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A Bold Stealth Camping Move

July 3rd, 2020 No comments

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We’re heading east across Michigan’s upper peninsula.

It’s been extremely hot and humid, the last 3 days around 95 and humid. Local fishermen and birders I spoke with tell me this is highly unusual, that July days are typically in the 60’s and even have dipped to the 50’s. I haven’t confirmed that, but can confirm that it is HOT and HUMID.

Nights haven’t cooled down, and the skeeters are murder (especially in the places we find to camp, which typically are boat launch sites surrounded by water.)

Last night we found an excellent place in Rapid River, Michigan at a pretty  isolated boat launch on the Little Bay de Noc on Lake Michigan. Gorgeous! I figured we could spend several days here, despite the pretty intense skeeters (many beers and bug spray solved that problem).

But, just after dark, assholes showed up with fireworks, that totally freaked out my dog!

So we left mid morning today.

After our morning walk, breakfast, and coffee, by 10 am, it was already hot.

I gave Bouy one more swim to cool down and headed out along Route 2 eastbound.

Tons of traffic, mostly headed west. As we go further east, it got more and more touristy and second home development. Bad driving and a bad signs for finding a good stealth spot for overnight camping.

After a few stops along the way to get the dog in the water and cool him down from the heat, by 3 pm, I was tired and looking for a place to park for the night.

After a few failed attempts on forest and local roads, as I was driving by an old abandoned gas station, I notice that it had an old rusted out Skoolie parked in the lot.

So, I figured that old bus needed company and pulled in right next to it!

Hope I live to see the sun rise –

The dude who owns the place has a large “Locked and Loaded” poster on the window, and the grass is freshly mown. But I figured the odds of someone coming by on Friday night on a 4th of July weekend were slim. Ditto for the cops and my bus blends in with the other one already there.

Perhaps my boldest stealth camping maneuver ever!

Happy Fourth of July – Freedom and USA! USA! USA! all the way, baby! (snark)

 

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Billionaire State Park Privatization Scheme Sheds Light On Prior Diversion of Hundreds of Millions Of Dollars Of Constitutionally Dedicated Park Maintenance Funds To Open Space

July 3rd, 2020 No comments

The Theft Of State Parks Funding Has Become The Pretext For Privatization 

[Important Update below]

There has been swift public and press outrage over a stealth provision in the emergency COVID budget that mandates that DEP “shall” solicit privatization proposals for all State Parks, including the crown jewel Liberty State Park, where billionaire Paul Fireman is seeking to expand a golf course into LSP lands.

Yesterday, the NY Times ran a killer story, that amounts to a huge national embarrassment for NJ Gov. Murphy, see:

Today, the Star Ledger editorial board followed up to flat out condemn Gov. Murphy, Trenton legislators and lobbyists for billionaire’s, see:

  • Murphy and his golf cronies have Liberty State Park in their crosshairs.

    Today, the 21 acres of Caven Point is a sanctuary for migratory birds, a pristine place where New Jerseyans gather to catch a glimpse of the peregrine falcon, the yellow-crowned night-heron, or the snowy owl.

    But because Gov. Murphy has decided to collaborate with plutocrats who believe that the public interest can be sold, this corner of Liberty State Park may soon be populated by — mirabile visu! —hideously-dressed millionaires clutching their 3-irons and whacking their double bogeys.

But, in contrast to other harsh coverage, NJ Spotlight ran a typically tepid piece of he said/she said bullshit, that provided a platform for Gov. Murphy’s office to spin, deny and dodge accountability for an egregious betrayal of the public.

It’s hard to know where to begin in correcting the spin, half truths and lies (by omission) in that Spotlight story, so let’s start from the totally misleading primary premise.

The sole justification for privatization and commercialization of State Parks is that current State budget revenues are inadequate to fund a huge deficit in State Parks maintenance.

Spotlight bemoans that fact with this bullshit lie:

The provision, buried in a 110-page bill that many lawmakers never noticed, is reigniting a long-running dispute over how the state can both maintain and invest in its extensive park system, which has suffered years of funding neglect, in the wake of recurring budget crises.

While it is correct that State Parks have a huge unfunded maintenance backlog and are not adequately funded by the State budget, the cause of the deficit has been ignored.

NJ Spotlight reporter Tom Johnson knows why the deficit was caused. Tom knows that the voters of NJ approved an amendment to the NJ Constitution to dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars to fund this maintenance deficit. He knows that his fellow foundation funded friends at the Keep It Green Coalition ran a $1 million PR campaign to dupe the public into stealing this money and diverting it to open space.

Tom knows all that.

But he not only fails to report it to explain the “years of funding neglect”, he outright intentionally misled readers about it.

So, let me be clear: The cause of the deficit is the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars of previously Constitutionally dedicated State Parks maintenance money was stolen and diverted to the Open Space program, see:

NJ Spotlight outright lies about this, both by omission and commission.

First, they distort the funding deficit issue, by implying that it is caused by the huge revenue declines caused by COVID, and they do that right up front, at the outset, in the he said/she said sub-headline of the story:

Administration says ‘no,’ but paragraph buried in 110-page budget extension suggests that private developers could help counterbalance some COVID-19 deficits

The budget language says NOTHING about any objective to “counterbalance COVID-19 deficits”.

That was totally made up by Tom Johnson, and it was done for a reason.

That reason is: if the State Parks maintenance funding deficits were caused by COVID-19, then the real cause of the deficits remains obscured.

Tom Johnson seeks to obscure the real cause of the deficits because if the real cause were widely known, it would expose his schlock reporting in failing to write about the impacts of the diversion of State Parks maintenance funding to the open space program.

Tom Johnson seeks to obscure the real cause of the deficits because if the real cause were known, it would embarrass and humiliate and expose the venality of his friends in the Keep It Green Coalition, who successfully advocated for the diversion of Parks funding that has harmed the parks and become the justification of privatization.

If the real cause of the deficit were known, then those huge NJ Foundations – Dodge, Fund For NJ, Wm. Penn – who funded the Keep It Green Coalition $1 million PR campaign to steal State Parks funding would be exposed as the elite frauds and hypocrites that they are – including their Neoliberal ideologies about elevating private and corporate interests over public goods, the public commons, and the public interest.

If the real cause of the deficit were known, then the Governor and legislators would have no cover story and pretext to hide their efforts to reward their billionaire donors by privatizing public assets.

(of course, they could also raise taxes on the rich and corporations, but that option is not even on the table, which just proves that Murphy & his Dems are really Neoliberals.)

That’s what’s really going on here.

And that’s the danger of the corrupt self serving frauds who parade around under “Keep It Green” banners and faux notions of progressive public interest journalism. 

Let’s hope that their greedy over-reach triggers a backlash that results in the passage of the Liberty State park protection act, the abolition of privatization of all State Parks and State lands, and the defunding and public shaming of the elite hypocritical Foundations and faux “conservation” groups of the Keep It Green coalition.

[End Note: And if it wasn’t for the diligence of Jeff Tittel of Sierra Club – who has criticized prior Murphy privatization schemes and exposed this latest one – this may have passed under the radar. Kudos also to LSP champion Sam Pesin.

Also Note that all the Keep It Green Coalition groups I criticize above have done NOTHING on this issue or mumbled a word of criticism of Gov. Murphy. That silence speaks volumes. They are corrupt and in the tank for Murphy.]

[Update: Wow! A NJ reader just sent me this story, which illustrates that this privatization scheme was totally consistent with former Wall Streeter Gov. Murphy’s prior scheme to “monetize” “undervalued” State assets, including State Parks – here’s the story, reported by NJ Spotlight, but not by reporter Tom Johnson:

Like I said, this is worse than Christie’s park revenue/privatization schemes.

Failure to hold the Dems accountable to  betrayals and sellouts like this is what led to Trump.

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NJ Gov. Murphy Approves Stealth State Parks Privatization Provision In Emergency COVID Budget

July 1st, 2020 No comments

Liberty State Park Highly Vulnerable to Private Development

NJ Gov. Murphy signed an emergency COVID budget that includes a provision that could lead to private development and commercialization of State Parks, including the controversial proposed development of Liberty State Park.

It remains unclear exactly how the privatization language was stealthed into the budget by lobbyists, but it was approved by the Governor’s Office, over the objection of several legislators and park advocates.

Here is the language, as in the adopted emergency budget law the Gov. just signed (@ page 95)

On or before September 1, 2020, the Department of Environmental Protection shall issue a solicitation to engage the private for-profit and non-profit sector in reducing maintenance and capital investment backlog and environmental remediation at state parks in order to facilitate enhanced cultural, recreational and local economic opportunities for New Jersey residents through appropriate means including leaseholds.

This is actually far worse than Gov. Christie’s Parks privatization schemes we’ve been harshly critical of, including attempts to develop Liberty State Park.

And the language is a mandate, on an incredible short timetable. It is rare for the legislature to mandate that DEP do anything and rarer still that the mandate includes a very short timetable.

After the stealth move was discovered, several legislators issued an incredibly harsh statement strongly opposing the  outrageous “back door” move and urged the Gov. to conditionally veto the language.

The Gov.’s Office not only signed the language into law, the Gov.’s Office defended it.

The Hudson Reporter story focused on Liberty State Park, but the language applies to and threatens all State Parks (read the whole thing!):

Back door’ line item could privatize parts of Liberty State Park

Despite calls from legislators and open space advocates, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a three-month budget extension bill, which includes language that could lead to the privatization of parts of state parks like Liberty State Park. […]

‘Sneaky’ move

Senator Loretta Weinburg called on Murphy to veto the line item, calling it a “sneaky” attempt to change public policy.

“Advocates have fought for years to keep Liberty State Park free from private development and open to all,” said Senator Weinberg. “They have worked far too hard to have their efforts thwarted by a few lines buried in an emergency, never-before-done budget at the crest of a global pandemic. This was a sneaky, backdoor way to attempt to change important public policy…”  

“New Jersey is attempting to navigate entirely uncharted waters and needs to focus on the essential business of keeping people safe, keeping our economy afloat and supporting the people who have been affected the most by this virus,” Weinburg said. “This was a shameful sleight of hand by a couple of paid lobbyists, and it is simply not how these things should be done – not ever, but certainly not now.”

Senator Brian Stack, Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji released a joint statement on the language, which they say was sneaked into the bill.

“The irony of sneaking in language compelling the privatization of our state parks in a budget continuance amid a global pandemic is that so many New Jerseyans have found relief in nature, including Liberty State Park and her sister state parks, during the pandemic…Now, more than ever, we must fight to ensure that Liberty State Park remains a free, open, urban green oasis protected from commercialization and privatization,” they said, calling for immediate passage of the Liberty State Park Protection Act (LSPPA).

The governor’s office said it will work with the DEP to evaluate options that will keep parks accessible for residents.

This has nothing to do with “access” to State Parks.

This is about whether the State parks will be privatized, developed, and commercialized and controlled by private for profit corporations.

By signing off on this disgraceful corrupt privatization measure, Gov. Murphy has shown utter contempt for the public and State Parks and revealed his true Wall Street values.

DEP Commissioner McCabe must ignore the law or resign in protest if she is pressed to comply with it.

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Murphy DEP Updates Air Pollution Cancer Risk Levels, Ignores Cumulative Impacts And Environmental Justice Considerations

July 1st, 2020 No comments

Once again, Murphy Spin In Conflict With Science

EJ Communities Had No Knowledge Of Or Role In DEP Revision Process

While Gov. Murphy and his environmental cheerleaders are congratulating themselves over their proposed environmental justice legislation (which relies exclusively on individual DEP permit reviews), the Murphy DEP just revised and updated air pollution cancer and health risk screening levels that form the basis for air pollution permit reviews and pollution control requirements, and thus will have a huge impact on environmental justice communities.

The revisions were made to the DEP’s technical protocols for conducting risk assessments as part of the air pollution permit review process. They are based largely on federal EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS), not NJ specific conditions or DEP scientists’ recommendations.

As far as I can tell, while there was considerable involvement by industry experts in DEP’s process for making these revisions, there was little or no involvement by the public, health experts, and the environmental justice and environmental communities. In addition to the industrial stakeholder process, just look at who provided comments to DEP on the risk screening document and who DEP is giving an inside track and heads up and responding to (source, see: DEP reply to industry comments):

Also, outreach was done to stakeholders during the rule development process.

In addition, the Notice of Revision was announced in a May 7, 2019 Air Quality Regulation Listserv email and discussed at the June 7, 2019 Industrial Stakeholder Groups (ISG) meeting in Trenton. The deadline in the Notice of Revisions for submission of comments was June 10, 2019. The Department announced at the ISG meeting that additional comments submitted after this deadline would be accepted and evaluated.

Here is the DEP document, with DEP’s explanation:

REVISIONS TO THE NJDEP/DAQ INHALATION TOXICITY VALUES AND THE RISK SCREENING WORKSHEET (June 2020)

The NJDEP Division of Air Quality list of inhalation toxicity values and the risk screening worksheet have been updated.

Specific changes to the unit risk factors (URFs), long-term reference concentrations (RfCs), and short- term RfCs are noted below. The revisions are incorporated into the list of “Toxicity Values for Inhalation Exposure,” dated June 2020.

Let me first put that DEP document in context.

Air pollution is perhaps the single largest source of adverse public health impacts and risks to overburdened poor and/or minority communities, particularly in urban locations. Residents are chronically exposed to hundreds of individual chemical air pollutants from multiple concentrated sources of pollution (industry, cars, trucks, garbage incinerators, sewage treatment plants, aircraft, ships, etc).

People are exposed to not only air pollution, but multiple other sources and routes of exposure, including water pollution, workplace exposures, food contaminants, and risks from solid and hazardous waste facilities and toxic sites.

The health risks from these exposures are exacerbated by other socio-economic and land use factors, such as poverty, lack of healthcare, lack of access to fresh foods & vegetables (“food deserts”), lack of access to open spaces, exercise and recreational opportunities, and other health stressors, from noise and “heat islands” to structural and individual racism.

These health impacts, risks from pollution and socio-economic factors are disproportionately concentrated in poor and minority communities.

This phenomenon is what has given rise to the environmental justice movement.

With that in mind, and at a time when the Governor himself is touting his concerns about environmental justice, it is remarkable that the DEP’s revisions ignore the key scientific aspects of cancer risks to urban environmental justice communities, which are:

1) people’s exposure to multiple individual cancer causing air pollutants from current background pollution levels;

2) the cumulative impacts of multiple exposure pathways to multiple individual pollutants, and

3) the existing actual health conditions and susceptibility and vulnerability of the exposed population.

In addition to these significant gaps and flaws, the DEP science, risk screening revisions, and overall policy do not address what public health advocates call the “precautionary principle“, which is:

The precautionary principle, proposed as a new guideline in environmental decision making, has four central components: taking preventive action in the face of uncertainty; shifting the burden of proof to the proponents of an activity; exploring a wide range of alternatives to possibly harmful actions; and increasing public participation in decision making.

As we can see, in addition to ignoring environmental justice, the DEP fails all four prongs of the precautionary principle.

Industrial stakeholders themselves exposed the fraud of the DEP screening process. In their own words, DEP rarely imposes additional pollution controls to protect public health: (see comments #2 and #5, by NJBIA & an industry consultant)

A tool with underlying conservative modeling assumptions, and the way that it is applied, will fail four times more health risk evaluations, almost guaranteeing that an applicant will need to conduct expensive and time-consuming refined health risk analysis which ultimately, in most cases, demonstrates that the application is acceptable without any additional emission mitigation.[….]

Today, using the current RSW, when a permit application fails the RSW and performs the complex refined analysis, the vast majority of the applications pass the refined analysis step without making any real health risk mitigation. The proposed revisions to the RSW will kick most sources into refined modeling, and again we expect that the vast majority of applications will pass that step.

We need real reforms – not token symbolic gestures by the Governor and cheerleading by his sycophants in the “environmental community”.

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NJ Business Lobbyists Blasted For Using “Red-Lining” To Attack Environmental Justice Legislation

June 30th, 2020 No comments

NJBIA Lobbyist Ray Cantor Needs To Apologize

[Update: 7/2/20: today’s NY Times story makes exactly the point I was driving at:

““It’s especially abhorrent for the president to threaten further entrenchment of segregated communities now, during a time of reckoning on racial injustices in our country,” Ms. Yentel said. A direct line connects America’s history of racist housing policies to today’s overpolicing of Black and brown communities.” ~~~end update]

I tacked this on as an “End Note” to my earlier post about the proposed environmental justice legislation, but, upon reflection feel it is so outrageous that it needs its own post.

Ray Cantor, currently Vice-President and a lobbyist for the NJ Business and Industry Association (NJBIA), was quoted today in a NJ Spotlight story opposing the proposed environmental justice bill.

Obviously, there’s nothing unusual about that – NJBIA almost always opposes environmental laws that would restrict business profits.

But in doing so, Ray Cantor, a former Christie DEP political appointee, claimed that the bill would “red-line” business:

As drafted, the bill would essentially redline any new manufacturing facility or expansion in large parts of New Jersey, Cantor said. “There’s a better way to address this problem,’’ he added.

That claim is a gross abuse of history – i.e. “red-lining” was a systematic and blatantly racist policy deployed by financial institutions and governments to effectively racially segregate US cities and deprive black people of home ownership and business investment by denying mortgage financing and services to entire “red-lined” communities. (The flip side of “red-lining” was massive government investment in infrastructure ad services that subsidized and promoted suburban sprawl and the white people who moved there (AKA “white flight”) and were able to own their homes as a result of subsidized mortgages).

We are still suffering the racist legacy of red-lining, which continues to shape the land use patterns and economic development of entire metropolitan regions, effecting everything from segregated schools to the huge wealth and income disparities between black and white people.

To compare a bill designed to promote environmental justice by limiting pollution to already overburdened poor and/or minority communities to the historical practice of racist red-lining is deeply cynical and beyond the pale.

In the current context, it is simply unacceptable. Words matter.

That’s like a police union representative claiming that cops are being “lynched” by “mobs”.

Folks need to contact NJBIA and demand that Cantor apologize for what, at best, is a historical lie and gross insensitivity.

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