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NJ DEP Has Become A Black Hole And Accountability Free Zone

Media, Green Groups, and the Public Literally In The Dark Without A Flashlight

NJ Gov. Murphy Pulled A Biden On Climate Before Biden Did

Associated Press Expose Of Biden Oil & Gas “Pause” Highlights The Significance

Murphy DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, in THE creepiest Zoom background ever!

Murphy DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette, in THE creepiest Zoom background ever!

The lights have been turned off at DEP.

Let me offer just one recent example of what’s at stake:

The Associated Press was able to expose the fraud of the Biden Administration’s “pause” on oil and gas leasing because they were able to investigate and document federal permit data.

In turns out that the Biden Administration issued oil and gas drilling permits on public lands at a faster rate than even the Trump and Bush administrations (read the AP story):

US drilling approvals increase despite Biden climate pledge

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Approvals for companies to drill for oil and gas on U.S. public lands are on pace this year to reach their highest level since George W. Bush was president, underscoring President Joe Biden’s reluctance to more forcefully curb petroleum production in the face of industry and Republican resistance.

The Interior Department approved about 2,500 permits to drill on public and tribal lands in the first six months of the year, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data. That includes more than 2,100 drilling approvals since Biden took office January 20.

Why is that kind of investigative journalism and accountability work NOT being done in NJ?

It should be far easier to conduct that kind of investigative journalism in NJ because a suite of NJ State laws mandate that DEP prepare annual Reports that provide exactly the kind of permit and enforcement data the Associated Press disclosed.

The NJ laws mandate that DEP prepare and publicly release annual Reports on their permit and enforcement activity for precisely the reason that the Associated Press investigated and reported on Biden oil & gas data: 1) to hold federal agencies and politicians accountable to facts; 2) to provide the public with reliable information about what their government is doing to protect their health and the environment; and 3) to prevent politicians from governing by slogans, not science.

So why is that not happening in NJ, particularly if State laws mandate release of that kind of data?

  • Why don’t we know if the so called “green” Murphy DEP has issued more or less enforcement fines than the pro-business Christie DEP? Is DEP even still enforcing the Clean Water Enforcement Act? (e.g. conducting required annual polluter inspections, issuing and collecting mandatory penalties, etc)
  • Why don’t we know if water pollution violations are going up or down?
  • Is the Murphy DEP rubber stamping a higher percentage of permit approvals and doing it even faster than the Christie DEP?
  • Why don’t we know the names of corporate polluters who are “significant non-compliers” with water pollution laws?
  • Why don’t we know how many criminal investigations and cases the Attorney General’s Office has filed for violations of NJ’s clean water laws and the names of the alleged criminal corporations?
  • Why don’t we know how many wetlands permits DEP issued last year – or in the Highlands or for warehouses – and whether development permits are increasing at a rapid rate? DEP land use permits are important indicators of land loss and rate of development.
  • Why don’t we know how many flood hazard and coastal zone development permits DEP issued that put people and property in harms way?
  • Why don’t we know how many air pollution permits DEP issued to major greenhouse gas polluters without considering NJ’s GHG emission reduction goals and climate impacts?

We don’t know any of that (and more) because DEP has not complied with NJ laws and no longer releases the “Doria” EMAP permit and Clean Water Enforcement Act mandatory annual Reports!

There are many other important Reports, not mandated by law, that provided critical information on things like toxic air pollution, contaminated drinking water, and the locations and names of dangerous toxic industrial polluters in your neighborhood that DEP used to issue but no longer issues. See this post, where I list many of them and explain their significance:

Another Say One Thing – Do The Opposite

But the “pause” hypocrisy was not unique. And there’s a NJ example by Gov. Murphy that happened years before Biden’s.

Just days after President Biden lectured the climate COP26 on a world stage about the “existential threat” posed by the climate emergency and touted US global leadership, his administration issued 80 million acres of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Even NPR slammed Biden for that: (11/17/21)


At the big international climate conference that just finished, President Biden called climate change an existential threat to human existence as we know it.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: And that’s why my administration is working overtime to show that our climate commitment is action, not words.

KELLY: Today, though, the Biden administration took quite a different action – overseeing one of the largest oil and gas lease sales in American history. NPR’s Nathan Rott reports.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: The science is unequivocal. To slow a rapidly warming climate, reducing the risk of floods, wildfires and extreme heat, humans need to rapidly move away from fossil fuels. Yet today, the government held a lease sale for more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas development. Drew Caputo is an attorney at the environmental organization Earthjustice.

DREW CAPUTO: By the government’s own estimate, those leases could produce more than a billion barrels of oil over multiple decades into the future.

ROTT: Not to mention an additional 4.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

When you get reamed by NPR, you know you really fucked up.

But years before President Biden pulled such a disgraceful and revealing stunt, NJ Governor Murphy beat him to the punch.

But, instead of being denounced by environmental groups and the media, Governor Murphy got a complete pass.

Very few people know this story because it was not reported. So here it is:

Just days after Gov. Murphy got great media and praise by environmental groups for signing into law a bill that was supposed to accelerate and strengthen the Global Warming Response Act and more rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the DEP issued a permit for a major climate polluter with absolutely no consideration of GHG emissions or climate issues.

Back on July 23, 2019, Gov. Murphy issued the following bill signing statement:

Today I am pleased to sign Senate Bill No. 3207 (Second Reprint) into law, establishing new timeframes and requirements for the implementation of the Global Warming Response Act. I commend the sponsors of this bill for providing the Department of Environmental Protection with the tools necessary to ensure the State meets our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals by 2050.

But just days later, Murphy’s DEP renewed an air pollution permit that allowed over 1 million tons per year of greenhouse as emissions, with no restrictions:

See how that works? Media and Green Mafia praise the Governor’s slogans – while it goes unreported that polluters benefit from DEP permits and NJ’s Global Warming Response Act emission reduction goals are a joke.

Where the hell is the NJ press corps on these abuses?

Why aren’t environmental groups demanding that DEP comply with the law and tell the public about their permit and enforcement work?

DEP has become a black box and accountability free zone.

It’s time for some sunshine.

[End Note: DEP falsely claims that their “DataMiner” application on the DEP website provides adequate public information and that these Reports are no longer necessary. That is a factually false claim – DataMiner does not provide comparable information – and it violates the law, as I’ve written. And a private individual citizen query of dataminer could never replace DEP aggregation and analysis of Statewide data in a public Report.

DEP is also abusing OPRA public records laws by denying document requests as “deliberative privilege” or “overly broad”. For example, it is effectively no longer possible to OPRA DEP staff emails.

But just as bad, DEP has embraced the WalMart model to serving the public. WalMart no longer has checkout clerks – the customer is required to scan items and WalMart has shifted the burden (and cost) from themselves to the consumer for this work. Just like Walmart shift burden to customers to scan purchases, DEP tells people to use Dataminer to do the job they are paid and legally required to do.

At DEP, Gov. Christie’s DEP Commissioner Bob Martin’s “customer service” initiative has become full on “Corporate service”.

The big developers and corporate polluters are given full access to DEP staff via a panoply of administrative procedures, from secret permit pre-application conferences, to ongoing meetings and communications on permit applications, to “Dispute Resolution” procedures to negotiate  things like enforcement fines, natural resource damage assessments and compensation, and “grace periods”.

Corporate interests also get undue access by representation on DEP’s Science Advisory Board.

Corporate interests dominate DEP “Stakeholder” processes.

Corporate lawyers and engineers dominate and even draft DEP “Technical Manuals” and “Best Management Practices” BMP guidelines or issuing permits (they literally write their own ticket).

Corporate polluters, via permit fees, fund DEP staff salaries: so, as the say, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

“Polluter Pays” has become “Polluters Invest and Own”

Across the board, DEP has gone way beyond “corporate capture” and has become a corporate service agency.

(and how could we forget that the current DEP Commissioner is a former corporate lawyer!)

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