Archive for September, 2019

Murphy DEP Urged To Close Regulatory Loopholes On Climate Change, Risk Assessment and Hazardous Air Pollutants

September 30th, 2019 No comments

The Murphy DEP will hold its quarterly meeting with major air polluters industrial group (PIG) this Friday, October 4, 2019.

Here is the Agenda for that meeting – note especially that RGGI and risk assessment are on the agenda.

I strongly encourage the public to attend and ask tough questions and not let this be just another opportunity for proliferation of the cancer of DEP regulatory capture by corporate polluters.

I’ve written about all these issues many times and been completely ignored by DEP, environmental groups and the media. Regardless, I again copied Jon Hurdle of NJ Spotlight in hopes of some coverage and Jeff Tittel of Sierra and Doug O’Malley of Environment NJ who work on climate and RGGI.

Below are some questions for the public to ask – in the likely event that DEP stonewalls, then the next step I am prepared to take and urge your support of is filing a formal petition for rule-making.

These petitions can be used to frame a campaign to put scientific, legal, and political heat on Governor Murphy and DEP Commissioner McCabe.

Dear Mr. Mackney: (@

I am unable to attend the subject meeting, but assume that you have a public comment opportunity and therefore provide the following comments for consideration by the Department and ISG. The comments cover 3 topics of concern, the first 2 of which are on the meeting agenda:


The Department should impose an administrative moratorium on implementation of any “offsets” in the RGGI program pending adoption of rules, standards, and technical guidance that are adequately protective, address known flaws in the offset mechanism and allocate adequate staff resources that provide effective regulatory oversight, enforcement, transparency, and public involvement.

Those flaws have been documented by, among others, recent academic research on the California offset program, see:

Managing Uncertainty in Carbon Offsets: Insights from California’s Standardized Approach (August 2019)

POLICY BRIEF: The California Air Resources Board’s US Forest offset protocol underestimates leakage

I recently wrote about the findings of those studies here – including an MIT Technology Review piece:

New Research Shows Carbon Cap & Trade Program Is Fatally Flawed

Should the Department and ISG not support such a moratorium and regulatory reform effort, please advise, in which case I will submit a formal petition for rule making pursuant to the NJ Administrative Procedure Act.

2. Risk Assessment

The Department should impose an administrate moratorium on the issuance of air pollution control permits pending revisions to the Department’s current air pollution “acceptable risk” threshold and the current regulations, technical manuals, and guidance on risk assessment methods. Revisions must provide adequate protection of public health and implement a public health based “precautionary” policy.

Science and policy flaws in current regulations and Technical Manual on risk assessment (see: Technical Manual 1003 – Guidance on Preparing a Risk Assessment for Air Contaminant Emissions) include:

a) failure to consider the cumulative health risks and impacts of multiple pollution sources;
b) failure to consider the health risks and impacts of multiple pollutants;
c) failure to consider exposure by multiple pathways: air, water, soil, food, occupational;
d) failure to adequately consider health risks and impacts on sensitive receptors, like infants;
e) failure to consider actual ambient air pollution levels in the community (instead DEP limits the spatial consideration of the health risks and impacts at the facility “fence line”);
f) failure to require statistically valid characterization of baseline ambient air quality;
g) failure to advance a “precautionary” public health approach to scientific uncertainty;
h) failure to require safer alternatives, like pollution prevention and state of the art technology;
i) failure to phase out unacceptable hazards, like proposed perc phase out that was revoked
j) failure to consider disproportionate burdens on minority and/or disadvantaged communities;
k) failure to adequately inform and involve the community in permit reviews
l) failure to adopt health based ambient air quality standards for hazardous air pollutants;
m) failure to compile a state-wide database on total HAP emissions and ambient air quality;
n) failure to adequately regulate fugitive emissions and small sources of pollutants;
o) failure to make all of this transparent and understandable to the impacted public; and
p) failure to provide access and technical assistance to the public, while providing abundant assistance and access to polluters, including by the DEP Office of Permit Coordination, confidential pre-application conferences, unlimited and daily access to the DEP permit engineers, and frequent access to DEP managers.

I provided additional technical detail supporting these claims in my recent comments on the draft NuSTAR permit, see:

Murphy DEP Issuing Permits That Allow Industrial Polluters to Emit Millions Of Pounds Of Carcinogenic Hazardous Air Pollutants Without Adequate Consideration of Health Impacts or Community Involvement

With respect to the cancer risk threshold, please see this:

NJ DEP’s Acceptable Air Pollution Cancer Risk Policy Is 1,000 Times Higher Than Drinking Water Risk

Should the Department and ISG not support such a moratorium and regulatory reform effort, please advise, in which case I will submit a formal petition for rule making pursuant to the NJ Administrative Procedure Act.

3. Lack of regulations governing greenhouse gas emissions

The DEP currently lacks any regulations to mandate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Department should impose an administrative moratorium on issuance of any air pollution, water pollution and land use permits until comprehensive regulations are adopted that provide enforceable requirements that will achieve the GHG emission reduction goals of the Global Warming Response Act.

Should the Department and ISG not support such a moratorium and regulatory reform effort, please advise, in which case I will submit a formal petition for rule making pursuant to the NJ Administrative Procedure Act.

I appreciate your timely and supportive reply.

Bill Wolfe

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EPA Finally Schedules Demolition Of Deadly Smoke Stacks At Curtis Specialty Superfund Site in Milford, NJ

September 25th, 2019 No comments

Implosion Scheduled For October 4

Curtis Specialty Superfund site  (9/12/15)

Curtis Specialty Superfund site (9/12/15)

According to the US EPA, demotion of the deadly smoke stacks at the Curtis Specialty Superfund site in Milford NJ will occur on October 4, 2019.

That Superfund site has poisoned the community, Delaware River, & fish and wildlife for decades.

I have written many times about how the demolition and cleanup at that site has dragged on for years, with corporate polluters working behind the scenes with US EPA and NJ DEP to slow the pace and extent of cleanup and demolition, in hopes of reducing corporate cleanup costs and liabilities and maximizing the site’s redevelopment potential.

For years, corporate polluters have manipulated local officials who are desperate for redevelopment and tax ratables and been allowed by EPA ad NJ DEP to put profits above public health. For example, see:

But what has been viewed for years by some local residents as merely an eyesore recently turned into a deadly tragedy, as a local young woman lost her life in a fall from those smokestacks.

Over 7 YEARS ago, we warned about that risk:

CAG members repeatedly objected to my reasonable recommendations, even minor and basic stuff that would not cost taxpayers a dime, like asking for:

  • installation of fences and warning signs to limit site access to kids;

And despite this history of corporate poisoning, neglect, and obstruction, just look at the most recent craven and cowardly desperation of local officials:

Although International Paper has not indicated what it will do with the property, the borough has filed with the state a redevelopment plan for the buildable 21 acres, said Mayor Henri Schepens. Such a plan has more weight than mere zoning, and it calls for a mix of housing, such as apartments and condos, and light industry, such as medical offices or a long-term care facility, he said.

After the demolition, it’ll be up to the owner to find a developer who wants to buy it “and bring Milford back to the pride of the valley. It’ll be wonderful,” Schepens said.

Anyone interested in all this can attend the upcoming EPA Community Advisory Group (CAG) meeting on September 30, 2019 at 7 pm at the Milford Firehouse.

Please don’t let that meeting become just another public relations spin cycle for the “Government Affairs” representatives of the polluters International Paper and Georgia Pacific, who EPA again  is allowing to frame and control the CAG presentation to the public.

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DEP Agrees To Hold A Public Hearing In Paulsboro On Toxic Air Pollution Permit

September 25th, 2019 No comments

People of Paulsboro Exposed To Multiple Toxic Chemicals In Air, Water, And Land 

DEP, Rutgers and ATSDR have some explaining to do

the view from Paulsboro, NJ High School

the view from Paulsboro, NJ High School

The DEP just agreed to my request to hold a public hearing in Paulsboro, NJ on a draft air pollution permit that authorizes emissions of hazardous air pollutants:

Mr. Wolfe,

Please be advised that the Department posted a Public Notice (attached) on its website to announce a public hearing, per your request.


Eleonora Kats

Environmental Engineer 3

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Air Quality, Energy and Sustainability

Division of Air Quality, Bureau of Stationary Sources

Phone: 609-984-5932

The public hearing will be held on Wednesday, October 30, 2019 at the Independent Oil Workers Union Hall, 911 Billingsport Rd., Gibbstown, Greenwich Township, NJ 08027.

An oil workers union hall is hardly a neutral site to hold a public hearing. I suspect that Senate President Sweeney – who has access to DEP Commissioner McCabe and has provided cover for toxic polluters for decades by manipulating the “jobs versus environment” conflict – had something to do with choosing that location.

I recently submitted comments on a DEP draft air pollution permit to a NuSTAR facility in Paulsboro, NJ. In those comments, I requested that DEP hold a public hearing and raised several significant concerns about the health impacts on the community. I wrote about that here:

The permit would allow continued emissions of “hazardous air pollutants” to a community already over-burdened by numerous industrial sources of toxic chemicals, see:

The DEP draft permit raised important concerns about how DEP analyzes health risks from hazardous air pollutants; how DEP regulates those emissions; and how DEP  involves the community in its risk assessment and permit decisions.

The public hearing comes at a time when the federal Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ASTSDR) and Rutgers are teaming up in Paulsboro to conduct a epidemiological study of the health impacts of the toxic chemicals knows as PFAS: (as reported in a NJ Spotlight story today):

The federal government said Monday it is awarding $1 million each to Rutgers University and six other institutions to study the health effects of PFAS chemicals at seven U.S. sites including Paulsboro and West Deptford in Gloucester County, where high levels of the chemicals have been found.

The study is the second phase of a project led by the Centers for Disease Control and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to look at how public health has been affected by the PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) that were once used in consumer products like Teflon, and are linked to a range of illnesses including immune system problems, high cholesterol, and some cancers.

We urge ATSDR and Rutgers to expand the scope of that study to examine multiple chemicals and multiple exposure pathways – beyond just PFAS contaminated drinking water – given the huge petrochemical complex in the region that emits multiple chemicals to air, land and water that people are exposed to.

That multiple chemical multiple pathway approach is consistent with ATSDR’s recognition that toxic chemicals are emitted by “multiple sites”:

“There is much that is unknown about the health effects of exposures to these chemicals,” said Patrick Breysse, director of the ATSDR and CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, in a statement. “The multi-site study will advance the scientific evidence on the human health effects of PFAS and provide some answers to communities exposed to the contaminated drinking water.”

The ATSDR and Rutgers health study will not be scientifically valid unless all sources of human exposure to multiple chemicals are considered, not just drinking water and one class of chemicals, PFAS. 

The Spotlight story included a quote from a Rutgers professor that emphasized the need to inform and involve the community in the health study:

“We will work closely with the Paulsboro and West Deptford communities to maximize the benefits of the study for community members,” he said. “There will be a community advisory board and community participation in how we design and implement the study.”

As part of that community involvement, residents must be made aware of the full suite of chemicals that they are exposed to on a daily basis – as well as the regulatory tools that DEP has to reduce those exposures.

Those tools include, among others, the DEP’s risk assessment methods and air pollution control permits.

The community must demand that DEP reconsider the “Technical Manual” under which DEP conducts reviews – Technical Manual 1003 – Guidance on Preparing a Risk Assessment for Air Contaminant Emissions (probably the most important environmental document you never heard of).

Specifically, as I noted in my comments on the NuSTAR draft permit, those DEP methods are flawed and not adequately protective of public health.

So, here are some questions that the community can ask DEP at the upcoming public hearing on the NuSTAR air permit – and the future ATSDR and Rutgers health assessment:

3. According to the draft permit:

“Emission Unit U100/OS – Stack height above ground shall be raised from 20 ft to 35 ft based on the Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment dated 3/22/2019, to reduce the benzene cancer and non-cancer short-term risk at the facility fenceline.”

Based on this statement, I ask the following questions and make the following comments:

a) what were the numeric risks to human health quantified by the Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment ? Those risks should be disclosed to the community. The draft failed to do that.

b) The point of compliance appears to be the “fence line”. Did the  Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment  analyze risks beyond the fence line? If so, why were those risks? If not, why not?

The Department must analyze health risks to the nearby sensitive residential receptors beyond the fenceline. It appears that the draft permit fails to do that.

c) It appears that the risks are driven by benzene. Did the  Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment quantify cumulative risks based on multiple hazardous air pollutants? If so, what were the results? If not, why not?

The Department must analyze cumulative risks of multiple hazardous air pollutants.

d) Did the Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment assess risks based on actual ambient air quality data? If so, what were ambient conditions and where were they measured?

The Department must assess risks based on actual ambient data that is QA/QC valid and statistically representative of ambient conditions.

e) How was the public informed and allowed to participate in the development and review of the  Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment ?

The Department must involve communities in the science and permit decisions that effect their health.

f) Apparently, the only risk reduction measure considered and imposed by the Department was to raise the stack height by 15 feet. This is improper and not protective of public health. On what basis was the new stack height chosen?

Did the Department consider other alternatives, including pollution prevention? Process modifications? State of the art pollution control technology?

The Department is required to consider these more protective alternative risk reduction measures.

g) Did the  Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment  consider risks of exposure by sensitive receptors, including infants and pregnant women?

The Department must consider risks and protect the most sensitive receptors.

4. The DEP relied on a Facility-Wide Air Toxics Risk Assessment. That assessment was conducted in accordance with a DEP Technical Manual.

The DEP Technical Manual was not adopted formally as a regulation pursuant to the NJ Administrative Procedures Act.

Given this failure and the highly substantive public health and economic implications of application of the Technical Manual, the DEP draft permit violates the NJ Supreme Court’s decision in Metro-Media. Metromedia, Inc. v. Director, Div. of Taxation 97 N.J. 313 (1984)

Accordingly, the Technical Manual may not be enforced until it is formally promulgated as a regulation.

The draft permit is therefore null and void as it violates a Supreme Court ruling and therefore should not be issued in final form.

DEP, Rutgers and ATSDR have some explaining to do.

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September 21st, 2019 No comments



We’re in visual mode, so here’s a superb piece on AOC’s recent release of Green New Deal posters, see:

The release of posters clearly shows that AOC understands the relationships between art, culture and politics.

Reminds me of why I posted this over 10 years ago: (apologies about the photos. The site NJ. com where this was originally posted, killed all my photo files and the links are stale too!):

We’re in Crescent City, California.

The Climate Strike here sucked.

The school administrators and teachers co-opted the event by diverting the kids to a beach litter cleanup.

By doing that, they were trying to block any challenges to authority and sought to depoliticize the climate issue.

They undermined a student’s agency, denied the power of organizing, and frustrated any movement mobilizing.

And they diverted kids from the climate emergency issue to politically safe issue of litter.

The whole things was about power and control. Kids must ask permission, follow orders, and not upset the status quo. Hardly a “strike”.

But – reckoning back to a 1960′ Teach In” –  the day could have been about climate science, civics, and the history of political movements – collective deliberations fundamental to the practice of democracy – all topics that have been banished from the school curricula since Reagan.

In fact, I attempted an impromptu lecture on the beach with the kids on exactly these topics. But the teachers quickly swooped in to shepherd the kids away from the madman on the beach. Can’t have any dangerous ideas reaching the ears of our kids!

Strange. But same old same old.

I participated in the first “Earth Day” school walkout in 1970. The school officials did exactly the same thing.

We walked around the perimeter of our Washington Irving Junior High School, following the Principal and teachers.

But thank goodness some of us saw right through that bullshit and rebelled.

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Murphy DEP Issues Report That Whitewashes Gov. Christie’s 8 Year Long Record Of Climate Denial And Rollbacks

September 16th, 2019 No comments

McCabe DEP Pledges Continuity With Flawed Christie DEP Clean Water Policy

Three years late, the Murphy DEP today finally released the Draft 2016 Clean Water Act Section 305(b)/303(d) Report for public comment. (you can read the full Report and see this for how to submit comments).

As mandated by the federal Clean Water Act, the Report:

This report provides the information about New Jersey’s water resources, current water quality conditions, and causes and sources of water quality impairment needed to inform and guide water quality monitoring, restoration and protection efforts conducted at the state, regional, watershed and local levels. The information provided in this report is also used by Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), and the State of New Jersey to establish program priorities and funding for restoring, maintaining, enhancing and protecting waters of the State and the uses and benefits (public health, environmental, and economic) they provide.

I’ll get to the water related contents of the Report in a future post, after I have time to digest this massive tome.

But for now, I want to make 2 important points, the first after reading the climate change section:

I)  Climate Whitewash

The history of DEP’s climate related policy is discussed on pages 87-88.

Remarkably, after discussing Gov. Corzine’s 2007 Global Warming Response Act and the DEP’s 2009 Report mandated by the GWR Act, that section has a 9 year gap – it omits 9 years of Christie climate denial and across the board climate related rollbacks, including, among many other things:

1) issuing Executive Orders #1-4, which: a) handcuffed DEP (i.e. a regulatory moratorium, red tape review, regulatory relief policy & cost benefit analysis), b) abdicated policy to local government (i.e. discouraging unfunded state mandates), and c) effectively blocked any DEP regulation of greenhouse gas emissions or adaptation measures (e.g. advanced notice of rule drafts provided to industry prior to rule proposal, giving them a heads up and chance to kill the baby in its crib);

2) abolishing the DEP Office of climate science and policy responsible for coastal resilience/adaptation. That Office was working on DEP led Statewide policy, planning, & regulation and reported directly to the Commissioner. 

The Christie DEP abolished that DEP led Statewide approach and replaced it with a policy of State abdication and DEP outsourcing of the adaptation program to a handful of local pilot “resilience” studies.

3) terminating NJ’s involvement in the RGGI program (after meeting with David Koch);

4) excluding the findings of climate science from his coastal “rebuild madness” plan in the wake o Sandy;

5) publicly calling climate change an “esoteric issue” that the public didn’t “give a damn about”;

6) directing DEP Commissioner Martin to issue an Order to deregulate reconstruction of public infrastructure wiped out by Sandy;

7) ignoring DEP’s Coastal Management Program’s 319 Coastal Assessment Report findings regarding “strategic retreat” from high hazard areas, putting even more people and property at risk. As we wrote;

Huffington Post first wrote about the history and that Plan in their superb November 2012 investigative piece:  Hurricane Sandy Damage Amplified By Breakneck Development Of Coast:

The intensity of development along the coast clearly influenced the scale of the disaster, said Bill Wolfe, a former analyst for the state’s Department of Environmental Protection who now leads the watchdog group New Jersey Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

“There needs to be an acknowledgement that we can’t keep on doing what we’ve done in the past,” Wolfe said. “We have to face up to the problem.”

8) failure to regulate or reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and

9) adopting an Energy Master Plan that promoted massive expansion of fossil gas infrastructure, killed off shore wind development and set back progress on solar and energy efficiency.

Readers should watch the award winning documentary “Years of Living Dangerously – Episode 5″ for that history. Former DEP Commissioner Mauriello and myself – my interview starts at time 40:06 – are interviewed for that episode. 

Screen Shot 2019-09-17 at 8.45.43 AM

The Murphy DEP report also very selectively presents DEP’s and other actions that are directly related to the above Christie rollbacks, without even once mentioning the Christie DEP rollback.

In order to sustain this whitewash, the Murphy DEP Report also had to omit Gov. Murphy’s own self declared keystone climate policy initiatives, including rejoining RGGI (which had the same water related implication as the 2007 GWRA DEP did mention in the Report), promoting off shore wind, and revising the Christie Energy Master Plan.

Get that? In Order to make the whitewash work and avoid exposing the Christie rollback record, the Murphy DEP actually had to omit Gov. Murphy’s signal climate policies.

DEP also omitted mention of the impacts of the Keep It Green Open Space diversion, which defunded DEP clean water programs discussed in the Report.

It is almost as if Bob Martin or one of his political hacks wrote the Murphy DEP Report.

This is remarkable. How does that happen?

How the hell did a dishonest, technical flawed, selective, incomplete and historically inaccurate Report like that – on THE most crucial issue of our time, climate emergency –  pass scrutiny and receive approval of the DEP management team?

It tells me that the Christie hacks and incompetent careerist bureaucrats are still embedded in the DEP bureaucracy.

II) Murphy DEP Continues Failed Christie Anti-Regulatory Policy

Second, I have written many times about how Murphy DEP Commissioner McCabe has pursued a policy of “continuity” with Christie DEP anti-regulatory policies.

This Report provide another stunning example of that McCabe failure.

The first paragraph of the Murphy DEP Report celebrates the Christie DEP anti-regulatory approach to water policy, including using manufactured scientific uncertainty to avoid compliance with the Clean Water Act and TMDL cleanup program, most notably in Barnegat Bay.

The Murphy DEP Report celebrates this horrible Christie DEP record as follows:

The 2016 Integrated Water Quality Assessment Report (Integrated Report) continues the comprehensive, regional approach to water quality assessment launched by the 2014 Integrated Report to support the identification of specific causes and sources of pollution, and to develop management measures tailored to the unique circumstances of one of New Jersey’s five Water Regions each assessment cycle.  … The Barnegat Bay Initiative served as a pilot for this approach, which was expanded to the entire Atlantic Coastal Water Region for the 2014 Integrated Report.

Why is the Murphy DEP continuing Christie DEP policies that set back progress on clean water for almost a decade?

We will be providing a more in depth review in future posts, but for now, are scratching our heads in response to another clear example of failed leadership, mismanagement and incompetence by Murphy DEP Commissioner McCabe.

End Note: the idiots at DEP even retained their OPRA secrecy lie – the disclaimer “DRAFT AND DELIBERATIVE” is splashed across the top of every page. The only reason that was put there was to deny OPRA requests for the document and the data – DEP does this to prevent the public from seeing how their reports change over time. There are often very revealing changes made.

The fact that they left it there either means the document got no management review, or DEP managers are OK with cynical legalistic attempts to frustrate the intent of OPRA.

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