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After Murphy DEP Scales Back Logging, NJ Audubon Expands Dirty Dealings To Promote Sparta Mountain Logging – Opens New Front In Logging War

August 3rd, 2021 No comments

Audubon Conducts Legislative Lobby Tour

Former DEP Official, Now With Audubon, Leads Lobbying Effort

DEP Political Involvement Raises Concerns About Objectivity And Independence

[Update below]

I just learned that last week NJ Audubon conducted a “tour” of the Sparta Mountain logging project with powerful legislators and somehow involved DEP in this political exercise.

But before I get to that, I need to establish the context for this tour, which raises serious concerns.

Part I explains why Audubon conducted this tour. Part II explains the tour.

I)  DEP Scaled Back Audubon Logging On Sparta Mountain – Closed Loopholes And Inserted New Regulatory Protections

I had been planning to write about how DEP recently narrowed the scope of logging allowed under the 2017 Sparta Mountain logging plan, but got diverted.

We will note just briefly here today that DEP validated our criticism of regulatory loopholes and confirmed the fact that NJ Audubon misled the public about the type, rate, and acreage of logging.

Specifically, back in April 2021, DEP issued an “Addendum” to the NJ Audubon drafted logging plan DEP approved in 2017.

In that “Addendum”, DEP quietly scaled back the allowable acreage logged, reduced the intensity of former clear cuts, and imposed new restrictions to protect C1 stream buffers, wetlands, and vernal ponds. These new requirements respond specifically to criticism we made about loopholes in DEP regulations

The Addendum established new restrictions as follows: (DEP wrote):

The selection and boundaries of stands for additional intensive forest management activities will be planned in accordance with the following criteria (to the extent practical):

  •  At least 150 feet from known rare plant occurrences, unless modified by the Office of Natural Lands Management.
  • At least 400 feet from mapped potential and certified vernal pools per the vernal pool layer in Landscape Project V3.3 or later version, or at least 100 feet for shelterwood cuts. Boundaries may be moved if, upon evaluation, the potential vernal pool location does not meet the hydrologic and biologic criteria of a vernal pool and/or modified by the Endangered and Nongame Species Program.
  • At least 300 feet from mapped C1 streams.
  • Steep slopes will be avoided.

Why would NJ Audubon oppose these protections?

We know why the NJ Builders Association hates them, but NJ Audubon too?

Of course, NJ Audubon vehemently complained about that. In the course of filing complaints with DEP, NJ Audubon attacked DEP and logging critics, and also confirmed the fact that they wrote the Sparta Mountain logging plan.

In a scathing May 21, 2021 letter to DEP (provided upon request), NJ Audubon wrote to misleading portray their 2017 DEP approved logging plan, while questioning DEP’s credibility in scaling it back. NJA wrote:

The 2017 plan recommendations include silvicultural options like single tree selection and group selection on several hundred acres to enhance older growth character and heterogeneity across the property, and these recommendations were endorsed by the respective department heads just four years ago, so it begs the question; what condition or scientific understanding has changed to reverse the original planning direction and exclude management for ecosystem diversity?

What changed was that DEP regulatory loopholes and NJA lies were exposed by scientific experts and strong public criticism and sustained local activism.

NJ Audubon went further to attack DEP, attack critics, and align themselves with hunters (just as critics have maintained).  NJA wrote:

Aside from selective implementation of the approved 2017 plan being counter to the Division’s own stated goals, the addendum does not present any scientific rational (sic) for abandoning management for other seral conditions and wildlife resources. Without a scientific justification, we must assume that this is being proposed to appease a stakeholder group that is philosophically opposed to land management, and if so, this is an abdication of the Division’s responsibility to protect and steward the state’s wildlife resources. Failure to appropriately manage the state’s wildlife also presents a conflict for fulfilling the goals outlined in the State Wildlife Action Plan. We have spoken about this with other important stakeholders like those in the sportsman’s community, who feel similarly that there is no scientific explanation being provided for why the addendum is needed, and equally important, that they too have been excluded from the decision-making process to formulate this addendum.

Accusing DEP of “appeasement” and “abdication”, while mentioning support the “sportsman’s community”, is clearly a political threat. The bait and bullet crowd is politically powerful.

NJ Audubon blasted DEP for reducing the amount and rate of logging allowed – and in the course of doing so they validate our criticism of their misleading spin to the public. John Cecil of NJ Audubon spun by claiming the plan would allow just “5 – 10″ acres for the first 2 years” with a pause in years 3 -4. We calculated that far more logging could occur, up to 715 acres over the first 10 years alone. Cecil also disputed the need for stream buffers.

But, now, NJ Audubon’s own letter to DEP proves – just like I said – that Cecil was misleading the public. NJA wrote:

the proposed addendum appears to be scaling back efforts from what was approved within the 2017 plan without providing any scientific rational (sic) for doing so. According to the 2017 plan, upwards of 208 acres would be managed within the 10 – year planning window for young forest habitat using a modified seed tree approach, and another 100 acres would be managed using a shelterwood system approach, for a total of 308 acres that equals roughly 9% of the WMA.  …
[the] addendum seems to suggest – without any justification provided – that the new young forest management goal over 10 years will be 88 acres, or roughly 2.5% of the WMA.

It is a good thing that DEP reduced the allowable acreage of Highlands forest to be logged. It is incredible that a conservation group would oppose that.

NJ Audubon also opposed DEP’s efforts to reduce clear cut logging. NJA wrote:

The addendum indicates that beginning in 2021, 2/3 of each 15 – acre site/stand will be managed at any given time to provide a “seed bank”, however, there is no scientific justification that a seed bank is not already present,

NJ Audubon even opposed DEP’s efforts to protect crucially important and ecologically sensitive features, like stream buffers, wetlands and vernal ponds. NJA wrote:

The addendum proposes adoption of universal buffers around these resources without consideration of the actual resources that are encountered at each location, or without providing scientific merit for each buffer based on that specific resource.

Audubon closes their letter to DEP by lamenting the loss of access and exclusive control over DEP logging approvals: NJA

Based on the content of the addendum and lack of scientific justification, it is unclear to us why this addendum is even being proposed. New Jersey Audubon greatly values the prior collaboration that we shared with the Division while developing the 2017 management plan, and we look forward to having an equal opportunity along with other stakeholders to help guide how the property is managed in the future. Please let us know how we can best provide our assistance.

Amazingly, both DEP and NJ Audubon either ignore or downplay the role of forests in the climate emergency and fail to note that logging contradicts DEP’s own science and carbon assumptions and Gov. Murphy’s climate commitments. See:

So the mask is off and NJA’s credibility is now totally shot.  And they are dragging DEP down with them.

(and just think how bad it must be that The Forest Stewardship Council revoked NJ Audubon’s certification?)

Which takes us to part II – NJA’s expansion of the logging war.

II)  NJ Audubon Conducts Legislative Lobby Tour – Exploiting The Revolving Door – To Undermine DEP and Discredit Critics

NJ Audubon is aggressively lobbying to defeat DEP’s protections and support passage of terrible forest “stewardship” legislation. (A bill that was so bad, even Gov. Christie vetoed it.)

As I noted:

tomorrow (Earth Day) the NJ Senate Environment Committee will hear a package of bills to promote logging. Even the bill descriptions are Orwellian:

  • S2001 – Forest stewardship program-establishes for State-owned lands
  • S3547 – Forest stewardship, pinelands,
  • S3548 – Prescribed burns-set min. acreage goal & schedule in pinelands area & Statewide
  • S3549 – Forest stewardship plan-required for lands acquired
  • S3550 – Forest stewardship plans-provide that municipal approval is not required

Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith has been pushing this ill advised legislation for over a decade. He is responding to the sham and misleading self interested lobbying of the NJ Audubon Society, the NJ Farm Bureau, the forest products industry, and professional forestry consultants. 

Before the new DEP restrictions on logging are even implemented, today I learned that NJ Audubon is working behind the scenes – with no transparency, public involvement, or public accountability – to politically undo those DEP restrictions and vastly expand logging throughout the entire state of NJ.

According to a July 20, 2021 email from Eileen Murphy, head of NJA’s Trenton Government Affairs Office, the following legislators and OLS staff were invited to attend the hike (a lobby session) at Sparta Mountain: (I contacted Senator Smith’s Office for comment. They confirmed that Smith attended the event but would not otherwise comment).

  • Senator Bob Smith – Chair of Sen Environment Committee
  • Assemblyman James Kennedy – Chair of Assembly Environment Commitee (sic)
  • Assemblywoman Lisa Swain – Member of Assembly Ag Committee
  • Matt Bonasia – Chief of Staff for Asw Swain
  • Matt Peterson – Senate Dem Aid for Environment Committee
  • Jen Taylor – Deputy Director of Assembly Majority Office
  • Judy Horowitz – Environment Division Office of Legislative Services
  • Adaline Kaser – Environment Division Office of Legislative Services
  • Carolina Guzman – Environment Division Office of Legislative Services

Ms. Murphy wrote to confirm the attendance of DEP officials, who had agreed to participate. It is unclear whether DEP staffers actually attended this political lobbying event (if they did, that was clearly improper. I worked in DEP’s Office of Legislative Affairs and can attest to the impropriety of that).

Eileen Murphy wrote:

Thank you so much for agreeing to participate in Thursday’s tour of the Sparta Mountain Stewardship project. Below is information about the tour including a google maps link to the location and some general suggestions for the tour.

  • Craig Dorsett, [DEP];
  • DeVeaux, Bryana [DEP]
  • Ray Bukowski  [DEP]
  • Jane Rosenblatt  [DEP]

Stewardship my ass. And I wonder if NJ Audubon disclosed this lobbying to ELEC?

Why do Democrats want to destroy NJ forests and log public lands – and during a climate crisis, when forests are one of the best ways to store carbon?

Perhaps the media, NJ environmental groups, and the people of NJ might ask them why?

It’s very curious why – despite all the talk about “stakeholder processes”, relying on the best available science, and involving the public – NJ Audubon did not invite local activists, or scientific experts, and neither DEP or Chairman Smith insisted that they do so. Instead, they all act like any other corrupt corporate lobbyist and pursued self serving things in secret – no science, no democracy.

Ironically, Ms. Murphy is another former NJ DEP official who is abusing the revolving door.

Murphy previously served as the DEP Director of the Division of Science and Research. In that capacity, she did absolutely no work on legislative affairs, forest stewardship, or public policy.

I wrote Ms. Murphy to ask for her comments, and I’ve not heard back. But I’m pretty sure NJ Audubon did not hire her for her expertise and scientific background in conservation, biology, forests, stewardship, or land use (which she doesn’t have, as far as I know).  Or her experience on legislation, government affairs, or public policy (which she also lacks).

Clearly, Murphy was hired to provide DEP access and to exploit DEP personal relationship and contacts. More revolving door abuse.

And that abuse of access is obvious when you look at who Murphy copied at DEP on the legislative lobby tour invitation.

It’s revealing that Murphy’s email copied, among others Jane Rosenblatt.

Despite Ms Rosenblatt’s lack of experience and credentials, she was installed at DEP as by Gov. Murphy’s Office, initially as a high level official (Deputy Chief of Staff) and she now serves as DEP Chief of Staff and reports directly to Commissioner LaTourette.

The DEP Chief of Staff position has historically been filled by a longtime DEP veteran manager who understands how DEP operates. Jane Rosenblatt has very, very, very little DEP (none actually) or comparable management experience and just happens to be the daughter of two longtime DEP managers, so clearly her appointment is not merit based and borders on nepotism.

By copying Rosenblattt, Murphy insulates Commissioner LaTourette while at the same time assuring that he gets the word from Jane.

Yes, Ms. Murphy sure knows how the DEP game is played.

(* post revised – I changed the claim that Cecil’s lied to spin and misleading the public. I think he did it knowingly and to deceive. Whether that’s a lie or not, I don’t know.)

[End Note – Ironically, Eileen Murphy, while at DEP Science and Research, learned first hand how politics trumps science at DEP. Her work was targeted by this DEP management gag order, that we blew the whistle on – see this Star Ledger story:

Environmentalists rip DEP proposal as a ‘gag order’

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Star-Ledger Staff

The state Department of Environmental Protection proposed restrictions yesterday on the public release of its scientific studies and reports, which environmental groups lambasted as a sweeping “gag order” spurred by a controversy over chromium pollution in Hudson County.

The commotion surrounds written guidelines from Jeanne Herb, the DEP’s director of policy, planning and science, against employees disclosing technical and scientific reports — even if they are the subject of an Open Public Records Act request — until they are approved by upper management and the press office. The directive follows the April release of a report by DEP scientists concluding a new, stricter soil cleanup standard is needed for hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6, because the cancer-causing substance is riskier than previously believed.

I wrote about it in great detail here.

[Update: I reluctantly engage the personal issues, but as they say: personnel is policy. A knowledgeable reader scolds me correctly on two inter-related counts:

First, I failed to mention that Jane Rosenblatt worked on Murphy’s campaign and then in Murphy’s Gov.’s Office and was installed by Murphy as a spy, a counter to Senate President Sweeney’s DEP hack Eric Wachter. So the reality is actually worse than I portrayed.

Wachter is now gone, but as I wrote:

Sweeney has already had his way with Murphy DEP Commissioner McCabe, so he knows her number (besides, he also had his own Senate staffer, Eric Wachter installed as McCabe DEP’s first Chief of Staff. But The latest DEP org chart indicates that Wachter has departed. He’s now in private sector.)

In terms of Jane’s parents’ DEP career connections, I implicitly treated both her parents equally, when I know that Liz Rosenblatt (Semple), my friend, was a force for good, while her father Dave was and is a scumbag. I apologize for that. I was not aware that Liz was demoted and ignored by the Murphy people and recently retired. That’s more damning evidence.

Worse, while Liz is gone, Dave the scumbag tool lives on to serve more political BS. I’ve written about Dave and his corrupt role with Christie’s Sandy Czar Mark Ferzan. As I wrote:

DEP “resilience” head Dave Rosenblatt worked closely with Christie’s “Sandy Czar and played a role in Christie’s Bridge-gate scandal

Second, and perhaps worse, I failed to note that John Cecil, formerly of NJ Audubon who I target in this and prior posts for misleading the public, was hired by the Murphy DEP as Director Of Parks and Forestry to oversee the very destructive logging he promoted at NJ Audubon! That is disgusting. ~~~ end update]

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Did Senate President Sweeney and/or NJ Gov. Murphy Pressure Regulators To Keep Delaware LNG Export Terminal Under The Radar?

June 16th, 2019 No comments

Follow the money and the finance trails


Who were the players behind the scenes that pushed this project through DRBC and DEP reviews, without disclosing the LNG aspects?

[Update below]

This is a followup to my previous post, where I explained the attempt to stealth a controversial LNG export terminal through the DRBC and NJ DEP regulatory review process.

DRBC themselves confirmed similar flaws in the DRBC review process, rejecting claims of a coverup:

“DRBC disagrees with that statement,” it said. “The public hearing on June 6 was adequately noticed, and DRBC has shared with the public all information submitted by the applicant and/or its contractors.”:

Upon approval, the DRBC exposed its narrow scope of review and total lack of consideration of climate impacts or energy policy: (Inquirer)

The commission said its review was confined to the impact of building the wharf and of dredging the Delaware River to 43 feet deep to connect with the main channel.

But, perhaps there are other reasons that can explain this huge blunder – other than pure regulatory failure, e.g.: political pressure on regulators by high level officials.

The Delaware Riverkeeper Network, who exposed the story, is alleging a coverup.

In fact, it appears that this could be another example of:

Here is what a quick Google found – given all the smoke, we strongly suspect fire.

To document what would be an Encap-level blaze of corruption, some intrepid journalist out there should file OPRA requests at DRBC and NJ DEP for all the regulatory review documents, i.e. the full administrative file and all communications regarding it (where are you Jeff Pillets!).

I) Longtime Sweeney involvement

Back on July 24, 2016, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported:

Plan to revive old South Jersey industrial site draws fans and fears


State and local leaders are confident the new port will be a positive presence in the township and county.

“This will be a big job generator,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney, whose Third Legislative District includes Gibbstown, also known as Greenwich Township. “We’ve been working on this since 2005.”

Sweeney has already had his way with Murphy DEP Commissioner McCabe, so he knows her number (besides, he also had his own Senate staffer, Eric Wachter installed as McCabe DEP’s first Chief of Staff. But The latest DEP org chart indicates that Wachter has departed. He’s now in private sector.)


Given Sweeney’s many prior interventions at DEP, it is not a stretch to speculate that he twisted DEP arms on this proposed LNG terminal that he’s supported “since 2005″.

II.  Twisted Tales Of Wall Street Finance Could Link Gov. Murphy to the Project

Before the 2016 Philadelphia Inquirer story, back on 3/20/15, NJ.Com wrote a story with Sweeney praising Fortress Investment Group:

State Sen. President Steve Sweeney led a press conference in Greenwich Township to announce the sale of the township’s former DuPont Repauno plant to Fortress Investment Group, which aims to turn the dormant 1,800-acre property into a port-related industrial park for imports and exports.

Sweeney goes out of his way to praise Fortress:

“That’s what they do, and they do it with private sector capital, not government money, which is the win-win-win for everybody,” said Sweeney, who declined to divulge the total value of the sale besides to say “It’s a lot of land.”

But Fortress did not provide a “win-win-win for everybody”. 

Fortress is a failed hedge fund – see:

  • The Fall of Fortress  – The asset manager is selling itself at a premium, but it’s still trading at a fraction of its IPO price. The big losers? Us.

Fortress Investment Group, the struggling alternative-­investment firm that went public to great fanfare ten years ago but whose shares have since lost 74 percent of their market value.

Kaplan says Fortress has been “terrible” for public investors.

They’ve ripped off public investors, including – as Sweeney might appreciate, given his political battles with NJ Teachers Unions – the Ohio Teacher’s Pension Fund:

Fortress was the first U.S. alternatives firm to go public, in 2007, starting a trend that burned red-hot, then quickly flamed out, proving over the past ten years that these deals have been a disaster for public shareholders, which include big mutual funds catering to both retail and institutional investors. Among Fortress’s shareholders: Allianz Asset Management, Fidelity Investments, Wellington Management Co., and even the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio.

Now here’s where the links between Fortress and Gov. Murphy get murky and hypothetical, but good investigative journalism could connect these dots:

1. Veteran NJ environmental reporter Kirk Moore confirmed the story on the stealth LNG aspect of this project, where he also noted:

Delaware River Partners LLC, a subsidiary of New York City-based Fortress Investment Group.

2. Who is Fortress Investment GroupWikipedia reports that they have strong links to Goldman Sachs:

When Fortress launched on the NYSE on February 9, 2007 with Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers underwriting the IPO.

3. More recently, Fortress was acquired by a politically wired firm called SoftBank Group Corp, as reported by Institutional Investor:

Last December business executives from around the globe made their way to Manhattan’s Trump Tower to meet with president-­elect Donald Trump. But few made as big of a splash as Masayoshi Son, head of SoftBank Group Corp., who had Trump crowing on Twitter about the Japanese mogul’s pledge to invest $50 billion in the U.S. and create 50,000 American jobs.

… on February 14 [2017], SoftBank agreed to pay $3.3 billion to buy Fortress Investment Group, the struggling alternative-­investment firm that went public to great fanfare ten years ago but whose shares have since lost 74 percent of their market value.

4. SoftBank has some interesting relationships:

Fortress’s $3.3 billion deal with SoftBank was driven by Rajeev Misra, a former Deutsche Bank derivatives expert who is now in charge of investment strategy.

Gov. Murphy was former US Ambassador to Germany, where, particularly given his Goldman Sachs finance background, one assumes he had relationships with Deutsche Bank “experts” on investment strategy.

5. Now look who Mr. Misra, who drove the Fortress deal, formed a relationship with and where that individual previously worked:

A few years ago Misra worked briefly at Fortress, where he developed a relationship with Edens and Peter Briger Jr., who cochair the board of directors. (Briger also has ties to Japan, where he previously worked for Goldman Sachs Group.)

6. Briger and Phil Murphy are both Goldman Sachs diaspora, see NY Times.

So, a few questions emerge:

Did Phil Murphy have any involvement with the Fortress deal when he was at Goldman?

Did Phil Murphy have any relationship with SoftBank or Peter Briger?

Was Gov. Phil Murphy aware of the Fortress role?

As Gov. of NJ, Murphy sits on the DRBC Board and has executive control over DEP.

Did Murphy  in any way intervene in DRBC and/or DEP regulatory review processes?

Who were the players behind the scenes that pushed this project through DRBC and DEP reviews, without disclosing the LNG aspects?

[END NOTE:  There are many “coincidences” here.

The proposed LNG plant would be located on a former Dupont massive toxic waste site, known as “Repauno”.

Tomorrow, the Senate Environment Committee will hear a bill that directly and significant impacts the Dupont/Chemours Repauno site by prohibiting DEP assumption of direct oversight. That would put Dupont/Chemours in total control of the cleanup, with no DEP oversight, for details, see:

Check out the Dupont Repauno site on EPA RCRA list. S3682 would prohibit NJ DEP oversight of the Repauno site as under the “federal involvement” loophole in Section 26

This is not the first time a former Dupont toxic site was involved in a corrupt billion $ energy facility development, see:

Unbelievable corruption in plain sight.

[Update: 6/16/19 – Just to nail this down and remove the plausible denial factor, I just sent this note to the members of the Senate Environment Committee and Democratic Senate staff and the media:

From: Bill WOLFE <>
To: senbsmith <>, sengreenstein <>, senbateman <>,, Tittel, Jeff, Tittel, Jeff,, Pringle, Dave, Jeff Pillets <>,
Date: June 16, 2019 at 10:31 PM
Subject: S3682 – Dupont Repauno & LNG terminal

Dear Chairman Smith:

Recent news reports have revealed a highly controversial plan to develop an LNG export terminal at the former Dupont Repauno toxic waste site.

The Dupont Repauno site (now Chemours) is a RCRA Corrective Action cleanup site (as well as subject to DEP oversight pursuant to NJ remedial State law). See EPA NJ Corrective Action cleanup site list:

Section 26 of your bill, S3682, would directly impact the cleanup and redevelopment of that site by prohibiting NJ DEP oversight.

Clearly, it is not in the interests of NJ’s environment, public health, the Delaware River, and the public interest to put Dupont/Chemours in total control of the cleanup of that massive toxic site, subject only to the Trump EPA under federal RCRA.

On the basis alone I again urge you to delete Section 26 and hold your bill for further consideration.


Bill Wolfe

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Is Murphy DEP Commissioner McCabe A Naive Deer In The Headlights or a Machiavellian Manipulator?

August 19th, 2018 No comments

McCabe Seeks To Divide and Conquer 

Isolates and Marginalizes DEP’s Dupont Critics

Manipulates Public & Provides Cover For Local Officials At Partisan Sham “Hearing”

That headline is not rhetorical – once again, Murphy DEP Commissioner McCabe has revealed herself as either a totally naive fool or a malign manipulative political bureaucrat.

[A reader just shot me an email – slams me for getting it badly wrong and says: “McCabe a wealthy corporate sell out – check her record and financials”]

The most recent case of gross malpractice occurred in Pompton Lakes regarding the notoriously failed 30 year long Dupont toxic site “cleanup”. Follow the most recent developments:

Recall that, months after Gov. Murphy compared Dupont Pompton Lakes to the Love Canal disaster, McCabe was criticized for rejecting the pleas of local residents to support designation of the Dupont site as a federal Superfund site, see: Like Christie, Murphy’s DEP says no to Superfund for Pompton Lakes cleanup (June 3, 2108):

Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has no plans to seek Superfund status to speed cleanup of a contaminated plume and former DuPont munitions site in Pompton Lakes, despite pleas for such action from many residents who must live with the cancer-causing pollution.

“I don’t see any advantage in Superfund,” Catherine McCabe, acting commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said last week in an interview with The Record and

(We noted that in seeing no advantage in Superfund, McCabe contradicted her former boss, US EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck, who, after leaving office, told the Record:

Six years ago, a leading EPA official told McCabe’s predecessor, then-DEP commissioner Bob Martin, how Pompton Lakes would benefit from Superfund.

Judith Enck, a former EPA regional administrator, pushed Martin and the Christie administration in 2012 to put Pompton Lakes into the Superfund program.

States must nominate toxic sites to begin the Superfund process, and Enck said the Christie administration was the biggest obstacle.

“I think the new administration should consider sending a letter to EPA for Superfund designation,” Enck has told The Record, referring to the new Murphy administration.

The Record also reported that McCabe’s claims of “no advantage in Superfund” were flat out contradicted by McCabe’s former agency, US EPA:

Superfund status would provide a more ironclad cleanup plan for Pompton Lakes that could not be as easily challenged by Chemours, according to U.S. Environmental Protection emails obtained by The Record and

It would also give residents more opportunity to have their concerns heard. And it would allow them to hire independent contractors to examine mounds of scientific data.

And of course, based on McCabe’s own prior legislative testimony, I predicted exactly this would happen long before it did, see:  Murphy DEP Admits “Continuity With Christie DEP” On Dupont Toxic Fiasco (May 17, 2018).

After McCabe announced her “no Superfund” decision, local residents were especially enraged because McCabe made that decision without meeting with or even talking to them. That betrayed a promise they had received from McCabe’s Chief of Staff, Eric Wachter and thought they had received personally from Gov. Murphy himself on a WNYC radio call in show. (and we predicted that too – see Played in Pompton Lakes – Again)

To make amends for betraying local residents, McCabe agreed to a meeting with them.

On Thursday August 16, 2018, Commissioner McCabe, Chief of Staff Wachter, DEP’s Communications Director and McCabe’s “special assistants” Brendon Shank, Derek Hardy &  Chris Gough finally met with several local residents and members of local activist groups CCPL and PLREI.

McCabe brought her political team – not one DEP expert or staff familiar with the Dupont cleanup attended that meeting. I was told that McCabe apparently was not even familiar with the terms of the 1988 Administrative Consent Order (ACO) between DEP and Dupont. That ACO governs the DEP’s oversight of the cleanup and is a crucial document.

It is simply incomprehensible that a DEP Commissioner would hold a meeting with informed residents without a DEP expert and without detailed briefings on and knowledge of the regulatory oversight documents (i.e permits, ACO, etc).

But before the meeting with residents went down – a meeting which took DEP months to arrange – word of the meeting got out to local officials and others, who then demanded their own meeting with DEP.

Despite residents’ longstanding disagreements with local officials, whose negligence in protecting residents and consistently supporting Dupont, (see: Is Pompton Lakes The Most Corrupt Local Government In NJ?) DEP and EPA borders on corruption, McCabe immediately accommodated that request, which was held just one day after meeting with residents.

In this second meeting, McCabe met with an invited small group of local officials and Republican State legislators representing the District.

Republican Assemblyman Kevin Rooney falsely called that political meeting an “Environmental Hearing”.

It was not a “hearing”.

It was a divisive dog and pony show, an orchestrated and partisan sham to create the false appearance that local officials and State legislators are aggressively holding DEP and Dupont accountable and looking out for residents.

Here’s a screen shot from Assemblyman Rooney’s Twitter feed:

Screen Shot 2018-08-19 at 9.55.55 AM

Here’s how former local official and CCPL leader Lisa Riggiola felt about that “hearing”, calling out Rooney in this comment on Rooney’s Facebook page:

A hearing and many of the residents of the plume that have been fighting for their lives for a decade are not invited to a hearing?   You sure this wasn’t a political event for the Republican Party?  Are these some of the same people that have shunned the plume residents, showing them not an ounce of care or respect let alone do anything positive to fight for the right clean up?  You have a hard time after a decade for them to believe that some of them are changed after all these years?

Right on, Lisa! You got it exactly right.

But, of course local and State politicians are going to play these bullshit games.

A DEP Commissioner is NOT supposed to do so and should have the political chops to understand these games and avoid getting manipulated by them (see:  The Murphy DEP Is Out of Control In Politicizing Dupont Pompton Lakes Permit Review).

By holding 2 meetings – both private, by invitation only, and political – McCabe has sown further mistrust and division among the people of Pompton Lakes, while also undermining trust in DEP.

McCabe is playing the same manipulative game as local officials have in trying to isolate and marginalize the residents who criticize Dupont and DEP. She has shown disrespect to them.

But instead of avoiding these games and manipulation, McCabe – just like she did on that wetlands “tour” with Senate President Sweeney – completely caved in and willingly participated in gross political manipulation.

That’s why there were no DEP scientists or experts in the meeting with residents, just McCabe sycophants and political hacks.

Shame on her – again.

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Memo To Gov. Murphy – The “Green” Honeymoon Is Over

June 18th, 2018 No comments

A First Step on A Path Forward To Implement Your Climate Promises

Gov. Florio’s Executive Order No. 8 Provides A Model

Not 6 months into his tenure, Gov. Murphy’s energy, climate and environmental policy agenda he campaigned on is in disarray and the Legislature has seized control.

I won’t rehash all the details in this post, but the Bergen Record’s recent scathing editorial “A string of losses for the environment” pretty much summed things up:

Big Corporate Polluters 2 — New Jersey, its people and its environment 0.

This is the score we might have expected were Gov. Chris Christie still in office.

On the environmental front, Gov. Murphy has yet to revoke Gov. Christie’s rollback Executive Orders #1 – 4 and Christie appointments still serve as Executive Directors of the Pinelands Commission and Highlands Council.

Murphy’s DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe took 6 months to get confirmed. As we’ve been noting here, McCabe retained many Christie DEP managers and continuity with Christie DEP policies, and has done virtually nothing during her tenuous tenure other than issue press releases and PR stunts that echo Gov. Christie’s initiatives.

On energy policy, Senator Sweeney rammed a nuclear bailout bill through the legislature that seriously compromised the Gov.’s commitment to a 100% renewable energy pledge.

On climate policy, the Gov.’s policy agenda is limited to rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (more on that soon) and directing BPU to revise the Christie Energy Master Plan to promote 3,500 MW of off shore wind.

Murphy has no governing experience and has surrounded himself with either recycled Corzine hacks or young staffers with no Trenton or regulatory experience. Instituitionalizing legislative control over Murphy’s DEP, Senate President Sweeney’s Legislative aide Eric Wachter was installed as DEP Chief Of Staff and Assemblyman McKeon’s legislative aide was installed as Director of DEP’s Office of Government Relations. (see DEP Org Chart)

In that leadership vacuum, the Pinelands pipeline is seeking DEP permit extensions, DEP decisions on controversial pipelines under Raritan Bay (Williams) and the Delaware watershed (PennEast) are pending, and a proposed new fossil fueled power plant on the banks of NJ’s finest trout stream in the heart of the NJ Highlands has emerged.

Given these awful developments, we thought this brief note on the mechanics of exercising Gubernatorial leadership might help.

Gov. Murphy probably does not know – and lame NJ environmental groups are certainly not letting him know – that former Gov. Florio, among others, provides stunning parallels and a directly relevant model to address the situation he faces right now.

Politically, like Gov. Murphy now faces on pipelines, energy, and climate, upon assuming office in 1990, Florio was faced with stiff environmental and public opposition to garbage incinerators.

On reversing prior policy, like Murphy inherited bad policies from Gov. Christie, Florio’s predecessor, the Kean Administration had promoted a pro-incineration policy. To implement that Kean policy,  DEP approved 21 County Solid Waste plans and incinerator permits for more than $3 billion of new incineration projects. These were all bond financed and/or approved by DEP and/or BPU. Worse, the legislature had effectively deregulated BPU economic review of incinerator procurement contracts to promote the industry (i.e the “McEnroe” law).

In terms of commitments, like Murphy, Florio had made promises to environmental groups – who had endorsed him in the campaign – to develop an aggressive solid waste policy that promoted recycling and discouraged incineration.

Florio not only had to reverse the Kean policy and use DEP power to over-rule and embarrass 21 County Freeholder boards, he had to claw back prior DEP planning, permitting and financing approvals – for $3 BILLION in investment.

This is actually MORE difficult to do than for Murphy to kill pending fossil infrastructure projects.

Here’s how Florio did that – and how Murphy can tackle very similar problems on energy infrastructure and climate policy.

On April 6, 1990 (well before Earth Day and in his administration’s “first 100 days”), Gov. Florio issued Executive Order #8, which established a “Emergency Solid Waste Task Force” and laid out a public planning process going forward. PLEASE READ THE WHOLE THING!

Here’s the core provision that put teeth in the policy:

4. During the Task Force’s deliberations over the next 120 days, the following shall apply:

a. The Department of Environmental Protection shall not issue a final approval of any solid waste management plan that sites increases the capacity of or approves financing for waste-to-energy resource recovery facilities;

b. The Department of Environmental Protection shall not issue a approval of Preliminary or Final Environmental and Health Impact Statements for any waste-to-energy resource recovery site or facility;

c. The Department of Environmental Protection shall not issue tentative or final approval of any solid waste facility engineering design now pending or hereafter submitted for any waste-to-energy resource recovery facilities;

d. The Department of Environmental Protection, the Board of Public Utilities and the Division of Local Government Services within the Department of Community Affairs shall not, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 13:1E-136 et seq., issue any approval or conditional approval of any previously submitted proposed contract for the design, financing, construction, operation or maintenance of a waste-to-energy resource recovery facility; and

e. No State agency, commission or organization shall approve the issuance of debt or extend financing to any person or entity for use in planning, designing, acquiring, constructing, operating or maintaining a waste-to-energy resource recovery facility.

Gov. Murphy could issue a similar Executive Order establishing an Emergency Climate Change and Energy Task Force tied to the BPU Energy Master Plan revision process and the DEP Climate mitigation and adaptation planning & regulatory process (including RGGI).

The Order could impose a moratorium on any DEP and BPU approvals of any fossil  energy infrastructure approvals, such as the Pinelands, PennEast and Williams pipeline and the recently proposed new gas plant in the Highlands.

Problem solved.

So why aren’t NJ’e environmental groups advocating this aggressive approach?

That is more than ironic, as they celebrate Gov. Byrne’s Pinelands legacy. Byrne used Executive power to force the Legislature to pass the Pinelands Act. Similarly, Gov. Kean used Exetuvie power to force passage of the Freshwater Wetlands Act. And Gov. McGreevey created a Highlands Task Force that was used to forge the Highlands Act.

The climate crisis if far more serious than the solid waste crisis that Florio inherited.

We call  on Gov. Murphy to step up and follow the path of his predecessors.

[Full disclosure: as a disloyal whistleblowing DEP bureaucrat, I was directly involved in the development of the Floio EO #8. Despite being requested to staff the Taskforce effort by the Gov.’s Office, I was blocked from participating by my DEP managers. Regardless, I was insubordinate and provided much of the technical analysis and backup data the Taskforce relied on and that formed future DEP Solid Waste Plan. As they say that all good deeds go unpunished, I receive formal discipline by DEP managers (a 1 week suspension) for that work.]

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What Explains NJ Senate Delay In Confirming Murphy’s Acting DEP Commissioner McCabe?

June 5th, 2018 No comments

Senate President Sweeney has yet to release the hostage

Sweeney “squeezes the juice” out of Murphy and McCabe

Is he still holding McCabe hostage in exchange for his wetlands enforcement intervention?

(L-R) Senate President Sweeney; Acting DEP Commissioner McCabe; Assemblyman Burzichelli (Source: YouTube)

(L-R) Senate President Sweeney; Acting DEP Commissioner McCabe; Assemblyman Burzichelli (Source: YouTube)

[Update: 2 days after this post, McCabe was confirmed by the full Senate on June 7, 2018.]

It is June 5 and Acting Commissioner McCabe STILL has not been confirmed by the full NJ Senate.

McCabe testified before and was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee almost a mont ago (May 14).

This is the longest Senate hold on a DEP Commissioner in my 33 year experience with NJ DEP.

It could be the longest ever.

What does Sweeney want? What’s the holdup?

He already got Murphy to sign his PSEG nuke bailout and limit the expansion of renewables.

He already got Murphy to sign his Dupont fracking wastewater OK. Gov. Murphy answered NJ Spotlight’s question with a big wet kiss.

He already got Murphy to sign a cover bill that appears to promote wind, but retains the poison pill “cost test” that authorized BPU to kill wind based on a fatally flawed cost – benefit methodology.

That law derailed a prior bill that would have repealed the OWEDA “cost test” that was the poison pill Sweeney got duped on by Gov. Christie in the Off Shore Wind Act (OWEDA).

Likely due to Sweeney pressure, McCabe’s DEP folded and walked away from assuming control on the long delayed and partial Dupont “cleanup” of their Pompton Lakes site.

Likely due to Sweeney pressure, Murphy did not support calls for a Coastal Commission Sweeney opposed.

Murphy has done nothing at the Pinelands Commission, likely to appease Sweeney who worked with Gov. Christie to corrupt the Commission and ram new gas pipelines and power plants through the regulatory process.

Remarkably, McCabe testified that she was “unfamiliar” with the DEP’s “Category One” (C1) program that Sweeney opposed when DEP originally adopted regulations and Sweeney cut a deal with Christie/Martin to avoid a legislative veto of DEP rules that rolled back C1 buffer protections.

Likely due to Sweeney pressure, Murphy and McCabe folded on stopping the bear hunt.

Murphy appointed Bob Gordon, a moderate former Senate Democrat to the BPU, likely as a result of Sweeney lobbying. Gordon is smart, but he failed to follow through on many things, including BPU implementation of flawed cost – benefit methodology to kill wind.

Sweeney got his former Senate aid, Eric Wacther, installed as McCabe’s Chief of Staff.

Is he still holding McCabe hostage in exchange for his wetlands enforcement intervention?

What else does Sweeney want? He’s already got a LOT of concessions.

Maybe even more concessions, perhaps on an MCL or for Dupont liability for PFOA, PFOS, PFC’s?

Is Sweeney seeking a weak RGGI cap? in RGGI negotiations?

Is Sweeney seeking continuance of NJ law’s RGGI loopholes to protect Big Oil and the carbon polluters in his District?

Approval of the Pinelands and PennEast gas pipelines?

Is Sweeney pressuring Murphy to retain Gov. Christie’s regulatory policy expressed in Christie executive orders that benefit the big polluters in his District?

Does Sweeney want Murphy to help accelerate privatization of public water and sewer systems? (see: 

Sweeney is acting like Gov. Christie’s  – “squeezing the juice” out of a weak DEP Commissioner and a spineless Governor.

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