Archive for November, 2016

Corporate Infrastructure Versus Public Infrastructure

November 14th, 2016 No comments

Is This What Trump Meant When He Said China Was “Raping” The US?

Did China approve the local zoning and State permits?

 Public infrastructure money invested to promote corporate interests, not public interest

New Granger facility, Mansfield, NJ (11/14/16)

Scene of the crime – new Grainger distribution facility, Bordentown Township, NJ (11/14/16). Is this what they call “pedestrian friendly, compact, walkable development to local downtown markets”?

Who’s zoomin’ who?  ~~~ Aretha Franklin

[Update below]

Sometimes, a dead elephant lies right in your backyard rotting in the sun, un-noticed.

I found one this weekend while looking for Burlington County’s Crystal Lake Park, just a few miles from my house (a photo post forthcoming on the Park).

They certainly didn’t keep it a secret – guess I just wasn’t paying attention:

BORDENTOWN TOWNSHIP — Grainger, a leading distributor of industrial supplies, equipment, tools and materials, announced plans today to build a 1.3 million-square-foot distribution center — the largest commercial warehouse in the state — on 96 acres in the township.

I guess you have to see it to believe it – wedged between the NJ Turnpike and I-295, is a massive transportation infrastructure on former farm fields.

The most recent addition is the Grainger distribution facility pictured above.

As I drove past the humongous Grainger facility, I noticed that the local road was closed (Axe Factory Road). Unable to get to the park, I had to turn around and find an alternative route:


The juxtaposition of crumbling and closed public infrastructure so close to massive new investments in corporate infrastructure made my head explode.

I thought maybe this is what Trump meant when he said China’s trade policies were raping the US?

The Grainger facility is fully automated – not so good for all those working class jobs he promised.

The facility will distribute cheap imported Chinese products and undercut US manufacturing – again, not so good for all those manufacturing plants and working class jobs Trump promised.

I haven’t done any research, but I assume that Grainger got all kinds of taxpayer backed public subsidies and “incentives” (corporate welfare). Again, not so good for Trump’s promises of relief for the working class.

Bottom line: Local residents get higher taxes, traffic, noise, a visual scar on the landscape, more greenhouse gas emissions, toxic diesel truck air pollution, water pollution from stormwater runoff from the massive 1.3 mill square foot complex, and longer drives to avoid the road closure (and there is no solar on the flat roof).

Meanwhile their local public infrastructure continues to crumble and public money is invested to promote corporate interests, not public interests – potholes, flood risks, and bridges closed:


However, it certainly would be fair to say that the Grainger facility “raped” the former agricultural rural landscape – so Trump’s campaign rhetoric was not all lies and hyperbole:


 BTW, this is what public infrastructure looks like:


[Update – 11/16/16 – We told you exactly this was coming – and it sure didn’t take very long (NY Times story):

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats, divided and struggling for a path from the electoral wilderness, are constructing an agenda to align with many proposals of President-elect Donald J. Trump that put him at odds with his own party.

On infrastructure spending, child tax credits, paid maternity leave and dismantling trade agreements, Democrats are looking for ways they can work with Mr. Trump and force Republican leaders to choose between their new president and their small-government, free-market principles. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, elected Wednesday as the new Democratic minority leader, has spoken with Mr. Trump several times, and Democrats in coming weeks plan to announce populist economic and ethics initiatives they think Mr. Trump might like. ~~~ end update]

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Trump Following In Gov. Christie’s Footsteps

November 12th, 2016 No comments


[Update below]

Conventional wisdom (CW) is that Donald Trump just threw Gov. Christie under the bus by demoting Christie from head of his Transition Team in favor of VP Pence.

CW is wrong – again.

Trump has paid Christie the ultimate compliment: emulation. (can you imagine what a Trump Inaugural will look like? – hit link – photos below from Christie’s first Inaugural, Trenton, NJ, Jan. 19, 2010)


Trump is following the same strategy Christie used in NJ. Christie’s fingerprints are all over the Trump strategy.

Now that the press has framed the post election narrative as  “Trump won due to support of the working class that was betrayed by Democrats”, the stage is set for Trump to forge the same “bi-partisan” “Christie -Crat” coalition of timid corporate Democrats that Gov. Christie did.

Buyers remorse set in early. May 2010, Trenton NJ protest

Buyers remorse set in early. May 2010, Trenton NJ protest

(CAPTION: tens of thousands of protesters came out early against Christie, on May 20, 2010)

This manufactured political dynamic will enable Trump to impose a corporate right wing agenda (tax cuts, privatization, deregulation) under the guise of promoting jobs and working class interests – all with “bi-partisan” support in Congress.

The first issue to cement this coalition and illustrate this strategy is likely to be infrastructure, where timid corporate Democrats will be promised union infrastructure jobs in exchange for huge corporate tax cuts.

Of course, the Trump infrastructure deal will include privatization (“public-private partnerships”) and unrelated items like deregulation, attacks on unions, Wall Street financing giveaways, and environmental rollbacks too. (Obama already set the stage for all that with his Executive Orders to “streamline” NEPA and environmental reviews of infrastructure projects. Congressional Democrats – including corporate Wall Street Dems like Cory Booker – have already introduced “public private partnership” infrastructure bills, just like NJ State Democrats supported Gov. Christie’s privatization of water infrastructure and anti-democratic elimination of prior local voter approval requirements).

Just to show that Trump is not serious and is playing the same divisive political games Christie played, take a look at how Trump’s “100 Day Action Plan” proposed to pay for infrastructure:

  • SEVENTH, cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.

Of course there are no UN Black Helicopters, just like there is no “billions in UN climate change payments” honeypot (while Trump doesn’t mention that the cost of infrastructure upgrades is in the trillions).

The same emulation of Gov. Christie’s strategy can be seen in Trump’s pledge to repeal Obama Executive Orders and take bold Executive actions in the first hour of his first day in Office –

That’s exactly what Gov. Christie did by issuing Executive Orders #1 – #4 – declaring a moratorium on regulations and granting “regulatory relief”. At the time,  Christie bragged about this to the NY Times.

Just like Christie abandoned the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), Trump will exit the Paris Climate accords.

Just like Christie scrapped the Corzine Energy Master Plan renewable energy goals to promote fossil power plants and pipelines – all with the support of Democrats –  Trump is all in for fossil:

  • ★ FIFTH, I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.

  • ★  SIXTH, lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward.

Just like Christie, shifts in billions of dollars to corporate cronies and deregulation will be real, while the promises to Democrats never materialize.

Trump will play the Democrats, just like Christie did.

Trump will act the authoritarian, “conservative without conscience“, just like Christie.

The strategic, political and policy parallels with Gov. Christie are striking and far too strong to be random.

With the press corps focused on “horse race” vapid coverage – and Democrats immersed in identity politics to battle the Right wing cultural warriors – Christie has done his work quietly behind the scenes and laid the foundation for Trump’s “transition”. He was not thrown under the bus by Trump.

Trump’s reactionary agenda will be imposed very quickly – it is imperative that national Democrats not repeat the NJ Christie-crat experience.

The media, under withering criticism for having missed the rise of Trump and ignored all those working class people that support Trump, will be tripping all over themselves to frame a pro-working class Trump manufactured narrative.

Progressives need to quickly organize and not only protest in the streets, but tell Democrats not to sell out.

The Left must rebut CW and the misleading and rapidly solidifying media narrative about the duped “working class” supporters and tell the truth about who will benefit from Trump’s policy agenda..


[Update – 11/16/16 – We told you exactly this was coming – and it sure didn’t take very long (NY Times story):

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats, divided and struggling for a path from the electoral wilderness, are constructing an agenda to align with many proposals of President-elect Donald J. Trump that put him at odds with his own party.

On infrastructure spending, child tax credits, paid maternity leave and dismantling trade agreements, Democrats are looking for ways they can work with Mr. Trump and force Republican leaders to choose between their new president and their small-government, free-market principles. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, elected Wednesday as the new Democratic minority leader, has spoken with Mr. Trump several times, and Democrats in coming weeks plan to announce populist economic and ethics initiatives they think Mr. Trump might like. ~~~ end update]

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No Sense of Urgency About Drought By DRBC Leadership

November 10th, 2016 No comments

Drought puts DRBC Resolve and Climate Adaptation Leadership to the test

[Update: 11/27/16 – Did we light a fire under DRBC or what?

NJ Spotlight has a good story today about the drought situation in the lower Delaware, see:

Essentially ignoring the science and more dire assessments of his professional staff, DRBC Executive Director Tambini downplays the problem and shows no sense of urgency:

Despite the expectations of little new rainfall, DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini said there are no immediate plans to declare a drought emergency, and that the commissioners don’t plan to meet to review the situation until December 14.

A drought emergency would be triggered by reservoir levels, the weather forecast, and the status of the salt front. “Our objective is to make sure we’ve got enough water in storage to repel the salt front,” Tambini said, in an interview. …

“At this point, the salt front is well below the intakes,” Tambini said.

This is not good, particularly given DRBC’s historic leadership and excellent work on adaptation to climate change, including drought related impacts.

Tambini is doing the legal minimum.

The Spotlight story failed to note the legal obligations that force Tambini’s hand, while leaving the wrong impression that State drought indicators were more stringent and/or scientifically sound than those relied on by DRBC:

By contrast [with DRBC focus on the salt line], state authorities look at a broader range of indicators including groundwater levels and stream flow in deciding whether to declare drought watches or warnings.

This is doubly misleading, because NJ DEP delayed issuing a drought warning, a posture DRBC seems on a path to repeat, see:

The Spotlight story also left important facts unmentioned.

DRBC is legally obligated under the Compact to order reservoir releases when the river flow at Trenton falls below 3,000 CFS for 5 consecutive days – and that power plants are major water users that would be subject to DRBC water curtailments –  as we’ve written.

Ignoring that fact and suggesting that States have “broader drought indicators” creates the false impression that Tambini is exercising his expertise and DRBC management powers prudently by downplaying drought conditions.

Also ignored by Spotlight is the fact that Mr. Tambini may face conflicts of interest, given his prior private water company corporate experiences. 

Mr. Tambini has led efforts to delegate certain DRBC management powers to states, a questionable posture and deferential approach, particularly with DRBC drought powers. 

Private water companies would face economic and regulatory issues under a DRBC drought emergency.

Creating additional controvery is the fact that DRBC powers would trump State water management decisions – again, Tambini may not have the spine to pull that trigger, despite the science and recommendations of his professionals.

I am very troubled that Mr. Tambini’s judgement and DRBC’s lack of diligence may be unduly influenced by the private water companies – and the energy utilities – who would face restrictions under drought emergency.

DRBC must not repeat policy and management errors of laggard’s like the Christie DEP.

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The Spirit Of Revolt

November 9th, 2016 No comments

A Love Letter to Trump 

Call for “Propaganda of the Deed”

 By actions which compel general attention, the new idea seeps into people’s minds and wins converts. One such act may, in a few days, make more propaganda than thousands of pamphlets.

Today, we go with a timeless classic, ever more so relevant right now as climate chaos meets Trumpism, a pamphlet by Peter Kropotkin (1842 – 1921):

The Spirit of Revolt, 1880


There are periods in the life of human society when revolution becomes an imperative necessity, when it proclaims itself as inevitable. New ideas germinate everywhere, seeking to force their way into the light, to find an application in life; everywhere they are opposed by the inertia of those whose interest it is to maintain the old order; they suffocate in the stifling atmosphere of prejudice and traditions. The accepted ideas of the constitution of the State, of the laws of social equilibrium, of the political and economic interrelations of citizens, can hold out no longer against the implacable criticism which is daily undermining them whenever occasion arises,–in drawing room as in cabaret, in the writings of philosophers as in daily conversation. Political, economic, and social institutions are crumbling; the social structure, having become uninhabitable, is hindering, even preventing the development of the seeds which are being propagated within its damaged walls and being brought forth around them.

The need for a new life becomes apparent. The code of established morality, that which governs the greater number of people in their daily life, no longer seems sufficient. What formerly seemed just is now felt to be a crying injustice. The morality of yesterday is today recognized as revolting immorality. The conflict between new ideas and old traditions flames up in every class of society, in every possible environment, in the very bosom of the family. The son struggles against his father, he finds revolting what his father has all his life found natural; the daughter rebels against the principles which her mother has handed down to her as the result of long experience. Daily, the popular conscience rises up against the scandals which breed amidst the privileged and the leisured, against the crimes committed in the name of the law of the stronger, or in order to maintain these privileges. Those who long for the triumph of justice, those who would put new ideas into practice, are soon forced to recognize that the realization of their generous, humanitarian and regenerating ideas cannot take place in a society thus constituted; they perceive the necessity of a revolutionary whirlwind which will sweep away all this rottenness, revive sluggish hearts with its breath, and bring to mankind that spirit of devotion, self-denial, and heroism, without which society sinks through degradation and vileness into complete disintegration.

In periods of frenzied haste toward wealth, of feverish speculation and of crisis, of the sudden downfall of great industries and the ephemeral expansion of other branches of production, of scandalous fortunes amassed in a few years and dissipated as quickly, it becomes evident that the economic institutions which control production and exchange are far from giving to society the prosperity which they are supposed to guarantee; they produce precisely the opposite result. Instead of order they bring forth chaos; instead of prosperity, poverty and insecurity; instead of reconciled interests, war; a perpetual war of the exploiter against the worker, of exploiters and of workers among themselves. Human society is seen to be splitting more and more into two hostile camps, and at the same time to be subdividing into thousands of small groups waging merciless war against each other. Weary of these wars, weary of the miseries which they cause, society rushes to seek a new organization; it clamors loudly for a complete remodeling of the system of property ownership, of production, of exchange and all economic relations which spring from it.

The machinery of government, entrusted with the maintenance of the existing order, continues to function, but at every turn of its deteriorated gears it slips and stops. Its working becomes more and more difficult, and the dissatisfaction caused by its defects grows continuously. Every day gives rise to a new demand. “Reform this,” “reform that,” is heard from all sides. “War, finance, taxes, courts. police, everything must be remodeled, reorganized, established on a new basis,” say the reformers. And vet all know that it is impossible to make things over, to remodel anything at all because everything is interrelated; everything would have to be remade at once; and how can society be remodeled when it is divided into two openly hostile camps? To satisfy the discontented would be only to create new malcontents.

Incapable of undertaking reforms, since this would mean paving the way for revolution, and at the same time too impotent to be frankly reactionary, the governing bodies apply themselves to halfmeasures which can satisfy nobody, and only cause new dissatisfaction. The mediocrities who, in such transition periods, undertake to steer the ship of State, think of but one thing: to enrich then.selves against the coming débâcle. Attacked from all sides they defend themselves awkwardly, they evade, they commit blunder upon blunder, and they soon succeed in cutting the last rope of salvation; they drown the prestige of the government in ridicule, caused by their own incapacity.

Such periods demand revolution. It becomes a social necessity; the situation itself is revolutionary.

When we study in the works of our greatest historians the genesis and development of vast revolutionary convulsions, we generally find under the heading, “The Cause of the Revolution,” a gripping picture of the situation on the eve of events. The misery of the people, the general insecurity, the vexatious measures of the government, the odious scandals laying bare the immense vices of society, the new ideas struggling to come to the surface and repulsed by the incapacity of the supporters of the former régime,– nothing is omitted. Examining this picture, one arrives at the conviction that the revolution was indeed inevitable, and that there was no other way out than by the road of insurrection.

Take, for example, the situation before 1789 as the historians picture it. You can almost hear the peasant complaining of the salt tax, of the tithe, of the feudal payments, and vowing in his heart an implacable hatred towards the feudal baron, the monk, the monopolist, the bailiff. You can almost see the citizen bewailing the loss of his municipal liberties, and showering maledictions upon the king. The people censure the queen; they are revolted by the reports of ministerial action, and they cry out continually that the taxes are intolerable and revenue payments exorbitant, that crops are bad and winters hard, that provisions are too dear and the monopolists too grasping, that the village lawyer devours the peasant’s crops and the village constable tries to play the role of a petty king, that even the mail service is badly organized and the employees too lazy. In short, nothing works well, everybody complains. “It can last no longer, it will come to a bad end,” they cry everywhere.

But, between this pacific arguing and insurrection or revolt, there is a wide abyss,–that abyss which, for the greatest part of humanity, lies between reasoning and action, thought and will,–the urge to act. How has this abyss been bridged? How is it that men who only yesterday were complaining quietly of their lot as they smoked their pipes, and the next moment were humbly saluting the local guard and gendarme whom they had just been abusing,–how is it that these same men a few days later were capable of seizing their scythes and their iron-shod pikes and attacking in his castle the lord who only yesterday was so formidable? By what miracle were these men, whose wives justly called them cowards, transformed in a day into heroes, marching through bullets and cannon balls to the conquest of their rights? How was it that words, so often spoken and lost in the air like the empty chiming of bells, were changed into actions?

The answer is easy.

Action, the continuous action, ceaselessly renewed, of minorities brings about this transformation. Courage, devotion, the spirit of sacrifice, are as contagious as cowardice, submission, and panic.

What forms will this action take? All forms,–indeed, the most varied forms, dictated by circumstances, temperament, and the means at disposal. Sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous, but always daring; sometimes collective, sometimes purely individual, this policy of action will neglect none of the means at hand, no event of public life, in order to keep the spirit alive, to propagate and find expression for dissatisfaction, to excite hatred against exploiters, to ridicule the government and expose its weakness, and above all and always, by actual example, to awaken courage and fan the spirit of revolt.

When a revolutionary situation arises in a country, before the spirit of revolt is sufficiently awakened in the masses to express itself in violent demonstrations in the streets or by rebellions and uprisings, it is through action that minorities succeed in awakening that feeling of independence and that spirit of audacity without which no revolution can come to a head.

Men of courage, not satisfied with words, but ever searching for the means to transform them into action,–men of integrity for whom the act is one with the idea, for whom prison, exile, and death are preferable to a life contrary to their principles,–intrepid souls who know that it is necessary to dare in order to succeed,– these are the lonely sentinels who enter the battle long before the masses are sufficiently roused to raise openly the banner of insurrection and to march, arms in hand, to the conquest of their rights.

In the midst of discontent, talk, theoretical discussions, an individual or collective act of revolt supervenes, symbolizing the dominant aspirations. It is possible that at the beginning the masses will remain indifferent. It is possible that while admiring the courage of the individual or the group which takes the initiative, the masses will at first follow those who are prudent and cautious, who will immediately describe this act as “insanity” and say that “those madmen, those fanatics will endanger everything.”

They have calculated so well, those prudent and cautious men, that their party, slowly pursuing its work would, in a hundred years, two hundred years, three hundred years perhaps, succeed in conquering the whole world,–and now the unexpected intrudes! The unexpected, of course, is whatever has not been expected by them,–those prudent and cautious ones! Whoever has a slight knowledge of history and a fairly clear head knows perfectly well from the beginning that theoretical propaganda for revolution will necessarily express itself in action long before the theoreticians have decided that the moment to act has come. Nevertheless, the cautious theoreticians are angry at these madmen, they excommunicate them, they anathematize them. But the madmen win sympathy, the mass of the people secretly applaud their courage, and they find imitators. In proportion as the pioneers go to fill the jails and the penal colonies, others continue their work; acts of illegal protest, of revolt, of vengeance, multiply.

Indifference from this point on is impossible. Those who at the beginning never so much as asked what the “madmen” wanted, are compelled to think about them, to discuss their ideas, to take sides for or against. By actions which compel general attention, the new idea seeps into people’s minds and wins converts. One such act may, in a few days, make more propaganda than thousands of pamphlets.

Above all, it awakens the spirit of revolt: it breeds daring. The old order, supported by the police, the magistrates, the gendarmes and the soldiers, appeared unshakable, like the old fortress of the Bastille, which also appeared impregnable to the eyes of the unarmed people gathered beneath its high walls equipped with loaded cannon. But soon it became apparent that the established order has not the force one had supposed. One courageous act has sufficed to upset in a few days the entire governmental machinery, to make the colossus tremble; another revolt has stirred a whole province into turmoil, and the army, till now always so imposing, has retreated before a handful of peasants armed with sticks and stones. The people observe that the monster is not so terrible as they thought they begin dimly to perceive that a few energetic efforts will be sufficient to throw it down. Hope is born in their hearts, and let us remember that if exasperation often drives men to revolt, it is always hope, the hope of victory, which makes revolutions.

The government resists; it is savage in its repressions. But, though formerly persecution killed the energy of the oppressed, now, in periods of excitement, it produces the opposite result. It provokes new acts of revolt, individual and collective, it drives the rebels to heroism; and in rapid succession these acts spread, become general, develop. The revolutionary party is strengthened by elements which up to this time were hostile or indifferent to it. The general disintegration penetrates into the government, the ruling classes, the privileged; some of them advocate resistance to the limit; others are in favor of concessions; others, again, go so far as to declare themselves ready to renounce their privileges for the moment, in order to appease the spirit of revolt, hoping to dominate again later on. The unity of the government and the privileged class is broken.

The ruling classes may also try to find safety in savage reaction. But it is now too late; the battle only becomes more bitter, more terrible, and the revolution which is looming will only be more bloody. On the other hand, the smallest concession of the governing classes, since it comes too late, since it has been snatched in struggle, only awakes the revolutionary spirit still more. The common people, who formerly would have been satisfied with the smallest concession, observe now that the enemy is wavering; they foresee victory, they feel their courage growing, and the same men who were formerly crushed by misery and were content to sigh in secret, now lift their heads and march proudly to the conquest of a better future.

Finally the revolution breaks out, the more terrible as the preceding struggles were bitter.

The direction which the revolution will take depends, no doubt, upon the sum total of the various circumstances that determine the coming of the cataclysm. But it can be predicted in advance, according to the vigor of revolutionary action displayed in the preparatory period by the different progressive parties.

One party may have developed more clearly the theories which it defines and the program which it desires to realize; it may have made propaganda actively, by speech and in print. But it may not have sufficiently expressed its aspirations in the open, on the street, by actions which embody the thought it represents; it has done little, or it has done nothing against those who are its principal enemies; it has not attacked the institutions which it wants to demolish; its strength has been in theory, not in action; it has contributed little to awaken the spirit of revolt, or it has neglected to direct that spirit against conditions which it particularly desires to attack at the time of the revolution. As a result, this party is less known; its aspirations have not been daily and continuously affirmed by actions, the glamor of which could reach even the remotest hut; they have not sufficiently penetrated into the consciousness of the people; they have not identified themselves with the crowd and the street; they have never found simple expression in a popular slogan.

The most active writers of such a party are known by their readers as thinkers of great merit, but they have neither the reputation nor the capacities of men of action; and on the day when the mobs pour through the streets they will prefer to follow the advice of those who have less precise theoretical ideas and not such great aspirations, but whom they know better because they have seen them act.

The party which has made most revolutionary propaganda and which has shown most spirit and daring will be listened to on the day when it is necessary to act, to march in front in order to realize the revolution. But that party which has not had the daring to affirm itself by revolutionary acts in the preparatory periods nor had a driving force strong enough to inspire men and groups to the sentiment of abnegation, to the irresistible desire to put their ideas into practice,–(if this desire had existed it would have expressed itself in action long before the mass of the people had joined the revolt)–and which did not know how to make its flag popular and its aspirations tangible and comprehensive,–that party will have only a small chance of realizing even the least part of its program. It will be pushed aside by the parties of action.

These things we learn from the history of the periods which precede great revolutions. The revolutionary bourgeoisie understood this perfectly,–it neglected no means of agitation to awaken the spirit of revolt when it tried to demolish the monarchical order. The French peasant of the eighteenth century understood it instinctively when it was a question of abolishing feudal rights; and the International acted in accordance with the same principles when it tried to awaken the spirit of revolt among the workers of the cities and to direct it against the natural enemy of the wage earner–the monopolizer of the means of production and of raw materials.

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Is The Legislature’s Attempt to Dedicate Natural Resource Damage Funds A Trojan Horse?

November 7th, 2016 No comments

Poison Pill Cap On DEP Funds Would Cripple NRD Program

No Private Law Firm or Consultant Would Accept a 5% Cap

[Update – 12/16/16 – the Resolution SCR39 was amended on the Senate floor back on 11/14/16 to increase the cap to 10% and to include a nexus to local injury, as we urged. Read the Senate floor statement on amendments. Apologies to readers for not updating this sooner, I’ve been under a Trump cloud.]

[Updated below with Notes and a Treachery Alert]

During the Whitman Administration, the business community strongly and successfully opposed the use of Natural Resource Damage (NRD) settlement revenues for the purchase of open space with this harsh rhetoric:

We refuse to be the Governor’s ATM to fund her million acre open space goal.(1)

During the McGreevey Administration, DEP Commissioner Campbell ramped up a moribund DEP NRD program – a much feared “sleeping giant” – including the use of hired private legal counsel. The “sleeping giant” had awakened.(2)

In response, the business community again went into high gear opposition mode, calling Campbell’s effort a “crusade” and the private outside law firm a “bounty hunter” that would “shake down” and “hold NJ businesses hostage” and filing a lawsuit to block it:

An industry coalition filed suit in March 2004, against the state of New Jersey opposing highly criticized tactics, including the state’s use of a New Orleans-based firm known for representing plaintiffs in toxic tort and related litigation, to recover money damages for natural resource claims. The action seeks to end the state’s plan to rely upon contingent fee attorney Allan Kanner to sue more than 80 companies for alleged damages to natural resources. The lawsuit highlights industry concerns over the aggressive program recently launched by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to recover for alleged losses and injuries resulting from natural resource damages (NRDs).

During the Corzine Administration, business lawyers and lobbyists had a field day in response to DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson’s filing of over 120 NRD lawsuits to meet a legislatively imposed statute of limitations deadline those lobbyists secured and had thought would cripple the DEP NRD program.

And just a little over a year ago, the business community supported the Christie Administration’s sweetheart settlement with Exxon, for pennies on the dollar of an $8 billion NRD claim. The business community quietly applauded as Gov. Christie used NRD settlement revenues to close budget shortfalls created, in part, by Christie’s $5 billion in corporate tax breaks.

So, the business community is fully aware of the multibillion stakes of the NRD program and has a long track record of aggressive lobbying on NRD issues, especially attempts to use NRD funds for the popular Open Space program.

Their concerns are valid: public desire to preserve open space and scarce resources to fund purchases of open space create enormous pressure. An NRD honeypot for open space at DEP could result in a dramatic increase in the business community’s NRD liability.

But last week, business lobbyists were curiously silent when the Senate Environment Committee revived a measure to Constitutionally dedicate DEP NRD revenues.

What explains the lack of opposition by the business community?

So, with that NRD history in mind, we ask: are voters about to be duped again by environmentalists’ efforts to dedicate funds to open space?

Recall that in 2014, the Keep It Green coalition spent almost $1 million on a PR campaign to convince voters to approve an open space bond question. Voters were unaware that that measure diverted $32 million in previously dedicated State Parks maintenance funds, as well as about an additional $20 million from DEP clean water and toxic site cleanup programs.

This year, another Legislative Resolution to dedicate Natural Resource Damage (NRD) revenues for open space purchases is moving through the Legislature. The Senate released its version (SCR39) last Thursday (see NJ Spotlight coverage as well as my more critical set up story).

The initiative is a response to Gov. Christie’s diversion of over a hundred millions dollars of NRD funds into the General Fund and not for restoring natural resources.

The dedication of NRD revenue is sound policy, but the current draft of SCR39 has unrelated and ill advised “poison pill” provisions.

Just like the prior Open Space ballot question, the Resolution represents an attempt to divert revenue and defund critical DEP programs (recall that the KIG folks explicitly criticized DEP’s use of funds for professional staff and supported provisions to cap DEP revenues to punish them).

I warned the Senate sponsors that:

Passage of the SCR/ACR in its current form with the 5% cap would starve already under-resourced DEP programs and virtually guarantee that:1) there would never again be anything like a large scale complex Exxon case, 2) that the current small bore pennies on the dollar DEP NRD and enforcement programs would persist, 3) perhaps those programs would be further scaled back due to lack of adequate resources and 4) result in an inability to compensate private legal and technical consultants required to prosecute NRD cases.(3)

Additionally, first priority for dedicated use of these funds should be to restore the $32 million dedication to State Parks capital maintenance that was eliminated by the recent Open Space ballot approval.

Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith agreed that the Resolution was flawed and needed to be amended. Regardless, he released the Resolution from his Committee, and with no specific commitments on how or when it would be amended.

This would not be the first time that Smith provided major relief to corporate toxic polluters, while crippling DEP programs.

NJ’s environmental laws are stacked in favor of the polluters over DEP on the NRD issue. Smith knows that.

Keep in mind that Smith was the prime sponsor of the law known as the Site Remediation Reform Act that privatized the toxic site cleanup program. That law effectively put industry in charge of cleanup decisions, saving them billions of dollars in cleanup costs of more aggressive DEP and public oversight.

Because the NRD program is part of the DEP toxic site cleanup program, that same privatized cleanup law allows consultants hired by polluters to conduct the “baseline ecological assessments” that determine if and how badly natural resources may have been damaged by toxic pollution.

How many industry consultants will willingly put their corporate client’s neck in a billion dollar NRD noose?

Does anyone think that consultants that worked for Exxon would have documented $8 billion in NRD damages? Would have monetized $8 billion in natural resource injuries?

Yet that is exactly what NJ law and the DEP NRD program allow – private consultants that work for the responsible polluters conduct the “baseline ecological evaluation” that documents the existence and extent of any Natural Resource Injuries. That is the basis for the NRD calculation. See DEP NRD program website:

Ecological Injury

The ecological risk assessment process involves collecting and evaluating all data necessary to identify actual and potential ecological impacts and to characterize all natural resource injuries, including the nature and extent of injury to soil, water, flora and fauna. (see N.J.A.C. 7:26E) If this work is carried out with oversight from DEP’s Site Remediation Program, there is no need for input from the Office of Natural Resource Restoration (ONRR). ONRR will only review SRP-approved Ecological Risk Assessments (ERA) that indicate risk. Information generated by the ERA will then be used to develop a NRD position / restoration plan.

Examples of natural resources for which ecological injuries can occur are fisheries, sediments, surface waters, ground water, wetlands, forests, wildlife habitat, wildlife, and lost public use / recreation.

Also keep in mind that, despite all the political noise on the Christie Exxon NRD sweetheart deal, that the Legislature held no oversight hearings of the DEP’s NRD program.

Despite the testimony of the NJ Attorney General in the Exxon case that he reached the Exxon settlement instead off litigating the case due to substantial litigation risk:

The state “knows it has a weak legal hand,” making it reluctant to push too hard and more willing to settle, Wolfe said, adding that Exxon’s lawyers are “sharp enough to know this” too.

“There’s this wink and a nod going on where the DEP is saying, ‘We won’t squeeze you too hard if you just come to the table and settle,’” Wolfe said, adding that it’s been “a quiet little dance for 10 years,” with the state knowing it can’t get more than pennies on the dollar.

In response to that litigation risk, the Legislature made no changes in law and held no hearings on legal loopholes that give corporate polluters huge legal leverage over DEP.

Despite NJ court decisions that dismissed DEP NRD legal claims due to the failure of DEP to promulgate NRD regulations, and DEP’s own commitment to a Judge to adopt such regulations, the Legislature held no oversight hearings or passed any laws to mandate that DEP adopt those NRD regulations.

Finally, the Legislature repealed DEP’s authority to adopt “ecological standards” that would strengthen DEP’s scientific and legal hand in enforcement of NRD claims.

With all this pro-polluter legislative damage, unless Senator Smith amends SCR39 on the Senate floor BEFORE it gets considered by the Assembly Committee, I can only assume that the SCR is a Trojan horse and that the environmental groups supporting it are clueless useful idiots.


1) I think that was Jim Sinclair, NJ Business and Industry Assc.’s line, but it could have been Hal Bozarth, the Chamber of Commerce or the Petroleum Council – there was consensus within the business community “murderers row” on this point.

2) I am not naive – Campbell’s bark was a lot bigger than his bite on NRD. Campbell also cut dirty NRD deals for pennies on the dollar, and I criticized those deals publicly at the time (e.g. over a decade ago, (Bergen Record 7/12/05)):

“The department had a very strong litigation hand,” said Bill Wolfe, a former aide to Campbell who now heads the state chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. “This is a paltry settlement given the magnitude of the damage that the company has imposed on the taxpayers, the environment and the public health of the state. They’re one of the largest polluters in the world.”

3) I am not advocating outsourcing or privatization of NRD work. Ideally, DEP should have expert professionals on staff – but they don’t and therefore. must rely on private consultants to fill the void.

Treachery Alert

The current version of SCR 39 passed the full Senate last session. It included the 5% cap (poison pill) and did not include a “nexus” provision, yet the LCV and conservation groups supported it.

But last week in testimony before the Senate Environment Committee – coming only after I exposed their treachery and then explained the significance of the 5% cap, especially regarding private legal and technical consultants – the same conservationists tripped all over themselves supporting a nexus and warning about the 5% DEP cap and role of private consultants.

They are self interested and dangerously incompetent.

For their 40 gold coins for their pet projects and open space, they threw the “nexus” (local communities) and DEP under the bus.

Just like they did for State Parks.


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