Archive for August, 2022

Murphy BPU Kills Scores Of Solar Projects For Missed Bureaucratic Deadlines, While Fossil LNG And Other Development Get Routine Extensions Of Expiring Permits

August 23rd, 2022 No comments

And NJ “Climate Activists” Have No Real Problem With That

I need to make a quick note on another example of horrible climate and energy policy by the Murphy administration, if only to cut through the green cover provided by NJ’s “climate activists” (AKA Murphy cheerleaders).

Let me be specific – I am referring to this quote by “big picture” Doug O’Malley, responding to the Murphy BPU’s cancellation of 37 solar projects: (NJ Spotlight)

“The big picture is New Jersey is behind its solar goals,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “It has been a tough pandemic for the solar sector.  “The best place to put these projects is on brownfields and landfills and community solar,’’ he said.

So let me clarify and condemn that crap: (read the BPU Order)

The Murphy BPU has made a horribly short sighted decision and it based that decision on absurd and false grounds and assumptions. (NJ Spotlight):

The transition to the new solar program set up by the BPU will help alleviate the financial burden on ratepayers, according to Fiordaliso. “At a certain point, as an industry matures … it needs to stand on its own two feet,’’ he said.

BPU Commissioner Bob Gordon agreed, saying governments must look at the incentives it provides to an emerging industry. “At some point, the risk is subsidizing inefficiency,’’ he said. “That’s not what we want to do.’’

This false notion of “standing on one’s own two feet” is some kind of right wing retrograde John Wayne individual self reliance mythology.

And missing arbitrary bureaucratic deadlines due to COVID pandemic and supply chain disruptions has NOTHING to do with “subsidizing inefficiency”. Bob Gordon has lost his mind.

Let’s not forget that we’re in a climate emergency and the Murphy administration is far behind their own modest solar capacity goals.

Worse, the cancellation of solar projects for failure to meet BPU’s arbitrary bureaucratic deadlines – for events beyond the control of solar developers – contradicts a recent 3 year extension of expired permits for a massive fossil LNG Export plant being developed on the Delaware River, see:

The Murphy administration not only green lighted that extension, the Murphy DEP actually proposed an entirely new regulatory framework to support the LNG export project by “repurposing” underground “caverns” to store more fossil gas at the LNG plant site, see:

The Murphy administration has bent over backwards to promote fossil and nuclear subsidies – the Gov. could have picked up the phone and called BPU President Joe F. and told him to extend those solar approvals.

(Joe F. is no virgin. He bent over many times for Gov. Christie to approve multiple major fossil projects, including pipelines, power plants, compressor stations and BPU subsidies. For egregious examples of Joe’s “go along to get along” fossil whoring, see this and this and this and this.)

The BPU’s cancellation of solar projects contradicts longstanding NJ bi-partisan legislative policy on extending the expiration of regulatory approvals that impact development projects. The NJ legislature has passed several “Permit Extension Acts”, most recently, see:

The BPU’s cancellation of solar projects contradicts longstanding regulatory policy and practice of the DEP, who regularly issue renewals and pro forma extend expiring permits and even raise expired permits from the dead – including even expired or expiring regulations.

For climate activists, solar advocates, and the NJ press corps to give Gov. Murphy a pass on this bureaucratic bullshit and try to make it a matter of “winners and losers” is a fucking disgrace. (please excuse my French!)

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Murphy DEP Using “Junk Science” and Junk Ethics To Manage NJ Forests

August 22nd, 2022 No comments

Revolving Door & Billionaire Funds Politicize Science & Create Gross Conflicts of Interest

[Update below]

This is a quick follow-up to the Daily Beast’s killer story that exposed the “junk science” behind the Murphy DEP’s forest management policies:

“John Terborgh, one of the world’s premier conservation biologists, observes that there’s “no conservation reason for creating more early successional habitat.” Cutting trees to expand such habitat, he told me, “is a bogus argument, ginned up as an excuse for more logging. But the argument could work with a gullible public.”

In other words, logging-for-wildlife is based on junk science.”

The Daily Beast story merely scratches the surface of both junk science and junk ethics at DEP.

Although I’ve seen a lot in my 35+ year career with DEP and as a DEP critic, I’ve not seen a combination of things quite this corrupt.

I provide the details in this letter I just wrote to DEP Commissioner LaTourette – read it, the facts are remarkable:

Dear Commissioner LaTourette:

I write to bring 3 important and related concerns to your attention and request your corrective action:

1. A world leading scientist was quoted in a national publication harshly criticizing the scientific basis of the DEP’s “Young Forests” management approach to NJ forests:

“John Terborgh, one of the world’s premier conservation biologists, observes that there’s “no conservation reason for creating more early successional habitat.” Cutting trees to expand such habitat, he told me, “is a bogus argument, ginned up as an excuse for more logging. But the argument could work with a gullible public.”

In other words, logging-for-wildlife is based on junk science.”

(link to full article:

As you may know, Assistant Commissioner Cecil recently briefed Senator Smith’s Forestry Task Force on DEP’s application of the “Young Forest” management approach, which is credibly denounced as “junk science”.

I urge your reconsideration of this science and this form of “active forestry” management and to reverse course at the Forestry Task Force.

(Mr. Cecil has also criticized the public, and on completely false grounds, e.g. see this whopper:

“According to John Cecil, NJ Audubon’s vice president of stewardship, “The public tends to have a knee-jerk reaction to burning trees and plants, even at the benefit of the habitat. It’s an interesting catch-22. The public doesn’t have a lot of exposure to positive habitat manipulation.” For example, air quality degraded by vehicle emissions gets tangled in the public’s mind with smoke from burning, which leads to a negative perception of prescribed fire.”

2. NJ Audubon Society, also harshly criticized in the national story linked above, recently distributed a social media video in which DEP staffer Sharon Petzinger makes a presentation.

The presentation was to Senator Smith during a NJ Audubon organized “tour” of Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area, where the DEP has conducted controversial logging and forestry management projects. See Part 2:

Ms. Petzinger appears in part 3:

Given Senator Smith’s presence, the Sparta Mt. “tour” represents lobbying, as defined by ELEC as an “attempt to influence government policy”.

The NJ Audubon videos must be considered “public relations” or more accurately, propaganda.

It is not appropriate for DEP staffers to be making presentations to private, by invitation only, lobbying tours (sponsored by regulated entities) with legislators on pending legislative initiatives (and matters before the DEP).

During the Florio administration, I served in the DEP Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs and there were very tight restrictions on such activities (ask former Commissioner Scott Weiner). The “tour” raises additional “appearance” issues that undermine the Department’s credibility and independence and erode the public’s trust and confidence in the Department’s management of public resources.

It also inappropriately politicizes the science and impairs the objectivity of the Department (in part one of the video, a NJ Audubon presenter speaks of “the opposition” (Don Donnelly, at time 1:25) – a revealing adversarial and political term, not a scientific or valid public policy term).

As you know, Assistant Commissioner Cecil formerly served as head of NJ Audubon’s Forest stewardship program and was directly involved in the DEP approved Sparta Mountain logging project that was the subject of the “tour”.

As you also know, the current head of NJ Audubon’s Government Affairs Office is Eileen Murphy, who previously was the Director of the DEP’s Division of Science and Research.

Ms. Murphy scheduled the “tour”. Ms. Murphy was selected by Senator Smith as a Co-Chair of Smith’s legislative Forestry Task Force which is currently deliberating. Assistant Commissioner Cecil recently made a presentation to that Task Force.

This kind of blatant “revolving door” practice and the “reasonable appearance” of conflicts and bias is not a good look.

It suggests “regulatory capture” as well.

I trust that Assistant Commissioner Cecil has filed conflict of interest and recusal documents during his ethics review prior to assuming his DEP position.

3. The following fact pattern is deeply disturbing.

  • The Forest Stewardship Plan for Sparta Mountain was prepared by NJ Audubon and approved by the Department.
  • The NJ Audubon was provided a $330,000 grant to prepare that Plan from Hudson Farm Foundation, owned by Wall Street billionaire Peter Kellogg.
  • Mr. Kellogg also funded several DEP managers and staffers involved in forestry to attend a weekly “NJ conservation leadership program” conference (“tuition” was $4,850 per head) – I document and discuss that here:

  • Assistant Commissioner Cecil was involved in preparing the Kellogg funded Sparta Mt. DEP approved forestry Plan.
  • Mr Cecil also prepared a private forestry plan for Mr. Kellogg’s Hudson Farm private property when he worked with NJ Audubon. (link to that plan taken down, but this Hudson Farm  Ruffed Grouse Report documents it: Report Prepared by
    • John Cecil
    • Vice President Stewardship
    • John Parke
    • Stewardship Project Director – North Region

And this from NJA themselves!

NJ Audubon Conservation Projects Help Hudson Farm win 2021 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for Healthy Ecosystems & Habitat Category

“In recent years, NJ Audubon has led several restoration and research projects at Hudson Farm that directly provide state/regional/community benefits including enhanced biodiversity, improved surface water infiltration, increased habitat, reduced soil erosion, and improved forest resiliency and functionality.”

  • The Department’s recent presentation to the Smith Forestry Task Force stated that the Department was developing Carbon credit and trading policies with RGGI carbon “sequestration” funding. The NJ RGGI implementing statute allocates millions of dollars to carbon sequestration from forestry.
  • Mr. Kellogg’s Hudson Farm property currently has a forestry plan to quantify carbon credits and is involved in a private carbon storage and sequestration credit scheme. (link to that plan has been user password blocked, but this site quantified the carbon credits).
  • It is reasonable to assume that Kellogg would participate in and benefit from the DEP carbon credit trading scheme announced by and currently being developed by the Department.

The conflicts here are egregious and must be resolved.

I urge your immediate attention to these matters and request that the Department make some form of public statement to clarify and resolve the above concerns about science, policy, and ethics. I look forward to your timely and favorable reply.


We filed OPRA request for DEP Assistant Commissioner Cecil’s ethics disclosure and recusal documents and will keep you posted.

[Update: oops!, I forgot to mention this: Mr. Kellogg was issued an award for Hudson Farm by his fellow Wall Street colleague:

[End Note: Here is my OPRA records request:

I request the following public records:

1. The ethics disclosure documents submitted by Assistant Commissioner John Cecil upon his joining DEP.

2. The DEP ethics officer review and guidance documents provided to Assistant Commissioner Cecil.

3. The recusal documents for Assistant Commissioner Cecil.

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NJ Forest Logging Scam Gets National Attention

August 20th, 2022 No comments

NJ Audubon’s Collusion With Wall Street Billionaire Peter Kellogg Exposed

Creating “Young Forests” For Wildlife A “Bogus Argument”

[Update below]

Writer Christopher Ketcham, has a killer piece running today in The Daily Beast, see:

Ketcham grounds his story in an incredible historical irony, tracing the roots back to the ideas of Benton MacKaye:

In July 1921, Benton MacKaye, founder of regional planning and the visionary behind the Appalachian Trail, held a historic meeting with fellow preservationists in the remote New Jersey lodge that was to become Hudson Farm.

Dedicated to the protection of the nation’s last wild places, they were channeling the inchoate spirit of the coming age with a grand vision for the public domain that would advance the public interest and the democratic ideal on vast landscapes. …

The property on which this fateful meeting was held is now owned by the Wall Street billionaire Peter Kellogg. It’s a fitting fate for the old lodge where the AT was born, as MacKaye’s vision of preservation is increasingly captured, co-opted, and perverted by private corporate interests.

Lamenting the corruption of Mackaye’s vision, Ketcham pulls no punches and names names, in an awesome takedown of the corrupt model of “active forest management” – known as “Young Forests” – being deployed in NJ.

Ketcham cuts to the chase, and gets the story exactly right:

John Terborgh, one of the world’s premier conservation biologists, observes that there’s “no conservation reason for creating more early successional habitat.” Cutting trees to expand such habitat, he told me, “is a bogus argument, ginned up as an excuse for more logging. But the argument could work with a gullible public.”

In other words, logging-for-wildlife is based on junk science.

And yet, the bogus justifications are working to maximum effect at Sparta Mountain, home to 130 threatened, endangered and “special concern” species. Aided and abetted by state and federal agencies, loggers in this 3,500-acre parcel have been brandishing their chainsaws in an area specifically preserved at taxpayer expense for the benefit of wildlife.

And he also exposes the corruption that is driving this “bogus argument”:

NJ Audubon, along with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), various state hunting associations, and wealthy local sport-hunting boosters (including Kellogg), cooperated with logging interests under the cover of an insidious new model of management that emphasizes the chainsawing of healthy mature forests for the sake of creating an artificial young forest habitat. …

In recent years, NJ Audubon has enjoyed infusions of young forest funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture amounting to as much as $648,000….

New Jersey Audubon also received $330,000 from Kellogg, the Wall Street billionaire. Kellogg and his ilk have been frank as to what is wanted from this investment in conservation: decimate the public forests so that entitled elites can have an easier time killing animals for sport.

This “bogus argument” is particularly insidious, given the climate emergency:

And, as it does everywhere, logging at Sparta releases vast amounts of carbon stored in unfragmented forests, carbon that will not be re-absorbed for a century or more.

Finally, Ketcham humiliates recently departed former NJ Audubon CEO Eric Stiles, who institutionalized this corrupt practice at NJ Audubon:

Intriguingly, two decades ago, NJ Audubon offered a radically different perspective on protection of the state’s forested preserves.

“One of the most devastating causes of ecological degradation is fragmentation resulting from new developments and roads,” wrote NJ Audubon’s then-director Eric Stiles in a 2002 white paper. “Fragmented forest and wetland habitats have more predation, more parasitism, and less vertebrate diversity than intact habitats.”

What accounts for the astonishing about-face, such that today the group celebrates logging, roading, and forest fragmentation under the aegis of young forest chainsaw management?

Solaun says the reason is the usual one: money.

In conclusion, Ketcham notes that the corruption is not limited to NJ or forest management, but is national in scope and drives the entire environmental and climate movements:

This is all part of a broad toxification of the environmental movement, which has taken a regressive turn toward collaboration with big business, wealthy donors and corporate-backed foundations. Green groups that embrace market-based initiatives, rather than stand up for sensible regulation and strict enforcement of environmental laws, are the ones that get lavish funding.

Regular readers here and a small band of north Jersey Highlands forest advocates know this story very well, as I’ve been writing about it for over a decade and they have been in the trenches battling to preserve what’s left of NJ’s Highlands forests and landscapes.

I worked with Ketcham on this story, and was pleased that he reciprocated with a quote (and a link!):

According to Bill Wolfe, a former planner with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, logging-for-wildlife in the Sparta area has fragmented the forest with roads, disturbed soils and vegetation, reduced canopy cover, introduced invasive species, and has been “targeted not at scores of rare and threatened interior bird species, but a single species, the Golden Winged Warbler, that requires scrub/shrub habitat.”

But national exposure provided by The Daily Beast should generate strong pushback and help activists resist the ongoing corruption being legitimized by Senator Smith’s Forestry Task Force, where NJ Audubon is one of 4 Co-Chairs.

I’ll send it to Senator Smith and the Task Force now!

[End Note:  I would add three important points Ketcham left out:

1. The forests are protected by the NJ Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, the Highlands Regional Master Plan, and the NJ DEP Highlands regulations.

The Highlands (over 800,000 acres) represents a nationally leading regional land use planning and management model, and has some of the strongest regulatory protections in the country, including a minimum 88 acre density and 300 foot wide stream buffers in the forest preservation area, including prohibitions on extension of water and sewer infrastructure into the preservation area.

And while NJ Highlands forests don’t enjoy the “forever wild” constitutional protection of NY’s Adirondack Park forests, these are HUGE and warrant emphasis.

They also illustrate the implications of the corruption Ketcham exposes. It is vitally important to connect these dots.

The same conservation groups taking the money to advocate “bogus arguments” also actively undermine regulatory approaches in favor of corporate friendly voluntary and market based policies.

2. The next phase of funding this corruption will be so called “carbon sequestration” and carbon credit and trading markets.

NJ law allocates millions of dollars of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) revenues to carbon sequestration”.

Billionaire Peter Kellogg already has a carbon credit generating plan and participates in a private carbon trading market at Hudson Farm.

During a recent presentation to the Smith Forestry Task Force, DEP stated that they are developing carbon credit and trading schemes to promote sequestration.

Activists need to start opposing these shams NOW.

3. Kellogg also funded DEP and Conservation groups in a “retreat” (junket).

[Update – here’s my note to Senator Smith and his Forestry Task Force:

Dear Senator Smith and Forestry Task Force:

Given the ongoing deliberations of the Forestry Task Force, I thought this national story about NJ forestry policy would be of significant interest, see:

Forests Are Being Destroyed and ‘Nature Lovers’ Are Helping

The article highlights the NJ roots of the vision of Benton MacKaye (regional planner and father of the Appalachian Trail), and laments and explains how that vision has been corrupted.

Sadly, the analysis transcends forestry policy and applies to virtually every aspect of climate and environmental policy.

Please take this information under advisement as you deliberate on forestry policies and legislative initiatives.


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Biden’s Pathetic Gaslighting On Fake New Deal-Like Rural Initiatives

August 18th, 2022 No comments

This is not nearly FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps or Resettlement Administration

This morning, my email in box was polluted by this propaganda:

First of all, it was an EPA Press Release, which only serves to further politicize EPA and undermine public trust in the Agency. Bad idea.

Secondly, I can only assume that it is part of a coordinated Democratic mid-term electoral political campaign – in the wake of Biden’s “Inflation Reduction Act” (IRA) “victory” – to assume the mantle of Democratic support for rural America. (the “outdoor recreation” rural “bait and bullet” crowd is solidly Trump Republican, so this couldn’t possibly be a political appeal to them).

This is a very cynical ploy.

But a little known and under-reported fact is that the IRA did include significant new resources and investments in agriculture that will benefit rural America.

But those subsidies are a very far cry from anything remotely like FDR’s New Deal rural and agricultural programs under the New Deal agencies such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Resettlement Administration.

In a painful irony, some of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) programs Biden announced in that press release are exactly the programs I recommended that Biden should have used to leverage Senator Manchin BEFORE he killed climate programs in Biden’s watered down version of the Green New Deal he dubbed “Build Back Better”.

The Biden IRA is not remotely equivalent to Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal, particularly in terms of beneficial rural and agricultural policies.

As such, Biden and the Democrats are gaslighting liberals and progressives who originally supported the Green New Deal (and are “outdoor recreational” people who go “rural” (fly over country) in a similar fashion that they used to describe “slumming”).

So, I’m calling bullshit on all that.

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Intense Local Opposition Growing To Murphy DEP Approval Of Rural NJ Warehouse Development

August 18th, 2022 No comments

Local Perspectives Opposing DEP Approvals Ignored By Media

DEP Has Been “Invisibilized”

We’ve been trying to expose the DEP role and regulatory authority in the warehouse sprawl issues for years now.

Those efforts have proven fruitless. The warehouse issue has been narrowly and falsely portrayed as a local “home rule” land use issue.

So instead of repeating all that, we thought we’d reprint a verbatim local official’s opposition to DEP’s approval of a proposed waster quality management plan amendment that would allow development of the huge proposed Jaindl warehouse in rural White Township, Warren County:

Program Interest No. 435437, Activity No. AMD210001

NJ Department of Environmental Protection
Division of Watershed Protection and Restoration
Bureau of NJPDES Stormwater Permitting and Water Quality Management
PO Box 420, Mail Code 501-02A
501 East State St.
Trenton, NJ 08625-0420

Dear Mr. Mahon,

My name is XXXXXXX and I am concerned about where Jaindl wants to build these warehouses.

I am concerned about the potential negative impacts to the Delaware River and the Buckhorn Creek and area’s drinking water wells from the proposed groundwater sewage disposal system planned. These proposed warehouses are going to be built on top of very porous karst rock formations so, over time, that sewage could reach the river or well water supply. Stormwater runoff too, which typically has motor oil, antifreeze and heavy metals, could also reach the Delaware River or groundwater.  There were photos shown at the DEP Public Hearing on August 5th showing underground streams flowing from under this property into the Delaware. And those photos were taken during a drought!

White Township, approximately 20 years ago, requested to remove all farmland in the township from the sewer service area to protect land from intense overdevelopment from industry and residential/commercial units. The DEP made a deal with the township allowing the sewer service to be removed from the majority of the township as long as sewer service was kept on the Route 46/water St corridor from Belvidere to Buttzville along the Pequest River. This goes against the agreed upon sewer service area between the township and DEP when the amended sewer map to remove most of the sewer service area was created. The entity who purchased this property and is applying for sewer knew at the time of purchase that there was no sewer service which would limit intense overdevelopment such as being proposed. Other industrial sites throughout White and Harmony township have been used such as leaf mulching operations, quarries, gravel pits, sludge processing which didn’t require sewer service. The township residents also knew this was not in the sewer service area, so intense overdevelopment like this wasn’t on the radar. This property also lies within the Warren County Agriculture Development Area (ADA) which encompasses productive agricultural lands that have a strong potential for future production in agriculture, is reasonably free of suburban and conflicting commercial development, has high class farm soils, and compatibility with comprehensive county and state plans. The county ADA is largely free of sewer service on farmland except for a few parcels that most likely had sewer service before the ADA was created. The state ADA guidelines recommends not having water and sewer systems in the ADA, and does not have proximity or accessibility to major highways and interchanges. The County ADA exempted large areas of Greenwich, Lopatcong, Pohatcong, and Alpha due to sewer service, the state plan wanting these areas to be development and the proximity to Route 78 interchanges. Allowing sewer service for intense uses in a remote parcel such as this goes against all state planning guidance. By allowing expansion of sewer service in the ADA, this creates a precedent whereby developers will continue to try to add more sewer service and high density development to the ADA areas. There are plenty of areas outside the ADA with sewer service that can be developed. An example in White Township is this, in October 2014, the Fratezi farm Block 51 Lot 4 was denied an addition to the County ADA to be eligible for farmland preservation because the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) because of the sewer service area that the parcel was in. This property is identified as part of the White Township Farmland Preservation plan as properties for future preservation. Regardless of zoning analysis, this property at one time was zoned Residential in either 1.5 acre or 3 acre building lots. Perhaps that zoning is a better fit than the industrial zone since massive sewer systems won’t be needed for low density residential development. Zoning can be changed at any time, as we see time and time again its changed in the developers favors for things like affordable housing. Over the last several decades the state has lost so much farmland there are very few towns in the outlying Northwestern and Southern counties that are completely rural. There is high density development and warehouses scattered everywhere with the pressure getting greater. The state is quickly running out of land to develop leaving behind any trace of rural areas to more high density housing and warehouses leading to even more pollution.

The state planning commission warehouse siting rules and recommendations states that in the NJ Highlands, large areas of prime farmland are at risk for warehousing. These guidelines recommend Highlands area warehouses be placed in areas that have sewer service areas, are close to highway access points, this site would take a 15 to 20 minute drive thru rural winding two lane roads to reach the highways. The recommendations also state that warehouses should not significantly affect or eliminate the region’s prime farmland or farmland soils.

Pumping 30,000 GPD of sewage will eventually reach the river through those same underground streams. Even if the levels of nutrient pollutants in that sewage are below state water quality standards like Jaindl said, it is still a new source of pollutants that should not be allowed to reach the river, the Buckhorn Creek or our wells. The river has Special Protection Waters status. How will new pollution impact the river? The Highlands Act and state Green Acres program has done extensive preservation and protection of the Buckhorn Creek. This sewer project has the potential to damage and destroy the Buckhorn Creek. There is an imaginary line dividing the Highlands Planning and Preservation area where the one side protects the Buckhorn Creek since we need to protect the water for drinking purposes down stream. That imaginary line also has the planning area where there is less restrictions. Perhaps the DEP needs to reevaluate the Highlands Act to further protect the water once these rivers and streams enter the planning area.

Approving this Sewer Service Area will put the drinking water supply at risk, especially when the Wellhead Protection Area expands from the increased well pumping (40,000 GPD) to meet the site’s water needs.

I kindly request NJDEP deny this permit and not allow sewer service expansion that goes against all sound planning and environmental regulations.

We’ll keep you posted, but expect another DEP rubber stamp approval.

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