Home > Uncategorized > NJ Audubon Hires Former Exxon-Mobil Hack As Head Of “Stewardship”

NJ Audubon Hires Former Exxon-Mobil Hack As Head Of “Stewardship”

A Merry-Go-Round Of Revolving Door And Corporate Abuses

Expanding Corporate Interests In DEP Climate, Energy, Land Use, & Toxics Programs

[Update: Since I wrote this, Mr. Cecil was promoted to DEP Assistant Commissioner and Mr. Ireland was promoted to NJ Audubon CEO.]

Since we last wrote about the long chain abuses by NJ Audubon in promoting logging in NJ’s few remaining mature intact Highlands hardwood forests, in another abuse of the “revolving door” phenomena, John Cecil, the head of NJ Audubon’s “corporate stewardship” and logging programs left to join – wait for it – the NJ DEP as the Director of Parks and Forestry!

Let that sink in: the man who worked with DEP and ran roughshod over local people trying to preserve Highlands forests, who spun science to manipulate the media about logging public lands, and who headed NJA’s “Corporate Stewardship” program, is now in charge of all of NJ’s State Parks and Forests.

That can only mean an expansion of logging and burning NJ’s forests – and it likely will also encroach on and undermine the historic distinctions between the management of State Parks, State Forests, and private lands in ways that weaken public protections and promote private interests.

I wanted to but never got around to writing specifically about that.

But, today I learned of more of the same – a merry-go-round of revolving door abuse, so can’t resist writing about it.

I just learned that NJ Audubon replaced Mr. Cecil with a former Exxon-Mobil hack: (hit that link – I’ve taken a screen shot, because I assume that this will be modified or taken down if it gets any traction with the public or media – emphasis is mine):

NJ Audubon is pleased to announce that Alex Ireland, Ph.D. will be joining the team on September 30, 2021 as Vice President of Stewardship.

Alex comes to NJ Audubon from ExxonMobil Biomedical Sciences, Inc. (EMBSI), where he served in a variety of roles, most recently leading a global team of environmental scientists. Throughout his time at EMBSI, he engaged in site reclamation, land management, and voluntary conservation projects in the US. He synthesized on-the-ground learnings into co-authored peer-reviewed publications presenting a new model for integrating reclamation planning into site remediation and illustrating the potential cumulative benefits of voluntary corporate conservation initiatives. Alex led wide-ranging research and development projects, collaboratively designing, and publishing innovative approaches to environmental monitoring using GIS and remote sensing technologies to improve environmental performance and meet regulatory requirements. Prior to leading the environmental sciences section, Alex also managed affiliate-level planning and budgeting, a role focused on identifying, quantifying, and driving business process improvements.

That’s some “variety of roles”, eh?

[Update: 10/1/21 – since this post, NJ Audubon apparently updated and supplemented Mr. Ireland’s bio, to stress prior academic work, see this. I anticipated some response, but was incorrect in my prediction that they’d take the bio down. They just supplemented it to make it look better.

That changes nothing – he’s still a former Exxon-Mobil hack. ~~~ end update]

This is deeply troubling for obvious reasons – and I don’t need to tell you who Exxon-Mobil is and how they operate (just listen to the recorded statements of their own chief lobbyist!)

This is particularly and uniquely troubling given NJ Audubon’ links to the NJ DEP via Eileen Murphy, former head of DEP’s Office of Science & Research and John Cecil, currently DEP’s Director Of Parks and Forestry.

(Eric Stiles, CEO of NJ Audubon is a former DEP staffer as well).

The move signals an expansion of NJ Audubon’s role and influence into DEP regulatory policy, and not just on forestry, birding and various corporate scams that parade under the banner of “stewardship”..

Their new VP of Stewardship, Mr Ireland, has backgrounds in regulatory compliance and site remediation.

NJ DEP climate, regulatory and site remediation programs allow multiple opportunities for the kind of corporate scams Mr. Ireland worked on at Exxon-Mobil.

These include DEP’s clean air, clean water, climate, land use, and site remediation program initiatives that are justified by slogans such as “mitigation”, “restoration”, “wetlands mitigation banking”, “flood credits”, “engineering and institutional controls”, “bioremediation”, “natural attenuation”, “natural resource damage compensation”, “risk assessment”, “carbon offsets”, “carbon sequestration”, “net zero carbon”, “cost benefit analysis”, etc, ….. AKA “sounds like science”.

The combination of Mr. Ireland’s corporate experience, coupled with: 1) NJ Audubon’s emphasis on the advocacy of corporate interests under the guise of “stewardship”; 2) NJ’s Audubon’s relationships with NJ DEP and elite Foundations (like Wm. Penn, Dodge, and Duke);  and 3) the DEP’s need for political cover for deals to approve corporate rollbacks to science based standards – will lead to further erosion of protections of public health and the environment and the expansion of corporate access and influence on DEP.

NJ Audubon is becoming a monster by exploiting revolving door and regulatory capture dynamics, and is further corrupting the already broken regulatory institution and processes at DEP.

They need to be called on it by all people of good faith, fellow conservation groups, and NJ’s press corps.

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