Archive for January, 2024

Murphy DEP Closes Forest And Blocks Public And Press From Viewing Logging Of Mature Highlands Forests

January 30th, 2024 No comments

No Observers And No Cameras Allowed

Sparta Mountain Logging Violates Standards Of DEP’s Own Forestry Plan

The last time the DEP logged a wildlife management area – the Glassboro WMA – a local environmental group photographed it and the NJ media published those damning photos and they generated huge public outrage. Take a look:

This time, in reviving the long running controversial logging of Sparta Mountain WMA, DEP is closing the forest and prohibiting any observers from monitoring and photographing the logging. Heres’ the DEP pretext for doing that: “significant safety concerns”:

NJ Fish & Wildlife regrets having to close the area. However, during previous management activities, spectators entering the work area and disregarding posted signs created significant safety concerns that result in the current closure during the entire work period. 

The DEP’s sham rationale to justify the logging has been discredited by many scientists and forest ecologists, see:

The DEP’s flawed justification for Sparta Mountain WMA logging is similar to the sham exposed by the clearcut of the Glassboro WMA: “habitat restoration”:

The purpose of the temporary closure is for a habitat restoration project that will open the forest canopy to allow for the growth of young oak and hickory trees, blackberries, sedges, and a variety of other native shrub and sapling plants. This habitat will become breeding and/or foraging habitat for numerous wildlife, including the 80 different bird species that have been observed using other sites of restored open-canopy forest on Sparta Mountain WMA.

We’ve been exposing the scientific flaws, regulatory gaps, and special interests pushing this DEP logging for many years, see:

In addition to all that, Silvia Solaun of NJ Forest watch notes that the logging violates DEP’s own forest management plan, which requires frozen ground to limit erosion and other adverse impacts to natural resources and water quality. Silvia wrote:

Dear Senator Bob Smith, Senator Linda Greenstein, and Mr. Gurrentz,

This announcement was just made yesterday despite the fact we have had significant rainfall and the ground is not frozen.  The FSP’s specially state that work must be done when ground is frozen but as usual, the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife are ignoring their own best  management practices.  This is just another example of bad FSP’s  and continual ignorance of true ecological management of public lands that we taxpayers paid to protect from development.

Now our our “NJ government” is destroying the public forests we paid to protect under the Highlands Act. This is unacceptable!

In fact, the ground is so soft that heavy logging equipment will surely cause significant damage to Highlands soils and the forest ecosystem services that our forests provide.  The area is also in a steep slope severely constrained area with Indigenous Archaeological significance. 

Please contact the NJDEP and the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife, Sharon Petzinger and others,  and state that logging should not occur in the Highlands Forests.  Below is the bulletin.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us above.

Thank you,

Silvia Solaun

Executive Director of NJ Forest Watch

In addition to the Senators, I urge people to contact DEP Commissioner LaTourette immediately and demand that he stop this logging and assure that DEP complies with the conditions of its own forest management plan. Hurry, logging starts on February 1!

It is outrageous that DEP provided just 2 days public notice before they plan to close the WMA and start logging!
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There Are Literally No Limits On Biden’s Impunity

January 30th, 2024 No comments

Biden Claims Power To Commit Genocide, With No Judicial Or Congressional Review

[Update – 2/3/24 – Like I said, there are no limits to Biden’s ability to conduct genocide. Federal judge dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction, based on the “political questions” doctrine (read the opinion). But there can be no politics, because Biden bypassed Congress. ~~~ end update]

Donald Trump once infamously said that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and get away with it.

Well, Joe Biden has just one upped him, and by a mile: Biden asserts that he can commit genocide and he can get away with it, i.e. his actions can not be reviewed or stopped by the US Courts or by the US Congress or by international institutions like the UN and the International Court of Justice.

According to the Biden Justice Department’s legal brief in response to the lawsuit by the Center For Constitutional Rights accusing the Biden administration of complicity in genocide, the federal courts have no jurisdiction to review his foreign policy decisions. That means that there are literally no institutional or legal limits on Biden’s powers to fund, to provide military aid to, and even to conduct genocide (and torture).

Biden also asserts the unreviewable power to violate treaties that have been ratified by the Senate.

When foreign political leaders like Victor Orban (Hungary) or Putin (Russia) or Erdogan (Turkey) assert Executive Power and take steps to eliminate the power or jurisdiction of the Courts, the US government (and media) immediately lambast them as authoritarians, tyrants, and dictators.

When foreign political leaders bypass, dissolve, or ignore their democratically elected Legislatures, US government calls them failed States or autocracies or banana republics.

When foreign governments violate international law or treaties, they are condemned and sanctioned for ignoring the “international rules based order”.

Biden has done all of the above and more:

  • He bypassed Congress to unilaterally provide military aid to Israel, including at a time when Israel was In The Dock , credibly accused of conducting a genocide in Gaza (with US weapons);
  • He vetoed UN efforts to impose a cease fire in Gaza and has since repudiated the International Court of Justice’s preliminary Order to force Israel to comply with the Genocide provisions of international law (and thereby violated the US mandatory duty under international law to prevent and punish genocide) and suspended humanitarian aid to Gaza.
  • Without Congressional or UN authorization, he bombed and made war on several countries, risking all out regional war with Iran, to protect commercial shipping.
  • And now, despite the fact that under the Constitution, treaties that are ratified by the Senate are the supreme law of the land, Biden, via his Justice Department legal brief, claims that US courts have no jurisdiction to review his actions to provide military aid – including not only complicity in but even the actual conduct of genocide (including torture).

Biden brief:

This suit raises quintessential political questions because Plaintiffs seek to have this Court superintend the Executive Branch’s foreign policy and national security judgment and compel the government to prevent Israel from purportedly committing genocide in Gaza. Under Corrie v. Caterpillar, Inc., 503 F.3d 974 (9th Cir. 2007), the case is nonjusticiable, […]

Even if the Court concludes that the case is justiciable and that the FTCA does not bar the requested relief, Plaintiffs still fail to show that the Court has the authority to recognize a new cause of action against the United States under the ATS for claims of failing to prevent, and of complicity in, genocide. Under the Supreme Court’s framework in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 542 U.S. 692 (2004), the serious separation-of-powers, foreign-policy, and national-security concerns implicated by Plaintiffs’ suit provide ample “sound reason[s]” for why the Court lacks such authority. Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC, 138 S. Ct. 1386, 1402 (2018) (citation omitted). […]

Plaintiffs seek to enjoin Defendants from providing military or financial assistance to Israel, including the sale or delivery of weapons and arms. Compl. at Prayer for Relief. They also seek to have the United States stop Israel from purportedly committing “genocide against the Palestinian people of Gaza”; from bombing and maintaining an alleged siege on Gaza; and from allegedly forcing the evacuation or expulsion of Palestinians from Gaza. Id. But “[t]he decision to provide military [or financial] support to a foreign nation is a quintessential political question.Abusharar v. Hagel, 77 F. Supp. 3d 1005, 1006 (C.D. Cal. 2014). In Corrie v. Caterpillar, Inc., a suit against a manufacturer of equipment paid for by the United States and used by the Israeli military, the Ninth Circuit held that “‘a determination of whether foreign aid to Israel is necessary at this particular time is’ . . . inappropriate for judicial resolution.”

Biden claims his military aid is a “political question” over which the Courts have no jurisdiction. But he bypassed the “political branch” (i.e. Congress) in making those decisions by invoking his “commander in chief” powers under Article II of the Constitution. Thus, he is acting unilaterally as a King.

And the Biden brief added insult to injury, by questioning the reality of the “alleged”Israeli murders and by denying any responsibility – any – for the genocidal murder being conduced by Israel using US weapons, US military support, and billions of dollars of US taxpayer money:

Finally, Plaintiffs lack standing as their alleged injuries are the result of the military and other activities of an independent foreign sovereign over which this Court has no authority.

Does anyone recall the universal condemnation of the Bush administration’s “torture memos” by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo?

Biden has gone well beyond that, and he’s being cheered by US media and liberals.

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Louisiana Federal Court That Struck Down EPA’s “Cancer Alley” Environmental Justice Program Relied On The “Major Questions” Doctrine

January 28th, 2024 No comments

This Decision Is Another Example Of Radical Corporate Strategy To “Dismantle The Administrative State”

Court Rules That EPA’s “Disparate Impact” And “Cumulative Impact” EJ Reviews Not Authorized By Congress

Biden EPA Admits That EJ Policy Is A Voluntary Toothless Sham

“Disproportionate Impact” Versus “Discriminatory Intent”

Environmental and social justice activists are calling a federal Court decision that blocked EPA’s environmental justice program in Louisiana’s “cancer alley” a disaster: (Bloomberg Law)

“The court’s decision to issue this injunction is bad enough, but what’s worse is that instead of fixing the discriminatory permitting programs that have created sacrifice zones like Cancer Alley, Louisiana is fighting tooth and nail to keep them in place,” Sam Sankar, Earthjustice’s senior vice president of programs, said in a statement.

The Court ruled that EPA’s “disparate impact” and “cumulative impact” regulatory review requirements – the scientific foundations of the EPA’s environmental justice program – were not specifically authorized by Congress. The Court invoked the “Major Questions” doctrine to block EPA’s enforcement of its Environmental Justice program.

This decision is a perfect example of exactly what I warned about, just the day before that decision came down, including the case I cited. I wrote:

The Supreme Court is poised to reverse a longstanding but little understood judicial doctrine known as “Chevron deference”, a doctrine that interprets and applies the Constitution’s fundamental structure and forms the backbone of administrative law and virtually all government regulation of corporate power and interventions in market decisions. (They already set the stage last year by striking down an EPA climate regulation in West Virginia v. EPA, which included a new radical “Major Questions” doctrine. More about all that later).

Here are excerpts from the Court’s opinion with respect the the Major Questions Doctrine (@page 67 – emphasis mine):

The State maintains that [EPA] regulations also fail under the major questions doctrine. The major questions doctrine demands “‘clear congressional authorization’ for the power [the government] claims” when the question posed is a “major” one. West Virginia v. EPA (2022)…

The State argues that the issue of Defendants’ authority to impose disparate-impact mandates (1) is a “matter of great political significance,” (2) seeks to regulate a significant portion of the American economy,” and (3) “intrud[es] into an area that is the particular domain of state law.” West Virginia, at 2620-21 (Gorsuch, J., concurring) ...

“The Court agrees with the State that the major questions doctrine is applicable here as to the imposition of disparate impact mandates under Title VI and as such, demands clear congressional authorization. Here, the issue is whether Congress in fact meant to confer the power these agencies have asserted—to impose disparate impact liability under Title VI. The Court finds that this is an extraordinary case, of economic and political significance. Defendants have constructed Title VI to allow it to regulate beyond the Statute’s plain text and by doing go, invade the purview of the State’s domain. Common sense dictates otherwise. Accordingly, Defendants motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedures 12(b)(6) and Rule 56 will be denied.

This decision, if appealed by the Biden Department Of Justice, will likely be welcomed and accepted by the US Supreme Court as part of their radical strategy to “dismantle the administrative state”.

I strongly doubt that the Biden administration will appeal this decision, but not because they are concerned about it going to the Supreme Court to set a new precedent on the Major Questions doctrine that I fear.

The Biden people won’t appeal because they don’t support their own Environmental Justice policy.

First of all, the Biden EPA withdrew the threatened enforcement action against Louisiana last June: (@ page 8)

Also on June 27, 2023, OECRC issued a letter to LDH administratively closing EPA Complaint No. 02-22-R6, stating that “[a]s a result of its administrative closure, EPA will not initiate under Title VI or other civil rights law any further action, enforcement or otherwise, in response to this Complaint.”

Second, the legal arguments by the Biden DoJ reveal that the EJ policy is toothless and all political rhetoric. The Court’s decision is full of examples of where the Biden EPA admits that they withdrew the enforcement case against Louisiana and that the EPA “disproportionate impact” and “cumulative impact” reviews are voluntary and toothless:

  • “[EPA] contend that the closed complaints disavow these documents as binding because the State faced no obligation to obey the complained-of “extra regulatory requirements.” (p. 52)
  • “[EPA] argue[s] that EPA guidance documents are not binding rules, regulations, or orders, and nothing in those guidance documents equate to a binding requirement on the State.” (p. 52-53)
  • “Defendants [EPA] contend that the cover letter concerning the Objection was not a mandatory requirement, but a reminder by the EPA of the LDEQ’s civil rights obligations.(p.53)

This case also follows a legal strategy we saw during the Trump administration, whereby State Attorneys General from conservative Republican States would coordinate legal strategy to attack progressive reforms, particularly environmental regulations, see NY Times:

Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year.

They share a common philosophy about the reach of the federal government, but the companies also have billions of dollars at stake. And the collaboration is likely to grow: For the first time in modern American history, Republicans in January will control a majority — 27 — of attorneys general’s offices.

Last year, the Union of Concerned Scientists documented how these coordinated attacks focus on climate related issues:

Each of the states—Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas—have sustained billions of dollars in climate change-related damage. Regardless, their AGs routinely collaborate on lawsuits and other actions to attack federal environmental safeguards, especially those designed to mitigate the impact of global warming. Why? At least partly—if not largely—because the AGs and their political organization, the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), receive substantial financial support from fossil fuel companies, electric utilities, and their respective trade groups.

Since then,  the strategy has just gotten more blatantly obvious and more aggressive:  Republican-led states sue EPA over expanded powers to block polluting projects

Dec 5 (Reuters) – A group of 11 Republican-led states and energy industry groups have challenged a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule that bolsters state and tribal veto power over pipelines and other major infrastructure projects that might pollute rivers and streams.

In my new series on “Dismantling The Administrative State”, I had planned to lay out background materials before getting into the specifics.

But this case came along out of the blue and it so perfectly validated my concerns that I felt obligated to jump the gun and write about it today, before getting to the larger framework.

More to follow.

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Murphy DEP Pinelands Road Plan: Enviro’s Surrender And The ATV Crowd Wants More

January 26th, 2024 No comments

DEP Plan Calls For Over 200 Miles Of Roads In 123,000 Acre State Forest In The Pinelands

Pinelands Preservation Alliance Folds And Backs The DEP Plan

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(Caption: Source: Bill Wolfe, see: Anarchy In The Pines)

The Orwellian hacks at the Murphy DEP – an Agency led without objection from environmentalists by former corporate polluter lawyer Shawn LaTourette, DEP’s first Commissioner who served as a corporate lawyer – just revived a zombie off road vehicle promotional program – previously called the Motorized Access Plan – and renamed it the  “Visiting Vehicle Use Map”.

As if “visitors” to a State Park in a federally protected “National Reserve” and a State legislatively protected and UN designated Biosphere Reserve have any reasonable expectation of driving 4 wheel drive vehicles around in the woods.

The DEP is trying to normalize a “visit” to a State forest as including a jeep ride through the woods.

Park visitors have a reasonable expectation of driving on roads to access specific recreational areas: trailheads, beaches, river fishing and canoe access, campgrounds, picnic areas, etc.

Park visitors have reasonable expectations to hike trails, canoe rivers, swim in lakes, find solitude, smell the flowers, listen to the birds and squirrels and the wind blow, and observe and photograph plants, landscapes, and wildlife.

But they don’t have a reasonable expectation to simply cruise around the woods in monster 4 wheel drive vehicles, especially not in the federally and State protected, strictly regulated, ecologically unique, and sensitive Pinelands forests. And we know from long experience that some fraction of those “visitors” will drive off roads and destroy sensitive lands (and we also know that DEP lacks the resources and resolve to strictly enforce, punish, and deter violations).

(Source: NJ DEP from the wetlands section of the road plan)

(Source: NJ DEP from the wetlands section of the road plan)

I can understand the leaderless and totally politicized DEP to cater to the ATV/ORV crowd, but it is mind blowing that the Pinelands Preservation Alliance – their mission is in their name – to support a DEP road plan, and not only to support it, but the spineless bastards even called for even more “visitors” in vehicles and even more DEP road maintenance!

More visitors means more damage: more DEP road maintenance means more visitors and higher speeds and thus more risk to other passive users and destruction. What the hell is PPA thinking?

And the cowardly PPA Executive Director Carleton Montgomery made his fine staffer Jason Howell deliver that compromise!

Watch the NJ TeeVee coverage and see that!

Jason has done outstanding work to educate the public on the destruction of the Pines by ATV, ORV and other motorized uses. Jason took me on this tour of destruction, see:

(*of course NJ Spotlight followed PPA’s compromise and misled readers by favorably portraying the DEP plan as “limiting” vehicle use instead of legalizing and promoting it!)

I gave Carleton Montgomery a piece of my mind and you should too:

Carleton: I was very disappointed to see Jason on NJ Spotlight news supporting the DEP road plan and calling for even more “road maintenance” and more vehicles in Pines forests (especially after all of Jason’s superb work on this issue).

It sure appears that PPA has elevated public access over PPA’s preservation and conservation objectives (and surrendered to the political power of try ATV crowd).

I have not followed the details of this DEP planning process, but in addition to opposing the DEP policy and objectives, I would doubt the science behind the DEP’s plan. So, I would encourager you to consider this study of regional road density network and conservation values.

Did DEP (or the Pinelands Commission) do anything remotely like this analysis in their road network “planning process”? See:

Density Analysis Using Weighted Metrics Sensitive to Landscape Conservation Effects

Do better.


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We’re Shifting Focus Here To Try To Explain What The “Dismantling Of The Administrative State” Would Mean To Daily Life

January 23rd, 2024 No comments

Little Awareness Of The Looming Threats Of The Likely Confluence Of The US Supreme Court’s Rejection of the “Chevron” Doctrine And The Trump-Heritage Foundation’s “Project 2025″

“the end of the environmental movement – and protection – as we have known it”

A Series Of Dispatches From The Regulatory Policy Weeds

Project Introduction:

For the past 15 years, we’ve focused here primarily on NJ State level environmental, land use, and energy/climate policy, with a critical focus on DEP, the Governor, the Legislature, media, and environmental groups.

We’ve brought an insider’s expert understanding to those issues, and have striven to puncture the spin and falsehoods the Trenton crowd and their media enablers and corporate donors traffic in.

I’ve also woven in photos, including posting many landscape shots from the last 7 year long epic western roadtrip.

I recently ended that awesome roadtrip and settled down in Philadelphia, a drastic change I’m still reeling from.

In my floundering and recalibration, I’ve been rethinking what I’m doing with my life, including the writing here at Wolfenotes.

I’ve been searching for a new project and thinking of shifting focus.

It’s pretty hard to justify my small bore focus at a time when the world is literally burning, ecosystems are collapsing, the Biden administration is pursuing a proxy war in Ukraine and supporting a genocide in Gaza, and Trump has captured the Republican Party and is likely to be re-elected in November.

A Trump re-election would consolidate power and institutionalize at the federal level what amounts to the current fascist cultural forces and political climate. (If you think that’s Joe Biden partisan Democratic Party spin or hyperbole, listen to this and visit the academically curated website: New Fascism Syllabus’ “Interrogating The Present”:

But not many people realize that behind Trump’s buffoonery and fascist rhetoric lies not only expanding movements by White Christian Nationalists and heavily armed militia’s, but competent law firms, think tanks, and corporate financial and political power and scientific, legal, and policy expertise.

The latter factions – not generally recognized as “Trumpers” or identified as part of the Trump electoral base – have put their cards on the table and outlined exactly what they would do with federal power in a Trump second term. They did this in a Report recently issued by The Heritage Foundation, the libertarian, right wing, corporate think tank.

A second Trump administration would not be a repeat of the bumbling, incoherent, and incompetent Trump first term.

The Heritage Foundation Report is aptly titled “Project 2025″ – it would be a demolition project, something I very broadly overviewed in this post:

(more about that later)

At the same time that the Heritage Foundation has crafted the radical policy agenda for the next Trump administration, the US Supreme Court is laying the legal doctrine and foundation to enable this radical agenda to be realized.

The Supreme Court is poised to reverse a longstanding but little understood judicial doctrine known as “Chevron deference”, a doctrine that interprets and applies the Constitution’s fundamental structure and forms the backbone of administrative law and virtually all government regulation of corporate power and interventions in market decisions. (They already set the stage last year by striking down an EPA climate regulation in West Virginia v. EPA, which included a new radical “Major Questions” doctrine. More about all that later).

So, we have three massive and radical right wing projects simultaneously converging:

1) a Trump re-election, backed by billionaire and corporate money and his heavily armed and violence prone base;

2) a radical new doctrine of administrative law supported by a radical right wing corporate super majority on the US Supreme Court; and

3) a competently crafted radical corporate policy agenda which is explicitly designed to end civil service, install loyal political hacks in positions of power, politicize science, and dismantle the administrative state.

Bill Neil, my good friend, a true organic public intellectual and writer – I urge you to go and read his work over at Substack – suggested that the combination of these forces would result in “the end of the environmental movement – and protection – as we have known it” (I stole Bill’s title, with his OK).

More broadly, I’ve warned that it would result in the “dismantling of the administrative state”.

This convergence comes at a time when the climate catastrophe, accelerating and expanding ecological collapse, and rising inequality, homelessness, economic opportunity, and diminishing health and social welfare are creating a culture of despair that requires a massively reenergized government project, beyond even Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal.

So just at the time when the problems become insurmountable without a competent and robust government initiative, the political and legal reality are stripping government of the capacity to respond.

It will be the objective of this project to break all this down and to try to explain exactly what this means for daily life.

I’ll do that with a post every week or so that drills down on the details of both Chevron doctrine and Project 2025, and links them to changes in not only public policy and regulation, but impacts on daily life.

The implications of a Trump second term are terrifying and I see little public awareness, media coverage, climate and environmental group understanding and substantive engagement, or political appetite to respond to this slow motion train-wreck that is rapidly accelerating.

I see no one connecting these obvious dots.

We will work to try to change that.

[Update #1: 1/27/24 – Some progress here (Jeff St. Clair at CounterPunch)

+ The Heritage Foundation’s “Project 2025” policy brief for the Department of the Interior calls for reinstating oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, expanding the Willow project from three to five drilling well pads, and opening up nearly all of the 23-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to oil/gas leasing and development.

[Update #2 – 1/29/24 – more progress, but does not included “Project 2025″ and legal analysis is limited to Chevron, not the “Major Questions” doctrine:

[Update #3 – 2/2/24 – Paul Street’s piece today at CounterPunch mentions Project 2025.

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