Archive for February, 2023

NJ Audubon Now Offering Tax Avoidance And Estate Planning Consulting And Calling It “Changing The World”

February 27th, 2023 No comments

This Is Conservation Under Leadership Of A Former Exxon Mobil Hack

Avoid Taxes, Protect Your Assets, Update Your Will

Sorry, but I was so disgusted by this email I just received from NJ Audubon that I had to call it out.

This is about as far from a “conservation” mission as an organization can get – call it “mission creepy”.

I guess that’s the kind of “conservation” you get from an organization led by a former Exxon Mobil hack. Don’t say we didn’t warn you (and this should be obvious now after NJ Audubon supported the DEP BASF NRD deal and the pro-logging Forestry Task Force recommendations):

The tax avoidance advice comes from a group that feeds deeply at the government trough and constantly lobbies Congress for more funding that they benefit directly from in the form of government grants. (and they even form fake front groups to provide fundraising platforms to secure federal and Foundation funding and launder money through, just check out the “Coalition for the Delaware Watershed”)

“How much gets taken out in taxes?” they ask.

They urge their member to “be the change you wish to see (psst!, your estate plan can help)”. Right.

And they use a visual of a black family to boot.

The email was titled “Start here to change the world”

Here are the screen shots so you can see for yourself:

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Baseline Conditions For Upcoming DEP Environmental Justice Regulations – The View From Harding Township, NJ

February 25th, 2023 No comments

New Jersey’s Landed Gentry Live Here, And At Taxpayer Expense

A New Twist On “How The Other Half Lives”

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At the heart of NJ’s “historic” (Gov. Murphy’s term) environmental justice law is a radical concept involving what some might refer to as “Marxist”, “divisive”, and promoting “class warfare” (and some other’s would frame the issue as  the 99% versus the 1% – like our friends at Workers Strike Back).

The law is designed to address and remedy disparities and disproportionate public health and environmental impacts between the environmental conditions in poor and minority communities as compared to wealthy white communities.

Here’s how the EJ law expresses that comparison: (emphases mine)

the department shall, after review of the environmental justice impact statement prepared pursuant to paragraph (1) of subsection a. of this section and any other relevant information, including testimony and written comments received at the public hearing, deny a permit for a new facility upon a finding that approval of the permit, as proposed, would, together with other environmental or public health stressors affecting the overburdened community, cause or contribute to adverse cumulative environmental or public health stressors in the overburdened community that are higher than those borne by other communities within the State, county, or other geographic unit of analysis as determined by the department pursuant to rule, regulation, or guidance adopted or issued pursuant to section 5 of this act, except that where the department determines that a new facility will serve a compelling public interest in the community where it is to be located, the department may grant a permit that imposes conditions on the construction and operation of the facility to protect public health.

We hereby nominate Harding Township, NJ as the baseline conditions, under the Act’s standard:

“other communities within the State, county, or other geographic unit of analysis”

The Murphy DEP is about to adopt proposed regulations.

The methods and standards in those proposed regulations don’t come close to enforcing the comparative burden established by the EJ law (more on that to come – but here’s the kind of table you won’ see DEP publish. DEP tried that once by comparing air toxics in Paterson versus Chester. DEP suppressed those data and findings). See:

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So today, instead of providing additional criticism of both the law and the DEP regulations, we thought we would repost some photos to illustrate “what’s goin’ on”, see:

Over and out (for now).

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“Young Forest” Logging Scam Exposed

February 24th, 2023 No comments

Superb Op-Ed Explains The Fraudulent Campaign Now Underway In New Jersey

DEP Mismanaging NJ’s Forests 

Laura Oltman has a superb Op-Ed in today’s NJ Spotlight. Frankly, I am quite surprised that NJ Spotlight agreed to publish it. Perhaps they are feeling some guilt for their biased coverage.

Laura does a fine job of writing to explain exactly what’s going on, a story we’ve been documenting and writing here for years now. Read the whole thing, which I reprint in full below without permission!

When clear-cutting masquerades as conservation

The forestry industry is greenwashing an initiative that claims logging is inherently beneficial to forests. Don’t fall for it


In a recent article by Colleen O’Dea regarding Sparta Mountain, Sharon Petzinger of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection described a forest management project on publicly owned land. It was initiated by New Jersey Audubon and the state DEP to create habitat for a single bird species, the golden winged warbler, by clear-cutting large areas of mature forest.

This project has proven to be highly controversial, not only over the debatable likelihood of such a project succeeding, but also over the decision to destroy the mature forest ecosystem, without regard to the needs of many other forest-dependent species in equal peril. It also ignores any of the benefits and ecosystem services this forest provides, such as carbon sequestration, flood control and clean water.

The article states that the project covers 10 acres. That does not describe the entire project, only the most recent “canopy opening,” to use the term from the management plan, which began in 2017 under the Christie administration and has continued under the Murphy administration. It will be carried out on 200 acres and was originally proposed to cover 700 acres. Although Gov. Murphy is using millions of dollars of federal funding to create urban and suburban forests, his DEP has continued to cut downmature highlands forests that were supposed to be preserved.

Unmanaged management plan

There is another problem with the “management plan” at Sparta Mountain and other publicly owned land.  It is almost entirely unregulated by the DEP or any other agency of government.  Forestry and logging are agricultural activities and thus exempt from a number of major pieces of legislation that otherwise protect the environment, such as the Highlands Act and the Flood Hazard Control Act.  Instead of 300-foot stream buffers protecting C1 water from the encroachment of the heavy machinery removing vegetation and trees, there are no stream buffers required for logging operations.  There are no protections for steep slopes, so stormwater runoff after removal of trees is allowed to pour unchecked into waterways below.  There is no requirement that water quality not be degraded by logging operations.  There is only an out-of-date manual of “best practices” that is merely suggestions and not regulations.  It is unenforceable as well as being inadequate in comparison with the regulations from which logging is exempt.

Don’t be fooled that these types of “management” projects will only be used on Sparta Mountain and in limited and exceptional circumstances, such as habitat creation for rare species. There is pending legislation that would require forestry management plans for all publicly owned, forested lands over 25 acres in size.  The forestry industry is selling logging as being inherently beneficial to forests by itself, without the need for some special project as justification. Industry, through the auspices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has created a marketing campaign called the Young Forest Initiative to greenwash logging as a means to re-invigorate forests by cutting down most of the trees, with new growth being somehow better for every reason possible. The NJ DEP considers the ideas promoted by the Young Forest Initiative, as well as habitat restoration for single migratory species without regard for all native wildlife, to be a valid “conservation purpose” that is allowable on publicly owned land purchased with Green Acres funding.

No hearings, no notices needed

No public hearings or notices are required for approval of logging because it is all done under the rules for private property owners seeking tax abatement for agricultural use of their land.  Voila!  Under the soon-to-be-released New Jersey Forestry Task Force framework, all publicly owned land in the state is essentially available to the forestry industry to log for profit under the guise of a “conservation purpose.” I know this because I fought against exactly such a logging project that was allowed by the DEP and Green Acres at Roaring Rock Park in Washington Township, Warren County.  The project would have ultimately allowed 395 publicly owned, wooded acres on steep slopes, bisected by a C1 stream, to be logged for profit for the benefit of the township coffers. This is the real controversy.

Not only has the Young Forest Initiative — which is the “science” being used to justify the Sparta Mountain management plan — had its claims regarding the carbon sequestration abilities of smaller trees refuted (according to the U.S. Department of Energy, it will take 151 young oaks to store the same amount of carbon as one 40-foot oak tree) when it is applied to New Jersey’s Highlands forests, it fails to account for the importance of mature hardwood trees to the food web and as shelter for a multitude of animal species. Young forests promoted by this initiative are under 20 years of age, which is at or below the age that the oaks, hickories and elms that dominate the mature forests of Sparta Mountain begin to bear fruit- acorns and nuts. These nuts provide a key fall food source rich in calories, carbohydrates and protein for many species, including ruffed grouse, wild turkey and black bear.

The Legislature must create actual regulations for management of New Jersey forests, with public notice, hearings and recourse.  In the face of climate change and the governor’s declared goals for reducing carbon emissions, there is no reason to be clear-cutting acres and acres of mature trees in public forests.  The reason Roaring Rock Park was ultimately saved was not because of the DEP.  It was due to public pressure to stop.  The people don’t want logging of their forested parks.  It is as simple as that.

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“You Were Removed …. The Order Came From Above And I Don’t Know Who Originated It”

February 24th, 2023 No comments
The New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

The New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.  ~~~ Opening line from “The Trial”, by Franz Kafka

Orwell gets a lot of play lately, given our pervasive propaganda and censorship permanent war regime.

I don’t like to be dramatic, but this tale is closer to Kafka.

A true story, reported by David Wildstein of The New Jersey Globe

I’ve know the identified suspect, OLS manager and aid to the Senate Environment Committee Judy Horowitz for many years and always found her totally professional, so its hard to believe that she initiated this unilaterally on her own without direction from Chairman Bob Smith.

I’ve been a thorn in Smith’s side and called out his games many times, so I suspect that a recent embarrassing criticism was the straw that broke Smith (or Horowitz’) back – see this post for why:

Either it was retaliatory or it could have been a preemptive strike by Smith to block my awareness of his Forestry Task Force hearing this week.

Here’s the full text of The Globe story:

OLS seeks to ‘silence a political critic’ by removing him from agenda distribution list, activist claims

Longtime environmental watchdog was taken off list by ‘higher ups,’ email shows

By David Wildstein, February 23 2023 5:25 pm

An environmental watchdog and whistleblower has been removed from a public agenda distribution list by the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services that has sidestepped efforts to explain their decision for two days.

William Wolfe said he found out yesterday that he would no longer receive notices from the Senate Environment and Energy Committee in an email from Eric Hansen, the OLS senior research analyst who staffs the committee.

“You were removed from all the legislature’s distribution lists, I believe,” Hansen told Wolfe. 

“The order came from above, and I’m not sure who originated it.”

Hansen declined to discuss the issue with the New Jersey Globe.

“That’s above my pay grade,” he said.  “I have to pass you off to my supervisor on that one.”

But the supervisor, Judith L. Horowitz, the Environment, Agriculture, Energy, and Natural Resources section chief, has yet to respond to multiple calls and emails yesterday and today.

Wolfe, a former New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection official who headed the New Jersey Chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, says he’s been on the agenda distribution list for years.  The list includes activists, interest groups, journalists, and legislators.

“How can they blackball an individual?  Wolfe asked.  “(It) seems blatantly discriminatory and illegal to me and if I had a lawyer, I’d sue them.  Obviously, they seek to silence a political critic.”

The New Jersey Globe has contacted several senior OLS staffers but has not responded to inquiries.

All Wolfe wants is to get back on the distribution list.

“If they provide the public service, don’t they have to provide it to anyone who asks on an equal basis?” he wondered.  “How can they do that?  Is it legal?”

Wolfe was a DEP policy analyst from 1985 to 1995 when he was fired for disclosing a memorandum between then-Commissioner Robert Shinn and Gov. Christine Todd Whitman about high levels of mercury in the state’s freshwater fish.  Wolfe accused Whitman of failing to warn the public.

Following his dismissal, he worked for the New Jersey Sierra Club until Gov. James E. McGreevey’s administration asked him to return to the DEP in 2002.

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Powerful Clean Water Tools Were Totally Ignored In NJ Spotlight Delaware Watershed Story

February 23rd, 2023 No comments

Wm. Penn Foundation Funding Shaped Narrative And Content Of Reporting

Featured Voluntary Projects Are Dwarfed By DEP Planning And Regulatory Programs

In this post, I will explain the most important information that was totally ignored by the recent NJ Spotlight series on the Delaware Watershed.

As I’ve previously explained, the narrative, content and sourcing of that series was strongly shaped – almost dictated – by the Wm. Penn Foundation who funded it. It could have and should have been labelled “sponsored content”.

I also wrote about the several Statewide DEP water resource program data that NJ Spotlight failed to report, in favor of broad and vague fact free generalizations on land use and water quality by amateurs and political hacks (or self interested consultants who receive DEP and environmental group funding).

Part one today will focus on land use and water resources. In future posts I will focus in more detail on the toxic chemical and industrial pollution issues.

Some of the biggest environmental battles in New Jersey were about extension of sewer lines into rural and environmentally sensitive lands to promote sprawl development. The battles in Hopewell and Cape May County were among the highest profile and most significant.

The target of those battles was the DEP and their failure to enforce regulatory power to deny local Water Quality Management Plan (WQMPs) to map lands for sewer service and to extend sewer lines and septic systems for new development.

DEP powers under the Clean Water Act to limit the capacity of sewer plants also were targeted.

Later, environmentalists sought to limit sprawl development and protect water quality by focusing on protecting vegetated buffers around streams, lakes and rivers, particularly what are known as “headwater streams”.

Governor McGreevey, the Legislature, and the McGreevey DEP responded to these very effective environmental anti-sprawl and clean water campaigns.

The environmental community’s campaigns strongly influenced their policy and regulatory decisions, which were based on the specific planning and regulatory tools that environmental groups focused on.

Progressive local governments, like Hopewell (a Delaware River town), also adopted water resource capacity based land use Master Plans and zoning ordinances that strictly limited development and protected water resources.

The policies, regional planning, and regulatory tools they developed and implemented are powerful, but they were seriously weakened by the Christie administration and have not been restored by the Murphy DEP, despite a lot of press releases, slogans and faux environmental group cheerleading.

And all of this history and current practice was totally ignored and whitewashed by the NJ Spotlight series. All of it is Down The Memory Hole.

So, let’s go briefly in the weeds to illustrate prime examples.

The reason I do this is to provide information to the media and real environmental activists so that they can renew the kind of focused and powerful campaigns that won such huge prior victories and force the Murphy DEP to restore Christie DEP rollbacks and expand real regulatory protections. 

For those that prefer to work at the local level, I highlight the Hopewell water resource based Master Plan and zoning ordinances adopted under the NJ Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL).

This knowledge can help them avoid getting co-opted and diverted by Wm. Penn Foundation grant money

Broad public awareness, knowledge of the concepts, and focus on specific regulatory tools can help advance real protections and hold government accountable . A roadmap to concrete demands.

I)  The Highlands Act

The Highlands Act was based on a 2002 US Forest Service Study which found that continued reliance on local land use power under the MLUL and existing weak DEP regulations would allow excessive development that would destroy the remaining forest. That key USFS finding is reflected in the Legislative findings:

the existing land use and environmental regulation system cannot protect the water and natural resources of the New Jersey Highlands against the environmental impacts of sprawl development.

I repeat that key finding here because the myth of “local home rule” has been swallowed wholesale by media and environmental groups and virtually no one is working or focused on the “environmental regulatory system”.

The money and agenda of the Wm. Penn Foundation are distorting and even suppressing this reality.

The key land use/water resources protection tools of the Highlands Act are some of the strictest land use density limits in the country, which are based on what’s known as a “non-degradation standard” for groundwater. This density limit is established through a “septic density standard”. That standard is based on the phrase “deep aquifer recharge” (which I wrote and got inserted in the Act over the strenuous objections of both State Geologist Jeffrey Hoffman and DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell).

The Act also prohibited the extension of water and sewer lines to serve new development.

The Act also established 300 foot wide legislative buffers around all water resources.

The Act lowered the threshold for DEP issuing water allocation permits and required consideration of the  ecological impacts of water withdrawals and diversions.

The Act provided regulatory power to both DEP and the Highlands Council, including in the “Planning Area”, where the Act mandates that any development shallprotect[ing] the Highlands environment from the individual and cumulative adverse impacts”

NJ Spotlight reports NONE of this.

Instead, they falsely report that “loopholes” in the Highlands Act are the source of current sprawl and water resource problems.

They confuse a “loophole” with the core political compromise that was required to pass the legislation – i.e. dividing the Highlands region into a “Preservation Area” with regulatory mandates and a “Planning Area” where some local autonomy was retained.

While misinterpreting the core issue, they fail to report that there are actual “loopholes” in the Act (there are 15 “exemptions”, none of which are for warehouses as Spotlight falsely implied.) So again, readers were misinformed and diverted from real problems.

[Full disclosure: While at DEP in 2004, I worked on drafting the introduced version of the Highlands Act, Senate Bill #1. I had no knowledge of or role in negotiating all the compromises and exemptions that watered that bill down, including carve outs from the preservation area map. Curtis Fisher – then in the Gov.’s Office and now head of the National Wildlife Federation’s New England regional office – did most of that. People would be shocked to know that NJ Conservation Foundation met with DEP Jeanne Herb to secure carve outs and map amendments for the private properties of NJCF friends and contributors. If there are any investigative reporters out there, DEP planners Rick Brown and Bill Purdie, who did the maps, can confirm that. I think Marjorie Kaplan, who now works with Jeanne Herb at Rutgers, might have been in on some of the meetings as well.]

And more importantly, they fail to report that although some local autonomy was retained in the Planning Area, that both DEP and the Highlands Council have regulatory authority to block incompatible development (like huge warehouses on agricultural lands and along rural roads in Warren County).

The Act established strong goals for the Planning Area, including:

c. The goals of the regional master plan with respect to the planning area shall be to:

(1) protect, restore, and enhance the quality and quantity of surface and ground waters therein;

(2) preserve to the maximum extent possible any environmentally sensitive lands and other lands needed for recreation and conservation purposes;

(3) protect and maintain the essential character of the Highlands environment;

[(4) – (6)]

(7) promote conservation of water resources;


(9) …  discourage piecemeal, scattered, and inappropriate development, in order to accommodate local and regional growth and economic development in an orderly way while protecting the Highlands environment from the individual and cumulative adverse impacts thereof;

DEP water resource planning and permit regulations and the Highlands Regional Master Plan (RMP) provide regulatory power to enforce these goals. Failure to report this fact lets DEP and the Highlands Council off the hook.

Finally, NJ Spotlight failed to report that the Act created a process for Planning Area towns to conform local Master Plans and Zoning Ordinances to the strict standards in the Preservation Area:

(3) A component to provide for the maximum feasible local government and public input into the council’s operations, which shall include a framework for developing policies for the planning area in conjunction with those local government units in the planning area who choose to conform to the regional master plan;

The Highlands Council, local governments, and the Highlands Coalition have invested years of work on the local conformance process.

That effort has failed. Repeat: plan conformance has failed miserably and those responsible for those failures need to he held accountable.

That failure argues that local governments must be required to conform either via legislative amendment of the Act or via enhanced enforcement by the Highlands Council and the DEP to over-ride irresponsible local land use decisions.

If people were made aware of this failure by media and groups like the Highlands Coalition, then they could focus attention on legislative reforms and regulatory enforcement by DEP and the Highlands Council, echoing the findings in the US Forest Service Report and the Act I cited at the outset of this section.

In other words, the real and effective tools outlined above provide a roadmap on how to make concrete demands.

This post is already far too long and deep in the weeds, so we’ll end part one today here.

Future posts will focus on the following issues, again, all of which were ignored or whitewashed by the NJ Spotlight series.

(Teaser: Google the Milligan Farms and Windy Acres development battles for our next post).

II)  DEP Water Quality Management Planning Powers

III)  DEP Category One Stream Buffers

IV)  Clean Water Act Anti-degradation Policy and NPDES Permitting

V) Hopewell Township Water Resource Capacity Based Planning and Zoning

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