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We’re On The Road And Off The Grid

April 23rd, 2017 No comments

A White Van and a Black Dog

Raven's Point (Blue Ridge, Virginia)

Raven’s Point (Blue Ridge, Virginia)

Dear friends and readers – my apologies for not posting this note sooner, but extraordinary events have sapped my focus, time, and energy.

As most of you already know, Bouy and I  left our Bordentown home on Easter Sunday – under Obama HUD mortgage insurance policy and Wall Street Hedge Fund rules – to set forth on an epic adventure. We’re bound away!:

Oh, Shenandoah, I long to hear you
Look away, you rollin’ river
Oh, Shenandoah, I long to hear you
Look away, we’re bound away
Across the wide Missouri. ~~~ Shenandoah, Paul Robeson version

We camped in the Pinelands on Sunday night to begin our voyage, a great symbolic and spirit boost.

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Since then:

I’ve been flyin’
down the road,
And I’ve been starvin’ to be alone,
And independent from the scene
that I’ve known.

So I’ll stop when I can,
Find some fried eggs
and country ham.
I’ll find somewhere where
they don’t care who I am. ~~~ Albuquerque, Neil Young

Comford Pass, Shenandoah National Park

Compton Peak, Shenandoah National Park

We hope to post every now and then, when we can find the motivation, WiFi and time to do so.

Frankly, I haven’t felt much like reading or writing lately, being pretty much overwhelmed by the landscape and challenges of living on the road.

I’ve been day hiking and camping in Shenandoah NP, St. Mary’s Wilderness Area in George Washington National Forest, and Pisgah National Forest. SNP Rangers were reluctant to give me a wilderness camping pass because I basically have been using AT trailheads as base camps.

The mountain weather has been harsh (cold, windy, fog, rain). Elevation drives the leaf out – lower elevation trees are leafed out – white dogwoods abound – but its like winter at the top. I’m maybe 2 weeks from prime bloom of wildflowers and walls of rhododendron, tulip, and dogwood that dominate. I’ve see lots of wild turkey, deer and came across a black bear cub in a tree (photo not downloaded yet, still working out the kinks of charging and using all the electronics).

Shenandoah NP Big Meadows had a wonderful history of the CCC and the Park at the visitor center. (and I have incredible shots I haven’t downloaded yet and will post in future).

Right now I’m in Asheville, NC – after visiting the Southern Highlands Craft Guild (superb!!) and the Thomas Wolfe museum, I’m writing from a funky old bar called The Southern.

If you’d like to support our epic toad trip, or if you’ve enjoyed or benefited from our work, please consider providing a financial contribution – you can make a non-tax deductable contribution to our PayPal account. Or, shoot me an email and we can arrange something different: bill_wolfe@comcast.net

Until then:

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.  ~~~~ Mr. Tambourine Man, Bob Dylan

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As The Christie DEP Rubber Stamps Pipelines, NY Gov. Cuomo Uses Clean Water Power To Kill Another Fracking Pipeline

April 12th, 2017 No comments

NJ Gov. Christie fast tracks pipeline approvals – abdicates State Clean Water Act power

NJ activists are incompetent – wrong pipeline challenge, wrong legal issues

Media again AWOL and FERC-ing Off

NJ residents and pipeline opponents are not being well served by foundation funded NJ environmental groups that are touted by the media as leading the anti-pipeline efforts in NJ:, i.e. Rethink Energy NJ, NJ Conservation Foundation and the Stonybrook Millstone Watershed Association.

At best, incompetence has led to significant political and legal defeats, while they have ignored their most powerful tactic. At worst, they aren’t even trying to win.

But before we even get to that story, let’s start at the top with a 2006 US Supreme Court decision that upheld and stressed the power of State’s under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The Court found Section 401 part of an “essential scheme” to protect State interests:

Source;: US EPA 401 WQC Guidance Document (2010)

Source;: US EPA 401 WQC Guidance Document (2010)

Why have we heard virtually nothing about this foundational US Supreme Court decision? Or the legislative history of the Clean Water Act?

Or the Islander East 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decision that upheld the State of Connecticut’s denial of a pipeline Clean Water Act Section 401 approval?

Why aren’t NJ activists waving these flags before the NJ legislature, local governments, the media, editorial boards, and at DEP protests? Where are the expert consultant reports applying the water quality science and data to these legal and regulatory frameworks? CRICKETS! (exception this, amazingly written the same day, by NJ Sierra who clearly get it).

In reliance on this Clean Water Act power, New York Gov. Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) just denied Clean Water Act approval of another gas pipeline.

On Friday, NY DEC issued this statement:

DEC Statement Regarding Water Quality Certificates for the Proposed Northern Access Pipeline

“After an in-depth review of the proposed Northern Access Pipeline project and following three public hearings and the consideration of over 5,700 comments, DEC has denied the permit due to the project’s failure to avoid adverse impacts to wetlands, streams, and fish and other wildlife habitat. We are confident that this decision supports our state’s strict water quality standards that all New Yorkers depend on.”

Letter to National Fuel Gas Supply Corporation and Empire Pipeline, Inc. (PDF, 750 kb)

Here’s how the NY based Catskill Mountainkeeper celebrated the NY DEC’s decision:

This weekend New York State stood up for our water, health, and communities when it DENIED National Fuel’s plans to build the Northern Access Pipeline–a proposed pipeline to bring fracked gas through Western New York.  This is a huge victory for grassroots activists on the front lines and organizations statewide that worked to make sure New York did the right thing.

Here’s my favorite text:

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 3.53.33 PM

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The denial is very similar to NY DEC’s prior denial of the WQC for the proposed Constitution pipeline.

The NY DEC denials were made possible by huge public opposition generated and focused on NY Gov. Cuomo and the CWA 401 WQC by many NY environmental groups.

In contrast to the targeted, focused and aggressive public campaigns of New York based activists, NJ activists – as the Christie DEP rubber stamps pipeline permits – have done virtually NOTHING to pressure NJ Gov. Christie or the NJ DEP on the 401 WQC issue.

On top of neglecting to mount a public campaign, they have limited their efforts to flawed legal arguments. And spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and wasted the time of well meaning activists.

Specifically, in an August 2016 decision – a loss you probably didn’t hear very much about – here are the grounds that NJCF and SBMWSA legally challenged a NJ DEP WQC: (source federal 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals decision):

“New Jersey regulations require NJDEP to analyze the environmental impact of the proposed activity, such as the activity’s potential effect on water quality, the aquatic ecosystem, and threatened and endangered animals. The Foundation alleges NJDEP acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner because NJDEP (1) failed to adequately analyze alternatives to the proposed activity that would be less environmentally-adverse or result in the minimum feasible impairment of the aquatic ecosystem, (2) defined the project purpose in such a narrow manner as to exclude potential alternatives to the proposed activity, (3) improperly concluded that the proposed activity in connection with the Skillman Loop will not harm threatened or endangered species or their habitats, and (4) improperly determined that the proposal is in the public interest.

Look at this 4 attacks the Court summarized – they are all well worn and largely ineffective freshwater wetlands permit arguments – and note that the NJCF/SBMSWA challenge IGNORED THE NJ DEP SURFACE WATER QUALITY STANDARDS!

Silence – Despite the fact that the Clean Water Act Section 401 and the DEP freshwater wetlands rules explicitly require compliance with NJ Surface Water Quality Standards!

Compare that misguided NJ attack to the grounds upon which NY DEC denied two pipeline approvals!

This legal argument sounds a lot like the ineffective Hail Mary the same groups recently tried on breeding birds in Chesterfield compressor station.

Worse, the last minute shift in focus to birds undermined local efforts to focus on the Clean Water Act 401 WQC issues!

Houston – we have competence issues.

In case they missed it, we’ve been following NY events from afar and urging a targeted 401 WQC NJ campaign for YEARS: (regulatory arguments in red posts):

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Pinelands Pond

April 11th, 2017 No comments

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We had a fine day on Sunday at this lovely Pinelands pond (which we had all to ourselves – thankfully, despite its accessibility, the pond has not been destroyed yet by the “Mudders”).

We like to read in the woods.

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Wallace Stegner is one of my favorites. He writes beautifully about the essentials – so despite immersion in Pinelands beauty, reading his “Wolf Willow”, I was transported to the Cypress Hills region on the Canadian prairie of 1915. (more on that book in a future post, as it opened the floodgates of memory to what I’ll generously call my early youth in “Wolfe Hollow – Yonkers, NY 1957 – 1962)

Taking a break to reflect upon the story, as I was walking along a (closed off) road, I was thinking that it was so quiet and isolated that I’d like to set up a camp. And just then I turned a bend in the road and came across someone who must have been thinking the same thing:

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Buoy had a great day too!

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Better Think Twice Before ….

April 10th, 2017 No comments

A Hike For Gov. Christie and DEP Commissioner Bob Martin

Never mind the weeds, NJA should just Stop pulling all those tricks!

[A “worse than I thought” Update below]

Two news items that demand some pushback today.

First, the climate denying Gov. Christie and his DEP, led by corporate hack Bob Martin – who never met a fossil fuel power plant, pipeline, chemical facility or development that they didn’t want to promote and deregulate –  are warning residents about the risks of bears:

Aside from failing to note that climate change is impacting the hibernation, I’d like to make a suggestion about how increase the bear’s ability to spot food and mates:

Send Gov. Christie and Bob Martin on a wild blueberry picking hike in Highlands forests with a jar of vaseline. Maybe NJ Audubon CEO Eric Stiles can lead the hike.

Second, NJ Audubon “CEO”  – an apt title for what has become an entrepreneurial consulting firm – Eric Stiles has an Op-Ed in NJ Spotlight today, see:

I could not resist noting that NJ Audubon needs to think twice before (lets see how long this comment lasts on NJ Spotlight before its deleted):

1) logging public forests in the Highlands;

2) promoting destructive legislation like S768 (Smith) to vastly expand logging of state lands under the scientifically sham cover called “stewardship” and early successional forest habitat creation;

3) entering into partnership deals with Donald Trump

4) taking $140,000 from billionaire and hunting mogul Peter Kellogg to mask a logging and hunting habitat creation project;

5) using private certification (i.e. FSC) to promote logging and undermine NJ DEP and Highlands regulations and exploiting loopholes in wetlands and DEP regulatory policies:

6) entering into secret Memoranda of Agreements with DEP that explicitly deny public access to public information regarding the management of public lands

7) Leading selfish coalitions like Keep It Green and NJ LCV that selfishly divert environmental and State Parks funds and dupe the public.

8) Paying CEO Stiles over $100,000 to lead what has become an entrepreneurial consulting firm

Never mind the weeds, NJA should just Stop pulling all those tricks!

[Update: a sharp reader just schooled me and urged that I read the bill, because:

A1069 is a full employment act for Audubon in order to plant native species and exempt from local ordinances you have to be certified by Audubon.

I guess after having lost the monopoly on forest stewardship FSC certified consulting, NJA is diversifying their markets and revenue generation strategies. “Heck-of-a-job” CEO Stiles!

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Pinelands Commission Denies Request to Stay Pipeline Construction Pending Court Appeals

April 7th, 2017 No comments

NJ Natural Gas SRL Pipeline Next In Line

Climate catastrophe buried under the rubble of pipeline lies

[Update below – Order based on fact error!]

The trite saying goes: if you’re in a hole, it’s best to stop digging.

Go tell that on the Pinelands Commission, who today dished out even more shovels seemingly in search of bedrock.

After being rebuked by the NJ Appellate Division for violating the Pinelands Act and CMP as a result, in part, of allowing their Executive Director to run roughshod over them and publicly blasted by 4 former Governors and a former Executive Director, major NJ newspaper Editorial Boards, massive protests, and over 6,000 critical public comments, one would think the Commission would be humble and proceed deliberatively.

One would be wrong.

Instead, the Commission denied a request by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA) to stay construction of the controversial South Jersey Gas pipeline approved by the Commission on February 24, 2017 pending the outcome of the PPA’s legal challenge.

Adding insult to injury, in doing so, the Commission repeated past abuses by adjourning into secret executive session and then rubber stamping a previously drafted Order and Resolution, all before any opportunity for the public to review the draft Order and Resolution and comment to the Commission on the matter before they voted.

Commissioner Lohbauer opposed the Resolution and he spoke out to agree that PPA’s stay request was valid. Lohbauer agreed with PPA’s claims that – should the SJG pipeline commence construction – 1) the Pinelands would suffer irreparable harm, particularly due to risks to surface and groundwaters; 2) that the Commission violated the due process rights of the public and the Pinelands Protection Act and Administrative Procedures Act by excluding many people from testifying and failure to amend the CMP in response to the Court’s remand prior to voting; and 3) that the underlying SJG approval issued by the Commission was flawed because the SJG pipeline did not meet the standard in the CMP that the pipeline primarily serve only the interests of the Pinelands.

Lohbauer did not agree with PPA’s claims that Commissioners had conflicts of interest.

Lohbauer’s NO vote was supported by Commissioners Ashmum, Lloyd, Prickett, and Rohan-Green. They lost by an 8-5 vote.

The Commission again got blasted by the public not only for their approval of the SJG pipeline, but for numerous other actions that undermined the public’s trust and confidence in the Commission and the integrity and independence of the Pinelands Commission and the Comprehensive Management Plan.

Commissioner Jannarone was criticized for her SLAPP suit against 14 people who submitted comments on her real estate firm’s Facebook page.

Chairman Earlen tried to stop my testimony on this topic – I refused and forcefully objected to his attempt to suppress my testimony. What a jerk.

Commissioner Barr was criticized for his press statements prior to the vote where he announced his support of the pipeline – 3 days before his colleagues were to deliberate and vote on it – and based on irrelevant and “ultra vires” factors, like job creation, local tax revenues and economic development. Barr needs to read the CMP and his sworn oath to protect the Pinelands!

Apparently, the PPA’s stay request also alleges conflicts of interest by Commissioner Chila due to his relationship with the IBEW union, who supported the pipeline aggressively and Commissioner Barr had conflicts due to his role as Treasurer of the Cape May Democratic Party, who, among other things, received IBEW contributions in support of candidates that supported the pipeline.

I explained to the Commission that NJ Ethics law is based on an “appearance” standard – all that is needed is a fact based reasonable appearance of a conflict – not an actual substantive conflict – to trigger restrictions.

During the general public comment period, I also blasted the Commission for failure to make any progress on the issue of climate change or implementation of the water restrictions recommended by the Kirkwood – Cohansey Project – or to charge applicants adequate fees to budget or fill 22 professional vacancies. I’ve written about these issues before so hit the links or do a word search if you are interested in the details.

I cited the recent USGS phenology mapping initiative as a model framework for the basic science and monitoring initiative that is long overdue to document and assess climate impacts on Pinelands ecosystems.

Emile DeVito, PhD, of NJCF reiterated the urgency to stop ongoing destruction by off road vehicles and offered some interesting testimony in support of my climate remarks, citing his research on monitoring snakes and the timing of their hibernation. He strongly recommended that regulatory timeframes designed to protect the species be revised to reflect climate impacts.

At the end of the meeting, Commissioner Lohbauer thanked the public for excellent testimony and he went out of his way to agree with me that climate change needs to be addressed. Now how ironic is that?

Commissioner Avery, after being called out for his misleading and false comments about a recent PJM Order related to the BL England plant (more forthcoming on that issue), then responded to some public criticism about his vote and claimed the CMP does not have “standards” to address climate change.

I explained to him after the meeting about the difference between “numeric standards” and “narrative standards”.

The CMP is loaded with narrative standards that require the application of the best available science, best professional judgement by the experts, and the exercise of discretion by the Commissioners within the scope of the Pinelands Act.

The “equivalent ecological protection” standard the Commission applied to the SJG MOA is just one notorious “narrative standard” – that is one among hundreds in the CMP.

[Update: 4/12/17 – In case refers of Avery don’t quit understand, the NY DEC denial of a Water Quality Certificate for a proposed pipeline turned on “narrative standards” ~~~ end update]

Avery is a hypocritcal slippery snake – a man with enough knowledge to plausibly lie.

Chairman Earlen left early, but not before apologizing to Commissioners Barr and Jannarone and Executive Director Wittenberg for the alleged threats they received from pipeline opponents.

What a crock of Bullshit: Jannarone is abusing the legal process to intimidate critics and suppress their free speech rights.

Chairman Earlen – and others like Senator Van Drew – are seeking to criminalize free speech and dissent by equating it with harassment and threats. Thus the 3 State Police officers present at a routine and civil meeting.

My goodness, even the NY Times – no radical rag – gets it. Add the Gov. Christie [R] Pinelands Commission to this growing list:

All for now – the NJNG SRL is the next pipeline coming down the pike.

Will the Commission stop digging?

We doubt it.

[Update: I just read the Order adopted by the Commission today. I must note an egregious fact error.

On page 20 of the Order it states: (boldface mine):

“In addition, the only complaint the Commission received prior to the meeting regarding the venue size mistakenly believed it could only accommodate 120 people.” 

That statement is factually in error, as evidenced by the January 4, 2017 email  below I submitted to Commissioner Lohbauer, which was also submitted to the Commission’s public comment website portal, which explicitly objected to a lack of “adequate capacity”, among other things:

“I demand that the Commission select a civic building with adequate capacity to allow meaningful comment.”

While this comment was submitted in the context of the initial church location, the concern about the need for “adequate capacity to provide meaningful comment” was NOT location specific.

Here is the complete email:

On January 4, 2017 at 1:29 PM Bill WOLFE <bill_wolfe@comcast.net> wrote:Commissioner Lohbauer:

I just submitted the comment below to the Commission’s website. I urge you to intervene and remedy this situation.

Dear Commission:

I just received your email advising me of a change in location for the scheduled Jan 24 public hearing.

I find it offensive to have to sit in pews and testify in a Catholic Church – as well as an inappropriate and unconstitutional state endorsement of a specific religion.

I demand that the Commission select a civic building with adequate capacity to allow meaningful comment.

Additionally, the change in location would require additional public notice.

Bill Wolfe

Additionally, I blogged about and documented this issue and concern in a on January 14, 2017 post at Wolfenotes, see:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2017/01/pinelands-commission-pulls-bait-and-switch-on-pipeline-hearing-location/

More to follow. ~~~ end update]

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