Archive for August, 2020

Murphy DEP Secretly Approved A Trump EPA Chemical Experiment In an EJ Community, Then They Attacked The Public For Objecting

August 27th, 2020 No comments

Gov. Murphy’s DEP Commissioner McCabe and her political hatchet man Sean LaTourette must resign and apologize to the people of New Jersey.

First, they secretly worked with and approved a Trump EPA “research” project at the Rahway NJ garbage incinerator. Rahway is a heavily poor and minority “environmental justice” community already overburdened with pollution.

The Trump EPA project was designed to understand the combustion of a family of toxic chemicals knows as PFAS.

Because Dupont and the Pentagon have huge quantities of these toxic chemicals that must be disposed of, the overall objective of this EPA research was almost certainly to promote the burning of PFAS waste in municipal garbage incinerators – a totally unacceptable and low cost and highly polluting disposal alternative.

Regardless of the scientific merits or policy objectives of this research, it is grossly unprofessional, likely illegal, and a totally unforgivable breach of trust for a regulatory agency to operate like that in secret.

Just as bad, it shows bad faith and extremely poor political judgement – at a time when US cities are literally on fire with BLM protests – for DEP to secretly work with EPA and the Rahway incinerator company Covanta and approve a chemical research project with public health implications in an EJ community.

DEP’s behavior was morally repugnant.

When former EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck blew the whistle on this research, of course, the public, the Rahway community, and EJ advocates were outraged. Of course, the media wrote extremely negative stories and – because the project had been kept a total secret and was designed behind the community’s back – of course social media exploded.

Second, in response to public outrage, DEP Commissioner McCabe and Mr. Latourette blamed the public. (NJ Spotlight)

LaTourette said protesters, particularly in New Jersey’s environmental justice communities, had “misperceptions” about what the incineration would consist of, and misplaced fears that the experiment posed a risk to public health.

“Bad information can sow mistrust, and it can sow a misunderstanding of the facts that can lead folks to think that they are in danger of being harmed, and that’s the last thing we want,” he told reporters.


McCabe and LaTourette must resign and apologize, NOW. They have lost credibility and the trust necessary to lead a public agency.

For the record, on August 22, 2020, I first learned of this scandal and immediately wrote DEP Commissioner McCabe this email, demanding that it be terminated and the Covanta garbage incinerator permits be revoked.

According to DEP records, the Covanta permit expired on June 30, 2020, so it looks like this whole scheme was developed when their air permit was being reviewed by DEP, which, from a regulatory perspective, is another huge example of misconduct.

On 08/22/2020 7:05 PM Bill WOLFE <>  wrote:

Dear Commissioner McCabe:

Today I became aware of EPA sponsored and NJ DEP approved “research” regarding combustion of PFAS surrogates at the Covanta garbage incinerator in Union, NJ, see:

Before I can intelligently make informed objections to the substantive merits of this proposal, I must raise serious procedural defects with this proposal that must be remedied before further consideration or implementation of this proposed “research”.

1. The proposed research is not incorporated and certified by NJ DEP, as required, in the Union County Solid Waste Management Plan. See the DEP’s documents:


2. The proposed research is not included in the NJ DEP and US EPA approved air control permits for the Covanta facility.

There are no parameter specific air pollution monitoring and control or emission limits.

There was no air quality modeling or quantitative risk assessment conducted, as required by NJ DEP regulations.

There was no public notice, public hearing or opportunity for public comment on the proposed “research” as required by applicable NJ DEP regulations.

3. The proposed research may trigger NJ DEP “hazardous waste facility” and hazardous waste incinerator air pollution control and HW treatment and disposal facility permit requirements under EPA delegated federal RCRA and the HSWA of 1984, as well as NJ’s State hazardous waste management regulations.

The DEP apparently conducted no review or consideration of these regulatory requirements and no public participation process prior to “approval”.

4. In addition to these gross regulatory failures, the entire concept of conducting “research” on combustion and air emissions of hazardous substances at a commercial solid waste facility located in and polluting an environmental justice community is morally repugnant.

I make the following demands:

1. Please reverse and over-rule the DEP’s prior “approval” of this “research”.

2. Then please publicly apologize for secretly reviewing and approving this “research”.

3. Then revoke the NJ DEP air permits for the Covanta garbage incinerator, which I understand expired on June 30, 2020.

4. Please provide a public notice and link to the underlying technical documents and full administrative record on this proposed “research.

I look forward to your timely and favorable reply.


Bill Wolfe

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Solar Bill Not Only Would Destroy Farms & Forests, It Would Lock In Centralized Corporate Monopoly Power

August 25th, 2020 No comments

Corporate and Finance Interests Have Hijacked The “Green Energy” Agenda

“Planet of the Humans” Validated

The NJ Senate Environment Committee yesterday approved a bill [S2605] that would promote and subsidize large “utility scale” solar systems on farms and forested land, see today’s NJ Spotlight story:

The siting and farmland issues are getting the major focus, but the much larger issues relate to the vision for a renewable energy future and the structure and control of the power system.

I) The Bill Would Destroy A Democratic Decentralized Public Energy System And Dictate Corporate Monopoly Profits

The bill is profoundly misguided, as it would transform a vision of what should be a small scale, decentralized, democratic, and publicly owned and/or controlled renewable energy future into the same corporate, private profit driven, centralized grid we suffer from today.

The “competitive solicitation” process and “power purchase agreement” provisions in the bill have strong echoes to a failed 1985 law (“McEnroe”, NJSA 13:1D-136 et seq)) that established a similar “competitive bidding” (then called “negotiated procurement”) process to promote and subsidize private investment in the garbage incineration technology (Orwellianly dubbed “resource recovery”), while providing above market rate energy contract subsidies for the power produced by burning garbage (those McEnroe subsidies are akin to the subsidies to solar developers by the “reasonable value for capacity” provided by the current bill). The Legislature also passed a $138 million bond act and the McEnroe law also included a suite of landfill taxes to provide millions of dollars in additional subsidies to incineration.

That 1985 “McEnroe” law – named for Democratic legislator Harry McEnroe from Essex County –  not only provided huge public subsidies to corporations, it deregulated the prior BPU “rate base – rate of return” public utility regulation of the industry. [It is important to note that the McEnroe legislation was the first step towards broader deregulation of the energy industry in 1999 under the Whitman administration.]

As a result, the McEnroe law produced the billion dollar boondoggle and environmental nightmare of garbage incineration, which benefitted only Wall Street finance, NJ Bond Counsel law firms and a handful of corporate grifters who built the projects, while the environment was polluted and ratepayers were ripped off.

And once again, we have a Democratic legislator, beholden to and serving the interests of Wall Street and corporate monopolist PSE&G, sponsoring terrible legislation under a “green” pretext. NJ Spotlight reports: (emphasis mine)

Grid-scale projects — ones that produce at least 10 megawatts of electricity — are viewed as “absolutely essential’’ to reach the goal of having New Jersey residents get 34% of their power from solar by mid-century, according to Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), the chairman of the committee and primary bill sponsor.

“Grid-scale” and “utility sale” are euphemisms for guaranteed corporate monopoly profits and corporate control of what should be public power.

So, we’ve gone down this road before – with McEnroe privatization, deregulation, and subsidies followed by Whitman deregulation – and know full well what it will produce.

That’s why the bill reads like it was written by lobbyists for PSE&G and Exelon – and it literally may well have been.

II)  No Need to Destroy Farms & Forests – There Are Many Other Siting Locations

In addition to the aforementioned vision, scale, and industry structure issues, the siting issues are also deeply troubling.

There are hundreds of millions of square feet of commercial and warehouse rooftops and parking lots that could provide space to locate large scale solar power generation.

Legislation should mandate that the most suitable of these locations is used for solar power production.

So, even if one agree with the deeply problematic “economies of scale” and “cost effectiveness” and “least cost” and centralized grid premises and policies of the legislation, there are plenty of other places to locate “grid-scale” solar projects.

Not 1 acre of forest or farmland should be converted to solar farms unless & until every square foot of that space has been utilized for solar.

III) End It Don’t Mend It

NJ Spotlight reports that the Murphy BPU says the Gov. supports the bill and quotes prime sponsor Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith as suggesting that the bill is not “perfect” and will be amended prior to passage.

The bill is fundamentally flawed and can not be “perfected” by amendments.

The bill should be rejected and legislators should embrace an entirely different vision for renewable energy, not that of corporate and Wall Street interests.

If not, I have to agree that the recent controversial Michael Moore film “Planet of the Humans” – flawed as it is on several technical issues – was basically right – corporate interests really have hijacked the green agenda.

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When Elite Foundations Hijack The Agenda, There Are Consequences

August 24th, 2020 No comments

Neglect and Disinvestment In Urban Areas

Investment and Priority On Wealthy Suburban Areas

massive garbage dumping and litter along Delaware River on Duck Island, Trenton, NJ (April 2016)

massive garbage dumping and litter along Delaware River on Duck Island, Trenton, NJ (April 2016)

[Update below]

I wrote yesterday about how the William Penn Foundation has hijacked the public advocacy program for the Clean Water Act and DRBC planning and regulation of the Delaware River.

The Yale Environment 360 story I reacted to sought to manufacture a myth that the restoration of the Delaware River constituted a “new era in the cleanup of an urban river”.

My focus was on how Penn Foundation money was invested in Neoliberal initiatives that stressed voluntary individual actions and market based solutions, while undermining collective action, political advocacy, and governmental planning and regulation (while taking credit for the progress that was the result of many years of government investment and regulation).

I listed briefly 20 general examples of how this abuse operated. But today I was provided a concrete example.

Word:Even within the voluntary Neoliberal framework, the role of elite Foundations is destructive.

Case in point, from a remarkably timed email I just received today: the “3rd annual Delaware River Cleanup” sponsored by the DEP (I assume with funding from the State Clean Communities Program).

That initiative targets and invests State resources in stretches of the Delaware River that flow through wealthy Hunterdon County towns and the D&R Canal State Park and Bulls Island State Park.

While those stretches do receive many visitors, compared to downriver stretches of the river in Trenton, they are far less impacted by litter.

If the litter program were based on rational criteria and objectives to maximize the reduction of litter, no way would Hunterdon be allocated resources over Trenton.

Obviously, there are urban and environmental justice issues involved as well that compelling argue for investments in Trenton over Hunterdon river stretches.

Targeting and investing resources in the Hunterdon stretches of the River translates into protecting the green backyards of the wealthy while neglecting the riverfront in the poor and minority city of Trenton.

In contrast to wealthy Hunterdon towns, Duck Island in Trenton has been neglected for years (see above photo, and hit this links for more).

Duck Island is a magnificent place on the river that should be a Urban State Park, not a neglected wasteland.

This is an example of reverse Robin Hood: DEP is essentially waging class warfare.  And it is facilitated, legitimized and provided cover by the dominance of William Penn Foundation money (which is allocated to elite groups that work in places like Hunterdon County and not Trenton).

I wrote this note to the Stephanie Fox, the DEP staff contact on the Cleanup Day:

Hi – I got your contact information from Delaware Greenway folks.

I notice that the 3rd annual cleanup is targeted along stretched of the river in Hunterdon County near Bulls Island.

I have 2 questions and concerns about the selection of these sites:

1) Why not target Duck Island? That stretch is far more impacted by litter than the targeted Hunterdon stretches, and it would allocate cleanup resources in a far more equitable fashion than providing resources to the wealthy towns in Hunterdon County (i.e. Environmental Justice).

Take a look at the neglect and mess I’ve documented on Duck Island – a spectacular place that should be an urban State Park:

2) Has the northern section of Bulls Island been re-opened yet?

Again, the neglect of that State Park is unacceptable, see:

I appreciate your timely and favorable consideration and response

(and yes, I know how clean community funds are allocated. All’s it takes is a little leadership by DEP to make my proposals a reality).

Bill Wolfe

[Update – 9/4/20 – the D&R Park responded. While they agree with our concerns, I see no real commitment:

Mr. Wolfe,

Thank you for your inquiry regarding your concerns on some of the planned cleanup efforts along the Delaware River on lands that are part of D&R Canal State Park. The 3rd Annual Delaware River Cleanup, scheduled for September 19 th, is focused on the non-tidal sections of the river in Hunterdon County. Presently there is a partnership established between the Park, the Clean Communities program, and local municipalities within Hunterdon County along the Delaware River. The Park Service wholeheartedly agrees that the Park as it runs through Mercer County, including Duck Island (part of the Abbott Marshlands), is a spectacular place that also needs some cleanup attention. In fact, the Park Service worked diligently this past year with the NJ Watershed Ambassador Program to conduct cleanups within the Trenton sections that you are highlighting.

The second annual South Jersey Scrub, scheduled for April 1st, had been in its final stages of preparation but was unfortunately cancelled due to the coronavirus situation. That particular cleanup would have included areas within Abbott Marshlands and Duck Island. We are confident that the Park will be able to move forward with 2021 Watershed Ambassador cleanups (within WMA11) and the DEP-sponsored South Jersey Scrub. The COVID pandemic has made such organized efforts extremely challenging, but we remain committed to the efforts of keeping these precious areas protected.

Additionally, to bring attention to these lesser-known park areas, Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park staff have been working with the Friends for the Abbott Marshlands on the creation and joint implementation of Marsh-related educational programs. Additionally, we continue to pursue organizing future cleanup initiatives in conjunction with the various user groups and agencies. We concur that a large-scale cleanup event to help the Marshlands and Duck Island is a beneficial way to introduce people to the many outdoor recreational activities available there and highlight the importance of the marsh as a natural and historic treasure.

Finally, the DEP is working on a revised plan to reopen the northern tip of Bulls Island Recreation Area. We will present this reopening plan to the D&R Canal Commission and look forward to public participation at this future meeting. No date for the presentation has been confirmed yet, but it will be in the coming months. Thank you for your continued interest in

D&R Canal State Park.


Patricia Kallesser, Superintendent

Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park


Jenny Felton

Stephanie Fox

 Here is my response to DEP:

Thanks Pat –
Do you think the Department, the Murphy Administration, and various allies could put together a plan to make Duck Island a magnificent urban riverfront State Park?
That would be something people could put on their tombstones.
Is a legacy even a meaningful concept anymore?
Respectfully, from 9,350 feet in San Isabel National Forest, Colorado.
PS – FYI, I updated my post on these issues to reflect your response, see:
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A “New Era” In Elite Foundation Abuse

August 23rd, 2020 No comments

Wm. Penn’s $100 Million “Delaware Watershed Initiative” Is A National Model

Yale Environment Duped Into Publishing Foundation Propaganda

20  Ways Elite Foundations Corrupt Public Policy

A Jersey friend just sent me an article from YaleEnvironment360 pompously titled:

These folks actually think they’ve created a “new era” – is there a better example of arrogant, delusional, hubris?

What that Yale story really illustrates is no “promising new era”, but an egregious abuse of power by the elite William Penn Foundation – virtually a national model for how an elite Foundation can throw a LOT of money around – like over $100 million – and hijack not only the issues & policy agenda, but the advocacy work of environmental groups and the media too.

But it’s not until the end of the story that we read this disclaimer:

Reporting for this article was supported by a grant from the William Penn Foundation.

The William Penn Foundation is also a “Major Funder” of NJ Spotlight, the primary outlet that publishes reporter Jon Hurdle’s work (a fact that goes unmentioned in Hurdle’s bio.)

[Update: in fairness, here is NJ Spotlight’s Code of Ethics: (emphasis mine)

We accept gifts, grants and sponsorships from individuals and organizations for the general support of our activities, but our news judgments are made independently and not on the basis of donor support.

I think the evidence suggests otherwise – I have documented  a pattern of sources, news issues/topics, and narratives that so closely fit Wm. Penn Foundation and Dodge Foundation funders that could not be random. ~~~ end update]

Mr. Hurdle writes a lot of stories about the Delaware River. The William Penn Foundation also funds many of the sources used in Mr. Hurdle’s stories and those stories reflect Penn’s narrative, rhetoric, and corporate style.

A William Penn Foundation staffer is given a prominent quote in this Yale story they paid for.

So, we now have a Foundation using millions of dollars to define the issues, control the environmental community’s campaign strategy & tactics on those issues, exclude differing views, and even control the media’s story selection, narrative, and sourcing.

After reading the piece, I went on somewhat of a Twitter rant, which included a thread of 20 abuses by the Penn Foundation, as follows (I’ll begin with the last one):

I wonder if the folks at Yale Environment know what they got sucked into by agreeing to publish this William Penn Foundation paid for Neoliberal propaganda? See this thread for 20 abuses they’ve normalized.

William Penn Foundation distributed over $100 million to environmental groups for Delaware Watershed Initiative

They now have bought press too.

Penn is ideologically Neoliberal: anti-government and anti-regulation, while pro-market, voluntary & private actions

The Delaware River is national model for Foundation abuse:

1) use $ to buy environmental group cover

2) use $ to select issues, strategy, advocacy agenda, & tactics

3) co-opt, defund, & take credit for work of locals

4) marginalize “radicals”

5) divert from government, regulations, and corporate power

6) promote ineffective, feel good, symbolic gestures that protect the Status Quo while allowing wealthy white people to feel righteous

7) undermine more effective government regulatory mandates

8) protect corporate interest$ & politicians (criticism of Democrats is taboo, while exaggerated praise of Dems is SOP)

9) deny scope & minimize the severity of problems

10) exaggerate success of Foundation window dressing

11) self promote

12) self deal and keep the money an influence among class collaborators

13) ignore real EJ, but promote EJ sympathies

14) create distrust and conflict within the public interest community

15) use money to buy press coverage & issues covered

16) use money to shape press coverage & content of coverage

17) use $ to assure that Penn Foundation funded groups are the “go to” news sources

18) use $ to make sure those sources mislead the public & promote Penn’s vision.

19) Use Penn program agenda to provide cover for government leaders and allow agency heads to dodge accountability for failed regulatory programs.

This happens by diverting focus away from government regulation & exaggerating success of individual voluntary market based actions.

20) control the behavior of funded groups so that they threaten no economic, corporate, or political interests, while marginalizing and even defunding real grassroots activists & “radical” policy advocates.

Who will tell the people about these abuses?

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Everything Is Broken

August 22nd, 2020 No comments

Out On The Maine Line

along the northern Maine coast

along the northern Maine coast

Broken lines, broken strings,
Broken threads, broken springs,
Broken idols, broken heads,
People sleeping in broken beds
Ain’t no use jiving
Ain’t no use joking
Everything is broken. ~~~ Bob Dylan

In The Forest

At least they don't lie and call this "Stewardship", or creation of "Young Forest Habitat"

At least the Maine DEP folks don’t lie and call this “Stewardship”, “seed tree treatments”, “forest thinning” or the creation of “Young Forest Habitat”. And they save millions of dollars in providing grants to so called conservation groups to provide cover.


Swimming’ with the Fishes

Gulf of Maine, closed dock - over-fishing and ocean ecosystem collapse is compounded by crashing demand due to COVID

Gulf of Maine, closed dock – over-fishing and ocean ecosystem collapse is compounded by crashing demand due to COVID

‘Cause people let me tell you
It sent a chill
up and down my spine
When I picked up the telephone
And heard that he’d died
out on the mainline.  ~~~ Neil Young


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