Home > Uncategorized > NJ Conservation Groups Helped The Right Hijack The Lake Hopatcong Toxic Algae Bloom Issue

NJ Conservation Groups Helped The Right Hijack The Lake Hopatcong Toxic Algae Bloom Issue

“Rain Tax” Reframes A Traditional Land Use & Water Quality Issue

Algae Blooms Are Exacerbated By Climate Chaos

Conservation groups provide cover for Gov. Murphy & DEP 

The NY Times finally weighed in on the Lake Hopatcong toxic algae bloom crisis on Monday, and amazingly they somehow managed to allow insane paranoid right wing anti-government Republicans to try to reframe the debate as about a “rain tax”, see:

And some Republican politicians have even accused state agencies of ginning up the threat as a scare tactic to promote what they call a “rain tax.”

Environment and planning advocates say that is an incorrect description of a potential solution: stormwater utilities. The utilities exist in 1,716 localities in 40 states and will be an option for New Jersey municipalities starting next month under a law signed by the Democratic governor, Philip D. Murphy.

(Is that you again death tax Frank Luntz?)

Part of the reason that these crazies have been allowed to hijack the debate lies in how the NJ conservation groups responded and narrowly and self interestedly framed the “solution” to the problem, while ignoring DEP’s failure to enforce the Clean Water Act and restrict land use to protect water quality.

At the outset, we predicted that NJ conservation groups would focus exclusively on stormwater utilities and infrastructure, while ignoring talking about climate change and traditional land use and water quality policy and DEP regulation and DEP’s numerous failures.

The conservation groups ignored DEP planning and regulatory tools and framed the solution to the issue this way narrowly – and they did so for corrupt & political reasons (not based on science and law):

  • a) they had worked on the weak stormwater utility bill – it is merely enabling and requires local County Freeholders to adopt it – and wanted to blow their own horn, while effectively praising Democrats and the Governor for doing virtually nothing;
  • b) they wanted to let their friends Gov. Murphy and DEP Commissioner McCabe off the hook for blatant failures to enforce the Clean Water Act and adopt protective regulations (including failing to restore Gov. Christie DEP rollbacks);
  • c) like virtually all Republicans and many corporate Democrats, they are anti-regulatory and don’t know about or like to talk about regulatory policy tools or climate change; and
  • they are all funded by the same corporate oriented Foundations and rely on the same corporate communication consultants and lobbyists.

Painfully aware that all this was happening, over a month ago, we warned folks and laid out a real agenda:

Before we get the lame attempts at suggesting weak “reforms” (e.g. stormwater utilities) from the usual lame suspects (e.g. Highlands Coalition), we thought we’d lay out a serious reform package.

So, here’s a short to do list for DEP to respond to the current crisis and prevent or reduce the likelihood of future disasters:

We pulled no punches and named names:

The algae bloom is caused by a combination of climate change, excessive nutrient & sediment pollution loads, and failed DEP regulatory policies.

DEP lacks adequate regulations governing land use, development, stormwater, water quality, septic systems, agriculture, and forestry.

Worse, DEP lacks any strategy, comprehensive plan, or enforceable regulations to address climate change, that we know will impact water resources (i.e. DEP rules mandating greenhouse gas emissions reductions or methods to adapt to climate change).

The Christie DEP not only denied climate change, but actually rolled back DEP regulations that were designed to protect water quality, including Highlands septic density, stormwater management, flood hazard, and stream buffer protections.

After the Legislature vetoed the Christie DEP septic density rollback, the Murphy DEP effectively revoked that already invalidated rule, but has yet to address other significant Christie DEP rollbacks.

Of course the greedy green weenies wanted no part of any debate about DEP regulating forestry and agriculture and greenhouse gas emissions.

The Foundations don’t pay for that kind of stuff and their corporate Boards, funders, and elite members don’t support it either. They want politically safe, market oriented, individual, voluntary, local, private property sensitive no tax increase,, and largely symbolic gestures. Nothing with any regulatory teeth that could cost corporations and the wealthy real money or stifle their economic development plans.

For a perfect example of validation of my prediction, along comes an Op-Ed by Michele Byers of NJ Conservation Foundation, see:

Note how Byers’ Op-Ed is exclusively focused on what individuals can do – not what government can do. That is right wing framing. It is no accident. It is ideological warfare.

Byers’ Op-Ed undermines a prior far stronger Op-Ed by Jeff Tittel of Sierra Club.

Byers is following the same cynical green cover playbook of a prior NJCF Op-Ed that also undercut Tittel on holding the Murphy administration accountable on climate change.

Byers desperately wants to change the subject and divert attention away from controversial real solutions.

And Byers is willing to throw Lake Hopatcong and water quality under the bus to avoid criticizing the Gov. in hopes that he will respond to NJCF’s real priority, which is keeping the Penn East pipeline out of their elite backyards in Hunterdon County.

That’s the weeny way – we call it what it is – Fake Solutions and sabotage

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