Archive for March, 2018

The Murphy Administration Retains Christie DEP’s Office of Climate Denial

March 31st, 2018 No comments

Christie DEP organization, personnel, and slogans still in place

Murphy policy reforms not yet developed

“Green” groups AWOL – not making public demands

Christie collaborators, rehabilitated, fill void & pitch failed voluntary local programs

[Update – 4/11/18. I stand corrected (with no apologies): Murphy DEP climate webpage is new and improved, but they still have not taken down all the Christie garbage I wrote about.

Read that page and notice that it makes no new commitments and substantively, it relies on the prior policies and programs of the Christie DEP and continues to outsource climate adaptation work to Rutgers. THAT’S STATUS QUO BS – NOT LEADERSHIP ~~~ end update]

Additional Updates below]

Thus far, after numerous campaign pledges of bold leadership – particularly on prioritizing climate change and restoring DEP’s Office of Climate policy – and promises to reform Gov. Christie’s irresponsible climate, energy and environmental policies, the Murphy Administration has not announced it’s overall climate plan to attain the emissions reductions targets of the Global Warming Response Act.

The DEP issued the legislative mandated Report on recommendations to implement the GWRA way back in 2009. That Report has fallen into a black hole.

In contrast to Murphy’s inaction, Gov. Christie hit the ground running and in his first day in office, issued a slew of executive orders to declare a regulatory moratorium (EO#1) and to provide “regulatory relief” (EO#2) and slash red tape (EO#3) and defer to local government (EO#4).

The moratorium killed, among others, the Corzine Administration’s proposed new rules on monitoring and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions.

At the same time – again in contrast to the Murphy Administration – Gov. Christie’s DEP Commissioner  – prior to his confirmation – began his dismantling agenda, including, among many other things, the abolition of DEP’s Office of Climate Change and purging of climate experts.

So lets compare that Christie/Martin aggressive agenda to Gov. Murphy and his DEP Commissioner McCabe.

In the one (see update below, it’s now two) formal climate initiative(s) that Gov. Murphy has begun to implement, i.e. rejoining the northeast State’s “Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative” (RGGI), we hit the links on the DEP press release to review the substance and just learned that the Murphy DEP is implementing that RGGI initiative through the Christie/Martin Office of Climate Denial (which they called: “Air Quality, Energy and Sustainability”)

Read the mission of that Office and  the organizational chart and note that it does not mention climate change, renewable energy, adaptation, or the Global Warming Response Act: (but does recognize “affordable power”)

What We Do

The Office of Air Quality, Energy and Sustainability’s (AQES) mission is to evaluate, develop and implement clean, secure and resilient energy systems and sustainable environmental practices that complement our on-going efforts to ensure New Jersey has clean air and a safe environment now and for future generations. Our vision is to build a nationally recognized organization that ensures clean, reliable, safe and affordable power without sacrificing clean air and a protected environment.  Since energy generation and fuels are the primary sources of New Jersey’s continuing air pollution problems, the merging of these programs under one Office enhances and expands the effectiveness of DEP’s ability to meet its mission to preserve and protect New Jersey’s environment and the public health.

[Note: The AQES website was updated most recently on March 27, 2018, to simply include a page on RGGI, so Murphy/McCabe own it. And that simple update reveals troubling thinking – e.g. don’t make waves, don’t challenge Christie policy, and don’t think synthetically.Worse, the McCabe DEP is regurgitating the Christie Energy Master Plan goals and policies and continues the failure to even mention climate change – read this page!]

That bureaucratic silence is a form of climate denial.

But it is far more than just silence on climate science and policy.

The Christie Administration – and it’s corrupt collaborators about whom we will write in depth in a future post – have denied climate change and instead substituted the slogans “sustainability”, “reliability” and “resilience”

Those slogans provide political cover and are used to justify abdication by DEP on the planning and regulatory front and replacement of the State role by a failed voluntary, market based, and local government program that relies solely on incentives (in the form of corporate subsidies and grants to feed the collaborators).

Slogans “reliability” and “resilience” have also been used to justify an Energy Master Plan that drove a massive expansion in fossil fuel infrastructure – gas power plants and pipelines.

“Resilience” has served as the cover not only for regulatory approvals of fossil infrastructure but as a way to avoid having to address climate adaptation planning (and the reality of climate change).

[Update 4/3/18 – for an egregious example of this abuse read this “sponsored content” for nuclear power bailout, based explicitly on reliability and resilience. It reads like a rebuttal of this post!]

“Sustainability” has allowed DEP to abdicate its State responsibility and essentially outsource climate planning to private groups that promote poorly designed and demonstrably failed local voluntary solutions and taxpayer subsidized corporate incentives.

“Affordability” was used to kill off shore wind (the “cost test”) and block the expansion of solar.

Words matter. They can sharpen focus on real problems and real policy solutions or obfuscate to justify sham.

For 8 long years, non-profit groups Sustainable NJ, NJ Future, and others have collaborated with and been funded by the Christie DEP to provide these political services, support these slogans, and advocate for token and demonstrably flawed local programs (more to follow on that).

It is a disgrace that these same groups are now coming out of the woodwork and are being rehabilitated by media outlets like NJ Spotlight.

Those same groups and people are now working behind the scenes to pitch their failed policies to the Murphy Administration and DEP Commissioner McCabe.

At the same time, there is a virtual silence by the groups that are doing good work on climate and that backed the Gov. politically during the election.

We’ll post a more detailed analysis after we get past the shock and have time to collect our thoughts.

[Update: 4/4/18 – The Murphy Administration announced its second climate initiative, see today’s NJ Spotlight story: NJ TO JOIN CLEAN CAR INITIATIVE, AS EPA EASES FUEL-ECONOMY STANDARDS

So I took a quick peek at the Multi-State ZEV Task Force Memorandum of Agreement and the Action Plan – as suspected, it’s a lot more show than substance.

Not being a clean car wonk, my initial reaction was to Tweet a question to NJ Spotlight:

How does the regional compact goal of 3.3 million ZEV over the region by 2025 compare to California 15% sold in state by 2025? Is the regional pact WEAKER than California? DATA? How are goals ENFORCED?

But then I read quickly the MOU and noted this, which basically says the MOU is a market based alternative to traditional regulatory policy and is instead a corporate oriented framework with no teeth:

7. PUBLIC – PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS The Signatory States will cooperate with automobile manufacturers, electricity & hydrogen providers, the fueling infrastructure component industry, corporate fleet owners, financial institutions and others to encourage ZEV market growth.

Similarly, the Action Plan relies exclusively on market tools (no mention of regulations, mandates, or implementation funding) and is not really a action plan at all – it is not even binding on the signatory states:

It is not intended to provide a uniform pathway for all states to follow. Each state will promote ZEV market growth in ways that best address its own needs and advantage its unique opportunities.

And there was no quantitative or comprehensive analysis to demonstrate if and how the ZEV compact program would meet the goals of the NJ GWRA. This crap from a NJ Gov. that stresses the need of “data” to evaluate performance.

We need regulatory mandates, deadlines, money and enforcement sanctions – with emissions reductions quantified and tied to GWRA goals and timetables.

We don’t need more symbolic gestures and PR, especially when the Trump EPA is dismantling the existing weak regulatory apparatus.

RGGI & voluntary measures won’t secure science based emissions reductions. ~~~ end update]

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NJ Democrats Go From Banning Fracking Wastewater to Deregulating and Promoting It

March 30th, 2018 No comments

Senator Sweeney  – “D” – For Dupont

Gov. Murphy needs to take on Sweeney, and do so very publicly

[Update – 4/14/18 – the bill – [A3116/S879] – Sweeney/Burzichelli special legislation to benefit Dupont Deepwater avoid DEP permit review of disposal of  fracking wastewater – passed both houses and is now on Gov. Murphy’s desk. Murphy must veto: tell the Gov. to honor his pledges at the “united front against fracking”.  ~~~ end update]

In a remarkable U-Turn, NJ Legislative Democrats have gone from twice passing legislation to ban the acceptance of wastewater from fracking operations, to approving a bill to deregulate and promote it!

Former Gov. Christie vetoed both measures: (NJ.Com story)

TRENTON — For the second time in two years, Gov. Chris Christie has vetoed a bill that would have banned the dumping of fracking waste in New Jersey.

Environmentalists and lawmakers from both parties had championed the measure, which would have prohibited companies from treating, discharging, disposing, and storing waste from hydraulic fracturing — the controversial practice of pumping water, sand, and chemicals deep underground to harvest natural gas.

I guess it was easy for the Democrats to pass tough environmental legislation when they knew that Gov. Christie would veto it.

The Dems got a twofer: 1. favorable media and praise by environmentalists for passing the legislation; and 2. they blasted the Gov. for vetoing it and made Christie look bad.

The politics of cynicism.

But what explains this radical U-Turn?

Senate President Sweeney.

The Bergen Record recently reported:

Murphy may soon end up with a bill on his desk that would allow a DuPont spinoff company to resume processing contaminated wastewater at its South Jersey chemical plant without an environmental review. 

Environmentalists have opposed the measure, saying it would bring scores of trucks hauling tanks of toxic waste onto New Jersey roads. They also worry that the treated water could damage the Delaware River, where it is discharged after being processed at the facility in Salem County.

The bill is sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, the state’s most powerful legislator, whose district covers the DuPont plant. The Senate unanimously approved the measure last month. Environmentalists expect the Assembly to approve the measure soon, after an environmental committee voted unanimously in favor of it last month.

Lawmakers say the bill is a procedural move that has little environmental consequence since DuPont treated water at its plant for years. Supporters say it will help the South Jersey economy. Critics say it may open up New Jersey to accepting wastewater from natural gas fracking in Pennsylvania, which can contain heavy metals, radioactive material and hydrocarbons. 

The “little environmental consequences” statement by “lawmakers” is a blatant lie.

Even the Christie DEP testified on the prior ban legislation that Dupont’s existing NJPDES water pollution discharge permit did not contain adequate treatment requirements or effluent limits for all the radiological and chemical compounds known to be present in fracking wastewater (and discharged to the Delaware River).

At a minimum, the Murphy DEP would require a “treatability” study by Dupont to document all the radioactive and chemical compounds in fracking wastewater and develop protective treatment technology and enforceable NJPDES permit effluent limits. The Sweeney bill is designed to block this kind of DEP regulatory move and grandfather the existing permit from further DEP review (e.g. see this prior DEP study at Dupont for blocking discharge of VX nerve gas):

(05/64) TRENTON — Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today released a draft surface water discharge permit for the DuPont Chambers Works plant in Salem County. The wastewater permit does not allow treatment of a neutralized VX nerve agent byproduct, which is part of a proposed plan by the U.S. Army and also under scrutiny by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Sweeney is out of control.

1. He is holding Acting DEP Commissioner McCabe hostage by blocking her confirmation hearings. It is almost April and she still is not confirmed.

2. Sweeney somehow installed his former Senate staffer, Eric Wachter as DEP Chief of Staff, a key policy and political position that serves as a gatekeeper to access to the Commissioner by management team members and is involved in all policy matters.

McCabe can’t move without Sweeney’s mole working behind her back. Wachter will prove fatal to her reform agenda (if she has one, which we can’t tell, because she’s hiding under her desk in Trenton, hoping not to step on any toes before confirmation). Wachter is another cost of the foolish appointment of Debbie Mans as Deputy Commissioner, a symbolic post anyway.

The Gov.’s Office must approve DEP political appointees at that level, so Sweeney must have demanded it – either that or the Murphy people are incompetent in vetting staff and/or politically naive (or they consciously cut a deal with and made a concession to Sweeney).

Accordingly, it’s no accident that Wachter is handling the Dupont Pompton Lakes controversy. That way he can protect Dupont and keep Sweeney in the loop if DEP gets too tough on the giant polluter.

3. Sweeney is demanding that the Gov. support a multi-billion nuclear bailout for PSEG.

4. There are likely other policy concessions Sweeney is seeking to extract – like: a) gas pipeline approvals he pushed through the Pinelands; and b) continuity with Christie’s pro-development Pinelands Commission; and c) no ratchet down on lax climate and dirty air (Hazardous Air Pollutant) regulatory oversight; and d) continuation of DEP’s weak chemical safety policies we saw in operation in the “duck and cover” Paulsboro train derailment disaster.

Sweeney looks out for the polluters in his backyard.

Gov. Murphy needs to take on Sweeney, and do so very publicly.

Sweeney is promoting extremely unpopular issues. The people of NJ do not support a billion dollar nuclear bailout or importation of toxic fracking wastewater to promote Dupont profits.

Sweeney is on thin ice and out on a limb.

Murphy should make him pay.

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Do We Have A Hostage Situation At Murphy DEP?

March 29th, 2018 No comments

Sweeney Still Blocking McCabe Confirmation – What Does He Want?

Gov. Murphy needs to veto the nuke bailout and fracking wastewater bills (if they pass both houses), direct DEP to enforce NJ cleanup laws and assume control over the Dupont Pompton Lakes site, and tell Sweeney that bullies and Boss George Norcross’ machine puppets no longer rule NJ.

Scott Fallon wrote an interesting story yesterday at the Bergen Record

While I think he got it mostly right, I’m interested in what the story doesn’t say explicitly but implies, so read the whole thing: 5 early environmental tests for Phil Murphy that will affect NJ families.

Fallon notes this, which I found particularly interesting in light of my sense that Senate President Sweeney is blocking confirmation hearings on Gov. Murphy’s DEP Commissioner nominee, Catherine McCabe:

Murphy may soon end up with a bill on his desk that would allow a DuPont spinoff company to resume processing contaminated wastewater at its South Jersey chemical plant without an environmental review. 

Environmentalists have opposed the measure, saying it would bring scores of trucks hauling tanks of toxic waste onto New Jersey roads. They also worry that the treated water could damage the Delaware River, where it is discharged after being processed at the facility in Salem County.

The bill is sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney, the state’s most powerful legislator, whose district covers the DuPont plant. The Senate unanimously approved the measure last month. Environmentalists expect the Assembly to approve the measure soon, after an environmental committee voted unanimously in favor of it last month.

Fallon failed to note that the Dupont facility lacks wastewater treatment technology to remove all the radioactive and chemical compounds known to be present in fracking wastewater and the DEP permit lacks adequate protective conditions and enforceable permit effluent limits to protect the Delaware River from these pollutants.

Grandfathering that Dupont permit from new DEP review via special legislation is totally irresponsible.

[Note: Just learned that Fallon mentioned these issues in an excellent prior story he linked to, see this]

But I’m just as interested in the politics of this story as in the technical, regulatory, and policy issues.

Specifically, I’ve written that Senate President Sweeney is blocking the confirmation of Gov. Murphy’s DEP Commissioner (see: Senator Sweeney’s Block On The Confirmation of Gov. Murphy’s DEP Commissioner Prolongs Gov. Christie’s Anti-Environmental Policy.

I’ve speculated that Sweeney is holding McCabe hostage to secure unspecified policy concessions, including the Gov.’s support of Sweeney’s multi-billion dollar PSEG nuclear bailout bill.

And I’ve also written about the absurd fact that Murphy allowed Sweeney to install his political aid Eric Wachter in the second highest Murphy DEP position, as Chief of Staff. Wachter is a mole from within. That was probably a quid pro quo for appointing Debbie Mans as Deputy Commissioner.

But I’ve not mentioned the Dupont fracking wastewater issue, which environmental groups have fought hard over, almost successfully, to achieve a total ban (Gov. Christie vetoed that bill).

But instead of a ban, it seems that the Legislature has taken a U-Turn and now seeks to support acceptance of fracking wastewater.

So I have major questions:

1. How did the same Democratic Legislature go from passing a bill to ban acceptance of fracking wastewater in NJ under Republican Gov, Christie, to supporting a bill to allow it under Democratic Gov. Murphy, and without environmental reviews and protective DEP permit conditions?

2. Is Sweeney holding McCabe’s confirmation hostage to the Gov.’s signature on the fracking wastewater bill – in addition to the PSEG nuclear bailout – which would benefit only Dupont profits?

3. Is Sweeney’s support of Dupont’s fracking profits also pressuring Gov. Murphy to back off his comments on the Dupont Pompton lakes site, which compared the Dupont PL site to Love Canal?

These are the kind of questions reporters like Scott Fallon (and his editors) will never address head on and only insinuate. Where is Jeff Pillets?

We’ll try to figure out what the hell is going on, but this far it sure looks like Sweeney holds the upper hand.

Gov. Murphy needs to veto the nuke bailout and fracking wastewater bills (if they pass both houses), direct DEP to enforce NJ cleanup laws and assume control over the Dupont Pompton Lakes site, and tell Sweeney that bullies and Boss George Norcross’ machine puppets no longer rule NJ.

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Murphy DEP Says They Were Flying Blind In Negotiating $200 Million Pollution Settlements With Big Oil

March 27th, 2018 No comments

Did the AG just make up that $200 million number out of thin air? Pull it out of a hat?

In a stunning admission, the Murphy DEP’s response to my MTBE Natural Resource Damage OPRA request claims that DEP has no documents that provided a basis to negotiate the recent $200 million settlement with Big Oil for contaminating groundwater and drinking water supplies across the state at thousands of sites with the fuel additive MTBE.

DEP replied to my OPRA request as follows:

Addendum Disposition Notes: The records you seek, namely “Natural Resource Damage Assessments” for the settlements announced by Attorney General Grewal in his 3/12/18 press release, are not made, maintained, kept on file or received by the NJDEP. For additional background as to the terms of the settlements, please see the New Jersey Register: Sunoco 49 N.J.R. 2552(a), Shell 49 N.J.R. 2974(b), and BP 49 N.J.R. 2815(a); as well as, the following NJDEP websites: and

The settlement documents (i.e. the terms of the settlements) and the DEP websites suggested by DEP to provide background do not provide any technical information regarding the magnitude, location, degree, and extent of groundwater contamination; the number of facilities that released MTBE to groundwater; the DEP’s definition of “natural resource injury”, or the DEP’s economic methodology for quantifying natural resource injuries for the purposes of legally required compensation and/or restoration.

This is incredible.

How did the Attorney General negotiate and arrive at $200 million as an appropriate settlement to compensate the public, if there are no technical documents that factually define the extent of injury and quantify the economic value of the natural resource injury and/or natural resource restoration?

Did the AG just make up that number out of thin air? Pull it out of a hat?

How did the AG arrive at $200 million as acceptable public compensation if he did not know the extent of the damage? Or the cost of restoration?

Shouldn’t the public be provided this information as a fundamental factual basis for the settlements?

I filed the OPRA request in order to gauge whether the $200 million in settlements was adequate to compensate the public and/or restore natural resource injuries and to understand the extent of MTBE pollution,

I was trying to find out how DEP valued drinking water Natural Resource Injuries and whether they had a damage assessment like the $8.9. billion in the Exxon documents.

In the Exxon case, DEP hired a consultant to provide a detailed rigorous Technical report on the extent of natural resource injuries, and an economic methodology for quantifying natural resource injuries and mandatory public compensation and/or restoration in the amount of $8.9 billion.

Under DEP site remediation program regulations, polluters (RP’s) must conduct natural resource injury screening and if damage is found, conduct a damage assessment and compensate or restore injuries.

The applicable NJ DEP regulations define “injury” as follows:

“Injury” means any adverse change or impact of a discharge on a natural resource or impairment of a natural resource service, whether direct or indirect, long term or short term, and that includes the partial or complete destruction or loss of the natural resource or any of its value.

Natural resource damages are an essential component of the cleanup process. During the “remedial investigation phase of the cleanup process, DEP rules require that poluters:

7:26E-4.1 Remedial investigation requirements

(a) The purpose of a remedial investigation is to:


  1. Collect and evaluate all data necessary to:
    1. Evaluate the actual and potential ecological impacts of the contamination; and
    2. Identify any natural resource injury;

Other DEP cleanup rules assure that NRD and MTBE injuries are explicitly not inadvertently extinguished by DEP:

(b) Any covenant not to sue that accompanies a final remediation document is without prejudice to any rights that the Department, the Commissioner, and the Administrator of the New Jersey Spill Compensation Fund may have against the person responsible for conducting the remediation and any person in any way responsible for a discharge, pursuant to the Spill Compensation and Control Act, N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11g, with respect to liability for:

1. Cleanup and removal costs, damages (including primary and compensatory restoration damages and the costs of any natural resource damage assessments) and injunctive relief, for injury to, destruction of, or loss of natural resources;

2. Cleanup and removal costs, damages, and injunctive relief available to the Plaintiffs in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, in the case captioned NJDEP et al. v. Amerada Hess Corp. et al., C.A. No. 3:07-5284, and subsequently pending in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, captioned as In Re; Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (“MTBE”) Products Liability Litigation, MDL No. 1358; and

3. Cleanup and removal costs, damages, and injunctive relief available to the Department, the Commissioner, and the Administrator of the New Jersey Spill Compensation Fund in any litigation or claim pending as of the date of a final remediation document.

This rules prevent cleanup contractors from getting polluters off the hook for NRD and specifically DEP retain control over any damages to assure full compensation and/or restoration:

In concluding that this remediation has been completed, I am offering no opinions concerning whether either primary restoration (restoring natural resources to their pre-discharge condition) or compensatory restoration (compensating the citizens of New Jersey for the lost interim value of the natural resources) has been completed.

Did Gov. Christie’s Attorney General and DEP Commissioner negotiate the MTBE settlements with absolutely no technical and factual analysis of the extent of natural resource injuries to groundwater that the Big Oil companies were responsible for compensating the public for lost use or restoring?

It looks like Big Oil got a statewide sweetheart deal – involving thousands of toxic sites – without even conducting the minimum natural resource injury analysis DEP rules require for a single contaminated site?

In conclusion:

1. I find it hard to believe that the State was flying blind in the MTBE lawsuits.

2. I find it equally hard to believe that neither DEP, a DEP consultant, or the Big Oil polluters were required to conduct a study to document the extent and economic value of damaged natural resources for the purpose of establishing a baseline for negotiations.

3. I find it almost as hard to believe that the DEP OPRA office would stonewall me.

But these are the 3 logical alternatives I can think of.

Either that, or I have something very fundamentally wrong with my understanding of the DEP NRD program. 

Here is the groundwater injury program: (which has never been adopted as regulation and is therefore of questionable enforceability and legally vulnerable, as I’ve written many times):

NRI — Ground Water


Ground water is both an environmentally sensitive resource and a potential pathway to other natural resources such as surface water and wetlands. Approximately 50 % of the State’s 8.5 million residents utilize ground water as a drinking water source. It is also important for agricultural and industrial uses. The NJDEP considers ground water to be injured when contaminants are above NJ Ground Water Quality Standards.

Ground water injuries should be characterized during the remedial investigation process. This process must delineate the horizontal and vertical extent of contaminants in all media at the site and determine the general surface and subsurface characteristics of the site, and the depth of ground water (see N.J.A.C. 7:26E). Once characterization information is complete, it is used in the ground water injury calculation to determine resource value.

The ground water injury calculation establishes the relative magnitude of the restoration necessary to compensate for the injury. Once this value is calculated, the Department enters into settlement discussions with the responsible party to identify an appropriate restoration project.

The Department has a strong preference that the responsible party implements a project to restore injured natural resources. For ground water this is usually property acquisition to preserve aquifer recharge. However, the responsible party has the option to provide monetary damage damages (based on the result of the injury calculation) in lieu of implementing a restoration project. The Department is obligated to utilize these funds to implement appropriate restoration projects by maintaining a nexus to the ground water injury. These damage monies may be used to fund property acquisitions or other open space projects. ONRR will often partner with the expertise of the Green Acres Program to accomplish acquisition of open space occuring in the same aquifer or watershed as the injury.

Ground Water Injury Calculation Data

Use the links below to get information on how to run the ground water injury calculation:

Ground Water Injury Calculation gw_injury_calc_200305.pdf (51 KB)
Water Rate Table 2002water_rate.pdf (8 Kb)
Planning Area Map plan_area_map.pdf (141 Kb)

GIS Data:

Did Big Oil just ignore all that? Or did the AG and DEP not require that their now NRI methods be followed?

And it sure looks like the Murphy administration has no intention of reforming this kind of practice.

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Played In Pompton Lakes – Again

March 26th, 2018 No comments

Christie DEP Pledged Support, Manipulated Residents, And Then Weakened Protections

Murphy Administration DEP Playing Similar Manipulative Games

The same local opportunist taking the bait

Sadly, very few people remember that the very first press release issued by the historically prolific & perverse spinning Christie DEP Press Office – issued on January 25, 2010, just 6 days after Christie’s Inaugural – pledged support for the people of Pompton Lakes in their battle with Goliath Polluter Dupont: (DEP release – read the whole thing, emphasis mine)


(10/P3) TRENTON – The Department of Environmental Protection is redoubling its commitment to the residents of Pompton Lakes by working with its state and federal partners to ensure a prompt and thorough cleanup of contamination from the DuPont Pompton Lakes Works site. …

“The DEP is committed to making sure the residents of Pompton Lakes finally get the peace of mind and full protection from pollution they deserve,” said Irene Kropp, assistant commissioner for the DEP’s Site Remediation Program. “Along with our partners, we will build confidence in the residents and assure them that we are working hard to protect them and rid the community of this pollution once and for all.”

We called bullshit on this cynical crap at the time – and our predictions were right about on the money – just one example: Christie DEP Relaxes Toxic Vapor Intrusion Standards

Part I – The Christie DEP Play

As a part of the Christie DEP’s manipulative game, DEP Commissioner Martin spoke with Ella Filipone, then head of the Passaic River Coalition, and used her as a “trusted” intermediary with the residents and local groups working to cleanup the Dupont site. Ella has since passed, but its fair to say that although Pompton Lakes is located in the Passaic watershed, that the PRC organizationally did nothing on the issue of cleanup of contaminated sites and nothing at all in Pompton Lakes.

So Martin’s outreach through Filipone and PRC was dubious from the outset to anyone who was paying attention or objectively analyzing facts in a clear eyed way, without consideration of self interests or money. But it gets much worse.

Martin used Filipone to manipulate, divide and control local groups and otherwise sow chaos that undermined EPA’s efforts and provided cover for Christie DEP rollbacks. Let me explain, briefly.

At the time Martin was installed at DEP (2010), there were two groups in PL working on the Dupont cleanup:

1. a visible, active, and aggressive group known as Citizens for a Clean Pompton lakes (CCPL). CCPL met regularly and had strong leadership of former local official Lisa Riggiola. CCPL had active members and a website. CCPL was provided technical assistance by Edison Wetlands Association – at that time the state’s most active group on toxic site cleanup issues – and myself as NJ PEER (and as a writer at the Star Ledger’s NJ.Com and later here at Wolfenotes)

2. a much less aggressive, less visible and less well organized group, formed after CCPL emerged, known as Pompton Lakes Residents for Environmental Integrity (PLREI).

Here’s the Martin scam:

Commissioner Martin told Ella Filipone that he would provide a technical assistance grant to PRC and that she could provide DEP funding and technical assistance to PLREI.

Despite our warnings, the leaders of PLREI, promised DEP money, took the bait: (PLREI website)

In 2011, our organization partnered with the Passaic River Coalition to form the Pompton Lakes Technical Advisory Group (PLTAG). The PLTAG has been awarded the first ever Technical Advisory Grant by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). We are currently completing the application and scope of work in order to review existing technical data relating to the DuPont contamination in our town. The purpose of this research is to evaluate the data and report our findings to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), NJDEP and the general public. Our goal is to make this data more easily accessible and understandable to the residents of our community.

Due to administrative holdups at the NJDEP, this grant has taken three years to begin. We are now in the process of meeting with a Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) and will be moving forward soon. We appreciate your patience. 

At that time, CCPL was seeking EPA funding for a technical assistance grant to Edison Wetlands Association.

Martin’s game was classic divide and conquer and a transparent effort to use DEP funding to manipulate and control the funded group PLREI.

At the same time, Martin was able to undermine CCPL and deny Edison Wetlands Assc. a technical assistance grant from US EPA. Under EPA technical assistance grant funding policies, there must be a unified local group to receive the EPA funding – EPA does not fund internecine local political fights. Martin knew that.

The result of Martin’s ploy was to create tension and conflicts between PLREI and CCPL such that a unified voice could not emerge and a focus on consensus issues drive the debate. The confusion muddied the media coverage and often let DEP and/or EPA off the hook because the two groups could never agree on the issues or an overall strategy.

The conflicts got so bad that EPA Region 2 Administrator Judy Enck’s political hack Lisa Plevin (former senior aid to US Senator Lautenberg) strong armed the leaders of CCPL to fall in line, tone it down, stop criticizing EPA, and consolidate with and behave more like PLREI. I attended these meetings and know this first hand. It was disgusting.

And I blame the leader of PLREI for all this – which I repeatedly warned him would happen.

Even today, 8 years later, PLREI still can’t or won’t admit that they are duped by Martin’s DEP:

Due to administrative holdups at the NJDEP, this grant has taken three years to begin.

Even today, PLREI still seek to:

We are now in the process of meeting with a Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) and will be moving forward soon.

LSRP’s are corporate tools. They won’t rat out the whole game for a small contract with PLREI.

The technical assistance they someday may get from a LSRP will be nothing like the technical assistance that should have been provided by Edison Wetlands to CCPL.

Part II – The Emerging Murphy DEP Play

Fast forward 8 years – that same local leader that still heads PLREI fell for a very similar scam by the Murphy DEP, see:

Here’s that sad repeat story.

This PLREI leader somehow managed to ask Gov. Murphy a question on a radio call in show. Murphy promised that Acting DEP Commissioner McCabe would call him. McCabe called. We don’t know what PLREI asked for.

McCabe then directed her Chief Of Staff, political operative Eric Wachter to get back to the PLREI leader.

At the time, I was out of the loop camping and hiking in the deserts of Arizona, but would get scattershot email discussions of CCPL folks when I came to town for supplies.

The group seemed confused about their inability to get a copy of the September 2017 public hearing transcript on the Dupont groundwater pilot study. The discussion was mis-focused on this minor transcript issue. There even was talk that PLREI could convince DEP Commissioner McCabe to grant them a favor and get them this transcript.

I told them that DEP was legally required to provide a copy – all they had to do was file an OPRA records request for it.

I warned them that continuing to ask for Superfund designation by EPA would let Gov. Murphy and DEP off they hook – they would simply point the finger at Trump EPA. Trump EPA would never list on Superfund and if they did it would only be to protect Dupont. Pruitt installed a Dow/Dupont lawyer to head Superfiund and other chemical safety and cleanup programs.

I warned that the Bergen Record’s “Toxic Secrets” whitewash and revisionism – which allowed Obama RA Enck to spin and claim she supported Superfund listing (but did nothing to make that happen) laid the media narrative and political groundwork for Gov. Murphy and DEP Commissioner McCabe to look like heroes in seeking Superfund listing, while ignoring State DEP powers, and that as a result of these political games and media narrative, that nothing would get done. That seems to be the emerging Murphy DEP play.

Instead of wasting a demand on the transcript issue, I advised them to raise the bar and make a set of substantive demands, lest they get manipulated and used – again. Big stuff like this:

1. Issue an Executive Order directing DEP to act as follows, within 30 days:

2. NJ DEP must assume direct oversight of all facets of the cleanup of the Dupont PL site under NJ cleanup laws;

3. NJ DEP Commissioner McCabe must revoke the 1988 ACO – here’s the basis to do that, from DEP boilerplate ACO document: (DEP has other enforcement authority as well)

IX. Reservation of Rights

35. The Department reserves the right to unilaterally terminate this Administrative Consent Order in the event that the Department determines that [Person] has violated the terms of this Administrative Consent Order.Before the Department unilaterally terminates this Administrative Consent Order, the Department shall notify [Person] in writing of the obligation(s) which it has not performed, and [Person] shall have thirty (30) calendar days after receipt of such notice to perform such obligation(s).

In place of the ACO, DEP must issue a Spill Act Directive to Dupont, which lays out enforceable technical requirements, deadlines, compensation for DEP oversight costs, and enforcement penalties.

4. Using Dupont’s money, DEP must hire contractors to conduct the remaining cleanup at the site.

5. DEP must reopen the partial Natural Resource Damage settlement with Dupont negotiated by former DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell. That sweetheart deal was corrupt, provided no benefits to Pompton Lakes, and actually allowed Dupont to donate contaminated land (see Bergen Record story: Dupont deal gave state more tainted soil

Bill Wolfe of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility’s New Jersey chapter agreed. “DuPont got a sweetheart deal and DEP didn’t do their homework,” Wolfe said. “The deal must be renegotiated and DuPont forced to pay fair compensation, especially to Pompton Lakes residents who have suffered for decades.”

DEP can use the soon to be completed US FWS’s NR damage assessment as part of the basis for additional NRD compensation $.

6. DEP must threaten – and, if Chemours/Dupont  is intransigent – collect treble damages authorized by the NJ Spill Act.

Well, as I’ve written, they’re on the road to getting screwed again – and are ignoring my suggestions and following the “Strategy” of the same individual and playing right into the emerging DEP sham.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice….

[Soon to come: Part II – “Good Girl Gone Gulch”- or – “An Activist and Woman At Yale” (h/t to. Yalies William Buckley and Gus Speth)

And there’s nothing sexist in the above.

Given the current climate on these issues, let me explain.

I spent a month in and around the deserts and mountains of Bisbee Arizona – the local bumper sticker is “Like Mayberry on Acid”. It’s an old copper mining town with lots of history, especially labor battles and union organizing. The core of downtown is “The Gulch” or “Brewery Gulch”. Old school bars and a good local brewery.

A local store sells tee-shirts and other cool stuff – probably the best is “Good Girls Gone Gulch”.

That’s it – with respect to the Yale allusion – you’ll soon see.]

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