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NJ Gov. Murphy And His DEP Finally Face Critical Press Coverage

After Years Of Greenwashing, A Good Investigative Reporter Forces Environmental Cheerleaders To Speak Out

Murphy DEP Governs By Press Release

NJ LCV provides cover for Gov. Murphy (2022)

NJ LCV provides cover for Gov. Murphy (2022)

“While Governor Murphy was one of the nation’s strongest environmental champions in his first term, now is not the time for him to rest on his laurels,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters (4/27/22)

Bob Hennelly, longtime investigative journalist and current columnist at InsiderNJ, has a very good column on the Murphy climate and environmental policy record, including numerous failures by the Murphy DEP, see:

I’ve written about virtually all the issues Bob tackles, so I want to make a few important points to provide history and context in order to clarify and expand upon what’s going on.

Most importantly, Bob’s sources in the environmental community are a big part of the problem (with the exception of Jeff Tittel, who is retired and probably pitched this story to Bob. That knowledge, coupled with Bob’s good investigative journalism skills, framed the narrative, asked the right questions, and essentially forced the environmental leaders to critically portray the Gov. and DEP’s performance, which they’ve been reluctant to do for years. Bob smoked them out! Bravo!).

But in this column, Bob mischaracterizes those sources as “subject matter experts” (I would not call them that. In fact, I think they are incompetent – and that’s certainly true on the DEP regulatory issues.)

Those sources focus on the historical cuts to the DEP budget and staff levels. Accordingly, this leaves the misleading impression that the primary problem is due to lack of DEP staff.

That’s simply not the case.

Gov. Murphy is a Wall Street corporate Democrat with no real public policy or governing experience. His Gov.’s Office staff – judging by the plethora of Executive Orders which are written and read like press releases – apparently also lack “subject matter expertise” and regulatory experience.

The Governor has rhetorical commitments to climate, energy, and environment, not policy commitments. That’s a huge difference that’s been conflated and spun and allowed to persist – or even been reinforced – by the environmental groups who support him. They always appear at Murphy press conferences and willingly let themselves be used as props and cheerleaders.

Gov. Murphy’s DEP Commissioner is a former corporate lawyer who parades as a “diverse” gay pride community activist. He is a weak manager and his policy vision is essentially Neoliberal corporate oriented.

The combination of a pro-economic development and shallow PR dominated Governor, an inexperienced Gov.’s Office staff, and a weak DEP Commissioner – on top of a lack of real substantive policy commitments – is the source of the problem, not the DEP budget.

Here are some more specific points of context or clarifications of Bob’s column:

1) While Bob cites very recent criticisms, the climate and environmental groups have been cheerleaders for Gov. Murphy and his inept former corporate lawyer DEP Commissioner for the complete first term. That greenwashing cemented the current false narrative that Bob’s column begins to puncture;

2) Some of the environmental groups Bob quotes (i.e. members of the “Keep It Green” coalition) duped the public into approving an open space funding referendum that diverted millions of dollars from DEP’s budget (staff and programs) to open space, including their own organization’s budgets. It is the height of hypocrisy to now blame cuts to DEP’s budget.

3) There is no indication or evidence that I am aware of that any lack of staff at DEP has slowed down their rubber stamping of hundreds of permits to polluters and developers. DEP has plenty of staff to promote economic development;

4) drafting of regulations is not staff intensive and NOT impacted by DEP budget or staffing levels. I know. I actually worked on and wrote many DEP regulations. The lack of action and delays are POLICY and MANAGEMENT problems, not budget and resource problems;

5) It is incredible that someone who poses as an “environmental leader” (i.e. Ed Potosnak) can criticize DEP for his friend’s absurd rental of contaminated property for a DAY CARE CENTER! Let’s call Ed “Kiddie College 2.0″;

6) The DEP toxic site cleanup program was PRIVATIZED. Environmental groups never seem to complain about that. (Democratic Gov. Corzine signed the privatization law in 2009. Corzine DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson was embarrassed by that and forced to pledge not to seek privatization of federal Superfund during her US Senate confirmation hearing as Obama EPA Administrator (read the pointed questions by Senator Boxer). Like the current DEP Commissioner, Jackson played the NJ ENGO’s like a fiddle. Democratic Gov. Murphy made it worse in 2019 amendments. Not a peep of opposition about any of this from NJ ENGO’s.)

7) There is no evidence I am aware of that any environmental group participated in the budget process or pressured the Gov. or legislature to increase DEP’s budget. Instead, they have served as sycophants in various “Stakeholder” processes

(Astonishingly, Hennelly quotes Amy Goldsmith from Clean Water Action on the DEP budget. Amy is incompetent. Amy and Kim Gaddy of CWA have been GOv. Murphy’s biggest cheerleaders, appearing at numerous events and gaslighting real EJ and climate activists. Here they are together:

Screen Shot 2022-07-18 at 10.16.39 AM

8) The EJ law is riddled with loopholes and is a cruel joke.

9) The current DEP Commissioner is a former corporate lawyer. He is a gaslighter and fraud. The NJ ENGO’s have never criticized that corporate background. Worse, recently the ENGO wrote a June 21 letter to Gov. Murphy that was such craven bullshit it almost made me puke:

We wish to commend the work of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, NJDEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette and countless NJDEP staff on this initiative. It is to their credit that the proposed emergency rules were strengthened in the immediate wake of Hurricane Ida early last fall (following on the heels of damage from Tropical Storms Henri and Elsa last summer) to reflect this new normal in inland flooding across the state.

10) I worked for 13 years at a policy level at DEP, drafted and worked on many regulations, and spent another 20 years in NJ ENGO community, so I know what these frauds and idiots who call themselves “environmental leaders” obviously don’t.

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