DEP Commissioner Martin’s fingerprints all over Fenimore Landfill disaster
Martin Ignored Warnings From State Commission on Investigation Report
Christie Attorney General Indicts Landfill Owner & Operator
DEP emails and documents strongly suggest that it was Gov. Christie’s regulatory policy, DEP Commissioner Martin’s strong armed top down intimidating management, and politics – not staff incompetence and bungling – that pressured DEP staffers to cut corners to promote the SEP disposal and redevelopment project. […]
Email from Jane Kozinski of the DEP to Richard Bernardi of SEP discussed the viability of the Fenimore project and scheduled a meeting with the Governor’s office ~~~ Bill Wolfe (May 22, 2014)
The owner and operator of the Fenimore Landfill, Richard Bernardi, was just indicted for financial deception, according to an NJ.Com story just posted.
According to the story, Bernardi simply duped those strict DEP regulators and investigators at the AG’s Office, who now are, like Claude Rains, shocked that gambling was going on at the landfill:
Bernardi allegedly diverted more than $5 million in tipping fees — fees paid to SEP to deposit materials at the landfill — for “personal and unauthorized uses,” in violation of a requirement that most of the funds be held in an escrow account to assure the landfill was properly closed, the Attorney General’s Office said.
The landfill closure account Bernardi allegedly raided was required by and supposedly monitored by DEP.
In addition, NJ has a law commonly referred to as “A-901″ designed to conduct background checks to assure the integrity of the solid waste industry. DEP explains:
- Any solid waste transporter wishing to engage or continue to engage in the collection, transportation, and/or disposal of any solid waste generated by another person(s) must file a Disclosure Statement in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:26-16.3 so that the transporter may obtain a “license” as defined at N.J.A.C. 7:26-16.2. Only those solid waste transporters who have filed their Disclosure Statements, met the Solid Waste Licensing requirements, and passed an Integrity Review by the New Jersey State Police and Attorney General’s Office receive an approved “license” to transport solid waste in New Jersey.
The State Commission on Investigation (SCI) December 2011 Report titled “Industrious Subversion” issued to Gov. Christie and DEP Commissioner Martin apparently fell on deaf ears.
The SCI warned Martin about how that A901 law was being circumvented:
Over the years, lawmakers, regulators and law enforcement officials repeatedly have taken aim at organized crime and other criminal elements in New Jersey’s solid waste industry. Garbage mobsters have been prosecuted and jailed, their waste-hauling cartels have been dismantled, and special licensing requirements have been established – all in an effort to prevent convicted felons and other unscrupulous individuals from systematically infiltrating and subverting what collectively constitutes one of the State’s largest commercial enterprises impacting the health and quality of life of the citizens of New Jersey. […]
The State Commission of Investigation, which first uncovered significant criminal intrusion into solid waste as far back as the late 1960s, has found that the industry today remains open to manipulation and abuse by criminal elements that circumvent the State’s existing regulatory and oversight system.
Martin not only ignored the SCI’s warning. He actively promoted the Fenimore Landfill project.
Internal DEP emails document that Martin’s policy of slashing red tape regulations and promoting “customer service” led directly to the Fenimore Landfill disaster.
Specifically, DEP emails show that early on, DEP’s longtime Chief of Staff, Gary Sondermeyer, reached out to the landfill owner to suggest that
he find the “Environmental Transition Team” Report prepared for Governor Christie and his Executive Order #2 (Red Tape Task Force) (sic) in order to pursue a “different way” of future permitting to provide incentives for “green projects”
Keep in mind that this landfill owner was a convicted felon, barred by NJ law from the solid waste industry by the A901 law.
Sondermeyer went further to tout not only Gov. Christie’s new regulatory policies, but to praise Christie’s new DEP Commissioner. According to the Report, Sondermeyer wrote:
Bob Martin as the new Commissioner of the DEP is a “strong manager” supportive of renewable energy projects, “the likes of which we never had”
One email from Martin’s Assistant Commissioner documents direct involvement by Gov. Christie’s Office:
Email from Jane Kozinski of the DEP to Richard Bernardi of SEP discussing viability of the Fenimore project and scheduled meeting with the Governor’s office
There are other emails that show incompetence and inappropriate intervention in DEP regulatory reviews – or worse – by Martin’s unqualified political appointee Cindy Randazzo.
After what was, at best, gross incompetence and failed policy, for the Christie AG to indict Bernardi, while ignoring the huge involvement by DEP, is the height of hypocrisy.
But more could be involved. As a friend just wrote me:
One could easily argue the DEP negligence as criminal, yes? It’s a complete lack of oversight.