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Murphy DEP Repeats Lies About Failure To Adopt Protective Drinking Water Standards

NJ Law Does NOT Authorize DEP To Consider Costs In Setting Standards

Risks of alternative chemicals highlight the failure of federal law – Ask Senator Booker

[Update below]

We’ve written many times about the multiple failures of the NJ DEP to adopt protective drinking water standards, and in particular, their failure to implement the best available science set forth in recommendations by the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute (DWQI).

Most recently, we reiterated these concerns as context for a panel discussion sponsored by NJ Spotlight, see:

Today, NJ Spotlight reported on that panel discussion we were concerned about.

In an otherwise good article, again we see significant omissions in the coverage, see:


First, head of DEP Science Gary Buchanan, in response to criticism by Tracy Carlucchio of DEP “inexplicable foot-dragging” and failures to implement recommended drinking water standards of the DWQI, said this:

Gary Buchanan, the DEP’s director of science and research, held out little prospect that the MCL process can move any faster.

“State government does not move quickly,” he said. “It takes time to get things right. We want to use the right science, the best available science. We want to consider all the options. We want to talk to all of our stakeholders. We also have to look at costs.”

Buchanan is dead wrong – the NJ Safe Drinking Water Act does NOT authorize DEP to consider “costs” in setting drinking water standards. In fact, it prohibits consideration of costs by specifying explicit criteria upon which DEP shall set standards.

Here is the relevant text of the statute:

58:12A-13. Maximum contaminant levels of certain organic compounds; list of contaminants; rules and regulations


b. The commissioner, after considering the recommendations of the Drinking Water Quality Institute, shall, within two years of the effective date of this amendatory and supplementary act and pursuant to the “AdministrativeProcedure Act,” P.L.1968,c.410(C.52:14B-1etseq.),adopt rules and regulations
which develop, within the limits of medical, scientific, and technological feasibility, a list of those pesticides and related compounds, metals, and base/neutral extractable organic compounds and acid extractable organic compounds which he believes may be found in drinking water and the presence of which above maximum contaminant levels in drinking water, upon ingestion or assimilation, may, on the basis of the best information available to the commissioner, cause death, disease, behavioral abnormalities, cancer, genetic mutations, physiological malfunction (including malfunctions in reproduction), or physical deformity; and establish, within the limits of medical scientific and technological feasibility, maximum contaminant levels for each chemical or chemical compound on the list which, with respect to carcinogens, permit cancer in no more than one in one million persons ingesting that chemical for a lifetime, and, with respect to other chemicals or chemical compounds on the list and those carcinogens resulting from compounds with public health benefits, eliminate within the limits of practicability and feasibility all adverse physiological effects which may result from ingestion; provided, however, that in no case shall the standard adopted by the commissioner for any chemical or chemical compound on the list be less stringent than that established for the same chemical or chemical compound by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, pursuant to the “Safe Drinking Water Act,” Pub.L. 93-523 (42 U.S.C. s. 300f et seq.), or any other federal agency.

Buchanan and DEP Commissioner McCabe must be called out on these egregious mis-statements of the NJ Safe Drinking Water Act.


Second, while exposing the failure to screen the toxicity of substitute chemicals, NJ Spotlight failed to note the key reason for that failure:

New Jersey’s nation-leading efforts to protect the public from a class of toxic chemicals in drinking water are being threatened by the emergence of substitutes that may be just as hazardous to human health, experts argue.

That failure is due to a federal law known as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is a United States law, passed by the United States Congress in 1976 and administered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, that regulates the introduction of new or already existing chemicals.

TSCA was just overhauled in 2016 by legislation negotiated by NJ Senator Cory Booker – Here’s Booker’s self congratulatory press release:

“Congressional approval of this bipartisan chemical safety law is a major victory for our state and for the legacy of Sen. Frank Lautenberg who championed this fight.  I am proud of the long-overdue improvements I fought to include in this bill, including provisions that strengthen EPA’s ability to regulate toxic chemicals, provide EPA with dedicated funding, give more scrutiny to new chemicals before they come on the market, allow states to continue to co-enforce with EPA, and minimize animal testing when scientifically reliable alternatives exist. Despite long odds and difficult challenges, common sense and finding common ground won the day. I want to thank all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle that came together to make this bill possible. I look forward to celebrating when President Obama signs this important chemical safety reform legislation into law, helping to keep American families and children safe from toxic chemicals.”

In May, Sen. Booker spoke on the Senate floor urging swift passage of the bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which makes badly needed reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976.  His remarks can be viewed here.

To read the act, see:  

Someone needs to go ask Booker about all that.

We predicted this Booker sell out:

Bill Wolfe, director of the New Jersey office of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said not having Lautenberg in the Senate is a “huge loss.” He would “step on toes to get things done,” whereas Wolfe said Booker is “the antitheses of that.” He called the former mayor a “calibrated corporate Democrat who worries about alienating Wall Street and corporate America.”

And called him out at the time of his sellout to – taking issue with Jeff Tittel’s praise of the TSCA deal. (looking for link, may have ben a tweet or private email).

Update – 12/12/18 – clarification. Tittel just sent me an email of a NJ.Com story where he is quoted as opposing the Booker deal on the basis of state pre-emption. I also opposed the deal on those grounds but the lack of toxicity screening and restrictions on new chemicals is not the result of preemption. Other major flaws. More to follow on this.

[Update – 1/17/19 – NJ Spotlight ran a critical update story today, see: WHERE ARE NJ’S NEW CHEMICAL RULES? ENVIROS ACCUSE DEP OF MORE FOOT-DRAGGING ON PFAS

But curiously, Jon Hurdle altered the money quote of DEP scientist Gary Buchanan (see original above) by omitting the statement about consideration of costs, i.e.  “We also have to look at costs.”

Instead, Hurdle wrote this, eliminating and qualifying Buchanan’s cost consideration quote entirely:

State government does not move quickly,” Buchanan said in answer to questions on why regulating the two chemicals was taking so long. “It takes time to get things right. We want to use the right science, the best available science, we want to consider all the options, we need to talk to our stakeholders.”

He said officials are also required to examine the costs of regulation for water suppliers who must test for the chemicals and treat them if necessary.

Let me repeat: the NJ Safe Drinking Water Act does not authorize DEP to consider costs in setting drinking water standards, known as “MCL’s”.

In fact, the NJ SDWA specifies exactly the factors DEP must consider and thereby not only does not authorize cost considerations in setting MCL’s, but effectively prohibits consideration of costs.

When will Mr. Hurdle and NJ Spotlight cover that critical issue?

How much is you life worth? See:

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