Archive for April, 2024

Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette Dismisses Climate Regulation As A “Magical Mandate”

April 30th, 2024 No comments

In Response To A Direct Question, LaTourette Can’t Defend Murphy Record

Evasion, Obfuscation, Spin, Gaslighting & Flat Out Falsehoods

Earth Day Fairy Tales

The commodification of American culture, the commodification of human beings, whose worth is determined by the market, as well as the commodification of the natural world, whose worth is determined by the market, means that each will be exploited by corporate power until exhaustion or collapse. Which is why the economic crisis is intimately linked to the environmental crisis.

Societies that can not regulate capitalist forces – as Marx understood – cannibalize themselves until they die. ~~~ Chris Hedges (@ time 38 minutes)

 NJ Spotlight interviewed Murphy DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette on Earth Day last week, and in an unusually long 10 minute interview, posed some surprisingly skeptical and pointed questions, see:

When NJ Spotlight is skeptical, then your bullshit spin and gaslighting are wearing extremely thin and credibility is in the toilet.

So, I want to drill down on a few critical issues that were obscured in Commissioner LaTourette’s continuing gaslighting.

First, after a brief introduction, at time 1:35, NJ Spotlight asks about DEP’s review and policy on pending gas plants:

Where do you see us in the next 10 years, because there are pending proposals for new natural gas plants to come on line. What’s your stance on that?

LaTourette totally evades the question and spouts slogans, prompting NJ Spotlight to interrupt his bullshit with another pointed question: (at 2:47)

What does that mean? What does that look like?

LaTourette again evades the question, and goes on to praise the “fossil fuel generating sector” for their efforts to transition to clean energy!

He then advocates “slowly transitioning off of fossil gas”.

Get that? He supports a “slow transition” in the face of a climate emergency and severe criticism for the slow pace of the Murphy Administration and DEP’s efforts to make that transition.

How out of touch is that?

He then deploys a disingenuous red herring about “flipping a switch” to stop the current use of natural gas – which no climate activist is advocating.

After twice evading the question about pending gas power plant projects, and then deploying a misleading red herring, LaTourette exposed his true views on the role of DEP and regulations with this extreme dismissal of DEP regulatory responsibilities:

There are no mandates that are magically going to get us to these points.

DEP regulations are now smeared – by the DEP Commissioner himself – as “magical mandates”.

That’s not the first time that LaTourette has attacked and undermined the regulatory functions and responsibilities of his own agency. With his professional background in corporate law, those ideological anti-regulatory views are the coin of the realm.

For decades, corporations and the Republican right have attacked environmental regulations with slogans, from “Soviet Style Command and Control Regulation” to “job killing bureaucratic red tape”.

This corporate anti-regulatory PR campaign goes back to the infamous Powell Memo – “Attack On American Free Enterprise System”(1971).

This strategy memo is highly revealing, and, given its focus and attack on the University, should be read in its entirety, particularly given the revival of the college campus. I’ll limit my take here to excerpts that attack regulation and regulators: (emphases mine)

No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack.*  …

There always have been some who opposed the American system, and preferred socialism or some form of statism (communism or fascism)

… those who eschew the mainstream of the system, often remain in key positions of influence where they mold public opinion and often shape goveramental (sic) action. In many instances, these “intellectuals”  end up in regulatory agencies or governmental departments with large authority over the business system they do not believe in. […]

There seems to be little awareness that the only alternatives to free enterprise are varying degrees-of bureaucratic regulation of individual freedom – ranging from that under moderate socialism to the iron heel of the leftist or rightist dictatorship.

We in America already have moved very far indeed toward some aspects of state socialism as the needs and complexities of a vast urban society require types of regulation and control that were quite unnecessary in earlier times. In some areas such regulation and control already have seriously impaired the freedom of both business and labor and indeed of the public generally.

That corporate ideological campaign has evolved and is now manifest as an even more radical extreme project to “dismantle the administrative state” entirely, see:

Getting back to the LaTourette interview, when pressed by questions on the proposed Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s (PVSC) gas power plant in Newark, he again gaslighted and flat out lied.

He evaded the question about DEP review. He misleading called the project a local project and downplayed DEP’s regulatory role. He lied about the application of the environmental justice law, see:

Finally, in his most blatant and significant lie, LaTourette claimed that he had imposed a cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector: (time 6:45):

We have placed a cap on carbon emissions from electric generating units, statewide.

That is flat out false.

I assume that LaTourette was referring to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). (The DEP’s power sector CO2 rule sets lax emissions rates, not caps on emissions).

If so, he lied because the RGGI program is a cap and trade program, not a hard cap on emissions. LaTourette is a lawyer and he knows that.

Furthermore, the RGGI program does not apply to or include all electric generating units, but only a subset of power plants that generate power supplied to the grid.

It does not apply to methane emissions or fossil energy imports.

The RGGI program represents less than 20% of NJ’s total greenhouse gas emissions and has had little or no impact on CO2 emissions from NJ’s power sector.

Finally, the Murphy DEP did not design the RGGI program or establish the quantity of or allocation of CO2 emission allowances that constitute what Latourette falsely calls the emissions “cap”, so DEP did virtually nothing more than rejoin the RGGI program that Gov. Christie exited from.

The RGGI program was designed 15 years ago. LaTourette and his DEP played no role in any of that.

It’s a sickeningly sad day when a DEP Commissioner can attack DEP regulation, gaslight, and lie on Earth Day – and get absolutely no criticism for that by the environmental community who continue to cheerlead.

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“We The Elders – What Will Be Our Legacy?”

April 29th, 2024 No comments

Israeli Genocide Facilitated By The Collapse Of Liberal Institutions

Same Collapse Seen Across A Wide Spectrum – From Climate To Homelessness

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(Caption: Bernie Sanders March (Philadelphia, PA, 7/24/16 – Bill Wolfe)

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.” ~~~ Mario Savio

For over 6 months now, Israel has engaged in a transparent genocidal ethnic cleansing campaign in the Gaza Strip (and West Bank). These war crimes and atrocities are conducted in full view, with multiple videos posted every day around the world on social media.

In response to an exhaustively documented complaint filed by South Africa, the UN’s highest Court, the International Court of Justice, found that there is a plausible case that Israel is engaged in Genocide.

Back on January 26, the Court imposed “Interim Measures” mandating the Israel stop:

(a) killing members of the group;
(b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and
(d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

For the extraordinarily powerful South African complaint and all documents on that case, see:

Yet, Israel completely ignored and immediately defied the Court’s ruling and mandates. The Israeli defiance went unreported and the genocide continued with impunity.

Literally the day after the ICJ decision, the US – in an obviously coordinated campaign with Israel and virtually all western governments – manufactured the story that members of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)  had participated in the October 7 attack on Israel. These governments all simultaneously announced, before conducting any investigation, suspension of funding for UNRWA, the agency that feeds millions of starving Palestinians.

The US media, also without any investigation or independent fact finding, immediately reported that UNRWA story on page one, which drove the ICJ decision completely out of the news cycle. This is exactly what the US backed Israeli propaganda campaign was designed to do.

Since then, the death count has mounted, and so have starvation and disease and Israeli genocidal bombing of civilian refugee camps, hospitals, et al, slaughter of starving Palestinians seeking food, dubbed the “Flour Massacre” by the UN, – even including recent discovery of hundreds of dead bodies in mass graves.

Yet US legacy media report very little of this, while constantly printing Israeli propaganda as fact or making each atrocity a “He said/she said”.

The Biden administration has vastly accelerated provision of US military support, bypassing Congress and violating US laws that prohibit export of weapons for war crimes.

The entire universe of establishment institutions, e.g. the Church, the professional societies, academia, et al are mostly silent about all this.

A similar story is occurring in Ukraine, as the US instigated and backed proxy war has killed over 500,000 Ukrainians, with Russia on the verge of a humiliating military and geo-strategic victory.

The few voices in protest are occurring on college campuses, and these protesters are being attacked as anti-semites.

It is hard to imagine a more perverse situation.

There are similar collapses occurring on other issues, including massive and growing homelessness, ecological collapse, “deaths of despair”, and the climate catastrophe.

Chris Hedges predicted the collapse of liberal institutions that we are now witnessing in his 2010 book “The Death Of The Liberal Class”. Here’s a video of his talk on that book

Perhaps we can respond to that collapse – particularly us “elders” – by getting off our asses and out in the streets to support the college protesters and the climate activists.

For an example of that, see:

“We The Elders – What Will Be Our Legacy” (check out the photo of this banner from 2016 demonstration):

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Current Campus Pro-Palestine Protests Have Roots In The Free Speech Movement

April 28th, 2024 No comments

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I want to followup briefly on a post I wrote yesterday on the Palestine solidarity protests at University of Pennsylvania.

The campus protest movement is getting a lot of historical linkages to Vietnam. I’ve done so myself.

But, it’s not just Palestine that’s on the line. There’s a whole lot more involved.

So, perhaps the better historical analogy is the Berkeley Free Speech Movement – and what followed.

The words of Mario Savio could not be more relevant today: (video)

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.”

For addition excellent historical video of Savio, hit this link.

What a long strange trip its been, eh?

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Peaceful Pro-Palestinian Protest At Penn

April 27th, 2024 No comments

Student Encampment Serving As A Center Of Learning And Organizing

We took a 6 mile (round trip) walk yesterday morning over to University of Pennsylvania to observe the student protests and “Gaza Solidarity Encampment”.

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As we approached campus from the South Street Bridge, we noted bomb trains parked literally under an occupied Office building:

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Then we saw a water pollution outfall discharge plume to the Schuylkill River. It hadn’t rained recently, so the pollution source might be more than stormwater (hello EPA enforcement!):

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And lots of police and traffic.

We mistakenly assumed that all the traffic was destined for the protest, but were disappointed that it was going to the Penn Relays, the oldest and largest track and field competition in the United States.

Arriving on campus, we first stopped in a lovely courtyard and fountain next to the museum for some water for Charlie:

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Refreshed and moving on, we noted a small encampment, with small groups of students circled to listen to training on non-violent protest and avoiding and documenting police arrests. We were asked not to photograph this circle. There was a real fear of people having their faces photographed – that fear reflects intimidation and harassment by Zionists. I also got the sense – and not the first time – that the young protesters assumed as an old white man that I was undercover cops.

We spoke with a few articulate and knowledgeable students, who explained their campaign and outlined some of the teach ins and activities they were conducting in group circles. There was absolutely no suggestion of any violence, anti-semitism, harassment, or aggressive or disorderly conduct. There was no disruption to campus life, as many students made their way through campus seemingly unfazed.

The Philadelphia police (on bicycles, not horses) and campus security were friendly and restrained, with only a handful even visible, standing remotely on the edge under shade trees. No violent crackdown seemed to be in the cards on the Penn campus:

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I was surprised by the tranquility of the protest and business as usual mood of the campus.

I was surprised and disappointed that the demands and messages of the encampment failed to include any linkage to US politics and accountability for the Biden administration. (I was told there were chants of “Genocide Joe”, but I saw no signs or demands targeting Biden). 

I think this failure reflects both a strategic over-reliance on the boycott, divestment, & sanctions tactics, as well as a kind of hostility to traditional politics. (I sense a similar misguided emphasis by climate activists, who focus on disinvestment and fail to engage political tools. I blame Bill McKibben for that Neoliberal protest model, which relies on market forces instead of government policy).

BDS tactics worked to end apartheid in South Africa, but that situation is very different from the current Israeli/Gaza situation.

Politically, the US had no where near the leverage and influence over South Africa as the US now has over Israel. Biden could end the genocide with a phone call threatening cutoff of all US military assistance.

Biden and the Democrats are incredibly vulnerable now going into the Fall elections and an August Convention in, of all places, Chicago. As I tried to explain to some of the students, there are echoes of the forces of 1968 and Vietnam, which forced the resignation of LBJ, which could be exploited to leverage change of Biden policy. Biden could at least immediately stop the killing and starvation and disease and provide humanitarian aid.

Of course, the end of the Israeli occupation and a free Palestinian State will require continued global pressure, including BDS.

Some scenes:

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Solar Capacity Is Increasing, But Greenhouse Gas Emissions Are Not Declining

April 27th, 2024 No comments

NJ Has Made Little Progress In Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Small Reductions That Have Been Made Result From Closing Coal Power Plants

A Long Way To Go To Meet Emissions Reductions Goals

Gov. Murphy’s Record Is Grossly Exaggerated

DEP Commissioner LaTourette Gaslights About Emissions “Cap”

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(Source: NJ DEP Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory (2021)

I thought I’d add a quick dose of reality to the self congratulatory efforts of NJ State officials – and their sycophantic cheerleaders and media stenographers – regarding alleged progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and seriously addressing the climate emergency.

The latest is Gov. Murphy’s press release on increases in solar capacity, “capping off” Earth Week, see:

And the Governor always holds these press events at old landfills – never at the farms and forests that are being destroyed by these industrial scale “solar farms”.

And the Governor downplays greenhouse gas emissions or discussion of the specifics on exactly how these renewable energy projects impact emissions and local air pollution.

(NJ has fallen sharply from a leading ranked State in solar capacity to a laggard. California gets almost 30% of electricity from solar, while NJ gets less than 4%.)

NJ Gov. Murphy gives new Sierra Club Chapter Director a hug. She has been a disaster and total cheerleader.

NJ Gov. Murphy gives new Sierra Club Chapter Director a hug. She has been a disaster and total cheerleader.

The policy objectives have become more about “promoting environmental justice”, union jobs, corporate subsidies, and economic development. Climate and environmental groups have more than willingly gone along with that shift in program objectives from the need for deep and rapid emissions reductions to promotion of social policy, corporate profits, and partisan politics – they have championed it.

So, for some reality, here is DEP’s most recent greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

The data in that Report are rarely presented in news reports.

The most recent report is from 2021, so it is possible that NJ emissions have actually increased, like global increases and according to EPA, US National emissions, both of which are increasing.

Above is a chart of NJ’s historic emissions – as you can see, while there has been some reduction, the emissions are fairly stable over a 32 year period (1990 – 2021).

As the DEP Report notes, the small emissions reductions that have been achieved resulted from the closing of coal power plants, but even that small reduction is exaggerated and misleading because the large lifecycle GHG emissions from natural gas are not fully considered (e.g. from the fracking wellhead, to gas transmission and distribution pipelines, compressor stations, etc).

As the DEP Report notes, emissions from the transportation sector resulting from more fuel efficient vehicles and electric vehicles have been wiped out by increases in vehicle miles traveled and sales are large gas guzzling SUV’s and trucks.

A Long Way To Go

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(Source: NJ DEP Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory (2021)

There is a pattern of highly misleading claims made about increased capacity of renewable energy.

That renewable capacity data is almost always presented in relation to number of homes served or cars taken off the road (and note the Governor’s use of the term “expected”:)

New Jersey’s Solar for All award is anticipated to deliver approximately 175 megawatts of solar energy to benefit 22,000 low-income households within the first five years of funding, resulting in approximately $250 million in total energy bill savings over 30 years for residents in newly connected households. Additionally, the award is expected to result in CO2 emission reductions of 240,000 short tons and enable 90 megawatt-hours of energy storage associated with multi-family housing.

The false inference that is drawn from these juxtapositions is that one unit of renewable energy replaces one unit of fossil energy. That is not true. That this solar power will be directly distributed to nearby low income homes. That is not true either. Nor will this solar capacity have any impact on local air pollution.

Rarely if ever are claims made about the actual impact on local in state emissions (GHG and other air pollutants).

Rarely if ever are data presented on actual GHG emissions, fossil energy imports, and growth in energy demand, which offset and even eliminate any “expected” emissions reductions from the renewable capacity.

There is confusion about a reduction in the rate of GROWTH, versus real reduction in emissions.

In addition to that, there is the concept of “net emissions”, which allow all sorts of schemes – like offsets, trading, biofuels, carbon capture, etc – that are not real emissions reductions and may not even reduce net emissions.

As the DEP Report documents, actual emissions reductions that have been achieved are related to the shut down of coal power plants. There is a message in that reality:

The only way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to stop the extraction of fossil fuels and the construction of fossil infrastructure, and rapidly phase out existing fossil infrastructure, along with huge changes in lifestyle, consumption, and the entire corporate capitalist economic growth paradigm.

And on that front – although NJ is not a fossil fuels producing state – we do have refineries and gas pipelines and power plants and they are GROWING in capacity and emissions, not being shut down.

As an example of that, watch Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette dissemble when asked if he will stop issuing permits to new fossil gas power plants and pipeline infrastructure (direct question posed at time 1:45).

At time 5;25, he gaslighted again about the proposed Passaic Valley Sewage Commission gas power plant. (see also:

And in the course of that gaslighting and dissembling, LaTourette even lied by claiming that he had established a “cap” on emissions (at time 6:45).

I assume he was referring to the Governor rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – but if so, he left out the fact that that is an emissions allowance trading program, not a true “cap”.

The DEP’s flawed CO2 power plant rule does not establish a cap and instead is based on emission rates.

So, the next time these claims are made, please ask tough questions and look at the data.

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