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Get Ready For Another Fake Pipeline Permit Kill

November 6th, 2019 No comments

Pinelands Pipeline Put In Same Limbo As PennEast Pipeline

The Pinelands Commission’s Prior Approval WILL NOT BE REVOKED

[Update: 11/8/19 – Georgina Shanley just advised that the Pinelands Commission tabled the fake kill Resolution this morning, with strong public opposition to the Resolution. Good news. Great job by Pines advocates.]

[Important Update below]

On Friday, the Pinelands Commission will consider a Resolution, purported to kill the proposed South Jersey Gas (SJG) pipeline, designed to serve the re-powering of the BL England plant.

The last vague item on the Agenda for the meeting is this “Other Resolution”: (scroll all the way to the end of the lengthy package to find the text of the Resolution):

Other Resolutions

On May 29, 2019, the Appellate Division granted the Commission’s motion to remand the appeals pertaining to South Jersey Gas Company’s application for the installation of 15 miles of a proposed 22- mile natural gas pipeline within the Pinelands Area, because of a significant change in the application, i.e. RC Cape May’s decision not to repower BL England’s electrical generation plant with natural gas. Enclosed is a draft resolution intended to address the court’s remand.

The Pinelands Commission is taking a cowardly page out of the Murphy DEP’s pipeline playbook.

Just like what was misleadingly and falsely spun as the DEP “denial” of permits for the PennEast pipeline, the Pinelands Commission’s Resolution also merely finds that the original SJG permit application the Commission approved is “incomplete”.

DEP also found that the PennEast pipeline permit applications were “incomplete” and discontinued permit review  “without prejudice”.

Instead of a straight up denial or revocation of the prior SJG approval, the Pinelands Commission’s Resolution merely concludes that “SJG shall not proceed with the project.”

Compare that weak language with a prior Resolution considered by the Commission earlier this year, which found the pipeline inconsistent with the CMP and “invalid”:

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that as the Project can no longer be demonstrated to be consistent with the CMP, Pinelands Resolution No. PC4 -17-03 approving the Project is NOT VALID (caps in original).

The prior Commission approval remains in effect. That leaves the door open to future construction of the pipeline. Possibilities include:

A majority of this or a new Commission could vote to revive the project in the future. Or SJG could simply proceed with construction to test the enforceability of the Commission’s Resolution. Or SJG could manufacture another rationale that the pipeline is consistent with the CMP without the BL England plant. Or SJG could seek a minor modification to the prior approval and they might get the votes to approve it. Or SJG might find a new investor in re-powering BL England. Or the next Governor might appoint new Commissioners to revoke the “shall not proceed” Resolution.

Keep in mind that the Norcross/Sweeney south Jersey machine still strongly supports the pipeline.

I hope the Commission is not required to enforce or defend this Resolution in a Court of law.

The Commission should have simply drafted a Resolution that explicitly revoked the prior approval, with prejudice, after public notice and comment and opportunity for SJG to comment.

That would preclude SJG from proceeding under the prior approval, extinguish their due process arguments, and require that they prepare a de novo application and start from square one.

Why give SJG ANY legal wiggle room to challenge this?

The Commission’s draft Resolution relies on Executive Director’s Wittenberg’s letter to SJG. That letter made findings of fact and arguably conclusions of law – in the absence of any public process – that the Commission relies on in the Resolution.

Yet ED Wittenberg’s letter was not a formal finding of the Commission and was not accompanied by a formal public process.

SJG has raised due process concerns about how the Commission has done this.

In the alternate, the Commission should propose the substance of Executive Director Wittenberg’s letter and the draft Resolution as a formal final action, subject to public notice, public hearing and public comment. That would make it virtually impossible for SJG to challenge the action and would truly terminate the prior approval.

So why wouldn’t the Commission – like House Speaker Pelosi on the Impeachment Resolution – just remove any and all doubt? Why run any litigation risk of provide any possibility for SJG to proceed under the prior approval (including under a future Commission)?

My Pinelands sources tell me that the Commission could not produce 8 votes to directly kill the project and that the current draft Resolution is a compromise extracted by Commissioners who voted in favor of and still support the pipeline and refuse to vote to kill it.

But the Commission may be being set up by recalcitrant Commissioners who support the pipeline and playing right into SJG’s hands by acting without proper procedural due process.

Keep in mind that Executive Director Wittenberg – who has supported the pipeline and worked behind the Commissioners’ backs with SJG  – is again in control of and orchestrating the regulatory actions of the Commission. She wrote that letter to SJG that SJG lawyers have challenged and now the Commission is relying on her letter as the basis for the Resolution. I don’t trust her, given her past outrageous shenanigans in support of the pipeline.

That compromise Resolution might come back to bite them – I hope not.

Better to get it right than compromise – I’ve urged the Commission to table this Resolution and do it right.

Given the climate emergency, strong public opposition and the facts and law on our side, now is not the time for compromise.

[Update – Georgina Shanley just sent me the video of the September 13, 2019 Pinelands Commission meeting with this note.

Please listen to the tape which is only a couple of minutes of Nancy Wittenberg’s report to Commission of the meeting on September 9th with the reps from South Jersey Gas. Starts 8.49 mins and ends 10.35 mins. It is damming.

Wittenberg’s actions are  completely outrageous. Given the pattern of her collaboration with SJG behind the backs of the Commissioners, she must be fired.

Why the hell is the Pinelands Commission staff meeting with SJG without policy guidance from the Commission?

The Commission and SJG are in a quasi-litigation posture and adversarial position. The case is on remand.

Why is staff outlining pipeline route alternative and regulatory options for SJG? ~~~ end update]

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NJ Spotlight Prints Climate Lies – A Remarkable Abdication Of Journalistic Integrity In a Time of Corporate Lies & Climate Catastrophe

November 5th, 2019 No comments

Fossil Industry Still Lying On Climate and Energy With Impunity

There are Two Legislative Caps On Solar – Financial and Technical

Until both caps are eliminated, NJ can not move forward on solar and renewable power

Back in the day, when I was a young avid daily NY Times reader, it was customary to come across the bottom right hand quarter of the Op-Ed page, where Mobil or Exxon were allowed to spew their corporate propaganda, misinformation and lies – for a large fee to the NY Times’ corporate coffers, no doubt.

Fast forward 50 years, and I now read on the front page of that same NY Times that the New York State Attorney General is suing Exxon for lying to shareholders (and the public) about climate change science and actual financial risks, see:

After four years of legal sparring and finger-pointing, oil-industry giant Exxon Mobil went to court on Tuesday to face charges that the company lied to shareholders and to the public about the costs and consequences of climate change.

The case turns on the claim that Exxon kept a secret set of financial books that seriously underestimated the costs of potential climate change regulation while claiming publicly that it was taking such factors into account. It follows a sprawling investigation that included millions of pages of documents and allegations of a chief executive’s secret email account.

Did the NY Times contribute to these lies by giving the oil industry a quarter of the Op-Ed page to spew those lies?

Did the NY Times contribute to these lies by failing to report the science in a way that directly confronted and exposed the lies that they were allowing to be printed in their own paper? By printing scores of “he said/she said” stories that gave these false claims legitimacy?

Would the NY Times print these lies today?

The questions answer themselves.

So, with this context in mind, I was beyond disgusted yesterday to read “sponsored content” in NJ Spotlight by the same pack of corporate oil and gas industry liars, operating as a dark money propaganda front group purported to protect consumers and families, see:

The “sponsored content” was written on behalf of Consumer Energy Alliance.

Consumer Energy Alliance is a corporate front group for the oil and gas industry.

According to Sourcewatch (Center for Media and Democracy):

The Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) is a nonprofit organization and a front group for the energy industry that opposes political efforts to regulate carbon standards while advancing deep water and land-based drilling for oil and methane gas. The CEA supports lifting moratoria on offshore and land-based oil and natural gas drilling, encourages the creation and expansion of petroleum refineries and easing the permitting process for drilling. The group also says it supports energy conservation. CEO portrays itself as seeking to ensure a “proper balance” between traditional non-renewable and extractive energy sources and alternative energy sources. The group also supports construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.[1][2][3]

According to Salon.com, which obtained over 300 emails of personal messages between lobbyists and Canadian officials, the CEA is part of a sophisticated public affairs strategy designed to manipulate the U.S. political system by deluging the media with messaging favorable to the tar-sands industry; to persuade key state and federal legislators to act in the extractive industries’ favor; and to defeat any attempt to regulate the carbon emissions emanating from gasoline and diesel used by U.S. vehicles.[4]

Shame on NJ Spotlight for taking money from and giving these fraudsters a platform to mislead and lie to their readers and the people of NJ.

In light of science on the climate emergency and the NY AG lawsuit on Exxon’s lies, such a move is unconscionable and unforgivable.

Not to be outdone, in an extraordinary move, on the same day NJ Spotlight gave these corporate fraudsters a “sponsored content” platform to lie and attack the Rocky Mountain Institute, on the news side – in reporting on that same RMI report they allowed CEA to smear – they allowed former Christie DEP hack Ray Cantor an opportunity to misrepresent the Rocky Mountain Institute’s analysis:

“There are concerns over what is still left out,’’ said Ray Cantor, a vice president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, who listened in on a webinar Friday that detailed the modeling results. He mentioned the potential impacts to ratepayers; costs of various programs that were left out; and various assumptions made by the consultants, including a very high reliance on New Jersey solar energy to provide the power needed to replace fossil fuels.

NJ Spotlight actually put Christie DEP hack Ray Cantor – who was caught flat out lying to the legislature in testimony not so long ago – on an equal credibility footing with Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute, based on Cantor’s “listening in on a webinar“!

How often does a media outlet provide a liars propaganda platform to attack the substance of a news story on the same day as a major new story?

That is remarkably irresponsible.

Amory Lovins is a longtime leading world expert on energy issues and the Chief Scientist at Rocky Mountain Institute. The RMI has highest technical credibility and their Report was the product of many hours of expert analysis.

Ray Cantor was trained as a lawyer and spent his career in Trenton partisan politics. His analysis was based on listening in to a webinar. He represents business interests with a huge economic stake in lying.

NJ Spotlight reporter Tom Johnson had to know this was total bullshit to equate these opinions.

So Tom then went on to cover his ass on this unprofessional crap by using – of all people – Jeff Tittel of Sierra Club in a way to support and validate Cantor’s criticisms. Follow:

By 2050, solar energy is projected to provide 34% of the state’s electricity generating capacity — even more than offshore wind even though the consultant’s projections envision it nearly tripling from current projections of 3,500 megawatts.

That struck some clean-energy advocates as surprisingly high — given a year-long fight over how to rein in what ratepayers pay to subsidize solar energy in New Jersey, a cost that has been running at over a half-billion dollars a year. In addition, a new clean-energy law puts a cap on how much solar can cost utility ratepayers.

“I am wondering how they could project so much solar with us living with the solar cap,’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Tittel was likely commenting on the “solar cap” to generate support for legislation to eliminate it.

But Tom Johnson used Tittel’s quote to support Cantor’s attack on RMI’s analysis and reinforce the business community and fossil industry’s attack on renewable energy, including solar.

That is an egregious misrepresentation and journalist malpractice.

BTW, there are actually 2 solar caps in current NJ law, a financial cap and a technical cap.

Tittel has testified and been quoted in NJ Spotlight criticizing the financial cap. But there has been zero reporting or criticism of the even more important technical cap.

We have testified and written here about both. (and item #6 here).

The first is a cap on ratepayer increases (that is what Tom Johnson referred to). I think it is a 7% increase.

But there also is another cap on solar that involves how much solar is allowed to be connected to the grid – this is known as the “net metering cap”.

NJ laws erect restrictions on municipal and cooperative owned power systems and limits the size renewable energy systems and economic incentives known as “net metering”:

System size of renewable energy facility is limited to that needed to meet annual on-site electric demand. A.B. 3723 enacted in May 2018  authorizes Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to limit net metering to 5.1% of the total annual kWh sold in the State by each electric power supplier during prior one year period. The legislation instead of providing a firm aggregate limit on net metering, it authorizes the BPU to cease offering net metering if this capacity is reached.  BPU may continue to allow net metering even if this threshold is reached.

The limit on size to annual demand blocks expansion of renewables, restricts competition and protects the corporate utilities – as does net metering limit of just 5.1%.

No one is talking about this cap. As I wrote, over 5 years ago:

[Update: In another bill heard (see S2420 [1R]), solar advocates had to beg to request an increase of the current 2.5% cap on net metering to just 4% of commercial electric sales. Most NJ solar is from net metered projects. That groveling by the solar industry itself showed the absolute veto power the utilities have over real expansion of renewables. Current law allows the utilities to petition BPU to prohibit ANY ADDITIONAL RENEWABLES generating power to the grid that exceed the cap. Imagine that. Utilities have almost veto power over market entry to eliminate competition from even CHEAPER renewables. That is absurd. Yet NO ONE even questioned why utilities and BPU should have this power or why there should even be any cap. So called Ratepayer advocate had nothing to say about this anti-competitive costly monopoly abuse.

Until both caps are eliminated, NJ can not move forward on solar and renewable power. Period.

[Update: Despite being quoted in the NJ Spotlight story in the singular regarding a “cap” on solar, Tittel just sent me a quick note to clarify Sierra Clubs position:

There are 4 caps: 7 % cost , 5.1 gigawatts of total solar ,75 mw community solar and 2.5 net metering- we called lifting all caps .

Tom Johnson may have not only quoted Tittel out of context, but left out major points Tittel made.  ~~~ end update

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An Encounter With Dog Crap Vigilantes – Epic Hypocrisy & Sham Environmentalism

November 2nd, 2019 No comments

A Tale of Bechtel and Bouy

A “Loser” Takes Stock Of A Career

I’m still working on Part II of the analysis of Gov. Murphy’s “Resilience” initiative, but want to take another brief detour to post this after a remarkable exchange this morning with a couple I’ll call “The Dog Crap Vigilantes”.

I’m on the Monterey Peninsula, and it is truly spectacular: abundant marine life, turquoise water, graceful Cyprus trees, waves breaking on rocks, incredible flowering succulents, and tons of birds. Highly recommended. But follow this story:

Bouy and I take a walk at sunrise on a path along a glorious stretch of the coastline in Pacific Grove.

One morning last week, he suddenly pulled the leash out of my hand and bolted up a steep vegetated embankment along the path chasing a ground squirrel. At the top of the embankment, about 100 feet above the path, he took a crap along the base of a retaining wall.

I did a quick environmental assessment, and concluded that I would do more harm to the vegetation, soils and water quality by trekking up the steep embankment to pick up his crap than leaving the crap there. There was no public access to this spot at the top of an embankment below a retaining wall, so there could be no public health risks or nuisance impacts from the crap.

As I was calling Bouy back down, I noticed a couple nearby who were walking their dogs. I could see that they were appalled by my failure to pick up the dog crap. So, I tried to explain my assessment and that, although I had plenty of dog crap bags in my pocket, that I thought it was better not to pick it up.

They demanded that I cleanup the crap. The told me that it was the law. The threatened to call the cops.

I again explained my reasoning, and, in an effort to avoid the appearance of being a typical irresponsible dog owner scofflaw and to re-assure them, I added that I was an environmental professional and activist and had worked on water quality and public health for over 30 years (a fact based, if not bold, act of “civil disobedience”?)

The husband interjected angrily again about calling the cops, but his wife was more reasonable. She said she was a marine biologist and that these were protected marine sanctuary waters.

I reiterated that I knew all about and respected that, adding that I had worked at Pew, an organization who works on establishing marine protected areas, and that, based on science, there was absolutely no water quality or aquatic life risks from the nutrients and bacteria in that dog crap, not any public health or nuisance impacts.

The husband then started shouting and called the cops, so I walked on.

I guess the cops didn’t respond because I kept walking down the trail and was not issued any ticket for the violation.

That was all over a week ago.

But this morning, I again came across the same couple on the path.

The woman was going into or coming out of a new building associated with the Aquarium – The Bechtel Family Center For Ocean Education and Leadership.

They slowed down to let me pass – and as I walked past them, I couldn’t resist making a snarky comment about Bechtel, a notorious corporate crime syndicate that has done massive harm to the earth and marine environment.

So, I said something like:

 “Nothing like dog crap vigilantes parading as marine life protectors who associate with corporate crime families. Bechtel has done such wonderful things for the earth and the oceans. No hypocrisy and no irony there. Oh no, you folks are good “green”  liberals.”

The husband exploded angrily and shouted as I walked past:

You loser – what have you done?

I responded that he was not only a liberal corporate hypocrite, but he was using the bankrupt language of Trump (i.e. “loser”), and that he was therefore an ignorant Trumpist.

Ideally, in various public arenas, citizens address one another in the give and take of free and open dialogue. This requires what we might call “conversational virtues.” It means that we must have learned to respect the other, must know how to learn our way through conflict, to dig deeply in our imaginations and desires to provide sound reasons to convince our conversation partners (or, in turn, be convinced). Shouting hate-filled and angry nasty words at perceived opponents is all too prevalent in our world of shattered speech and blocked dialogue. (Michael Welton, Counterpunch)

He again shouted: “You loser – what have you done for the earth?”

I replied that I had spent my life fighting for it and moved on.

As I walked down the trail, that stupid exchange provide a moment for reflection on what I actually have contributed over my career.

I thought for a moment and, despite the fact that I often am frustrated by our failures and rollbacks, we have led and/or been part of a lot of good stuff.

I wish I had conducted this mental inventory before and spit it out in that Corporate Bechtel Faux Liberal Green Dog Crap Vigilante’s face.

Here’s what I’ve done you asshole – go get another reusable eco-straw:

1. Designed NJ DEP’s first RCRA 1984 HSWA Corrective Action Program, wrote 45 RCRA “Facility Management Plans” (FMP’s), supervised the completion of about 60 RCRA toxic site “Preliminary Assessments” and “Site Inspections”  (PA/SI’s) and represented DEP before EPA oversight. Unfortunately, all that good work went down the drain, as DEP managers decided not to seek EPA delegation of the Corrective Action Program.

2. Shifted over $250 million intended to fund the construction of garbage incinerators (under cover of the euphemism “resource recovery”) to municipal and county recycling programs. While former NJ Deputy Attorney General Marc Wenzler (last I heard Marc was working with the National lawyers Guild) wrote the legal opinion, I originated the idea, crafted the policy, and pushed it through DEP management using the leverage I had as the only DEP staffer working with the “McEnroe” funds: the Solid Waste Services tax fund, Resource Recovery Investment and Importation tax funds, and the 1985 Solid Waste Disposal Facility Bond Act funds.

3. Worked closely with Frank Sweeney of Governor Florio’s Office on an Executive Order, Task Force Report, and revised DEP Solid Waste Plan that terminated about 15 planned county garbage incinerators and established a new materials management based policy hierarchy of source reduction, composing, recycling, including what then was the highest recycling rate in the country. Source reduction policy was killed in its crib (along with Pollution Prevention),  and “post consumer content” has turned into a marketing sham (my coffee this morning had a “eco-lid” composed on 25% post consumer content!).

4. Worked with my first DEP boss Joe Wiley on the State Landfill Closure Plan – the plan was shelved by none other than then DEP Commissioner Chris Daggett, who would not defend it and literally laughed in our faces on our recommendation that he seek support of Gov. Kean for $3 billion to fund the plan. But it was ahead of its time and – if implemented – could have avoided major water pollution, drinking water contamination, vapor intrusion, and greenhouse gas emissions from old landfills.

5. Worked with DEP colleagues, legislators, and the Office of Legislative Services lawyers to draft the Dry Cell Battery Management Act and the Toxic Packaging Reduction Act, laws that significantly reduced the amount of toxic heavy metals entering the environment. Mike Winka (now at BPU) and I lost a major battle with lobbyists from NJ’s consumer products industry on drafting and seeking passage of the Household Hazardous Waste Management Act (A973), sponsored by Assemblywoman Maureen Ogden [R]. Tom Johnson’s Star Ledger front page coverage of that debate sealed the deal. Way to go Tom, you’re still an asshole!

6. As a whistleblower, leaked documents, including a memo from DEP Commissioner Shinn to Gov. Whitman, that disclosed high levels of mercury in freshwater fish and the Whitman administration’s attempt to cover that up. This forced DEP to issue public fish consumption health advisories and contributed to the later mercury emission standard from coal fired power plants.

7. As Policy Director of the NJ Environmental Federation, initiated the idea, designed a strategy and public campaign and wrote the legislative Resolution and Constitutional Amendment that dedicated 4% of the Corporate Business Tax (CBT) revenue – about $100 million per year – to DEP environmental programs.

8. As Policy Director of Sierra Club, NJ Chapter, worked with legislators and OLS to draft the Watershed Protection Act, which codified and funded DEP’s Watershed Planning initiative.

9. As Policy Director of Sierra Club, worked with volunteers to kill the proposed Mercer County garbage incinerator and a massive new sprawl driving sewer line into Hopewell Valley.

10. While at Sierra, almost single handedly took down the Whitman administrations sham “Open Market Emissions Trading (OMET) program, an early pollution trading scheme and precursor to another sham called RGGI. Funny, PSE&G was never prosecuted or penalized for fraudulent OMET schemes they made millions off.

11. Testified to the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in strong opposition to the confirmation of George Bush’s selection of Christie Whitman as US EPA Administrator. Had my criticisms been taken seriously, perhaps Whitman would not have been there post 9/11 to lie about the air quality in southern Manhattan and many thousands of first responders might still be alive and healthy.

12. As policy advisor to McGreevey administration DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell, accomplished the following:

a) crafted the Category One Waters (C1) strategy, including a new Clean Water Act anti-degradation policy, ecological assessment method, and C1 designation process. Drafted new C1 SWQS regulations and designated over 2,00 miles of C1 waters and solicited public nominations of thousands of miles more.

b) worked to insert a new “special waters protection area” 300 foot wide stream buffer program in the DEP stormwater management rules. This new program, during the McGreevey years, protected over 2,000 stream miles and over 175,000 acres of environmentally sensitive steam buffers from disturbance by major development.

c) worked closely with Curtis Fisher of Governor MGreevey’s Office to design a Highlands initiative, including an Executive Order and Highlands Taskforce Report. I drafted the DEP regulatory and environmental provisions of the introduced version of the Highlands Act, Senate Bill #1. I especially appreciate that I wrote the “deep aquifer recharge” provision that – because the Act also prohibited extension of water supply and wastewater infrastructure – set a septic system driven land use density standard in the Preservation Area of 1 unit per 88 acres, the strictest in the country!

d) worked closely with DEP Commissioner Campbell to develop a new phosphorus initiative, including making major revisions to DEP’s enforcement of Surface Water Quality Standards for phosphorus and nutrients and the NJPDES surface water discharge permit program, to impose reductions of phosphorus discharged to NJ rivers and streams.

13. Founded the NJ State Chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (NJ PEER), responsible for a large body of work that made public disclosures that influenced statewide environmental policy, legislation and regulation. (see our work here).

14. Worked a stint at Pew Environment Group as Manager of their Mid Atlantic Fisheries “End Overfishing” campaign. Got nothing done, but learned about fisheries biology and law and made a ton of money. It was at Pew where I learned first hand of the culture, values, corruption, and cowardice of elite private foundations at how they used their money to manipulate environmental groups and the public debate.

15. Was a volunteer “citizen journalist” as the environmental writer at the Newark Star Ledger’s “NJ Voices” page. Got fired from a volunteer gig for telling the truth. Ha!

16. Blogged here at Wolfenotes and have given the bad guys hell.

17. Provided pro bono strategic advice and technical assistance to numerous citizens groups, from Cape May and the Pinelands to High Point and the Highlands, on a range of environmental, land use, infrastructure, climate, and public health issues and campaigns.

18. I’ve been an expert source to several fine environmental and investigative reporters, including award winning journalists Dusty MacNichol & Kelly Richmond (Whitman “Open For Business”) and Jeff Pillets (Encap) and Mark Bittman (of the NY Times) on award winning documentary “Years of Living Dangerously – Episode 5″).

I’m sure I left lots of stuff and people out. I think this work has had an effect. I enjoyed doing it.

This is not the kind of work that gets you Foundation and DEP grants, invitations to the “Stakeholder” meetings, conference speaking engagements, and lots of press quotes and Op-Ed opportunities – or even a roof over your head – but it is very effective.

And its not over, folks!

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Why Is NJ Spotlight Running Cover For PSE&G Profits And Banning Readers Who Expose The Spin?

November 1st, 2019 No comments
Banned by NJ Spotlight

Banned by NJ Spotlight

For an increasing number of Californians, the 20th century illusions about “the American way of life” have been lost in the dark of de-electrified homes with shut-off water, and gone up in the smoke of raging wildfires that extend to the horizons. ~~~ MANUEL GARCÍA, JR.

I’m on the lovely California coast right now, hemmed in by wildfires and power blackouts to the north and south. More climate chaos.

The combination of the wildfires and the blackouts – on top of last year’s deadly fires and longstanding PG&E negligence and greed – has spawned huge public outrage.

Even California Gov. Newsom is a harsh critic of PG&E, literally ranting in the media about PG&E greed, mismanagement, arrogance, and negligence.

I had a lengthy discussion with an activists from Extinction Rebellion yesterday in which I suggested that the timing was right to marshall public outrage and Gov. Newsom’s rants on a campaign & action to demand that the Legislature buy out all bankrupt corporate criminal PG&E stock – trading for just $6 per share, down from over $50 in recent weeks – extinguish the corporation, and create a public power authority to phase out fossil and transition to 100% renewables. Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal Plan calls for public power, so there could link their campaign to Sander’s proposal.

So, I was scratching my head this morning upon reading the latest in NJ Spotlight’s – “all the good news that our Foundation and corporate funders feel is fit to print” – coverage of environmental and energy issues, which today was about a royal PSE&G ripoff parading under corporate euphemisms like “decoupling” and “resilience”.

NJ is not suffering from wildfires and blackouts (yet), but Jersey did get slammed by Sandy, PSE&G has killed people, and more recently folks were screwed by a PSEG hostage taking nuke bailout, so there’s certainly no drought of issues to spawn and focus public outrage to NJ’s largest corporate energy pirate, PSE&G.

But, curiously, NJ is not responding like the people, Governor and media of California are.

That’s because NJ is suffering from corruption, failed political leadership – Gov. Murphy is not railing against PSE&G greed and the Legislature is giving them billion dollar bailouts – and a lame press corps who is not writing the real story but instead is running cover stories.

Today’s NJ Spotlight story on energy efficiency is just the latest example of that.

NJ Spotlight headline writer finds

“There’s an inherent contradiction baked into the state’s 2018 Clean Energy Act.”

But, as we previously wrote, there is no “contradiction baked into” the NJ law, known as the “Clean Energy Act”.

That statute is consistent. It very clearly provides that corporate power companies are to be compensated, how much they are to be compensated, and how they are to be compensated.

The law mandated that BPU impose a special new “surcharge” to guarantee “full recovery” of “revenue impact of sales losses resulting from implementation of the energy efficiency”, see:

“Each electric public utility and gas public utility shall file annually with the board a petition to recover on a full and current basis through a surcharge all reasonable and prudent costs incurred as a result of energy efficiency programs and peak demand reduction programs required pursuant to this section, including but not limited to recovery of and on capital investment, and the revenue impact of sales losses resulting from implementation of the energy efficiency and peak demand reduction schedules, which shall be determined by the board pursuant to section 13 of P.L.2007, c.340 (C.48:3-98.1).

Get that?

Private corporations are guaranteed to recover all reductions in revenues and profits from energy efficiency, and you pay for it.

The contradiction is “baked into” the PSEG corporate business model – where the greedy demand for monopoly profits contradict public policies to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

Reporter Tom Johnson again ignores all that. (We previously criticized his spin).

Instead, Johnson writes not about what the law actually says and greedy PSE&G corporate profits.

To Mr. Johnson, “revenue” (i.e. your money) is needed and directed to keeping the lights on (i.e. “resilience”). Note how corporate profits are not mentioned here:

The stumbling block, and a familiar one to advocates on both sides of the issue, is how to achieve those savings; who should oversee the programs; and how utilities ought to be compensated for programs that reduce energy sales, trimming the revenue they collect to keep their systems resilient.

Which takes me to my final point.

I was banned from commenting by NJ Spotlight. (See above screen shot).

I sent editor John Mooney an email to ask why – on what basis and factual evidence did Spotlight ban me. Mooney has not replied.

I very likely was banned preemptively to avoid my prior criticism  of PSE&G greed and NJ Spotlight’s lame coverage from reaching readers of today’s story.

In the alternate, the ban also could be based on a comment I posted on yesterday’s story, where I wrote that the responsible PSE&G officials should be indicted for murder and linked to this post for an explanation:

That, my friends, is total bullshit, but it is also quite revealing of exactly what is going on.

When a news outlet bans a commenter for providing fact based informed and sometimes expert opinions, then we’re over the rainbow, folks. Corporate control of content. Period.

My ban is especially egregious, when Spotlight allows all sorts of outrageous comments to post, including by climate deniers, Trump “fake news” puppets, and various and sundry racists, xenophobes and know nothings.

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NJ Gov. Murphy’s “Climate Resilience Strategy” Perpetuates The Status Quo, Misses Huge Opportunities To Make Real Change, And Undermines DEP Power

October 30th, 2019 No comments

Hostages and Heavy Baggage In Hoboken

Yesterday, NJ Gov. Murphy issued Executive Order #89 and a press release. The Gov. held a press conference in Hoboken to announce his administration’s long overdue “Climate Resilience” initiative.

Once again, the Gov.’s rhetoric far surpasses the substantive reality of his policy.

But before we get to what the Gov.’s Executive Order actually does, let’s mention a few points on context and history, and describe what the Governor could have done, but failed to do. 

In Part I today, we highlight the context, outline what the Gov. failed to do and describe some of the opportunities he missed. Part II (forthcoming soon) will analyze the Gov.’s Executive Order.

I)  Past Is Prelude – Heavy Baggage In Hoboken

First of all, the choice of the city of Hoboken to announce the strategy and the naming of Dave Rosenblatt of DEP – Rosenblatt headed up DEP’s coastal engineering program for decades – as the “Chief Resilience Officer” is akin to a 2020 Democratic President Warren going to Tucson, Arizona to name Sheriff Joe Arpaio head of the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

That’s right – coastal engineering is to “resilience” what Arpaio’s practices are to justice.

They say that people and places are pillars of policy. For example, there was a reason that Ronald Reagan made a key speech in his 1980 Presidential campaign in Neshoba County, Mississippi.

Along those lines of symbolism, people, and policy, there’s a certain heavy baggage in Hoboken – that city was ground zero in Gov. Christie’s “Bridgegate” scandal.

How could people forget THIS? (especially at a time when Trump is under impeachment inquiry for a political quid pro quo – as  The New Yorker wrote in “A Hostage To Christie In Hoboken?”:

“The bottom line is, it’s not fair for the Governor to hold Sandy funds hostage for the City of Hoboken because he wants me to give back to one private developer,” Mayor Dawn Zimmer told Steve Kornacki, of MSNBC, this weekend. By Sunday, she said she was meeting with the United States Attorney’s office, showing them diary entries and other notes she made last May.

Hoboken and DEP’s Dave Rosenblatt are also core elements of and Christie’s failed post-Sandy “rebuild madness” strategy.

Surely Gov. Murphy and DEP Commissioner McCabe must know this.

Surely they must know that their chosen “Chief Resilience Officer” Dave Rosenblatt was DEP’s point person in dealing with former Gov. Christie’s “Sandy Redevelopment Czar” Marc Ferdan.

Surely they must know that Dave Rosenblatt was involved in the Hoboken Mayor Zimmer – Rockefeller Development scandal and was interviewed by the Mastro Report.

Surely they must know that Dave Rosenblatt has spent a 30+ year career in the trenches of DEP’s coastal engineering program. During that time, he has shown zero leadership or vision – a yes man – while supporting and cheerleading for fatally flawed (literally) coastal engineering policies, plans, regulations and projects that greatly increased NJ shore vulnerability and magnified the disastrous impacts of Sandy (see: “A Dirge To McHarg”).

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Surely they must know that Dave Rosenblatt’s daughter Jane is Commissioner McCabe’s chosen “Deputy Chief of Staff” – a position she clearly is not qualified for by education and experience – making the administration highly vulnerable to a nepotism charge.

Hoboken and Rosenblatt are toxic – their selection demonstrates either gross incompetence or cowardice, or possibly lack of commitment or even intentional sabotage.

And the NJ press corps (that’s you Michael Aron) and the NJ environmental community surely know all this too – the fact that they unconditionally praised the Gov. and failed to mention any of this illustrates how craven and cowardly they’ve become.

II) Missed Opportunities – What Gov. Murphy Failed To Do

The climate emergency justifies major structural policy change – what the Gov. likes to call “transformational change” – not incremental reforms.

So let us consider whether the Gov.’s Executive Order measures up to the climate emergency.

First of all, the Gov. did not use his Constitutional Executive Power to declare an emergency.

The Gov. did not use his Constitutional power to declare a moratorium on DEP approvals of new development, redevelopment, or infrastructure construction in high hazard areas until the legislature acts to restrict such development and DEP adopt an enforceable plan and protective regulations.

The Gov. did not use his Executive powers to establish and articulate a policy and direct his administration to implement that policy and seek legislation to implement that policy..

Other NJ Governor’s – including Governors Byrne (Pinelands Protection Act), Kean (Freshwater Wetlands Act), Florio (garbage incineration), Whitman (Water Quality Management Planning rules – sewers) and McGreevey (Highlands Act) have used such executive powers to extract major legislative concessions and drive DEP planning and regulatory reforms.

The US Supreme Court has upheld such temporary moratoria pending development of a regional land use plan and adoption of implementing regulations (see:

The Gov. failed to direct DEP Commissioner McCabe to aggressively use her existing regulatory authority under NJ’s federally delegated Coastal Zone Management Act, Clean Water Act, and extraordinary Hazard Mitigation Plan powers.

The gov. failed to withdraw his DEP’s fatally flawed stormwater rule, that FEMA criticized, and directed DEP to re-propose a rule that reflects science, but he didn’t.

The Gov. failed to even coordinate with interstate regional bodies like the Delaware River Basin Commission and Interstate Sanitation Commission or adjacent state’s like NY, that are far ahead of NJ.

The Gov. failed to direct DEP Commissioner McCabe to aggressively use her existing regulatory and planning powers under NJ’s State Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) or Water Quality Planning Act or direct actions under the Pinelands Act/Commission, Highlands Act/Council or Hackensack development law.

The Gov. didn’t even integrate his “Climate Resilience” initiative with his Energy Master Plan process being led by BPU.

Recall that DEP and Rutgers – and many others – have issued numerous Reports which identify specific DEP regulatory weaknesses and gaps and have made specific reform recommendations to strengthen regulations. If DEP Commissioner McCabe and Gov. Murphy would even read NJ federally mandated DEP’s “Coastal Zone Section 309 Assessment and Strategy – 2016 – 2020″ (see p. IV-28), they would and this:

New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance

Resilience: Preparing New Jersey for Climate Changehttp://njadapt.rutgers.edu/docman-lister/resource-pdfs/73-njcaa-gap-analysis-final-pdf/file

This report is a step toward developing policy recommendations to enhance climate change preparedness in New Jersey. It summarizes key gaps identified to date through a stakeholder outreach process. It provides context regarding New Jersey’s changing climate and vulnerabilities.

The Gov. ignored all this and treats these issues as if he invented the wheel – and a toothless one at that.

The Gov. failed provide his “Chief Resilience Officer” with any administrative powers or a specific charge to focus on CAFRA Coastal planning and DEP regulatory powers.  CRO Rosenblatt reports to DEP Commissioner McCabe and has no power on the InterAgency Council on Climate Resilience created by Murphy’s Executive Order #89. He’s not even Chair of that Council and the Council has only advisory powers.

Recall that Gov. Christie appointed “Sandy Redevelopment Czar” Marc Ferdan and gave him real powers – including an equivalent cabinet role and access to the Governor and budget authority. CRO Rosenblatt lacks any of these formal and administrative powers.

Recall that the legislature considered a bill to create a Coastal Commission – Gov. Murphy could have revived that proposal, but he didn’t.

Recall that the legislature considered a bill to create a “Catastrophic Fund” – Wall Street savvy Gov. Murphy could have revived that proposal, but he didn’t.

Recall that the legislature considered a bill to mandate that DEP update the State Coastal Protection Plan, which is implemented and enforced by DEP regulations – but he didn’t.

The Gov. could have announced a “one and done” policy and that he was seeking legislation to repeal the “right to rebuild” provisions under NJ coastal CAFRA and Flood Hazard Acts, which lead to filing multiple damage claims on the same property and rebuilding in high hazard areas, an abuse that NJ leads the nation on. But he didn’t. The Gov. is cluelessly unaware of his own DEP’s Section 309 Report on this issue: (see p. IV-28)

Repetitive Loss

According to the National Flood Insurance Program’s Claim Information by State report (http://bsa.nfipstat.fema.gov/reports/1040.htm) of November 30, 2014, New Jersey recently passed Texas as the second highest ranked state in FEMA total loss payments with $5,622,667,976.21 in losses. New Jersey is the fourth highest ranked state in the total number of losses at over 188,000.While these losses are not limited to New Jersey’s coastal zone, the statistics are indicative of the increasing risks to natural hazards.

In addition to no substantive policies or regulations, the Gov. made no commitment to funding or staffing the resilience program.

But, most importantly, the Gov. could have established a policy of “Strategic Retreat” – which DEP’s Coastal Zone Strategy has recommended for 20 years – but he didn’t.

Instead, Murphy’s EO89 is all process and no policy or legal substance and no resources (financial or human).

So, there is really no excuse for the Gov. to not pull any of these powerful & mandatory triggers – the fact that he hasn’t demonstrates that he is either too politically weak to take on the fight with developers, local governments, the business community, and his own party – or insincere – or grossly incompetent and poorly advised (that means you Catherine McCabe!)

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