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Played In Pompton Lakes – Again

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)

DEP PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR POMPTON LAKES RESIDENTS AFFECTED BY MUNITIONS PLANT POLLUTION

(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)

PLTAG
 
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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