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NJ Environmental Justice Advocates Are Missing The Moment And Getting Played By Democrats – Again!

This post surely won’t make me any friends, but once something false and harmful comes to my attention, I feel a responsibility to respond and try to avoid the harm and focus on a better path.

Last night, I got an “Action Alert” (sic) urging me to act in support of an “important letter“, from over 200 NJ organizations, in support of the pending environmental justice legislation, a bill that I have harshly criticized recently (i.e. see this and this).

The letter was titled – in large font boldface:  

“Stop Environmental Racism, Pass S232/A2212 – July 30, 2020″

How does a person of good faith oppose an effort to “stop environmental racism“?

Let me start by being blunt: obviously, the bill won’t “stop environmental racism”, as the demagogic authors claim.

In fact, the bill would do just the opposite: passage will create a false expectation among poor and communities of color that their legitimate grievances are being addressed, while locking in the racist regulatory status quo – via tools we know won’t work – and rewarding politicians for doing virtually nothing to improve the disproportionate burdens that already overburdened EJ communities now bear.

(for a preview of what EJ communities will be assaulted with under the “environmental justice impact statements” required under the bill, check out this Covanta (Newark incinerator) propaganda.)

The letter suggested:

To discuss this further please contact: Dr. Ana Baptista, 973-342-6056, baptista@newschool.edu; Kim Gaddy, 973-420-7925, kgaddy@cleanwater.org; Maria Lopez-Nunez, 201-978-6660, mlopeznunez@ironboundcc.org; and/or Dr. Nicky Sheats, 609-558-4987, newbian8@verizon.net.

So, I immediately sent an email to the contacts – not surprisingly, I haven’t heard back yet and I don’t expect to. Here it is:

Greetings – I was forwarded your letter in support of the pending EJ bill. You all know I’ve been an advocate for EJ for many years, so I hope my motives are not in question and we can focus on the substance.

I strongly disagree that the bill would do what you claim, specifically:

“expanding the rights of residents to weigh in on decisions, reducing disproportionate pollution burdens, promoting clean businesses over toxic industries, and making New Jersey a leader in the fight for environmental justice.”

1. The current version of the bill eliminated the local veto provision of the introduced version, so claims of “expanding the rights” is absurd and cynical.

Community comment to DEP, backed up with no teeth, on an EJ impact statement hardly “expands the rights of citizens“, especially in light of the deleted provision that would have given local governments effective veto power.

2. You use the term “rights”, when the legislation fails to address NJ’s federal case law in the Camden case regarding civil rights law and DEP permitting. So, using that word is highly misleading.

3. The bill WOULD NOT reduce current “disproportionate pollution burdens” because it grandfathers existing DEP permits and only applies to “new or expanded” permits, not the current pollution or current pollution permits. This amounts to a deeply misleading claim.

4. I have no idea how you reached the conclusion that the bill would:

“promoting clean businesses over toxic industries,”

And I question  whether promoting business is a legitimate objective of the EJ activist community.

5. Similar issue regarding claim of:

“making New Jersey a leader in the fight for environmental justice”

6. What is the status of DEP’s proposed renewal of the Newark Covanta permit? Ditto Camden and Union. Why are you not demanding the shutdown down of these toxic climate polluters?

Given the current political situation related to the Black Live Matter Movement and street protests, your support for this bill, introduced in 2014 and weakened several times since then, is political malpractice and a sellout.

I was wondering how you respond to criticism of flaws the bill, where I document all these criticisms with citations to the text of the bill, see:

Gov. Murphy’s “Environmental Justice” Legislation Would Do Nothing To Reduce Current Pollution or Unjust Disproportionate Burdens In Minority Communities

For questions on political strategy, see:

Now Is the Time To Make Real Demands On Environmental Justice Legislation

18 Years After Scathing Criticism By Federal Judge For Ignoring “Environmental InJustice”, NOTHING HAS CHANGED AT NJ DEP

Looking forward to your reply.

PS – I was fighting the Newark and proposed Trenton incinerators (and the work of the NJ Hazardous Waste Siting Commission) from inside DEP – and putting my career and family on the line in the late 1980’s on the grounds of injustice to impacted black communities, so please don’t try to question my motives.

The small group of people that lead NJ’s environmental justice community are nice people, but they have gotten played for many years by cynical and manipulative Democrats, who have talked the talk, but done virtually nothing to put in place enforceable legal protections and very little to improve actual conditions in EJ communities.

It’s too long and ugly a history to rehash in detail here, but let me mention a few milestones and malefactors.

For almost 30 years, there have been several Executive Orders, DEP Administrative Orders, and many self congratulatory press releases from Governors and DEP Commissioners on “environmental equity” (Whitman), which morphed into “Environmental Justice”.

There have been DEP Reports, Advisory Councils, scores of “Stakeholder” meetings, and several conferences, roundtables, symposia, workshops, and events. Lots of talk, no walk. All process, no substance.

There have been all sorts of funding opportunities for various “environmental justice” organizations and their “campaigns” – provided by “liberal” Foundations (Dodge, Fund for NJ, Wm. Penn, et al), polluting corporations (Covanta, PSE&G, et al), cities, counties, US EPA and NJ DEP.

Those funding deals assure that EJ groups don’t step outside the acceptable political limits set in Trenton, or threaten any politician, agency, or corporation. They marginalize the “radicals”. They severely limit the scope of real reforms. They reward the inside game and undermine grassroots activism and local groups.

The EJ groups even hired a retired DEP expert on air pollution – a woman who had no interest in advocating for meaningful regulatory recommendations, which would reveal the fact that she managed the DEP program that, as federal District Court Judge explained in detail, completely ignored environmental justice considerations.

Retired DEP officials who become consultants never air DEP’s dirty laundry.

They were played by DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell in Camden and on regulations.

They were played by DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson, a black woman, who used native Americans as props at her EPA Senate confirmation hearing.

They were played by Assemblywoman Grace Spencer, another black woman, who worked the Essex County Democratic Machine line (and was rewarded for her loyalty by a judicial appointment).

They were played by Newark Mayor Cory Booker, a black man and now US Senator.

All of theses people made self serving and manipulative promises that never arrived.

This shabby history repeats itself in the current pending legislation.

So, feel free to “cancel” me if you can’t deal with accepting the facts about this terrible compromise legislation and the compromised groups and individuals that are manipulating well meaning people and organizations across the state to support their misguided compromise.

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