Archive for July, 2018

The Oil and Gas Industry Wrote NJ DEP Pipeline Review Guidelines

July 31st, 2018 No comments

Murphy Administration Retains Christie Administration Pro-Energy Industry Policy

No Public Involvement In “By Invitation Only” Industry Dominated Stakeholders

McCabe claims 71 industry reps to Zero public is a “broad range of stakeholders”

As I recently wrote, NJ DEP does not consider the impacts from the emission of greenhouse gases or climate change during environmental reviews and permit approvals of, among other things, major fossil infrastructure including oil and gas pipelines and compressor stations.

But flaws in DEP regulations and review processes are perhaps even worse than that.

Specifically, DEP’s own documents reveal that representatives of the oil and gas industries jointly wrote a major DEP pipeline regulatory review guidance document designed to protect public health, safety, and the environment.

Several of the gas companies seeking DEP approvals literally wrote their own regulatory requirements.

Industry representatives did that without any public involvement or awareness, during an industry dominated “by invitation only” Stakeholder process begun and conducted by the Christie administration under Commissioner Martin’s “Transformation” initiative.

Take a look at all the technical guidance documents written, and that list is just for the site remediation program.

Take a look at the industry dominated groups that wrote them. I counted 71 representatives of regulated industry or paid industry consultants – and not one public member, environmental group member, local government representative, or independent scientific or academic expert.

That Sham Stakeholder process is still part of the Murphy Administration’s DEP and still part of the DEP website (see this link for documents). Note that it is prominently displayed on the DEP website, just under the photo of Commissioner McCabe.

In fact, the McCabe DEP has expressly supported that Sham – the DEP website states (my emphasis):

Site Remediation Program
Stakeholder Process

Acting Commissioner McCabe and Assistant Commissioner Pedersen believe that working with a broad range of stakeholders is essential to continuing the growth and success of the Licensed Site Remediation Professional (LSRP) program. To this end, the Department continues to implement an extensive stakeholder process to address general program issues, rules, and guidance. 

How can 71 industry representatives and zero public, environmental or academic represeantives possibly constitute a “broad range of stakeholders”? Echoes of George Orwell!

[Also recall that “Candide” McCabe praised this industry dominated, privatized site remediation program with this fact free spin: from a McCabe statement)

Contaminated sites are getting cleaned up thoroughly and in a timely manner.

So, several weeks ago, I reached out to Tanya Oznowich, the DEP Stakeholder contact to ask specifically if current DEP Commissioner McCabe had provided any policy guidance regarding revisions to the Christie DEP initiative, including: 1. whether  the “by invitation only” practice would continue; 2. whether additional public stakeholders would be named to the industry dominated groups; and 3. whether the current  and “recurring meetings” would continue; and 4. whether McCabe would continue to implement it.

In a June 5, 2018 email, I wrote:

Has Acting Commissioner McCabe provided guidance on the Stakeholder process?

Will it continue? Will the “by invitation only” policy continue? Are there new issue groups being formed? Will all current Stakeholder be retained? Will new Stakeholders be named?

Shortly thereafter, in a June 5, 2018 email, Larry Hajna, a DEP press office flack replied:

Bill – I’m a bit backed up right now but will look into this.

Hajna never got back to me, nor did Tanya Oznowich.

So either McCabe is continuing the Christie/Martin Stakeholder policy and practice or she is avoiding the issue.

I do know that McCabe is secretly meeting with various Stakeholders on an ad hoc basis, however, and that no records are being maintained regarding these meetings. So, in some ways, this is actually worse than Christie/Martin structured and policy driven Stakeholder rollback practices. At least public records of those meetings were maintained and meeting participants were disclosed.

McCabe doesn’t disclose who she is meeting with or what she is meeting about – and McCabe even denied my OPRA request that she disclose these meetings.

Here’s how I came across the fact that the pipeline review guidance was co-written by oil and gas industry representatives.

I recently filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request for public documents related to NJ DEP’s environmental review of the proposed Transco pipeline (known as the “Northeast Supply and Enhancement Project”) and came across the following reference to a “Linear Construction Technical Guidance” document DEP cited in a January 10, 2017 letter to Transco and FERC:

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A review of the Linear Construction Technical Guidance document revealed the following:

Here is how DEP describes the use of the pipeline review document:

1.1 Intended use of guidance

This technical guidance is designed to help the person conducting a linear construction project to ensure that contamination encountered during the project is handled in a manner that is protective of human health, safety and the environment.

Here is how DEP describes the 71-0 industry dominated stakeholder process (note that Transco had two representatives involved):

1.2 Stakeholders

This guidance was prepared with stakeholder input. A large steering committee and a small working subcommittee were formed. A list of the Linear Construction Steering Committee members is provided in Appendix 1. The working subcommittee that prepared this guidance document includes the following people:

 According to DEP, the following oil and gas industry representatives – and their paid consultants – contributed to the drafting of the document (with zero public, environmental, local government, or academic stakeholders involved):

Kirstin Pointin-Hahn –  DEP Chair

Riché Outlaw –  DEP

Tessie Fields – DEP

Gary Greulich – DEP

Mark Gruzlovic – DEP

Karl Bevans – NJDOT

Steve Cook – Elizabethtown Gas

Geoffrey R. Forrest – Dresdner Robin

Albert Hamm – NJDOT

Ileana Ivanciu – Dewberry-Goodkind, Inc. representing ACEC NJ

Mike Maben – Williams Gas Pipeline (Transco)

Daniel Nachman – TRC Environmental Corp. representing Spectra Energy

Doug Russell – Williams Gas Pipeline (Transco)

Jeff Valvik – Golder Associates

The regulatory game is rigged – no wonder DEP rubber stamps 95% of permits. In fact, DEP stopped writing the annual permit “Doria” report mandated by the legislature after the data in that report revealed that DEP approved 95% of permits – and the other 5% were typically withdrawn and resubmitted and later approved.

This institutionalized corruption is far beyond the informal academic concept of “regulatory capture”:

Regulatory capture is a theory associated with George Stigler, a Nobel laureate economist. It is the process by which regulatory agencies eventually come to be dominated by the very industries they were charged with regulating.

Yet Murphy DEP Commissioner McCabe has written that this practice represents a “broad range of stakeholders”.

Meet the new boss – same as the old boss.

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NJ Environmental Regulations Ignore Climate Change

July 27th, 2018 No comments

DEP air, water, & land use permits do not consider greenhouse gas emissions or climate impacts

Massive Regulatory Failure Ignored By Gov. Murphy

NJ Gov. Murphy has repeatedly claimed to place a high priority on a science based approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and responding to the huge challenges of climate change.

So has his DEP Commissioner McCabe.

But when the NJ Department of environmental protection issues any permit or approval – including for oil and gas pipelines, for fossil fueled power plants, or for any form of development, including coastal or riverfront development that would be inundated by climate driven flooding, storm surge, or sea level rise – the applicant is not required to provide data on greenhouse gas emissions and NJ DEP experts do not review or consider greenhouse gas emissions or climate change impacts.

NJ DEP regulations do not authorize the DEP to condition or deny a permit based on potential greenhouse gas emissions of potential climate impacts.

No NJ DEP regulatory standard is is based on climate science – NONE – including air quality permit standards that govern air permits for major sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

Does Gov. Murphy even know this?

So, I find it remarkable that Murphy Administration officials – including Attorney General Grewal and NJ DEP Commissioner McCabe – have the chutzpah to criticize the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for failing to consider climate change in FERC reviews.

NJ Spotlight reported today:

Not only does FERC ignore climate-change implications, the Attorney General argued the agency fails to consider the full range of environmental impacts. “As the Attorney General for a state impacted by natural gas pipeline approvals, I know that FERC needs to be much more careful in its overall approach to pipelines,’’ he said.

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe agreed, saying “now is the time for the agency to analyze and reduce environmental harms. “Reducing and responding to climate change is a priority for the DEP,’’ McCabe said, “and there is an urgent need for FERC to improve its review process to account for all environmental harms.’’

DEP Commissioner McCabe ignores the fatally flawed regulatory standards and review processes of her own agency, while blasting FERC.

That is gross hypocrisy and I call bullshit on it.

Governor Murphy – or his Co-Governor wife Tammy – should pick up the phone and call DEP Commissioner McCabe and ask her how DEP considers greenhouse gas emissions and climate  change impacts in permit decisions, particularly given the McCabe DEP’s recent permits issued to almost 2,000 MW of new fossil fueled power plants and the extension of the Pinelands gas pipeline and BL England power plant permits (which all failed to consider climate change).

And why aren’t NJ environmental groups flagging this issue?

Why do NJ press outlets give NJ DEP and Gov. Murphy a pass on this remarkable hypocrisy?

NJ environmental groups should get to work immediately on drafting a petition for rule making and organizing a Trenton Statehouse press conference to demand that Gov. Murphy direct NJ DEP Commissioner McCabe to promulgate comprehensive regulations to mandate consideration of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change risks and impacts in all DEP regulatory decisions.

This would provide a legal basis for DEP to deny permits or require off-sets and/or mitigation for GHG emissions and climate impacts.

As I’ve previously written, former Gov. Florio’s Executive Order #8 provides a model and strategy for how to do this, see:

[End Note: NJ DEP air regulations require some GHG emissions sources to report emissions and some DEP regulations are indirectly based in part on projected climate impacts, e.g. coastal rules consider sea level rise and storm surge, and some infrastructure is subject to 500 year storm frequency purportedly to incorporate climate impacts.

But these are indirect surrogates, i.e. window dressing and do not provide DEP a basis to condition or deny a permit based on GHG emissions or climate impacts.

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Corporate Murder In Newark, New Jersey

July 16th, 2018 No comments

PSEG turns off electric power, killing poor black woman 

A Tale of Corporate Greed and bureaucratic banality of evil

NJ sounding like a failed state

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. ~~~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Awoke to NPR news reports of protests in Iraq – among other things, people are facing record temperatures and they lack electric power.

NPR was quick to blame Iran for turning off the power, while, of course, failing to mention that it was US bombs that destroyed Iraq’s electric grid.

Similar shameful journalistic propaganda is happening in NJ too.

After listening to NPR, reading today’s NJ Spotlight story this morning, I just learned of the murder of a poor black Newark woman named Linda Daniels.

Here’s how NJ Spotlight reporter Tom Johnson casually referred to that murder:

The concerns about high utility bills flared again last week when a Newark woman died after her power was cut off because of an unpaid electric bill to PSE&G, shutting off oxygen that she needed.

A woman did not “die” – she was killed. And that “woman” had a name and she was black and poor.

Johnson’s “reporting” was cowardly and depraved – i.e. a concerns about high utility bills? – but not nearly as morally repugnant and shameful as longtime Star Ledger editorial board member and columnist Tom Moran’s take.

After crying crocodile tears for Ms. Daniels, Moran got down to dollars:

That was no act of God. Electricity rates in New Jersey are among the highest in the country, and one reason is that we lard electric bills with added charges, mostly because raising taxes is a steeper climb, politically, than raising fees.

New Jersey is spending more than $1 billion a year to fight climate change, all financed through regressive electricity bills. Before long, the number could easily reach $2 billion.

So, after this awful death of this good woman, it’s time to take a second look at that. Fighting climate change is imperative. But putting such a heavy cost on the shoulders of people like Linda Daniels is just wrong. …

Gov. Phil Murphy just signed a bill to boost solar subsidies to about $600 million a year, even though our program is the second most wasteful in the nation, measured by the dollar cost of each unit of electricity generated, according to Stefanie Brand, the state’s Ratepayer Advocate.

All that drives up costs for people like Daniels, and it is spinning out of control. Next up is a subsidy for offshore wind.

Did you get that?

A billion dollar corporate utility shutting off power and killing a poor black woman is framed as an issue about spending too much money on climate change.

According to Moran, the causes of this crime – and the correct focus of the story – are not NJ’s laws regarding electric utility shutoff; or PSEG’s shutoff policy and the bureaucratic banality of evil; or PSEG’s lust for even larger obscene corporate profits; or PSEG’s outright murder of this poor woman.

(Or privatization and deregulation of energy – a vital public utility – the source of the problem.)

According to Moran, the fault is that were are spending too much on climate change and what Moran euphemistically refers to as “added charges” on electric bills (he is referring to the Societal Benefits Charge and upcoming new RGGI charges).

Of course, Senate President Sweeney – blood on his hands fresh after leading the most recent mutli-billion dollar PSEG nuke blackmail bailout – piles on:

“I’ve always been nervous about our energy policy, to be honest,” Sweeney says, referring to the add-ons. “If you look at offshore wind, with battery storage, we’re talking about $10 billion, maybe more, to get it up and running.”

Moran then goes even further to basically endorse NJ’s laws and PSEG shutoff policies, while threatening expanded shutoffs:

If that, too, is piled onto electric bills, as planned, then PSE&G is going to be shutting off a lot more families. In 2017, the company shut off 158,000 customers, from a total of about 2 million, according to Brand. PSEG declined to provide numbers, or to say what portion of the cut-offs occurred in Newark.

Instead of condemning PSEG – his former employer, an important fact Moran does not disclose – and calling for Gov. Murphy to impose a moratorium o shutoffs of essential public utilities, for the Attorney General to conduct a murder investigation, and for the legislature to hold oversight hearings, Moran downplays the issue as some minor routine bureaucratic regulatory issue:

In the meantime, the BPU is investigating whether PSE&G broke regulations when they cut off Daniels’ electricity. The company says it had no idea she relied on an oxygen machine and would not comment on regulations that require utilities to check at least twice a year, and to make accommodations for people who are genuinely trying to catch up on their bills.

To ignore corporate greed and murder and shift the focus and blame climate change and renewable energy is obscene and a Big Lie.

Moran has shamed himself beyond repair – he joins fellow market fundamentalist moral monster Neo-liberals like this:

The measurements of the costs of health impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality. From this point of view a given amount of health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that. Lawrence Summers

We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it? Madeline Albright

We came. We saw. He died.  Hillary Clinton

And I hate to inject science and facts into what is purely a moral issue, see this 2013 post:

And here is the breakdown of the components of a typical residential electric bill. See Table 3 and Figure 26 from Christie BPU Energy Master Plan: Even a math challenged journalist like Moran can see that “add ons” are a small fraction of the typical bill:

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 11.32.24 AM

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[End note – I grew up with and was a friend of Tommy Moran. We were in all the “smart kids” classes. He played the clarinet and I played trumpet. He saw Traffic in concert in the 8th grade. We both kissed Cathy Rosenthal. My mom served with his dad on the local School Board. He’s a lapsed Catholic. But he’s not only not the kid I knew, but he’s also strayed far from Catholic teachings and the social gospel.]

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