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Murphy DEP Denied A Request For a Public Hearing In Newark On Controversial PVSC Air Permits

February 20th, 2024 No comments

Tammy Murphy Campaign Event In Newark IronBound Stokes Controversy

Gov. Murphy Could Have DEP Kill The Project Tomorrow

PVSC air pollution permit, Source NJ DEP

PVSC air pollution permit, Source NJ DEP

The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission’s (PVSC) plans to build a gas fired backup power plant at their Newark sewage treatment plant got revived press attention when Tammy Murphy, Gov. Murphy’s wife, appeared with environmental justice advocates in Newark Ironbound to criticize the project.

The First Lady tweeted out her opposition to the plant:

I spent the morning with the ⁦‪@IronboundCC‬⁩, ⁦‪@SouthWardEA‬⁩ and concerned families to stand together to oppose the new gas-fired power plant in the heart of Newark.

The PVSC project is now before the Murphy DEP seeking final permits.

Associated Press reporter Wayne Parry covered the political dimension of the controversy and made hay of the husband wife angle. But his reporting included some information on the pending DEP permits, but he missed a lot, see:

Specifically, long before all this political controversy hit the fan today, I recently wrote about serious flaws in the DEP’s review and approval of air permits for the existing PVSC sewage treatment plant.

The plant is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, including toxic hazardous air pollutants that negatively impact the health of the Newark community. The sewer plant is literally a poster child for abuses known as “environmental justice”, yet the DEP major air permits were exempt under the recent Murphy Environmental Justice law, see:

In written comments I submitted on flaws in DEP’s draft permit, I requested that DEP hold a public hearing in Newark so the community could understand these flaws and work to fix them, instead of being duped by spin and Gov. Murphy’s green cheerleaders.

The Murphy DEP ignored my criticism and they took an unprecedented step and even denied my request for a public hearing! I am not aware that DEP has ever denied a written request for a public hearing – once a request is made, it is almost automatic that it is approved.

Read the DEP’s response to public comment – including how they evade responding to specific flaws in the environmental justice law and explain why they denied the public hearing request. I think we can all agree that these are substantive and very serious flaws, and I backed them up with evidence:

COMMENT 1

The commenter requested that the Department conduct a public hearing in Newark on the draft permit based on the following concerns:

1) public health risk assessment from HAP and VOC emissions

2) failure to conduct an environmental justice review

3) failure to conduct a climate review or regulate greenhouse gas emissions

4) failure to impose “State of the Art” emissions controls pursuant to NJ’s Air Pollution Control Act

5) failure to fully mandate air pollution emissions fees, including for greenhouse gas emissions

6) failure to comply with NJ law that governs the 20-year time horizon for conversion of methane to CO2 equivalents.

DEP issued the permit and dismissed the public hearing request thusly – a denial I have never heard before in over 39 years of work at and on DEP:

The Department will not be holding a public hearing since the issues raised are not relevant to the draft permit under review, as outlined below:

Read their excuse – it is obviously made in bad faith in an effort to deny the people of Newark accurate information on DEP permit review practices, defects in those practices, and massive loopholes in the environmental justice law and DEP’s EJ program.

Now, only if we could get the media to focus on this substance, instead of campaign horserace political stunts. Maybe if I give them a picture?

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Murphy DEP To Delist Bald Eagle

February 20th, 2024 No comments

Loss Of Habitat To Development Remains A Major Threat

Loss Of DEP Regulatory Protections Will Be Applauded By Builders 

I strongly urge readers to get the word out on this proposal and nip this in the bud before it becomes a rule proposal, at which point it will be too late for DEP to back off.

The Murphy DEP will soon propose rules to delist the Bald Eagle from the State’s Threatened and Endangered species program and thereby remove regulatory protections for the bird’s habitat.

Buried in an otherwise standard puff piece on bald eagle recovery, in the 10th paragraph we learn: (NJ Spotlight)

“The Department [of Environmental Protection] is considering delisting bald eagles,” Clark said. “There’s going to be a rule proposal — we don’t have a date on it yet, but it’ll be this calendar year.” 

Surely, NJ Spotlight editors know that developers have long sought to remove land use regulatory protections of habitat, which can serve as a constraint on development.

But instead of raising alarm bells, the NJ Spotlight story reads like a brief from the NJ Builders Association to justify such a delisting.

DEP is obviously engaged in news management and is spinning this story to get out in front and frame what they know will be a hugely unpopular and controversial proposal.

Remarkably, here’s what the NJ Spotlight story failed to even mention – i.e. development threats, habitat loss, and DEP regulatory protections.

So let me share some of DEP’s own assessments on those issues.

According to DEP (emphasis mine):

ENSP biologists continually work to manage and reduce disturbance in eagle habitats, especially around nest sites. Eagles are sensitive to human disturbance and will abandon their nest sites if people encroach on the area during the nesting season. Education and established viewing areas are important in minimizing disturbance, as are the efforts of eagle project volunteers. Biologists also work to protect habitat in a variety of ways, including working with landowners, land acquisition experts, and through the state’s land use regulations.

DEP used to highlight the threats of land development and habitat loss and rely on strict land use regulations to reduce habitat loss, but stuff like the following warning has gone down Orwell’s memory hole. The current DEP dismisses the land use threats as “out of date” (See: New Jersey’s Landscape Project For the Protection of Rare Species

Despite New Jersey’s protection efforts, which include strict land use regulations and an aggressive open space acquisition program (GreenAcres), we continue to lose critical wildlife habitat at an alarming rate. In just the last three decades we have lost 40 percent of the remaining critical migratory bird stopover habitat on the lower third of the Cape May Peninsula (Illustration 5). During the same period, approximately 50 percent of the state’s bog turtle habitat has disappeared. The Landscape Project serves as a tool to help reverse this trend.

DEP touted stricter State regulations, despite rollbacks at the federal level (DEP, 2002):

The population of wintering bald eagles has grown along with the nesting population, especially in the last ten years. This growth reflects increasing nesting populations in NJ and the northeast, as each state’s recovery effort pays off. In recognition of this success, the federal government upgraded the status of the bald eagle from endangered to threatened in July of 1995, and in 2000 proposed federal de-listing of the species. The federal status remains threatened; however, the eagle remains endangered in New Jersey, and regulatory protection remains the same.

I strongly urge readers to get the word out on this proposal and nip this in the bud before it becomes a rule proposal, at which point it will be too late for DEP to back off.

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Charlie Does Washington Square Park (Philadelphia)

February 19th, 2024 No comments

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Beautiful sycamore in background, although Philly parks says it’s a London Plane tree.

Regardless, London plane tree is a hybrid of American Sycamore!

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Gaslighting Friends Of Liberty State Park

February 16th, 2024 No comments

Murphy DEP Commissioner’s Pushback To Legislators Not Quite What’s Its Been Portrayed To Be

LaTourette Letter Loaded With Gaslighting, Straw Men, and Legal Loopholes

Reality is the exact opposite of the impression created by DEP Commissioner LaTourette and media cheerleaders

Shine your light on me Miss Liberty
‘Cause as soon as this ferry boat docks
And I’m headed to the church
To play Bingo, fleece me with the gamblers’ flocks. ~~~ Song For Sharon (Joni Mitchell, 1975)

Friends of Liberty State Park, as well as NJ media, have been spiking the ball at the 20 yard line, celebrating Murphy DEP Commissioner LaTourette’s letter to Legislative leaders on Liberty State Park development.

Here is Friends’ of Liberty State Park take:

-1/29/24 NJDEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette great 12-page Revitalization Update response to the heads of the assembly and senate who wrote a letter critical of the Revitalization process based on misinformation from lobbyists of Fireman who wants public input only to the Fireman-dominated task force proposals and not from the DEP’s professional park planning consultants’ proposals.

Here is NJ media:

1-31-24 Star Ledger Editorial   “N.J. pols cave to a billionaire (cont.)”  …this is yet another warning that a plutocrat’s ability to reach into the highest echelons of state government is a serious and dangerous thing, even if it is only used to get a meeting cancelled so that he can rethink his strategy for hijacking the process.

1-31-24 TV PBS Spotlight News piece by David Cruz “Another clash over LSP revitalization”

1-30-24 Star Ledger Editorial “Lawmakers who should know better dance to Fireman’s tune” “LaTourette,who seems to have Gov. Murphy’s support, is an intrepid administrator…has laid out a blueprint that is ecologically sound, physically alluring, and welcoming to all – he is especially proud of carving out a whopping 60 acres for active recreation — and he has vowed to protect our state’s greatest open space from commercial predators.”

1/28/24 The Jersey Journal by Mark Koosau “N.J. legislative leaders unhappy with DEP’s direction on Liberty State Park revitalization plan” The letter, full of shameful misinformation that denies science, ignores the DEP’s pledge of 60 acres of LSP active recreation, and ignores Jersey City’s primary responsibility of creating and renovating sports facilities, shows how easy it is for billionaire Paul Fireman’s lobbyists to manipulate legislative leaders for his goal of deciding LSP’s future. This is another billionaire, Fireman power grab as he wants the public to only give input to proposals coming from this travesty task force created by his non-protection law and dominated by his front groups and other surrogates, and he wants to end the DEP’s responsible and fair plan of public input to DEP consultants’ recommendations.

1/16/24 The Jersey Journal by Mark Koosau “Nonprofit says kids need more ballfields at Liberty State Park, but it spent $1 million on salaries, lawyers, lobbyist and ads.”

5/28/23 The Star Ledger Editorial “Liberty State Park: The good guys finally won”
“The ultimate vision of a pristine urban oasis – protected from garish development, political dithering, and billionaire hubris
took a giant step closer to reality last week, when a massive plan to revitalize LSP was announced by the DEP
The glorious blueprint comes largely from the imagination of Shawn LaTourette, the tireless DEP commissioner who engineered a brillant plan for ecological restoration while adding an enormous array of recreational spaces – all as he withstood relentless pressure from moneyed interests.”

DEP Commissioner LaTouurette an “Intrepid administrator”? Or a gaslighting corporate lawyer shark? The Star Ledger praises “LaTourette’s vision” for LSP. Sorry Commissioner, you are no  Olmsted.

And no, the good guys have not won – at least not yet – and signals look doubtful for victory.

I hate to rain on their parade, but they all didn’t read LaTourette’s letter closely. He’s a crafty former corporate lawyer and uses words with precision in a way that can easily mislead the public and the media crowd, who focus on narrative and spin instead of substance.

So, here is where the LaTourette letter not only keeps the door open for corporate commercial development and Trenton political pay to play schemes, but actually legitimizes ethical conflicts of interest in the deliberations and planning of the DEP Task Force.

Here’s the legal loophole (page 3, my emphasis):

“DEP similarly recognizes that no uses of state lands can be dedicated for PURELY revenue generating purposes”

Did you get that? It’s a straw man: no one is advocating development for “purely” revenue generating purposes. The developments all would provide recreational and other public benefits, in addition to “revenue generation”.

Here’s the green light for ethical corruption, open conflicts of interest, and an open door for private interests to intrude on the Task Force’ public planning: (page 5, emphasis mine)

DEP expects that Task Force members will seek to aid DEP in achieving balance among competing public needs and that Task Force members will not only base their advice to DEP on those public comments with which Task Force members individually agree, or upon positions with which they may agree by virtue of their other personal, professional, or political affiliations outside of the Task Force.

Political affiliations outside the Task Force? Say what?

DEP is affirmatively stating that it’s OK for private interests to form the basis of recommendations and that conflicts of interest are OK too.

Here’ the opportunity for Legislators and Trenton politics to over-ride DEP and public demands, regardless of the planning process recommendations (at page 5, emphasis mine):

Resulting recommendations from the planning process will be presented to Legislators and the NJ Commission on Capital Budgeting and Planning consistent with standard practice for potential capital investments by the State.

Regardless of what the DEP Task Force recommends, the law is flexible and Trenton politics will determine the outcome.

And that reality is the exact opposite of the impression created by DEP Commissioner LaTourette and media cheerleaders.

And the context for all this has been completely ignored: ie. Governor Murphy just signed into law a bill that created a Statewide Parks Foundation that institutionalizes the exact corrupt private interest and influence created by billionaire Paul Fireman to lobby for Liberty State Park development, see:

[Update –  a reader just sent me this quote of the day (Politico), which confirms my analysis:

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’m forgetting what that is.” — Gov. Phil Murphy on his radio program Tuesday night when asked why he doesn’t support the Liberty State Park Protection Act.

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The Murphy DEP Cuts Another Corporate Sweetheart Settlement With American Cyanamid At Superfund Site On The Raritan River

February 15th, 2024 No comments

DEP Settles For Just $78,775 and 112 Acres Of Wetlands Restoration At Duke Farms’ Private Property

DEP Settlement Implements Mike Catania’s Corporate Green Ponzi Scheme

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(Caption: This is Mike Catania’s  Model, taken from an annual Report by his organization, CRI)

Unlike the recent controversial sweetheart settlement with BASF for Natural Resource Damages (NRD) at the notorious Ciba-Geigy Superfund site in Toms River, in the DEP’s most recent corporate sweetheart deal with American Cyanamid at their Superfund Site along the Raritan River, there was no self congratulatory press release issued by DEP, and no environmental groups cheerleading to provide green cover.

Amazingly, DEP just proposed a draft NRD Settlement with American Cyanamid for ….. wait for it ….. $78,775 and 112 Acres Of Wetlands Restoration.

Read the DEP Public Notice and the DEP Proposed Draft Settlement Agreement and Appendices which identify the “restoration projects”.

The public comment period is open for 60 days after the December 18, 2023 NJ Register Notice. It is telling and outrageous that DEP issued this settlement not only quietly, but during the Holidays and over New Years.

Almost all of this “restoration” is located UPRIVER from the Cyanamid site (e.g. impossible to restore downriver damages) and it is being conducted on PRIVATE PROPERTY on billionaire Duke Farms Foundation land.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The American Cyanamid site is huge, 435 acres, heavily contaminated, and located on the flood prone banks of the Raritan River.

According to DEP:

The contamination at the Site was allegedly caused as a result of waste storage and disposal impoundments at the Site that contain or contained hazardous substances, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), and/or metals. Investigations also found hazardous substances, including VOCs, SVOCs, polychlorinated biphenyls, and metals in soils at the Site, and that the groundwater underlying the Site contains metals and VOCs, such as benzene, chlorobenzene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. This contamination led the United States Environmental Protection Agency to add the American Cyanamid Site to the National Priorities List of Superfund Sites in 1983.

I have not read the NOAA NRD damage assessment documents yet, but there can be no doubt that there has been off site release and migration of toxic pollutants to the Raritan River that has resulted in the poisoning and lost use of wildlife (fish and birds), aquatic biota and ecosystems, groundwater, and river sediments (including perhaps drinking water supplies).

So how is it possible that DEP can settle for peanuts for decades of this massive toxic assault on the Raritan River?

Once again, there is no information at all provided by DEP in the public notice or the draft Settlement agreement.

There is no document published by DEP that provides a science based assessment of natural resource damages or the economic value of these damaged resources or the nexus between the NRD damages and the restoration plan or how the public will be compensated fully for those damages.

Adding insult to injury, the settlement is part of a longtime corporate scam by Mike Catania, formerly head of Duke Farms (see:

This is another in an outrageous pattern of negligent enforcement of the DEP’s NRD powers as Trustee of the State’s natural resources.

This is exactly what one might expect from a former corporate lawyer who represented corporate polluters in successful legal challenges of DEP NRD claims and has refused to disclose that fact and recuse from DEP decision-making in NRD cases.

Forget it Jake, its Chinatown.

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