Archive for January, 2019

Will The Murphy Administration Support Real Environmental Justice Legislation?

January 17th, 2019 No comments

Senate bill would put teeth in law, provide authority to DEP to deny permits

On Thursday January 24, 2019, the Senate Environment Committee will hear important legislation, S1700, that would put real teeth in environmental laws by providing authority to DEP to designate overburdened environmental justice communities, consider cumulative impacts, and deny permits.

Here is the operative language from Section 3.b.:

the department may deny a permit application in a burdened community upon a finding that the approval of the permit would, together with the cumulative adverse health and environmental impacts posed by the  existing conditions, including conditions resulting from permitted activities, in the burdened community, constitute an unreasonable risk to the health of the residents of the burdened community and to the environment in the community.

The bill would also authorize the local community to kill the permit.

Here is the language from Section 3.c.:

The department shall not approve a permit application for a project in a burdened community unless the governing body of the municipality in which the burdened community is located adopts an ordinance approving the project.

The bill is certain to face strong opposition from business and industry and many legislators, including pro-business corporate Democrats.

Gov. Murphy has touted his commitment to environmental justice.Will he walk the walk?

Will Gov. Murphy send DEP Commissioner McCabe over to the Senate to strongly support this bill on behalf of himself and his entire administration?

Will Gov. Murphy publicly challenge Democratic lawmakers to pass the bill and promise to sign it?

Will the “green” community get aggressively out in support of this bill, make it a priority, and hold the Gov. and DEP accountable?

We’ll be watching.

[End note – the bill is not perfect and I would prefer to see more specific technical standards and criteria, especially for DEP permit denial. More to follow, this is just a set up piece.]

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Putting Your Drinking Water And Health At Risk: NJ Gov. Murphy’s DEP Is Still Following Gov. Christie’s Anti-Regulatory Executive Order

January 17th, 2019 No comments

“Stakeholder” review designed to frustrate new regulation

Cost-Benefit Analysis Still Improperly Driving Public Health Regulatory Policy

NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle wrote a critical story today about DEP delays in adopting drinking water standards for toxic chemicals, see:

The otherwise very good story missed important issues that I need to clarify here.

The Spotlight story focused almost exclusively on the process of developing drinking water standards, including this:

The DEP denies tomorrow’s stakeholder meeting will mean further delay in setting health limits on two toxic chemicals

The focus on “Stakeholder” review is important not only due to the delays it causes, but because it shows that the Murphy DEP is still following the anti-regulatory procedures created by Gov. Christie’s Executive Order #2, which sought “immediate regulatory relief” :

1. For immediate relief from regulatory burdens, State agencies shall:

a. Engage in the “advance notice of rules” by soliciting the advice and views of knowledgeable persons from outside of New Jersey State government, including the private sector and academia, in advance of any rulemaking to provide valuable insights on the proposed rules, and to prevent unworkable, overly-proscriptive or ill-advised rules from being adopted.

Note that the objectives of the “advance notice of rules” (for “stakeholders”) are to provide immediate relief from regulatory burdens” and “to prevent unworkable, overly-proscriptive or ill-advised rules from being adopted.”

As Ive written before many times, such “advance notice” also creates a back door that provides “stakeholders”, i.e. industry lobbyists, ample opportunity to work politically behind the scenes with the Governor’s Office, the DEP Commissioner, and the Legislature to kill DEP rules before they are even proposed with no fingerprints or accountability.

Call it dark regulation.

If you think I exaggerate, read this letter from the Chemical Industry to DEP, thanking DEP managers for killing proposed new water quality regulations for toxic chemicals.

We’ve also written many times about the Christie DEP’s abuses of the “by invitation only” “Stakeholder” process, allowing business and industry to dominate and control the agenda, dictate the scientific and policy deliberations, restrict the policy substance, and eliminate any media coverage or environmental opposition to emerge.

So why is the so called more environmentally friendly Murphy DEP still following these corrupt anti-regulatory Christie policies?

Additionally, the Spotlight story also obfuscated the critical issue I wrote about previously, i.e. the DEP’s false claims about the need to consider costs in setting health based drinking water standards, see:

So let me repeat that clarification.

Curiously, Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle altered the money quote in his original story by DEP scientist Gary Buchanan (see the full original Buchanan quote in the “repeats lies” link above).

Hurdle did this by omitting Buchanan’s full original statement about consideration of costs, i.e.  he said “We also have to look at costs.”

Instead, Hurdle wrote the following, which eliminated entirely and qualified Buchanan’s cost consideration quote:

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.”[omission here]

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:

Finally, as I’ve written many times, there are at least 15 carcinogenic chemicals and contaminants for which the Drinking Water Quality Institute has made scientific recommendations to DEP to develop MCL’s that are being completely ignored. These DWQI recommendations were not only ignored, they triggered a complete shut down by the Christie DEP.

This does not include the more than 500 unregulated chemicals that DEP has found in NJ’s drinking water. That entire issue is being ignored as well by environmentalists and the media.

Why no outrage over all that?

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$5 Million From NJ Enforcement Settlement With Chrysler Is Not Constitutionally Dedicated To Environmental Protection

January 17th, 2019 No comments

NJ Attorney General Again Usurps DEP Leadership

Volkswagen & Chrysler settlements illustrate a huge blunder by green groups & Legislators

NJ Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal recently issued a press release that:

announced that New Jersey will receive approximately $5.3 million as part of multi-state settlements entered into with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Robert Bosch, which centered on allegations the two companies violated both consumer and environmental protection laws.

The AG’s press announcement achieved it’s purpose and predictably generated very favorable press coverage, see: NJ SETTLES WITH FIAT CHRYSLER OVER SOFTWARE THAT CHEATED ON EMISSION TESTS

Curiously, the AG’s press release was posted on the DEP’s website. Once again, AG Grewal not only stole the media thunder, he seems to have usurped DEP Commissioner McCabe’s role, cut DEP out, and to be in charge of the environmental policy implications of such enforcement actions.

But the AG and media reports left out important facts that misled the public.

Specifically, after years of abuses, NJ voters recently approved an amendment to the State Constitution to dedicate revenues from certain DEP enforcement settlements to specific programs to restore natural resources.

According to DEP:

The 2017 amendment to Paragraph 9 of Section II of Article VIII of the New Jersey Constitution directs the NJDEP as to how to invest the natural resource damages it collects from responsible parties.  As appropriated by the Legislature, the Office of Natural Resource Restoration may use these moneys for paying for:

costs incurred by the State to repair, restore, or replace damaged or lost natural resource of the State, or permanently protect the natural resources of the State, or for paying the legal or other costs incurred by the State to pursue settlements and judicial and administrative awards relating to natural resource damages.

During the legislative process of developing that Constitutional amendment, we warned legislators about loopholes that needed to be closed.

In an effort to close that loophole and strengthen the proposed Constitutional Amendment to dedicate revenues from Natural Resource Damage (NRD) settlements, in a November 1, 2016 email to the sponsor Senator Smith (and post) I warned of this problem:

3. Expand the scope to include all enforcement revenues

The SCR is not precise regarding the settlements and revenues covered. For example, would a Water Pollution Control Act or Freshwater Wetlands Act settlement be included within the scope of the SCR? It appears not.

To promote the policy objectives of the SCR, all DEP enforcement revenues could be dedicated.

That warning was ignored – as a result, among others, the recent April 2018 $68 million Volkswagen settlement was not dedicated to environmental restoration.

And once again, proceeds from the $5 million Chrysler enforcement settlement AG Grewal just announced will go to the General Fund and is not dedicated by the 2017 Constitutional Amendment.

The Volkswagen and Chrysler settlements illustrate a huge blunder by green groups and Legislators.

Tom Johnson at NJ Spotlight must know this, so I suspect he intentionally omitted this embarrassing fact from his story. Instead of writing about the issue, he closed his story with this misleading paragraph about uses of the money:

Leland Moore, a spokesman for the attorney general, said the state settlement funds will go to support consumer and environmental protection funds. The restitution money to eligible owners is part of a separate class action suit.

As a result of this critical omission, coming at a time that Gov. Murphy is touting his “environmental justice” policy of allocating funds to distressed and overburdened communities, the public and community groups form false expectations that this money will be used to restore the egregious environmental and public health harms they have suffered.

After voting overwhelmingly in favor of amending the State Constitution to stop diversions of hundreds of million of dollars of environmental money – a hugely significant act – we think the people of NJ should know about this.

We think that the members and Foundation funders of incompetent green groups should know this.

Of course, we offer this up as just another example that no good deed goes unpunished. Despite many years of competent public interest advocacy and speaking truth to power, I’ve been effectively blackballed in NJ and relegated to the sidelines.

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Foundation Elites and Private Water Companies Hijack Lead In Drinking Water Issue

January 15th, 2019 No comments


Murphy Administration Outsources An Essential Government Function

Private Policy – Puppet Advocacy – Sham Solutions

For some time, I’ve been writing about various abuses by private corporate oriented elite Foundations and their self serving puppets in the non-profit community.

I’ve focused on how they: 1) displace government, 2) seize the policy agenda, 3) frame the issue, 4) co-opt real community activists, 5) use funding to control groups and individuals and marginalize critics, 6) define so called “reforms” (also called “fake solutions”) and 7) ignore basic democratic accountability mechanisms and public policy development processes.

At the same time, private water companies, assisted by Democratic and Republic lawmakers and Governors, have aggressively sought to privatize public drinking water systems across NJ.

Today, privatization and Foundation abuses combine, in an effort to hijack the agenda for responding to the public health crisis of lead in drinking water, see: Jersey Water Works Forms Task Force Focused on Lead in State’s Drinking Water

That Task Force is led by Chris Daggett, of the elite Dodge Foundation. Dodge is notorious for funding private, individual, market oriented, non-regulatory and voluntary initiatives that displace government and traditional regulatory interventions. Dodge uses funding to control the agenda and the advocacy efforts of the groups they fund.

Dodge is the epitome of what journalist Anand Giridharadas has called “the elite charade”.

The work of the Task Force is under the control of NJ Future, a “planning” group with a corporate and development oriented Board and a very checkered political history, going back to “smart growth” collaboration with the Whitman administration and more recently including secret planning with the Christie administration to privatize and develop Liberty State Park, a failed scheme (as the Bergen Record reported:)

The DEP quietly began the process in June 2014 when it awarded a $120,000 grant to the non-profit New Jersey Future, which hired Biederman Redevelopment Ventures to “analyze the potential attractiveness of the park to revenue producing developers.”

NJ Future also collaborated with Gov. Christie by using “resilience” as a slogan and taking DEP money to divert public attention away from the failures of the Christie administration to respond to climate change and coastal risks.

Of course, the Task Force includes several representatives of the water companies that seek to avoid high cost real solutions, like regulatory mandates and community involvement to solving the lead problems.

Similarly, the token “academic” representative is none other than the pliant former DEP bureaucrat, Dan Van Abs, who tried to shape the water agenda from his perch at Rutgers and NJ Spotlight, where he rarely speaks truth to power.

The Task Force includes several member of the Murphy administration’s government agencies (DEP, BPU, DCA and DoH), which demonstrates a total failure of leadership by Governor Murphy and DEP Commissioner McCabe and a very curious approach to developing public policy.

The Task Force effectively has displaced government policy development and amounts to an abdication of responsibility and an outsourcing of essential government regulatory functions to protect public health and enforce environmental laws.

The two environmental group members have both shown tendencies to play the inside game, opportunistically seek Foundation funding, sell out and stab local activists in the back, and engage in “transactional” schemes (like Amy Goldmith’s endorsement of Chris Christie for Governor in 2009).

Finally, the Task Force ignores real community based environmental justice advocates, but does include a sop appointee.

This will not end well.

More to follow.

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