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Fastest And Most Egregious Revolving Door Abuse, Ever

Just 3 weeks after private corporate legal work on DEP permits for a controversial massive LNG Export project, lawyer Shawn LaTourette was appointed DEP Chief Counsel

Just weeks later, DEP issued the exact permits LaTourette sought

And then folks wonder why DEP has done nothing on climate regulations

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(The letter above was written by lawyer Shawn LaTourette)

In what could be perhaps the most egregious abuse of revolving door corruption ever in the State of New Jersey – and that’s no small achievement in what is surely one of the most corrupt States in the Country! – current Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette went from chief attorney for a massive LNG export facility seeking DEP permits to the DEP’s Chief Legal Counsel in 3 weeks (at most).

On August 24, 2018, LaTourette was serving as Director of the Environmental Law Department at Gibbons, a private corporate law firm.

In that capacity, and on that day, he wrote to notify local governments that his client – Delaware River Partners, LLC, developer of a massive controversial proposed LNG export plant on the Delaware River in Gibbstown NJ –  was seeking “minor modifications” of DEP permits he previously successfully obtained from DEP.

That same day, he was copied on permit application documents submitted to DEP by the technical consultants for the LNG project.

On September 14, 2018, – just 3 weeks (at most) after he was working on those DEP LNG permits – LaTourette’s former law firm Gibbons issued a statement that bragged about LaTourette’s DEP appointment:

Shawn M. LaTourette, a Director in the Gibbons P.C. Environmental Department, has been appointed Chief Counsel to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).

Mr. LaTourette, who has handled a wide range of environmental permitting, counseling, and litigation matters for Gibbons clients since 2015, will now be advising the NJDEP on various legal and policy matters while overseeing NJDEP’s offices of litigation, natural resource damages, special projects, dispute resolution, and economic analysis.

Obviously, LaTourette’s appointment as DEP’s “Chief Counsel” and his critical portfolio of DEP work provided the kind of professional and personal relationships, access, and influence on DEP that a corporate law firm is able to market and leverage significant value from. (That’s why they issued a public statement, which basically says: “Hey, we got our boy on the inside”).

Similarly, LaTourette’s corporate advocacy work was obviously considered a desirable qualification by the Murphy administration (or whomever was responsible for installing LaTourette in DEP). After all, Gov. Murphy is a former Goldman Sachs man and prominent Wall Street player. He knows good corporate talent when he sees it.

Shortly after LaTourette joined DEP, on November 29, 2018, DEP issued the specific permit modifications that LaTourette was just seeking.

Prior to that November 2018 DEP minor modification approval, LaTourette was able to secure critical DEP land use permits and water quality approvals in his work at Gibbons on behalf of his LNG export project client, Delaware River Partners, LLC.

Those DEP permits include freshwater wetlands, flood hazard, stormwater management and coastal/waterfront development permits and DEP water quality certification. All issued below the public radar for a massive LNG export plant in the most densely populated state in the country on a major river – with 3,000+ DEP staffers supposedly looking and loaded for bear with what are alleged to be the strongest environmental regulations in the country (and in almost record time, too!). LaTourette cut right through that notorious DEP “red tape” like a hot knife through butter – he sure demonstrated some pretty crafty legal permit work, eh?

Subsequently, 8 months later, while LaTourette was DEP Chief Counsel (he was recused) in May of 2019, DEP approved a coastal/waterfront development permit, which is currently being challenged legally in Superior Court, Appellate Division, by Delaware Riverkeeper.

I previously wrote about this. But at the time, I wasn’t focused so narrowly on the timing issues of the LNG permits, but more broadly on LaTourette’s long list of prior corporate polluter and developer clients and his foot dragging recusal letters and DEP ethics review process.

Of course NJ Spotlight spun out a puff piece that made LaTourette appear to be an ethical and proactive professional. But at least they credited their source (a tacit admission that they do no real investigative or critical work) – but of course Spotlight refused to provide a link to that source (i.e. Wolfenotes): (they refused to provide a link – which they’ve previously done – for the same reason that they blocked my reader comments on their articles: critics need not apply!)

LaTourette’s memo lists the matters before the DEP that he worked on while he was an environmental attorney with a Newark law firm immediately before joining DEP in September 2018. Those matters include the Repauno Port and Rail Terminal, a project on which he represented Delaware River Partners on “all remediation and permitting concerns” before the DEP, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) and two federal agencies, according to the document, which was obtained via an Open Records Act request filed by Bill Wolfe, a former DEP employee.

It is remarkable that LaTourette faces no public criticism or scrutiny on these issues.

But, hey, Jake, it’s Chinatown!

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