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The (Largely Ignored And UnRegulated) Implications Of Warehouse Development

Take A Look At What’s Really At Stake

The Entire Fabric Of A Community

Before I make my point, let me provide some context.

NJ Spotlight recently has written several stories on warehouse developments that are exploding across New Jersey.

Most of the coverage has focused on the land use and transportation implications, with some brief mention about loss of prime farmland.

I’ve posted a few notes critical of that coverage, see:

I have emailed NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle numerous times seeking to convince him to expand that coverage to include climate implications and the DEP’s regulatory role.

For example, aside from some window dressing crap about making new warehouses “solar ready” (a piecemeal toothless bill that failed), there has been no mention of all the greenhouse gas emissions impacts.

Millions of new truck miles, massive new power demands to serve millions of square feet of air conditioned warehouse facilities, and long single passenger commutes by workers to these facilities will create massive new GHG emissions that further undermine any possibility of meeting the emissions reduction goals of the toothless Global Warming Response Act and Gov. Murphy’s climate  commitments.

It is shocking that these contradictions have not even been mentioned, never mind quantified and subject to DEP regulation (and transportation related GHG emissions also are ignored in NJ DEP clean air and environmental justice plans as well) .

And while we are on the topic of DEP regulation, while the new warehouse developments expose huge gaps in DEP permit regulations, DEP does have important regulatory oversight under clean air and clean water laws that is being ignored as well. No one is holding DEP accountable for their role in approving these warehouse developments.

For example, as of June 21, 2021, there were 6  “Water Quality Management Plan” (WQMP) amendments pending before DEP for massive new warehouse developments (I don’t know how many DEP has already rubber stamped under the public radar).

Specifically, I emailed Jon Hurdle the following list and urged that he contact DEP and write the story (links and text from DEP Public Notice seeking public comment on the draft WQMP):

  • Mansfield Township, Burlington County. The proposed project consists of 587,574 square feet (SF) of warehouse space and 20,000 SF of office space.
  • Jackson Township, Ocean County. The proposed project consists of a 111,299 square foot (sq. ft.) retail and warehouse building. The entire proposed project also includes two separate office buildings;
  • Howell Township, Monmouth County. The proposed project consists of the construction of two warehouse buildings totaling 85,000 square feet (SF). One warehouse will contain a total of 42,500 SF of which 2,320 SF will be office space and the other warehouse will total 42,500 SF;
  • Carteret Borough, Middlesex County. The proposed project consists of three warehouse/office buildings;
  • Franklin Township, Somerset County. The proposed project site is 61.2 acres of which approximately 48.8 acres are currently designated as within the SSA of the MCUA STP. The expanded SSA would allow for the proposed development of a 425,250 square foot (sf) warehouse building with a 21,600 sf of office space and a 118,800 sf warehouse building;
  • Deptford Redevelopment Area-Proposed Warehouse

I also urged Hurdle to write about the DEP failures and hypocrisy of PSE&G’s sale of their Duck Island land to a major warehouse developerland that could have formed the anchor of a wonderful new urban State Park on the banks of the Delaware River in Trenton:

PSEG recently sold their closed power plant property on Duck Island to Hilco Redevelopment Partners, a development company. According to PSEG:

“HRP envisions redeveloping the sites as state-of-the-art industrial parks to serve the growing need for regional warehouse distribution hubs in central and northern New Jersey.”

Remarkably, still, NJ Spotlight continues to ignore the PSE&G Duck Island warehouse project and DEP’s role in their coverage. That gives DEP and “climate champion” Gov. Murphy a huge pass.

So, with that context established, now to my main point.

While the climate, land use, farmland and transportation impacts and lack of adequate DEP regulatory oversight are very important issues, I was blown away just now by by reading this article  about the social, educational, and labor impacts of warehouse developments, see:

I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing – I was appalled especially by this astonishing passage: is this what NJ’s wants for its rural school districts? (emphases mine)

Take the Inland Empire, a rural and exurban region in California saturated with warehouses because of its proximity to Los Angeles. At Cajon High School, a public high school in San Bernardino, students — many of whom have family members employed at Amazon — can take classes in the Amazon Logistics and Business Management Pathways career track.

Writer Erika Hayasaki visited Cajon High. Here’s what she found:

“A dozen students sat clustered at work tables inside an air-conditioned classroom, which was designed to emulate the inside of an Amazon facility. On one wall, Amazon’s giant logo grinned across a yellow and green banner. The words “CUSTOMER OBSESSION” and “DELIVER RESULTS” were painted against a corporate-style yellow backdrop. On a whiteboard, a teacher had written the words “Logistics Final Project,” and the lesson of the day was on Amazon’s “14 Leadership Principles.” Each teenager wore a company golf shirt emblazoned with the Amazon logo.

Students and staff members expressed pride in being associated with the company. Amazon partnered with the school as part of its five-year anniversary in the Inland Empire, donating $50,000 to start the pilot program, the giant sweepstakes-style Amazon check displayed prominently at the classroom entrance. The students had already taken field trips to tour the nearby Amazon warehouse.”

A public high-school classroom designed to resemble an Amazon facility, with students wearing Amazon logos on their clothing as they memorize Amazon’s leadership principles (which, it is worth noting, also include “Ownership” and “Think Big,” injunctions that hold merit for readers of this magazine when imagining how we might solve the problems exemplified by Amazon). Such a relationship between the company and public goods like a high school is part of what it means to consider Amazon as “the major working-class space of suburban and exurban socialization.”

Is this what NJ’s political leaders want for the future of the State?

Because this is the economic development model that is already well developed and will be made much worse by more warehouses in rural areas.

And Amazon is not the only corporate employer doing this kind of damage.

I sent this to NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle, but, just like the DEP story he’s failed to cover, I’m not holding my breath.


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