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Gross Exaggeration of Emissions Reductions From DEP Diesel Truck Rule

BPU Straw Proposal, Northeast States MOA, and DEP Rule Manipulated to Mislead Readers

Green Cheerleaders Again Set a Very Low Bar

NJ Spotlight today reports on a BPU “Straw Proposal” regarding electrification of the truck fleet. The public comment period on the Straw Proposal expired on June 3, 2021, so the Spotlight story comes way too late. So much for Democracy and public participation.

The Spotlight story misleadingly blends and conflates – without links to or text from the underlying documents – 3 distinct and complex initiatives: (hit the links to read the documents)

1) NJ BPU Straw Proposal

2) Multi-State Memorandum of Agreement

3) NJ DEP proposed regulation

Each initiative has very different emission reduction goals and timetables, applies to different numbers and kinds of trucks, and only the DEP proposed regulation is enforceable (despite loopholes).

Only the DEP regulatory proposal has any chance of reducing emissions at this point in time (and it has not been adopted yet and it projects emissions reduction way out into the future. So, it’s all hypothetical at this point).

The BPU Straw proposal is just that: a proposal. It is not backed by regulatory mandates or dedicated State or private funding. BPU doesn’t have the power to mandate the alleged emission reductions anyway. It’s the legal equivalent of a press release.

The same with the Multi- State MOA – it is a toothless document that merely provides a statement of aspirational goals and voluntary non-binding platitudes. Again, it is the equivalent of a press release.

So, to jumble all this together without explaining that to readers is basically journalistic malpractice. If a high school student wrote something like this in a high school science class she would get at best a D and a stern correction from the teacher.

This is not just sloppy reporting. For a veteran environmental reporter to do that is obviously no mistake, but illustrates an intent to mislead readers.

But what NJ Spotlight reported as a key fact is much worse than simply conflating these apples, oranges, and tomatoes.

Obviously – given the climate emergency – the most important features of all these initiatives are: 1) how much they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from trucks; 2) how fast they would do so; and 3) whether those reduction would be significant in terms of total emissions and the emissions reductions goals and timetables recommended by scientists or the aspirational goals of the NJ Global Warming Response Act.

I have not written about this, but have repeatedly Tweeted that the DEP’s proposed regulation would – at best, with 100% compliance – force minuscule emissions reductions.

DEP even admits that in the regulatory proposal. DEP wrote: (at p. 46-47)

the Department estimates cumulative total CO2  reductions from 2024 through 2040 to be 2.6 MMT

Get that?

Over a 16 year period, the DEP proposal would reduce just 2.6 million metric tons. That just 162,500 tons per year.

For context, according to DEP’s most recent greenhouse gas emissions inventory, NJ emits a total of 97.7 MMT per year.

The transportation sector emits 40 MMT (40% of total)

So, doing the math, the DEP truck rule would reduce – at best – just 0.17% of total 97.7 MMT.

That translates to just 0.4% of the transportation sector.

Compare DEP’s paltry 0.4% reduction to Tom Johnson’s conflating of the BPU straw proposal as reducing “one-third” of the transportation sector – that would be 13.3 MMT, or 82 TIMES more than the paltry DEP regulation!

DEP regulation – just 0.4% of transportation sector goes unreported, while Spotlight reports an absurd 33% highly speculative emission reduction for which BPU lacks jurisdiction to make happen anyway.

So, did Spotlight reporter Tom Johnson and the Green Cheerleaders he quotes in his story mention these inconvenient facts?

Did those Green Cheerleaders demand more? Or did they set a very low bar and praise Gov. Murphy for doing very little?

Instead of reporting the facts, Spotlight reported this gross distortion – and it must have done intentionally by reporter Tom Johnson.

Read this paragraph closely – see the misleading sleight off hand:

The [BPU] proposal is viewed as complementary to a pending rule by the state Department of Environmental Protection that seeks to shift thousands of trucks — from delivery vans to buses to long-haul tractor trailers — to electric power. The move could curb one-third of the global-warming pollution from the transportation sector, which accounts for 40% of such pollution in New Jersey.

What “move” is Spotlight talking about? Surely not the DEP regulation, the only actual enforceable initiative (and DEP has yet to adopt that proposed regulation).

From the context, Tom is stating the the BPU Straw Proposal could  “curb one-third of the global-warming pollution from the transportation sector, which accounts for 40% of such pollution in New Jersey.”

That one third of transpiration sector emissions would amount to 13.3 MMT per year. (see below)

According to DEP’s most recent greenhouse gas emissions inventory (2019), total annual emissions are 97.7 MMT

The transportation sector emissions are 40 MMT (40% of total).

So, the BPU straw proposal could reduce 13.3 MMT.

Note, I said COULD reduce, if it were backed by enforceable regulation and funding, which it is not.

Compare the emissions reduction Spotlight reported and the Green Cheerleaders applauded – with the minuscule DEP rule. The BPU Straw Proposal Tom favorably reports would apply to 82 TIMES more emissions reductions than the paltry DEP regulation!

Tom Johnson is doing this on purpose, because he wrote a totally misleading favorable story about the DEP regulatory proposal. Tellingly, he did not provide a link to that prior story in today’s story (as is NJ Spotlight’s routine practice). That prior story did NOT quantify potential emissions reductions, and came with a ridiculously misleading heading, see:

That story predicted a “massive fight” by the trucking industry.

Tom then wrote another followup puff piece on the DEP regulatory proposal, where he indirectly corrected his prior prediction of a “massive fight”, by noting – without any explanation why – that there was “surprisingly, little opposition from critics.” That second story again failed to quantify emissions reductions, see:

There was no “massive fight” over the DEP regulatory proposal because it would have such a tiny impact and was rife with “flexibility”, loopholes, complex manipulable market based credit schemes, and grace period style enforcement.

So, instead of correcting those prior reporting errors, he’s now trying to mask error by favorably covering the BPU straw proposal and reporting on it’s far more significant potential emissions reductions.

That is disgusting manipulation. At it is not an isolated error but an intentional pattern.

And the Green Cheerleaders continue to go right along with it.

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