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NJ Gov. Murphy’s Acting DEP Commissioner Worked For Fortress Energy On LNG Export Project

Acting DEP Commissioner LaTourette’s Recusal Shows He Worked For Corporate Interests

Egregious Revolving Door And “Regulatory Capture” Abuse

This Is What “Progressive Neoliberalism” Looks Like

NJ Gov. Murphy’s appointed Acting DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette was a corporate lawyer for Fortress Energy, the corporate interest behind the controversial LNG export facility recently approved by the DRBC amid the opposition of a 4 state climate activist campaign and thousands of public opponents.

According to DEP documents, Mr. LaTourette legally (and politically?) represented the Fortress Energy LNG project on successful regulatory approvals before the DEP, DRBC, USACOE, and NMFS/NOAA. (DEP documents provided upon request).

Masking the relationship, LaTourette claims that he worked for Delaware River Partners, LLC, a firm he claims is an “affiliate” of Fortress Energy. So let me put a finer point on the real relationship: (source: US DOE energy export application)

The Gibbstown [LNG] Facility is being developed by Delaware River Partners LLC (“DRP”). DRP is majority owned by Fortress Transportation and Infrastructure Investors LLC (“FTAI”)

Importantly, prior to the DRBC controversy, the DEP quietly approved Fortress land use permits, Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act, and Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification – with virtually no public awareness – including during LaTourette’s tenure at DEP as Deputy Commissioner and Chief Of Staff.

Additionally, on top of representing Fortress Energy on the LNG plant, Mr. LaTourette’s ethics disclosure forms reveal that he previously represented numerous other corporate clients.

LaTourette’s own ethics disclosure forms blatantly contradict claims in Gov. Murphy’s press release issued upon appointing LaTourette Acting DEP Commissioner.

In that press release, Gov. Murphy failed to mention ANY prior specific corporate clients and instead created a false impression that Mr. LaTourette worked on behalf of community groups and in the public interest.

The Gov. press release claimed (emphases mine):

With twenty years of environmental experience, LaTourette began his career partnering with the Erin Brockovich law firm to organize and defend New Jersey communities whose drinking water was contaminated by petrochemicals. … . Before entering public service, LaTourette specialized in protecting the rights of victims of toxic injuries while also advising infrastructure, transportation, energy, and other industries on compliance with state and federal environmental laws and policies.

But here are the corporate clients Mr. LaTourette actually represented: (These documents were obtained via an OPRA request, which DEP dragged its feet for weeks in responding to. Source: Attachment A from LaTourette’s own DEP ethics recusal forms. Note that there is only ONE pro bono client, and it looks like LaTourette was helping them rebuild where they should not have rebuilt post Sandy):

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This is a classic example of both the revolving door and corporate capture of government regulatory agencies.

No wonder Gov. Murphy touted the identity politics supporting LaTourette.

Check out this diversion (a casebook example of “Progressive Neoliberalism”) from Gov. Murphy’s press release:

A devoted advocate for equality of all people, LaTourette was elected to serve as Chair of the LGBTQ Rights Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, completing his term in 2020, and will be the first openly gay Commissioner of Environmental Protection in the nation. A Middlesex County native, he resides in Highland Park with his partner and twin daughters.

Gay men can be corporate whores too.

We are not aware of whether or when the Senate will take up confirmation of LaTourette’s temporary appointment.

But we will be sure to make Senate President Sweeney (who OBVIOUSLY knew and has worked with LaTourette on Fortress LNG) and Senate Environment (Smith) and Judiciary (Scutari) Committee Chairmen aware of these facts.

We gave a heads up to NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle – who has done a lot of work on the Fortress LNG project. Let’s hope this outrage gets the media attention it deserves.

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