Home > Uncategorized > An Encounter With Dog Crap Vigilantes – Epic Hypocrisy & Sham Environmentalism

An Encounter With Dog Crap Vigilantes – Epic Hypocrisy & Sham Environmentalism

A Tale of Bechtel and Bouy

A “Loser” Takes Stock Of A Career

I’m still working on Part II of the analysis of Gov. Murphy’s “Resilience” initiative, but want to take another brief detour to post this after a remarkable exchange this morning with a couple I’ll call “The Dog Crap Vigilantes”.

I’m on the Monterey Peninsula, and it is truly spectacular: abundant marine life, turquoise water, graceful Cyprus trees, waves breaking on rocks, incredible flowering succulents, and tons of birds. Highly recommended. But follow this story:

Bouy and I take a walk at sunrise on a path along a glorious stretch of the coastline in Pacific Grove.

One morning last week, he suddenly pulled the leash out of my hand and bolted up a steep vegetated embankment along the path chasing a ground squirrel. At the top of the embankment, about 100 feet above the path, he took a crap along the base of a retaining wall.

I did a quick environmental assessment, and concluded that I would do more harm to the vegetation, soils and water quality by trekking up the steep embankment to pick up his crap than leaving the crap there. There was no public access to this spot at the top of an embankment below a retaining wall, so there could be no public health risks or nuisance impacts from the crap.

As I was calling Bouy back down, I noticed a couple nearby who were walking their dogs. I could see that they were appalled by my failure to pick up the dog crap. So, I tried to explain my assessment and that, although I had plenty of dog crap bags in my pocket, that I thought it was better not to pick it up.

They demanded that I cleanup the crap. The told me that it was the law. The threatened to call the cops.

I again explained my reasoning, and, in an effort to avoid the appearance of being a typical irresponsible dog owner scofflaw and to re-assure them, I added that I was an environmental professional and activist and had worked on water quality and public health for over 30 years (a fact based, if not bold, act of “civil disobedience”?)

The husband interjected angrily again about calling the cops, but his wife was more reasonable. She said she was a marine biologist and that these were protected marine sanctuary waters.

I reiterated that I knew all about and respected that, adding that I had worked at Pew, an organization who works on establishing marine protected areas, and that, based on science, there was absolutely no water quality or aquatic life risks from the nutrients and bacteria in that dog crap, not any public health or nuisance impacts.

The husband then started shouting and called the cops, so I walked on.

I guess the cops didn’t respond because I kept walking down the trail and was not issued any ticket for the violation.

That was all over a week ago.

But this morning, I again came across the same couple on the path.

The woman was going into or coming out of a new building associated with the Aquarium – The Bechtel Family Center For Ocean Education and Leadership.

They slowed down to let me pass – and as I walked past them, I couldn’t resist making a snarky comment about Bechtel, a notorious corporate crime syndicate that has done massive harm to the earth and marine environment.

So, I said something like:

 “Nothing like dog crap vigilantes parading as marine life protectors who associate with corporate crime families. Bechtel has done such wonderful things for the earth and the oceans. No hypocrisy and no irony there. Oh no, you folks are good “green”  liberals.”

The husband exploded angrily and shouted as I walked past:

You loser – what have you done?

I responded that he was not only a liberal corporate hypocrite, but he was using the bankrupt language of Trump (i.e. “loser”), and that he was therefore an ignorant Trumpist.

Ideally, in various public arenas, citizens address one another in the give and take of free and open dialogue. This requires what we might call “conversational virtues.” It means that we must have learned to respect the other, must know how to learn our way through conflict, to dig deeply in our imaginations and desires to provide sound reasons to convince our conversation partners (or, in turn, be convinced). Shouting hate-filled and angry nasty words at perceived opponents is all too prevalent in our world of shattered speech and blocked dialogue. (Michael Welton, Counterpunch)

He again shouted: “You loser – what have you done for the earth?”

I replied that I had spent my life fighting for it and moved on.

As I walked down the trail, that stupid exchange provide a moment for reflection on what I actually have contributed over my career.

I thought for a moment and, despite the fact that I often am frustrated by our failures and rollbacks, we have led and/or been part of a lot of good stuff.

I wish I had conducted this mental inventory before and spit it out in that Corporate Bechtel Faux Liberal Green Dog Crap Vigilante’s face.

Here’s what I’ve done you asshole – go get another reusable eco-straw:

1. Designed NJ DEP’s first RCRA 1984 HSWA Corrective Action Program, wrote 45 RCRA “Facility Management Plans” (FMP’s), supervised the completion of about 60 RCRA toxic site “Preliminary Assessments” and “Site Inspections”  (PA/SI’s) and represented DEP before EPA oversight. Unfortunately, all that good work went down the drain, as DEP managers decided not to seek EPA delegation of the Corrective Action Program.

2. Shifted over $250 million intended to fund the construction of garbage incinerators (under cover of the euphemism “resource recovery”) to municipal and county recycling programs. While former NJ Deputy Attorney General Marc Wenzler (last I heard Marc was working with the National lawyers Guild) wrote the legal opinion, I originated the idea, crafted the policy, and pushed it through DEP management using the leverage I had as the only DEP staffer working with the “McEnroe” funds: the Solid Waste Services tax fund, Resource Recovery Investment and Importation tax funds, and the 1985 Solid Waste Disposal Facility Bond Act funds.

3. Worked closely with Frank Sweeney of Governor Florio’s Office on an Executive Order, Task Force Report, and revised DEP Solid Waste Plan that terminated about 15 planned county garbage incinerators and established a new materials management based policy hierarchy of source reduction, composing, recycling, including what then was the highest recycling rate in the country. Source reduction policy was killed in its crib (along with Pollution Prevention),  and “post consumer content” has turned into a marketing sham (my coffee this morning had a “eco-lid” composed on 25% post consumer content!).

4. Worked with my first DEP boss Joe Wiley on the State Landfill Closure Plan – the plan was shelved by none other than then DEP Commissioner Chris Daggett, who would not defend it and literally laughed in our faces on our recommendation that he seek support of Gov. Kean for $3 billion to fund the plan. But it was ahead of its time and – if implemented – could have avoided major water pollution, drinking water contamination, vapor intrusion, and greenhouse gas emissions from old landfills.

5. Worked with DEP colleagues, legislators, and the Office of Legislative Services lawyers to draft the Dry Cell Battery Management Act and the Toxic Packaging Reduction Act, laws that significantly reduced the amount of toxic heavy metals entering the environment. Mike Winka (now at BPU) and I lost a major battle with lobbyists from NJ’s consumer products industry on drafting and seeking passage of the Household Hazardous Waste Management Act (A973), sponsored by Assemblywoman Maureen Ogden [R]. Tom Johnson’s Star Ledger front page coverage of that debate sealed the deal. Way to go Tom, you’re still an asshole!

6. As a whistleblower, leaked documents, including a memo from DEP Commissioner Shinn to Gov. Whitman, that disclosed high levels of mercury in freshwater fish and the Whitman administration’s attempt to cover that up. This forced DEP to issue public fish consumption health advisories and contributed to the later mercury emission standard from coal fired power plants.

7. As Policy Director of the NJ Environmental Federation, initiated the idea, designed a strategy and public campaign and wrote the legislative Resolution and Constitutional Amendment that dedicated 4% of the Corporate Business Tax (CBT) revenue – about $100 million per year – to DEP environmental programs.

8. As Policy Director of Sierra Club, NJ Chapter, worked with legislators and OLS to draft the Watershed Protection Act, which codified and funded DEP’s Watershed Planning initiative.

9. As Policy Director of Sierra Club, worked with volunteers to kill the proposed Mercer County garbage incinerator and a massive new sprawl driving sewer line into Hopewell Valley.

10. While at Sierra, almost single handedly took down the Whitman administrations sham “Open Market Emissions Trading (OMET) program, an early pollution trading scheme and precursor to another sham called RGGI. Funny, PSE&G was never prosecuted or penalized for fraudulent OMET schemes they made millions off.

11. Testified to the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in strong opposition to the confirmation of George Bush’s selection of Christie Whitman as US EPA Administrator. Had my criticisms been taken seriously, perhaps Whitman would not have been there post 9/11 to lie about the air quality in southern Manhattan and many thousands of first responders might still be alive and healthy.

12. As policy advisor to McGreevey administration DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell, accomplished the following:

a) crafted the Category One Waters (C1) strategy, including a new Clean Water Act anti-degradation policy, ecological assessment method, and C1 designation process. Drafted new C1 SWQS regulations and designated over 2,00 miles of C1 waters and solicited public nominations of thousands of miles more.

b) worked to insert a new “special waters protection area” 300 foot wide stream buffer program in the DEP stormwater management rules. This new program, during the McGreevey years, protected over 2,000 stream miles and over 175,000 acres of environmentally sensitive steam buffers from disturbance by major development.

c) worked closely with Curtis Fisher of Governor MGreevey’s Office to design a Highlands initiative, including an Executive Order and Highlands Taskforce Report. I drafted the DEP regulatory and environmental provisions of the introduced version of the Highlands Act, Senate Bill #1. I especially appreciate that I wrote the “deep aquifer recharge” provision that – because the Act also prohibited extension of water supply and wastewater infrastructure – set a septic system driven land use density standard in the Preservation Area of 1 unit per 88 acres, the strictest in the country!

d) worked closely with DEP Commissioner Campbell to develop a new phosphorus initiative, including making major revisions to DEP’s enforcement of Surface Water Quality Standards for phosphorus and nutrients and the NJPDES surface water discharge permit program, to impose reductions of phosphorus discharged to NJ rivers and streams.

13. Founded the NJ State Chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (NJ PEER), responsible for a large body of work that made public disclosures that influenced statewide environmental policy, legislation and regulation. (see our work here).

14. Worked a stint at Pew Environment Group as Manager of their Mid Atlantic Fisheries “End Overfishing” campaign. Got nothing done, but learned about fisheries biology and law and made a ton of money. It was at Pew where I learned first hand of the culture, values, corruption, and cowardice of elite private foundations at how they used their money to manipulate environmental groups and the public debate.

15. Was a volunteer “citizen journalist” as the environmental writer at the Newark Star Ledger’s “NJ Voices” page. Got fired from a volunteer gig for telling the truth. Ha!

16. Blogged here at Wolfenotes and have given the bad guys hell.

17. Provided pro bono strategic advice and technical assistance to numerous citizens groups, from Cape May and the Pinelands to High Point and the Highlands, on a range of environmental, land use, infrastructure, climate, and public health issues and campaigns.

18. I’ve been an expert source to several fine environmental and investigative reporters, including award winning journalists Dusty MacNichol & Kelly Richmond (Whitman “Open For Business”) and Jeff Pillets (Encap) and Mark Bittman (of the NY Times) on award winning documentary “Years of Living Dangerously – Episode 5″).

I’m sure I left lots of stuff and people out. I think this work has had an effect. I enjoyed doing it.

This is not the kind of work that gets you Foundation and DEP grants, invitations to the “Stakeholder” meetings, conference speaking engagements, and lots of press quotes and Op-Ed opportunities – or even a roof over your head – but it is very effective.

And its not over, folks!

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.