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Murphy DEP Proposes New Rules To Expand Storage Of Natural Gas In Underground “Caverns”

May 16th, 2022 No comments

Gibbstown “Cavern” On Former Dupont Site “Repurposed” To Store LNG Export Gas 

“Climate change impact assessment” limited to adaptation, not greenhouse gas emissions

No enforceable standards apply to greenhouse gas emissions

Climate change impacts do not include the climate impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from or associated with the facility.

The “climate change impact statement” and DEP permit review provisions of the proposal lack any standards to deny a permit on the basis of climate impacts.

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Today, the Murphy DEP proposed new regulations that would govern DEP permitting of new and existing facilities for the underground storage of natural gas and other petroleum products.

I suspect that DEP will spin these rules as updating or modernizing outdated permits or regulations based on an ancient 1951 law. DEP will use the LNG restriction to obfuscate and divert.

But make no mistake, just the opposite is the case: in fact, the proposed rules effectively promote expansion of fossil infrastructure, protect existing permits, and continue a dangerous practice that should be banned.

Underground storage caverns are part of the fossil infrastructure network. Although DEP fails to even mention this or analyze the need for this infrastructure capacity, California regulators analyze the need for storage capacity and explain the role of underground storage:

The 12 depleted gas or oil fields used to store gas underground are an essential element of the intrastate pipeline and distribution gas delivery systems in meeting peak seasonal natural gas demand in California.  … No other state has such a diversity of supply access and storage capability. Through this system, California has the flexibility to augment pipeline gas with stored gas.[…]

Safety notwithstanding, [Yes, they actually wrote that!] California’s access to underground gas storage near its load centers makes it the envy of the nation’s natural gas market.

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[The folks at Delaware Riverkeeper played the inside DEP game and got duped. DRN actually supported the development of regulations, instead of just opposing the need for this practice and seeking decommissioning of existing caverns and a ban on expansion or promotion of new fossil infrastructure. Remarkably, they did this despite noting that the Gibbstown LNG project was seeking expansion of the current cavern capacity of 186,000 barrels to 3 million barrels! ]

According to the DEP proposal:

The proposed new rules will apply to systems that are used for the underground storage of any natural or artificial gas, or any petroleum product or derivative of any petroleum product, with the exception of liquefied natural gas (LNG), as discussed below, and will govern the construction, operation, modification, and decommissioning of the systems. …

… Under the proposed rules, petroleum products and their derivatives include methane,ethane, propane, butane, gasoline, kerosene, fuel oil, synthetic oil, crude oil, and liquified petroleum gas (LPG) …

In New Jersey, there are six excavated rock caverns that store liquefied petroleum gases, specifically propane and butane. These caverns were permitted by the Department, known then as the Department of Conservation and Economic Development, as authorized by the Act. Five of the caverns are in Linden and were constructed in 1957, at the Bayway Refinery, then owned by the Esso Standard Oil Company. The caverns received operation permits in 1959 for the storage of propane (two caverns) and butane (three caverns). These caverns still store the same products for which each was permitted. A sixth cavern was constructed between 1966 and 1968 in Gibbstown at what was then DuPont’s Repauno works. It originally stored anhydrous ammonia. This cavern received its construction and operation permit in 1965. The Department issued a permit modification in 2016, to allow the cavern to be repurposed to store butane. While there is ongoing Department oversight with the existing permits at these facilities, these proposed rules establish regulations, considering current engineering practices and environmental conditions, to ensure that existing systems and any new cavern systems that are constructed will be operated and maintained in a manner protective of public health, safety, and the environment.

Don’t be fooled by the exclusion of storage of LNG. The DEP proposal would allow underground storage of fracked natural gas, which can easily be converted to LNG for export.

Given NJ’s proximity to major reserves of fracked gas in the Marcellus shale, huge and growing gas demand and pipeline network, and coastal location for LNG export, this rule proposal obviously provides the regulatory framework for a huge expansion of gas infrastructure. This is exactly the kind of “predictability” and “regulatory certainty” financial investors and the fossil industry desire. Underground storage capacity also supports the “reliability” (supply/demand) and “peak demand” sham justifications for natural gas. Look at the national picture and note the location of underground storage to fracked gas production:

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[Note: And don’t think Gov. Murphy’s Energy Master Plan or off-shore wind program will reduce growing natural gas demand – just the opposite. As I’ve written many times, off shore wind is dependent on natural gas. California regulators’ capacity analysis reveals this in their finding: (on page 493, 527, and 530)

Finding: While forecasts suggest falling total gas demand out through 2030, none of the forecasts break out how much gas might be necessary to firm intermittent renewable generation and the timing of that need, factors which can affect the need for gas storage. … (493)

In describing its forecast in the 2016 CGR, PG&E said that greater use of gas-fired generation to back-up renewables with load following and other ancillary services was likely, but was not captured in the forecast…. (527)

Conclusion 2.9: Without gas storage, California would be unable to accommodate the electricity generation ramping that now occurs nearly every day and that may increase as more renewables are added to the grid. (530)

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After reviewing the DEP proposal, I now realize that the corruption involved with the DEP permitting of the proposed Gibbstown LNG export facility is even worse than I had imagined. I must admit ignorance of the DEP’s prior 2016 permit for an “underground storage cavern” for the gas butane.

Recall that, after the stealth DEP permitting was publicly exposed and generated a firestorm of protest, that Gov. Murphy publicly claimed that he opposed the facility and would do everything in his power to stop it. NJ Spotlight recently reported that the project was “on hold”.

But now, instead of killing the project by revoking previously issued DEP permits, Murphy’s DEP is proposing new rules that would allow new facilities and expansion and renewal of DEP permits for underground caverns, including for storage of butane at the proposed LNG export Gibbstown plant site, as well as 5 other existing “caverns”.

Everyone knows that the Biden Administration is seeking major expansion in the export of LNG to Europe to replace Russian gas.

Still, it is shocking to learn that at a time of climate emergency – which has prompted proposals to ban new construction and phase out existing fossil infrastructure and when states like California are learning about the risks of underground storage of natural gas, i.e. the Aliso Canyon disaster – that self described climate “leader” NJ Gov. Murphy’s administration is proposing new rules to expand storage of fossil fuels, including natural gas, in underground “caverns”.

The Murphy DEP proposal is directly linked to the proposed LNG export terminal in Gibbstown NJ at the former Dupont toxic site.

The Gibbstown LNG linkage is why the proposal was authorized and approved by DEP Deputy Commissioner Moriarity and not DEP Commissioner LaTourette, who legally represented that project and was forced to recuse himself from any involvement.

The proposal requires a “climate change impact assessment”. That assessment is the basis for DEP permit review:

The Department is also proposing to require a climate change impact assessment to be included with a permit application for the proposed new facility, or for permit renewals submitted pursuant to proposed N.J.A.C. 7:1F-4.

But there are serious flaws that render this a totally meaningless exercise and expose the whole enterprise as sham:

1. DEP admits that the climate impact assessment is not enforceable and that there are no requirements to implement “any measure”:

It is important to note the provisions proposed at N.J.A.C. 7:1F-2.4(f), do not require an owner and operator to implement any measures described in the assessment.

2. the impact assessment is designed specifically and only for “climate change resiliency” (adaptation), not greenhouse gas emissions or meeting the emissions reduction goals of the Global Warming Response Act:

the proposed climate change impact assessment for an underground storage cavern system would be the mechanism for owners and operators to evaluate and plan for climate change resiliency…. 

scientific information regarding climate change and data to assess how the facility might be affected by climate threats.

Among other flaws, on “climate adaptation”, the DEP tips their hand on the upcoming claim PACT land use regulations, by requiring consideration of the outdated and totally inadequate 100 year storm event:

ii. The 100-year storm events and facility flooding expected;

The climate driven sea level rise standard is stronger, but it would not apply to Gibbstown location:

iii. The facility’s proximity to sea level rise projections for New Jersey at approximately one, 2.5, four, and seven feet above year 2000 average sea level. Depending on the data, tools, and scientific resources used, the approximate values may vary, but should remain within 0.5 feet of the values given here; and iv. Extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, tropical storms, tornados, or significant precipitation.

The complete environmental impacts that must be assessed are found on page 98-101.

The climate impact assessment requirements are found on page 104-106. (N.J.A.C. 7:1F-2.4). The “climate change impacts” are specified there. They are not what you might think.

Climate change impacts do not include the climate impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from or associated with the facility.

The “climate change impact statement” and DEP permit review provisions of the proposal lack any standards to deny a permit on the basis of climate impacts.

Here is the DEP’s lame attempt to obfuscate that reality:

The Department is proposing to include, in the list of applicable State requirements, the regulations and guidance being developed pursuant to New Jersey’s Executive Order No. 100 (2020), which directs the Department to take regulatory reform actions to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.

Let me break that deceptive spin down – and start with noting the use of the word “applicable”:

1. There are no current NJ State statutory or DEP requirements that apply to greenhouse gas emissions from these “caverns” or any applicable requirements to achieve or comply with the greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals of the Global Warming Response Act.

2. There are no DEP regulations that apply to and require greenhouse gas emission reductions to meet the goals of the GWRA.

3. Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order No. 100 can not and did not create legally binding requirements that apply to greenhouse gas emissions or the goals of the Global Warming Response Act, which are aspirational and not enforceable.

4. Any DEP “Guidance” is – by definition – not legally binding or enforceable.

The proposal would allow not only for new underground storage facilities but for existing facilities – including Gibbstown – to renew their permits:

Any existing permit(s) previously issued to owners and operators of underground storage cavern systems shall remain in effect until the Department completes the review and either approves an updated permit or denies the existing permit pursuant to N.J.A.C. 7:1F-4.7. Upon approval and issuance of a new permit to operate, the owner and operator shall thereafter renew its permit, in accordance with N.J.A.C. 7:1F-4.6.

While the proposal would authorize the DEP to revoke or deny a renewal of an existing permit, the standards for denial in  N.J.A.C. 7:1F-4.7. are extremely vague and weak and do not include greenhouse gas emisisons (see page 128 -129 7:1F-4.7 Grounds for denial, suspension, or revocation of a permit)

2. The owner or operator of an underground storage cavern system fails to comply with any requirement of the Act or this chapter.

There are no requirements of the Act or the proposed rules that establish a standard for emissions of greenhouse gas emissions. Period.

This is another sham effort designed to create the appearance of strict regulation, when it fact it is designed to protect existing underground storage facilities – including the proposed Gibbstown LNG export plant – and enable even new ones.

Again, the proposal exposes major flaws in NJ climate laws and the toothless Global Warming Response Act. For that important story, see:

Finally, even the closure and decommissioning provisions are weak. All that is required is that a decommissioning plan be submitted. There is no mandate to close and decommission existing facilities. Worse, there are no standards and the standards and requirements for decommissioning are privatized:

(d) The decommissioning plan must be certified by a licensed engineer in accordance with accepted industry standards.

This is further evidence that Gov. Murphy’s climate leadership claims are a fraud. And that his green supporters are sycophants.

[End Note: In a related matter, even California regulators admit that FERC is a joke – something NJ environmental activists seem to fail to understand while they continue to “FERC-off” (page 534):

The FERC approves construction of interstate pipelines and its policy does not provide a large barrier to construction. For over twenty years, FERC policy has been to approve expansions, subject to environmental review and mitigation, whenever a sponsor is willing to take the risk of potential unsubscribed capacity at rates using a well-understood cost recovery methodology. EIA’s posting giving an overview of the process for building interstate pipelines cites an average time for FERC review of 15 months and an average overall from announcement and open season to solicit shipper commitments to the pipeline in-service date of three years (U.S. EIA Natural Gas Pipeline Development and Expansion, 2017).

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Some Sierra Lakes

May 14th, 2022 No comments

Convict Lake

8H1A2083

Mammoth Lakes

8H1A2018 (1)

Mono Lake

8H1A2095

Twin Lakes

DSC5245

Lake Tahoe

8H1A2102

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Sale of Miami Condo Collapse Beachfront Land Shines Light On NJ’s “Rebuild Madness”

May 13th, 2022 No comments

Billionaire Real Estate Firm To Purchase Land For More Than $120 Million

Judge Using Revenue For Victims Compensation To Create Future Victims

“The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them” ~~~ Marx/Lenin

Part One of Two

Part One today will briefly update the status and explore the possible causes of the deadly Miami condominium collapse last year.

Part Two will then explore the implications for NJ.

I)  Beachfront Land For Sale

The beachfront land at the site of last year’s deadly condo collapse in Miami, where 98 people died, will be sold at auction on May 24. 

The land sale was approved by a local Florida Judge

Despite some opposition to the sale, the court will use the money to compensate the owners of the 136 apartments destroyed and the families affected by the Champlain Towers South Tragedy.

Billionaire Hussain Sajwani, of the Dubai-based DAMAC Properties, bid $120 million to purchase the oceanside property at 8777 Collins Ave.

The revenue from the land sale is part of a $997 million settlement to compensate victims’ families.

Of course, the NYT makes no mention of the perversity of a settlement that compensates innocent victims by creating future victims.

The settlement will do this in at least 2 ways directly: 1) by selling the land – unconditionally – to a developer who will build another condo that will collapse or be inundated by rising seas, creating future victims; and 2) by releasing condo owners from any liability for negligence, which sends a perverse message to other condo owners that they can neglect maintenance and coastal risks with impunity, again creating more future victims. There are additional major flaws of a settlement before the accident investigation is complete, causes are known and reforms are enacted. Surely, responsible corporations and public officials have gotten off the hook and will not be held accountable, again leading to even more future victims.

II) Will Redevelopment Occur Before Accident Investigation Completed and Causes Are Known?

Lost in all the money are the facts that, as the NY Times parenthetically notes (I think they call this “burying the lede”):

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is still investigating what caused the 13-story, 135-unit building to partially crumble in the middle of the night, a review that could take years. […]

As part of their earlier settlement, the condo owners were released from any liability for negligence in the building’s maintenance. Under Florida law, they could have been sued for up to the value of their units.

Hey, it could be worse: the Florida legislature could – just like NY and NJ did in providing immunity from COVID liability to nursing homes – simply pass a law waiving liability for all beachfront property.

But I want to focus briefly on the property sale to a billionaire real estate developer, who surely isn’t spending at least $120 million for 1.88 acres of beachfront property to create bird habitat.

Obviously, he will seek to build another high rise condo there.

It is insane to rebuild on that site, especially before the investigation of the cause of collapse is complete and the cause is known.

Subsurface conditions, land subsidence, salt water intrusion, and climate driven rising sea levels and deadly storms make future disaster and/or collapse inevitable.

III)  Will Subsurface Conditions and Climate Change Be Part Of the Investigation?

The media initially reported on climate and subsurface conditions as potential causes of the collapse.

But that angle on the story was immediately suppressed, given the multi-billion dollar devastation it would cause if the implications for south Florida coastal development were fully understood.

A Washington Post story outlined these issues:

  • Engineer warned of ‘major structural damage’ years before Florida condo building collapsed

Investigators will probe whether salt, humidity and other environmental conditions also could have weakened the Champlain South structure or if other problems such as a sinkhole-like collapse in the ground underneath the building led to the disaster. …

Some local officials and others interviewed said that the 40-year review process should be made more rigorous and that the inspections should be more frequent. They noted that the checklist does not include an examination of the ground under buildings such as Champlain Towers.

“It’s not just what’s happening above ground — it’s what happening below ground that counts,” Surfside Building Department chief James McGuinness, told reporters. According to McGuinness, the review is strictly focused on the structural load-bearing elements of the building and its electrical systems. [Note: not subsurface conditions]

Surfside Town Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer told reporters Friday that commissioners believed the process should be adjusted to include underground checks.

“They look for cracks in the concrete, but they really have no clue what’s going on beneath the ground,” said attorney David Haber, who specializes in construction and condominium law. “Who knows what it looks like below grade? That’s something that I think we are going to have to look at changing in South Florida, with the rising water table.” …

But Salzhauer said Surfside, like communities throughout South Florida, has been battling erosion. Many buildings have been constructed on reclaimed marshland.

“Remember, the water just doesn’t go where we see it,” Salzhauer said. “The water is underneath. Miami Beach has water underneath. There is water below us, and the water is above us. And we have to live in that precarious balance of having to build on what is essentially a big puddle of water.” …

DiMaggio Berger said that a “subsurface, structural issue” likely caused the collapse. “This building was on pilings buffeted by the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway,” she said. “We’ve got water coming at this thing from both sides.”

Now here’s where it gets really interesting.

In addition to these serious concerns about subsurface conditions, the research of a local professor had documented land subsidence at the site. This professor initially publicly suggested that land subsidence could have been a factor, but within 24 hours of making these comments, he walked them back: (WaPo)

On Friday, as officials and lawyers called for greater scrutiny of the ground underneath residential structures, The Post found that research indicating that the site of the Champlain building had been sinking was made public at least 3½ years ago, earlier than was previously known.

An academic study published in April 2020, which found that the building appeared to have been sinking during the 1990s, was first reported by USA Today on Thursday, after the tower collapsed. […]

Fiaschi’s co-author, a professor, Shimon Wdowinski of Miami’s Florida International University, told The Post that he had presented research in the past to Miami-Dade officials as part of a regional task force seeking to tackle climate change but could not recall whether the subsidence in the area of Champlain Towers South had been discussed.

Leaders of the task force and a senior Miami-Dade official who participates on it declined to comment when asked if they had been aware of the findings.

Fiaschi stressed in an email to The Post that the reason for the collapse of Champlain Towers was unclear, saying it was “not possible to understand which are the causes of the collapse, or if the subsidence we detected have some sort of contribution to the failure of the building.”

Wow.

How could a professor possibly “not recall” such an important research presentation?

Why would leaders of the climate task force decline to comment?

Why is the researcher running away from the findings and implications of his research?

Some folks even went so far as to try to immediately shut down that whole line of subsurface investigation and instead focus on traditional building engineering and building codes:

Other analysts on Friday said focus should remain on the building’s structural integrity.

Right.

Make the collapse unique to this one building and thereby ignore millions of other vulnerable buildings.

So, the scope of the investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) investigation is critical.

Will it include subsurface conditions and climate change impacts?

A NIST press release on the study vaguely hints at the not only the local but national implications of the investigation:

There are millions of high-rise condominium units in Florida alone, many of them near the ocean or aging. While a NIST investigation is intended to identify the cause of the Champlain Towers South collapse, it could also uncover potential issues for other similar buildings nearby and throughout the nation. 

When NIST says the investigation may impact “buildings throughout the nation”, that includes New Jersey.

In order to understand the scope of NIST investigation, I just sent these questions to the NIST press officer, Jennifer Huergo, with a copy to NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle in hopes of prompting some investigation on his part of the NJ implications I will discuss in Part 2:

Hi Jennifer – I just left a message on your phone.

My questions are:

1. Does the scope of the NIST investigation of the Miami condo collapse include subsurface conditions?

Early press reports mentioned land subsidence, subsurface geology, reclaimed wetlands, salt water intrusion, possible sinkhole formation, and erosion, oxidation, and water damage from increasing sea level rise/storm surge.

Are these factors being considered?

Please confirm.

2. In terms of timing: will the NIST investigation Report be issued publicly before land use redevelopment approvals are issued for any redevelopment of the property?

I note that the land will be auctioned on May 24, with an opening bid price of $120 million (from a real estate firm). I assume they are not spending that kind of money to create habitat!

Thank you,

Part Two, on how this all relates to NJ is coming soon!

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Murphy Green Cover – At Its Elite And Corporate Worst

May 9th, 2022 No comments

All That’s Wrong With NJ Environmental Politics – In One Photo

The New CCC: Careerism – Co-optation – Corruption

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FB Photo: Dena Mottola Jaborska (NJ Citizen Action), Dave Pringle (Consultant), Curtis Fisher (NWF, former NJPIRG) and Doug O’Malley (Environment NJ) (L-R)

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they made…” ~~~ The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Former Goldmans Sach’s executive and current NJ Governor Murphy held an “Inaugural Ball” last week in MetLife Stadium. (that’s Metlife, the global insurance and financial services corporation that had over $70 billion in revenue last year).

I’ve likened Gov. Murphy and his trophy wife Tammy to Tom and Daisy from The Great Gatsby.

Even the hometown corporate media had a tough time swallowing that ostentatious self promotion (nj.com):

Thursday’s event was organized and paid for by a “dark money” nonprofit called New Jersey Forward, made up of Murphy allies. Because it’s a 501(c)4 organization, there are zero limits on what it can accept as donations and it does not have to reveal its donors. The group said 1,000 people were expected to attend Thursday’s gala — which would translate to at least $300,000.

The organization’s name is similar to that of a pair of political groups launched in February to bolster Murphy’s national profile: a political action committee and nonprofit that are both named Stronger Fairer Forward.

But NJ’s former and current “progressive” and “environmental” leaders – my former friends and colleagues – were all smiles (above photo).

Surprised they didn’t get a “groupie” with the Gov. and Tammy. (4 more years!!!)

I lack the words – and meanness of spirit – to describe what this really means.

But, its way beyond disappointment.

It sickens me and illustrates all that is wrong with NJ’s environmental “activism” and “progressive” so called environmental politics.

These people surely know that Murphy is a complete fraud on his claims of leadership on climate policy.

So why do they have their heads so far up his ass?

On that basis alone, they should have organized activists to protest outside the Gov.’s event, not partied inside it.

In 1848, Thoreau went to jail for refusing, as a protest against the Mexican war, to pay his poll tax. When RW Emerson came to bail him out, Emerson said, ‘Henry, what are you doing in there?’ Thoreau quietly replied, ‘Ralph, what are you doing out there?’ ~~~

(yes, we know that this story is legend – not historical fact – and that slavery as well as war was Thoreau’s concern)

Shame.

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NJ Legislators Asked To Repeal Liability Immunity For Out Of Control Prescribed Burn Wildfire Damage

May 9th, 2022 No comments

Legislature Must Conduct Oversight Of Murphy DEP Claim Of Lack Of Legislative Authority To Address Wildfire Risks in Land Use Programs

I must begin this post by providing context and an example.

Legal liability for causing harm is a significant structural component of public policies to protect the public interest, particularly human health and the environment. Liability for causing harm can reinforce and even strengthen protective regulatory policies (ELI Institute):

Liability for environmental harm is designed to compensate affected parties, with a particular focus on restoring or replacing injured resources and/or providing compensation for lost value. By increasing the costs for those who harm the environment, liability provisions can serve an important deterrent role, promoting compliance with laws and regulations. Liability provisions can also serve as gap-fillers, covering activities not specifically identified as illegal but nevertheless resulting in harm to the environment, livelihoods, and public health.

Simply put: when the law allows corporations and people to avoid accountability for unsafe and negligent practices that cause harm, then they act with impunity and we are all worse off.

As an example: We recently experienced corruption, concrete negative effects, and the huge implications of the liability scheme when NY Gov. Cuomo – followed by NJ Gov. Murphy and the NJ Legislature – provided liability immunity for negligence in responding to COVID, see:

Repeat: “NY’s liability shield is linked to higher nursing home death rates”.

Public outrage forced Gov. Cuomo to repeal that law, see:

With that context, now, let’s get to the topic of today’s post.

Last week, I wrote that a “prescribed burn” by the US Forest Service started the biggest wildfire in the US in New Mexico. That wildfire damaged billions of dollars in property and put lives at risk. Development was allowed to be built in areas of extreme wildfire risks, see:

That post also explained how the NJ legislature – just like COVID in nursing homes – recently very quietly provided broad liability immunity for damage from prescribed burns, including damage from wildfires:

The Prescribed Burn Act, specifically see C.13:9-44.16 Prescribed burn deemed to be in public interest; immunity from liability, also exempts wildfires caused by prescribed burns that get out of control and damage people and property (e.g. your barn or house burns down or your animals are killed).

And I exposed the claim by the Murphy DEP that DEP lacks common sense legal authority to regulate land use to prevent and reduce the risks of wildfire from proposed new development and existing development, even in mapped areas of “extreme wildfire risk”, see:

I was stunned that the Department wrote to deny legislative authority to consider wildfire risks in DEP’s land use regulatory programs. DEP wrote:

While the Department has considerable authority to regulate certain activities in particular environmentally sensitive areas, the Department does not possess the sort of master land use planning or regulatory authority alluded to by Petitioner.

I previously wrote to Senator Smith to conduct oversight of that DEP claim and – if accurate – to close that legal gap.

So, let’s not wait for a New Mexico out of control prescribed burn disaster to act.

Let’s learn from New York State’s COVID liability experience and repeal bad law.

Let’s close the legal land use gaps DEP claims exist.

Let’s not allow more people and property in harms way and repeat the historical mistakes of allowing development in hazardous coastal and flood locations.

Let’s make common sense reforms:

  • REPEAL THE WILDFIRE DAMAGE LIABILITY EXEMPTION FOR PRESCRIBED BURNS.
  • PROVIDE LEGAL AUTHORITY TO DEP TO RESTRICT LAND USE IN EXTREME WILDFIRE AREAS.

Ironically, in a February 10 Senate hearing, both Murphy DEP Commissioner and Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith highlighted the wildfire risks of western fires, like the New Mexico blaze. Amazingly, DEP Commissioner LaTourette even touted DEP’s prescribed burn program (without even a mention of the liability waiver or lack of land use authority issues).

So, I wrote the following letter to Senate Environment Committee Chairman Bob Smith and urge you to contact your legislator and Gov. Murphy:

Dear Senator Smith:

As you and DEP Commissioner LaTourette raised concerns about western wildfires during the February 10, 2022 Senate Environment Committee, I thought you would be concerned that the largest active wildfire in the country currently burning in New Mexico was started by a US Forest Service prescribed burn that got out of control.

According to a New Mexico State Senator and Congressional representatives, the US Forest Service “fire model” determined that the prescribed burn was “safe”, despite local fire restrictions due to extremely fire inducing conditions, e.g. drought, wind, relative humidity, soil moisture, vegetation, landscape, et al.

As you know, in 2018, the legislature enacted The Prescribed Burn Act, specifically see C.13:9-44.16, which established liability exemptions for prescribed burns that get out of control and cause damage.

As you also know, the DEP recently announced support for expanding DEP controlled burns in NJ.

In light of the New Mexico situation and the claim that the US Forest Service fire model appears to be seriously flawed, I urge your reconsideration and repeal of the liability exemption established by The Prescribed Burn Act.

also request that you conduct oversight of DEP’s “fire model” to determine if it is current and reflects the best available science.

Links to the New Mexico news accounts are provided below, FYI,

Respectfully,

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