Author Archive

While Christie Is Away, His BPU & DEP Hacks Play

November 28th, 2015 No comments

Unprecedented, Systematic, and Irresponsible Attack On Environmental Safeguards

Who turned my press corps yellow?

That headline admittedly is misleading, by implying that the Gov. doesn’t support what BPU and DEP are doing (e.g. when the cat’s away the mice play and get away with what they can’t when the cat is on guard), while we all know that BPU and DEP Commissioner Martin are just following the “regulatory relief” orders of the Gov.

In the last few months, during the Gov.’s primary campaign, DEP has embarked on THE MOST anti-environmental agenda in NJ history.

Take a look at the recent lowlights – you really can’t make this stuff up – each single one a MAJOR radical policy reversal of all previous Administrations over that last 30 years:

Nothing like this has ever happened before in NJ. Never.

Not even close – even during the Whitman “Open For Business” years.

But, of course, the NJ press corps has failed to connect the dots, and for the most part, even report on each individual element of it at all.

Of course, that same NJ press corps has reporters and editors assigned to report and pontificate on every move of Gov. Christie on the campaign tour – and every outrageous racist ignorant uttering of The Donald.

I’m sure I’ve missed stuff – but enough is enough

And the elite media just can’t seem to understand why voters don’t understand politics.

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November 25th, 2015 No comments

This has not been a good year, personally or for the things I care about.

But there is still a lot of beauty and love out there, for which we are thankful for.










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Another Staff Sellout and Subversion at the Pinelands Commission To Promote South Jersey Gas Pipeline

November 24th, 2015 No comments

We have noted that extraordinarily corrupt complex regulatory games have been played by Pinelands Commission Executive Director Wittenberg to promote the South Jersey Gas pipeline.

I don’t want to go into the regulatory weeds to explain all the details on this latest example.

Here’s the story:

During the review of the “revised” South Jersey gas pipeline application, it was discovered that Upper Township had violated the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) by illegally constructing buildings without Commission approval.

Under the CMP rules, the bottom line is that until this violation is remedied and approved after the fact by the Pinelands Commission, the South Jersey Gas pipeline application can not proceed.

Talk about a big OOPS!

Got that?

Until the Commission formally acts to remedy the violation by Upper Township, the SJG pipeline can not proceed.

All the Commission needs to do is find a way to sit on this “after the fact” approval – and just not approve it.

There has been a LOT of negative press, editorial, and hand wringing by certain Pinelands Commissioners and by Pines advocates that the Commission has been stripped of its power to vote on the SJG pipeline application.

They all correctly complain that the Pinelands Commission will not be able to vote on the SJG pipeline project.

At the same time, Pines advocates have long noted the Commission’s lack of enforcement powers for the kind of blatant violation of the CMP that Upper Township engaged in.

So, what does the Commission staff do about it’s inability to vote on the SJG pipeline and its lack of formal enforcement power?

Do they use the leverage that now exists by the need to approve the Upper Township after the fact remedy?

I can’t imagine more leverage or a stronger enforcement power than to be able to block the SJG pipeline by simply doing nothing.

That’s right – all the Commission has to do is to do nothing. Simply don’t approve the Upper Township violation after the fact.

The rationale to delay acting on the Upper Township matter could have been that the Commission would have to amend the CMP to include enforcement sanctions and require mitigation for such violations.

But the staff at the Commission are in the tank for SJG and have engaged in what amounts to another unilateral staff usurpation of the Commission’s powers, obviously again to promote the SJG pipeline.

Knowing that all they need to do was NOTHING, what did the staff recommend that the Commission do?

Of course, they recommended APPROVAL, which would allow the SJG pipeline to proceed: (Nov. 23, 2015 letter)


Note that the staff letter from Chuck Horner, head of Regulatory Affairs, very clearly states that it is sent “on behalf of the Commission’s Executive Director” – that is code that can only mean that Wittenberg put a gun to his head.

If you read the boldface portion of this letter, it is almost as if Mr. Horner KNOWS this is wrong and invites legal challenge.

(why would staff send their recommendation to the Mayor before the Commission votes on it? That surely undermines the Commission.).

Let’s see what the full Commission does with this at their next December 11, 2015 meeting.

My guess is that they will duck the controversy and rubber stamp another Wittenberg coup.

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The Gas Pipeline Death Spiral

November 24th, 2015 No comments

Perverse Incentives to Climate Policy, High Capital Cost Death Spiral, Stranded Assets

I was just reading all the public comments on the Energy Master Plan Update that Christie BPU totally ignored in the Update, and came across an interesting point about how the fundamental economics of gas pipelines work at cross purposes with and undermine both sane economics and climate and energy policy.

(the huge climate footprint of gas is beyond the scope of this economic oriented note).

I call the dynamic an economic death spiral.

NJ dealt with exactly the same economic and environmental dynamics during the debate on garbage incinerators.

In a nutshell, to finance the high capital costs and risks of garbage incinerators and assure that they would operate cost effectively, a fixed large daily volumes of garbage had to be guaranteed to be delivered to the plant by “put or pay” contracts and DEP regulations known as “waste flow”.

These daily waste delivery guarantees resulted in perverse incentives that directly undermined more environmentally sound efforts to reduce and recycle waste. We called it the need to feed the beast.

Then the fatal blow was struck: after the project financing and contracts were executed, the US Supreme Court struck down “waste flow” laws, so cheaper disposal alternatives from nearby Pennsylvania landfills emerged.

At the same time, lower cost recycling increased.

The effect of cheaper alternatives created what was called “leakage”, where waste that was planned to go the incinerator found cheaper alternatives.

This diversion of waste flow increased the effective cost per ton at the incinerator, which provide additional economic incentive to divert even more waste to alternative disposal and recycling alternatives, resulting in uneconomic incinerators and stranded assets the public was forced to pay for.

The death spiral.

Turns out that gas pipelines have exactly the same death spiral economics – as EDF warned the BPU:

New natural gas-fired power plants and interstate pipelines are long-lived resources with useful lives (and depreciated) over forty years or longer. New pipelines, for example, must apply for and obtain FERC approval, in the form of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, prior to commencing construction. Beforc a proposed new pipeline can apply for a FERC Certificate, it must execute contracts providing sufficient revenue from shippers to pay for the full cost of the project. Because the costs of constructing a new pipeline (particularly a greenfield project) arc so great, these contracts (“precedent agreements” providing for binding transportation service agreements) must be of long duration, typically around 20 years or longer. In precedent agreements, the costs are almost entirely imposed on shippers through take or pay obligations whereby daily pipeline delivery capacity is reserved and paid for by shippers for every day over the period of the transportation scrvice agreements — whether or not those services are used.

,A primary consequence of take or pay transportation agreements is that the fewer the days and the lower the quantities shippers take on those days as natural gas dclivery from the pipeline (i.e., the l0ver the load factor of use), the higher the effective incremental cost of the transportation service per dekatherm delivered or megawatt hour generated using the gas,  the effective “cost-in-use.” The fewer megawatt hours generated, the higher the effective incremental, per megawatt hour, cost to customers. There may be a point at which the extent of utilization of new capacity renders its long term cost to be lower than the alternatives. However, this may rcquire a much higher level of utilization than can be reasonably expected (depending on the size of the capacity addition) and will be challenging to predict accurately into the futurc given the ongoing technologically and customer driven trends in the market. Natural gas (the commodity) may be priced relatively low but pipelines to transport it are very expensive, especially when the gas is used primarily to address peak demand conditions or as a firming resource to balance lower cost renewable power generators. Therefore, extreme diligence must be exercised in determining the size of need and the duration of use of new pipeline capacity, especially insofar as fixed long term obligations would be imposed on retail ratepayers. Any continuing presumption that new natural gas pipeline infrastructure will provide price benefits must be supported by analysis, and should consider the stranded cost risk inherent to expensive long-lived infrastructure.

No environmental group has done more harm on so many issues via reliance on markets and economics and corporations.

But this EDF economic analysis is sound and works for the public interest and climate sanity.

But the Christie BPU ignored it anyway.

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By The Time They File for State Permits, It’s TOO LATE!

November 23rd, 2015 No comments

Do pipeline opponents really think corporations or governments are going to give them a heads up?

Opponents focus on local governments while ignoring State permits

[Update below – reply from CAPP]

For months now, I have been writing about and talking to PennEast pipeline opponents, urging them to get to work NOW, BEFORE PennEast submits permit applications to the NJ DEP.

The reasons for that are twofold:

First, by acting right now, opponents can get out in front and define the overall expectations, the applicable regulatory requirements, a set of technical issues, methodologies, and requirements they think the pipeline must address.

This is especially critical in these pipeline reviews, because environmentalists must force DEP to conduct a more thorough review and enforce water quality standards in land use programs, something that DEP has not done in the past.

Getting active now also generates technical documents and information that is very useful and that can drive informed public criticism and fuel the public campaigns to target pressure on DEP. Keep those OPRA’s going!

There are no secret regulatory kill pills – don’t think Pilgrim’s lawyers don’t know all the angles and that you’ll surprise them at the 12th hour. No way.

Secondly, the public portion of the permit process is a total sham.

By the time a draft permit is “public noticed” and distributed for public review and comment, the deal is done.

The public comment and public hearing process on a draft permit is a sham – a dog and pony show.

Once DEP issues a draft permit, they are pretty much locked in – only minor changes can be made at the margins – if only to save DEP’s face. Like any bureaucracy, they are loath to admit error and listen to the public. There are also legal issues involved regarding how far DEP can go with respect to making changes in response to public comment before having to withdraw the draft permit and start all over.

Besides, at that point, you are stuck with a final permit and pipeline – not a denial.

The Pre-Appplcation Process is Key

In fact, the overall framework, the outcome expectations (YES, MAYBE, or NO), and the applicable regulatory requirements and technical issues are all decided during the pre-application phase!!

DEP holds private meetings with a permit applicant called “pre-application meetings”. The public is excluded from these critical meetings.

DEP has tipped their hand about all that pre-application meeting stuff in the FERC review process, where meetings between DEP and PE on DEP permit issues are revealed.

I thought I made this pre-application abuse clear during the Pinelands pipeline debate.  

In a post mortem praising activist, I wrote:

VI)  Improving the decision making process 

There were several problems revealed during this debate – here are some of the key flaws that must be fixed:

1) the pre-application and review process suggests agency capture – far more transparency and public participation are required for major projects;

2) the Commission relied far too heavily on information submitted by the applicant and lacked independent science and technical review

[NJ Natural Gas also abused the Pinelands pre-application process.]

The South Jersey Gas pipeline project began pre-application meetings around April 2012 and had been before the Pinelands Commission staff for 15 MONTHS before any public criticism was mounted in June/July 2013.

This is exactly the abuse I’ve been trying very hard to avoid with the PennEast pipeline.

So, my head exploded just exploded when I read this, from the Pilgrim pipeline coalition:


·  · Bookmark the permalink. ·

Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings LLC announced on November 18 that they had filed for permits with New York officials to move forward with building the Pilgrim Pipeline, an environmentally destructive project between Albany, NY and Linden, NJ.  Less prominent was the fact that they filed documents with the NY Thruway Authority and the Department of Environmental Protection in August.  What have they been hiding for 3 months?  (You can see their filing documents here.)

Did the CAPP folks really think Pilgrim corporate people or DEC were going to give them a heads up?

Tell them: hey guys, we’re going to submit our permits, so you can begin your public campaign attacking them now!

I realize that these regulatory issues are complex – but ENGO’s have professional staff, don’t they?

They surely have learned nothing and continue to make big mistakes.

It is getting very hard to take.

[Update – CAPP webmaster Joe Testa just sent me this email because he was unable to comment on the post. I share it and my reply for readers. Joe wrote:

I am sorry that your head has unnecessarily exploded when you read about CAPP’s response to the Pilgrim Pipeline filing in New York.

In brief: duh, no, the CAPP folks were not expecting a heads up from Pilgrim or DEC before starting a public campaign attacking them.  In case you hadn’t been watching …CAPP activists have been actually been working on a public campaign and been busy engaging local public officials to join in the long battle against the pipeline.  The 59 towns along the pipeline route (and nearby) did not spontaneously, independently decide over the past year or so that the pipeline would be a bad thing … they were pushed and prodded by CAPP actiivsts, who have privately worked with local officials and engaged in public demonstrations of opposition.

This bit about the ‘tell us 3 months later’ is just the last chapter of the saga.  For you to imply that CAPP has been waiting in Sleepy Hollow, waiting for the good folks at DEC & Pilgrim to wake us out of hibernation, is just flat-out wrong.

Joe Testa
CAPP Webmaster

Gee, I wonder why CAPP’s own post complained – in the headline – about learning of the permit submission 3 months after it occurred. That kind of proves my point, no? i.e. that they are not involved in the NY DEC pre-application process.

My reply:

That’s great Joe – but you’ve confirmed my criticism.

I’ve been very critical of the activists’ focus on local bullshit while they ignore they only state regulatory power that can kill the pipeline.

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