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Jim Hansen Calls Out Climate Impacts Of Biden’s “Inflation Reduction Act” Deal

August 8th, 2022 No comments

“Wishful Thinking” – this approach is not working and will not work.”

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Historical Intro Note:

The photo above was from a November 2009 NYC protest, see: Jim Hansen Takes on NRDC and Bank of America.

In a remarkable continuity, back in 2009, Hansen was criticizing NRDC for their lame climate advocacy.

Since then, NRDC has maintained basically that posture – check out this quote from Inside Climate News on Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act oil and gas subsidy policies:

“It will provide an important incentive to curb methane emissions and to comply with EPA’s forthcoming rules,” David Doniger, NRDC

So now Oil-Gas corporate subsidies are good. We must pay polluters not to pollute. Regulatory mandates are too big a hit on corporate bottom line profits and must be paid for with public money. Wow.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reductions From Biden Inflation Reduction Act Are Inflated

By now, I’m sure you’ve all read or heard about the significant climate policy victories embedded in the Biden “Inflation Reduction Act” and how it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions – the models estimate – by up to 44%.

I’m not technically competent to critique the models that generated these estimates of emissions reductions, but I have basic quantitative skills and experience in how laws get implemented. Without going into detail, based on a cursory review, I can say that key assumptions of those models are absurd. To name just 4:

1) the carbon capture and sequestration technology is not feasible;

2) the rate of renewable power capacity installation is unrealistic; (read the below caveats):

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3) there is no guarantee that renewable power capacity displaces carbon sources of power, especially given technical integration of renewables and gas fired power,

See this excellent piece that explains all that:

I’ve call it “magical thinking”.

There likely will be growth in GHG emissions given projected economic growth, projected huge increases in energy demand (especially from electrification), continued promotion of leasing and development of fossil reserves, and investment and expansion of fossil and other GHG generating infrastructure in the bill (and the prior infrastructure bill).

4) I think “forest management” logging policies deeply undermine, if not wipe out, the assumed forest carbon sequestration assumptions. Logging is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to inherent limitations of modeling, I’m also highly skeptical of the ability of modelers to understand laws and policy and how they are implemented in the real world.

Keep in mind that this cheerleading comes from the same “independent experts”, beltway environmental group sources, and media outlets who all claimed that the Obama EPA Clean Power Plan was “transformative” and would deeply reduce greenhouse gas emissions (Fact check: the Obama EPA plan was blocked by the Supreme Court and the private market forces reduced emissions deeper and faster. Heres Justice Kagan in her dissent:

Right after the Obama administration issued the Clean Power Plan, the Court stayed its implementation. … The ensuing years, though, proved the Plan’s moderation. Market forces alone caused the power industry to meet the Plan’s nationwide emissions target.

Here are the embarrassing numbers, from the Supreme Court’s decision:

EPA explained that, while the Clean Power Plan “was projected to reduce CO2 emissions from the electric power sector by 2030 to a level approximately 32 percent below the level in 2005,” “[p]reliminary data indicates that CO2 emissions from the electric power sector in 2019 were 34 percent below the level in 2005.”).

You’re being fed the same line of cheerleading bullshit again on the Biden deal.

No need to take my word for it – I’m biased anyway, having called Biden a “climate fraud” –  so here’s Jim Hansen’s taken:

Let us remind you of the big picture, so as to put yesterday’s big news in perspective. The big news was not that there seems to be a political deal in Washington for actions that will reduce U.S. CO2 emissions significantly, making our emissions closer to those of Europeans, who emit less than half as much CO2 per capita as Americans. Such reduction is useful and overdue. It is consistent with the long-standing “wishful thinking” approach to climate policy – ask each nation to try to reduce their emissions and hope that the global results will add up to a solution. And then ignore the blatant scientific data showing that this approach is not working and will not work.

Oh, BTW – Recall that Biden State Dept. made much of US restoration of cooperation with China on climate policy back in November 2021. That got good press and praise by climate activists.

But Pelosi’s Taiwan stunt triggered retaliation from China, including ending cooperation with the US on climate .

Another “Heckofajob” Joe!

[End Note: When considering priorities suggested by the billions of dollars in the bill, keep in mind that this is a 10 year plan, so divide by 10: e.g. the $370 billion for renewable energy is just $37 billion/year. Compare that to the $800+ billion or so spent on the military, per year.

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NY Times Op-Ed Focuses On Alleged Woodbridge NJ Colonia High School Cancer Cluster

August 5th, 2022 No comments

State Risk Communications Failures Exacerbated Uncertainty & Lack Of Trust

State Investigation Woefully Inadequate

Murphy DEP Commissioner Seeks To Derail A Broader Investigation

The NY Times published a well written and pretty thorough Op-Ed today on the alleged Woodbridge NJ Colonia High School cancer cluster. The author attempted to balance the science with the communication and human and emotional dimensions. Read the whole thing:

I’m glad that someone finally focused on the CDC Cancer Cluster Guidelines, particularly as they apply not only to the fundamental statistics of epidemiology, but to the key issues of communication with the community.

It is obvious that State Officials failed to even attempt to meet the spirit of these CDC guidelines, which I criticized as serious flaws in this May 2, 2022 post:

2. The federal CDC Guidelines for responding to an alleged cancer cluster are not being followed by NJ State government agencies.

Specifically, CDC Guidelines stress open and early communications with the community and media; transparency; and scientific rigor.

CDC does NOT recommend that federal and State health and environmental agencies delegate these investigations to local governments, as the Murphy Administration has done. Local governments lack the expertise, authority, and resources to respond.

Yet, instead of holding the Murphy administration to these guidelines and reporting State failures as facts, Spotlight reports these failures as shortcomings alleged by local residents.

I did not follow the local public hearings on the DEP response, so I was absolutely appalled to just now read Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette’s quote that attempts to suppress the scope of the investigation: (NY Times)

At the Colonia High School news conference in May, reporters pressed a panel of state experts on the decision not to test water and soil, even if just to reassure concerned community members that there was nothing there.

That kind of follow-up could have the opposite effect, said Shawn LaTourette, New Jersey’s commissioner of environmental protection, and send “the wrong message” that the suspicions deserved any more resources than what had already been invested.

Why would DEP Commissioner LaTourette want to cover up cancer risks?

The question answers itself:

And it’s too bad that no one told The NY Times reporter about the Toms River childhood cancer cluster and how causal effects for certain cancers were attributed to local chemical air pollution and an unregulated chemical in drinking water:

(see NJ DoH Report)

“The study found that prenatal exposure to two environmental factors in the past were associated with increased risk of leukemia in female children. These exposures were: 1) access to drinking water from the Parkway well field after the time that the well field was most likely to be contaminated, and 2) air pollutant emissions from the Ciba-Geigy chemical manufacturing plant.”

[End Note: To give readers a sense of just how corrupted the entire “environmental” scene has become, consider that Woodbridge was ranked NJ’s #1 “Sustainable Town”. Hit that link, take a look and see if you agree!]

Here is my LTE to the NYT in response, which I doubt they will print:

Hi – The cancer cluster investigation was woefully inadequate.

The State DEP failed to consider any causal agents other than radiological concerns, despite their knowledge of the presence of known and suspected carcinogens in the ambient air and drinking water.

The Colonia HS is located a stone’s throw from the Garden State Parkway and a gas station, where thousands of vehicle per hour and gas pumps spew known cancer causing chemicals into the air (benzene, hydrocarbons, et al).

The region is densely populated with hundreds of known industrial air pollution sources that emit known carcinogens. EPA and DEP have conducted emissions stack tests, ambient air quality sampling, air quality modeling, and risk assessment. Based on that data and science, DEP knowns of excess cancer risk from regulated “Hazardous Air Pollutants” (HAPs). These cancer risks do not consider cumulative or synergistic effects, or the risks of exposure to unregulated chemicals.

Similarly, based on their own research, DEP knows that drinking water is contaminated by over 500 unregulated chemicals with unknown health risks, but many suspected to be biologically active and possible carcinogens.

For many years, DEP has downplayed and even suppressed the risks from the above.

I’d be glad to provide links and formal source citations to document the above claims.

Bill Wolfe

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Disclosure Of Flood Risks Is Not A Solution, It’s A Diversion

August 3rd, 2022 No comments

NRDC Consultant Supports Market Based Policy That Diverts From “Strategic Retreat”

Repetitive Flood Claims Fueled By NJ’s “Right To Rebuild” Laws & Lax Regulation

Serious Reforms Require A “One And Done” Approach

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Almost 2 years ago, Murphy DEP Commissioner Shawn Latourette made highly revealing and hugely embarrassing on the record comments.

LaTourette suggested that market based real estate risk disclosure was an important tool to reduce risks of flooding, and could serve as an alternative to strict DEP land use planning and regulation: (NJ Spotlight,  10/14/20 – emphases mine)

Although developers and builders fear the new rules will tighten limits on where they can build in coastal and inland areas, the regulations are unlikely to do that, LaTourette said in an interview with NJ Spotlight News.

While no final decisions have been taken, the regulations are likely to require instead that builders and developers do a “climate impact analysis” for any new property that would be built in an area that’s expected to be hit by future floods, given scientific forecasts for sea-level rise and other climate-change phenomena, he said.

“We’re not at a point, nor do we think it’s our role, to tell people: ‘Don’t build here, you shouldn’t build there, you can’t do that,’” LaTourette said. “It is about making folks assess their risk and recognize the risk they are taking on. We are not saying: ‘You cannot build in a future flood-risk area.’ We’re saying that in a future flood-risk area, you need to at least do what you do now in an existing flood-risk area, which is: assess the risk, and notice that risk. It will forever live in the deed record of that property.” […]

“What’s important right now is that we make sure that people know that time is coming,” he said. “People writ large do not recognize it. By taking these kinds of measures and making people look at what’s happening, you begin to change the conversation, you begin to influence the risk that people are willing to take on.

At the time, I called him out for trying to substitute real estate market tools for his responsibility to regulate development, see:

Such an approach abdicates DEP’s public responsibility and inappropriately relies on information disclosure and individual private market based incentives to address deadly risks and catastrophic property damage.

Shortly after, LaTourette tried to walk back those comments and attacked his critics:

In another stunning set of absurd remarks, Mr. LaTourette falsely attacks critics:

LaTourette said the critics were wrong to conclude that the DEP would leave it up to an individual to decide whether it was safe to build a house in a particular location.

“They have nothing to react to at this point,” he said. “For folks to jump to the conclusion that what we may propose to help ready our state to face this great risk, for folks to presuppose that whatever it is won’t be good enough, that’s not following the science.” […]

Bill Wolfe, a retired DEP policy analyst and the current author of an environmental blog, said the [LaTourette] comments “reflect an astonishing abdication of DEP’s regulatory responsibilities,” particularly coming from an administration that claims to be a leader in battling climate change.

“DEP must regulate to achieve deep emissions reductions and reduce risks as clearly reflected by an overwhelming scientific consensus,” Wolfe said. “Delay only makes matters worse.”

Wolfe argued that the DEP is required to regulate development under several laws, including the Flood Hazard Area Control Act and the Coastal Area Facilities Review Act.

Now, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the corporate planning group NJ Future have teamed up to provide cover for exactly that market based approach that LaTourette advocated. And they did so with no mention of long delayed DEP climate PACT regulations.

Today, NJ Spotlight reports on an “report for” NRDC (the vague “for NRDC” masks the fact that the Report was written by Milliman Inc., a private sector actuarial consulting firm, an important fact not disclosed in the Spotlight story, which misleads readers into thinking the Report was an NRDC product).

Once again, while promoting ineffective business friendly market based solutions, the Spotlight reporting ignores important issues, including the fact that – as I’ve written many times – NJ’s “right to rebuild” laws and lax regulation of development in flood prone areas are the drivers of NJ’s repetitive flood damage problem.

Real solutions to these problems would require a completely new DEP planning and regulatory strategy of “strategic retreat”, which would include legislatively revoking NJ right to rebuild laws and far more stringent DEP regulation of development in flood prone areas.

There was even legislation introduced to revoke the right to rebuild. As I wrote:

The Problem: (source: Huffington Post)

“New Jersey’s guaranteed right to rebuild following storm damage stands out as a highly unusual provision, according to a Huffington Post review of coastal laws in more than a dozen states on the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.

North Carolina, for example, generally bars rebuilding in the same place after a structure is substantially damaged by a storm. Florida and Alabama typically require state reviews before approving the rebuilding of coastal structures damaged in major storms. Several other states, including South Carolina and Maine, require that property owners pull back from the ocean as much as possible following hurricane damage.

Experts describe New Jersey’s express right to rebuild as the single most significant impediment toward limiting the state’s vulnerability to future storms.

“The idea of putting it down on paper like that is strange, that’s not good,” said Orrin H. Pilkey, an emeritus professor of earth and ocean sciences at Duke University, who has probed the dangers of building near disappearing shorelines. “It gives you no flexibility. If people want to rebuild, they can.”  ~~~ see: Jersey Shore Development Failures Exposed By Hurricane Sandy

The Solution:

A bill (S62 – Barnes) that would rescind the so called “right to rebuild” storm damaged property in NJ’s Coastal Zone was approved by the Senate Environment Committee last week, with surprisingly little debate or opposition.

But instead of even opening that Pandora’s box, here are the key findings Spotlight reported:

Over the length of a 15-year mortgage,  the owner of a previously flooded home can see estimated damages rise from $25,175 under current climate conditions to $32,707 under “medium” carbon emissions, and $50,756 if governments completely fail to curb emissions, said the report, titled “Estimating Undisclosed Flood Risk in Real Estate Transactions.”

Over a 30-year mortgage, the owner of a previously flooded home can expect to see flood damages rise from $50,351 to $55,415 under “medium” carbon emissions and $101,513 under a “high” carbon scenario, the report said.

NRDC didn’t need to pay a corporate consulting firm big money for that analysis – just 3 weeks ago I reported publicly available FEMA data that shows that the average flood insurance claim in NJ over the last 10 years was $47,700

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Of course the economic value of those damages will increase as climate risks increase and more expensive real estate is rebuilt in the same hazardous location! (Paraphrasing Dylan) You don’t need a [corporate consultant] weatherman to know which way the wind blows!

But instead of economics and Neoliberal market based solutions, I wrote to focus on how DEP regulatory delays were exacerbating these problems:

Equally disturbing, during this delay, DEP has approved hundreds of land use permits and related approvals that put even more people and property in harms way, thereby exacerbating NJ’s national negative profile as a FEMA “repetitive loss” State.

Why aren’t NRDC and NJ Future advocating for real solutions to the costly and dangerous flood issues that plague NJ?

Why are they tinkering around the margins with diversionary business friendly market tools instead of educating the public about and advocating for real regulatory and planning solutions?

Those are the kind of questions real journalists would be asking and writing stories about.

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Steinbeck’s Western Flyer Is Back On The Water

July 30th, 2022 No comments

“Let Us Go – Doubly Open – Into The Sea of Cortez”

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A few weeks ago, we wandered upon a very cool scene in Port Townsend, Washington harbor.

A crowd had formed and there were several media cameras rolling – what was going on we wondered?

We happened upon a ceremony for the launch on John Steinbeck’s boat the Western Flyer, from his book The Sea Of Cortez! He sailed with marine biologist Ed Ricketts.

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I love Steinbeck – when I was in Monterey (pics), I wrote:

Last night I opened The Log From The Sea Of Cortez (1941) and, after the homage to Ed Ricketts, was just blown away by the superb Introduction, one of the finest summaries on the scientific method and ways of seeing the world, thinking, travel, and living I’ve come across. Here’s an extended excerpt of that: (read full Steinbeck excerpt)

And his book Travels With Charley In Search Of America was an inspiration for my own travels with Bouy!

The restoration of the Western Flyer was a 7 year ordeal – you can read about it here. The Foundation also has a YouTube channel and there was a lot of media about the launch.

Some pics:

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Murphy DEP Attempt To Close Huge Loophole In Environmental Justice Law Is Doomed To Failure

July 26th, 2022 No comments

DEP Seeks To Narrow The “Compelling Public Interest” Loophole

DEP Makes A Basic Legal Error: Scope Of Regulation Contradicts Statute

To prepare for the public hearings on Murphy DEP’s proposed “Environmental Justice (EJ)” regulations, the NJ EJ activists have issued “talking points” to assist the public. (July 27 in Newark is final traditional public hearing. The written comment period is open until September 4, 2022).

Not surprisingly, those talking points are crap.

The activists just fail to understand that the flaws they criticize are created by the EJ law that they supported!

Activists highlight just one of the major flaws in the EJ statute that I’ve been writing about, the “compelling public interest” loophole.

The confused activists conclude:

If you remove the economic factors exclusion and make the compelling public interest clause broad in its application – you essentially create an enormous loophole that renders this landmark EJ bill a complete failure

They got one thing right: the “landmark EJ bill” is in fact “a complete failure.”

Here’s how the EJ activists describe that loophole: (emphases mine)

Compelling Public Interest

The law states that new permits for covered facilities in overburdened communities that contribute to the existing or new disproportionate pollution shall be denied. There is an exception for a compelling public interest in the host community when the facility primarily serves an environmental, safety, or public health purpose. This exception excludes economic considerations. This means that industry cannot use economic arguments to push through permits that contribute to pollution in overburdened communities. This part of the rule is very important because industries could use economic arguments to justify any permit application and essentially create a loophole in the rule.

I warned about the same loophole, when it mattered (i.e. before the bill was passed and before the Gov. signed it):

the DEP permit denial authority is destroyed by an “exception” – a huge loophole provision that allows DEP to waive the mandatory permit denial and issue the permit if a polluter claims that there is a “compelling public interest” for the industry or facility seeking the permit, even if there are disproportionate and unjust impacts.

But the EJ activists still supported the bill with that loophole.

So now, they flat out LIE about the compelling public interest loophole in the law that they supported.

The law does NOT “exclude economic considerations”.

The law does NOT require that “the primary purpose of the facility must be to serve an essential environmental, health, or safety need of the host overburdened community for which there is no reasonable alternative to siting within the overburdened community.”

That text is from the DEP proposed rule, not from the statute.

Here’s the text of the DEP regulatory proposal:

“1. The proposed new facility will primarily serve an essential environmental, health, or safety needs of the individuals in an overburdened community;

2. The proposed new facility is necessary to serve the essential environmental, health, or safety needs of the individuals in an overburdened community; and

3. There are no feasible alternatives that can be sited outside the overburdened community to serve the essential environmental, health, or safety needs of the individuals in an overburdened community.”

But compare that to the text from the law:

“except that where the department determines that a new facility will serve a compelling public interest in the community where it is to be located, the department may grant a permit that imposes conditions on the construction and operation of the facility to protect public health”

The law does not limit the scope of the compelling public interest.

It does not limit that interest to “essential environmental, health, or safety needs”, or “that no feasible alternatives can be sited outside the community.”

Just like DEP can not expand the scope of a legislative provision in regulations, DEP can not narrow one either.

Immediate grounds for a victorious NJ BIA/Chamber of Commerce/NJBA/NAIOP lawsuit.

Dennis Toft already has the briefs drafted and Ray Cantor has the press release ready to go.

Be warned: this is what happens when you negotiate a bad deal and compromise on essential principles, and then provide political cover for the politicians who sold you out.

[End Note: DEP Commissioner LaTourette, who signed off on the rule proposal, is a former corporate lawyer. So, I assume he is competent. If so, he may be sabotaging his own regulation to avoid accountability for a pro-economic development policy and mask flaws in the EJ law, and blame the business community.

Or he could just be incompetent, because this is a glaring and egregious basic legal error.

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