Archive for March, 2023

May They Reap The Whale Wind

March 30th, 2023 No comments

Political Opportunists, Faux Green Populists, And Duped Climate Activists

And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom; ….

They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off. ….

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind:  …

For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah hath multiplied fenced cities: but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof. ~~~ Hosea 1; 8

Longtime investigative reporter Bob Hennelly has an interesting take and overview today on the off shore wind – whale controversy, a debate I’ve called “reaping the whale wind”.

I spoke to him briefly yesterday afternoon. I got the sense that he had already written his piece and was just checking in for my take on the issue. I was glad to see that he included PEER’s work in his reporting, as PEER has long been working on ocean ecology and right whale issues and I have high regard for that work (support PEER’s petition).

As a thoughtful person with a long history of working on environmental issues, Bob seems to have intellectually framed this issue as another example of the failure of capitalism, technology, and industrial development to consider long term environmental implications – and that government downplays risks, misleads and lies to the public, and fails to regulate powerful corporations – a perspective that is implicit in his reporting. Of course I strongly agree with that perspective, but that intellectual worldview has very little to do with the current controversy, which is fabricated by political hacks and opportunists.

Read the whole thing, it’s pretty comprehensive;

NJ Spotlight’s daily email tells me that a newly formed group will protest today at the State House:

Offshore wind opponents led by the group Protect Our Coast NJ will rally outside the State House today to urge Gov. Murphy to stop offshore wind development until the cause behind recent whale strandings is determined.

What frauds.

I’ve tried to steer clear of this swamp, but here are my quick thoughts on Bob’s piece: may they all “reap the whale wind”:

1. Anti-wind sources are not credible

Some of the sources are highly suspect.

Van Drew is clearly playing opportunistic, partisan, and dangerously right wing politics. I’ve called them Tea Party 2.0. “Town Hells”.

Van Drew is a hypocrite too – look how he played a similar game when he SUPPORTED the South Jersey Gas Pinelands pipeline: (Press Of Atlantic City, 2/24/17)

State Senator Jeff VanDrew released a statement of his support, saying opponents had threatened him.

“I want to thank the [Pinelands] commissioners who voted to approve the [pipeline] project. They had the courage to do what they thought was right, despite the threats to their safety and harassment they endured during this tumultuous process,” said VanDrew. “This type of intimidation, which was also directed at me, is deplorable.”

He would have more credibility if instead of cherry picking a single NOAA document, he actually had some history of concern or leadership in protecting whales and the environment or fighting climate change, instead of backing massive new fossil infrastructure projects (and supporting the commercial fishing and shipping industries and shore real estate development interest, while attacking government regulatory protections).

Cindy Zipf is a political partisan hack.

Why do opponents target just one (HIGHLY UNLIKELY) RISK to whales when so many other DOCUMENTED CAUSES like boat strikes and fishing gear are ignored, and more fundamental ecological collapse dynamics (i.e. temperature, currents, acidification, nutrient pollution, overfishing) and shore overdevelopment are ALL IGNORED?

The opponents have ZERO CREDIBILITY.

The cynical strategic political game Senator Booker and the Democrats are playing might even be worse.

They are trying to catch the wave of public revulsion of whale deaths and outflank the Republicans FROM THE FAUX POPULIST RIGHT.

Biden has done that recently with border security and national security (war in Ukraine).

US politics are like Humpty Dumpty – all the Kings Horses and all the Kings Men…..

2. What If …. Total Failure By Coastal Groups Contributes To the Current Catastrophe

I’ll mention just 2 examples of the total failure of coastal groups today (I could write a very long post with dozens).

The coastal groups failed to support the original proposal for a NJ Coastal Commission (my friend and former head of NJ Audubon conservation work Bill Neil can tell you that story, going back to the Kean Administration).

More recently, the same coastal groups failed to support renewed legislation that would have created a Coastal Commission in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, see:

Those same groups also failed to support the bill that was enacted into law in 2008 that established a science based Coastal And Ocean Protection Council. Had that Council been in place, we would have far better scientific understanding of ocean ecosystems, including whales and wind, see:

3. The Real Problem Is Not Wind Technology: Murphy’s Off Shore Wind Program Is Flawed

Some opponents correctly criticize the Murphy off-shore wind program for excessive public subsidies to foreign corporations.

But again, these people are opportunists and lack credibility, because these problems can be solved by public investment and public ownership. But they would NEVER SUPPORT PUBLIC POWER.

Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal recommended that the existing Federal Power Authorities be repurposed for renewables – EVERYONE IGNORED ALL THAT!

  • Reaching 100 percent renewable energy for electricity and transportation by no later than 2030 and complete decarbonization of the economy by 2050 at latest – consistent with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change goals – by expanding the existing federal Power Marketing Administrations to build new solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources. …
  • Transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to 100 percent energy efficiency and sustainable energy by 2030 at the latest. The New Deal provided inexpensive electricity to America through efforts like the Rural Electrification Administration and the Federal Power Marketing Administrations. If the federal government was able to electrify America under FDR without computers or any of the modern technologies we have available to us today, think of what we can do today. Municipal and cooperative electric utilities still provide some of the least expensive electricity in the country today. As part of the Green New Deal, we will expand on that success.
  • Build enough renewable energy generation capacity for the nation’s growing needs. Currently, four federal Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) and the Tennessee Valley Authority generate and transmit power to distribution utilities in 33 states.We will create one more PMA to cover the remaining states and territories and expand the existing PMAs to build more than enough wind, solar, energy storage and geothermal power plants. We will spend $1.52 trillion on renewable energy and $852 billion to build energy storage capacity. Together, with an EPA federal renewable energy standard, this will fully drive out non-sustainable generation sources.
  • We will end greed in our energy system. The renewable energy generated by the Green New Deal will be publicly owned, managed by the Federal Power Marketing Administrations, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Tennessee Valley Authority and sold to distribution utilities with a preference for public power districts, municipally- and cooperatively-owned utilities with democratic, public ownership, and other existing utilities that demonstrate a commitment to the public interest. The Department of Energy will provide technical assistance to states and municipalities that would like to establish publicly owned distribution utilities or community choice aggregation programs in their communities. Electricity will be sold at current rates to keep the cost of electricity stable during this transition.

Public power is the answer.

Instead, we have the corporate profit driven Wall Street financed Murphy off shore wind program.

Finally, a point that can not be over-emphasized and that I’ve written here many many times: climate activists who support the Murphy program also seriously miss the boat.

The Murphy program does NOT require that wind generated power displace fossil fuel generated power.

Instead, it integrates wind with natural gas. From an energy planning perspective, wind will serve demand growth for electricity (as the economy is electrified), so we will get MORE greenhouse gas emissions, not less.

Climate activists are being duped by Murphy.

Yes, may they all reap the whale wind.

[End Note: I am a constant critic of the DEP. But in this case, in several email discussions on this issue, I praised DEP for issuing a science based statement on March 15.

However, DEP waited far too long to issue this statement and it came far too late, long after the faux debate had been framed.]

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March 29th, 2023 No comments

Not only is there but one way of doing things rightly, there is only one way of  seeing them, and that is, seeing the whole of them’ John Ruskin, 1859.

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Exhibition: John Ruskin – The Power Of Seeing

Sights Wandering The Road

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Pinelands Commission Staff Held A Private Meeting With Mining Industry Lobbyists – That Meeting Led To Rollback Of Water Regulations

March 28th, 2023 No comments

Staff Repeating Same Industry Capture Abuse As Under Christie Pipeline Fiasco

Wittenberg (R) Grogan (L)

Wittenberg (R) Grogan (L)

Former Pinelands Commission Executive Director Nancy Wittenberg and her staff got so close to lawyers and lobbyists for the South Jersey Gas Pipeline that she was called out publicly by Commissioner Lohbauer in the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“There was a degree of closeness between the applicant and staff that went beyond the neutrality appropriate to a review process,” said [Pinelands Commission Chairman] Lohbauer, a lawyer. ~~~ Philadelphia Inquirer (1/26/15) 

Wittenberg’s Assistant at the time and successor current Executive Director Susan Grogan is repeating those same corrupt practices. Here’s the story:

I recently learned that the Pinelands Commission proposed to exempt the mining industry from new water allocation regulations designed to protect sensitive Pines ecology, see:

The Commission made it appear that this decision to exempt the mining industry was based on written comments submitted by the mining industry during the legally prescribed “notice and comment” rulamaking procedure.

Here is how the decision was explained in the February Management Report:

  • Water Management (Kirkwood-Cohansey): The Commission adopted a resolution at its February 10, 2023 meeting authorizing re-proposal of the CMP rule amendments with substantial changes in response to public comment. The re-proposal notice will be submitted to the Office of Administrative Law in early March for publication in the New Jersey Register

Did you get that? The re-proposal with substantial changes was made in response to public comment”.

The Commission staff repeated this false claim that the decision to make substantial changes was made “during the public comment period”. They did it not only in the Monthly Management Report, but in a formal regulatory document.

Here’s how the Pinelands Commission staff explained this decision to exempt the mining industry in the proposed “substantial changes” document:

The Commission is proposing three substantial changes to the amendments in response to comments received. During the public comment period on the original notice of proposal, the Commission received comments expressing concern regarding the impact of the proposed amendments on the resource extraction industry in the Pinelands Area.

The claim that the substantial changes were proposed in response to comments received “during the public comment period” is a factually false statement. False. False. False.

The public comment period closed on November 5, 2022. But the staff met with the mining industry AFTER the public comment period was closed (see staff’s statement on when this meeting occurred below).

And now take a look at how they obscured what the “substantial changes in response to public comment” actually meant (i.e. bureaucratic terms for rollback) in the  Commission’s public Agenda for the February 10 meeting. Based on this language, the public would have no idea what was really going on:

CMP Amendments

To Authorize the Acting Executive Director to Propose Substantial Changes Upon Adoption to the Proposed Amendments to the Comprehensive Management Plan Related to Water Management in Accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act”

The  NJ Administrative Procedure Act requires government agencies to provide public notice, hold public hearings, and allow for public comment on proposed rules. The Act requires the government agency to respond in writing to every public comment submitted, and it guarantees that all written comments and government responses are open public records available to all.

That rulemaking procedure thereby assures “due process”, transparency, and government accountability. Everyone has equal access to the government agency and everyone has access to and works off the same information.

The government agency’s role in this public comment period on proposed rulemaking – after the rule is proposed – is passive: i.e. the agency provides public notice and holds an open public hearing and listens to and receives written public comments. Everyone has exactly the same access to the government agency and the same information.

Government agencies don’t actively select and go out and privately meet with groups or individuals that have economic interests in the proposed rule.

Private meetings obviously are not allowed or a part of this rulemaking procedure because secrecy is anathema to due process, transparency, and accountability. And private meetings can lead to corruption and industry capture.

But, upon more detailed investigation, I now learn that the Commission’s decision was not based on comments received during the legally mandated rulemaking procedure. Instead, the decision was actually based on a private meeting with mining industry representatives. That meeting occurred AFTER the close of the public comment period and there are no public records on this meeting.

I first learned of this improper meeting by digging in the weeds. Buried in the staff briefing “packet” provided to Pinelands Commissioners before each meeting, which is posted in an obscure link on an obscure Commission website, I found this explanation for the exemption of the mining industry, which was provided by staff to the Commissioners: (link to packet)

After discussion of the changes with the P&I Committee at its November 2022 meeting, staff met with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the aggregate industry to gather further information on the water allocation permitting process and regulation of water quality.

It is not clear if there were one combined DEP/Mining industry meeting or two meetings. That fact alone is important. Also, notice that this explanation does not identify who was at these meetings, who said what, and what information was discussed. Therefore, the public has no way of knowing what the actual factual basis is for the staff’s decision to exempt the mining industry. The mining industry and the Commission staff are not held accountable to science, facts, and public review. There is no transparency and no accountability.  The mining representatives could have been handing out $100 bills at this meeting, for all we know (I am not alleging they did).

The meeting with the mining industry was held AFTER the public comment period closed.

Given this abuse, I wrote the following protest letter to the Pinelands Commission:

Dear Pinelands Commission:

Please accept these public comments on the Commission’s rulemaking procedures on the recent “Kirkwood-Cohansey water rule” to amend the CMP.

I request that these comments: 1) be provided to the full Commission, 2) be considered as public comments during and incorporated in the minutes of your next meeting; and 3) included in the administrative record of the subject rulemaking and contemplated substantive changes to the original proposal.

The Commission’s rules to amend the CMP (i.e. original proposal, or “Kirkwood-Cohansey water rule”) were proposed on September 6 and the public comment period closed on November 5

After the close of the public comment period, the Commission admits that it met with DEP and the mining industry regarding impacts of the proposal. This meeting generated information upon which the Commission somehow decided to substantively amend the original proposal. This meeting occurred after the close of the public comment period on the rule proposal.

The minutes of the Commission’s February 14 meeting state:

“After discussion of the changes with the P&I Committee at its November 2022 meeting, staff met with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the aggregate industry to gather further information on the water allocation permitting process and regulation of water quality.”

I find this meeting highly improper

The Commission staff selectively met with just one specific interested party that was impacted by the rule. This existence and substance of this meeting were not conducted “on the record” and a formal part of the subject rulemaking. The public had no opportunity to participate in or to be made aware of and rebut the mining industry’s arguments.

It also appears that the Commission made a highly substantive legal and regulatory policy decision to defer to the DEP water allocation regulations to address overlapping issues implicit in the subject CMP original rule proposal. Additionally, this deference to DEP appears to be part of the basis for the substantive change change to exempt the mining from the subject original proposal. Yet that basis is not specifically stated in the Commission’s response to comments and as the basis for:

Notice of Proposed Substantial Changes Upon Adoption to Proposed Amendments

As such, this staff level decision is not transparent, lacks any articulated basis, was not preceded by policy guidance from the Commission, and there was no prior public notice and comment opportunity.

This is a violation of fundamental due process and transparency and may violate the rulemaking procedures under the NJ Administrative Procedure Act.

Please provide the legal basis in the NJ APA the Commission relies on for authorization of this kind of procedural maneuver.


Bill Wolfe

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This Is What A Conflict Of Interest Looks Like

March 27th, 2023 No comments

NJ Audubon Provides Conservation Cover For Sale

Sure Looks Like BASF Bought Influence

Source: NJ Audubon Annual Report (2021, page 17)

Source: NJ Audubon Annual Report (2021, page 17)

The screen shot above is from NJ Audubon’s Annual Report (2021), just a portion of page 17.

Note that BASF (highlighted in green) gave more than $1,000 to NJ Audubon –  we do not know the total amount – could be $10,000 or $100,000 or even more.

Just to the right and down a row we find a similar contribution from Exxon Mobil Corp., who just so happens to be the former employer of the current CEO of NJ Audubon, Mr. Alex Ireland.

It looks like BASF got a return on investment for that donation.

Mr. Ireland of NJ Audubon praised the BASF settlement with the Murphy DEP – a sweetheart deal that has been harshly criticized by the Mayor, Council, and people of Toms River NJ. (NJ DEP Press Release – 12/5/22):

“New Jersey Audubon enthusiastically supports this use of Natural Resources Damages to create forests and parks in Toms River,” said Alex Ireland, President and CEO of New Jersey Audubon. “Conversion of sites like this into safe, publicly accessible forests and parks should be the model for other similar sites throughout the state, and especially in our urban areas. NJDEP and BASF have worked together to clean up and restore a contaminated area for residents to enjoy. This project is particularly significant in that the funding is going directly back to the community that experienced the damages from contamination.  New Jersey Audubon is glad to see that habitat for wildlife and birds will be protected and enjoyed by so many in upcoming years.”

Did you get that?

NJ Audubon “enthusiastically supported” the BASF deal – despite the fact that it was condemned by the people of Toms River.

That NJ Audubon praise got national media attention – and there was no disclosure of any BASF contribution:

Alex Ireland, president and CEO of New Jersey Audubon, similarly praised the agreement for sending funding “directly back to the community that experienced the damages from contamination.” (E&E News, 12/6/22)

Local media printed the quote as well:

The announcement drew praise from environmental advocates immediately Monday.

“New Jersey Audubon enthusiastically supports this use of Natural Resources Damages [settlement] to create forests and parks in Toms River,” said Alex Ireland, President and CEO of New Jersey Audubon.

Ireland supported the BASF deal, despite the fact, that as far as I know, NJ Audubon never did any work on the Ciba-Geigy (BASF) site and lacks any staff expertise in toxic site cleanup issues.

Support, despite the fact that I doubt whether Alex Ireland ever set foot in Toms River.

But NJ Audubon did receive a confidential briefing before DEP announced the deal publicly – a courtesy DEP did not provide to the Toms River community and local government.

So what could explain all that?

Sure looks like a corrupt pay-to-play scheme to me.

Regardless, it is a gross and undisclosed conflict of interest and needs to be called out.

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Murphy DEP Used Military Funds To Purchase A “Forestry Excavator”

March 27th, 2023 No comments

DEP Expanding Capacity To Log State Forests

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This is the final post of my series on military influence on and funding of NJ DEP forest management.

There is growing public awareness and opposition to the purchase and deployment of military equipment by local police forces, see:

The federal government arms local police forces in the United States with weapons of war. A program called “1033,” for the section of the act that created it, allows the Department of Defense to give state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies military hardware. Since its inception in 1996, nearly 10,000 jurisdictions have received more than $7 billion of equipment. This includes combat vehicles, rifles, military helmets, and misleadingly named “non-” or less-lethal weapons, some of which have featured in police raids and police violence against protesters, including recent protests for racial justice.

Well, it looks like something similar is happening to NJ DEP.

DEP just spent $129,000 of Department of Defense funds to purchase a Forestry Excavator”. That is functionally a weapon of war on NJ forests.

Incredibly, the “forestry excavator” was purchased by DEP’s “Bureau of Climate Resilience”.

Why would the NJ DEP need a forestry excavator?

Obviously, to log NJ forests!

This is highly revealing and exposes DEP’s lies about their “forestry management” and “climate resilience” programs.

This is totally unacceptable.

Forestry excavator (Source: Google images)

Forestry excavator (Source: Google images)

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