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Gov. Christie Doubles Down on Climate Denial Policy, Attacks Obama EPA GHG Rule

December 17th, 2014 No comments

Another Example of Gov. Christie’s National Political Ambitions

Despite horrible record, Christie DEP had the audacity to take credit for reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Tom Johnson has a great story running today on NJ Spotlight about the Christie DEP’s comments on the Obama EPA’s proposed  rule on greenhouse gas emissions reduction from existing power plants, see:

 The state Department of Environmental Protection is opposing the Obama administration’s proposal to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, calling the draft rule fundamentally flawed.

In a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, the state described the draft rules as “incomplete, needlessly complex, and impossible to implement,’’ according to a letter from DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. The state agency said the proposal could not be redeemed through mere revisions and ought to be scrapped.

Ironically, the story comes just one day after news reports of EPA’s $500,000 grant to NJ for climate change research, see:

My guess is that EPA Region 2 Administrator Enck and Bergen Record reporter Jim O’Neill are both feeling pretty embarrassed right now – Gov. Christie’s DEP just told EPA to pound sand the day after they were on a very different page.

But thankfully, Tom Johnson did not buy the Christie DEP spin and held them accountable to a terrible record on climate:

Nevertheless, the state still has a long way to go to achieve an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, a target set by a law passed by the Legislature under the Corzine administration. To reach that goal, the state identified three primary programs for reducing emissions: the state’s new Energy Master Plan; a program to promote cleaner-running vehicles in New Jersey; and participation in a regional initiative to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants.

The Christie administration pulled out of the regional initiative, and efforts to promote cleaner and zero-emission vehicles have been spotty at best. As for the Energy Master Plan, some of its initiatives to produce cleaner electricity are stuck in neutral, particularly a plan to promote offshore wind along the coast of New Jersey.

Tom could have mentioned a lot more, like diverting over $1 billion in Clean Energy Fund to pay for corporate tax cuts and using the Energy Master Plan to reduce efficiency and renewable energy goals, and promote new fossil plants and pipeline infrastructure.

Despite this horrible record, the Christie DEP had the audacity to take credit for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 33%:

In New Jersey, the Christie administration argues it is ahead of the proposed reductions the EPA is calling for, saying it has cut carbon dioxide emissions — a primary component of global warming — by 33 percent, more than the 30 percent target the federal agency has set as the 2030 goal for the entire nation.

The Christie administration has done NOTHING to reduce GHG emissions.

The alleged 33% reduction is as result of economic recession; fuel switching to natural gas (with questionable assumptions about lifecycle GHG emissions from gas); and efficiency and renewable energy plans and programs put in place BEFORE the Christie Administration started dismantling all climate initiatives and promoting fossil energy in the new Energy Master Plan.

If anything, the Obama EPA rule sets the bar far to low on emissions reductions and it gives states far too much power and control in the design and implementation of the emissions reduction program.

The 40+ year history of the Clean Air Act SIP process demonstrates that State’s rarely if ever make timely and sincere efforts.

As I’ve written, the SIP process is technocratic, captured by polluters, and actively hostile to the activism required to make real deep emissions cuts and accelerate the change to a low carbon economy.

And politically, Jeff Tittel gets it right – this is another example in a growing list, where Gov. Christie is appeasing corporate campaign funders and putting his national political ambitions above good public policy and the best interests of NJ.

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Here’s What “Strong Private Sector Management” At The Christie DEP Looks Like

December 16th, 2014 No comments

Offices of Green Energy & Sustainability: “VACANT”

Proliferation of “Chief”, “Senior” “Deputy Chief” and “Deputy” Advisors

Seeing that DEP Commissioner Bob Martin has been touted as a “strong private sector manager” with experience in the energy industry, I thought I’d share – drumroll please! – the “November 24, 2014 Announcement- i.e. the latest version of the DEP’s Organizational Chart.

I can’t seem to count all the various “advisors” to the Commissioner in his office, but that entourage looks to be at least 20 people. The lines of function, reporting, and accountability look random.

I assume all of these are Governor approved “special appointments” (i.e. patronage hacks) that did not come through the career civil service system.

Wonder if they have maids, butlers, and cocktail service?

Given Martin’s alleged expertise on energy, I noted that there’s even an Assistant Commissioner for “Sustainability and Green Energy” with no Divisions, Bureaus, or even staff.

Wonder how Civil Service approved that position?

Take a look:

DEP Org

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Privatization Bill Would Do Nothing To Address Crumbling Infrastructure or $40 Billion Deficit

December 16th, 2014 No comments

 End Run Around Current Voter Approval and BPU Review Requirements

Corporate Profits, without investments in upgrades, a formula for higher rates & continued deterioration

The Assembly approved the controversial water privatization bill yesterday, so now the debate shifts to the Senate, as corrupt machine politicians in Trenton try to ram this bill through before the holidays before growing public opposition can be organized to block it. See, NJ Spotlight story:

The bill is being sold as a way to generate private sector funds to address NJ’s $40 billion deficit in water infrastructure.

That is a big lie. Here it is - “beyond government capacity to restore”:

b. There are public water and wastewater systems in the State that present serious risks to the integrity of drinking water and the environment because of issues such as aging 2[combined sanitary and storm sewer overflow] infrastructure2 systems, 2[the threat of sodium intrusion,]2 the deterioration of the physical assets of the systems, or damage to infrastructure so severe that it is beyond governmental capacity to restore; 

The Senate sponsor has put his cards on the table – he is ideologically a privatization zealot and opposed to public water (Bergen Record):

Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, and a prime sponsor of the measure, believes “no town should be in the public water supply business.”

Contrary to the big lies Sarlo & Co. are peddling, the bill does nothing to mandate that private water companies make ANY investment in the public water systems that they purchase. Zero. Nothing. Nada.

Nor does the bill require that private water companies prepare and actually finance asset management plans as DEP is now requiring as a condition of loans from the NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust.

Read Section 6.b (@page 8) – and note that an asset management plan is merely one piece of information submitted during the bidding process. Nothing requires that the private entity actually prepare an asset management plan, including a financial plan backed by real capital investment and user revenues.

This contrasts with DEP’s Asset Management Guidance, which DEP claims is a requirement for a loan from the NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust.

Thus, asset management requirements are stricter for public systems than private systems. The bill does the direct OPPOSITE of what it claims – it lets private corporations OFF the hook for asset management!

As I testified, the bill also does not require consideration of climate change risks and compliance with President Obama’s executive order on adaptation and resilience.

And as even NJ Business and Industry Association noted, the bill is divorced from any planning process to determine supply, demand, infrastructure conditions, and investment needs – those are some of the main objectives of the outdated 1996 NJ Water Supply Master Plan.

These are fatal flaws in the legislation that expose the big lie and the real agenda behind the bill.

The only purposes of the bill are to eliminate the current requirement for a voter referendum to approve any private sale and to prohibit BPU from reviewing the reasonableness of the purchase price of the water system.

Passage of this bill would be a death knell for the large majority of NJ’s public water systems – those that would not be profitable will be allowed to deteriorate further and we will be faced with a two tiered third world water system.

The combination of current fiscal crisis and effective caps on property taxes will put extreme pressure on towns to enter into short sighted one shot fiscal gimmicks by selling their public systems for pennies on the dollar.

Local officials will not be able to resist a $20 million one shot revenue carrot offered up by private water companies.

Over decades, taxpayers and ratepayers have invested billions in these public water systems, which will be give away at firesale prices to corporations who have guaranteed BPU monopoly profits.

Additionally, Towns that want to invest in their public infrastructure that seek loans from the NJEIT will have to prepare asset management plans and make real investments in the systems, which will force unpopular local user rate increases.

This too will pressure them to sell to private corporations to avoid taking on the long term investments.

At a minimum, the bill must require private corporations to invest and comply with asset management requirements.

The bill must be stopped – call you Senator today!

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EPA Rewards Christie DEP’s Climate Change Denial & Coastal Management Failures

December 16th, 2014 No comments

EPA Provides $314,000 Grant to DEP to Assess Climate Impacts on Coastal Wetlands

What On Earth Would It Take To Get Sanctioned BY EPA?

[Update: 12/17/14 - My guess is that EPA Region 2 Administrator Enck and Bergen Record reporter Jim O’Neill are both feeling pretty embarrassed right now – Gov. Christie’s DEP just told EPA to pound sand on climate change:

The state Department of Environmental Protection is opposing the Obama administration’s proposal to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, calling the draft rule fundamentally flawed.

In a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, the state described the draft rules as “incomplete, needlessly complex, and impossible to implement,’’ according to a letter from DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. The state agency said the proposal could not be redeemed through mere revisions and ought to be scrapped.

Thankfully, Tom Johnson made my point about the Christie Administration’s horrible record on climate:

The Christie administration pulled out of the regional initiative, and efforts to promote cleaner and zero-emission vehicles have been spotty at best. As for the Energy Master Plan, some of its initiatives to produce cleaner electricity are stuck in neutral, particularly a plan to promote offshore wind along the coast of New Jersey.~~~ end update]

I’m left scratching my head over this one.

After 5 years of climate change denial and an irresponsible and reckless coastal development policy that national academic experts have called “rebuild madness” – including a former DEP Commissioner and coastal  expert who said DEP is “drunk of federal funds” - EPA just rewarded the Christie Administration DEP with a huge grant on climate change and coastal wetlands.

Just as bad, the Bergen Record story by Jim O’Neill provides absolutely no context and completely ignores and whitewashes this history, see:

The state Department of Environmental Protection will receive $204,000 from the EPA to study wetland sediments and assess the impact of human activity and climate change on New Jersey’s coastal wetlands. Understanding how marshes have responded to past stressors will help with restoration efforts, the EPA said.

The DEP will also receive a grant of $110,000 for a living shoreline program. Such projects provide a soft buffer zone of marsh plants and sediment to absorb the effects of storm surge and sea level rise, reducing inland property damage. The DEP will create a website that provides research and other information about living shoreline projects throughout the state. The agency will also examine living shoreline projects in other states to see how they might be applied in New Jersey.

DEP will create a website! As Archie Bunker said: “Whoop de dooo!

I guess O’Neill simply transcribed the EPA press release – guess it’s too much of a chore to pick up the phone and report on inconvenient facts that completely destroy the narrative of the EPA’s lame press release.

So, let’s start from scratch, because O’Neill is obviously lost or clueless – and he’s an environmental reporter so we assume he knows more than other reporters and the general public:

Under federal law, EPA is responsible for overseeing federally delegated and/or funded State programs.

EPA is bound by the policy set by President Obama’s Executive Order of Adaptation to Climate Change.

EPA provides millions of dollars of federal grant money to DEP to administer environmental programs. The grant in question is in addition to those funds.

EPA has two primary tools to influence a State’s performance in enforcing and implementing federal environmental laws.

First, EPA can allocate or withhold federal funds, or second, they can assume direct responsibility for implementing the federal law.

Both the NJ wetlands and coastal management programs are federally delegated and funded.

The Christie DEP has done a miserable job of enforcing and implementing federal laws and programs.

Accordingly, EPA should be threatening to withhold federal funds or to assume direct federal program control via permit and enforcement authority.

In case EPA Region 2 didn’t know, I guess I must say that the Christie Administration has been in an across the board policy denial about climate change.

I don’t want to waste my time right now repeating all the specific examples of how the Governor’s climate denial has impacted DEP policy. The record is clear by now. Hit the links above.

Second, again if EPA Region 2 didn’t know, the Christie DEP has denied the threats of climate change on NJ’s coast and to NJ’s coastal wetlands.

The DEP has weakened longstanding coastal management policies and regulations to promote even more development.

The DEP is constructing engineered systems like seawalls, bulkheads, miles of steel pilings, etc., that are the direct opposite of EPA funded “living shoreline” projects.

The DEP has even taken steps to use coastal wetlands as disposal sites for dredge spoils to promote navigation and the marina industry.

EPA rewards a record like that on climate and coastal management with additional grant funds.

Absurd.

And then for the press to write a story and ignore all this is almost as bad.

The insult to the injury in all this is that the coastal advocacy groups like ALS and COA are either receiving funds from DEP for these window dressing “living shoreline” programs or are providing political cover to the Gov. for other reasons.

The bottom line is that they’ve withheld criticism so the press and the public know very little about the failure along the coast.

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This Is What Mitigation Looks Like (the Utopian Vision of “Conservation” Groups)

December 15th, 2014 No comments
Do oil & gas pipelines look like this to you? Source: The Conservation Fund

Do oil & gas pipelines look like this to you? Source: The Conservation Fund – don’t mind those greenhouse gas emissions behind the pipeline! Mitigate that!

I felt the need to post this in disgust, after reading about the most recent news on the $66 million SR power line Delaware Watergap mitigation program, see:

The depiction above is the IDEALIZED  vision of “mitigation”:

  • Major infrastructure projects require mitigation.
  • Mitigation means new conservation.

(translation: “mitigation means money” – 3M’s Baby!)

It was produced by The Conservation Fund, the corporate oriented “conservation” group that cut the dirty deal in the SR Delaware Watergap. (I don’t think even the oil & gas industry are this bold in depicting their lies about pipelines, because this is what they really look like):

Our mission is to protect land and water resources. Because new infrastructure provides significant conservation opportunity, we work with companies, government agencies, land managers and communities to improve mitigation efforts. We identify mitigation needs and create strategies to meet them. We serve as honest brokers, keeping mitigation focused on achieving the best available conservation outcomes.

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it, right? As the man sang: “If I don’t do it, you know somebody else will”.

I strongly urge you to read their “conservation strategy” to see if you agree.

Keep in mind that there are many groups in NJ who share their “entrepreneurial spirit”, vision, and values (i.e. “we’re entrepreneurs” and “we balance economics and environment” – Sounds like Eric Stiles or Mike Catania talking).

Don’t miss the “Real Estate” program page:

In addition to helping public partners save land, we work with interested private landowners to secure conservation easements on lands with high conservation value. We place particular importance on “working lands,” or forests, farms and ranches being sustainably, actively managed. A growing part of our work involves helping corporate partners and regulatory agencies achieve good conservation outcomes through mitigation. Our experienced team includes attorneys, lenders, foresters and other real estate experts. Most work in small offices across the country, living in the communities they help conserve.

Of course, you must read the “entrepreneurial”  “Conservation Ventures” page, and its emphasis on “sustainable forest stewardship” (where have we heard that before?)

Our Conservation Ventures invest in, or lend money to, small business and sustainable forestry efforts that generate economic, social and environmental returns. Our goal is to help people build enterprises that make a difference with every board foot, kilowatt hour, paddle stroke, bottle or bushel they produce.

My question to you is:

Do you want these visions and values and “entrepreneurial” conservation groups and corporate programs controlling your public lands here in NJ?

If not, contact your legislator and tell them to deny any funds for “Stewardship” or any public funds to private non-profit groups who conduct “mitigation” or “stewardship” projects.

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