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Why Does Murphy (for NJ Gov.) Pal Around With Trump Partners?

October 20th, 2017 No comments

I’ve not been following the NJ Gov.’s race, but after reading today’s NJ Spotlight story about the Obama visit and endorsement, I thought I’d look at Murphy’s environmental issues agenda.

I was particularly pleased by the the Obama event’s valid and strong criticisms of Trump, including this statement by candidate Murphy:

“In 19 days, the world is going to be looking at New Jersey,” he said. “In 19 days, the world is going to look and see what kind of politics do we believe in, what kind of community do we believe in, what are our priorities, what are our values, what do we want to teach our kids what kind of message do we want to send to them?”

So, I thought I’d take Murphy up on his observation and see what kind of  politics and policies he believes in.

The headline to this press release immediately caught my eye: Labor & Environmental Leaders Give Strong Support to Sheila Oliver for Lieutenant Governor.

Obviously, it is important to know who Murphy views as an “environmental leader”.

That’s when I almost fell off my chair in reading this:

Kelly Mooij, Political Chair, New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Board:
“Phil Murphy chose an environmental steward in Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, who joins the Democratic gubernatorial ticket as a candidate for lieutenant governor. Like Murphy, the former Assembly speaker from Essex County is a strong supporter of environmental protections and is prepared to lead New Jersey on key environmental issues like clean energy, climate change, and removing lead in drinking water … We believe Murphy and Oliver will work tirelessly to improve the quality of the air, drinking water, and open spaces for all New Jersey residents to enjoy.”

Does the Murphy campaign or the candidate himself know that Ms. Mooij serves as Vice President for Governmental Affairs at NJ Audubon?

And that NJ Audubon has a “partnership” with Donald Trump at his Bedminster Golf Course?

Aside from the many reprehensible outrages of Trump, that golf course has been the focus of significant critical national press attention, e.g. “Secret Service Spends $13,500 on Golf Cart Rentals on Trump’s Bedminster Golf Trip.

Read NJ Audubon’s own website, which brags about the Trump deal, as part of its “Corporate Stewardship” program: 

TRUMP NATIONAL GOLF CLUB SIGNS 10-YEAR AGREEMENT FOR WILDLIFE CONSERVATION ON ITS BEDMINSTER, NJ COURSE

.

I challenge the Murphy campaign to distance themselves from NJ Audubon and repudiate the Trump-Audubon deal.

Based on the recognition of and reliance on Ms Mooij as a “leader”, I question whether the Murphy administration will enact corporate friendly “corporate stewardship” policies that groups like NJ LCV and NJ Audubon support.

Where is the press corps on these controversial issues?

Where is NJ Spotlight, who almost exclusively covers environmental policy in NJ?

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Did California Hazard Plan Map Areas Of Wildfire “Low Risk”?

October 19th, 2017 No comments

Flawed Plan, Inadequate Resources, & Over-reliance on Local Government

Source: California Hazard Mitigation Plan (2013)

Source: California Hazard Mitigation Plan (2013)

My seat of the pants hypothesis is that the California Proposition 13 anti-tax, anti-government and anti-regulatory culture contributed to needless deaths and destruction.

I’ve written a lot about the role of climate change in wildfires, so today will post a quick note – with the upfront caveat that I am not an expert on California and I have not adequately researched this issue – about the role of State Hazard Mitigation Planning.

Perhaps this superficial analysis and the questions I raise here might spur others to wade into those weeds.

In the massive press reports on the California wildfires, climate change is not the only major issue that is under-reported or not covered at all by the mainstream corporate media.

Here’s something important that you don’t see a lot of media coverage of:

Neither Napa nor Sonoma counties alerted residents of the fires through Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) systems. Despite the fact that such technology is readily available, many of the dead and injured were caught sleeping, completely unprepared for what was coming. In some cases the victims did not hear horns or the desperate knocking of neighbors. Many rural residents beyond the reach of local police departments were left with no warning at all, their limited escape routes quickly engulfed by flames.

But the Washington Post reported yesterday that in neighboring Lake County, due north of Sonoma, local officials did send out an emergency blast that activated all cellphones, “turning them into the equivalent of squawking alarms.” Untold lives were saved by this activation of the WEA. Lake County is the only affected county that has reported zero fire deaths. ~~~  Why weren’t residents warned about the Northern California fires?

Why weren’t people warned? Why was the response and evacuation so bad?

Federal law requires that States prepare and submit Hazard Mitigation Plans to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a condition of receipt of federal funds.

Here is a link to the California Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP).

The objectives of that plan include an extensive discussion of wildfire risks and overall management (see Chapter 5 2013 SHMP Chapter 5 – Earthquakes, Floods, and Wildfires: Risks and Mitigation.

Noting that people died due to lack of warning and evacuation, the wildfire management framework seems to downplay early warning and evacuation and shift the burden to individuals and local government: (page 268)

Managing the human/wildfire conflict requires a commitment of resources and a focused mitigation plan over the long term. The approach must be system‐wide and include the following

  •   An informed, educated public that takes responsibility for its own decisions relating to wildfire protection
  •   An effective wildfire suppression program
  •   An aggressive hazardous fuels management program
  •   Land use policies and standards that protect life, property, and natural resources
  •   Building and fire codes that reduce structural ignitions from windblown embers and flame contact fromWUI fires and impede or halt fire spread within the structure once ignited
  •   Construction and property standards that provide defensible space

Without even reading the Plan, just looking at the various maps of the fires raise questions.

For example, compare the above map from the California HMP with the map below of the locations of wildfires – It sure looks like the counties with the worst wildfires (i.e Sonoma) are mapped as “low risk” in the California Plan based on FEMA.

Source:

Source: Time

But the FEMA funded risk map above conflicts with these State and local risk maps:

Source: California HMP

Source: California HMP

Source: California HMP

Source: California HMP

In scanning the HMP, it seems like California shares the same fundamental weakness of the NJ HMP – while California clearly addresses climate change while NJ does not, like NJ, California’s HMP has an over-reliance on and delegation to local governments for implementation and financing.

Here’s how California justifies the allocation of responsibility to State government:

State Responsibility Areas (SRAs)

State Responsibility Areas (SRAs) are those lands within California that meet specific geographic and environmental criteria. These are areas where CAL FIRE has legal and financial responsibility for wildland fire protection and where CAL FIRE administers fire hazard classifications and building standard regulations. SRAs are defined as lands that 1) are county unincorporated areas, 2) are not federally owned, 3) have wildland vegetation cover rather than agricultural or ornamental plants, 4) have watershed and/or range/forage value, and 5) have housing densities not exceeding three units per acre.55 Similar to the FRAs, where SRAs contain built environment or development, the responsibility for fire protection of those improvements (non‐wildland) is that of a local government agency.

Were the wildfires located in a State Responsibility Area? That last sentence suggests a local responsibility.

Who is responsible for paying? Again, we don’t get a clear answer in the California HMP:

Rule‐Making Authority and Financial Responsibility

The significance of the FRA, SRA, and LRA designations relates to the rule‐making authority and financial responsibility for fire protection. Local government agencies (cities and counties) typically control the authority to enact and enforce land use ordinances, building codes, and fire codes for development within their boundaries. This land use authority includes those areas where the local agency shares fire protection responsibility with either FRAs or SRAs. Financial responsibility for wildland fire protection is a significant issue because wildland fire protection is very expensive and considerably more expensive in WUI areas.

The California HMP very clearly anticipates the problem:

Urban Fire Conflagration Potential

Although this SHMP focuses primarily on wildfires, it recognizes urban conflagration, or a large disastrous fire in an urban area, as a major hazard that can occur due to many causes such as wildfires, earthquakes, gas leaks, chemical explosions, or arson. The urban fire conflagration that followed the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake did more damage than the earthquake itself. A source of danger to cities throughout human history, urban conflagration has been reduced as a general source of risk to life and property through improvements in community design, construction materials, and fire protection systems.

California also recently passed a law regarding wildfire:

5.4.4.2 LEGISLATION FOR LOCAL WILDFIRE HAZARD PLANNING
Progress Summary 5.T: Significance of Senate Bill 1241 Wildfire Legislation

Senate Bill 1241: Wildfire Hazard Legislation

Safety Element

Planning and Zoning Law requires that cities and counties adopt a comprehensive general plan with various elements including a safety element for protection of the community from unreasonable risks associated with various hazards, including wildfires.

SB 1241 addresses local general plan safety elements (and all elements of a general plan, whether mandatory or optional, must be consistent with one another) in the following ways:

  1. Revises safety element requirements for state responsibility areas and very high fire hazard severity zones
  2. Requires local general plan safety elements, upon next revision of the housing element on or after January 1, 2014, to be reviewed and updated as necessary to address the risk of fire in SRAs and VHFHSZs
  3. Requires each safety element update to take into account the most recent version of the Office of Planning and Research’s “Fire Hazard Planning“ document
  4. Requires Office of Planning and Research (OPR), at the next update of its general plan guidelines, to include the provisions of SB 1241, or a reference to the provisions of SB 1241, as well as any other materials related to fire hazards or fire safety deemed appropriate for reference.

Local general plan safety element (and all elements of a general plan, whether mandatory or optional, must be consistent with one another) updates are required to include:

  1. Comprehensive review of local fire hazards in relation to distribution of existing or planned uses in SRA and VHFHSZ area within that jurisdiction
  2. Goals, policies and objectives for protection of the community from unreasonable risk of wildfire based on the identified fire hazard information
  3. Feasible implementation measures to carry out the defined goals, policies and objectives
  4. Attachment of or reference to any previously adopted fire safety plan that fulfills the goals of SB 1241

For any county containing SRAs or VHFHSZs, SB 1241 requires that the draft safety element update be submitted to the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection and to every local agency that provides fire protection for the territory in the city or county for a 90 day review period prior to adoption or amendment of that safety element. Any recommendations provided by State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection or any local agency must be considered by the city council or county’s board of supervisors. Any rejection of recommendations must be communicated in writing to the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection or local agency.

Progress as of 2013: This legislation is a significant addition to hazard mitigation efforts for wildfire areas because it follows the legislative model used in the 2007 flood legislation of hazard mitigation through state oversight of general plans. Similar to flood legislation adding flood plain planning responsibilities to local general plans (AB 162, etc.), SB 1241, passed in 2012, mandates wildfire planning responsibilities by local agencies through requirements regarding 1) wildfire updates to general plans; 2) mandatory findings for subdivision approvals in state responsibility areas (SRAs) and very high fire hazard severity zones (VHFHSZs); and 3) California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) checklist updates for wildfire safety.

I urge some intrepid journalists out there to delve into this Plan and conduct a critical analysis of State’s role.

My seat of the pants hypothesis is that the California Proposition 13 anti-tax, anti-government and anti-regulatory culture contributed to needless deaths and destruction.

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Atlantic Northeast

October 17th, 2017 No comments

What a long strange trip it’s been

South Bay, between Eastport and Lubec Maine, most northeastern point on continental US

South Bay, between Eastport and Lubec Maine, most northeastern point on continental US

You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel,
Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down.
I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’,
Get out of the door and light out and look all around.

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me,
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been. ~~~ Truckin’ (Grateful Dead, 1970)

After 6 months, 36 states, scores of National Parks and National Forests, and 17,000 miles, today’s post serves as a bookend to our August 27, 2017 post “Pacific Northwest”, where we posted lovely photos of Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point on the mainland US.

Today, we post from the most northeastern town (Eastport, Maine) and city (Lubec, Maine) in the US.

Lubec Maine, very cool little town

Lubec Maine, very cool little town

But before we get to the pretty Maine coast photos, I must share the depression of northern Maine, where the tourists fear to roam.

And by northern Maine, I don’t mean Mt. Katahdin (northern terminus of the AT and nearby AT Cafe in otherwise devastated Millinocket, perhaps my favorite cafe on the whole trip) or Baxter State Park, where they make the out of state tourists shell out a minimum of $31, for just one night ($10 entrance fee and $21 for a campsite – I turned around at the gate).

Call it a “Dispatch from the Domain of Double Wides and Deaths of Despair”:

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The above was maybe one of the nicer places in this part of the state, where Trump support and displays are widespread. As I took this photo, the homeowner ran out after me in a very menacing way. I got back in the van and the hell out of there before he could get his rifle.

This forgotten economic wasteland is Trumpland. I thought northern New Hampshire was bad, but northern Maine was even bleaker.

But here’s the pretty side of Maine, where the tourists go – see the captions for locations:

Roosevelt Campobello International Park

Campobello, Canada. Summer home of FDR

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Acadia National Park

Schoodic Point, Acadia NP

Schoodic Point, Acadia NP

view from Cadillac Mt. - Sentimental value: I have the same shot over 20 years ago with my 5 year old son sitting on that rock.

view from Cadillac Mt. – Sentimental value: I have the same shot over 20 years ago with my 5 year old son sitting on that rock.

Bar Harbor, from Cadillac Mt. There were 2 large cruise ships in the Harbor

Bar Harbor, from Cadillac Mt. There were 2 large cruise ships in the Harbor

Sand Beach - hardly California, but...

Sand Beach – hardly California, but…

Pemaquid Pond

Bouy lounges on the dock. We camped in boat launch lot - this was the only place on the whole trip where I got a knock on the van at 3 am by local Sheriff. He let us stay, but only after I lied about being there to fish.

Bouy lounges on the dock. We camped in boat launch lot – this was the only place on the whole trip where I got a knock on the van at 3 am by local Sheriff. He let us stay, but only after I lied about being there to fish.

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“Enduring Splendor”

October 8th, 2017 No comments
Redwood National Forest

Redwood National Forest

People will tell you where they’ve gone
They’ll tell you where to go
But till you get there yourself you never really know
Where some have found their paradise
Others just come to harm
Oh, Amelia it was just a false alarm. ~~~ Amelia – (Joni Mitchell, 1976)

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May those who come here find inspiration and peace in the enduring splendor of these magnificent trees

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Early 20th century oligarchs (the Robber Barons) at least gave back something –

But there will be no Trump Grove – just enduring greed.

We close with more Joni:

I’ve got road maps
From two dozen states
I’ve gone coast to coast just to contemplate
Will you still love me
When I get back to town
It’s funny how these old feelings hang around
You think they’re gone
No, no
They just go underground. ~~~~Blue Motel Room (from same Hejira album)

and more:

In a highway service station
Over the month of June
Was a photograph of the earth
Taken coming back from the moon
And you couldn’t see a city
On that marbled bowling ball
Or a forest or a highway
Or me here least of all
You couldn’t see these cold water restrooms
Or this baggage overload
Westbound and rolling taking refuge in the roads.  Refuge of the road

and more, from what might be her best album:

No regrets Coyote
I’ll just get off up aways
You just picked up a hitcher
A prisoner of the white lines on the freeway.  Coyote

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Fake Prices: Trump’s Attack on Economics

September 27th, 2017 No comments

Trump Executive Order Blocks Consideration of the “Social Cost of Carbon”

NJ climate careerists now support SCC

Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” ~~~  Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

[Update: 10/10/17 – these are the lies you can tell, based on Fake Prices:

A leaked draft of the repeal proposal asserts that the country would save $33 billion by not complying with the regulation and rejects the health benefits the Obama administration had calculated from the original rule. ~~~ EPA Announces Repeal of Major Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule (NY Times) – end update]

There’s been an avalanche of reporting on “fake news” and it’s also been widely reported by the mainstream corporate media that President Trump considers the scientific consensus on climate change (global warming) a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to undermine US economic growth.

So, I guess it logically follows in Trump’s mind – but has been virtually ignored by the media – that if global warming is a hoax then it couldn’t possibly impose costs on the economy – and that what economists call the “social cost of carbon” also must be a hoax – perhaps a campaign scheme by Russian hackers?

So, in case you haven’t heard: President Trump’s wrecking ball, the: Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth among other even more significant horrors, abolished consideration of the “social cost of carbon” and prohibited implementation by federal agencies, disbanded all federal workgroups, and withdrew all prior documents including:

(i)    Technical Support Document:  Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order 12866 (February 2010);

(ii)   Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis (May 2013);

(iii)  Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis (November 2013);

(iv)   Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis (July 2015);

(v)    Addendum to the Technical Support Document for Social Cost of Carbon:  Application of the Methodology to Estimate the Social Cost of Methane and the Social Cost of Nitrous Oxide (August 2016); and

(vi)   Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis (August 2016).

Luckily, all those documents have been preserved, despite Trump’s Orwellian effort to scrub federal websites and send them “down the memory hole”.

Ironically, the Trump promotion of “fake prices” (which ignore what economists call “externalities”) and “fake economics” comes at a time when even corporate polluters and fossil energy giants have reluctantly agreed to support some form of carbon tax, see:

My take on corporations supporting a carbon tax, my sense of the fossil strategy is:

1. A tax is a market mechanism that derails stronger “keep it in the ground” bans and regulatory alternatives;

2. The tax can be passed on to consumers and have little impact on corporate profits (kind of like a bottle deposit law).

3. The relative inelasticity of demand for fossil fuels means that small price increase of a small carbon tax that could gain political support in Congress would have little effect on demand or profits.

Some economic criticisms I’ve read on carbon tax note that it would have to be very high – $300 – $400 or more per ton and double current gas prices – to reflect the true external social costs of carbon and to provide an effective market price signal to investors in renewables. Such a high tax is politically infeasible.

4. Politically they can blame the Democrats when the backlash hits.

Finally, after years of failing to report on the social cost of carbon – other than to mention it as a “zero carbon emissions credit”, benefit of and reason to bailout nuclear energy – I guess that corporate support now makes it safe for NJ Spotlight and their “climate dignitaries” to report on and support inclusion of the social costs of carbon in State level policy and regulation.

Oh the cruel irony!

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