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The Oil and Gas Industry Wrote NJ DEP Pipeline Review Guidelines

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:

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 10.17.27 AM

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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