worsened, today, the Christie DEP finally is holding a public hearing regarding declaring a drought warning.

While DEP diddled, the reservoirs were drained by high summer demand.

Declaring a drought warning in the fall is like declaring a snow emergency in July.

The opportunity to reduce demand and conserve water has been lost – summer is peak demand.

The Christie DEP has abdicated its legal responsibility to plan for and manage public water supply. It tacitly has delegated that responsibility to private water companies and local government.

The DEP focus is now on inter-basin transfers of an inadequate and depleted water storage system – as DEP itself admits:

 The DEP has already been consulting with major water suppliers to discuss cooperative transfers among systems.

NJ already has far too little reservoir storage capacity per capita, so allowing reservoirs to be depleted is a serious example of mismanagement by DEP.

High summer demand and low rainfall put extreme pressure of this already deficient reservoir system.

High pollution levels in rivers (and low flows) limited the ability of water purveyors to divert river flows to reservoir storage.

Given the Christie Administration’s privatization and anti-regulatory policies, I seriously would not be surprised if former private sector corporate consultant Bob “Customer Service” Martin entered into a private – public partnership with FedEx to manage the State’s water – after all, Commissioner Martin views water as a commodity.

So why not put the world’s private logistics expert in charge?


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