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Elmer Gantry Goes Down The Shore

March 22nd, 2023 No comments

Jeff Van Drew Deploys Disgusting Tea Party 2.0 Town Hell Tactics

Reaping The Whale-Wind

Carnival barker Jeff Van Drew

Carnival barker Jeff Van Drew

In 1927, Sinclair Lewis wrote the classic satire of America’s religious hucksters, Elmer Gantry.

The book could have been written last week – perhaps with an updated version that would look more like Lewis’ classic 1935 book on US fascism, “It Can’t Happen Here”.

Now Old Elmer’s down the shore. And it’s happening here.

[Update: 3/24/23 Historian Paul Street explains exactly what’s going on, emphasizing the danger of seeing this as the work of “crazy republicans” instead of as the fascist politics it is.]

Steering clear of stepping in all the bullshit, I initially avoided the whale wind.

But, as the bullshit got thicker, my disgust erupted. On January 20, 2023, I wrote:

The show began with the media topic of the day, the death of whales. Both guests could not find the backbone to state the obvious: the opportunistic political exploitation of whale deaths to attack offshore wind is disgraceful, by both State Senator Polistina and Clean Ocean Action.

I followed up on January 28 with a snarky photo of Cindy Zipf of Clean Ocean Action in action, adding visual evidence to what I thought was so obvious partisan bullshit.

But it’s only gotten worse since.

In case it’s not obvious, the circus on the shore was a cheap rehash of the Tea Party Town Hells.

Take a look at what that ugliness looked like in Middletown NJ at Congressman Rush Holt’s “Town hell” – some real “fine people” (DT) on one side (posted on 9/7/09):


These conditions call for savage scorn, but all I got time for is mockery.

Although I’m no fan of NJ Spotlight and Julie Roginsky, sometimes, in a horribly cynical way, they get it right (despite the fact that they confuse corrupt cynicism and opportunism with political savvy. No biggie, right? (more snark)):


To tap into the power of localized dramas, politicians have for over a century-and-a-half been departing D.C. for their home districts to hold much livelier, often far more partisan, events called “field hearings.”

It appears the tradition has been revived and revamped. Facing a razor-thin majority for which big legislative accomplishments will be difficult, the new speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, has made it a priority — and allocated taxpayer dollars — for his members to pursue field hearings that have the potential to embarrass President Biden and the Democratic Party.

For New Jersey Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew, McCarthy’s new playbook, which was shared with Republican members in early February, came at a particularly opportune moment.

Since January, eight humpback whales have been found dead on or near beaches in New Jersey and New York. The deaths, called strandings by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have electrified what was once a small movement contained within coastal municipalities opposed to the Murphy administration’s rapid push to develop wind farms off the New Jersey coast.

Yup, it’s Elmer Gantry, for sure.

(the 1960 movie is good – I’m an old Burt Lancaster fan – but nowhere near the book).

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The Murphy Administration Is Abandoning And Watering Down Climate And Environmental Protections Based On Bogus Economic Arguments

March 21st, 2023 No comments

A Disturbing Pattern And Revealing Contradiction:

Compliance Costs Are Exaggerated & Benefits Ignored For Climate & Environmental Protections

Benefits Are Exaggerated And Costs Ignored For Economic Development Projects

A deeply troubling pattern has emerged and become embedded in the environmental and climate policy of the Murphy administration.

It’s bad enough that NJ Spotlight reporter Tom Johnson rants almost daily about the so called high costs of clean energy (while ignoring benefits), but it is really terrible when those bogus political slogans and flawed economic arguments actually drive Gov. Murphy’s policies.

(Tom wrote another biased rant today, using the appointment of new BPU Commissioners as an opportunity to beat the high cost drum.)

There have been a series of recent high profile Murphy administration capitulations to those sham economic arguments, including:

Every single one of these policy setbacks is based on sacrificing public health, climate and environmental protections based on grossly exaggerated short term compliance costs and failure to consider a broad range of long term benefits.

Every single one elevated politics and economic development above science and environmental and public health protections.

And I can’t get NJ Spotlight’s Jon Hurdle to report the fact that the NJ Safe Drinking Water Act does not allow the DWQI and DEP to consider costs in recommending and setting drinking water standards, respectively, a key fact that distinguishes the more stringent NJ State law from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (which does allow costs to be considered.)

After I specifically criticized his misleading reporting and told him this NJ SDWA fact, instead of correcting the false impressions he created and printing those facts, instead Hurdle reported that the federal EPA drinking water standard for PFAS did consider costs, thereby intentionally misleading readers about the essential issue (i.e. the relationship between costs and health risks)!:

The [EPA] agency identified 4 ppt after considering utilities’ ability to measure and treat for the substance, as well as the costs and benefits of complying with that level. 

It’s gotten so bad, that even rubes from the south jersey mining industry know exactly how to push Gov. Murphy’s buttons and kill water regulations by the Pinelands Commission:

It is our feeling, if adopted as currently written without clarification, the industry will have to cut production by 50%. This will lead to a huge shortage, only exacerbating the current shortage and will threaten the contractors in our state’s ability to complete vital DOT projects such as bridges, highways and local roads. In addition to a lack of materials, the shortage from these regulations could mean a doubling in material price. Given the current inflationary environment we live in today, these regulations, as currently written, will threaten the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Capital Program. ~~~ Source:William Layton, New Jersey Concrete and Aggregate Association. 11/4/22 – You may contact him at

(I guess after you get your ass kicked by a hack from the NJ (fossil) Fuel Merchants Assc., it’s actually a step up in the political world to get pushed around and reamed by south jersey sand miners.)

The Murphy compromises are particularly insidious, because Gov. Murphy constantly claims to be a “green” Governor and environmental groups constantly cheerlead for him and his DEP Commissioner (a former corporate lawyer who represented major toxic polluters, a fact you never read in the news coverage.)

As a matter of policy on the role of economic considerations in climate and environmental protections,  Gov. Murphy touted the fact that he repealed Gov. Christie’s Executive Order #2, which directed State agencies to provide “regulatory relief” and mandated the use of cost benefit analysis.

But despite appearances and press release spin, Murphy’s replacement Executive Order #63 is equally troubling.

So, the Gov.’s economic driven policy is being done with no transparency and accountability and is affirmatively masked by his press releases and Executive Orders.

We were not fooled by this from day one, but the NJ public has been.

So, as William Greeder wrote: Who will tell the people about this reality?

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Pinelands Commission Folds To Mining Industry Attack On Water Rules Designed To Protect Sensitive Ecology

March 20th, 2023 No comments

Mining Industry Sought Regulatory Relief – And The Commission Gave It To Them

A Bright Green Light To Expand Mining In The Pinelands

Murphy DEP Supported The Mining Industry’s Attack On Pinelands Regulatory Proposal

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This might be hard to believe, but the NJ Pinelands Commission just explicitly sought, in their words:

to avoid unintended negative impacts on the resource extraction industry

Let me explain that.

Way back in 2001, in response to over-development threats and a growing water crisis on the Cape May County Penninsula (e.g. salt water intrusion, need for costly new desalination plants, pending major new development, etc), the Legislature enacted a law (named the “Gibson bill” for a local legislator) that essentially established a moratorium on additional DEP water withdrawal permits for new development until scientific studies were completed to determine how much water was available.

Those studies also included the Pinelands:

New Jersey Public Law 2001, Chapter 165 directed the Pinelands Commission to assess and prepare a report on the key hydrologic and ecological information needed to determine how the current and future water-supply needs within the Pinelands area may be met while protecting the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer system and avoiding any adverse ecological impact on the Pinelands area.

After more than 20 years, the studies were completed and the Pinelands Commission finally proposed new regulations to require consideration of the ecological impacts and limits on water allocation that would create unacceptable ecological impacts.

The rules were proposed on September 6, 2022:

The proposed amendments require applicants for diversions in the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer to conduct specific tests, analyses, and modelling to demonstrate whether the proposed diversion will have an adverse regional or local impact.

To protect the more ecologically sensitive areas of the Pinelands Area, the Commission is proposing to limit new or increased diversions from the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer to the Agricultural Production Area and the more growth-oriented Pinelands Management Areas. In addition, a diversion will only be permitted if an applicant can demonstrate that no alternative water supply source is available or viable.

Here’s visually what’s at stake (along with a good article –  photo from our friend Al Horner, YaleEnvironment360)

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Almost before the ink was dry on the proposed new rules, the sand mining industry went ballistic and frontally attacked the proposal.

These mining guys were not subtle and made direct and over the top political threats:

It is our feeling, if adopted as currently written without clarification, the industry will have to cut production by 50%. This will lead to a huge shortage, only exacerbating the current shortage and will threaten the contractors in our state’s ability to complete vital DOT projects such as bridges, highways and local roads. In addition to a lack of materials, the shortage from these regulations could mean a doubling in material price. Given the current inflationary environment we live in today, these regulations, as currently written, will threaten the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Capital Program. ~~~ Source:William Layton, New Jersey Concrete and Aggregate Association. 11/4/22 – You may contact him at

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On November 3, 2022, the sand mining industry submitted ballistic comments – backed by written comments from the law firm Connell Foley and the notorious pay-to-play politically connected toxic polluter defense firm Langan Engineering – that claimed that the Pinelands Commission had no legal authority to regulate water withdrawals and that the proposal was fatally flawed technically.

I don’t want to go into the details here (will in a future post), but will provide their comments upon request.

The point is, the Pinelands Commission immediately folded. Immediately. This is an historic fold.

The previous time the Murphy DEP folded to the fossil Fuel Merchants Association, NJBIA, and Petroleum Council’s opposition to recent boiler replacement electrification requirements, at least they waited for bad press and an industry lobbying campaign that targeted Gov. Murphy to emerge. This fold was immediate. Gov. Murphy nixed it before the industry criticism could even be deployed!

You can read the Commission’s fold and response to the sand industry criticisms.

The Commission gave the sand mining industry virtually everything they demanded – and they literally “thanked” them for it –  including effectively grandfathering all existing mining operations from the new requirements (emphasis mine):

During the public comment period on the original notice of proposal, the Commission received comments expressing concern regarding the impact of the proposed amendments on the resource extraction industry in the Pinelands Area. Resource extraction in the Pinelands Area involves mining sand and gravel, typically by mechanical or hydraulic dredging, a process that uses water directly from water bodies created by excavations below the water table of the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer.  …

The Commission thanks the resource extraction industry for its comments regarding the specific nonconsumptive uses of water for hydrologic dredging operations. Given that there are over 70 existing resource extraction operations in the Pinelands Area, approximately half of which are located in the Preservation Area District and Forest Area where the proposed rule would prohibit new diversion of over 50,000 gallons of water per day or more from the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer, the industry has raised valid concerns about the impact of the proposed rule.

In order to avoid unintended negative impacts on the resource extraction industry, the Commission is proposing a new provision at N.J.A.C. 7:50-6.86(d)2iii, which states that the standards at N.J.A.C. 7:50-6.86(d)3 through 9 will not apply to proposed diversions for resource extraction operations that constitute a non consumptive use, provided that the water returned to the source is not discharged to a stream or waterbed or otherwise results  in offsite flow, and the diversion and return are located on the same parcel.

Did you get that? Let me repeat exactly what drove the Pinelands Commission’s decision to fold:

In order to avoid unintended negative impacts on the resource extraction industry,

So, the Commission just agreed to allow more landscapes like this one in the photo below for the Pinelands’ future.

Thanks to the extractive mining industry and the cowardice and neglect of the Pinelands Commission.

Send Gov. Murphy, who appointed the Commission “leadership” who did this irresponsible sellout your thoughts.

In my next post, I will explain how the Murphy DEP submitted comments that were critical of the Pinelands Commission’s proposal, legally and scientifically undermined that proposal, and agreed with the mining industry.

[End Note: I originally published this photos of Pinelands mining operations back in 2009 (with awesome shots of a timber rattlesnake!)

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March 19th, 2023 No comments

Code Of Ethics Only For Some At The NJ DEP


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(Source: NJ DEP Hearing Transcript: “In The Matter Of William Wolfe” (9/21/94)

[Update: Here is the professional Code Of Ethics I trained in:

Principles to Which We Aspire 


1. People who participate in the planning process shall continuously pursue and faithfully serve the public interest…. 

2. People who participate in the planning process shall do so with integrity. … 

3. People who participate in the planning process shall work to achieve economic, social and racial equity…. 

4. People who participate in the planning process shall safeguard the public trust…. 

5. Practicing planners shall improve planning knowledge and increase public understanding of planning activities. …

(read the whole AICP Code of Ethics)

When I was a kid, some of my favorite TeeVee shows were “Branded” (1965-66); “The Fugitive” (1963-67); and “Kung Fu” (1972-75).

You can watch the introduction to “Branded” and see for yourself what that was all about.

Here are the lyrics:


Scorned as the one who ran.

What do you do when you’re branded, and you know you’re a man.

Wherever you go, for the rest of your life

You must prove, you’re a man.


Marked with the cowards’ shame.

What do you do when you’re branded,

Will you fight for your name?

He was innocent,

Not a charge was true,

But the world will never know….

Stripped of all his rank,

Stripped of all his pride,

Still he held his head up high!


Friends are a thing unknown,

What do you do when you’re branded?

Can you go it alone?


That’s not the way to die!

What do you do when you’re branded?

Can you live with a lie?

No, I can’t live with lies.

I couldn’t live with lies while I was employed by NJ DEP – and I could not when I was employed by non-governmental environmental groups – and I still can’t as a retired nomad.

In hindsight, I guess those youthful TV shows all shared a common theme: the story of a good man, who is falsely accused of wrongdoing and unjustly dismissed from honorable society, goes out on his own and his acts vindicate his true nature.

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DEP Pinelands Forestry Plan Was Based On A Mountain Of Lies

March 18th, 2023 No comments

Part Two: Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave

Crocodile Tears For DEP Logging of 21 Acres – But Praise For DEP Cutting 1,400 Acres

Was DEP only “cutting unhealthy, suppressed, and poorly formed trees” ???

DEP Was Destroying anExemplary stand of globally imperiled natural community”

Source: NJ DEP Forestry application to the Pinelands Commission (8/22/22)

Source: NJ DEP Forestry application to the Pinelands Commission (8/18/22)

This is part two of the series to expose the lies used to justify the military funded NJ DEP’s Pinelands Forestry Plan.

Part One provided an introduction and overview of the troubling information revealed in government documents, with select DEP maps that illustrate some of the deceptions. Along those lines, it is interesting to compare the map above that DEP provided to the Pinelands Commission with the same map DEP previously provided to the military in the REPI grant. Entirely different titles, dates, mapped features, and project purposes and justifications – for the same project.

Today, we highlight the critical natural resources that are impacted by the DEP 1,400 acre logging plan and were conveniently ignored or lied about by DEP and the conservation groups NJCF and PPA, who both aggressively supported and promoted the DEP plan.

In a recent NJ Spotlight story “Anger grows after NJ cuts down swath of forest”, those same conservation groups blasted the DEP for logging just 21 acres of forest and destroying critical habitat:

“It is not forestry; it’s land clearing,’’ said Emil DeVito, manager of science and conservation at the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “This is a pristine intact core forest. We are supposed to be protecting those places.’’ The upland forest provided habitat for barred owl and red-shouldered hawk.

NJCF and PPA objected to the lack of public awareness and ability to comment:

The Division of Fish and Wildlife in the Department of Environmental Protection took the action last month in the Glassboro Wildlife Management Area with virtually no public notice and input, conservationists said.

And PPA was angry about DEP’s failure to consider impacts of logging on plants:

The clearing demonstrates that plants do not matter when the fish and wildlife division is dealing with wildlife issues, according to Jaclyn Rhoads, assistant director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance.

Well, again I call bullshit on that (see my initial prior post).

Why this over the top “angry” response, when both NJCF and PPA supported DEP logging in Pinelands forests that would destroy 1,400 acres of environmentally sensitive forests, with critical habitat values and rare plants and animals that far exceed the 21 acre parcel in Glassboro WMA they were allegedly so angry about.

And – just like DEP – both NJCF and PPA lied to the public about that Pinelands logging project. Here are just a few more examples of how.

1) Lack of Public Awareness and Involvement

Let’s begin with the lack of public awareness and opportunity to comment that NJCF and PPA object to in the DEP’s Glassboro WMA 21 acre logging project (which is located OUTSIDE the Pinelands and provided even LESS STRINGENT regulatory protections – none.)

For the DEP’s massive 1,400 acre logging project located INSIDE the Pinelands, the Pinelands Commission allowed DEP to provide JUST 10 days for public comment. The DEP public notice was an obscure legal notice in the Press Of Atlantic City. As a result, there was no public comment on the DEP’s 1,400 acre logging plan. I testified to the Pinelands Commission AFTER they had already approved it on October 14, 2022.

Both NJCF and PPA knew all about this DEP logging plan for many months but just like DEP – they both kept that information secret.

In fact, NJCF and NJ Audubon own property within 200 feet of the DEP logging project and were provided formal legal notice. That adjacent land ownership adds another level of conflict of interest in their ethical abuses.

2) Lies About Ecological Values

Here is how the DEP described those Pinelands forests in the August 18, 2022 legal public notice on their Pinelands Commission application: (on page 27):

“Operations will involve cutting unhealthy, suppressed, and poorly formed trees, while favoring the retention of healthy species of oak and pine, utilizing the appropriate mechanized equipment”.

Emile DeVito of NJCF virtually echoed those same DEP false comments: (NJ Spotlight, 12/13/22)

“Most of the thinning happens with a mower – its not a lawn mower its a forestry mower. But they’re not really removing any large trees. Most of them are only a few inches in diameter. They’re all short and bent over, those are the things being removed, for the most part. They’ll resprout anyway.”

But in sharp contrast to those lies, here is how the DEP’s Natural Heritage Program described the forests, habitat, and natural resources (attachments to August 18, 2022 letter to DEP Forest Fire Service), which documented numerous rare plant species and ecological communities; rare wildlife species and habitat; vernal pool habitat; and two Natural Heritage Priority Sites:

A large patch of pitch pine shrub oak barrens and pine plants in broad sandy uplands…

An extensive dwarf pitch pine/scrub oak forest. …

Exemplary stand of globally imperiled natural community. Also a number of globally rare plants and animals are present.

This microsite contains a globally imperiled natural community and a number of globally rare plants and animals.

So is this forest “unhealthy, suppressed, and poorly formed trees” (DEP) and “all short and bent over” (Emile DeVito, NJCF)?

Or is it an “Exemplary stand of globally imperiled natural community. Also a number of globally rare plants and animals are present.” (DEP Natural Heritage Program).

In the 21 acre DEP logging at the Glassboro WMA, Emile DeVito (NJCF) was particularly concerned about “barred owl and red-shouldered hawk.”

But the adversely impacted incredibly rich and diverse habitat and rare plant and animal species in the 1,400 acre Pinelands logging he supported identified by the DEP Natural Heritage program include:

1) carpenter frog; 2) pine barrens tree frog; 3) bald eagle; 4) barred owl; 5) black-billed cuckoo; 6) brown thrasher; 7) common nighthawk; 8) northern parula; 9) red shouldered hawk; 10) snowy egret; 11) whip-poor-will;  12) wood thrush; 13) bobcat; 14) eastern box turtle; 15) northern pine snake; 16) timber rattlesnake; 17) seven species of rare vascular plants; 18) one species rare non-vascular plant; 19) three rare terrestrial communities; 20) two Natural heritage Priority sites; and 21) many more adversely impacts rare species and habitat within the immediate vicinity.

Why didn’t NJCF or PPA raise any concerns about DEP destroying 1,400 acres of this rich forest habitat?

(Sorry, no links – but I am glad to provide the all the data tables from DEP NHS letter, none of which PPA or NJCF mention in defending and promoting the DEP logging plan).

Source: NJ DEP Natural Heritage program

Source: NJ DEP Natural Heritage program

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