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Pennsylvania Stream Buffer Legislation Shines Light on Christie DEP’s Failures

August 7th, 2014 No comments

 Despite Campaign Pledge & Scientists Recommendations, Christie DEP Has Not Designated 1 Stream Mile

How is it possible that scientific recommendations for C1 designations have been ignored?

Source: NJDEP (2012)

Recommended C1designation upgrades – Source: NJDEP (2012)

In a strong contrast to the situation in NJ under the Christie Administration, in a press release issued today, Pennsylvania clean water activists are applauding proposed legislation that would establish 100 foot wide forested buffers along some Pennsylvania streams:

Conservation and Water Research Orgs Applaud Streamside Forest Buffers Bill

Bristol, Pa.— Relying upon, current science that shows streamside forest buffers protect communities from pollution and reduce flooding , Pennsylvania State Senator John Rafferty (R-44) introduced a new bill to support protection of forest buffers along streams, creeks and rivers in the state. The new bill is being applauded by both conservation and water research organizations.

“This measure will provide the most basic protections from pollution and flooding to every community in the Commonwealth,” said Maya van Rossum, the Delaware Riverkeeper. “Streams lined by healthy forested buffers reduce pollution in the creeks communities drink from, fish in, and play in. Once established, vegetated buffers help communities meet federal pollution protection laws at a very low cost, they can provide protection from flooding that devastates communities, and they help prevent erosion that undermines public and private lands as well as bridge and road infrastructure. Moreover, this law will ensure that the cost of providing these protections is appropriately carried by new development projects, not by taxpayers or municipal and state budgets.”

Senate Bill 1465 focuses on securing 100-foot buffers on waterways that are bordered by new development projects with additional protections for waterways that fail to meet state water quality requirements as well as streams designated exceptional value or high quality. The law encourages municipal ordinances to provide this protection and supports statewide action in the absence of municipal ordinances.

“We recently reviewed over 230 scientific studies and concluded that streamside forest buffers must be at least 100 feet wide on both side of the stream to adequately protect its physical, chemical, and biological integrity. So, I am delighted to hear about this proposed legislation. It is consistent with the latest science,” said Bernard W. Sweeney, Ph.D. Director Stroud Water Research Center, based in Avondale, Pa.

While Pennsylvania legislators, led by a Republican, seek to move forward with clean water regulatory protections, the situation in NJ is exactly the opposite.

The contrast on the stream buffer issue could not be more stark.

While Pennsylvania’s clean water advocates fight for 100 foot wide buffer legislation, very few people realize that NJ, a far more densely developed state than Pennsylvania,  has regulatory 300 foot wide buffers along over 2,000 stream miles.

The NJ stream buffer program – known as “Special Water Resource Protection Areas” or “Category 1 waters” –  is a regulatory program that was advanced during the McGreevey Administration by DEP – I was an architect of that effort under the leadership of DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell.

The C1 waters are designated by DEP based on “exceptional” resource values.

In contrast to the aggressive C1 regulatory designations and suite of clean water protections by the McGreevey Administration,  the Christie Administration has headed in the opposite direction, by weakening standards and not designating a single stream mile for special C1 buffer protections.

The Christie DEP has not designated 1 single mile of C1 waters with protected buffers, despite promising to do so to secure the endorsement of NJEF during the 2009 campaign and the more recent recommendations of DEP scientists to designate 121  stream miles – see this DEP Report, which has gotten no support by NJ environmental groups and no press coverage:

 

… a total 121 river miles have been identified as recommended candidate waters to receive C1 protections based on the Exceptional Ecological Significance or the Exceptional Fisheries Resources categories. This includes 36 river miles that were among the 227 river miles where C1 protections were not adopted in 2008 based on endangered and threatened species. Candidate waters will need to go through the formal rulemaking process to receive C1 designation.

When will DEP actually propose the new C1 protection along those 121 river miles?

Those “candidate C1 waters” recommended by DEP scientists include some of the highest quality waters, exceptional trout streams, and environmentally sensitive areas of the state, including the Highlands and the Sourland Mountains: (see the DEP Report for detailed maps):

  • Clove Brook & West Branch Papakating Creek (Sussex Co.)
  • Rock Brook (Somerset/Hunterdon/Mercer Co.)
  • Stone House Brook (Morris Co.)
  • North Branch Raritan River tributary (Morris Co.)
  • Ramapo River Tributary (Passaic Co.)
  • Swartswood Creek (Passaic Co.)
  • Paulins Kill River (Warren Co.)
  • Mine Brook (Morris Co.)
  • Beaver Brook & Pequest River (Warrne Co.)
  • Pophandusing Brook (Warren Co.)

How is it possible that these recommended C1 designations have been ignored?

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Pompton Lakes Toxic Plume Residents Urge EPA to Reject Dupont Request To Weaken Vapor Cleanup Standards

August 6th, 2014 No comments

The below letter was written by Citizens for a Clean Pompton Lakes (CCPL) with the help of Edison Wetlands Association (EWA)  to urge EPA to reject Dupont’s request to weaken vapor intrusion standards.

For details on the Dupont request, see this and this.

If EPA agrees to Dupont’s request, the underground “plume” of volatile organic chemical contamination – by known carcinogens – that continues to poison people’s homes will arbitrarily shrink and the number of impacted homes (currently about 450) and people considered exposed will shrink as well.

This means that more people will be unknowingly exposed to cancer causing industrial chemicals in their homes. There is no “safe” level of exposure to carcinogens – no “threshold” below which no risks are posed.

It also means that fewer homes will qualify for vapor mitigation systems. And future home purchasers or renters will be unaware of contamination and unknowing purchase or rent contaminated homes.

That is outrageous and totally unacceptable – as the folks in Pompton Lakes make very clear:

August 6, 2014

Ms. Judith Enck

Region 2 Administrator

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

290 Broadway

New York, NY 10007-1866

RE:     Formal Public Hearing Request,

           Raising Vapor Intrusion Screening Levels,

           Pompton Lakes DuPont Public Works 2008 Work Plan,

           Pompton Lakes, New Jersey                                              

Dear Administrator Enck:

As you know, DuPont has requested a change in the Vapor Intrusion Screening Levels (VISL) in the DuPont/Pompton Lakes Works 2008 Work Plan. Specifically, they have requested that TCE be raised from 1ug/m3 to 2ug/m3 for indoor air testing and 11ug/m3 to 27 ug/m3 for sub-slab testing. As well as PCE to be raised from 1 ug/m3 to 9 ug/m3 for indoor air testing and 16 ug/m3 to 470 ug/m3 for sub-slab testing.  Now, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is considering this request without the required public notice, hearing, and input from the community.

Trichloroethene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) are each listed in the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ASTDR) as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”.  USEPA’s own documents read that TCE is “highly likely to produce cancer in humans” and that PCE is a “likely human carcinogen.”  Studies linking exposure to these toxins to non-cancerous effects such as neurological, kidney, lung, and other damages are just as alarming.  Doubling the “acceptable” levels of TCE and increasing PCE’s levels 9xs for sub-slab and 27xs for indoor is unacceptable.

Since becoming involved with this site, USEPA has repeatedly asked the citizens of Pompton Lakes who live in the plume to trust them, and they promised to earn that trust. They also promised that VISL levels would remain the same, and yet this has proved to be another empty promise.

Despite USEPA calling the vapor mitigation program here an “interim remedial measure” under RCRA, the situation in Pompton Lakes has been ongoing since 2008 – long past even the most generous definition of “interim.” Any substantive change to the vapor intrusion work plan triggers a formal RCRA permit modification procedure and cannot be implemented via informal interim remedial measures. Since this site is being cleaned up under a RCRA PERMIT, EPA must comply with the RCRA PERMIT PROCEDURES.

Now we know that this threat is not short-term and we know that “ an actual…release of hazardous waste or hazardous waste constituent” has posed this threat, then why is USEPA still calling our plan “interim”? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that our systems have done nothing to solve the root problem.  They are only a Band-Aid intended to give us some small degree of protection until the USEPA, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and DuPont find a way to permanently remove the contaminants. And what price do the homeowners pay for this “protection”? Decreased home values are attributed to the glaring red flag implied by these systems that we were encouraged to have installed. In short, if we can find a buyer interested in living under the threat of continuous exposure to toxic waste, the selling price would be considerably less than a similar home without these systems.

By raising these levels, is it true that you now implying that these systems may never have been necessary to begin with?

USEPA is hiding behind terminology in order to avoid involving the public in any meaningful way. USEPA’s “open public meetings” are orchestrated, patronizing, and absurd. For example, repeating the same information each time from the beginning without having anything new to report is not fooling anyone. Furthermore, USEPA has continued to violate the good faith that we citizens have so patiently bestowed by issuing vague, optimistic promises, overseeing numerous failed pilot studies, minimizing reports of contaminants found in our schools, blaming homeowners for contaminants found in our homes, working to negotiate a more palatable deal with DuPont after they walked away from the lake cleanup, and ignoring concerns of our community over another “pilot study” i.e., the horizontal well plan and the potential flooding that it may bring.

USEPA should be protecting us, not negotiating with the polluter. DuPont has simply done the bare minimum to keep government agencies off their back for the last twenty-five years and avoided their responsibility to the community they have endangered. If the USEPA truly wants to regain the trust of our beleaguered community, they need to keep their promises and make DuPont do what’s right. They need to protect the people they are charged to protect by rejecting DuPont’s request.

Therefore, USEPA must become transparent on this important issue and make DuPont’s written request public immediately. We formally request an open public hearing with a stenographer that allows the public to comment on raising the contaminant levels in the DuPont / Pompton Lakes Work site 2008 Work Plan.  We want answers, and we have the legal right to be involved.

Thank you in advance for your prompt response to this request.  We look forward to receiving a formal response that addresses the issues outlined in this letter.  If you have any questions, we can be reached directly at info@pomptonlakescag.org or via phone at 973-979-4392.

Respectfully,

Pompton Lakes Community Advisory Group (PLCAG), P.O. Box 4

Pompton Lakes, NJ  07442 (phone contact:  973-979-4392)

Helen Martens

Karen Dean

Ruth Paez

Joseph Intintola, Jr.

Dana Patterson

Cheryl Rubino

Lisa Riggiola

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Orwell Himself Could Not Have Written A Better Press Release

August 5th, 2014 No comments

“Open space preservation is an issue that knows no party or ideology. It’s simply about ensuring that New Jersey residents have the best possible quality of life.  ~~~ Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex)

After watching the non-debate and vote in the Assembly on open space funding yesterday, which terminated with a smarmy “thank you” by Assemblyman McKeon, I was intrigued by Assemblyman McKeon’s quote in Tom Johnson’s NJ Spotlight piece  today, so I tracked down the full press release issued by the Assembly Democrats.

I was captivated – I think the blogging term or art is “gobsmacked” – by the headline in the press release:

Resolution Permits Vote on Constitutional Amendment to Increase Share of Corporate Business Tax Revenue Allocated for Environmental Programs

Does that not imply – if not absolutely state – that: 1) corporations will pay more for 2) increasing funding for environmental programs?

Is not the reader clearly led to believe that corporate tax support will increase and that environmental program funding will increase?

I think the correct word to characterize those inferences and impressions is “counterfactual” – or, more simply, beyond spin and a big fucking lie.

The fact of the matter on the first prong is that the corporate business tax (CBT) is unchanged and the corporate tax burden for funding environmental programs is unchanged.

In fact, just the opposite of McKeon’s inference is true with respect to the economic implications for corporations: the Resolution would provide millions of dollars of taxpayer funds to corporations that own land, enjoy tax benefits and subsidies for such ownership, and very profitably speculate in real estate.

I think the blogging term for that is “corporate welfare”.

But the inference in the second prong of the headline of  the press release is even more Orwellian: that funding for environmental programs would INCREASE.

Again, the facts of the matter do not support that claim and in fact contradict it.

There is no new money and no increase in environmental program funding. Just the opposite.

The Resolution approved by the Assembly (SCS SCR84) provides for a diversion of about $100 million/year of existing CBT revenue that was previously dedicated by the voters to specific environmental programs to other purposes.

Read the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Statement for an explanation of those programs and side by side comparison with the proposed new diversion.

The McKeon backed Senate Rersolution would CUT funding for those purposes currently funded by CBT money.

From a macro total revenue standpoint, it is correct that in 2019, the current CBT dedication of 4% (about $100 million/year) would increase to 6% (about $150 million/year), or about a $50 million increment.

But again, even from a revenue standpoint, and not considering the cuts to the existing programs that will result from the diversion, this claim is highly misleading.

That $50 million annual incremental increase is wiped out by the recurrent underlying $100 million diversion.

Let me try a simple illustration:

Suppose you have a trust fund from a rich grandparent that provides $100,000 per year to you and you alone.

Now suppose that a financial advisor proposed a new investment scheme like this:

He would take that $100,000 dedicated to you, and in 4 years increase it to $150,000 per year. Sounds good, right?

But in exchange, your 6 sisters (named Historic Preservation, Farmland Preservation, Green Acres, Blue Acres, Recreation, and “Stewardship”) would share in 78% of the total proceeds and your dedicated $100,000 share would be reduced to no more than $22,000.

[clarification: technically, it would not be a fixed dollar amount, but 22% of total revenues. You see, your financial advisor has told you that the CBT revenues are projected to grow as the economy rebounds, so the $150,000 is likely to be larger. But to merely break even with your prior $100,000 guarantee, the 6% of the CBT would have to grow to almost $500,000! In just 4 years! Not possible.]

Would you take that deal?

Ask Assemblyman McKeon – he’s your financial advisor. I think the SEC would prosecute for that if it were presented to investors.

I will take on McKeon’s “no ideology” claim in a future post. You can get a sense of where I’m going with that by reading the comments on the NJ Spotlight story.

For now, I just wanted to get the basic financial facts on the table.

[PS - of course I am not saying that Orwell was a spin mister, I am using that title metaphorically. Orwell's protagonists in 1984 Winston Smith and the Ministry of Truth is what I'm driving at, obviously.]

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Initial Thoughts on the Open Space Vote

August 4th, 2014 No comments

Questions for the Keep It Green Coalition

With no debate, the Assembly just approved the Resolution SCR84, by overwhelming majority votes. So much for Speaker Prieto’s claims about “The People’s House” and all views getting a fair hearing.

We will be opposing the measure from now till November, but we’re up against tons of conservation community and Foundation money, and there is little indication right now that the KIG coalition members will break ranks or that the less self interested groups like Sierra Club or NJEF will speak out honestly in opposition to what they did not create and know is a very bad plan.

For now, KIG members should be asked the following questions by the press and their members and Foundation backers:

1) what are your plans for replacing the $32 million diverted from parks funding? Will you fight for that money to be restored in next year’s budget?

2) now that you’ve not opposed Gov. Christie $1 billion plus in diversions and actively supported diversion of environmental funds for reasons not approved BY THE VOTERS (which is far worse than a diversion of legislatively appropriated money), how can you ever credibly oppose any future diversions of environmental funds?

3) now that you’ve accepted Gov. Christie’s austerity policy (no new revenues, no taxes, and no new debt) and refused to fight, to educate the public, and to conduct an open public campaign for the need for new revenues, how are you ever going to support funds for things like putting a price on carbon, gas tax, water tax, renewable energy, or financing multi-billion dollar water infrastructure deficits?

4) How can you look a kid from Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Camden, et al in the eye while you skim off 20% of that money for “Stewardship” schemes that include commercial logging of state lands, and maybe 10% more for your own salaries?

Today is a day that lives in infamy – I am ashamed to be even remotely associated with any of this.

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Public Parks Funding Would Be Slashed To Pay for Open Space Program

August 4th, 2014 No comments

Open Space Proposal Would Divert $32 Million/Yr Dedicated To Parks & Recreation

Public Parks Pay for Private Land

Urban Underinvestment Exacerbated

The Assembly votes today on the open space funding issues.

So, as a followup to yesterday’s post about why we think the current proposal is a bad idea, we thought we’d add one more point that has gotten little attention, as far as I can see.

I find it almost incomprehensible that an issue of this magnitude could remain under the radar and not a matter of public debate.

It is no secret that, even as attendance climbs, NJ’s State Parks are crumbling and in need of significant investments to address deferred maintenance.

It is also no secret that NJ’s urban areas and urban populations are under-served and lack adequate parks and recreational areas.

Those urban areas have not been allocated an equitable share of parks or open space funds. This is another example of environmental injustice.

So, I was curious if Assembly Democrats were aware of the fact that the current proposal would cut $32 million per year dedicated for parks and recreation and divert that money to open space purchases?

[Update: a reader notes that the Assembly version of SCR84 (ACR130) was never heard in an Assembly Committee!)

This shift in funding would compound gross inequities in the geographical distribution of both the State Parks and Open Space funding for urban area and parks, which are located in primarily Democratic districts.

Instead, that money would flow to the Open Space program – and that program has its own equity problems with respect to the geographic allocation of funds.

Perhaps even worse, public parks funding would be shifted to “stewardship” grants, including the payment of administrative costs of private elite conservation organizations, groups with little or no history of acting in the public interest, and with little transparency or accountability to any community or to implement any community vision or publicly endorsed plan.

(Do you think Audubon will conduct a lot of urban community outreach to work on designing a community park or garden? Do you think residents of an urban community would have more influence on City Council or the Board of NJCF when it comes to making funding decisions about open space and parks development?)

See table below, where that $32 million parks cut is hidden and dishonestly partially described – conveniently leaving out the word “parks” – as “recreational land development”, but here is there language on parks from the Senate Budget Committee Statement regarding fund allocations under current law:

15% for financing improvements and facilities for recreation and conservation purposes on parks and other preserved open space lands.  …

Further, under the current constitutional dedication, on January 1, 2016 the 17% allocation for diesel air pollution control programs (#4 above) expires and the moneys are reallocated to supplement the 15% dedication for financing improvements and facilities for recreation and conservation purposes on parks and other preserved open space lands, thereby increasing the dedication allocation for that purpose to a total of 32% 

scr84

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