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

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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