Archive for February, 2020

Another NJ Spotlight Corporate Roundtable Scam

February 11th, 2020 No comments

Panel on Delaware River Includes Corporate & Anti-Regulatory Advocates

Dupont, PSE&G, & Corporate Consultants Advance Agenda Behind The Scenes

Source: NJ Spotlight (emphasis arrow mine)

Source: NJ Spotlight (emphasis arrow mine)

My email in-basket was loaded with another invitation to a NJ Spotlight Roundtable, this one on the Delaware River, innocuously titled:

  • Health of the Delaware River: Where Are We Headed?

Having worked on water resources in NJ for decades – including drafting NJ’s Watershed Management Act, the Highlands Act, and DEP regulations regarding Category One waterbody designations and buffer protections – it was not difficult to immediately detect the scam, based on a cursory analysis of the topic, the usual suspects (i.e panelists), and the usual dishonest stealth tactics (e.g. masking anti-regulatory initiatives behind “green” sounding projects, advancing corporate interests via representation on Boards and funding of non-profits, and elite Foundation funding).

Let me explain all that, beginning with the topic.

There are two basic and conflicting policy approaches to protecting water resources:

A) The Clean Water Act based planning and regulatory model. This science and law based model is enforced by a host of programs implemented by federal, state, regional, and local government agencies, under formal transparency, accountability and public participation processes subject to judicial review and legislative oversight, and democratic public accountability.

B) The non-governmental watershed or estuary approach. This model is a private, voluntary, “partnership”, market driven, and local model, stressing individual consumer and lifestyle choices. It is a non-regulatory initiative overseen by corporate influenced and private elite Foundation and corporate funded non-profits, a program developed in the absence of democratic principles, and with no transparency, accountability, or judicial, legislative, or public oversight mechanisms. (If you think I exaggerate, just try filing a public comment, request for public hearing, or OPRA request for public documents with the WM. Penn Foundation about their $100 million Delaware River program!)

Obviously, corporations, developers, and polluters prefer Alternative B.

Historically, environmental groups preferred Alternative A.

But that preference has been undermined recently as certain corporate influenced and Foundation funded conservation oriented groups have sold out or co-opted the more aggressive regulatory oriented groups. At the same time, those formerly regulatory oriented groups have sold out for the Foundation grants, access to politicians, and Spotlight roundtable invitations (I’m talking about you, Doug O’Malley and “strategic science” communicator Dana Patterson, who surely knows better after battling Dupont in Pompton Lakes).

These are some bold claims, so let me be specific, to illustrate how NJ Spotlight is masking these fundamental policy issues and conflicts and thereby duping readers, violating journalistic norms, and betraying the public interest.

I)  Corporate Interests Advanced By Stealth and Co-Optation

The NJ Spotlight panel, on first impression, appears to be balanced, if not dominated by advocates of clean water.

But, the panel needs to be considered in context.

The panel includes Kathy Klein, Executive Director, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary (PDE).

PDE sounds like a public interest oriented group, and if you read their mission and vision statement, you could think that:

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, host of the Delaware Estuary Program, leads science-based and collaborative efforts to improve the tidal Delaware River and Bay,

But the word “collaborative” gives it away. That term opens the door to all kinds of “collaboration” and “partnerships”, including with major corporate polluters, like Dupont, in corporate efforts to dodge costly regulatory enforcement, like NJPDES permit and TMDL cleanup requirements.

PDE has killed the Dupont link on their “science” webpage – here’s why I get when I hit the link to the Delaware River Watershed Initiative (which I assume is the Penn Foundation $100 million project):

Screen Shot 2020-02-12 at 5.27.38 PM

This can only be understood as an effort to hide that as well as Dupont collaborations, which include:

Clear Into the Future: A DuPont Delaware Estuary Initiative – (DE / NJ / PA)

PDE has huge undisclosed conflicts of interest, including taking money from Dupont:

The DuPont Clear into the Future® (CITF) program has awarded grants and sponsorships totaling $123,000 to 15 organizations from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia in support of their work to improve and enhance the Delaware Estuary and other ecosystems where DuPont employees live and work. This is the first year that the program has considered applications in support of conservation work in communities beyond the Delaware Estuary.

Protecting and enhancing ecosystems like the Delaware Estuary through research, conservation education and environmental stewardship are central to our core values at DuPont,” said Linda J. Fisher, vice president, DuPont Safety, Health & Environment and Chief Sustainability Officer. “We are extremely pleased to play a role in supporting the important efforts of this year’s grantees and we thank them for their contributions to environmental conservation.”

Eight non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and three universities received grants, including: Delaware Greenways, Inc., Delaware Nature Society/DuPont Environmental Education Center, James River Association, Nature Conservancy-Delaware Chapter, New Jersey Audubon Society, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Pennsylvania Sea Grant, Stroud Water Research Center, Rutgers-Haskins Shellfish Lab, Delaware State University and Drexel University.

Note that Dupont also has taken down the links to their cynical Clear Into The Future program (and they even Registered it! (R)). I blasted that Dupont scam, most recently in a May 10, 2018 post, when the Dupont link was working.

Also note that Drexel, where NJ Spotlight Panelist Carol R. Collier works and gets paid, also receives Dupont funding.

But, let’s also look at the PDE Board of Directors, where we find more corporate interests, conflicts, and stealth influence.

The entire Board of Directors of PDE is either corporate or has corporate funding or conflicts of interest.

These corporations have huge economic interests in the Delaware Watershed and huge incentives to divert public attention away from costly regulatory enforcement.

II)  The NJ Spotlight Topic Summary Biases Issues

NJ Spotlight, at best, naively and narrowly frames the issue with a focus on the Trump EPA:

But now the gains are threatened by the Trump administration’s final rollback of the Waters of the U.S. Rule that protects smaller wetlands and seasonal streams from pollution or development. Since those sources feed larger waterways like the Delaware River – whose watershed supplies drinking water to some 13 million people – the measure could set back years of progress, advocates say.

It is easy to bash the Trump EPA on what amounts to an exaggerated controversy over the WOTUS rule – that’a a convenient target and diversion from all the other real issues at play.

One would think NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle, who has written a lot about toxic chemical and regulatory issues, would understand that.

III)  Elite Foundation Funding Not Disclosed to The Public

The Wm. Penn Foundation has distributed $100 million to non-profits for work in the Delaware Watershed.

As I’ve written before, the Wm. Penn Foundation and the groups they fund are classic examples of advocates of Alternative B above.

Penn funded groups are on the NJ Spotlight panel and NJ Spotlight itself receives Wm. Penn Foundation funding.

At a minimum, these groups and NJ Spotlight have conflicts of interests, given that funding, the Wm. Penn policy agenda, and funding to NJ Spotlight who is sponsoring the Panel.

IV)  Delaware Estuary & Watershed Model Versus The Clean Water Act Regulatory Model

I don’t want to get too far into the weeds, but here is an EPA description of the National Estuary Program:

The NEPs are located in a variety of institutional settings, including state and local agencies, universities and individual nonprofits. In overseeing and managing the national program, EPA provides annual funding, national guidance and technical assistance to the local NEPs…. [Note: this does NOT include EPA or State regulation and enforcement]

The NEP challenges and priorities are defined by local, city, state, federal, private and non-profit stakeholders. [Note: Priorities are not based on science and law.]

Each NEP has a Management Conference (MC) that consists of diverse stakeholders and uses a collaborative, consensus-building approach to implement the CCMP. Moreover, each MC ensures that the CCMP is uniquely tailored to the local environmental conditions and is based on local input, thereby supporting local priorities.

A “collaborative, consensus building approach” may sound just great, but it abdicates government responsibility, outsources policy to private groups, and effectively provides control of the agenda and a veto power to corporate polluters and developers. Polluters and developers will never allow “consensus” to form around any science or regulatory mandate that will cost them money. Period.

The national estuary program was created and designed as an alternative to federal and state government enforcement of the Clean Water Act regulatory model.

Polluters, developers, and other “local” economic interests love it, including the elite Foundations and the well fed elite non-profits that are funded by EPA, States, Foundations and corporate polluters.

The NJ Spotlight panel, the panel’s topic, and the panelists themselves all are advocates of the national estuary model, or what I call Alternative B above.

Thus, readers and the public are being sold a corporate bill of goods that has little to do with clean water.

V)  The Corruption of Journalistic Standards And Duping Of The Public

NJ Spotlight is funded by the Wm. Penn Foundation. The Wm. Penn Foundation has an anti-regulatory and corporate friendly agenda. The Wm. Penn Foundation funds groups that are named by Spotlight to the Panel. Other Panelists are recipients of corporate money or governed by corporate interests on their Boards.

NJ Spotlight reports none of the above.

That failure to report – or even disclose the corporate interests and policy conflicts embedded in their Panel – violates journalistic standards of disclosure, transparency, ethics, and conflicts of interest.

In fact, the corruption goes beyond non disclosure. As I highlight above, there are efforts to mask the role, influence, and funding by corporate interests, including Dupont, and even mention the existence of a controversial policy debate between fundamental policy alternatives A and B.

Did I make the case?


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Down Orwell’s Memory Hole – Becoming An Invisible Man

February 10th, 2020 No comments

(An Exercise In Becoming Nobody)


Orwell’s brilliant book “1984” maintains relevance in these dark times.

But it’s not just Trump and his cult who deploy Orwellian tactics.

Here’s the original 2002 DEP official website and NJ Register Public Notice text that went down Orwell’s “Memory Hole” and became the “404 Error” you see above. That DEP website scrubbing erased me and my work from history. Here’s what DEP says you can’t know:

PUBLICLY IDENTIFIED WATERS FOR CATEGORY ONE (Don’t bother hitting the link – it’s another “404 error”)

To date, DEP has received over 47 public nominations from individuals, groups and public entities for Category One designations. These public nominations include approximately 337 named rivers and streams equaling 7,655 linear waterbody miles and 23 reservoirs, lakes and ponds representing 6,593 surface acres. A map of the public nominations is available at (don’t bother, that link is down the Memory Hole too!)

DEP has not had the opportunity to fully evaluate all the public nominations for Category One but will seriously consider all public nominations over the upcoming months. DEP is continuing to accept public recommendations for Category One water designations. Public recommendations for Category One water designations should be sent at this time to Bill Wolfe.

View Map of PUBLICLY Identified Waters (Down the Memory Hole too).

I was reminded of the fact that I was discarded down Orwell’s memory hole in just now reading a terrifying must read piece (h/t Margo!) in The Atlantic about modern Orwellian disinformation & propaganda  campaign tactics, which are likely to deployed again in the 2020 election by the Trump campaign, see:

I only take issue with the inclusion of a Russian intervention angle. DNC corporate Democrats have beat that dead horse to a pulp as a means of avoiding having to deal with the sabotage of Bernie Sanders and real reasons for the Hillary Clinton loss and rise of Trumpism.

Anyway, that Atlantic piece used the term “sock puppet”, a phrase I had not heard in a long time. That jogged painful memories of going down Orwell’s Memory Hole and of when I was falsely accused of being a “sock puppet”. Here’s that story:

Back in 2009, I had multiple internet accounts and identities:

1. I was a columnist at the Star Ledger’s NJ Voices page under my real name.

2. I had a blog at

3. I was a commenter on Star Ledger webpage news articles under the pseudonym “No Hesitation”.

4. I was a blogger at Blue Jersey under the pseudonym “Winston Smith”.

I frequently cross linked posts in all these sites. I never attempted to conceal my real identity.

At other internet sites, I commented under different names including Publican, Civil Society, and NewDeal. I assumed this was standard practice.

At Blue Jersey, I frequently criticized NJ and NJ Democrats – a taboo there – and got into arguments with the Editor, Rosi Eftim (spelling?) (BTW, if you search the Blue Jersey site for Winston Smith, the prior link is the ONLY post and working link for me you will find there.)

Rosi warned me several times about posting what I felt were truthful and fact based critiques of Democrats and other Blue Jersey posters.

Finally, she used the pretext of accusing me of being a “sock puppet” to ban me from Blue Jersey.

Since then, I have been banned at the Star Ledger and NJ Spotlight for similar fact based accurate criticism.

DEP has erased me and the media has banned me.

NJ Voices has taken down all the beautiful photos I posted in that column (thankfully, the text is still there).

The PEER DC Office has taken down 10 years of my work at NJ PEER (scrubbed completely and all the links are dead).

Screen Shot 2020-02-10 at 1.08.05 PM

I’m feeling like Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” – guess I checked my white male privilege at the wrong door.

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Murphy DEP Already Running Away From Climate Regulations

February 9th, 2020 No comments

Contrary To Science, Gov. Murphy Sees No Climate Emergency

Huge Gap Between Press Release Rhetoric and Regulatory Reality Grows

NJ Spotlight coverage regurgitates fact free corporate talking points

You il not see a graph like this is the Murphy BPU Energy master Plan or DEP Greenhouse Gas Inventory Reports

You will not see a graph like this in the Murphy BPU Energy Master Plan or DEP Greenhouse Gas Inventory Reports

This is Part One of a series.

The ink was barely dry on Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order on climate before his DEP began running away from it.

Because I’ve been advocating for and writing about the failure of DEP to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and adopt rules necessary to adapt to climate change for over a decade, of course I’d been planning to write about NJ Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order #100, which directs DEP to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and incorporate climate adaptation in regulatory programs, and DEP Commissioner McCabe’s Administrative Order No. 2020-01.

Keep in mind that, way back on October 7, 2007, in a Sunday Star Ledger Op-Ed (see: “No Teeth in “Tough” Pollution Law” – sorry no link), while everybody – and I mean everybody – was cheerleading, we alone correctly called bullshit on the highly touted Global Warming Response Act. Our criticisms have been vindicated by history.

In fact, my previous post on Feb. 5 that was critical of Gov. Murphy’s Energy Master Plan’s approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings – closed with this commitment:

We’ll be doing additional posts on the EMP as well as the Governor’s Executive Order and the DEP Commissioner’s Administrative Order.

This will take several posts – the Gov. has crafted a bizarrely complex byzantine bureaucratic exercise that requires cross-walks between four EO’s, DEP’s AO, IEP, EMP, DEP, BPU, DCA RGGI, & 3 recent energy laws – but let’s start today with the media coverage.

Just 2 days after I promised to write about DEP regulation, NJ Spotlight – the media outlet where “issues [used to] matter” more than Foundation funding and corporate advertising – weighed in with this openly hostile and incredibly biased spin (it actually gets worse after the headline):

As I’ve noted, this is another troubling story in what is now an obvious pattern in false framing, biased content, and reliance on highly questionable sources. A pattern I’ve called “journalistic malpractice” (note that “green” sources in NJ Spotlight stories are almost always the same groups funded by the same elite Foundations that also fund NJ Spotlight, i.e. Wm. Penn & Dodge Foundations and The Fund for NJ. That pattern is strong evidence of how elite Foundations abuse the public interest in how they:

1. define or hijack the policy agenda;

2. fund and co-opt “safe” “moderate” environmental groups to conduct “campaigns” on that agenda. Those campaigns are designed not to threaten existing corporate or political power;

3. Foundations then fund the media outlets to publicize that agenda; and

4. the media outlets then source stories on agenda issues with quotes from the Foundation funded groups or name them as Roundtable panelist and faux “experts”.

It’s one big self serving scam, reflecting Neoliberal ideology – a dynamic that others have called an “Elite Charade”. I call this “news management“. Ironically, when the right wing adopts similar tactics, it’s correctly denounced as disinformation, propaganda, an “echo chamber”, or “vast conspiracy”.)

While NJ Spotlight has published scores of stories, Op-Ed’s, “sponsored content” and held several issue “Roundtables” that focus almost exclusively on the alleged “high cost” of climate programs – from energy efficiency to renewable energy – stories that quote various corporate hacks, I can count on one hand the number of stories NJ Spotlight has published about the most recent IPCC “Special Report” and dire warnings from scientists that we have about a decade to act to deeply reduce GHG emissions to avoid irreversible and potentially catastrophic impacts:

The [IPCC] report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.

Ironically, while Gov. Murphy’s own Executive Order repeatedly cites the IPCC’s science, amazingly, it somehow ignores the policy implications of the IPCC warnings, i.e. a “rapid” 45% emissions reduction by 2030.

As we’ve written, Gov. Murphy’s Energy Master Plan assumes that GHG emissions will continue to grow and that significant emissions reductions will not BEGIN until after 2030. Just LOOK:

Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 3.47.54 PM

Now, after the huge embarrassment of a 2 year energy planning process at BPU being made obsolete by the climate science, the Gov. has issued an Executive Order mandating climate regulations by DEP (read the Murphy press release).

Given that embarrassing BPU experience – and the dire warnings of science – one would think that the Gov. would have learned the lesson of delay.

One would be wrong: The Gov. Executive Order shows no sign of urgency and gives DEP two more years to adopt regulations (which would then take several more years to implement and enforce).

In contrast to that two year delay, Gov. Murphy could have declared a climate emergency in his Executive Order, invoking the Governor’s constitutional emergency powers. An emergency declaration would have had multiple benefits:

1) it would have reflected the science and aggressive timetables to produce real & deep greenhouse gas emissions reductions;

2) it would have enabled issuance of a moratorium on DEP and BPU approvals of  “more than a dozen” pending fossil infrastructure projects;

3) it would have authorized DEP to adopt regulations (effective on publication in the NJ Register) without going through the lengthy procedural requirements of Gov. Murphy’s own Executive Order and the NJ Administrative Procedures Act (see NJAC 1:30-6.5 Emergency rule adoption and concurrent proposal). Emergency rulemaking that provides streamlined regularly adoption prior to notice and comment also maximizes the role of science and the control of DEP experts, while minimizing political intervention in rule development by corporate economic interests;

4) it would have bolstered the validity and legal defensibility of any DEP regulations which are almost certain to prompt litigation; and

5) it would have sent a strong message about priorities and educated the public about the climate emergency.

But instead of a moratorium on new fossil infrastructure enforced via DEP regulations, the Gov. has opted for putting BPU in charge of more delay.

And get this: with respect to infrastructure, the BPU will not be evaluating a moratorium on infrastructure and the attainment of any 45% reduction in existing emissions by 2030. Instead, BPU will consider “the need for future expansion”!. Here’s the relevant text of the Murphy EMP:(@ page 189)

Goal 5.4.1: Develop a planning process to quantify and analytically assess the need for future expansion of the gas system and take appropriate action.

The last decade has seen unprecedented growth of the natural gas system, due largely to the discovery of domestic shale gas and subsequent low fuel prices. New Jersey currently has more than a dozen natural gas infrastructure projects under consideration at NJDEP and NJBPU, including pipelines, power plants, and a compressor station.

New Jersey would benefit from a comprehensive assessment of the gas system and its future needs. Consistent with recent deliberations, NJBPU will commission a study to assess if and where the system is approaching capacity limits, and where the system is being underutilized. Following this analysis and recognizing the importance of stakeholder involvement as an integral part of the process, including consumers, utilities, advocacy organizations, and others, NJBPU will undertake a stakeholder proceeding. The purpose of this proceeding is to take feedback from all interested parties as part of the Board’s evaluation of the analysis. Evaluation and consideration of the analysis along with the stakeholder feedback will inform future Board action on utility filings.

More process. More delay. While GHG emissions continue to increase. Pending “dozen” fossil infrastructure projects may receive regulatory approvals during at least 2 year period of delay due to BPU planning and DEP regulatory development. Ta da!

In addition to failing to declare an emergency and establish a moratorium on regulatory approvals of new fossil infrastructure, the Gov.’s Executive Order failed to direct his Department of Community Affairs to update building codes to reduce GHG emissions.

But, before I delve further into the weeds and wonking on the substance of the Gov.’s EO and DEP’s AO – which I will do in subsequent posts – let’s get back to the media coverage, and responses by DEP and environmental cheerleaders.

As previously noted, NJ Spotlight chose to ignore science and law and write its first story about DEP regulations from the business community’s perspective (as if the NJ Chamber of Commerce and the NJ Business and Industry Association lacked an effective voice in Trenton).

Of course, the business community savaged the idea of DEP regulation and invoked the same old tired spin and lies about alleged devastating impacts on jobs and economic growth.

One would think that professional journalists would be skeptical of all that jive. Again, one would be wrong.

So, how did the Murphy DEP respond? Diid they push back? Did they invoke science?


They put their tail between their legs and ran, by recycling almost verbatim the slogans and mantras that date to the 1990’s Whitman “Open For Business” DEP: (Does anyone still recall Whitman’s “Green and Gold” slogan?)

“We’re at the beginning of the next chapter, and we’re inviting the business community to come with us in writing the next chapter,” LaTourette said in an interview with NJ Spotlight. “We’re going to be with them shoulder to shoulder,  just like we are with local governments and our partners in the advocacy community because we are really all in this together.” …

The regulations that will come out of the new process will be as much about economic vitality as about environmental protection, LaTourette said. “We don’t believe in that false dichotomy that you can have a clean environment or economic development — those two things go hand in hand.”

Jane Cohen, a senior adviser to Murphy on environmental affairs, also said the EMP process included economic development.

“The Governor has been very clear that part of what he is looking at when formulating his policies around addressing climate change are exactly around economic development,” she said. “He really wants to support economic development through clean-energy policies.”


1. Economic growth and corporate profits are equal to or a greater priority than climate science and avoiding climate catastrophe.

2. The business community literally will be involved in drafting the regulations, i.e. “in writing the next chapter”.

This is the case because Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order on regulatory policy reinforced the Christie Executive Order #2 rulemaking process provisions, in terms of involving the business stakeholders early on in rule drafting prior to rule proposal. 

3. The DEP point person on this critical regulatory initiative, DEP Chief of Staff Shawn Latourette, is a former corporate lawyer.

Scroll down and review his professional experience and publications.

I was particularly impressed with this piece, which he wrote while still in Rutgers Law School – while located in a major petro-chemical state, at a time when DEP had just launched a new major Natural Resource Damage (NRD) enforcement program on toxic polluters. The piece amounts to a transparent flashing Bright Red Neon Sign solicitation that literally says to corporate polluters: “Hire me, I’ll help you get off the hook from punitive pollution damages and enforcement penalties

The colloquial phrase the “red light district” as a zone of prostitution has a factual basis – the whores would light red lamps in their windows to signal availability.

Mr. Latourette, via that “Exxon Valdez” publication, lit a bright red light in his legal window.

4. Former Wall Street Goldman Sachs man Gov. Murphy is sending a message to the business community: don’t worry, I’ve got DEP on a short leash and my office is directly involved, so any DEP rules will be more of the same: big on rhetoric, small on substance.

5. DEP views climate polluters as “partners” – not the arms length regulated community – with the same legitimacy, access, and influence as their environmental friends. This effectively maintains continuity with the “customer friendly” policies of the Christie DEP.

Finally, we close today’s post by a brief look at the “response” of the environmental community.

We note that predictably, sycophant and Green Cannibal Ed Potasnak (NJ LCV), who politically endorsed and funded Gov. Murphy’s campaign and has lied and spun to provide political cover for the Gov., was quoted in Gov. Murphy’s press release. 

So were incompetent boot lickers Tom Gilbert (Rethink NJ/NJCF) and Amy Goldsmith (who endorsed Chris Christie in 2009).

Amy Goldsmith was a member of the Empower NJ Coalition. That Coalition was demanding and waged a two year campaign seeking a moratorium on new fossil infrastructure. How the hell could she sell them out by publicly supporting and praising Gov. Murphy’s plans – in the Gov.’s press release – a policy and plan that destroys the concept of a moratorium?

The only surprise was Doug O’Malley of Environment NJ, whose recent actions on EV legislation, RGGI, the Delaware River, and lead in drinking water, among others, demonstrate that he’s joined the Green Cannibals and gone all in for the Foundation funding and NJ Spotlight panels that political sycophancy delivers.

Of course NJ Spotlight – funded by the same elite Foundations that fund the Green Cannibals and sycophants – quoted these fools in their coverage and ignored critics.

Over the last several weeks, aware that the Gov. would soon be releasing the Energy Master Plan and likely announcing a DEP climate strategy, I posted several times to set the expectations, policy framework, and to warn people of the abuses that were likely to occur.

I focused on 3 important things:

1) the media coverage:

2) the complete corruption and co-optation of the environmental community:

3) there is a huge gap between the Gov.’ climate rhetoric and the policy and regulatory content:

We warned you. And we predicted the current outcome.

So, once again, just like we called bullshit on the Global Warming Response Act over 12 years ago, we must call BS on Gov. Murphy.

Stay tuned for next installments, where we analyze the content of the Gov.’s Executive Order and the DEP Administrative Order.

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NY Times Coverage of Building Electrification Should Spur Scrutiny Of NJ Gov. Murphy’s Energy Master Plan

February 5th, 2020 No comments

Murphy Energy Plan Vague – Postpones New Building Codes Until 2030

We are in a climate emergency and face existential risks. You don’t ask how much the fire engine costs when the house is burning down. The IPCC scientists recently warned we have about a decade to make deep reductions.

Calling it a “Movement”, the NY Times ran an important story today on proliferating efforts by local governments to adopt new building codes to mandate electrification of buildings as a key climate strategy to decarbonize the economy, see:

They say that the NY Times sets the agenda, so let’s hope that NJ media follows the lead of the Gray Lady and does some in depth substantive reporting on the building sector policies of the highly touted NJ Gov. Murphy Energy Master Plan (EMP).

In this post, we’ll guide reporters and readers to where to find the skeletons.

The Murphy Board of Public Utility’s Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) is the technical (quantitative, modeled) basis for the BPU’s Energy Master Plan (EMP).

So, in order to tease out the substantive reality behind the rhetorical facade, we must engage in a careful dance between the IEP’s quantitative modeled future energy and emissions “scenarios” and the policy rhetoric of the Energy Master Plan (EMP). These IEP “scenarios” reveal major weaknesses in what are often vague and non-committal policy statements in the EMP.

The first place to look – which provides smoking gun data that exposes the language and spin of the EMP – may be found a document known as the “Integrated Energy Plan” (IEP) (Nov. 2019 webinar summary). Here’s Gov. Murphy’s Office on the role about the IEP:

  • The Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) will identify the most economically beneficial and least-cost pathways to achieve state goals
  • The modeling analysis will help to prioritize the timing, pace, and scale of achieving our objectives

The “final scenarios” of the IEP on page 14 are revealing (you may need to hit the link to the document, because the print below is very small):

Screen Shot 2020-02-05 at 3.47.54 PM

Look at the “least cost” plan (the 3rd column from the left) – which is the preferred plan and basis for the Murphy EMP – and down to the third row, “Building Electrification”.

You will note the following key goals and timetables:

  • Building retrofits – 90% by 2050 – rapid adoption in 2030
  • Delivered Fuels – Transition to electric starting in 2030

Did you get that?

If you didn’t get it, here’s more specific language from the EMP, that specifically cross -walks the IEP modeled scenarios with the EMP policies:

.. the [IEP] scenarios assumed that buildings BEGAN to be retrofitted and electrified aggressively STARTING in 2030, so that 90% of building water and space heating was powered by electricity in 2050.” Murphy Energy Master Plan, @ p.159

So let’s repeat: While the NY Times writes about cities across the country who have already adopted building codes to mandate electrification, the Murphy Energy Master Plan is assuming that those building codes will not be adopted and implemented and will have no impact on greenhouse gas emissions for over a decade, until after 2030.

Cliche: too little, too late.

Now let’s compare  the IEP’s modeled “scenarios” regarding building electrification with the relevant data and policy text of the EMP.

According to the EMP, buildings are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions:

The building sector accounts for a combined 62% of the state’s total end-use energy consumption. Given this, the building sector should be largely decarbonized and electrified by 2050 with an early focus on new construction and the electrification of oil- and propane- fueled buildings. (@ page 12)

Here are the relevant goals and strategies from the EMP –

As you consider them, ask “who, what, when and how” on each of these EMP goals and strategies.

Be sure to keep the 2030 and 2050 numeric goals and timetables of the IEP on electrification of buildings in mind that I just highlighted above.

First note that the EMP does not specify or make time bound commitments to adopting enforceable regulatory building codes that are highlighted in the NY Times story.

Then note that the EMP uses evasive and “flexible” weasel words – which lack quantification and deadlines and specific administrative implementation tools and bureaucratic responsibilities –  terms like “strengthen”, “advocate for”, “establish”, “mechanisms” (which are distinguished from “regulations”), “start”, “develop”:

  • 3.3  Strengthen building and energy codes and appliance standards

    3.3.1  Advocate for net zero carbon buildings in new construction in the upcoming 2024 International Code Council code change hearings

    3.3.3  Establish mechanisms to increase building effciency (sic) in existing buildings

    4.1  Start the transition for new construction to be net zero carbon

    Goal 4.1.4: Study and develop mechanisms and regulations to support net zero carbon new construction.

    4.1.5  Develop electric vehicle-ready and demand response-ready building codes for new multi-unit dwellings and commercial construction

OK, now lets close with equally troubling text of the building electrification policies from the EMP. Since we’ve already mentioned the lack of specific language and the contrast with the numeric assumptions of the IEP, I’ll highlight a few points of criticism:

A major flaw is that they are based on “cost effectiveness”.

“Cost effectiveness” ignores and is NOT based on climate science. Period. Full stop.

We are in a climate emergency and face existential risks. You don’t ask how much the fire engine costs when the house is burning down. The IPCC scientists recently warned we have about a decade to make deep reductions.

Here’s some relevant text from the EMP regarding cost effectiveness:

Goal 4.1.4: Study and develop mechanism

State regulations enable the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (NJDCA) to establish energy codes that are more aggressive than those set in the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). However, to enable NJDCA to adopt codes above the national standards, an institution of higher education must be able to establish expected payback within a seven-year period for the desired energy conservation measures to justify the increased capital costs.lxiii The state should study various zero carbon construction methodologies, evaluate payback time periods, and implement into construction codes those that meet the seven-year payback requirement.

Several national studies from leading authorities such as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Rocky Mountain Institute have shown that building electrification in new construction can be cost effective, even compared to natural gas.

First of all, those NJ State regulations that the EMP relies on as an excuse for delay could be changed immediately by Gov. Murphy via an Executive Order declaring an emergency, which would authorize DCA to conduct expedited emergency rule making.

These new DCA rules could eliminate or reduce the role of a “study”, which serves as a barrier to stricter NJ standards (e.g. downplay the role of costs, mandate that the costs address climate impacts and the social cost of carbon, extend the payback period, set a 0% interest rate to reflect intergenerational equity, demand adherence to scientific recommendations on deep emission cuts and timetable for action, account for uncertainty, et al). DCA could even abandon the need for a study and adopt the best technology available, irrespective of cost and payback periods.

Here’s a Trifecta of weasel words and cost effectiveness:

Based on results of [Rutgers] analysis .. NJDCA should CONSIDER adopting new regulations GUIDING developers to clean energy technologies that have been shown to be COST EFFECTIVE, establishing a pathway for NJ to electrify the building sector” (p. 165)

Second – aside from the fact that “guiding developers” is not “regulating” them via building codes and retrofit requirements – the cost of natural gas is an arbitrary and flawed baseline for comparing alternatives and/or deriving cost effectiveness, as natural gas prices fail to include “external costs”, including climate impacts and risks. As I’ve written, this is a HUGE market failure.

This failure to incorporate climate science and remedy the economics of market failure is a structural and fatal flaw of the IEP and EMP, as is the failure to reflect the aggressive timetables and radical emissions reductions that are called for by the current best available science and the warnings of climate scientists.

Third, the concept of “cost-effectiveness” is highly manipulable and inherently flawed. The concept raises major technical, ethical and justice concerns, from the commodification and monetization of human life and ecosystems, to an overwhelming and misleading focus on costs, to an inability to quantify benefits, to the discounting of future events and harms to future generations, and to the distribution of economic burdens and benefits.

Fourth, note that this cost effectiveness study will be conducted by Rutgers and there is no mention of any public process for deriving this critical determination or assuring transparency and peer review:

NJBPU, in partnership with NJDCA, has contracted with Rutgers University to develop 10-year energy price projections and seven-year cost recovery projections for a number of building electrification techniques and electricity generation techniques, including the installation of electrified heat pumps, electrified water heaters, rooftop solar panels, and solar thermal water heaters.

Based on the results of the analysis, expected in late 2020, NJDCA should consider adopting new regulations guiding developers to the clean energy technologies that have been shown to be cost effective, thus establishing a pathway for New Jersey to electrify the building sector and decrease reliance on fossil fuels for thermal and appliance use.

Note all the weasel words and lack of any deadline: should consider adopting new regulations”.

And just whose costs are involved incost recovery”?

The failure to involve the public in this critical “cost effectiveness” determination is a fatal flaw, but so is effectively delegating this critical policy determination to Rutgers.

Regarding Rutgers, consider that most recently – on the same day that the EMP was publicly released by Governor Murphy – Frank Felder from Rutgers published an egregiously biased and ill-informed cowardly hit piece on the EMP.

NJ Spotlight did the same thing the day that the EIP – prepared by Rocky Mountain Institute – was released, when they wrote:

Those [EIP] projections do not include impact to ratepayers — the subject of another ongoing study by the Rutgers Energy Institute, according to Samantha Levine, a spokesperson for BPU. That has been a big bone of contention among critics of the master plan — that it fails to detail what these policies will do to electric and gas bills.

There are concerns over what is still left out,’’ said Ray Cantor, a vice president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, who listened in on a webinar Friday that detailed the modeling results. He mentioned the potential impacts to ratepayers; costs of various programs that were left out; and various assumptions made by the consultants, including a very high reliance on New Jersey solar energy to provide the power needed to replace fossil fuels.

Ray Cantor of NJ BIA (formerly Deputy Commissioner of the ideologically anti-regulatory Christie DEP) has no scientific or economic training. He knows nothing about energy economics or climate. His opinion is not only not qualified, but it is based on solely on “listening in” to a webinar. Citing him as a credible critic to RMI’s work is journalistic malpractice.

So its no accident that NJ Spotlight is biased and sandbagging.

The timing of the publication and the content of the Felder Op-Ed were obviously designed to undermine the EMP.

While Felder completely ignored climate science, the primary thrust of Felder’s arguments was to echo the bullshit high cost arguments of the corporate business community.

It is terrifying to think that Mr. Felder represents the “academic” and “objective” standards that guide Rutgers.

If he has any role in any energy policy research, then that work is tainted by not only bias, but by gross ignorance.

I hope this post provides more than enough guidance for the intrepid journalists out there to compare the reality to the rhetoric of Gov. Murphy and his “Green Cannibal” sycophants.

We’ll be doing additional posts on the EMP as well as the Governor’s Executive Order and the DEP Commissioner’s Administrative Order.

So, stay tuned.

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Reported “Good News” On Sprawl Masks Major Problems

February 3rd, 2020 No comments

Once Again, Green Cannibals Selfishly Ignore Climate and Social Justice

State Land Use Planning and Regulation Ignored – Market Trends Celebrated

We Call Bullshit On NJ Spotlight’s Coverage

I question whether that “market demand” is exclusively voluntary and all good, or whether it is significantly influenced by things like a precarious job market (low paying dead end jobs with no benefits), heavy student debt burdens, unaffordable healthcare, gentrification and rising housing costs, and the fact that young people are facing a deeply uncertain and terrifying future of climate catastrophe.

New Jersey’s previously perennially controversial issues of land use and sprawl have fallen off the media and policy radar and environmental group agenda’s for over a decade now. The Foundation funding for “sprawl” campaigns has dried up.

The State Planning Commission has been invisible and turned into an economic development cheerleader, after seemingly abandoning the State Development and Redevelopment Plan.

Meanwhile, the Christie and Murphy administrations not only have ignored the State Plan, but the land use planning and regulatory work of the Pinelands Commission, Highlands Council and DEP.

The Christie administration turned the Pinelands Commission into a rubber stamp for pipelines. They killed an attempt to create a Coastal Commission.

The Highlands Council became a political patronage pit.

The “customer service” & “culture change”  Christie DEP Commissioner Bob Martin rolled back DEP’s Highlands and land use regulations under the guise of “regulatory alignment” and reducing “regulatory burdens” and “red tape”.

The Murphy administration basically pursued a policy of “continuity” with Christie, but shifted the focus to climate and energy issues (and from DEP & regulations to BPU & the Energy Master Plan). The media and environmental groups followed along, while the academic community went underground, with the exception of sea level rise and coastal land use issues, where they were forced to engage.

But even with that engagement, the land use issues were presented narrowly and framed in terms of either voluntary local actions (not State planning and regulation), “design” competitions (not regional planning), or feel good individual, site specific and ineffective “sustainable development” and “climate resilience” projects. All this was done while the regulatory status quo, a policy of “rebuild madness”, and beach replenishment and traditional coastal engineering solutions remained unchanged (with the exception of the Murphy DEP rollback of DEP flood regulations, a move that was blasted by FEMA).

We tried to keep the focus on land use and climate, exposing the Christie “rebuild madness”, e.g. see:

So, after a decade of this bi-partisan, media, and environmental group neglect, I was pleasantly surprised to read the headline of today’s “good news” story by NJ Spotlight:

But, I was extremely disappointed upon reading the story.

Here’s the problem:

Hasse attributed the shift in part to declining demand from young people for the traditional suburban living environments favored by their parents. Many people in their 20s and 30s want to live in dense, walkable communities rather than in car-dependent subdivisions, and the trend has resulted in fewer suburban homes being built, he said.

“Twenty-somethings don’t want to be, and can’t afford to be, in a house in the suburbs. They are all flocking back to Philadelphia, Jersey City, New Brunswick,” he said.

I don’t doubt that “twenty-somethings” prefer urban to suburban living.

But I question whether that “market demand” is exclusively voluntary and all good, or whether it is significantly influenced by things like a precarious job market (low paying dead end jobs with no benefits), heavy student debt burdens, unaffordable healthcare, gentrification and rising housing costs, and the fact that young people are facing a deeply uncertain and terrifying future of climate catastrophe.

Is the location of all that “demand” in distressed urban designated EJ communities? It is serving existing urban residents or displacing them by gentrification? Is the new housing affordable and served by public transit? Or is it expensive and car dependent? Is is powered by renewable energy and net zero in carbon emissions?

So, we need to look behind the superficial “market trends” to find out what is really going on.

But, aside from the story’s reliance on “market fundamentalism” as the sole causal mechanism, it is technically misleading to rely so heavily on local Certificate of Occupancy data and to compare 3 years of land use data with a 29 year trend.

Technical flaws and the exclusive focus on market trends and demography ignore important issues and masks huge problems (outlined below).

Additionally, the story makes this unsubstantiated, fact free, and misleading claim:

The shift has also been driven by New Jersey’s conservation movement, led by state initiatives such as the Garden State Preservation Trust, and private nonprofits like the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, which together have shielded many lands from development, Hasse said.

For example, preservationists used the 2008-2009 recession as an opportunity to persuade farmers who were unable to sell their land to developers to agree instead to conservation easements — agreements between landowners and government agencies or private conservation groups that typically prevent future real estate development, thus permanently preserving the land as farmland.

This statement greatly exaggerates – without evidence, in the form of data or maps – the role of land preservation in any shift in land use patterns, while ignoring many other important causal factors. (And, as we’ve written, this is not the first time that NJ Spotlight has written a highly misleading story that celebrates “market forces” and ignores or even denigrates the role of planning and regulation. At some point, the bias becomes ideological – i.e. a Neoliberal attack –  and must be called out – even if it gets you banned there.)

And there is no political data or analysis that would in any way justify describing this conservation program as a “movement”. Just the opposite: the Green Cannibals are anti-democratic, foundation funded, elite groups with tiny memberships who operate privately behind the scenes, often in self dealing ways. Give me a break! (reminds me of Pete Buttigieg calling his campaign a movement”):

as Aldous Huxley wrote in the introduction to his classic novel of dystopian technocracy, Brave New World, “the greatest triumphs of propaganda” are accomplished by maintaining “silence about truth.”

The Garden State Preservation Trust and private land conservation efforts have serious limitations and flaws, including the fact that they are based on opportunistic private transactions, and are market based, voluntary, and driven by willing sellers. Accordingly, it is no surprise that they are scattershot. (Note that readers were not provided a map of those lands).

The lands preserved are not based on science, natural resources values, or any overarching land use plan or strategy.

Equally – as I’ve written many times – the program is unfair to urban NJ and disproportionately impacted low income and minority communities, and biased towards protecting the back yards of economically and politically powerful people, land speculators, developers, and corporations.

The land preservation program also has unintended effects, including exacerbating gentrification and it also has been used by affluent all white communities for exclusionary and discriminatory purposes.

Here’s a note I sent to the Spotlight reporter and editor, which outlines other major policy concerns that are ignored or masked by today’s story:

1. Do you realize that your story today included a chart -which drove the narrative – that misleading side by side  compares land use data over a 3 year period with the same data set over a 29 year period? That is incredibly misleading. I strongly urge you to correct it.

2. If redevelopment is all good, are you aware that the climate, anti-corporate subsidy, and environmental justice champion NJ Gov. Murphy just quietly signed legislation that promotes and subsidizes redevelopment and IGNORES climate change & EJ? See:

  • Gov. Murphy Quietly Signs Major Redevelopment Law – No Standards To Address Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy & Environmental Justice

3. Gentrification, affordable housing, and homelessness? Are these no longer relevant issues in NJ? High end urban redevelopment is all good, with no downsides? Young people are free “consumers”, unencumbered by things like huge student debt, a lousy job market, rising housing costs, and a terrifying future of climate catastrophe?

4. Does NJ still have a State Plan, State Planning Commission, Highlands Council, Pinelands Commission, and DEP land use planning and regulatory programs?

How could you ignore all that and exclusively attribute an alleged positive land use trend to market forces and acquisition?

You got spun by self  interested conservation groups that economically benefit from the Green Acres program and a cowardly “academic” who avoids the regulatory and social implications of his data.

5. Are you aware that Gov. Murphy’s recently released Energy Master Plan postpones hard decisions on land use, building retrofits, and building codes until after 2030? (despite recent IPCC warning that we have about 10 -12 years to avoid irreversible catastrophic warming?

6. Ask professor Hasse, conservationists, and DEP to produce a map of green acres acquisitions.

Those acquisitions are opportunistic, based on willing sellers, and follow no natural resource based science or strategic land use plan.

Those acquisitions have had little or no impact on land development patterns, yet – without evidence in the from of a map or data –  your story attributes them (and market forces & demographic trends) as the exclusive factors driving land use, based on a hypothetical farmland preservation focus.

As virtually the only media game in Town in Trenton, NJ Spotlight must do better.

As award winning former NY Times reporter Chris Hedges writes today:

The rhetoric we use to describe ourselves is so disconnected from reality that it has induced collective schizophrenia.

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