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Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette Re-Appoints Dupont (1) And Corporate Hired Guns To DEP Science Advisory Board

August 31st, 2021 No comments

Another Example Of Corporate Capture

Back in March, before their terms were schedule to expire in May, I urged Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette to not reappoint corporate hired guns to the DEP’s Science Advisory Board, most importantly including Dupont corporate hacks, see:

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. (1)

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, 2021. 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.

My arguments were ignored by the NJ press corps and NJ environmental groups.

I guess they don’t care about scientific integrity, government ethics, conflicts of interest, and corporate capture of regulatory science and policy. 

[Does it really take an elaborate argument to demonstrate why corporations like Dupont (or IFF), who make billions of dollars in profits manufacturing toxic chemicals, should not be involved in the science or regulation of DEP standards set to protect public health and the environment from those chemicals? Those same chemical corporations are on the hook for billions of dollars in liability for their toxic poisoning, including billions to cleanup toxic sites, billions more to reduce toxic emissions, billions to manage and dispose of toxic wastes, billions more to compensate injured victims, and billions more to restore damaged natural resources and compensate the public for their lost use.]

I even reached out to the Union of Concerned Scientists, who talk a big game about scientific integrity (they call it Science and Democracy), but they told me that they had more important national issues to work on.

shawn_latourette-newCommissioner LaTourette also simply ignored my recommendations.

On June 17, 2021, Commissioner LaTourette issued ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER NO. 2021-13 that re-appointed 4 of the 5 corporate hired guns I flagged to 3 year terms, including the notorious John Gannon of Dupont.

The only 1 of the 5 I flagged that was not reappointed was Gerald Kennedy, a “risk assessment” expert also from Dupont whose term expired. It is not clear why Kennedy was not reappointed, but given his age, I assume he retired.

LaTourette also refused to strengthen the scientific integrity, ethics, and public interest standards governing the SAB.

I also assume that this latest corrupt corporate decision by Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette will be ignored as well.

I guess it’s not newsworthy – it’s exactly what we can expect from a Wall Street Governor and a former corporate lawyer as DEP Commissioner.

The environmental sycophants and the clueless and Foundation funded press corps may not hold LaTourette accountable for this crap, but we will.

(1) According to Gannon’s current CV, he left Dupont and joined International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) in Feb. 2021. At the time I wrote the March post, I had linked to Gannon’s prior CV when he was with Dupont, which has since been updated.

[End Note – here’s a heads up I sent to NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle, who has written so many favorable stories on DEP and DWQI science and regulation of PFOA/PFAS – I wonder if Hurdle is aware of how successful Dupont was in backing DEP off PFOA regulation for over a decade?

Jon – news – if only for this history of success Dupont had in backing DEP and the DWQI off regulation of PFOA. Of course, Dupont has many toxic catastrophes in NJ as well, which should disqualify them from DEP SAB: (sources copied)

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The Lost Highway

August 29th, 2021 No comments

The Road Turns Tragic

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I’m a rollin’ stone, all alone and lost
For a life of sin, I have paid the cost
When I pass by, all the people say
Just another guy on the lost highway

Just a deck of cards, and a jug of wine
And a woman’s lies makes a life like mine
Oh, the day we met, I went astray
I started rolling down that lost highway ~~~ “Lost Highway” (Hank Williams)

We had an awful experience today – sometimes the road turns tragic.

We’ve been crossing the country for several weeks now and – with a few exceptions – it has not been pleasant.

We ran into several 105+ degree days – and lots of smoke (and we almost died earlier this summer in 117 degrees and 6 consecutive days of 100+ degree extreme heat).

But, we had not seen one traffic jam, not one police incident, and not one car crash. (We drive 99% of the time on rural one lane roads, not Interstates).

But today, after a long day of interstate driving (which I hate and avoid), just 10 miles from our exit off I-80 near Stroudsburg Pa., we hit a wall of traffic.

After 45 minutes, we figured it best to just get off the road and park for the night.

I found a spot at an abandoned car wash next to a gas station. I walked the dog before bed and settled down with the radio.

That’s when I heard Hank Williams’ classic “Lost Highway”.

Moments later, there was a tremendous BOOM!! and I looked out the window to see cars spinning off the road into the dust.

The dog freaked out. I got him under control and ran to see what happened.

It was horrific.

In exactly the spot I had walked the dog not 10 minutes prior, was a minivan, totally destroyed, its contents and bodies were spewed everywhere, and a family of at least 8 people trying to extricate themselves from the destroyed vehicle. Another SUV was smoking and off the side of the road.

The father of the hit minivan was cradling the limp body of young infant son in his arms, hysterically shouting trying to keep him alive. The mom was freaked out trying to get her kids out of the van. Several samaritans immediately helped out.

It was awful – I had to literally run away back to the bus. Too much suffering to absorb.

Sorry, to lay this on you, but I needed someone to share it with and get it out of my head, it’s too great a burden to hold onto. Here comes the ambulance now – maybe 20 minutes later.

PS – there was no sound of screeching brakes – a full on high speed crash. The family was hispanic and from NJ.

[End Note – another amazing thing is that, as I walked the dog back to the bus (before the crash), I noted maybe 10 people – all black and hispanic – with backpacks hanging outside the gas station.

I assumed that this was a new form of hitch hiking.

I thought that overnight at this spot could he dangerous, as these folks were sure to approach the bus, just 100 feet away (was that racist?).

I was wrong.

Moments later, a red van rolled up, and all 10 (or more) piled into the van. It was a commercial enterprise “Hazleton Commute” or some such BS logo.

The van was probably running Pocono weekend labor back into the NYC – NJ metro region.

I’ve not seen this kind of exploitation as bad, even on the Mexican border.

Insane.

They left just minutes before the crash – but it could just as well have been them.

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Murphy DEP Provides “Consultant Services” To Corporate Polluters

August 26th, 2021 No comments

Another Egregious Example of “Regulatory Capture” And “Institutional Corruption”

DEP Has Gross Conflicts of Interest When They Provide “Consultant Services” To Regulated Polluters

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It was bad enough when it used to be called “technical assistance” or “compliance assistance” (and other Orwellian things like “grace periods”), but now, it’s transparently even worse and has become “consultant services”.

The DEP “consultant services” website was updated August 25, 2021.

I’ ve never seen it before and assume that it – and the “consultant services” initiative – were created by the Murphy Administration under DEP Commissioner LaTourettte, a former corporate polluters’ lawyer who now has DEP working for the polluters.

So, let me briefly explain some fundamentals that seem to be lost on the Murphy DEP.

The NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is a regulatory agency.

Their job is to implement regulatory authority delegated to the Department in environmental laws enacted by the Legislature.

DEP implements these delegated powers primarily via permit and enforcement functions and programs.

DEP issued permits set allowable levels of emission of pollutants to air, land and water and establish a host of technical conditions.

Those permits also require that the polluter themselves – not DEP – monitor pollutant emissions and report that data to to the DEP.

DEP then relies on industry’s own data and Reports to enforce the conditions of the permits.

It is the polluters’ legal obligation and duty to comply with DEP permits, including monitoring and reporting.

It is NOT DEP’s job to form partnerships with or otherwise provide “compliance assistance” or “consultant services” to corporate polluters to whom they issue permits.

A consultant who provides “consultant services” to a corporate polluter works for the polluter and has a duty to protect the polluter.

DEP is supposed to work for the public and has a legal duty to protect public health and the environment.

For DEP to provide “consultant services” to corporate polluters totally contradicts their role and legal duty to regulate those polluters – at arms length – to protect the public health and the environment.

On top of that, corporate polluters are profit making entities and have money to pay professional environmental consultants to advise them how to obtain and comply with DEP permits.

DEP is using public taxpayer resources to provide valuable professional “consulting services” to corporate polluters for free (while they do virtually nothing to help the public or communities navigate the byzantine DEP regulatory apparatus).

This is an egregious example of “regulatory capture“, which is one feature of what academics call “institutional corruption”.

From a policy perspective, this DEP initiative is consistent with but even worse than the Trump EPA’s radical abandonment of enforcement policy, see:

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Ironically, I became aware of this DEP “consultant service” initiative via an emailed “compliance advisory”, which is exactly what the Trump EPA preferred instead of traditional enforcement. (Assume I’ll be eliminated from that DEP email list!)

I guess that can be expected from a Governor who comes from a Wall Street career and a former corporate lawyer as DEP Commissioner.

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NJ Spotlight Provides A Platform For Murphy DEP Commissioner To Spin Shore Risks And Ignore DEP’s Neglect

August 22nd, 2021 No comments

Murphy DEP Continues Gov. Christie’s “Rebuild Madness”

DEP Remains In Denial On The Need For Strategic Retreat

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Just last Sunday, NJ Spotlight reporter Andrew Lewis wrote a major Sunday NY Times magazine story – it’s unusually lengthy title pretty much summed things up:

Buried 10 long paragraphs into the story, it included these astonishing previously reported facts:

You could be forgiven for thinking the Jersey Shore’s local governments are not terribly concerned by such warnings. According to a report from Climate Central and Zillow, some 4,500 homes, worth $4.6 billion, were built in New Jersey between 2010 and 2016 in areas where, even if global greenhouse gas emissions decrease moderately, there will be a risk of flooding once per decade, at a minimum, starting in 2050. The report also notes that no state has built new homes in a risk zone at a faster pace — not even Florida, with far more shoreline. And that was before the pandemic and the resulting urban exodus and real estate boom. Houses built 15 years ago are being torn down and replaced with bigger ones that occupy as much square footage as zoning rules allow, Martin Pagliughi, Avalon’s eight-term mayor, told me. In the last two years, the median price of the homes sold in the borough climbed by $700,000. The era of the quaint fishing cottage is dead.

Note the exclusive focus on local government, to the exclusion of State government and DEP coastal planning and regulatory programs.

Note that the timeframe (2010-2016) is the Christie Administration, conveniently ignoring at risk development approved by the Murphy administration. The Climate Central/Zillow Report Lewis cites was updated on July 31, 2019, so some of that data should be available.

In reporting on a US Army Corps of Engineers study on back bay flooding, the NYT story cited this important finding by the Corps:

The study’s authors concede that “in some cases, just as ecosystems migrate and change functions, human systems may have to relocate in a responsible manner.”

Let’s repeat that recommendation:

human systems may have to relocate in a responsible manner.

That has been described in DEP’s own federally approved coastal management strategy as “strategic retreat”, a planning policy they have run away from for years.

Here are specific directly on point examples of that I’ve written about:

Curious, the NYT story then mentioned the New Jersey’s home-buyout program, Blue Acres” – the State level program that NYT readers can only assume is responsible for the “relocation in a responsible manner” recommended by the Corps – but failed to note that the Blue Acres program is part of the DEP or report critically on the performance of that program.

The story also failed to mention that DEP is legally responsible for coastal zone management and regulating coastal land use and infrastructure under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act and the NJ Coastal Area Facilities Review Act (CAFRA).

I submitted the following reader comment, pointing out the flaws and omissions in the NYT reporting by Mr. Lewis:

Astonishing for this story to fail to mention the fact that NJ has a federally approved Coastal Zone Management Program, adopted under federal and NJ State laws. It includes State DEP review of certain developments, including all major infrastucture like water, sewer, roads, and beach and coastal engineering.

Under these laws, the DEP has adopted land use regulations, including flood elevation and building standards – that’s why houses are built on stilts! Gov. Christie championed a Sandy recovery policy I dubbed “rebuild madness” that that put all that new development at risk.

Additionally, under the NJ State Development and Redevelopment Plan, the DEP and State Planning Commission have mapped coastal “centers” for intense growth, under relaxed DEP coastal regulations.

Your source, Professor Stu Farrell has been a longtime cheerleader for beach replenishment and failed engineering solutions. He  is not going to tell a NYT reporter about this. Nor are local Mayors and Mr. Farrell going to brief the NYT on State DEP coastal plans and regulations.

The DEP implements the “Blue Acres” program, and it is a failure. There is no planning whatsoever: acquisitions are scattershot and based on willing sellers, not risk. There is no DEP plan to “relocate in a responsible manner” and certainly no policy for “strategic retreat”.

NJ leads the nation in repeat flood claims. That is a result of the State’s failure to plan for and regulate land use in the coastal zone.

But the State of NJ and DEP are not alone in their irresponsible neglect.

President Obama issued an Executive Order on climate adaptation and coastal resilience.

Federal agencies were directed to coordinate their federal authorities, which include approval of State coastal zone management plans and allocation of federal FEMA and other recovery, infrastructure, and resilience money.

That Order was never seriously implemented. Federal taxpayer funds subsidized all that at risk development. Federal regulators approved State funding and coastal plans and policies that allowed it to happen.

The Obama HUD approved and provided billions of dollars of federal funding to Gov. Christie’s “Rebuild madness” program, that failure is what contributed to the huge at risk new development referenced in this article. Obama HUD – and the federal agencies – have ignored Obama’s own Executive Order.

Mr. Andrew Lewis somehow missed more of the story than he covered – in the process letting DEP, Gov. Murphy, and State officials completely off the hook.

But, it gets worse.

While ignoring critical issues, the NYT story at least reported facts that showed how irresponsible NJ was in actually increasing development in high risk areas along the shore and cited the US Army Corps recommendation on the need for a “strategic retreat”.

Just days later, on August 20 NJ Spotlight jumped into the fray, with a closely related story by the same reporter, Andrew Lewis, see:

The Spotlight story did mention some of the comments I filed on the NYT omissions (Lewis reads reader comments, I’m sure) but focused primarily on the US Army Corps back bay flooding Report. But surely Lewis knows that the any USACOE recommendations must be approved by NJ DEP.

Ignoring the role of DEP in implementing any USACOE recommendation, Mr. Lewis also repeated many of the same errors and omissions in his NY Times story, but went a step further and made his neglect even worse.

Recall that Lewis’s NYT story failed to report on DEP’s coastal management responsibilities or that the Blue Acres program was managed by DEP.

But for his NJ Spotlight story. Mr. Lewis fixed that error by finally mentioned DEP, at the very end of a long story.

But in doing so, he managed to ignore all the critical facts and findings in his prior reporting for the NYT (i.e. NJ is leading the country in number of new units of housing at risk, the need for strategic retreat, et al) and instead provided a platform for DEP Commissioner LaTourette to flat out lie, with zero pushback or context.

Lewis wrote this bullshit that flat out contradicts his own prior reporting for The NY Times:

In an interview with NJ Spotlight News in May, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette was asked about the massive scale of the back bays study. He recalled an analogy that one of his counterparts in the Pacific Northwest had recently made.

“She said, ‘There’s no silver bullet, it’s silver buckshot,’” LaTourette said. “We’ve got to look at this as some types of solutions in one place and other types of solutions in another. It’s not going to be the case that we pick up whole communities and move them inland. That won’t be necessary in all spaces, but we need to consider where it will and won’t be with what we’re building today, because we know better.”

Are you kidding me? DEP knows better? What is the evidence for that?

Why didn’t’ Lewis push back with facts or the lack of DEP regulations? Why didn’t Lewis include a critical source or context to expose LaTourette’s lies?

For 4 years, the Murphy DEP has done nothing to regulate shore development or plan for strategic retreat.

Instead, DEP has abdicated its legal responsibility under federal and State laws and delegated the problem to local governments (those same local governments Mr. Lewis essentially ridiculed for ignoring scientific warnings in his prior NY Times story).

The Murphy administration and DEP have replicated Gov. Christie’s “Rebuild Madness” and engaged in a very similar form of irresponsible climate denial by failing to act.

The Democrats in the Legislature have either ignored all this through lack of critical legislative oversight or affirmatively supported it by approving DEP’s budget and confirming DEP Commissioner LaTourette without extracting any policy concessions.

Of course, the public doesn’t know about any of this, because NJ Spotlight – like NJ environmental groups – have abdicated too.

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Will The Biden Climate Plan Revive NJ’s Failed “PurGen” $5 Billion Coal Project?

August 19th, 2021 No comments

Carbon Capture Is A Sham

Biden’s “All Of The Above” Climate Policy Is Obama 2.0

When it was released a few weeks ago, I actually read a couple of hundred pages of the 2,702 page Senate “bi-partisan” infrastructure bill, including all the provisions on and billions of dollars in subsidies to the so called “carbon capture” technology.

That is one piece of the Biden infrastructure and climate plans, the other being the much larger Senate budget reconciliation framework Resolution, which isn’t even a bill yet, never mind proceeding on a parallel track with the infrastructure bill, as promised by the Democrats.

But just reading the table of contents of the bi-partisan infrastructure bill reveals lots of bad stuff. There are NEPA categorical exclusions to “streamline” regulatory review (and something called “one federal approval”), several exemptions & loopholes for logging, and privatization and deregulation.

The tradition highway construction funding will result in huge new greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps the Congressional Budget Office might produce a “score” on this bill, not in terms of spending and effects on the deficit, but on quantifying the new carbon emissions the bill would create.

The Biden Neoliberal approach amounts to all carrots and no sticks (the bill has been dubbed “false solutions” – and “apocalypse soon”)

I immediately recalled NJ’s failed “carbon capture” coal plant with the Orwellian name “PurGen”, defeated by activists in Linden, NJ. For links to media reports on that project, see:

I was planning to write something about the carbon capture provisions in the Senate bill at the time, focused on how the Biden infrastructure and climate plans could revive that NJ “PurGen” project, but got derailed by disappointment in learning that the climate movement was split on this issue.

Virtually no major national “green” groups signed on to a powerful letter to the Biden Administration, strongly opposing inclusion of “carbon capture” in the administration’s infrastructure and climate plans. I looked for NJ groups. Amazingly, the NJ Industrial Union Council signed on to that letter, but not NJ’s largest environmental and climate groups. WTF?

I read that the Biden White House is openly touting a “all of the above” approach (no kidding, that’s the language they are using), and hiding regulatory rollbacks behind the slogan of “flexibility”:  (from Inside Climate News)

“The President is interested in all-of-the-above-strategy,” said White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy earlier this month, at a summit hosted by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. “We’re going to do a lot of things, and invest in a clean energy future, and make sure we have the flexibility to use the technologies that are going to get there.”

Biden is Obama “All of the Above” 2.0

On top of all this, the huge subsidies to the CCS projects are linked to Biden’s “Buy American” policy (which Biden will use for cover), but that’s a joke because there is a standardless and broad waiver from those “Buy American” requirements!

And, of course there is a long forebearance loan repayment program that is effectively loan forgiveness (but college kids can’t get debt relief).

This is so insane I really find it hard to believe that the climate groups are not in the street (or maybe they are planning direct actions and I’m just out of the lop on all this).

So, instead of writing something myself, I’ll be lazy and just except this piece today by Wenonah Hauter of Food And Water Watch, one of the few groups that focuses on corporate accountability and does not pull punches for Democrats:

the climate movement is grappling with both a sense of urgency and profound disappointment with the Biden administration. It was bad enough that the administration backed a bipartisan infrastructure proposal that jettisoned many key clean energy provisions, but it’s even worse that the infrastructure plan includes billions of dollars in new fossil fuel subsidies.

That spending would support “carbon capture,” a category of technologies that are misleadingly categorized as climate-friendly.

So, with all these new subsidies and regulatory relief for carbon capture, will the Zombie “PurGen” coal plant be revived?

Will anyone in NJ media or activist circles inquire about that possibility and use it to criticize the Biden carbon capture and billions of other fossil and nuke subsidies?

I won’t hold my breath.

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