Archive for June, 2022

Senate Leaders Urged To Amend Solar Incentive Legislation To Prohibit Siting On Farms and Forests

June 24th, 2022 No comments

Subsidies To Lower Cost Siting On Farms and Forests Is Undermining More Appropriate Solar on Old Landfills and Brownfields

NJ Spotlight ran an Op-Ed today by the solar industry, warning of impending economic problems for solar projects, see:

The Op-Ed does a good job of outlining the problem and closes by urging public support of a partial legislative solution.

But the legislative solution is merely a stop gap measure – which new FERC rules may have solved – and does not address core economic issues that threaten the solar industry, one of which is subsidies to develop at cheaper locations such as farms and forests.

That pending legislation provides an excellent opportunity to fix a related problem in current laws, which provide subsidies to inappropriate siting locations, such as NJ’s vanishing farms and forests. 

Here is my note to the Senate sponsors, who include leadership: Senate President Scutari and Environment Committee Chairman Smith – seeking amendments. I urge readers to contact the Senators and make similar requests:

Dear Senators Smith and Scutari:

I read in NJ Spotlight Op-Ed today that you are sponsoring solar legislation:

Thankfully, the Legislature has taken it upon itself to right this wrong. Bills (S-2732 and A-4089), sponsored by Sens. Nick Scutari and Bob Smith and Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo, will give deadline extensions to pending “subsection t” projects that are held up by the delays at PJM.”

As you know, is it cheaper to site grid scale solar projects on farms and in forests.

The lower costs of these inappropriate locations is part of the economic problems that undermine more appropriate siting on old landfills and brownfields. Mere deadline extension will not address these economic issues and will continue requirements for more public subsidies.

Accordingly, I urge you to amend this legislation to repeal current law and prohibit the siting of grid scale solar on farms or in forests. That will protect NJ’s vanishing open spaces and provide zero cost incentives to appropriate solar siting.


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Olmsted Weeps

June 22nd, 2022 No comments

Assembly Committee Approves Billionaire Backed Bill To Develop Liberty State Park

Pearls Before Swine

Before even taking testimony this morning, the Chairman of the NJ Assembly State and Local Government Committee advised the standing room only audience that the bill would be released without amendments and that discussions with the Governor’s Office and Senate were ongoing.

So much for democracy and deliberation and civilized discourse.

As the testimony soon made clear, landscape design, aesthetics, and the philosophy and objectives of public park planning were the not on the agenda today.

Nor was there any kind of solidarity – parks are supposed to unite people in a common cause, not divide people.

Which takes me to Olmsted weeping.

Frederick Law Olmsted is best known for the design of Central Park, but his career spanned far more than that. He not only completed dozens of other public park designs, he was a leader in the early conservation movement and in the design of National Parks.

His landscape design principles were based on his:

conviction that nature has healing and restorative psychological effects on the individual and his equally strong belief that nature is a civilizing force in society. …

Olmsted believed that nature affects me (sic) emotions both psychologically and socially. Fresh air, sunlight, and abundant foliage improve physical and mental health through what he called me “unbending” of faculties that are placed under tension by the pressures of urban life, producing a sense of mental tranquility and rest, intellectual vigor, and a “temperate, good-natured, and healthy state of mind” (Olmsted 1997; 66).

The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it, tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration of me whole system. (Rybczynski 1999a, p. 258)

He thought that nature’s healing occurs through an unconscious process which the mind is influenced through the imagination, and he was also convinced that parks in urban areas would help to achieve this effect.

The chief end of a large park is an effect on the human organism by an action of what it presents to view, which action, like that of music, is of a kind that goes back of thought, and cannot be fully given the form of words. (Beveridge 1998, p. 31)

Olmsted integrated his landscape design principles with a democratic and egalitarian public social philosophy – public parks must be free and accessible to all, and private encroachments and commercialization must be resisted – not embraced!

But instead of reflecting upon and applying those principles, the discussion before the Committee degenerated basically into tragedy and farce: local residents expressed their legitimate rage for suffering decades of neglect, underinvestment, and having to live with the results of greedy developers. But, they expressed their resentment by blaming the very people who have protected Liberty State Park from those same greedy developers and corrupt politicians who had neglected and abused them for decades!

There was also a very ugly racial undertone – with black longtime residents and athletes resenting outsider white environmentalists.

The dynamics were kind of like Trump speaking in a de-industrialized rust belt community and blaming government bureaucrats and pointy headed intellectuals for their woes, instead of the greedy corporations who offshored their jobs and Wall Street vultures who financialized the economy.

Listening to the legitimate grievances by Jersey City residents being manipulated by a cynical billionaire golf course developer was truly sickening. I had to turn the audio off and go for a walk before it was over.

Procedurally, the Assembly bill and the amended Senate version go to the respective Budget and Appropriations Committees for consideration. Those Committees will hold hearings and likely amend the bills. Behind the scenes, the Gov.’s Office is weighing in and all sorts of deals are possible, given the proposed $250 million appropriations and the context of the budget negotiations. DEP Commissioner LaTourette is MIA and obviously not a player. Of course, there will be opportunities for Floor amendments in both Houses and the Gov. can veto or conditionally veto the bill.

At this point, I think Gov. Murphy should be targeted and asked to outright veto the bill, unless it meets very specific demands by park supporters (which I’ve heard referenced in testimony, but have not read. More to follow on that, along with an analysis of the Senate Committee amendments, which were window dressing). The Gov. could also “conditionally veto” the bill with the same demands, but that is less likely, given the deal that is likely to emerge.

Not much more to say right now. It is truly demoralizing to witness what a billionaire funded PR campaign can do and how destructive and polarizing the politics it can manipulate can become.

But I’d like to ask the Legislators and local resident supporting the legislation on the belief that it will benefit local residents and serve recreational and social needs:

Why then would would you oppose amendments that prohibited large scale commercial development and privatization, made specific allocations of the $250 million appropriated, and preserved Caven Point (the target of billionaire golf course developer Paul Fireman)?

The environmentalists and Friends of Liberty State Park have explicitly supported active recreation. Why can’t the local Fireman crowd reciprocate?

[Update: I just found this NY Times article, which does a good job exposing Fireman’s divisive PR campaign tactics. The national implications flow from the politics that Fireman is exploiting. The danger lies in this becoming a model; i.e. if a billionaire can fund a PR campaign that exploits legitimate urban minority grievances and drive a wedge in a way that promotes billionaire interests so easily, it will be used elsewhere. This could be not only the model, but also a new issue and opportunity for the right wing to exploit – after Stop the Steal, COVID anti-vax, attacks on Trans, CRT and school curriculum, they might move on to public parks. The right wing already did something similar by attacking public schools in urban black and minority communities with the Charter School movement.

The NJ Dems could be creating the next issue for the Right to exploit. Obviously, the billionaire class is watching closely. These are Trump politics.

See this NPR story:

Think about it this way. We’re talking about the same activists who appeared at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017 and infamously were chanting antisemitic chants and doing a lot of activity that made a lot of people feel really uncomfortable. When those same activists and groups showed up on January 6, they, by and large, were not wearing swastikas and using Nazi chants and wearing Klan uniforms. They were mostly uniformed as militiamen because that is a bid for public acceptance.

What they are always doing is looking for the open window – right? – the people that can be persuaded, recruited and radicalized further. And in our culture, with this intense political polarization that we’re experiencing, there is a larger and larger set of opportunities for these groups. And this kind of opportunistic mobilization is very well-practiced and is something that they have been working with for a very long time.

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Warehouse Developers Rush To Get Land Use Permit Applications Deemed Complete By DEP To Dodge Long Delayed New Climate PACT Rules

June 22nd, 2022 No comments

Gold Rush At DEP Highlights The Need For An Administrative Moratorium

Screen Shot 2022-06-21 at 3.15.30 PM

While the environmental groups are AWOL (or more correctly, they are off on social justice tangents) and the press continues to report proliferating warehouse sprawl as a “local home rule” issue (thus letting the Murphy administration planners and DEP off the hook), warehouse developers are quietly behind the scenes ramming permit applications through DEP to skirt the long delayed DEP “climate PACT rules”.

[Update: 6/23/22 – On the day after I wrote this, NJ Spotlight reports that environmental groups wrote Gov. Murphy a letter! After 5 years of green cover & Stakeholder compromise!]

A case in point just emerged in Chesterfield NJ, where a real estate development company known as “Active Acquisitions, OY, LLC” rushed wetlands and flood hazard area permit applications to DEP on June 17, 2022 for another warehouse development.

This post is not intended to discuss the specifics of that warehouse project, but instead let me briefly explain how the DEP rules work.

DEP regulates land use under permit programs established by several NJ State laws, including the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Freshwater Wetlands Act, the Flood Hazard Area Control Act, the Highlands Act, the Water Quality Management Act and stormwater laws.

Developers must submit permit applications and secure DEP permit approvals for developments that trigger these laws.

DEP has a sequential 4 step process for reviewing permits (5 steps, if you count the secret “pre-application conference” step, where DEP coaches applicants on how to comply with DEP rules):

1) the application is reviewed to determine if it is “administratively complete”. DEP basically follows a checklist of regulatory requirements; then

2) the application is then review to determine if it is “technically complete”; then

3) DEP reviews the permit, determines if it complies with regulatory requirements, and if so, issues a draft permit for public comment; and then

4) DEP issues a public notice, provides for public comment, holds a public hearing if requested by the public, and then responds to public comments and either issues the final permit or denies the permit

A permit application for development is reviewed under the regulations in effect at the time the permit application is submitted. The trigger to application of the rules in effect occurs when DEP deems a permit application “administratively complete”.

DEP has announced, for over 2 years, that there are major changes pending in land use permit regulations under DEP’s “Climate PACT” initiative, which was prompted by several Executive Orders by Governor Murphy. None of those Executive Orders address the issues of timing or regulations and permit applications, or what the lawyers call either “transition rules” or “grandfathering”.

That regulatory heads up has created huge incentives for developers to rush permit applications to DEP to come in under the old lax rules and avoid the more stringent and costly new requirements of new climate oriented rules.

This gold rush illustrates the need for an administrative moratorium – basically a timeout until the new rules are in place.

But DEP is doing nothing to avoid or reduce this huge problem.


Surely, DEP Commissioner Latourette knows all about this – he was a corporate lawyer who worked on DEP permits. I worked on these issues at DEP with “transition rules” for the DEP C1 stream buffer rules and in the Highlands Act, where we made the Act retroactive.

The fact that Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette has announced the pending rules, has not enacted any kind of moratorium, and tolerated such delay in adopting new rules illustrates his extreme incompetence (or the fact that he’s not serious).

Compounding this incompetence is the embarrassing fact that DEP was forced to re-adopt existing rules – wetlands and flood hazard rules – without changes needed to address climate impacts. Those rules would have expired without such a re-adoption and that just shows how bad the long delays in DEP climate PACT rules were.

Specifically, the DEP re-adopted without change the Flood Hazard Area rules on August 2, 2021.

DEP delineated the flood hazard area for the Chesterfield project in April 2021.

The DEP then re-adopted the wetlands rules without change on May 16, 2022.

That readopting enabled the Chesterfield warehouse developer to quickly submit permit applications to DEP on June 17, 2022 in a blatant abuse to come in under the old wetlands and flood hazard area rules and delineations.

There are probably hundreds of permit applications that have been rushed through DEP in advance of the upcoming and long delayed climate PACT rules.

The fact that LaTourette then decided to remedy this “gold rush” problem by proposing “emergency rules” is either more evidence of his incompetence, or proof that the Murphy administration is not serious about tackling the climate emergency – or worse, even intentionally sabotaging their own stated policies, see:

The Chesterfield warehouse perfectly illustrates this problem.

How may more are there like that? (and not only warehouses, but, as I’ve written, major sources of greenhouse gas emissions).

Why is DEP getting no media scrutiny or criticism by environmental groups for these egregious abuses?

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Cultural Politics Has Hijacked The NJ Climate And Environmental Agenda

June 21st, 2022 No comments

Identity Politics Masks Economic Interests & Corporate Power, While Co-Opting Activists and Derailing Real Solutions

Major Chemical Safety Bill In Response To Passaic Fire Flies Under the EJ Radar

In response to the Liberty State Park controversy which exposed itself in Trenton last week, I criticized the Orwellian and cynical manipulation of progressive issues by billionaire Paul Fireman.

And it’s all done right out in the open.

Last year, a Star Ledger editorial quoted Fireman himself as playing the race card: (Ledger editorial, 8/25/21),

Fireman hasn’t addressed the issue since July 15, 2020, when he released a statement explaining that he is “halting any efforts to pursue a public private partnership at Caven Point” because he wanted to “force the supporters of the Protection Act to address the social justice problems. . . .without using me as an excuse to keep ignoring minority communities.”

Thankfully, the Ledger called that hypocritical BS out:

Fireman’s record on worker rights as Reebok CEO is mostly unassailable, if you can overlook that he made his first billion from Indonesian sweatshop labor, but the 600-word statement read like parody. It couched the issue as a “racial justice fight,” a remarkable lecture coming from a billionaire trying to purloin public property for a gaggle of elitists who pay $450,000 for their membership.

Many people see exactly what’s going on:

At-large councilman Rolando Lavarro called this period of desperate debate a “high-dollar attempt to hijack the issue.”

Since then, advocates say Fireman is astroturfing like a demon— supporting well-financed shadow groups that parrot his message and produce slick videos, most of them smearing opponents of the Caven Point gambit.

I noted how not only billionaire’s play this cynical cultural politics game, but how the Murphy administration and Democrats do as well:

That contrast is a classic example of what Professor Nancy Fraser calls “Progressive Neoliberalism”, where cultural issues are used to mask a pro-corporate economic agenda and divert, dupe, manipulate, and co-opt progressive activists and media alike.

But these corrupt tactics are not limited to the Liberty State Park debate.

There has been a very effective “high-dollar attempt to hijack” the entire climate, energy and environmental agenda – and it is working.

The most recent illustration is almost a parody of itself – Tri-County Sustainability:

Tri-County Sustainability (TCS) is the Sustainable Jersey regional hub for the 101 towns, 1.2 million residents, and 10 legislative districts across Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties. TCS is open to sustainability enthusiasts, green team members, environmental commissions and members of the general public looking to improve their communities and connect regionally. We frequently partner with environmentally focused organizations to achieve common goals for our municipalities and planet. ALL ARE WELCOME! 

Just coincidentally (haha!), right before the DEP’s land use Climate PACT regulations are scheduled to be proposed, they just happen to be holding an event that focuses on stormwater. And look who their sponsors are – I couldn’t make this up if I tried to illustrate the corruption:

Screen Shot 2022-06-21 at 8.20.24 AM

These same groups are providing cover in support of the Liberty State Park debate.

These same groups provided cover for Gov. Murphy’s Pinelands Commission appointments.

These same groups provided cover and supported Gov. Murphy’s nomination of a former corporate lawyer as DEP Commissioner on the same identity politics grounds.

These same groups are now safely in the room negotiating with a flawed Forestry Taskforce, thereby giving DEP a pass to continue to expand plans and programs for mismanaging and logging State forests.

These same groups contracted for a consultants Report on funding state parks that promotes privatization. That Report received favorable media coverage and a parks privatization bill was rammed through a Senate committee shortly thereafter.

These same groups are also just getting involved and launching a “maintain our parks” campaign. Hypocritically, they were the same groups responsible for the “Keep It Green” Open Space theft of millions of dollars of State Parks maintenance money (i.e. Constitutionally dedicated $32 million per year was stolen and diverted to the Green Acres program).

The parks funding Report, the privatization Legislation, and a new parks maintenance campaign are no accident and no coincidence: they are the classic pattern of how a campaign is rolled out.

The big question is: Who is funding and organizing all this?

These same groups get stories and Op-Ed’s planted in media, the same media that is funded by the Foundations funding these groups.

A very similar coalition was formed to capture the lead in drinking water debate, and thereby narrowly frame issues of statewide drinking water quality and safety and mask structural defects in DEP’s regulations.

And a very similar thing happened on the climate front, just as DEP’s climate and environmental justice regulations were proposed, involving the same focus and many of the same groups. 

The coalition, planned to be publicly launched Thursday, is called the New Jersey Progressive Equitable Energy Coalition (NJPEEC) and includes over a dozen groups including the New Jersey NAACP, Latino Action Network, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters and the Atlantic Climate Justice Alliance. The coalition leaders say it plans to meet with state leaders as well as the people of New Jersey to fight for environmental justice.

Why has there been almost total radio silence on both major DEP climate and EJ regulations, which are seriously flawed? Where are the activists? Where is the media? Where is the real story, see:

[Note: from what I can tell, Marcus Sibley works for the National Wildlife Federation as the Northeast Director of Conservation Partnerships. He apparently launders that through NAACP and EJ groups. If that’s accurate, I sense the fingerprints of my old [former] friend Curtis Fisher.]

Regardless of their intent – which I strongly support and have written about and been involved with as an activist for decades – these groups have managed to divert focus from the substance of the flaws in NJ’s climate and environmental justice laws and DEP’s recently proposed regulations. That effectively provides cover for the Murphy DEP. It dupes and co-opts real activists. And it derails real solutions.

[Update: 6/23/22 – according to a NJ Spotlight teaser for a TeeVee story tonight:

  • Environmentalists, community activists and residents living in overburdened communities will march and rally in Trenton today. Environmental advocates are urging Gov. Murphy to put an end to all new fossil fuel projects.

Notice that there is no mention of the flaws in the recent DEP EJ rule proposal. I’ll try to get a hold of their March demands. ~~~ end update]

For a perfect illustration and very recent example of what I mean, consider the fact that leader of that group was able to reframe the Passaic fire as a race issue,  which completely diverted from the chemical safety regulatory failures at DEP that are statewide and longstanding (see:

While these folks are posturing about EJ, they missed the fact that a very important bill purported to address the Passaic fire loopholes was heard – with no testimony! – last week, S2739. The bill:

Requires submission to DEP of consequence analyses by employers regulated under “Worker and Community Right to Know Act”; requires municipal and county Emergency Operations Plan consider local risks and hazards.

This bill would incorporate a key provision of the NJ Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act chemical risk management requirements – basically what appears to be a watered down version of the TCPA “off-site consequence analysis”, an exercise I have described as mapping a “kill zone”. (see Section 2)

The bill also would require that (See section 3):

The State Office of Emergency Management shall develop risk and hazard assessment criteria, which shall be used by counties and municipalities in creating their Emergency Operations Plan.

The bill would even require DEP to address transportation risks – for things like bomb trains and tanker trucks and LNG ships (Gibbstown!)

the Department of Environmental Protection to evaluate the dangers posed by hazardous material that may be located in each county and municipality, that may be transported through each county and municipality, or that are identified by the consequence analysis prepared pursuant to section 2

There are reasons that this bill flew under the radar of the EJ activists:

1. The bill exposes the fact that the much touted “historic” environmental justice law did not include chemical facilities regulated under NJ’ Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act. That is not the only major loophole in that law, as I’ve written numerous times.

2. “Off site consequence analysis” is a bureaucratic euphemism for mapping “kill zones” – place where people would die if there were a chemical accident.

It is obviously a highly controversial issue that legislators and the powerful chemical industry don’t want discussed publicly. In fact, the Attorney General’s Office is seeking amendments to keep that information secret, under cover of “Domestic Security” (terrorism).

3. The Democrats are afraid of the powerful chemical industry, who will strongly oppose the bill behind the scenes and very likely kill it in Senate Appropriations without any accountability for doing so.

The Democrats don’t want the public to know this and neither does the chemical industry.

4. Environmental groups and their EJ friends have largely abandoned work on science, policy, and regulatory issues. They have virtually zero expertise and as a result, industry and DEP have an open field. Foundations and private funders set the agenda, design the strategy, and message and organize the campaigns. The result is what Chris Hedges has called “boutique activism”:

The corporate state was never threatened by the liberal class’ myopic preoccupation with cultural diversity or the right wing’s championing of supposedly “Christian” values. This was anti-politics masquerading as politics. The culture wars did not challenge imperialism, neoliberalism and globalization. The dictates of the market, the primacy of corporate profit and the military-industrial complex remained sacrosanct. The mounting distress of the underclass was ignored or manipulated during the culture wars. Liberals who embraced cultural diversity did so within a neoliberalframework. Feminism, for example, became about placing individual women in positions of power—this is Hillary Clinton’s mantra—not about empowering poor, marginalized and oppressed women. Post-racial America became about a black president who, as Cornel West says, serves as “a black mascot for Wall Street.”

And do you think it’s purely a coincidence that the environmental justice issue just happens to divert activists and media on these kind of issues?

[Note: Dear reader, please don’t think me as a technocrat!

Here’s an analysis I share and I even tried to inject the Pope’s analysis into the climate debate. But you will never hear these kind oof ideas from the mouths of your EJ warriors, who are intellectually unaware of or too cowardly to be emphasizing any of that. ~~~ end note]

How much bigger can an EJ issue be than threats from chemical fires and explosions that could kill thousands of urban residents?

Paul Fireman is not the only person who spreads money around to buy political outcomes and use astro-turf tactics.

[End Note: A good friend just emailed me to defend Pinelands Preservation Alliance (PPA).

Here’s my reply:

PPA paid for the consultant’s study that supported privatization. That study led to the privatization legislation. PPA worked with Senator Turner sponsoring the bill and signed off on it. XXXXXXX works for PPA. I wrote XXX to ask about PPA’s position and xxx dodged the questions I asked.

PPA was also involved as a member of Keep It Green coalition that defunded State parks, thereby creating the very problem they now pretend to attempt to solve via privatization.

Absurd hypocrisy.

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Northern Oregon Coast

June 20th, 2022 No comments

8H1A2361 (1)




Trailhead, Cummins Creek Wilderness

Trailhead, Cummins Creek Wilderness


Astoria - looks like the Workers Tavern got a new sign since last we were here

Astoria – looks like the Workers Tavern got a new sign since last we were here

we named the dog before we found the brewery!

we named the dog before we found the brewery!

there were 5 or 6 tankers in line, looked to be backed up

there were 5 or 6 tankers in line, looked to be backed up

Nehalem Bay

Nehalem Bay

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