Archive for March, 2021

Corporate Members Of Murphy DEP Science Advisory Board Must Be Replaced

March 31st, 2021 No comments

Terms Expire – Time For Dupont And Corporate Hacks To Go

SAB Appointments A Test For Acting DEP Commissioner LaTourette

Let me first put this important NJ DEP story in a national context.

Biden EPA Administrator Michael Regan recently dismissed 40 Trump political appointees, mostly members of EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), see EPA Press release (my emphases):

“Scientific integrity is one of EPA’s foundational values – and as Administrator, I am committed to ensuring that every decision we make meets rigorous scientific standards,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Resetting these two scientific advisory committees will ensure the agency receives the best possible scientific insight to support our work to protect human health and the environment. Today we return to a time-tested, fair, and transparent process for soliciting membership to these critically important advisory bodies.”

A prior Washington Post story reported:

The move was designed to restore EPA’s scientific integrity, reduce undue corporate and political influence on science and policy, and rebuild EPA staff moral and public trust in EPA.

Regan’s move was widely praised.

In a letter to EPA staff, Administrator Regan wrote that

when politics drives science rather than science informing policy, we are more likely to make policy choices that sacrifice the health of the most vulnerable among us.” 

But restoring the status quo is not nearly enough, as Obama’s EPA made bad decisions  that thankfully were exposed by SAB recommendations.

All of this brought back memories of the work I did criticizing NJ DEP’s Science Advisory Board, including filing a successful lawsuit to make the SAB appointment process more transparent, see:

Over the years, we’ve written many times about the DEP SAB and issues of scientific integrity and undue corporate and political influence and shown how this undermines and weakens protections of public health and the environment, see:

Those efforts have resulted in some reforms at the DEP SAB, but DEP initiated reforms have not gone nearly far enough.

Corporate influence must be eliminated. Any role in regulation must be strictly prohibited. And far stronger scientific integrity, conflict of interest, transparency, public involvement, and ethical standards must be imposed on the SAB.

That’s why it’s important to note that several members of the NJ DEP SAB terms expire on May 14, 2021, including Dupont’s corporate representative John Gannon.

Remarkably, Gannon is not the only Dupont man on the DEP SAB. He is joined by Gerald Kennedy, a “risk assessment” expert whose term also expires

The SAB term of John Dyksen, also expires on May 14, 2012. Dyksen is a corporate man, who serves as Director of United Water’s corporate engineering and planning group.

The term of  Paul Bovitz also expires. Bovitz is a corporate consultant for Weston.

Another corporate dirty water consultant, Tom Amidon’s of Kleinfelder term also expires.

All five of these current corporate SAB members whose terms are expiring must be replaced by Acting Commissioner Shawn LaTourette.

We will write a letter urging that to happen and we urge our readers to weigh in as well.

Of course, this is newsworthy and deserves press attention – just like EPA Administrator Regan got.

To give just one illustration of the implications and just how corrupt things are, see how we criticized the joint work of Dupont’s Gannon and United Water’s Dyksen:

DEP Commissioner Martin asked his hand picked Science Advisory Board to provide recommendations on whether and how to regulate these chemicals. Here’s how the SAB framed Commissioner Martin’s “charge topic” in their Final Report;


Numerous chemicals, some of which may be a potential risk to human or environmental health, are used every day in New Jersey (NJ) for industrial, commercial and household purposes. Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC) are those that present a concern for both hazard and exposure. A number of these chemicals may find their way into the State’s wastewater treatment facilities, receiving waters, aquifers and drinking water treatment facilities and other chemicals may be released to air or deposited in soils. CEC have raised concern around the world, as once released, these products pose a potential threat to biota and the environment. To address this issue specifically in New Jersey, the NJDEP Science Advisory Board (SAB) formed the CEC work group which was asked to investigate this issue.

With that set of issues in mind, here is a key recommendation from the DEP SAB Final Report on Contaminants of Emerging Concern:

It is recommended that the hazard assessment be conducted using a platform called METIS (Metanomics Information System) developed by DuPont. METIS is a chemical informatics platform that provides a screening level view of potential environmental fate and effects, human health concerns, andsocietal perception concerns.

Did you catch that?

The DEP SAB recommended a chemical hazard assessment method developed by Dupont, a chemical manufacturer that would be subject to the regulations of those chemicals.

But it gets worse.

The SAB Final Report was conveyed to DEP Commissioner Martin from a Rutgers University Professor, on Rutgers letterhead.

The Rutgers transmittal letter emphasized and implicitly praised the role of sub-committee Chair John Dyksen, who just so happens to be a corporate official with United Water and of John Gannon, who just so happens to be a corporate official with Dupont.

We’ve been exposing lack of scientific integrity, undue corporate and political influence, and lack of transparency.

Will Acting Commissioner LaTourette do the right thing and terminate these five SAB members?

[End Note: A reader sent me an email asking why would I expect LaTourette to terminate these corporate hacks, when Gov. Murphy still has not purged Christie political appointments at the Pinelands Commission (including Executive Director Wittenberg) and Highlands Council.

That is really bad – what the heck are Pinelands Preservation Alliance and the Highlands Coalition doing about that? They have lots of resources, including from Wm. Penn and Dodge Foundations! Is that Foundation money handcuffing their advocacy?

I consider myself the only DEP watchdog and I know of no group or individual in NJ who works on scientific integrity or the SAB – and of course, I take no Foundation or government money. It show, no? ~~~ end]

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Lake Mead National Recreation Area

March 27th, 2021 No comments

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Lake Mead National Recreation Area – America’s first National Recreation Area (I didn’t know that!)

Natural beauty and wonder – a sharp contrast with the engineered ugliness and destruction of the dam.





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When A Retirement Tribute Becomes A Smear – Tom Johnson Shows His True Colors

March 25th, 2021 No comments


Wolfe and Tittel In  Hopewell, NJ During Merrill Lynch Development Battle (2000)

Longtime Sierra Club NJ Chapter Director Jeff Tittel just announced his retirement after 23 years at Sierra and over 50 years as an environmental and progressive activist.

I met Jeff in the mid 1990’s, worked with him for 7+ years at Sierra, and am proud to say he was and still is my good friend. No qualifications. Period.

So, to put it as mildly as I can, I nearly puked upon just now reading Tom Johnson’s “tribute” at NJ Spotlight (it further sickens me to post a link to that rag, which has grossly betrayed its founding promise).

Tom’s “tribute” contrasts sharply with all the other media stories I read, who respectfully and unconditionally praise Tittel as an effective and bold leader, see:

Tom Johnson is a bitter old passive aggressive coward and he always has been.

The quote he gave to Mike Catania is an unforgivable outrage.

TJ allowed Catania to dismiss Tittel as a “gadfly”:

“I think that, if Jeff didn’t exist, we would have had to invent him,’’ Catania said. “Glib, quick with a quotable quote, and frequently annoying even to his colleagues in the environmental community. As an environmental gadfly he played an important role in numerous environmental issues over the course of many years.’’

Yes, Tittel “annoyed” the Catania crowd. He not only “annoyed” them, he shamed them.

As a result, that blood money soaked Duke Foundation man Mike Catania bad mouthed, undermined, disparaged, and stabbed Jeff Tittel in the back for years.

But Tom Johnson went even further and sunk his own knife in Tittel’s back:

Pugnacious when needed, Tittel’s style often embroiled him in disputes with officials and lawmakers, polluters and environmental allies, particularly when the two sides differed on tactics to achieve their goals. The latter battles contributed to a fracturing of the environmental community, which some argued has hindered their effectiveness.

What the hell kind of journalism is that? There is no mention of the “battles” that allegedly “fractured” the environmental community – and to cover this personal opinion and smear, the coward Tom Johnson deploys the disgraceful tactic of “some argued”.

No doubt that smear came from Mike Catania.

What kind of tribute is that?

For the record, it was the compromised and corrupt and cowardly Catania Crowd that “fractured” the environmental community and undermined its effectiveness, not Tittel.

Tittel was a constant – almost daily – and very visible reminder of how weak, compromised, cowardly, corrupt and ineffective corporate Catania and his conservation friends were.

These folks not only were jealous of Tittel’s political power and influence that flowed from his ability to generate press and frame issues, but they loathed his style, his politics, and even his person.

It sickens me to note that I personally witnessed an anti-semitic verbal smear on Tittel, and from the then “leader” of NJ’s conservation community. It happened during an Environmental Summit meeting of the entire community. Of course, I immediately expressed outrage and challenged the “leader” who spoke those words. I joined Tittel in the “to be marginalized” camp.

Catania and his Foundation friends (Chris Daggett, Candy Ashmun, et al) were actually so apoplectic about Tittel’s media and political  influence that they schemed strategies and formed entire new organizations and sham coalitions to undermine and defeat him.

Among other things, that’s where the  faux groups and coalitions like NJ League of Conservation Voters, Keep It Green, and Rethink NJ Energy came from – a challenge to Tittel’s influence. That whole enterprise has metastasized into what I now call The Green Mafia.

NJ LCV was quickly backed up by Dodge and Wm. Penn Foundation Big Money. And I mean BIG MONEY (over $100 million for Neoliberal, voluntary, market based programs to undermine government and Clean Water Act regulatory mandates).

They used Foundation money to make that happen. Their objective was to manufacture an alternative voice and corporate compromise strategy to marginalize Tittel.

During this same period, they blackballed and defunded me (I have that first hand from someone in the Foundation room).

And I’m glad to say that it didn’t work.

Jeff is my friend.

Not only did we work our asses off together, but we had many good times and Jeff was very generous in buying me many beers!

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Camden EJ activist press conference – Tittel (L) – Wolfe criticizes Corzine policy on schools on toxic waste sites (2008?)

We traveled not only NJ but much of the western US together – amazingly Jeff always knew the local lay of the land!

He knew everything from good bars and restaurants to the history of Congressional races, from northern California to Big Sur, from Aspen to Santa Fe, from Vernon NJ to Cape May.

We almost died driving all night from Santa Fe to Aspen through a snowstorm in the Rocky Mountains.

Jeff showed me spectacular trails, watering holes (bars), and swimming holes in the Highlands.

The Highlands Act was the creation of Jeff, Gov. McGreevey’s staffer Curtis Fisher and myself. We actually had to fight DEP Commissioner Campbell to make it happen.

Tittel gave me an education in everything from geography, politics, history, and activism – I’ve never known anyone who comes close to his grasp of concrete and significant local knowledge. No one.

Jeff’s partner Barb is a professional planner with accomplishments of her own. She always engaged and enlightened our discussions and educated me on many State Plan and planning issues.

I will never forget the night we were all partying and fairly wasted in a Lambertville bar when DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell showed up at 2 am! I worked for Campbell at the time and was hanging with Tittel and an environmental crew. Campbell immediately accused me of betraying him and blasted me for creating his problems (he had just returned from a meeting with K Hovnanian legal, corporate and lobbying people who were attacking him for his Category One waters program).

You gotta give it to Tittel – he goes out in a blaze of glory with a press release – the same tactics he used so successfully for decades.

One of the few things I disagreed with and argued with Jeff about was his loyalty to Corzine DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson. I think it took him far too long to put his personal relationship with her in the background and criticize her policies. I also think Tittel exaggerated his praise for the toothless 2007 Global Warming Response Act.

The only regret I have is that in 1999 he didn’t agree with me to go to Seattle for the “Battle In Seattle” after we both attended the Sierra Club’s State Chapter retreat at lovely Asilomar on the Monterey Peninsula.

And the only good thing in Tom’s story was that he used it destroy Dave Pringle:

David Pringle, the longtime campaign director for Clean Water Action, worked closely with Tittel for most of the past two decades. That ended with the election of former Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican. The Sierra Club endorsed former DEP Commissioner Chris Daggett, who was running as an independent, while Pringle’s group, then called the New Jersey Environmental Federation, backed Christie.

But again, Tom was probably doing that out of his own bitter right wing Neoliberal views – or at the instigation again of Mike Catania.

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Nuclear Bailout Court Decision Was Based On A Secret Record – And It Ignored Huge Prior Subsidies That Appear To Violate The Bailout Law

March 22nd, 2021 No comments

“Our decision is based on the confidential record.”

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I want to make five brief critical points you won’t read in today’s NJ Spotlight coverage of the NJ court’s decision upholding nuclear subsidies.

First, let’s begin with an extraordinary abuse, in footnote #2 on page 10, the Appellate Division admitted that they issued a Kafkaesque secret decision:

The ZEC Act contains a confidentiality provision to protect the information submitted by ZEC applicants … (2)

(2) … the Board issued two versions of its order, decision, and attachments thereto: a public version and a confidential version. Rate Counsel, Exelon, and PSEG Nuclear filed public and confidential versions of their appellate briefs and appendices. Our decision is based on the confidential record.

So, now we officially have secret courts.

Second, and without a hint of irony, the NJ Appellate Division opinion upholding $300 million in subsidies to the nuclear industry begins with a justification in the otherwise toothless 2007 NJ Global Warming Response Act (GWRA). That toothless law has done nothing – repeat, nothing – to mandate any reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, or that big polluters pay one red cent for the damage caused by their greenhouse gas emissions (e.g.  the “Social Cost of Carbon”) see:

But, this toothless dead letter has been revived: in 2018 the Legislature, then later BPU, DEP and now the Court used it to justify $300 million/year in corporate subsidies:

In 2007, the New Jersey Legislature passed the Global Warming Response Act, N.J.S.A. 26:2C-37 to -68, having declared that it was in the State’s interest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by eighty percent by 2050. In furtherance of that goal, in 2018 the Legislature enacted a Zero Emission Certificate (ZEC) program for eligible nuclear power plants, L. 2018, c. 16, codified at N.J.S.A. 48:3-87.3 to -87.7 (the ZEC Act).

Secret courts, nuclear subsidies, and a zombie law. But it gets even worse.

Third, The NJ Appellate Division opinion upholding $300 million in subsidies to the nuclear industry was very narrow in scope. The Court made that very clear: (@ page 15)

Because Rate Counsel does not contend on appeal that the applicants failed to satisfy all of the eligibility criteria, we limit our discussion to those aspects of the applications pertaining to the third eligibility criterion, codified at N.J.S.A. 48:3-87.5(e)(3), financial viability.

For some strange reason, Rate Counsel and the court focused exclusively on this one criterion, despite the fact that the law is far broader and provides:

To be deemed eligible by the Board, a nuclear power plant must meet the following five criteria:

Even the Court found the need to question that narrow focus: (see Opinion at p.31)

Notably, Rate Counsel does not contend on appeal that the applicants failed to satisfy any of the four remaining statutory criteria.

Of the 5 eligibility criteria, what I found to be the criteria that the nuclear industry absolutely could never meet mandates that:

(4) certify annually that the nuclear power plant does not receive any direct or indirect payment or credit [from the state, federal government, or regional compact] . . . despite its reasonable best effort to obtain any such payment or credit, for its fuel diversity, resilience, air quality or other environmental attributes that will eliminate the need for the nuclear power plant to retire, except for any payment or credit received under the provisions of this act;

How could PSEG certify that they get no subsidies?

First, there was the $2.9 bailout of “Stranded assets” back in 1999: (see: BPU Order at p.4)

Additionally, RCR urged the Board to take into account the stranded costs in the amount of $2.9 billion that were paid to PSEG by ratepayers over a 15-year period as a result of deregulation in 1999

The BPU staff documented these additional subsidies to nuclear plants: (See: BPU Order, p. 34-35)

  • All merchant power plants, including nuclear plants, receive PJM capacity revenues that are fixed annually three years in advance and help insulate those plants from revenue uncertainty.
  • Through the Price-Anderson Act, the federal government provides a layer of insurance coverage for catastrophic accidents at nuclear plants. This reduction in risk and consequential reduction in insurance cost are unavailable for non-nuclear plants.
  • The cost of future decommissioning is funded regularly through small contributions to a separate fund. The NRC has strict regulations that require each plant owner to verify that the decommissioning fund for each reactor is sufficient, assuming the funds are collected over the operating life of their plants, or demonstrate financial assurance through another acceptable method. Most plants go into SAFSTOR at retirement, allowing the decommissioning funds to build up (due to interest accruing on the fund investments) while the expected  decommissioning costs decline (as radiated equipment and structures cool off). Thus, nuclear plants are largely insulated from retirement cost risks. While non-nuclear plants face much lower retirement costs, they do not have assurance that retirement funds will be available.

In light of these huge subsidies, how could BPU find that there were no subsidies?: (see Opinion @ p.24)

The ET found all three applications were complete, and based on the submitted applications, each applicant had satisfied the first, fourth, and fifth statutory criteria since: (1) each unit was licensed to operate beyond 2030; (2) each unit has not and was not currently receiving any other subsidies; and (3) each applicant paid the requisite application fee.

Why weren’t’ any of these huge subsidies the focus of the Rate Counsel lawsuit?

Why are they never mentioned in news coverage?

How could PSE&G certify they received no subsidies in light of these huge billion dollar subsidies?

What am I missing or getting wrong?

Fourth, the subsidy is justified by: 1) alleged greenhouse gas emissions avoided; 2) alleged “significant and material” greenhouse gas emissions avoided; and 3) compliance with the goals of the toothless GWRA. This is all a joke. Even BPU did not certify any of that.

The BPU and DEP did not even try to make quantitative and legal findings, as the Court noted: (Opinion, p. 39-40)

Although the Board did not expressly state that the applicants had satisfied N.J.S.A. 48:3-87.5(e)(2), the Board’s findings, coupled with the ET’s more detailed determinations, support the implied conclusion that each plant, as a zero-emission facility, makes a significant and material contribution to the air quality in the State by minimizing emissions that result from electricity consumed in New Jersey, minimizes harmful emissions that adversely affect the citizens of the State, and that retirement would significantly and negatively impact New Jersey’s ability to comply with state air emissions reduction requirements, particularly with regard to global warming and ambient air quality. N.J.S.A. 48:3-87.5(e)(2).

The DEP was unable to validate the PSE&G model (see DEP memo at the very end of the BPU Order) of these alleged emissions reductions and the BPU consultant claimed that PSE&G had seriously exaggerated them.  Even I was able to see, based on a cursory review, that PSE&G used carbon emission factors for replacement power that were greater than PJM average emissions, thereby greatly exaggerating avoided emissions.

Fifth, there are criminal investigations underway in other States regarding the award of similar subsidies. Even the Wall Street Journal reported:

Why aren’t there similar criminal, legislative, and media investigations underway in NJ?

[End Note:

The Court closed with a real finger in the eye of Rate Counsel’s legal acumen:

The parties’ remaining arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E).

Was Rate Counsel trying to lose?

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False Narrative On Warehouse Development Story Masks Corporate Power & Failures In State Planning, Regulation, and Media

March 22nd, 2021 No comments

Private Corporate Planning Portrayed As Public Interest Advocacy

Citizen Land Use Victories Ignored, While Ineffective Solutions Divert From What Works

Assuming Defeat Before The Battle Is Engaged

I’ve often criticized private – often elite Foundation and corporate funded – groups like NJ Future for falsely framing issues, trying to control the narrative, and to define the range of “feasible” public policy solutions to those issues. They offer up incremental and ineffective “solutions” that benefit their corporate donors while diverting attention from real solutions, manipulating and disempowering the public, and thereby undermining democracy. They disguise their corporate agendas behind a veneer of public interest slogans: sustainable development, regional planning, environment, infrastructure, jobs, brownfields redevelopment, urban redevelopment, and most recently, “equity”.

The warehouse sprawl issue is a classic example of all that.

Today, NJ Spotlight ran another important story about warehouse development and land use issues, see:

Today’s revised focus towards the need for state and regional planning appears to respond to a strong criticism I made of their prior coverage back in November, see:

I say appears to respond  for a reason – because it doesn’t. In fact, it does just the opposite. It doubles down on diversion.

Here’s the thrust of my prior criticism of NJ Spotlight’s failures that today’s story appears to respond to. Back in November, I wrote:

The solutions are regional planning and regulatory powers enforced by State and regional institutions (not county and local governments).

NJ has a well developed, time tested, and legally valid effective suite of State and regional planning and regulatory laws and institutions, i.e. 1) the NJ State Development and Redevelopment Plan and The State Planning Commission; 2) The Highlands Act, Regional Master Plan, and Highlands Council; and 3) the Department of Environmental Protection land use and water resource planning and permitting programs (as well as the State Department of Transportation).

While NJ Spotlight’s new emphasis shifted from local land use powers to the need for State and regional planning, it did so in a way that actually undermines and basically dismisses those approaches. Let me explain.

The story is based on a paper by Tim Evans of NJ Future. That paper is written from an economic development perspective.

Confirming my critique of NJ Future as a corporate planning group that masks corporate economic interests behind the mantle of faux public interest platitudes, it celebrates the growth of global trade, expansion of NJ ports and warehouses, and economic growth. Mr. Evans opens his paper with this revealing statement (emphasis mine):

Thanks to growth in both e-commerce and the volume of trade at the Port of New York and New Jersey, the amount of land needed for warehousing has been growing.

Thanks for nothing. This is neoliberal corporate shilling, not public policy or land use planning.

Mr. Evans further reveals his economic development and corporate objectives with this quote:

“Leaving the fate of one of New Jersey’s most important industries, and the decisions about where its need for land is accommodated, solely in the hands of our myriad local governments and their fiscal self-interest is no guarantee of a regionally-optimal solution,” wrote Tim Evans, director of research for the nonprofit New Jersey Future

Note that Mr. Evans does not disclose what he is seeking to “optimize” and NJ Spotlight didn’t even ask this fundamental question. If asked, he likely would say “efficiency” or “sustainability”, but those are just slogans and another technocratic smokescreen for corporate profits, rape of the landscape, and even more pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

But instead of exposing the NJ Future charade, Jon Hurdle of NJ Spotlight perpetuates and strengthens it. This is really unforgivable, because I reached out to Hurdle to warn him, most recently back in November:

3) NJ Future – and groups like “Sustainable NJ” – have foolishly relied primarily on local governments, the NJ Municipal land Use Law, and voluntary private sector actions, while neglecting or even criticizing State, regional, and regulatory powers.

Just like the political actors, they too now are covering their asses for major strategic mistakes.

Why do you so consistently rely on sources that provide a false framing?

But that’s not close to several other highly misleading and distorted perspectives expressed in that one story.

How could a land use and regional planning focused story ignore – completely – NJ’s existing regional planning institutions, laws and regulations? The only “regional planning” authority Hurdle mentions is the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority.

Again, I advised Jon Hurdle about that back in November:

John – there are 3 major omissions from your story that cry out for a followup:

1) Conservative anti-government and anti-regulatory officials and citizens in Warren and Sussex County have long strongly opposed the State Development and Redevelopment Plan, the Highlands Council, The RMP, and the DEP’s various regional planning and regulatory programs. (“Home rule”, “takings”, “State mandates” “red tape” etcetera)

How could a land use and transportation story ignore the climate emergency?

How could the need for Farmland Preservation, the effective power of State regulation, and the need for new law that preserves farmland be ignored? Why does NJ Spotlight ignore that possibility?

How could NJ’s regional planning and regulatory history be ignored? Again, we noted this context back in November:

So, why does the Spotlight story not only omit all that and focus exclusively on local and county voluntary coordination and demonstrably weak and ineffective tools under the “home rule” oriented NJ Municipal Land Use Law?

That failure is the result of reliance on sources that are right wing political ideologues. These folks serve in places of government power and are supported by residents in places like Warren and Sussex County who have long opposed the any role for State government (or the Highlands Council).

They opposed the State Plan, The Highlands Act, and the DEP.

Because groups like NJ Future and Sustainable NJ have duped and diverted well meaning residents and activists.

Of course, none of that history, context, law and institutions was mention in NJ Spotlight’s story.

Instead, NJ Spotlight again was duped by those who now need to cover their asses for huge strategic and political mistakes.

Yes, Mr. Hurdle did reframe the story and solicit the input of other perspectives and sources.

But his reframing again relies primarily on NJ Future’s economic development narrative (without disclosing that fact) and the other perspectives and sources are used as straw men, to be knocked down.

1. The myth of “Home rule” is strengthened, not exposed:

Municipalities, which have authority over land use, are attracted to the local taxes and jobs that come with new warehouses and many approve the plans over the objections of local critics.

This is legally a false statement. Municipalities are delegated limited land use power by the State legislature, under the State’s constitutional police power.

2.  The powers of State government and the politics of land use are distorted:

“It’s a home-rule state, and local governments have the final say,” he said. “It’s hard to reel that power back once you’ve handed it to the local governments; you are going to meet a lot of political resistance if you say you need to take some of it back.”

Again, these statements are factually false. Local governments do not have “the final say”. Under NJ law, regional entities like the Highlands Council and the Pinelands Commission have final say within their regions. Under NJ law, State regulatory agencies like the DEP have final say on infrastructure, water resources, and many environmental issues. Under NJ law, the Legislature has “taken back” local land use powers many times (from the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act, to the Flood Hazard Control Act, to coastal land use under CAFRA.)

The politics of those issues was controversial, but they were strongly supported by public opinion (aka “democracy”), which is something pro-corporate Mr. Evans doesn’t want to talk about.

But it is unforgivable for NJ Spotlight to frame the issues this way and by ignoring prior citizen driven victories and assuming defeat before the battle is even engaged.

But that is exactly what NJ Future is designed and funded to do and why they are involved in the issue.

3. The debate over putting teeth in the State Plan is ignored:

Mike Cerra, executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, argued that land-use decisions are best left in local hands, and that the official State Plan — a document that recommends where and how the state should grow — has not been widely accepted since it was last issued in 2001.

Beginning with Gov. Florio’s Executive Order #114, NJ Governor’s have used their powers to control land use and integrate the “voluntary” State Plan in DEP regulatory programs.

Instead of reporting this fact, NJ Spotlight prints lies from Mr. Cerra of the NJ League of Municipalities:

 “The State Plan has never been bought into by the respective state agencies, and has led to disjointed outcomes.”

“Open For Business” Gov. Whitman’s first Executive Order #1 undermined the land use focus of the State Plan and power of the State Planning Commission by forming an Economic Master Plan Commission.

Gov. Corzine issued Executive Order #114 directing “stronger implementation of the Highlands Master Plan”.

Gov. McGreevey’s DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell foolishly tried – and failed – to usurp the State Plan via his “Big Map” initiative in 2002, see:

But McGreevey over-rode Campbell’s strategic errors by successfully enacting the Highlands Act which protected almost 1 million acres and the DEP “Category One” streams buffer protection program, which prohibited development of over 150,000 acres of NJ’s most environmentally sensitive lands. Of course NJ Future doesn’t want to talk about this, but it is incredible that Mr. Hurdle ignored this.

But it was Gov. Christie’s Executive Order #78 that went even further than Whitman and dismantled the State Plan by replacing it with a Strategic Economic Development Plan. In light of this fact, it was journalistic malpractice for Mr. Hurdle to allow the NJ League Of Municipalities to lie about this, i.e.  that the state Plan “has not been widely accepted since it was last issued in 2001.”

NJ Spotlight and their State Plan sources completely ignore this history.

4. It gets so absurd that State planning powers are downplayed by State officials who should be advocating them:

Municipalities are not required to conform to the State Plan, which is a guidance document, said Donna Rendeiro, executive director of the state’s Office of Planning Advocacy. She said final land-use decisions are made locally but state or regional authorities can help towns with information or technical assistance, in cases that have a wider impact.

5. Academic experts are curiously completely baffled about planning and regulatory tools:

Regional coordination of warehouse development “would make a lot of sense,” said John Hasse, a Rowan University professor who monitors land-use patterns. It’s unclear what policy tools might enable that to happen, but regional management of impervious surface expansion might allow coordination while retaining local authority over the issue, he said.

6. Even former State Planning Commission members simply can’t communicate an effective and enforceable response and tell the truth:

Jim Gilbert, a former chairman of the New Jersey State Planning Commission, urged Gov. Phil Murphy, who appoints the panel’s chairman and executive director, to empower the commission to require counties to coordinate planning.

He acknowledged that such a change would reduce municipalities’ power over land-use decisions, but argued that it would reduce the threat of warehouse development on greenfield sites, as proposed in White Township, Warren County, where a developer wants to build 2.8 million square feet of warehouse space on farmland, a project that Gilbert said would “destroy” the county.

“There are responsible developers who redevelop existing industrial sites, and others who want to build in the middle of a cornfield,” he said.

7. At the very end of a long story, the only knowledgeable voice with integrity – Jeff Tittel of Sierra Club, who has been in the trenches on these battles for decades and is fully aware of all of the above – was marginalized and limited to a single project in Ocean County.

Worse, he was then undermined and contradicted by Mr. Evans of NJ Future.

That is disgusting and unforgivable bullshit. So, I fired off this brief email note to Mr. Hurdle:

Jon – I just read NJ Future’s Tim Evans paper you sourced.

It could have been written by the Chamber of Commerce or NJBIA.

Don’t you owe your readers that knowledge?

Instead, you cherry picked 2 sentences from the paper to reinforce the false impression of NJ Future and it’s agenda..

I’ve told you several times (backed up by links to their Board and examples) that NJ Future is a corporate dominated organization that uses “planning” to promote corporate economic objectives.

To add insult to injury, you ignored NJ’s rich regional planning history, existing regional planning institutions (Highlands, Pinelands, HMC, DEP) and the efforts to put teeth in the NJ State Plan via DEP regulations and regional planning water and infrastructure powers.

BTW, Gov. Christie abandoned the State Plan’s land use planning orientation and changed it to a strategic business/economic development plan, another highly significant fact that you obscure with a backhanded reference.

You must do better.


(Cornell Graduate School, City and Regional Planning, 1983-1985, plus 35 years of NJ planning and regulatory experience).

[End Note: I’ve warned Mr. Hurdle about NJ Future multiple times, so today’s story is no mere oversight or lazy reporting. It’s intentionally misleading. We told you so, when I wrote the following:


And just as we predicted, NJ Future supported private corporate interests and the allocation of a larger burden of costs to ratepayers.

But NJ Future – echoing the greed of private water companies – went even further to argue that people should pay 100% of the infrastructure upgrade costs, with private companies paying ZERO!

The utilities, for example, want ratepayers to pay the whole cost of infrastructure upgrades — but that, he said, would be “unfair.”

New Jersey Future, too, wants ratepayers in all but the most impoverished areas to pay all the cost for lead service line replacement, [NJ Future’s] Sturm said. She argued that the costs would be modest when spread across most ratepayers.

We predicted exactly this would happen:

Today, privatization and Foundation abuses combine, in an effort to hijack the agenda for responding to the public health crisis of lead in drinking water, see: Jersey Water Works Forms Task Force Focused on Lead in State’s Drinking Water. […]

The work of the Task Force is under the control of NJ Future, a “planning” group with a corporate and development oriented Board and a very checkered political history, going back to “smart growth” collaboration with the Whitman administration and more recently including secret planning with the Christie administration to privatize and develop Liberty State Park, a failed scheme (as the Bergen Record reported:)

Of course, the Task Force includes several representatives of the water companies that seek to avoid high cost real solutions, like regulatory mandates and community involvement to solving the lead problems.

NJ Future is not a public health, environmental or public interest group. They are a private group who represent corporate and development interests. They have no membership other than the corporate interests on their Board and the private foundations who fund them.They are a classic example of what I’ve called Green Cannibals.

Why is NJ Future considered a legitimate public “Stakeholder” by Legislators and the media spokespersons on this critical public issue?

I fired off this email to NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle and his editor John Mooney:

Jon – your report today:

“New Jersey Future, too, wants ratepayers in all but the most impoverished areas to pay all the cost for lead service line replacement, Sturm said. She argued that the costs would be modest when spread across most ratepayers.”

You need to disclose to readers who NJ Future represents – look at their Board and look at who funds them. Look at the membership of the coalition they are involved in and who funds them. NJ Future is NOT a public interest, public health, or environmental advocacy group. Your readers deserved to know that. And why would such a private and biased group be the lead spokesperson on a public health issue?

We warned folks that exactly this would happen, see:

Foundation Elites and Private Water Companies Hijack Lead In Drinking Water Issue

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