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Documents Show That NJ Audubon Wrote DEP Commissioner Martin’s Remarks to Corporate Council

November 21st, 2017 No comments

Corporate Event Arranged By Commissioner’s Office – DEP Experts Had No Role

US Fish and Wildlife Service Was Invited But Did Not Show

William Penn Foundation Involved In Poorly Attended Event

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin - Gov. Christie's attack dog is shown to be a puppet of NJ Audubon!

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin – Gov. Christie’s attack dog is shown to be a puppet of NJ Audubon!

I recently filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request for documents related to the NJ Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council meeting at DEP headquarters (see this post for background on that meeting).

DEP requested an extension of the 7 day OPRA response deadline. When I asked for the justification for the extension request, as I suspected, DEP basically confirmed the pure political nature of the meeting.

Check this out, DEP experts had no role and the event was arranged by DEP Commissioner Martin’s office (source: 11/16/17 email from Matt Coefer, DEP Chief Records Custodian):

Bill:

The request was originally assigned to the NJDEP’s Natural & Historic Resources (NHR) Program as the interests seem in line with their activities. However, they investigated and responded that they had no involvement with the meeting.  It was later identified that the meeting was coordinated by the Commissioner’s Office. 

But even worse, the documents DEP provided today show that not only were DEP experts cut out of the Commissioner’s political meeting with corporate cronies, but that DEP Commissioner Martin’s remarks at the meeting were written by John Parke of NJ Audubon.

Take a look at this September 27, 2016 email from Jim Schissias of PSEG to Parke, asking him to draft Commissioner Martin’s remarks:
Screen Shot 2017-11-21 at 11.16.42 AMGet that?

First, DEP Commissioner Martin ignores his own staff; Second, he meets with corporate cronies behind closed doors; Third his DEP professional staff do not attend the event; and Fourth, his remarks are written by NJ Audubon.

That is pathetic – the DEP Commissioner a puppet of NJ Audubon, speaking to a group of corporate cronies.

But it is even worse than that.

NJ Audubon – basically working for Jim Shissias of PSEG and corporate cronies – was sure to invite a deep pocketed Foundation to the event – Andrew W. Johnson of the William Penn Foundation.

Presumably, this was part of a funding pitch, a manipulative set up of Wm Penn’s Johnson, as he listens as NJ Audubon basks in DEP Commissioner Martin’s praise – which they wrote – of the wonders of their sham corporate greenwash program.

Totally corrupt. Totally.

Significantly, the US Fish and Wildlife Service was invited to attend the meeting but did not show up.

NJ Audubon has stressed the involvement of US FWS, in a transparent attempt to: 1) mislead the public that this is a bona fide conservation program and 2) to deflect their role in forming a partnership with Donald Trump and the other so called “corporate stewards”.

US FWS had the good sense to stay away and did not attend the event.

Actually, the event was a bust, as the 11 NJ Audubon staff in attendance outnumbered the corporate “stewards” who showed up.

OPRA documents show that 34 corporate representatives were invited to the meeting and “expected” to attend.

But the meeting sign in sheets show that just a small fraction of that showed up – just 11:

PSEG sent 3 people; Waste Management 1; Suez 1; Mannington Mills 1; JCP&L 1; J&J 1; Verizon 1; Chemours (Dupont) 1; South Jersey Gas 1; Crystal Springs 1.

As I previously wrote, all those corporations had regulatory matters pending before DEP and had significant economic interests in maintaining a good relationship with DEP Commissioner Martin.

But the OPRA documents show what really went down: A self serving and poorly attended political stunt with little conservation value or scientific basis – but lavishly funded by government and private foundations.

Meet your NJ Audubon, Christie DEP Commissioner, and “corporate stewards!

(all DEP documents will be provided on request to validate the above).

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Voluntary NJ “Green Building” Incentive Bill Will Not Work and Would Miss Huge Opportunity

November 15th, 2017 No comments

Bill would preclude more aggressive mandates required to avoid climate chaos

The NJ Senate Environment Committee, on Monday November 20, 2017, will hear proposed legislation (S3129 -Smith, Greenstein) that would provide incentives to “green buildings”, specifically the bill:

“Provides for priority consideration, by DCA, DEP, DOT, and municipalities, of permit applications for green building projects”

The building sector is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions.

If we are to meet the aggressive science based goals of the NJ Global Warming Response Act, the Paris Accords, and avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to get deep and swift reductions in emissions from this sector.

The DEP’s 2009 Global Warming Response Act implementation recommendations Report includes this set of recommendations on the building sector: (Table ES-1, p.5)

Require adherence to green building guidelines for new construction ..

Require water-related infrastructure retrofits

Through a combination of energy efficiency requirements and renewable energy sources, all new buildings constructed after 2030 will have a net zero energy consumption. (p.7)

Coordinate with the Legislature to authorize new codes resulting in new construction which is 30% more energy efficient by 2009, and a longer term goal of achieving net zero carbon emitting buildings (p.26)

Once the guidelines are established, the NJDCA will seek appropriate statutory authorization to incorporate them during its periodic building codes and standards revision process, thus requiring adherence to the State’s green building guidelines for all new construction. (p.35)

Therefore, it is critical to focus not only on “green” design for new construction, but also on ways to retrofit existing construction to be more environmentally-friendly and less energy intensive. (p.16)]

Note especially the recommendations that compliance with standards be required and the existing buildings be retrofit.

In contrast  the Voluntary measures and regulatory review “incentives” in the bill are woefully inadequate policy tools to achieve these necessary emissions reductions. 

I just wrote the below letter to the sponsors of the bill – Chairman Smith and Senator Greenstein – to urge that they rethink the overall voluntary incentive based approach in favor of an enforceable science based model. I urge readers to do the same:

Dear Chairman Smith and Senator Greenstein:

I’ve read your bill, S3129, which “Provides for priority consideration, by DCA, DEP, DOT, and municipalities, of permit applications for green building projects”

While I appreciate your efforts to promote more environmentally friendly building practices, unfortunately I must strongly differ with the overall approach of the proposed legislation and encourage you to revise and amend the bill:

1) to establish enforceable regulatory requirements in terms of local and state building codes and DEP permit requirements, and;

2) to link the standards to a science based DEP plan or legislative policy goals (e.g. the greenhouse emissions reductions from the building sector necessary to attain the goals of the Global Warming Response Act or water conservation measures of the Water Supply Master Plan, etc)

It is my understanding that the proposed voluntary incentive based private standards in the bill (LEED, ASHRAE, et al) are not tied in any way to attainment of science based public policies or numeric planning goals or regulatory standards – nor has there been any assessment or demonstration of whether implementation of the standards in the bill would make progress towards various NJ legislative goals and regulatory standards.

Additionally, it appears that the bill would grandfather existing development and thereby miss huge opportunities to retrofit the existing built environment.

Furthermore, all new development should be zero net emissions and leverage investments in renewable energy infrastructure, much like off-site impact fees are designed to finance necessary upgrades in infrastructure.

In contrast, as drafted, the bill would actually provide a perverse preemptive shield against real enforceable standards and codes and impact fees necessary to meet urgent policy objectives, like GHG emissions, water quality and water conservation and renewable energy infrastructure.

I urge you to table this bill pending reconsideration of a more aggressive and enforceable approach.

Sincerely,

Bill Wolfe

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Greetings From The James River At Horseshoe Bend

November 12th, 2017 No comments

After A Spectacular Fall in the Northeast, We’re Headed South for the Winter

James River at Horseshoe Bend (Virginia)

James River at Horseshoe Bend (Virginia)

I’ve been getting emails and questions from friends and readers about how I’m doing, so I thought I’d update the status of our epic tour.

Last I posted, we were along the Maine coast enjoying the fall in the northeast- after about a month in Vermont’s Green Mountains & New Hampshire’s White Mountains (see “Atlantic Northeast”).

We then headed west into NY Adirondacks, then south to the Catskills, and southeast to my home turf, the Hudson Valley. I spent over a week in Port Ewen, NY (a Hudson River hamlet just south of Kingston). Here’s a view of the Hudson from lovely Hasbrouck Park, looking southeast:

_DSC4442

Here’a a view of the Hudson looking north towards Kingston, from Scenic Hudson’s spectacular Esopus Meadows Preserve (don’t miss the Phenology Trail there, which should be a model for NJ!)

_DSC4447

Kingston has great parks and a lively historic harbor district. I loved the place, home of Sojourner Truth, described as the “Daughter of Esopus”:

statue in center of Port Ewen, NY celebrates history of Sojourner Truth

statue in center of Port Ewen, NY celebrates history of Sojourner Truth

Looking to settle in the Kingston area, exhausted and just about broke, I thought the tour was over and I was offered and actually accepted a job at Green Mountain Energy. But I couldn’t find affordable housing so the whole thing broke down, and, as temperatures dipped into the 20’s at night, I decided to head south for the winter.

I’m in the Deep South now (at Horseshoe bend 2 weeks ago), but before I write about some of the ugly things I’ve seen here recently, I thought I’d explain how I got here.

Protest against Steve Bannon's speech at The Citadel (Charleston, SC) (11/10/17)

Protest against Steve Bannon’s speech at The Citadel (Charleston, SC) (11/10/17)

I didn’t follow the NJ Governor’s race, but have posted and tweeted extensively about the dirty deeds of NJ Audubon and their friends in Keep It Green Coalition and NJ League of Conservation Voters – as a warning to the incoming Murphy Administration and my fellow activists.

As I was praised recently by a friend and reader for being:

the “corporate/institutional” memory of environmental things [in NJ]

I feel a certain responsibility and obligation.

So, I will be writing about the Murphy Transition process, the appointment of a new DEP Commissioner, and overall strategy & a progressive policy agenda in the next days and weeks, so stay tuned.

Peace out!

Protest on Bannon's speech at The Citadel (11/10/17)

Protest on Bannon’s speech at The Citadel (11/10/17)

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Report Praising Trump Issued Just Days Before The Presidential Election

November 4th, 2017 No comments

Christie DEP Provided Platform For Trump Corporate PR & Propaganda

NJ Audubon Report Manipulates Public & Peddles “Fake News”

Just days before the 2016 Presidential election, the Christie DEP provided a platform at the DEP headquarters for the presentation of a Report that praised Trump’s National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ. (see page 30).

Yesterday, I wrote to provide the context and explain why that Report and closed door meeting at DEP HQ was totally inappropriate because it provided undue access and influence on DEP and mixed private special interests  with DEP’s regulatory responsibilities.

Today, we focus on the politics of that DEP meeting and Report.

Perhaps the easiest way to highlight the problem would be to suggest a parallel hypothetical case and pose a question about how it would be perceived by the media and public:

Can you imagine the uproar if, just days before the Presidential election, a NJ Democratic Governor provided a platform at DEP Headquarters for a private environmental group to present a Report that praised the Clinton Foundation (and by inference, Hillary Clinton)?

Well, that is exactly what the Christie DEP did.

That NJ Audubon Report is nothing more than corporate public relations and political propaganda with a veneer of green cover.

With all the focus on fake news and Russian manipulation, why the silence by NJ press corps on this November Surprise?

Does anyone think that the praise for Trump’s environmental performance is warranted?

If not, then doesn’t the NJ Audubon Report – and ongoing Trump “partnership” – constitute gross manipulation of the public in a way that benefits a politician?

Isn’t that what is now called “fake news”?

For those that don’t hit links, here is the praise that NJ Audubon heaped on Trump (from page 30):

Screen Shot 2017-11-04 at 3.18.59 PM

I am providing text screenshots from that Report in the likely event that NJ Audubon takes down the link – just like their buddy Mike Catania did with this Conservation Resources, Inc. 10 year Report.

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NJ Audubon Met With Major Corporate Polluters Behind Closed Doors At Christie DEP HQ

November 1st, 2017 No comments

Beyond Regulatory Capture and Green Cover

Need redraw lines between DEP regulators, corporate interests, & private conservation

Source: NJ Audubon Society

Source: NJ Audubon Society

[Update below]

On November 3, 2016, the NJ Audubon Society met with some of NJ’s largest corporate polluters and land developers behind closed doors at the Christie DEP’s Trenton Headquarters. (see this)

At the time of that meeting, NJ Audubon had controversial financial and regulatory matters pending before DEP (e.g. the Sparta Mountain logging plan which DEP was backing) and so did virtually all of the corporations on Audubon’s “Corporate Stewardship Council”.

Obviously, that meeting meets NJ’s legal definitions, standards and restrictions on “attempts to influence government processes” and constitutes lobbying.

NJ Audubon has now joined the group NJ Future in conducting important and controversial public policy work by private groups in secret (i.e the controversial proposal to develop Liberty State Park). Recalling the Liberty State Park debacle:

…to evade that controversy and public accountability [for developing Liberty State Park], the Christie DEP provided a $120,000 grant to the private planning group NJ Future to secretly develop the LSP plan and provide a veneer of legitimacy and political cover for it.

That secrecy and betrayal by NJ Future further outraged the public and Democratic legislators, as reported by The Jersey Journal:

Public outrage over NJ Future’s secret planning forced NJ Future to try to do damage control and walk it back. Check out this NJF private planning methodology

Apparently NJ Audubon and the Christie DEP learned nothing from the NJ Future Liberty State Park debacle and brazenly and with impunity defy the norms of open, transparent and accountable government.

To see who was at that NJA/DEP private corporate meeting, what was discussed, and to read the “Annual Report” please hit this link.

Here is a screen shot from the NJ Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC) Annual Report:

Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 10.14.51 AM

I have been harshly critical of the Christie Administration’s environmental, energy and regulatory policies and I believe that my assessment is both fact based and the overwhelming consensus in the environmental community, the media, the legislature, and among the public. There is no doubt that Christie and DEP Commissioner Bob Martin will go down in history as having the worst environmental record ever, surpassing the “open for business” Whitman administration.

I also have criticized NJ Audubon Society, most recently for their role as:

a self-proclaimed “conservation” organization [that] has: 1) formed a “partnership” with Donald Trump; 2) taken money from a Wall Street billionaire to log forests to enhance opportunities for wealthy private hunters; and 3) formed a “Stewardship Council”with major corporate polluters, developers, and pipeline builders; then something apparently benign like a “buy local” sustainable forestry birdhouse program may seem like chump change, and just a short slide down the slippery slope of the Greasy Pole to Gomorrah (a process that Chris Hedges calls “our descent into corporate tyranny.”)

I am referring to NJ’s Audubon’s latest scam, run in cooperation with NJ State Departments of Environmental Protection (“Forest Stewardship”) and Agriculture (“Jersey Grown Wood“).

But the NJA corporate meeting behind closed doors at the Christie DEP Headquarters is perhaps one of the most insidious and craven moves of all.

So called “Corporate Stewardship” of the environment is a purely private matter.

NJ Audubon is a private organization that is well endowed and prone to pursue it’s own organizational interests over sound public policy and the public interest (e.g. witness the Trump partnership and the public manipulation and lies during the “Keep It Green” coalition’s $1 million open space campaign. – see the Bergen Record’s story

It is totally inappropriate for corporate officials to meet behind closed doors with DEP regulatory officials and allow that corporate conservation policy to mingle with public policy and regulatory matters.

The inside special private access provided to corporate interests has an undue influence on DEP policy and regulatory affairs, fosters personal and institutional relationships that lead to what academics call “regulatory capture”, and is inherently unfair to the public, who is shut out of these discussions.

The fact that it occurred behind closed doors with no paper trail defies all norms and laws regarding open and transparent government.

For a private “conservation” group to work this closely with private corporations inside government – while financially benefitting from both those same corporate interests and DEP grants – is totally corrupt.

Politically and from a public policy standpoint, the entire CSC program is an empty shell that amounts to nothing more than corporate public relations and green cover for a Christie DEP that has rolled back core environmental protections and ignored climate change for almost 8 years.

The next Administration in Trenton needs to redraw the lines between DEP regulators, corporate interests, and private self serving conservation groups like NJ Audubon.

[End Note: Kelly Mooij of NJ Audubon has an Op-Ed today in NJ Spotlight calling on the next Governor to expand funding for open space.

NJ Audubon did virtually nothing to pressure Gov. Christie to fund open space or criticize his opposition to new money or to continue NJ voters’ longstanding commitment to approve the issuance of bonds to fund the open space program.

Instead of battling Gov. Christie to adequately fund open space, to support new money, or back the issuance of debt, the cowards at NJ Audubon led the “Keep It Green” coalition in stealing existing money previously constitutionally dedicated to State parks maintenance, protecting water quality, and ensuring toxic site cleanup!

For NJ Audubon to now challenge the next Administration to expand the totally inadequate funding that NJ Audubon itself compromised on – and sold out & misled the public about – is obscene.

 [Update – 11/2/17 – I just filed the following OPRA public records request of DEP:
I request all public records regarding a November 3, 2016 “Annual Meeting” at DEP headquarters with NJ Audubon and the Corporate Stewardship Council, including meeting agenda, presentations, minutes, list of attendees, and communications between DEP, NJ Audubon and the Corporate Stewardship Council.  ~~~~ end update]
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