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Murphy DEP Provides “Consultant Services” To Corporate Polluters

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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