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

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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