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The Cap Is Full Of Crap – And So Are Gov. Murphy’s Trenton Cheerleaders

November 29th, 2019 No comments

Wall Street Wind Exempted From Cap

Once Again, Trenton Cheerleaders Exposed

Follow The Wall Street & PSE&G Money

Why was a costly, capital intensive, centralized, large scale off shore wind energy source with little market competition exempted from the cost cap, while the cheaper, labor intensive, decentralized, small scale, and far more competitive solar technology was not?

You won’t find it mentioned anywhere in NJ Gov. Murphy’s self congratulatory press release on signing the bill into law- or in the stenography that masquerades as journalism – but the Gov.’s highly touted renewable law included  a Trojan Horse cap on costs of renewable energy.

Even the solar industry ignored the cap issue in their rush to issue sycophantic praise of Gov. Murphy:

“This new law is nothing less than a fundamental overhaul of the way our state will generate, distribute, and use energy”, stated Jim Spano, MSEIA’s Vice President for New Jersey. “It will launch New Jersey, the birthplace of solar power technology, into the forefront of the drive to combat global warming and create a sustainable energy future”.

Just listen to these lapdogs trip over each other to praise Gov. Murphy: (in Gov. Murphy’s own press release)

“The clean energy bill is a great down payment on Governor Murphy’s commitment to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. I couldn’t be more thrilled the Governor took this initiative one step further today by signing an executive order to update the energy supply plan toward the 100 percent clean energy goal.” ~~~ Ed Potosnak, executive director, NJ League of Conservation Voters

“This landmark legislation and executive order show that New Jersey is serious about rapidly adopting clean, renewable energy. From far-reaching environmental benefits, to tens of thousands of jobs that strengthen our economy, to lower emissions that fend off climate change and improve our health, the advantages of clean energy are undeniable. With these actions, Gov. Murphy is making New Jersey a national leader in the transition away from fossil fuels toward a healthier and more prosperous clean energy future.” ~~~ Tom Gilbert, campaign director, ReThink Energy NJ and New Jersey Conservation Foundation

But, at the time the bill was moving through the legislature, we warned about the disastrous impacts of the cap and harshly criticized the environmental groups who supported it, see:

The current version of the bill contains a cap that would kill the necessary expansion of renewable energy, Section 6.d.(2) provides::

Those caps … would function very much like the “cost test” in the Offshore Wind Act, which was to provide a basis and political cover for BPU to block wind. That cost test was a scheme of Sweeney and former Gov. Christie.)

They [caps] would be the death knell for renewable energy in NJ and make it impossible to meet the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals of the Global Warming Response Act, which will require major investment and larger ratepayer increases to pay for them. …

We got confirmation that the assholes from NJ LCV signed off on the poison pill provision.

These people are dangerously incompetent and corrupt too.

Our warnings went unheeded – with the exception of wind as discussed below – and the cap was signed into law by Gov. Murphy.

Throughout the debate on the legislation, some of the so called “green groups” contradicted our analysis and just flat out lied to the public about costs. Here is a perfect example of that:(NJ Spotlight)

But others argued there is a pathway to move to a cleaner energy economy – one that would not cost consumers or businesses any more than they are now paying, if the state continued to rely on conventional power sources for electricity.

Not only is it achievable, but it is affordable, according to Barb Blumenthal, research director for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “We see many pathways forward that don’t cost any more money and some that cost less than business as usual for New Jersey,” she said, citing a study by her group.

But now, months after the Trojan Horse is out of the barn, the cap – just as we predicted – finally is being openly discussed as a major threat to the solar industry – even forcing the industry to leave the State – and the solar industry is seeking legislative relied from the cap.

Two days ago, NJ Spotlight reported:

The challenge was to arrive at a proper balance between those conflicting goals, which are complicated by the law’s inclusion of a cost cap that eventually limits increases in incentives for solar projects. Without some relief from the cap, solar developers say investment likely will dry up in the state, even with the modest increase in incentives offered by the BPU’s draft proposal.

“I think we’re heading in the right direction,’’ said Fred DeSanti, a lobbyist who represents the New Jersey Solar Energy Coalition. ‘’These moves were very helpful, but we need statutory relief from the cap.’’

What kind of idiots are these people?

Just months after lavish, over the top praise of the Gov. and the renewable energy law, they now seek legislative relief from it?

But in addition to exposing these cheerleaders as the frauds that they are, there is an important set of policy issues and flawed premises being ignored in the discussion of the cap.

The capital intensive and Wall Street supported off shore wind industry was exempted from the cap. Why?

Here is the language from the law Gov. Murphy signed (P.L. 2018, c. 17) (emphases mine)

Notwithstanding the requirements of this subsection, the board shall ensure that the cost to customers of the Class I renewable energy requirement imposed pursuant to this subsection shall not exceed nine percent of the total paid for electricity by all customers in the State for energy year 2019, energy year 2020, and energy year 2021, respectively, and shall not exceed seven percent of the total paid for electricity by all customers in the State in any energy year thereafter. In calculating the cost to customers of the Class I renewable energy requirement imposed pursuant to this subsection, the board shall not include the costs of the offshore wind energy certificate program established pursuant to paragraph (4) of this subsection. The board shall take any steps necessary to prevent the exceedance of the cap on the cost to customers including, but not limited to, adjusting the Class I renewable energy requirement.

While I oppose any caps (there are several, not just on rate increases), I must ask: Why was the costly and capital intensive, centralized, large scale off shore wind energy technology – a renewable energy with little market competition – exempted from the cost cap, while the labor intensive, decentralized, small scale, and far more competitive solar technology was not?

Could it be that the Wall Street greedsters and corporate wind developers had a leg up with former Wall Streeter Gov. Murphy?

Could it be that wind industry and the gas industry have teamed up and are stealth financing and locking us into a centralized and fossil reliant energy infrastrucure (as I wrote recently)? (a suspicion reinforced by recent talk of PSEG forming corporate partnerships and investments with wind developer Orsted).

These are just some of the issues that need to be investigated and hard questions asked about.

But don’t expect any of that from the Trenton Cheerleaders, lapdogs and stenographers.

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How Not To Defend Scientific Integrity

November 26th, 2019 No comments

Brennan Center Co-Chair Christie Whitman Makes A Mockery Of Scientific Integrity

Christie Whitman testifies before the House Judiciary Committee to defend her post 9/11 EPA actions and remarks.

Christie Whitman testifies before the House Judiciary Committee to defend her post 9/11 EPA actions and remarks.

I was just reading an important Op-Ed from the Brennan Center – a very fine organization whose work I highly respect – on the Trump administration’s most recent and most egregious attack on science, see:

The Trump administration is proposing a rule that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from relying on research when crafting regulations unless the underlying data is publicly available. This is a problem because the data in studies showing how pollution harms people’s health often includes individuals’ confidential personal information — including medical records that are protected by privacy law. Without access to such data, the EPA would not be able to use the best available science when writing rules to ensure clean air and water.

So far, so good.

But then, in reading the second paragraph, my head exploded upon reading of the highlighted involvement of Christie Whitman:

The proposal is the Trump administration’s latest assault on science-based policymaking, especially when it comes to the environment. Fortunately, a bill gaining bipartisan momentum in Congress would protect objective government research: the Scientific Integrity Act. The measure was just endorsed by the Brennan Center’s bipartisan National Task Force on Rule of Law & Democracy, a group of policy experts and former government officials led by former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

Whitman is not a “policy expert” and certainly has no business leading a group of former government officials on issues regarding scientific integrity.

Whitman’s record as NJ Governor and EPA Administrator on scientific and public health issues makes a mockery of the stated objectives of the Scientific Integrity Act and contradicts the values and principles and mission of the Brennan Center, who authored the Op-Ed.

I fired off the email below to the Brennan Center, and several other people and organizations with knowledge of Whitman’s record. Unfortunately, I don’t have the email of former US EPA Ombudsman Hugh Kaufman, who Whitman directly retaliated against.

Greetings – I recently read of the work of the Brennan Center in reference to an Op-Ed on the proposed “Scientific Integrity Act”, which highlighted the role of Co-Chair Christine Whitman.

As someone with direct personal first hand detailed knowledge of her record on scientific integrity issues, I was appalled.

The role of Ms. Whitman as Co-Chair effects the credibility of your organization – Are you aware of the record of Ms. Whitman as NJ Governor and US EPA Administrator?

That record contradicts and undermines your asserted core values and principles and should effectively disqualify her from credible public service with your organization.

I’ll mention just a few – all of which have been amply documented in the public record, including by an award winning journalistic series “Open For Business” by the Bergen Record regarding Whitman’s policies as NJ Gov.

1. As NJ Governor, Whitman participated in misleading the public about and suppression of science regarding health risks of mercury in freshwater fish. I have direct knowledge of this, including sworn testimony by Assistant Commissioner Richard Sinding, – who wrote the fraudulent memo at the direction of Commission Shinn – in an administrative hearing to support these claims. As a NJ DEP official, I blew the whistle on that and was retaliated against and forced out of the Agency by Whitman’s Attorney General’s Office and DEP Commissioner. The AG initially took the radically flawed legal position that a memorandum to the Gov. from the DEP Commissioner and her hand written notes on a media clip were the Gov.’s “private property” and that my public disclosure of them constituted “theft”.

2. As NJ Gov., Whitman was photographed with NJ State Police conducting an illegal and racist stop and search “frisk” of a black man in Camden NJ. Photo here:

Whitman conducts her notorious “frisk” in Camden with State Police profiling team. Note the broad smile.

Whitman conducts her notorious “frisk” in Camden with State Police profiling team. Note the broad smile.

3. As US EPA Administrator, Whitman lied to the public about the risks of the air in southern Manhattan in the wake of the 9/11 attack. A federal Judge found that Whitman’s behavior “shocked the conscience”. Again, Whitman retaliated against EPA officials who challenged her ethics and decision-making (EPA Ombudsman Hugh Kaufman).

4. Whitman is a paid shill for the nuclear industry.

There is much, much more. For a more comprehensive critique, see the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee transcript of her confirmation hearing for EPA Administrator, specifically the testimony of NJ Chapter of Sierra Club and by Bill Neil, Conservation Director of the NJ Audubon Society.

This is not the kind of record of “public service” that reflects your organization’s values. In fact, it makes a mockery of them.

For additional details, and links to documents, see:

Christie Whitman Did The Same Things She Now Attacks Trump For
http://www.wolfenotes.com/2018/02/christie-whitman-did-the-same-things-she-now-attacks-trump-for/

My bio is here:
http://www.wolfenotes.com/about/

Please separate your organization from Ms. Whitman.

Bill Wolfe

I also should have added that in an interview with a NY Times reporter, Whitman revealed that she didn’t know the difference between the depletion of the ozone layer and global warming. When the reporter gave Whitman the opportunity to correct herself as having misspoken inadvertently, Whitman stubbornly dug in and tried to fabricate a link between ozone depletion and warming.

Her quote in NY Times 12/21/00

“But when asked to discuss her views on the science behind global warming on Tuesday, Governor Whitman responded by citing her doubts about the causes of the hole in the protective ozone layer high in the atmosphere

She was asked: ”Global warming, what is your thought on what the state of science is and what can be done to address it?”

Mrs. Whitman said: ”Still somewhat uncertain. Clearly there’s a hole in the ozone, that has been identified. But I saw a study the other day that showed that that was closing. It’s not as clear, the cause and effect, as we would like it to be.”

When some experts on the atmosphere and pollution read a transcript of Mrs. Whitman’s statements, they said the governor had clearly confused two distinct, important global environmental problems: global warming and the ozone hole.

Today, asked to clarify her views, the governor said she might have misunderstood the question, but added that she did not think the two issues were ”not interrelated.”

”In both of those instances, I’m not sure that there’s a scientific consensus on how to deal with them,” Governor Whitman said today. ”There seems to be good enough evidence that both are occurring. But I am not aware of a uniformly agreed to scientific response, on either the causes or the solutions here.”

She just makes shit up to mask her ignorance.

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Gas And Pipeline Industries Link Transition To Renewables To Increased Reliance On Fossil Gas

November 22nd, 2019 No comments

Poor Issue Framing, Corporate PR, and Narrow Focus On Renewable Capacity Plays Right Into Their Hands

Source: advertisement today in NJ Spotlight

Source: advertisement today in NJ Spotlight

The press was protected [by the Constitution] so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. ~~~ Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, Concurring in New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971). (WiKi)

In a recent post, I wrote that Gov. Murphy’s energy and climate policies and 100% renewable energy transition – if actually implemented -were existential threats to the fossil gas and pipeline industries and would radically reduce the demand for gas. I accused South Jersey Gas of misleading investors, regulators, and the public, including by presenting unrealistic rosy scenarios about projected increases in demand for gas and associated corporate revenues and profits.

Not surprisingly, those industries disagree.

Check it out. These troubling claims are from a PennEast pipeline add today posted at revenue hungry NJ Spotlight:

Renewables are an important component of a diverse energy supply, but natural gas is needed to supply on-demand, clean back-up power to the electric grid when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. …

While natural gas-fired capacity increases, renewable sources also will increase. As renewable power grows, natural gas is uniquely suited to serve as its foundation fuel. As there are varying amounts of sun and wind, based on the season and time of day, solar and wind power requires natural gas and other traditional fuels on standby as part of a reliable backup system. (For every kilowatt of renewable electricity, there must be a kilowatt of back-up.)

Linking fossil to renewables – to paraphrase my grandfather – takes big balls.

If they spin like this publicly, can you imagine what their lobbyists are saying to legislators and the Governor behind closed doors?

But PennEast’s claims are not only “game over for the climate”, they are plausible and politically realistic, particularly given the corrupt influence of the energy industry on State policymakers and the parallel need for those policy makers to defend their corrupt decisions with some plausible rationale and talking points that are so clearly and simply set out by PennEast.

That makes these PennEast arguments doubly dangerous, especially because they are going virtually un-rebutted by climate and environmental activists and media.

Unfortunately, many of the environmental cheerleaders for wind are playing right into their hands by focusing almost exclusively on increases in capacity of wind and solar, without making parallel demands by linking the transition to renewable to a radical restructuring of: 1) the electric grid 2) the current regulatory framework; 3) private corporate ownership and Wall Street investor control; 4) regulatory mandates that there is a 1-1 replacement of new renewables capacity for existing fossil a phase out timetable for existing fossil; and 5) a radical downward revision in economic growth expectations and our grossly unjust economy and unhealthy consumer and materialistic lifestyles.

It is beyond the scope of this note to lay this all out, but the simple points that must be linked and made part of the transition and renewable discussion are: 1) micro-grids and local distributed energy; 2) elimination of PJM control and the current BPU market driven energy deregulatory model which defends incumbent fossil generators and puts industry profits before the planet and needs of the people; 3) public ownership and democratic control; and 4) regulatory mandates to require renewables and phase out fossil, not just the current suite of voluntary market driven measures, incentives, and subsidies.

Public ownership is not a utopian or radical idea, it’s happening right now in California, which of course is a fact – just like the California nuclear phase out – that you will never read at NJ Spotlight, see:

Blocked by an effective energy industry political veto, even mainstream modest incremental reform policy options available under current law are being totally ignored in NJ, like putting a price on carbon to reflect climate impacts (aka “social cost of carbon” – a non-regulatory market based tool I do not support – e.g. see Exxon’s version of a carbon tax) are being discussed in New York:

NYISO’s Carbon Pricing Proposal: The Essence

NYISO’s proposal would incorporate a carbon price in the NYISO- administered wholesale energy markets, in dollars per ton of CO2emissions resulting from power plant operations. The carbon price would be based on the social cost of carbon emissions, established by New York State officials. …

The carbon charge would provide incentives to suppliers of power with low or no carbon emissions, including for innovative low- carbon technologies that may not yet be developed or be commercial in wholesale markets that do not provide compensation for the value those resources provide. Imports of power into New York would have a carbon adder, thus discouraging leakage of CO2emissions into neighboring regions.

Note comparison of SCC with RGGI - Source: NYISO Carbon Price Proposal (12/7/18)

Note comparison of SCC with RGGI – Source: NYISO Carbon Price Proposal (12/7/18)

While we desperately need to reframe and broaden the discussion, we won’t get any of those arguments from corporate PR firms that the electric vehicle, wind, and anti-PennEast pipeline activists are relying on (see their private individual, voluntary, consumption reinforcing, “stronger”, pro-corporate  elite, market based, consumer “choice” framing that IGNORES THE CLIMATE CRISIS):

Screen Shot 2019-11-22 at 9.04.12 AM

Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal Climate Crisis Plan establishes the national policy framework.

See Dave Roberts’ recent superb over-view of these issues:

And Chris Hedges lays out the activist and political strategy, see:

Have at it, but ignore the PennEast arguments and talking points at your peril.

[End Note: It is remarkable that NJ Spotlight continues to accept misleading and false by omission fossil energy advertisements.

Do they need the money that bad? Have they no journalistic standards?

As I’ve written, has no one learned from the NY State lawsuit against Exxon for lying about climate crisis?

After four years of legal sparring and finger-pointing, oil-industry giant Exxon Mobil went to court on Tuesday to face charges that the company lied to shareholders and to the public about the costs and consequences of climate change.

The case turns on the claim that Exxon kept a secret set of financial books that seriously underestimated the costs of potential climate change regulation while claiming publicly that it was taking such factors into account. It follows a sprawling investigation that included millions of pages of documents and allegations of a chief executive’s secret email account.

Did the NY Times contribute to these lies by giving the oil industry a quarter of the Op-Ed page to spew those lies?

Did the NY Times contribute to these lies by failing to report the science in a way that directly confronted and exposed the lies that they were allowing to be printed in their own paper? By printing scores of “he said/she said” stories that gave these false claims legitimacy?

Would the NY Times print these lies today?

The questions answer themselves.

So, with this context in mind, I was beyond disgusted yesterday to read “sponsored content” in NJ Spotlight by the same pack of corporate oil and gas industry liars, operating as a dark money propaganda front group purported to protect consumers and families,

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NJ Press Corps Has Always Been Soft On Political Abuses By The NJ State Police

November 19th, 2019 No comments

Journalism In a Bubble, As Climate Rebellion About To Explode

Dear NJ Press Corps: Naomi Klein is now at Rutgers. Giver her a call. Get a clue.

Dear Blind Boys of Trenton – Chris Hedges lives just up the road in Princeton

Protestor at Obama event, Scranton Pa.  (8/11/15)

Protestor at Albany NY anti-fracking event (8/11/15) He told me he was a real cop

Veteran reporter and NJ Spotlight co-founder John Mooney had a career first yesterday – and his own words reveal just how clueless, lame, and out of touch he and his profession are.

In today’s NJ Spotlight email distribution, Mooney wrote:

Just when we thought New Jersey’s lame duck session may not be that exciting after all, this happened. It was a first for me as a reporter to see State Police not just escort protesters out of a Statehouse hearing, but actually physically remove them — or at least one of them, in this case activist Susan Altman (pictured). And all at a hearing on corporate tax incentives, no less.

What the fuck is he talking about?

Let me break that lame bullshit down in the order Mooney presented it:

1. “Excitement”?

As if the Lame Duck session’s abuse of democracy and orgy of political corruption are some kind of sports event or reality TeeVee show?

We recently criticized NJ Spotlight for coverage that ignores the corruption and abuse of democracy that calls itself “lame duck”:

So, I must ask: Why are so-called “progressive” and “green” groups supporting ramming through controversial and deeply flawed legislation in the lame duck session? …

For many years, environmental groups have railed against lame duck legislation being rammed through after elections as a gross abuse of the legislative process and democratic accountability.

The public is shut out of the legislative process, there is virtually no legislative deliberation, dirty deals are pervasive, and legislators dodge electoral accountability for their often highly controversial votes.

Some of the worst special interest legislation gets passed in lame duck.

But this “excitement” meme is a bridge too far and reveals that even NJ Spotlight – “where issues matter” – is driven by entertainment values, consciously or not.

2. “First time”

A longtime NJ Statehouse and political reporter would have to be blind to not see NJ State Police in action in Trenton abusing people’s Constitutional rights.

Where the hell has Mr. Mooney been?

I’ve personally been the victim of and/or witnessed 3 egregious State Police political abuses in the last 5 years alone. That’s just the tip of a very large iceberg – and obviously it is not limited geographically to Trenton and the State House.

I sent Mooney this email note, with documentation – I’m sure I’ll get no response, just like the inquiry I made to Mooney asking why NJ Spotlight banned me from commenting on articles:

John – yesterday was your first time? Where you been? Here are 3 episodes, 2 of which I was the victim of and 1 I witnessed:

I was ejected from a DEP public hearing in the DEP building, and I was not protesting (I was talking to longtime DEP DAG George Schlosser). My mere presence – and photography of DEP’s “New World Order” powerpoint – was a threat to Christie DEP Commissioner Martin, who ordered my removal by 2 state police officers, one under each elbow, see:

DEP Commissioner Martin Uses State Police To Eject Environmentalist From Polluter’s Advisory Group Meeting

Again, in December 2016, a State Police officer ejected me from the State House, for which I filed a complaint with the SP for excessive force and violation of my rights, see:

State Police Officer Facing Complaint For Excessive Force In Improper Ejection From State House

And I witnessed and wrote about this:

Christie DEP Deploys State Police To Eject Mayor and Critics From Public Hearing on Pipeline Permit

The NJ press corps has always been soft on reporting abuses by State Police.

[Update #1: BTW, a NJ State Police officer actually trespassed on my property and poisoned my home – true story! How could he possibly have believed that was OK?

[Update #2 – Here is another example of political abuse by State House authorities – of course it was witnessed but ignored by the corporate media, because I was just a dirty blogger:

[Update #3 Tom Moran joins the Blind Boys of Trenton – like a virgin, he too was touched for the very first time]

3. “Corporate tax incentives, no less”

The “no less” gives it away.

How could Mooney be surprised that gross corruption and corporate power and corporate subsidies trigger citizen protest?

Is Mooney aware of “climate disobedience”? (now expanded as Sunrise Movement? Extinction Rebellion?

Where has Mooney been for the last decade or more, hiding under his desk in Trenton?

Mr. Mooney must be prepared for a radical escalation of non-violent direct action protest, as the climate emergency explodes into public view and millions engage in rebellion.

For an explanation of all that, see Chris Hedges column yesterday – it might be the most important thing you’ll ever read:

Police film protesters at Philadelphia anti-fracking event - 9/20/12

Police film protesters at Philadelphia anti-fracking event – 9/20/12 You never saw this abuse reported by corporate media

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South Jersey Gas Misled Investors And Regulators – Murphy Attorney General Grewal Urged To Investigate

November 18th, 2019 No comments

SJG Investor Briefing Based On Exaggerated Representations & Material Omissions

SJG Repeated The Lie That BPU “Ordered” Them To Build Pinelands Pipeline

“there may be massive securities fraud here.”

When do “overly optimistic projections” become fraud?

“The corrupt system is going to kill us all unless we rise up” ~~~  Roger Hallam, quoted by Chris Hedges

At the end of my previous post on the current fiasco on the Pinelands Commission, I raised a question, based on the remarks to the Commission by activist Agnes Marsala (People Over Pipelines) (emphasis in original):

[Agnes] claimed that SJG favorably advised investors of their intent to proceed AFTER the meeting with Wittenberg. That is an incredible situation that warrants investigation.

Agnes has since sent me and I had a chance to read the November 7, 2019 South Jersey Gas investors briefing she alluded to, see:

Before highlighting the facts and issues on South Jersey Gas (SJG), let me set the context.

I) NY State Exxon Lawsuit

The New York State Attorney General is suing Exxon for misleading investors and the public about climate change and how it impacts the financial health of the firm.

The NY Times reports: (emphases mine)

The case turns on the claim that Exxon kept a secret set of financial books that seriously underestimated the costs of potential climate change regulation while claiming publicly that it was taking such factors into account.

South Jersey Gas faces similar issues with respect to their investments in the proposed PennEast and Pinelands pipelines.

Again, a prior story in the NY Times framed those issues:

For example, he said, the investigation is scrutinizing a 2014 reportby Exxon Mobil stating that global efforts to address climate change would not mean that it had to leave enormous amounts of oil reserves in the ground as so-called “stranded assets.”

But many scientists have suggested that if the world were to burn even just a portion of the oil in the ground that the industry declares on its books, the planet would heat up to such dangerous levels that “there’s no one left to burn the rest,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

By that logic, Exxon Mobil will have to leave much of its oil in the ground, which means the company’s valuation of its reserves is off by a significant amount.

“If, collectively, the fossil fuel companies are overstating their assets by trillions of dollars, that’s a big deal,” Mr. Schneiderman said. And if the company’s own internal research shows that Exxon Mobil knows better, he added, “there may be massive securities fraud here.”

Since the Exxon lawsuit was filed, the science has become far more urgent, with most recently 11,000 climate scientists issuing a statement warning of “untold suffering”.

Similarly, political events are ramping up dramatically, with non-violent direct action protests worldwide by Extinction Rebellion and here in US by the Sunrise Movement, while Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal Plan driving the 2020 Presidential debate.

II)  SJG Fails to Disclose That It Faces Existential Threats By Federal Courts and NJ Regulators

There are several significant developments that impact the fundamental economics and risks facing South Jersey Gas, none of which were disclosed by SJG to investors:

1. South Jersey Gas is faced with the termination of the Pinelands pipeline by the Pinelands Commission.

2. Required NJ DEP regulatory approvals and construction of their PennEast pipeline has been blocked by the federal courts and construction is opposed the the Murphy Administration’s Attorney General.

Accordingly, SJG investments in the development of those pipelines – over $80 million – is threatened, as are the multimillion dollar revenue stream, income and profits SJG expected from those pipelines.

3. Additionally, the NJ legislature recently enacted new laws designed to reduce the use and demand for among other things, natural gas through both direct demand reduction (fuel switching from fossil gas to renewable sources) and energy conservation.

4. The Murphy administration has committed to an energy policy of a transition to 100% renewable energy, thereby literally putting SJG out of business.

5. The Murphy Board of Public Utilities will soon adopt a new Energy Master Plan (EMP) that will dramatically revise the Christie Administration’s pro-gas policies.

New BPU EMP policies and regulations may include a moratorium on new pipeline construction, phase out of existing pipelines and power plants, a significant new “Social Cost of Carbon” assessment or “shadow price” – on fossil fuels, reduction in BPU approved recoveries or SJG profits on fossil investments, closure of prior revenue loopholes (e.g. SBC & RGGI exemptions) and elimination of incentives and subsidies for fossil gas, and replacement of existing heating, cooling, and other building equipment and uses of natural gas.

Such policies would dramatically increase the cost and reduce the demand for natural gas and thereby radically reduce SJG’s projected anticipated revenues and the value of their capital infrastructure and fossil investment portfolio.

[And SJG no longer has their lobbyist Richard Mroz as President of the BPU.]

6. Should NY State prevail in the Exxon lawsuit, SJG could be subject to new financial accounting rules that radically alter the fundamental economics of fossil energy, the value of the firm, and establish new contingent liabilities and stranded assets.

III) Compounding Omissions of Material Facts, SJG “Rosy Scenario” Misleads Investors

However, the SJG November 7, 2019 investors briefing failed to mention any of these major legislative, regulatory, public policy, and BPU planning initiatives and the implications of the Exxon lawsuit.

Just the opposite: SJG presented a rosy scenario: they claimed increases in demand for natural gas and said revenue and risk were consistent with expectations.

Here is the opening statement by Mike RennaPresident and Chief Executive Officer:

 I am pleased to report that our third quarter results were in line with our expectations. … We are encouraged by the continued strong demand for natural gas across the different regions we serve. … On the regulatory front as you know we have been busy this year planning and executing several important long-term initiatives for Elizabethtown…. Last on the financial front the sale of our noncore assets over the past year as well as our refinancing activities is steadily improving our balance sheet…. Throughout 2019 we’ve been focused on building a foundation of solid regulated performance. We are pleased with our progress and encouraged by the strong demand we continue to see for natural gas.

Of course, you remember the Renna affair.

By failing to note highly relevant and material facts on legal, regulatory and public policy and how they impact risks, liabilities and financial performance of SJG fossil investments – while instead exaggerating exactly the opposite allegedly favorable developments – SJG misled investors.

A vague allusion that investors review SEC filings, in this context, is totally inadequate and will not cover SJG’s asses (sic) and full disclosure responsibilities!

IV) SJG Misled Pinelands Commission Regulators

SJG also misled NJ regulators.

Specifically, Pinelands Commission Executive Director Nancy Wittenberg summarized a meeting between SJG and Commission staff at the Commissions’ November 9, 2019 Commission meting.

According to Wittenberg, among other things, SJG advised the staff that they were still interested in constructing the pipeline and that BPU had “ordered” then to construct the pipeline. 

This repeats a lie SJG told during the Pinelands Commission’s initial review of the proposed pipeline.

BPU has not “ordered” – as in “mandated” – that SJG construct the Pinelands pipeline. BPU approvals come in the form of a “Order” by the Board. That is BPU standard operating procedure. That BPU “Order” approving SJG pipeline is not the legal equivalent of a mandate that they construct it.

Accordingly, SJG also misled regulators at the Pinelands Commission.

There are similar issues raised by the PennEast pipeline that I have not mentioned here.

Via this post, I am calling on NJ Attorney General Great to conduct an investigation into the issues, along the lines of the NY State Exxon lawsuit.

I will back this up with a letter to AG Grewal – forthcoming.

In the interim, I urge the many securities experts and corporate lawyers out there who are far more familiar with and competent to advocate these issues to join my efforts and reach out to AG Grewal.

Of course, I’d be glad to do so for them on an anonymous basis – just drop me an email.

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