Home > Uncategorized > NJ Senate Committee Approves Confirmation Of Former Corporate Lawyer, Gov. Murphy’s DEP Acting Commissioner LaTourette – Full Senate Vote Pending

NJ Senate Committee Approves Confirmation Of Former Corporate Lawyer, Gov. Murphy’s DEP Acting Commissioner LaTourette – Full Senate Vote Pending

Former Corporate Lawyer Not Only Escapes Scrutiny – Democrats Praise His Revolving Door “Experience”

Embarrassing Climate Denial Questions Posed By Senator Dougherty

LaTourette Either Is Ignorant Of Science & Regulation Or Misled The Committee On Unregulated Pharmaceutical Chemicals

Last Thursday (May 13, 2021) the NJ Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony and voted to approve Gov. Murphy’s nomination of Acting DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette (you can listen to the hearing here, starting at time 1:03 thought 1:51)

Don’t expect to read about it at NJ Spotlight, so I must report that it was pathetic – absolutely pathetic. Both the Senate Committee members and Mr. LaTourette were an embarrassment. I can’t recall any worse performance, going back to 1985.

There was NO TESTIMONY BY NJ ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS. What fucking incompetent and corrupt cowards they are, and driven by identity politics. Just one individual submitted comments opposing the nomination. When enviro’s are silent on this, they legitimize the corporate revolving door and blow an opportunity to extract concessions or commitments. As I said, pathetic.

So, is it now OK for former corporate lawyers to head DEP?

No one wanted to talk about how a DEP Commissioner who previously represented a LNG fossil fuel corporation could crack down on regulations of carbon emissions – that elephant don’t hunt.

Seriously, the conversation was – at its best – below the level of a high school science and civics course.

LaTourette openly and arrogantly mocked the few questions he faced, at one point implying that Senator Dougherty evoked his 4th grade education. Meanwhile, other obviously blatantly high school level homophobic slurs went unaddressed (double entendres from declining testosterone levels to husbands and wives).

In his “I’m just a poor boy from a working class family” and gay man father schtick, LaTourette posed as a racial and environmental justice champion. His dripping praise of Gov. Murphy defined “sycophant”.

Not only was Mr. LaTourette’s corporate lawyer background – based on his own ethics recusal documents – completely ignored and misrepresented, the Democratic members of the Committee went out of their way to praise his “experience”.

There was absolutely no concern expressed about revolving door or ethical issues, for what could be the first ever former corporate lawyer serving as DEP Commissioner. There was no concern whatsoever with this corruption:

Similarly, LaTourette repeatedly spouted all kinds of gibberish about “balance” and “promoting economic development”, “enriching communities” and seeking “pro-growth progress”.

As a lawyer, he should be ashamed of those comments and disbarred as incompetent, because  – as we’ve written –  DEP is not authorized by legislation to promote economic development  and “balance” economic concerns.

Instead, just as we predicted, identity (gay) politics was used to divert attention from all that.

In terms of what went on at the hearing, I won’t even dignify Senator Dougherty (R -Warren) climate denial questions with a response – but ironically he asked the only legitimate science and public policy questions. (see photo of the Senator here).

After correctly admonishing LaTourette for his inappropriate comments about his role of advocating “progressive policy” and reminding him of the Constitutional  role of the legislature as the policymaking body, Dougherty wanted to know why DEP failed to regulate or even monitor the effects of pharmaceuticals on drinking water and the ecological health of NJ waters, despite science that documented major adverse impacts and risks. (For the human health implications, I remind readers that the Toms River childhood cancel cluster was caused by unregulated chemicals).

(LaTourette’s legal defense of his authority under current law and the legitimacy of the exercise agency regulatory discretion was weak, at best. And in a rambling reply to Dougherty’s separation of powers arguments, LaTourette amazingly mumbled something about Richard Nixon! I think he was referring to the fact that Nixon created EPA. Hey. Shawn, hit the books! Here’s the text I learned the Constitutional framework and fundamentals of administrative law from: Gellhorn and Byse’s Administrative Law: Cases and Comments. Rutgers Law School should be embarrassed!)

In response, Mr. LaTourette touted the role of – and deferred to – the NJ Drinking Water Quality Institute.

Amazingly, LaTourette also bragged about the chemical specific approach to regulating toxic pollutants, an unworkable approach that has been discredited by the DWQI itself!

There are over 100,000 chemicals discharged to the environment, with very little data on their health and environmental effects. It is impossible to regulate each one on an individual basis, based on the current approach which relies on flawed individual chemical risk assessment and resource intensive regulatory process. That’s why the DWQI LaTourette touted recommended a “treatment based approach”.

In addition, there are cumulative, synergistic, and ecological effects that can not be considered by the current individual chemical specific regulatory framework. For a real world illustration, see:

LaTourette has no clue what he is talking about (and much of his climate replies were gibberish as well).

So, I fired off this email to Chairman Scutari and urged NJ Senators to oppose his upcoming Senate confirmation vote. (the only political question now seems to be whether Senate President Sweeney, before posting the vote for confirmation, will squeeze his friend LaTourette for similar concessions like he did Catherine McCabe?:

Dear Chairman Scutari:

I was deeply disappointed by the deliberations of your committee and vote to approve Gov. Murphy’s nomination of Acting DEP Commissioner Shawn Latourette.

Mr. Latourette is the only nominee for DEP Commissioner that I am aware of – and I’ve been involved since 1985 – that served as a corporate lawyer for so many major corporate polluting NJ industries (see Mr. laTourette’s own ethics recusal documents).

Instead, your committee legitimized the false narrative that Mr. Latourette is some kind of public interest advocate. George Orwell – and the Trumpers – would be proud.

The only substantive policy questions were asked by a climate denier – who even Mr. LaTourette implied had an elementary school grasp of the climate science.

Ironically, this climate denier asked very relevant questions about the lack of DEP regulatory oversight of pharmaceutical chemicals that are now adversely impacting NJ’s drinking water and water quality.

In response to these valid questions – to which you asked followup questions – Acting Commissioner LaTourette either actively misled the Committee or he is ignorant of the science and regulatory issues.

For your information, the Nj Drinking Water Quality Institute – who Mr. LaTourette highly touted as the “best in the world” – issued a report on so called on how to develop a protective regulatory framework for “emergent contaminants” that are unregulated, see this DWQI/DEP Report:

Investigations Related to a “Treatment-Based” Regulatory Approach to Address Unregulated Contaminants in Drinking Wate

https://www.peer.org/wp-content/uploads/attachments/9_7_10_DEP_Treatment_White_Paper.pdf

In fact, the DWQI, in November 2020, issued a public notice seeking public comment on how to address these “emergent” chemicals, see

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2020/11/nj-drinking-water-quality-institute-seeking-public-input-on-how-to-regulate/

There is a long standing large body of scientific literature on the adverse public health and ecological impacts of unregulated pharmaceuticals on water resources, including the class of compounds known as endocrine disruptors.

I was astonished by Mr. Latourette’s ignorance of this science. That alone – in light of highly misleading statements on DWQI regulation – should disqualify him from Senate confirmation.

I would be glad to provide the Committee with this science at your request.

For now, see this (very old) USGS Report:

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/es100356f

In conclusion ( I saved the worst for last) of course, as you must be aware, in your own Legislative District, Mr. Latourette has engaged in totally unacceptable and unprofessional practices at the Rahway incinerator, see

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

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2020/08/murphy-dep-secretly-approved-a-trump-epa-chemical-experiment-in-an-ej-community-then-they-attack-the-public-for-objecting/

I urge your reconsideration of support for his confirmation.

Respectfully.

Bill Wolfe

(retired DEP policy planner)

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