Archive for February, 2024

Billionaire Paul Fireman’s AstroTurf Sham “Foundation” To “Develop” Liberty State Park Now Threatens All State Parks

February 28th, 2024 No comments

Gov. Murphy Quietly Signs Law Creating Statewide “Parks Foundation”

Law Provides An Institution To Solicit Dark Money And Inject Private Influence Over The Management Of State Parks

Corrupt Pay-To-Play Now Infects All NJ State Parks

AstroTurf – falsely made to appear grassroots

an astroturf campaign/group

When successful, Astroturf efforts resemble actual community mobilization efforts. They create the impression that local people are engaged in the effort and doing the things that traditional community organizations do.

NJ media have properly exposed, editorialized, and condemned the scheme by billionaire Paul Fireman to create a sham astroturf “Foundation” to develop and commercialize Liberty State Park.

Fireman created and funded a sham “Foundation” and used that Foundation as the vehicle to dupe the public and inject his private financial interests into Legislative and DEP policy decisions concerning the management of Liberty State Park.

The Fireman “Foundation” was a classic dark money pay-to-play scheme.

As a result of the media coverage, that scheme is now common public knowledge and the media exposure has effectively shamed and derailed Fireman’s project, at least for now and until the heat dies down.

This is exactly what good journalism can and should do: protect the public interest and expose the self-serving schemes of private special interests.

So, given how rightly appalled the media was about Fireman’s sham Liberty State Park “Foundation” and how this “Foundation” was so transparently an astro-turf vehicle to solicit dark money, dupe the public, and inject private influence over the management of State Parks, how is it possible that that same media has totally ignored legislation recently signed into law by Governor Murphy that is based on the Fireman’s Foundation model (and it expressly targets and includes Liberty State Park)? See:

The new “State Parks Foundation” Gov. Murphy just created (with help from Democrats in the Legislature) is a blatant pay-to-play scheme (no pun intend).

The Foundation membership is composed of private interests.

The Foundation is given powers to solicit unlimited private funding, to design parks projects, and to dedicate funding to those projects it designed and raised funds for.

NJ State Parks have a $720 million unfunded maintenance backlog, so DEP’s desperation for money will mean that anything the Foundation wants it will get approved by DEP.

The Foundation is not subject to NJ Open Public Meetings Act, so the public can be shut out of Foundation deliberations and planning and Parks funding decisions.

The Foundation is not subject to NJ’s Open Public Records Act, so the public will not have access to documents, funding sources, park plans, and meeting deliberations and decisions.

The Foundation is not subject to NJ’s ethics laws so there will be gross conflicts of interest, a virtual invitation for pay to play schemes.

The Foundation is not subject to NJ’s campaign finance and disclosure laws, another invitation for the corrupt influence of dark money.

Yet the NJ media has not written one story about this law! (to my knowledge).

How can this be?

How can this kind of corruption go unreported?

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Murphy DEP Ramping Up Destruction Of NJ Forests

February 27th, 2024 No comments

DEP Uses Twisted Climate Logic To Justify Burning And Logging NJ Forests

DEP Has Declared PreEmptive War On NJ Forests


Despite a failed legislative initiative by Senate Environment Committee Chairman Smith to reform NJ DEP’s flawed forest management policies and practices based on credible forest ecological and climate science, DEP is plowing ahead with an expanded program to burn and log NJ’s forests and is using sham climate justifications, scare tactics, and slogans to do so: (NJ DEP press release today):

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Forest Fire Service’s annual prescribed burning program is ramping up as part of a proactive strategy to mitigate the risk of more frequent and intense wildfires in a changing climate…

“Prescribed fire not only fosters resilience and diversity in the landscape, but also helps to safeguard our communities,” Commissioner LaTourette said. “By executing planned prescribed fires throughout New Jersey’s wooded areas, we are limiting the risk of a catastrophic release of carbon during a wildfire.”

In addition, DEP is launching an expanded public relations and propaganda effort to “educate” the public who oppose these destructive DEP projects – the arrogance is stunning:

As part of that plan, a new online information portal is designed to help the public understand and reduce fire risk, Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette announced today.

This garbage comes from an Agency who has refused to act to truly prevent damaging wildfires by restricting new development and retrofitting existing development in DEP mapped high wildfire hazard areas, see:

DEP has produced no NJ based peer reviewed studies and data to support DEP’s alleged justification to “limiting the risk of a catastrophic release of carbon during a wildfire”.

DEP has no forest carbon storage and sequestration monitoring data or methodology to quantify carbon implications of either controlled burns or wildfires. Their analyses are purely theoretical and lack science and data support, see:

DEP fails to consider the environmental impacts of – including on air quality – and the risks of accidental wildfires caused by their “prescribed burn” program. There is no environmental impact statement that analyzes the program or unintended ecological impacts, see:

Its all speculative bullshit, see:

The DEP can act with impunity, because: 1) the Legislature eliminated liability for damages caused by a prescribed burn; 2) DEP does not have to comply with any permit requirements or environmental standards, including public participation (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts and web portals don’t cut legal mustard); and 3) the DEP has co-opted and has the support of some conservation groups, see:

I again demand that Legislators conduct oversight, but given Senator Smith’s failed forestry reform effort, I don’t expect even the courtesy of a reply:

Dear Legislators – Please conduct oversight hearings on these DEP plans. Allow the public to participate in DEP decisions that are destroying our forest resources. Force DEP to justify their “management” with site specific (NJ) science, conduct an open planning process with formal public participation and judicial review, and respond to public comments.

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Time For NJ To Exit The PJM Regional Grid And Create An Independent Public Power Authority

February 27th, 2024 No comments

Study Documents Extensive Backlog And Long Delays In Connecting Renewable Energy Sources To The Grid

Climate Emergency, High Costs, And Dysfunctional PJM Control Of Grid Demand PJM-EXIT

NJ Spotlight today reports on an important energy industry study of the PJM regional grid – the findings include outrageous backlogs in connecting renewable energy sources to the PJM grid, including years of delay, read the whole thing:

Spotlight didn’t provide a link, and a Google couldn’t find it, so it may not be posted yet but I did find this summary: 

Currently, the interconnection process in many regions is broken and complex, leading to lengthy wait times which causes renewable energy developers to withdraw projects. The country is split into many interconnection regions. The electric grid across the mid-Atlantic and rust belt regions is run by an independent entity called PJM. In the PJM region alone, there are currently 2,700 projects stuck in the interconnection process. 95% of these projects are clean wind, solar, and storage projects that are essential to meet states’ clean energy laws.  

And here is a link to a similar 2022 Report.

This is intolerable, given the climate emergency.

It is impossible for NJ to meet its climate, energy, environmental justice, clean air and economic goals under PJM grid control

NJ must control its own destiny – the case for a PJM-EXIT is compelling.

I fired off this letter to Legislators and climate and environmental leaders – I urge readers to make similar demands:

Dear Chairman Smith:

Today’s reporting by NJ Spotlight on a study of PJM performance, particularly with respect to grid connection for renewable energy sources, by Advanced Energy United is deeply troubling, see:

The AEU Report provides a strong and credible technical basis for NJ legislators to revive the proposal to leave PJM and establish an independent NJ grid.

An independent NJ grid would enable NJ to control and realize its energy policy, particularly with respect to carbon, climate, air quality, environmental justice, and aggressive renewable energy goals and to do so much more efficiently, more expeditiously, and at much lower costs than under PJM control.

Such NJ climate and energy goals and policies can not be realized under the current PJM controlled grid.

PJM is a private corporate entity with its own agenda, its own objectives and its own expertise. PJM decision-making is not transparent and it does not allow for effective public participation. PJM is not accountable to NJ residents or policymakers (i.e. the NJ legislature, NJ BPU, or NJ DEP). The PJM’s objectives often conflict with and undermine NJ’s climate and energy policies.

At the same time, it would reduce costs to NJ consumers, particularly given numerous excessive PJM related charges such as “capacity payments” and cost allocations of regional transmission infrastructure.

NJ can no longer tolerate the delays and high costs of the PJM grid, particularly given the climate emergency.

I strongly urge you to hold legislative hearings on crafting legislation to terminate NJ’s participation in PJM and establish its own public independent energy agency.


Bill Wolfe

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Did Murphy DEP Abandon Plans To Delist Bald Eagle? Or Is NJ Conservation Foundation Corrupt?

February 26th, 2024 No comments

NJCF Article Ignores The Bald Eagle Delisting Issue

Should I Declare Victory Or Denounce NJCF?

[Update: We have a quick response from Alison Mitchell of NJCF:

I wasn’t aware of this – thanks for letting me know.

That’s her full response. No regrets for getting played by DEP PR scheme. Wow. ~~~ end update]

Just 6 days ago (Feb. 20), based on a quote from DEP buried in what appeared to be a NJ Spotlight cover story, we warned that DEP was planning to delist the bald eagle from the DEP’s endangered species program, and urged people to get the word out and nip this bad idea in the bud, see:

So, I was shocked to read a February 15 piece by Alison Mitchell of NJ Conservation Foundation (NJCF) this morning that did exactly the opposite.

NJCF touted bald eagle recovery, but failed to mention anything about DEP’s delisting plans, see:

So, logically, this egregious omission of DEP’s delisting plans could mean only one of 2 things:

1. NJCF is running cover for the DEP delisting plan by laying the same “good news” on recovery groundwork as NJ Spotlight did, to justify the DEP’s delisting.

There are two possible variants of this option:

a) they could be running this cover intentionally, (this total corruption is unlikely); or

b) they could be unaware of the DEP delisting plans and are being used by DEP to provide cover for it (this less corrupt option is likely).


2. NJCF somehow knows that DEP has abandoned the delisting plan.

This is unlikely given the timing, i.e. NJCF published on February 15, five days before the delisting plans were first reported by NJ Spotlight.

I sent Alison Mitchell, NJCF Co-Director and author of the piece an email to ask her why she failed to report the DEP delisting plans and if she somehow knows that DEP abandoned it.

We’ll let you know if she replies (doubtful) and what she had to say.

I urge readers to reach out to Alison and ask the same question – here:

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Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette Is Misleading The Public About The Environmental Justice Law And PVSC Fossil Power Plant

February 23rd, 2024 No comments

DEP Falsely Implies Environmental Justice Law Applies To The Power Plant

DEP Falsely Claims The Power Plant Project Is A Local Issue

During a very friendly NJ Spotlight TeeVee news interview (David Cruz’s “Chat Box”),Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette misled the public about two key issues regarding the proposed Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s back-up fossil power plant (the discussion on PVSC starts at time 9:20).

In fact, the interview was so friendly and pro-DEP, that at one point Cruz interjected to “disclose” his personal interest and make a disclaimer that he was “not speaking for DEP”.

Let me highlight just 2 issues where Commissioner LaTourette misled people and effectively lied (by omission)

1) The PVSC Proposed Back Up Power Plant Is NOT a “Local Issue”

First of all, in a blatant attempt to evade his responsibility, Commissioner LaTourette pointed the finger at PVSC and falsely claimed that the project was a local issue: (time 10:25)

There is only one entity that will decide if that project moves forward – that entity is the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission. … The 48 municipalities that make up PVSC, they’ll decide whether or not they wish for the DEP to continue to evaluating the permit that has been put before the Department. ….. What is important is that we understand that this is a decision that is locally made.

I call complete Bullshit on that.

DEP has direct and comprehensive statutory and regulatory supervision, oversight, and final binding legal power over virtually all facets of the PVSC’s operations.

In fact, the PVSC proposed back up power plant is designed to comply with DEP’s own regulatory mandates under the Clean Water Act’s NPDES permit program.

Specifically, NJ DEP regulations require that PVSC have and Operations and Maintenance Plan, an Emergency Plan, a “vulnerability analysis”, and a backup power source to respond to emergencies, including storms and floods: (see: NJAC 7:14A-6.12  Operation, Maintenance and Emergency Conditions)

The DEP also has additional broad statutory and regulatory authority over the design, construction, and operation of the proposed power plant under DEP’s clean air act permitting program. (see NJAC 7: 27)

The PVSC power plant can not be planned, financed, engineered, built, or operated without multiple DEP explicit approvals.

This is NOT a local issue and Commissioner LaTourette, as a licensed lawyer, know that and so should be ashamed of his gaslighting.

2) The “Historic” Environmental Justice Law Does NOT Even Apply To The PVSC Proposed Power Plant

Commissioner LaTourette made this highly misleading and partially false statement  (time 11:30)

There is one thing that you can be absolutely certain of, is that I will apply …. the spirit and intent of the environmental justice law. That means that any environmental permit can not allow any disproportionate impacts upon this already overburdened community.

LaTourette is a lawyer so he knows there is a huge difference between the “spirit and intent” of a law and whether the law actually applies to an activity, sets standards, and authorizes DEP to regulate that activity.

Notice that he did not say he would apply or enforce “the letter of the law”.

The “spirit and intent” of the EJ law does not give DEP authority to regulate the PVSC power plant under that EJ law.

The “spirit and intent” of the EJ law does not give DEP authority to regulate to prevent “disproportionate impacts” – and LaTourette knows that.

As I’ve written here many times, for several reasons, the Environmental Justice law does not apply to the PVSC permit applications now before DEP, see:

As I more recently wrote, DEP just issued major amendments to the current PVSC air pollution permits and did not apply the environmental justice law to those permits. In fact, DEP took steps to cover up those loopholes and prevent the people of Newark from knowing that, see:

The Associated Press reported on how DEP is evading this issue:

Proposals to build backup power plants for the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s treatment plant in Newark and for NJ Transit, the state transportation agency in nearby Kearny, are also still pending. Both have been hotly opposed by residents of neighboring communities.

The DEP did not respond to questions Monday on whether the environmental justice law will apply to those projects.

Murphy signed the law in September 2020, saying it would give the state the ability to deny permits for polluting projects in communities that already have more than their share.

But the bureaucratic process of writing the actual regulations and conferring with interested parties delayed full implementation of the law until Monday — a fact that has angered residents living nearby.

Who will force DEP to make a statement on the record to clarify this issue?

Commissioner LaTourette should be ashamed – especially as a lawyer – for gaslighting the public on these issues.

[End Notes:

1. This is not the first time DEP misled the people of Newark on the review of this permit or the enforcement of the EJ law, see:

2. In terms of DEP’ power under existing law that does apply (other than the EJ law, which does not apply) the scope of DEP’s power with respect to “disproportionate impacts” under the Clean Air Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights haw has been adjudicated by the federal Circuit Court of Appeals in a Camden case, a decision that reversed a favorable decision by District Court Judge Orlofsky.  DEP must show more than “disproportionate impact” – they must prove discriminatory intent. A federal District Court Judge just made the same decision with respect to Title VI (prove discrimination, not just “disparate impact”) and went further to rule that EPA lacked authority from Congress toe even regulate environmental justice:

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.

3. In terms of DEP’s legal power to apply and enforce a “disproportionate impact” standard, I am not aware of any environmental law, other than the EJ law which does not apply, that authorizes DEP to regulate “disproportionate impacts”.

As I wrote, over 20 years ago, US District Court Judge Orlofsky wrote a scathing opinion that criticized the DEP air permit process and found that it violated the civil rights of the people of Camden, see: South Camden Citizens v. NJ Dept. of Environ., 145 F. Supp. 2d 446 (D.N.J. 2001) (emphases mine):

As described in greater detail in this Court’s Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law set forth below, the NJDEP granted the necessary air permits to SLC to allow its proposed facility to begin operations. In doing so, the NJDEP considered only whether the facility’s emissions would exceed technical emissions standards for specific pollutants, especially dust. Indeed, much of what this case is about is what the NJDEP failed to consider. It did not consider the level of ozone generated by the truck traffic to and from the SLC facility, notwithstanding the fact that the Waterfront South community is not currently in compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (“NAAQS”) established by the EPA for ozone levels, nor did it consider the presence of many other pollutants in Waterfront South. It did not consider the pre-existing poor health of the residents of Waterfront South, nor did it consider the cumulative environmental burden already borne by this impoverished community. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the NJDEP failed to consider the racial and ethnic composition of the population of Waterfront South.


Nothing has changed in the DEP air permit process since Judge Orlofsky wrote that.

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