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Confessions Of A DEP Bureaucrat

We need more two by fours between the eyes and far less genteel sycophancy

Spoiler Alert: Local Action, Litigation, and “Sustainable” Voluntary Actions Won’t Work

So let us not talk falsely now, the hour’s getting late. ~~~ All Along The Watchtower, Bob Dylan

I just wrote the note below to local activists who are trying to preserve their rural community, farms, and forests from overwhelming warehouse and industrial solar developments, while trying to urge Gov. Murphy to take real action on climate.

These folks had tried their best and failed – and received very little support from NJ environmental groups and elected officials.

They were frustrated and seeking guidance on how to proceed. I felt obligated to help and made very specific suggestions and tactics they could deploy that would be effective, based on my experience (for free).

But, instead of forging consensus on how to organize and be effective, these people were being diverted and manipulated by a “leader” of the NJ environmental community, who shall remain nameless (for now). It is something I’ve seen before so many times now I will no longer sit quietly and tolerate it.

Here’s my confession. (actually, I could make this a series, because there’s a lot of Skeltons in my DEP closet):

Dear XXXXXX and friends:

Regarding your letter to the Gov. and his lovely wife, let me share just a few observations. Please bear with me.

Back in the day, when I was a young ambitious DEP rising star (with a wife, 2 kids, and a big mortgage), I used to draft replies from the Gov. or DEP Commissioner to nice people like you. It didn’t seem to matter that those letters I wrote were full of lies, misleading claims, and manipulative and empty implied promises to solve the problem and respond to your concern.

All that mattered was that the response made the Gov. look good, downplayed the problem (despite the science), diverted attention from and avoided making any tough DEP decision, and tamped down the controversy at hand.

For that, I am forever ashamed. For that, I apologize.

It pains me to have to tell good folks these truths.

But what really troubles me is that there are many well meaning people who continue to be duped by this.

Worse, there are many in leadership positions in the environmental community who know that this is exactly how the game is played, yet they continue to go along with it and continue to mislead and manipulate good people.

Those leaders substitute their own personal judgements of “decorum” and “manners” for the tactics that they KNOW are effective. In other words, they elevate hugs, handshakes, and puffball tactics like private letters to the Governor over hardball tactics like harsh language and in your face direct actions, which apparently make them deeply uncomfortable. (and I’m being very easy on these people: many times their motives are far worse, including: to maintain grant funding from Foundations and wealthy members; to maintain a positive political relationship with the Gov. in order to enjoy some special payback “deliverables” (crumbs) for their political loyalty; or merely to cultivate media attention and a public image and reputation for being “reasonable” and “credible”. Some just like getting invited to meetings and press conferences or being written into a Gov. press release. This makes these corrupt fools feel important. And they regularly sellout well meaning people and compromise on issues to gain these personal and organizational advantages.)

So, lets be real: let me offer just one illustration:

An elite, mild mannered, well educated, female, federal judge knows how to use words in a powerful way and take direct action in an effective way.

Here’s a quote from this federal judge Preska, who just sentenced world renowned environmental justice lawyer Steve Donzinger, who won a $9 BILLION civil lawsuit against Chevron, to a 6 month jail sentence for his efforts to protect attorney client privilege. She had no qualms about using strong language and ugly aggressive tactics:

“It seems that only the proverbial two-by-four between the eyes will instill in him any respect for the law,” she said from the bench.


We need more two by fours between the eyes, and far less genteel sycophancy, playing nice and local voluntary “sustainable” shams. As the song goes:

“So let us not talk falsely now, the hour’s getting late.”

And shame on those who know that and fail to do so and continue to manipulate good people.


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