Archive for December, 2020

Home State Hypocrite NJ Gov. Murphy Approves Fracked LNG Export Plant On The Delaware River

December 9th, 2020 No comments

LNG Plant Makes a Total Sham of Gov.’s Climate and Energy Policies

Shame On NJ Media, Conservation Sycophants, And Gov. Murphy 

I modified original photo by Catskill Mountainkeeper

I modified original photo by Catskill Mountainkeeper

We didn’t listen in on today’s DRBC hearing, but we learn from Catskill Mountainkeeper that the Delaware River Basin Commission voted to approve a proposed massive fracked gas LNG export plant on the Delaware river:

Delaware River Basin Commission Votes to Approve Gibbstown Fracking Terminal

Shameful move comes after tens of thousands speak up in opposition

Just this morning, the Governors of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware voted to approve a dock expansion that will start the process of building a liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility in Gibbstown, NJ. During the meeting, New York State put forth a motion to extend the stay that prevented construction–the motion wasn’t seconded, and the vote proceeded. In the end, New York abstained.

As a result, New Fortress Energy will build a plant to turn fracked gas into liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Wyalusing, PA., which in turn will increase fracking in the Marcellus shale. That LNG will then be transported via truck and rail 200 miles through communities that do not deserve to become sacrifice zones for the oil and gas industry’s greed.

Having previously written about this corrupt deadly scheme, I really can’t add anything to that, other than to express my disgust and note a few things:

1) The NY State representative (of NY Gov. Cuomo) at least tried to get a vote on a motion to stay the approval – that motion died for a lack of a second (although the NY rep should have done more than “abstain” and should have voted “NO”). But the important point is that Murphy had the opportunity to kill the project but failed to follow NY’s lead.

This is particularly disgraceful and  egregious corruption by NJ Gov. Murphy – who not only exposed the hypocrisy of and sold out his climate and energy policies, – but whose home state will suffer the impacts and risks of this climate disastrous project.

Shame on NJ Gov. Murphy – I will work to see that he is a one term fool. (I sense he again bowed to Senate President Sweeney, who has been pushing this project for over 15 years – and there are questionable connections between corporate owners and Wall Street Democrat Gov. Murphy).

2) NJ Spotlight editors and reporters are cowards. They sensed the controversy, failed to hold NJ Gov. Murphy accountable, and ducked. It’s the foundation and special interest money (PSEG et al). That’s Jon Hurdle, Tom Johnson, and John Mooney.

They failed to write a set up story on today’s vote – which would put more pressure on DRBC Governors – , despite an aggressive and coordinated campaign from 4 state environmental groups and the support of thousands of residents.

Shame on NJ Spotlight. What a lame outfit.

3) Other NJ based environmental groups that are sycophants and cheerleaders for NJ Gov. Murphy  – including NJ Audubon, NJ Conservation Foundation, and NJ League of Conservation Voters – failed to join the coalition that was seeking to block this project and instead diverted their members’ attention to self serving corrupt non-issues, like this “Action Alert” by NJ Audubon:

We have a short time to act before Congress signs off on the fiscal year 2021 budget! Congress is expected to make a decision by December 11th on the Interior Appropriations bill which contains funding for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program. Will you send a message to Congress asking them to invest in the future of the Delaware River Basin?:.

All these assholes want is more government grants.

Shame on them.

4) I predict we will see more promotion of fracked gas exports under the Biden Administration, because Biden’s “climate envoy” John Kerry -like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – sees US fracked gas exports as a strategic weapon and way to undermine Russian influence on Europe via Russian gas exports.

Wall Street meets the fossil fools and war machine hiding inside the US State Department.

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Words And Pictures Tell The Same Sad Story

December 8th, 2020 No comments

Newark’s Mayor Baraka Got Played On Open Space And EJ

“The warnings issued by X and King ring true today”

R - L Kelly Mooij, NJ Audubon, Newark Mayor Baraka, Ed Potasnak, NJ League of Conservation Voters, Tom Gilbert, NJ Conservation Foundation, sorry not sure of this woman's name

R – L Kelly Mooij, NJ Audubon, Newark Mayor Baraka, Ed Potasnak, NJ League of Conservation Voters, Tom Gilbert, NJ Conservation Foundation, sorry not sure of this woman’s name

I just read an excellent essay on Joe Biden, a story that I wish got published widely before the election, see:

This passage from that essay reminded me of exactly the same dynamics I have criticized certain NJ “white liberal” “environmentalists” for:

Two years before Malcolm X was assassinated, he delivered a speech skewering white liberals, “The white liberal differs from the white conservative only in one way: the liberal is more deceitful than the conservative. The liberal is more hypocritical than the conservative. Both want power, but the white liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor; and by winning the friendship, allegiance, and support of the Negro, the white liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or tool in this political “football game” that is constantly raging between the white liberals and white conservatives.”

Martin Luther King Jr. would share similar sentiments on white centrists in his letter from the Birmingham jailhouse, writing, “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”

The warnings issued by X and King ring true today. …

The only possible way for meaningful change to occur — not symbolic victories — is for all decent people to continuously take to the streets and, by any means necessary, demand justice and freedom.

As put by Martin Luther King Jr., “this is no time to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

As I’ve written many times, elite (largely white) NJ conservation and environmental groups cynically have used the black community as a prop in their “open space” fundraising campaigns.

They have been aided in those efforts by “black faces in high places”


That same manipulation was used in passage of the recent “environmental justice” law.

Yes, tragically, “The warnings issued by X and King ring true today.”

Nancy Fraser calls it “Progressive Neoliberalism” – where identity politics masks a corporate agenda –

Joe Biden is now the current lead practitioner and it is becoming blatantly obvious.

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Practitioners Of The Darks Arts To Explore Biden Administration Regulatory Policy

December 5th, 2020 No comments

Expectations Of Biden’s Use Of Executive Power Are Running Way Ahead of Reality

Regulatory Policy Is The Cornerstone of Response To The Climate Emergency

Will Biden Restore “The Administrative State”?

[Updates below]

The Beltway economic research outfit Resources For the Future, whose mission is “to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement” has assembled a panel of experts who will discuss

The Trump administration introduced several changes to the conduct and use of benefit-cost analysis for environmental regulation, some of which are likely to be revisited by the Biden administration. What is the future of this important policy analysis tool, and why does it matter?

This is a very important discussion, if only because aggressive use of federal regulatory power is at the center of any possibility of responding to the climate emergency and “cost-benefit analysis” (CBA) – like risk assessment – has served as a brake on the exercise of regulatory power.

Those CBA brakes are applied primarily through the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) review of federal agency’s regulatory proposals, before they are made public. OMB is the back door for corporate and industry lobbyists to kill or scale back regulatory initiatives and they often use CBA as their weapon.

Conventional political wisdom right now is that the Biden administration will be forced to rely on Executive power due to a likely continuation of a Republican veto in Mitch McConnell’s Senate.

But even if the Democrats win both upcoming special election Georgia Senate seats, it is highly unlikely that Democratic Senators from fossil producing states like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, will support aggressive climate legislation.

So, Biden will be forced to use Executive power, primarily regulatory power, to implement his climate, environmental, energy, and environmental justice agendas.

Frankly, I don’t see that happening, for a number of reasons, i.e.: politics; policy; personnel; institutions; and law.

Biden is a corporate Neoliberal, who relies heavily on pro-corporate market based policies. He has been hostile to regulation. His transition teams were corporate and Neoliberal dominated, with few (if any) real progressive voices.

Biden’s OMB nominee, Neera Tanden  – infamous for her support that the US “Bomb Libya and Take its Oil” – is a fellow corporate Neoliberal Democrat and she lacks the requisite intellectual firepower of a Cass Sunstein to make things happen. She has harshly criticized the Green new Deal.

Biden’s likely EPA head is also a moderate and a champion of market approach and alternatives to regulation like cap and trade.

Biden’s likely energy department head presided over the Obama administration’s “all of the above” energy policy, which produced record US oil and gas production as well as installed miles of fossil pipeline infrastructure. Obama openly bragged about this.

Biden’s “climate envoy”, while he believes in climate change and is being praised by some moderate environmental groups, has characterized the climate emergency chiefly as a “national security” issue (and he led Obama in gutting Climate Accords, as voluntary individual national non-binding targets instead of collective enforceable mandates). I see Kerry being used by Biden as an attack dog on China and Russia (and a cover for restoration of corporate trade policies like TPP) more than a climate activist. I agree with Wenonah Hauter:

Kerry has been an apologist for fracking and a promoter of false climate solutions like market-based carbon-trading schemes. …

the Obama administration — with Kerry at the helm of the State Department — viewed exporting fracked gas from the United States as a powerful foreign policy tool that would undercut adversaries, strikingly similar to Trump’s “freedom gas” campaign a few years later.

Jeff ST. Clair captures it perfectly:

Joe Biden’s cabinet is shaping up to be the most diverse group of ideological clones ever assembled.

On top of all that, there are structural impediments and barriers being erected by the right wing federal courts, including the 6-3 conservative pro-corporate anti-regulatory Supreme Court. 

So, I think the expectations for a Biden onslaught of Executive power and regulations far exceed the reality and there will be lots of disappointed climate activists in places like The Sunrise Movement (who foolishly got co-opted and joined the Biden-Sanders deal).

I assume that the RFF panel will discuss all this is some detail.

The RFF panel announcement solicited questions from the public, so I submitted the following questions for the panel, which were favorably received:

Hi – I have 3 broad questions:

1) How do the experts see the Biden OMB (Neera Tanden) differing from the Obama OMB under Cass Sunstein? Does Ms. Tanden have adequate knowledge and experience?

2) How will the current focus on environmental justice effect Cost-Benefit Analysis methodology and policy with respect to integration in agency decisions? I’m particularly focused on EPA and tensions with disproportionate & disparate impact analyses and the balances between justice, health and economics that are implicit in CBA.

3) Do experts see any problems on the horizon with a 6-3 conservative US Supreme Court that seems to be rethinking the Chevron doctrine (judicial deference), non-delegation doctrine, and overall executive power?

My sense is that the court will heighten scrutiny and thereby raise technical and policy expectations for CBA, rule making and “the administrative state”.

We’ll listen in on the panel’s discussion and keep you posted.

I urge any other fellow regulatory wonks out there to sign up and ask questions too!

[End Note: We must note the role of Jersey Girl Heather Zichal. We’ve written about Ms. Zichal, a former NJ Sierra Club volunteer who also worked for Green New Deal sandbagger NJ Congressman Frank Pallone, John Kerry (as well as the Obama White House), see:

We were pleased to see Wenonah Hauter say this about Zichal::

After advising on John Kerry’s presidential campaign, Heather Zichal served the Obama administration in a role one publication calledthe “chief ambassador to oil and gas companies.” Zichal left public service and went to work for the industry, joining the board of Cheniere Energy, a company heavily invested in the fracked gas exports business. Zichal has long preached a “middle ground” approach to climate policy; indeed, in 2019, she drew the ire of climate activists for suggesting Biden had to adopt a middle ground plan that, instead of moving away from fossil fuels, would embrace natural gas, nuclear energy and technology to reduce carbon emissions. ~~~ end]

[Update #3: 12/24/20 – another we told you so: (WaPo) (emphasis mine)

Biden also said that, as a president who wants to avoid inflaming a closely divided Congress, he plans to tread lightly when it comes to using his executive power — a declaration that no doubt will cause some heartburn on the left, where such caution is considered naive.

[Update #2: 12/11/20 – We told you so! Biden says progressive Executive power “way beyond the bounds” (The Intercept reported:

So there’s some things that I’m going to be able to do by executive order. I’m not going to hesitate to do it, but what I’m not going to do is I’m not going to do what used to — Vanita [Gupta], you probably used to get angry with me during the debates, when you’d have some of the people you were supporting saying, ‘On Day 1, I’m gonna have an executive order to do this!’ Not within the constitutional authority. I am not going to violate the Constitution. Executive authority that my progressive friends talk about is way beyond the bounds. And as one of you said, maybe it was you, Reverend Al [Sharpton], whether it’s far left or far right, there is a Constitution. It’s our only hope. Our only hope and the way to deal with it is, where I have executive authority, I will use it to undo every single damn thing this guy has done by executive authority, but I’m not going to exercise executive authority where it’s a question, where I can come along and say, ‘I can do away with assault weapons.’ There’s no executive authority to do away that. And no one has fought harder to get rid of assault weapons than me, me, but you can’t do it by executive order. We do that, next guy comes along and says, Well, guess what? By executive order, I guess everybody can have machine guns again. So we gotta be careful.  ~~~ end update]

Update #1: 12/7/20 – The NY Times runs a story today that illustrates exactly the wildly inflated expectations I am referring to:

Already, president-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is planning to move forward quickly in his first months in office to reinstate and strengthen many of the environmental rules rolled back by Mr. Trump.

This NYT claim is made without any factual support and – if you read the NYT story closely – a few paragraphs later the Biden Transition team explicitly contradicts the claim (by refusing to make exactly a commitment to “reinstate and strengthen” environmental rules rolled back by Trump:

“Given the deadly nature of this pollutant, my advice to the new administration would be to very quickly embark on the process to make the standard more stringent,” said Richard Revesz, an expert on environmental law at New York University.

A spokesman for the Biden transition team declined to say whether the Biden administration would do that, but he noted that when the Harvard study came out in April, Mr. Biden wrote on Twitter, “We’re starting to see evidence that long-term exposure to air pollution — which disproportionately affects communities of color & low-income communities — is linked to COVID-19 death rates.”

But not only did Biden transition fail to make a commitment to strengthen the PM2.5 standards. Obviously, the NYT reporter knows the difference between a vague and non-committal Biden campaign statement and a specific commitment on a specific regulatory standard, after the election and during the transition period.

And it was no accident that West Virginia officials were involved in the Trump EPA press event – obviously that’s a shot across the bow to Biden, who knows that Senator Joe Manchin will not support any stronger Biden EPA rules.

I call bullshit on this kind of misleading reporting.  At best it is wishful thinking and it gives Biden and his incoming EPA Administrator nominee a huge pass. ~~~ end update]

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Head Of NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute Spouts Drivel To Divert Attention From Flaws In Chemical Regulation

December 4th, 2020 No comments

EJ Law Shines Light On Cumulative Impacts, Risk Assessment, Flawed DEP Regulations And Unregulated Chemicals 

I wrote a set up story for yesterday’s NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute meeting to try to get a focus on major flaws in current regulations of toxic chemicals, literally thousands of which are unregulated, see:

The DWQI themselves opened Pandora’s Box by requesting public comment, so I took advantage of the opportunity.

That post was based on and linked to a 2010 DEP Report that was written by DEP staff to the DWQI. I was seeking to hold DEP and the DWQI accountable to their own science and recommendations.

For context and implications, keep in mind that the Tom’s River, NJ childhood cancer cluster was caused by an unregulated chemical (according to NJ Dept. of Health): (emphasis mine)

A previously unknown chemical contaminant related to the Reich Farm site – styrene-acrylonitrile trimer — was identified in the Parkway well field (one of the supply’s eight well fields), resulting in the closure of two wells and an expanded water treatment system. …

The [epidemiological] study found that prenatal exposure to two environmental factors in the past were associated with increased risk of leukemia in female children. These exposures were: 1) access to drinking water from the Parkway well field after the time that the well field was most likely to be contaminated, and 2) air pollutant emissions from the Ciba-Geigy chemical manufacturing plant.

Prior to that post, I’d written numerous posts and emailed NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle several times to provide specific information about federal and state laws and regulations that apply to the incomplete and misleading series of stories he’s written about the family of chemical known as PFAS, or “forever chemicals”, see:

Today, NJ Spotlight reported on that DWQI meeting, and they not only repeated the errors and omissions of prior stories, but added a whole new level of misdirection, by quoting the head of the DWQI, Dr. Keith Cooper of Rutgers.

Dr. Cooper – who surely knows better and obviously was trying to close the Pandora’s Box he opened – spouted this embarrassing gibberish: (NJ Spotlight)

“If you can instill within the industries themselves that if they are required to maintain their chemical footprint within their own industry, within their controlled environment, then you will have their responsibility for maintaining that,” Cooper said during a public meeting of the panel of scientists and water company executives that advises the state Department of Environmental Protection on safe levels of certain chemicals in drinking water.

“But unfortunately, historically, we have not put that requirement,” he said, offering his personal opinion. “We have allowed the chemicals to escape off of sites either through gas or the utilization of wastewater treatment plants, and I think that in the future, we have to start looking at putting the onus back on industry.”

Dr. Cooper surely knows that US EPA and NJ DEP have a comprehensive suite of largely unenforced laws, regulations and permit programs that specifically were designed for and apply to the problems he so in-artfully characterized.

Spouting drivel diverts attention from enforcing and reforming these laws and lets EPA and DEP regulators off the hook.

(and Cooper’s “chemical footprint” is a dangerous slogan that could easily be used by corporate lobbyists to support a privatized form of management, such as the Chemical Industry’s “Responsible Care” Program (NJ already privatized its toxic site cleanup program, so this is not beyond the pale) – or used by anti-regulatory zealots to suggest a retrograde common law “trespass” and “public nuisance” alternative to government regulation.)

Failure by the media and environmental groups to specify the problems and the solutions available under aggressive enforcement of current laws lets regulators and polluters off the hook.

I initially though that the failure to focus with specificity on current flawed regulations and lack of enforcement was due to incompetence.

But I directly provided accurate and specific information to NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle multiple times and provided it indirectly to my former NJ environmental colleagues (who I know read this blog), so now I think the problems are not competence but corruption.

Dr. Cooper’s gibberish reported by Spotlight set me off on a twitter storm, with links to my prior posts that document the issues:

  • This story is scientific & regulatory gibberish. A stunning evasion of current regulatory framework, programs, & policies, see this and THIS: Warning: This Map Could Make You Sick
  • Flaws in regulating “forever chemicals” & toxic alternatives are due to federal Toxic Substances Control Act, see this
  • DEP permits air releases & “leaks” of toxic chemicals, see this
  • DEP issued permits to allow the discharge of toxic chemicals directly to rivers & streams that provide drinking water, see this
  • DEP issues permits for discharge of toxic chemical laced sewage to treatment plants, see this
  • DEP has a Technical Manual & permit requirements on chemical Risk Assessment that are seriously flawed – They could be strengthened to address cumulative impacts, unregulated chemicals, & environmental justice, see this
  • DEP has authority under NJ State Pollution Prevention Act to mandate “toxic use reduction” & use of less toxic alternatives. DEP has authority to prevent “leaks” of toxic chemicals under NJ TCPA: DEP has failed to implement & enforce this authority, see this
  • DEP has inventoried sources of pollution threats to every drinking water source and system in NJ, but done absolutely nothing with this critical information. Look up your drinking water’s DEP Source Water Assessment:
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Disinfection Byproduct Precursors
  • Inorganic Constituents
  • Nitrate
  • Pesticides

I then fired off this email to NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle – let’s hope he thinks about it before writing his next misleading diversion.

Jon – Dr. Cooper is literally speaking gibberish. That serves to divert attention from the actual laws, regulations, and scientific tools DWQI and DEP have to address the problems he attempts to note (and also does so in a very poor way, gibberish). Risk assessment, cumulative risk, the precautionary principle, unregulated chemicals, standards, technical manuals, Guidance documents, ambient monitoring, fence line monitoring, emissions monitoring, community health monitoring, et al are all scientific and regulatory terms of art. He surely knows all this – or should.

DWQI was involved in a “Treatment Based” approach to setting requirements in lieu of chemical specific MCL’s for unregulated chemicals written by DEP staff to the DWQI. Dr. Cooper knows all about this. I’ve written about this multiple times so the material is out there.

DEP has a comprehensive suit of NJ State laws to regulate all emissions, leaks and discharges of all toxic chemicals to air, and and water. DEP has detailed regulations and permit requirements that apply, including risk assessment. I’ve written about them in detail. Let me know if you want a list. Dr. Cooper surely knows this.

I’ve already told you about the chemical “pre-market review” under federal Toxic Substances Control Act that applies to the problems you note with “forever” chemicals PFAS.

DEP has comprehensive authority under federal TSCA and the NJ Pollution Prevention Act, NJ Right To Know Act, NJ Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act, NJ Spill Act, NJ Ari Pollution Control Act and the federal Toxic Substances Control that provide authority for DEP to mandate “toxic use reduction” (the primary goal of the Pollution Prevention Act) and the use of less toxic alternative  substances (like the alternatives to “forever” PFAS).

DEP has never used this authority.

NJ laws also establish a liability scheme for holding polluters accountable for all “leaks” and releases of toxic chemicals, to air, water, and land.

DEP has a permit program that allows discharge of toxic chemicals to rivers and streams that provide drinking water. (called NJPDES)

DEP has a permit program that allows industries to discharge toxic chemical laden wastewater to sewage treatment plants, when then discharge unregulated toxic chemicals to rivers and streams used for drinking water. (called TWA).

Dr. Cooper must know all this.

Why not write a story that holds DEP accountable for all this?

I do.


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