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Me And My Shadow

January 5th, 2021 No comments

Sunset In The Sonoran


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NJ Spotlight Repeats – Verbatim – Condi Rice’s “No One Could Have Imagined” 9/11 Lie With Respect To COVID Deaths

January 2nd, 2021 No comments

No One Could Have Imagined That A Journalist Would Repeat That Infamous Rhetoric

Monumental Failures In High Places – But No Accountability

NJ Spotlight sure started the New Year with a bang.

Check out this astonishing – and false – claim by editor John Mooney:

We have now lost more than 19,000 people in the state due to the virus. No one could have imagined on March 4, when New Jersey reported its first confirmed case, that the number would skyrocket.

“No one could have imagined”?

Are you kidding me?

How could Mr. Mooney – a grown man and professional journalist – so mindlessly parrot that particularly historically ignominious phrase?

That phrase is as toxic as “I am not a crook” and “I did not have sex with that woman”.

Reporters need to stop reading just government press releases and start reading government documents.

In case young readers may not be aware of the origins of that notorious phrase, denying any responsibility for 9/11, President George Bush claimed (NY Times 4/13/04) (emphasis mine)

there was nobody in our government, at least, and I don’t think the prior government that could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale.

Bush’s National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice carved that phrase in stone when she later testified to the 9/11 Commission: (excerpt from the transcript of Rice’s testimony to the 9/11 Commission)

[Gov.] KEAN: I’ve got a question now I’d like to ask you. It was given to me by a number of members of the families.

Did you ever see or hear from the FBI, from the CIA, from any other intelligence agency, any memos or discussions or anything else between the time you got into office and 9/11 that talked about using planes as bombs?

RICE: Let me address this question because it has been on the table. […]

And I said, at one point, that this was a historical memo, that it was — it was not based on new threat information. And I said, “No one could have imagined them taking a plane, slamming it into the Pentagon” — I’m paraphrasing now — “into the World Trade Center, using planes as a missile.”

Those claims by Bush and Rice were blatantly false.

The Joint Inquiry of 2002 confirmed that the Intelligence Community had received at least twelve reports over a seven-year period suggesting that terrorists might use planes as weapons.

NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd further debunked them with additional evidence from FBI sworn testimony: (3/22/06 NYT column)

Even though Condi Rice told the 9/11 commission that “no one could have imagined” terrorists’ slamming a plane into the World Trade Center, an F.B.I. officer did. Officer Samit testified that a colleague, Greg Jones, tried to light a fire under Mr. Maltbie by urging him to “prevent Zacarias Moussaoui from flying a plane into the World Trade Center.”

So, that phrase, “no one could have imagined” will live in infamy and should obviously be radioactive, especially to an experienced professional journalist, whose craft is language.

According to Wiki, the concept of a failure of imagination is “a circumstance wherein something seemingly predictable (particularly from hindsight) and undesirable was not planned for.[1]

But, what we have in this case is actually far worse than a “failure of imagination” because the event in question was not only predictable and predicted, it was planned for.

Let me repeat: the event was not only predicted it was planned for by NJ State officials.

The event I’m referring to is the COVID pandemic and the number of deaths predicted.

Citing 19,000 current COVID deaths, Mr. Mooney claims that “no one could have imagined” that “the number would skyrocket” when the virus was first detected back in March 2020.

That is as big a lie as Bush and Rice’s.

As I wrote on March 17, 2020, NJ has two Pandemic Plans adopted pursuant to NJ law.

Those plans found that pandemics are “inevitable” and predicted potential fatalities from 5,000 (NJ DoH) to 50,000 (NJ Hazard Mitigation plan), including the collapse of the health care system and social  disorder.

Thus spake the NJ Department of Health’s Pandemic Influenza Plan:

The Looming Threat:

History tells us that Influenza pandemics are inevitable but unpredictable and arrive with very little warning. Should an influenza pandemic virus again appear that behaves as the 1918 strain, the results could be catastrophic, even when taking into account the remarkable advances in medicine. Air travel could hasten the spread of a new virus, and decrease the time available for implementing interventions. Outbreaks would most likely occur simultaneously throughout much of the U.S., preventing shifts in human and material resources that usually occur in response to other disasters. The effect of influenza on individual communities will be relatively prolonged (weeks to months) in comparison to other types of disasters. Healthcare systems could be rapidly overburdened, economies strained, and social order disrupted. […]

If a severe (1918-like) pandemic hits NJ, the impact on the healthcare system and the number of deaths is estimated as follows:

Deaths                                                5,000 (2% of ill)

The NJ Hazard Mitigation Plan’s Pandemic Chapter estimates 10 TIMES more deaths:

Three major influenza pandemics affected areas across the globe in the 20th century, causing millions of deaths. New Jersey saw the impacts of these pandemics. If a new influenza virus were to begin spreading throughout the world, New Jersey could experience more than 50,000 deaths, more than 275,000 people hospitalized, and more than 2.5 million people ill (NJDOH, 2012). Table 5.21-3 provides details on pandemic events that have impacted New Jersey.

And that’s from 5,000  to 50,000 deaths from a flu pandemic. In contrast, COVID is at least 10 times and up to 100 times more deadly than flu.

But you don’t have to accept my opinion at face value about how grossly incompetent and mismanaged the response by NJ State officials was.

You can read this excellent analysis by  Jeffrey Frankel, Harpel Professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and formerly a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. A shorter version appeared in Project Syndicate: (emphases mine)

Events like the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, the US housing crash of 2007-09, and the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, can be called “black swans”: in each case, few people were able to predict them reliably.  But they were known unknowns, not unknown unknowns.  That is, in each case, knowledgeable analysts were fully aware that such a thing could happen, even that it was likely to happen eventually.  They could not predict that the event would happen with high probability in any given year.  But the consequences of each of these events were severe, and predictably so.  Thus, policymakers should have listened to the warnings and should have taken steps in advance. They could have helped avert or mitigate disaster if they had done so.

Listen to the Cassandras

After the danger of the new coronavirus had become apparent to all, US President Donald Trump repeatedly said that such a pandemic was “an unforeseen problem” that “nobody ever thought would be a problem.”  But of course epidemiology experts had warned about the danger for years, and as recently as last October.

So, I guess you could say that NJ Spotlight engaged in Trumpian lies!

As far as I know, no press or public official have held State officials accountable for their monumental failures.

I contacted Mr. Mooney, Mr. McAlpin and two reporters at NJ Spotlight today demanding that they correct this egregious and unforgivable factual error.

We’ll let you know how they respond.

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Murphy DEP Climate Proposal Would Allow Development In Inundation And Flood Hazard Areas

January 1st, 2021 No comments

A Whole New Angle On Underwater Mortgages

Lax Restrictions On New Development And Reconstruction Could Jeopardize Future Federal Funds

Floating a Vague Trial Balloon Days Before Christmas Is No Way To Build Public Support

Source: NJ DEP REAL (June 2020)

Source: NJ DEP REAL (June 2020)

Inundation –[in-uhn-dey-shuhn noun

1. the condition of being flooded: Researchers are warning that accelerated sea level change threatens hundreds of thousands of coastal homes with inundation.

2. a flood: Areas shaded in purple on the map may see an inundation of 3 to 12 feet.

Three days before Christmas, the Murphy DEP released outlines (or “road maps” ) of the long delayed and overdue package of climate regulations known as “PACT” (for Protecting Against Climate Threats). The package has 2 basic parts: “mitigation” (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and “adaptation” (responding to the impacts of climate change).

The road map to the package of “adaptation” land use regulations is called “REAL” (for Resilient Environment and Landscapes).

Not since the notorious flaming failure of The BIG MAP has DEP been so creatively deceptive with acronyms. Let’s hope for a better outcome this time around! (and we have’t yet reviewed whether the DEP’s REAL proposal addresses FEMA’s strong criticism of DEP’s stormwater rules las year).

Of course this misguided DEP rollout tactic generated generally favorable coverage by NJ Spotlight, with Tom Johnson writing about the “mitigation” (greenhouse gas emissions reduction) side and Jon Hurdle writing about the “adaption” side.

Today I want to make just a few large points on the adaption package.

Tom Johnson’s Spotlight story didn’t provide a link to DEP’s mitigation “road map” and there was nothing on DEP’s PACT webpage. From the story, it almost sounded like DEP provided an oral briefing to a select group of DEP picked “Stakeholders” and media, with no written backup. I can’t think of a worse way to present a program. It literally invites the fact free spin and sloganeering that Tom Johnson parrots in his story.

Because we were not an invited “Stakeholder”, we have absolutely nothing to review or comment on. So I’ll leave readers with Tom Johnson’s characterization:

While short on specifics, DEP staffers gave a broad outline last week on how the state intends to crack down on both so-called stationary sources of global warming pollution — like power plants and commercial and industrial boilers — and mobile sources, such as medium- and heavy-duty trucks that primarily rely on fossil fuels to move goods around.

The specifics and outline in Tom’s story are so broad as to be meaningless.

But because certain specific programs were mentioned in the story, for now I must note that we previously wrote about the lack of climate protections in DEP’s boiler rules and the totally inadequate scale/scope of the electric vehicle program. By way of context, DEP appears to regulate boilers of only 5 million BTUs/hour. Yet just last year, as I wrote, DEP rolled back regulations for boilers 10 times larger, 50 million BTU’s/hour. Why is DEP not going after greenhouse gas emissions from those larger boilers?

Strong going forward suggestions to DEP:

1) you need to “score” all the regulatory proposals you outline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions reductions they would produce.

If you don’t, you invite the continued spin and the misplaced focus on compliance costs.

2) you have to do these briefings far more transparently and with broad public awareness and engagement.

Continued reliance on your hand picked “Stakeholders” is a formula for failure.

Now back to the REAL land use “road map”.

The DEP road map has fatal flaws.

NJ is one of the worst states in the country for repetitive flood damage claims. NJ is right up there among the worst with Texas, Florida and NY. NJ has a tiny fraction of the land area, coastline, and river/stream miles of those states, which just shows how bad NJ development regulation and land use planning are.

Screen Shot 2021-01-01 at 2.14.06 PM

Yet, despite projections of sea level rise that will inundate lands, the DEP proposal would allow new development in those areas.

The DEP would allow development that was destroyed by flooding to be rebuilt in lands projected to be inundated.

Repetitive Loss Properties, by County – Source: NJ Hazard Mitigation Plan (March 2014)

Repetitive Loss Properties, by County – Source: NJ Hazard Mitigation Plan (March 2014)

The proposed DEP “hardship waiver” approach is not a ban. By its individual case by case and site specific nature, it is the antithesis of regional planning, which calls for a science based regional approach to multiple individual land parcels (ironically, DEP misleadingly calls their approach “watershed based”). Hardship waivers will be issued and will continue to put people and property at deadly risk.

DEP has no problem incorporating land use planning in regulations when they promote development (i.e. the DEP CAFRA regulations relax environmental protections, increase allowable  impervious cover, and increase development density in State Plan mapped coastal centers). This is particularly flawed because DEP did not control the State Plan center policies or the entire coastal center mapping program adopted by the State Planning Commission. State Plan designated growth centers are recognized in DEP’s Highlands regulations as well.

So, I can not understand why DEP can’t incorporate regional planning and climate science based standards that restrict development in their PACT regulations (and DEP’s CAFRA, Waterfront Development, Wetlands, and Flood Hazard regulations ) and move away from a site specific approach, particularly given DEP’s complete institutional control of the underlying Coastal Planning and regulatory processes.

I could not find a discussion of coastal and back bay lands that are projected to be impacted by storm surge and wave action or combined effects of coastal and river flooding.

Homes on even higher stilts is not an acceptable solution – would residents of inundated areas kayak to stores and work? Obviously, only very wealthy people can afford to live in such a high cost home. This lands new meaning to “gated community”.

Inland, the DEP would allow existing development destroyed by flooding to be rebuilt in flood hazard zones, thereby perpetuating the repetitive flood insurance claim problem.

The DEP proposal doesn’t even go as far as the NJ Hazard Mitigation Plan’s “Repetitive Loss Strategy” (2019) (Chapter 8) and may jeopardize future federal funding because it will not reduce the number of repetitive loss claims:


To be eligible for an increased federal cost share, a FEMA-approved state or tribal (standard or enhanced) mitigation plan that addresses RL properties must be in effect at the time of grant award and the property must be a RL property. Guidance on addressing repetitive loss properties can be found in the State Multi-Hazard Mitigation Planning Guidance and in 44 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Section 201.4(c)(3)(v). The State’s RL Strategy, as detailed in this section, will identify the specific actions the State has taken to reduce the number of RL properties, which must include SRL properties. In addition, the hazard mitigation plan must describe the State’s strategy to ensure that local jurisdictions with SRL properties take actions to reduce the number of these properties, including the development of local or tribal mitigation plans.

The only answer to the inundation, expanding flooding, and repetitive claim problems is to ban development and to prohibit rebuilding of development destroyed by flooding (one and done). We’ve written about how to address NJ’s “right to rebuild”.

This kind of “strategic retreat” must be planned carefully, not done via piecemeal regulation.

The DEP’s road map completely fails with respect to inundation, flood hazard restrictions, repetitive loss and strategic retreat planning.

It also is silent on and misses a huge opportunity to impose real “green building standards”, which, at a minimum, would mandate electrification of new and phased electrification of existing buildings

Finally, I see no carbon sequestration strategy (afforestation, urban heat island, etc) or requirements –

More to follow on all that.

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Murphy DEP Official Defends Climate Adaptation Regulations As A Real Estate “Value Proposition”

December 30th, 2020 No comments

Words Matter And Reveal Ideology

Neoliberalism On Steroids

Who talks like this? Sounds like a used car salesman: (NJ Spotlight):

“There’s nothing about this proposal that diminishes our ability to have robust economic development; quite the contrary,” he said. “Folks in the development community can say they have a value proposition to their clients. They can say, ‘We’ve looked at the risks in the long term, and you can feel confident buying a new home from us.’”

And what is a “risk-profit paradigm”? Is that when a developer maximizes his profits while the homeowners, business and governments get wiped out in a flood? When developers privatize the profits and socialize the risks and costs?:

There are some, because they are concerned with a shorter risk-profit paradigm, might think that any additional requirement is just another step too much,” he said. “But our job is to protect everyone and our natural resources, and so perpetuating an environment in which we go for the lower bar effectively displaces future risk on someone else.”

This is pretentious pseudo-intellectual gibberish. It is incoherent.

Worse, it exposes Mr. Latourette’s ideological fealty to a private property, investment, and market based paradigm that has no place in government.

Government does not base regulatory policy on private investment and real estate “value proposition” paradigms.

It bases regulations on science, law and the public interest.

This reminds me of another recent rhetorical embarrassment by Mr. LaTourette, see:

So, let’s rehash what DEP Deputy Commissioner said just a few months ago, back in October: (NJ Spotlight)

“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. …

He said the DEP wants to avoid being the “big, bad government” that imposes heavy-handed regulations.

Mr. LaTourette seems to have abandoned the “big bad government” and “heavy handed regulations” rhetoric, but not the Neoliberal market fundamentalist ideology behind that rhetoric.

And think: this is from the man next in line to become DEP Commissioner.

[End Note – Mr. LaTourette seems to do much better when the PR flacks put words in his mouth:

In his opening remarks at the virtual awards ceremony, DEP Deputy Commissioner Shawn LaTourette also noted that the 2020 “honorees exemplify the values that motivate us here at the Department of Environmental Protection and across the Murphy Administration: an abiding commitment to science and service, and a drive to confront our greatest challenges, and out of them create new opportunities that will help us build a stronger, fairer New Jersey.”

LaTourette needs to retire to Joe Biden’s basement.  ~~~ end]

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Gov. Murphy Tries To Walk Back LNG Export Plant Approval

December 29th, 2020 No comments

Days After Voting To Approve LNG Plant, Gov. Now Says He Opposes LNG

If The Gov. Is Serious, Here’s A Regulatory Roadmap to Kill The Project


[Update: I am holding off on posting Part 2 until DEP responds to my OPRA request for the Waterfront Permit, Water Quality Certification, and TCPA documents. Should post 1/13/21. ~~~ end]

This post is in two parts because the issues are complex: Part 1 exposes the Gov.’s lies, while Part 2 will lay out a regulatory path to kill the LNG project should the Gov. really want to do that. Some of the regulatory failings in Part 1 set up the Kill roadmap in Part 2.

Part 1

In a remarkable and embarrassing turn of events – and if true, potentially a huge victory for environmental activists –  NJ Spotlight reports that NJ Gov. Murphy now says he opposes and will seek to block an LNG plant on the Delaware River.

The Gov.’s U-Turn comes just days after his December 9 vote on the Delaware River Basin Commission to approve the project, see:

In the week prior to the DRBC vote, we blasted the project – which was opposed by a four state coalition of environmental groups:

We also were shocked by and questioned how the LNG project had quietly received Murphy DEP permit approvals a year prior to the controversial DRBC vote:

So, while we are pleased to learn that the Gov. now opposes the LNG plant he just voted to approve (a year after his DEP issued permits to approve it), we are highly skeptical of the Gov.’s reported pledge now to try to “block” the project.

I) The Governor’s Press Office Is Flat Out Lying

That skepticism is compounded by two flat out lies the Gov.’s press office told in defending the Gov.’s embarrassing U-Turn.

The Gov. seems to suggest that the LNG project is not what DEP permitted and voted at DRBC to approve. Gov. Murphy seems to think – incorrectly – that the dredging operation/dock and the LNG are two different projects and he only supported the dredging and dock construction.

It is not possible to make this kind of mistake.

Let me be clear, of course, I want to hold the Gov. accountable for his lies and DEP accountable for what appears to be massive incompetence based on flawed regulations.

But, more importantly, I need to elaborate on the lies because if they are accepted then the Gov. and DEP can not kill the project.

Specifically, NJ Spotlight reported:

“The DRBC vote was in support of upholding a dredging permit for the construction of a dock,” Murphy said in a statement issued by his deputy press secretary, Alex Altman, on Tuesday. “It was based upon an extensive and comprehensive scientific and technical analysis of its impact on water quality performed by DRBC staff and examined again during a subsequent hearing.”

The first lie here is that the DRBC vote was NOT only for a dredging permit. The project the DRBC approved explicitly included the LNG export operation. For the wonks, here’s the full DRBC docket on the project, which makes that very clear.

The DRBC Opinion Approving the Resolution for the project makes it clear that DRBC approved an LNG operation:

As stated in the Application, “The purpose of Dock 2 is to develop a marine facility capable of accommodating the export of bulk liquid products by vessel, including infrastructure necessary for transloading operations which will allow vessels to be loaded directly from railcar or truck.”

1 The liquids to be transloaded to marine vessels at Dock 2 include liquefied hazardous gas (“LHG”) and liquified natural gas (“LNG”). S

More than a year before that, here is the DRBC Hearing Officer’s report that formed the basis for the DRBC review and approval:

Most relevant to the instant proceeding, these changes included amending the project description by specifically listing liquid natural gas (“LNG”) and Liquid Petroleum Gas (“LPG”)3 among the “bulk liquids and bulk gases” generally referenced in DRP’s Application. Changes recommended by Mr. Kovach also included the addition of an express condition that the DRBC may rescind or reopen the docket if warranted in light of new information. With these changes and others discussed infra, the draft docket was unanimously approved by the Commission on June 12, 2019.

Keep that phrase “reopen the docket if warranted in light of new information” in mind – we’ll get to it in part 2.

The DRBC Hearing Officer’s report also has another highly significant finding we’ll get to in part 2, see paragraph 358 g.

DRP is required to comply with NJDEP’s Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act (“TCPA”) which mandates an extensive risk analysis and demonstration through a risk management plan prior to the introduction of LNG products on site. (Exhibit J-50, p. 12-13)

But first we explain the second lie.

The second lie is that the DEP and the DRBC reviews were NOT  “based upon an extensive and comprehensive scientific and technical analysis of its impact on water quality.”

II)  The DRBC Review Was “Narrow”, Not “Comprehensive”

DEP’s State Geologist, who represents Gov. Murphy on the DRBC and was involved in the DEP permit approvals of the LNG project, admits that the DRBC’s review and approval was “narrow“, while also trying to spin the Gov.’s false distinction between the dredging and dock construction and LNG: (State Impact)

“While New Jersey acknowledges the larger criticisms surrounding the proposed operations of this project, the issue presented to the commission is a narrow one: whether or not to affirm its prior decision that dredging activities related to the construction of a second dock at the marine terminal complex in Gibbstown satisfy the commission’s water quality standards,” said New Jersey geologist Jeff Hoffman, representing that state’s decision to approve the plan.

The DRBC not only failed to comprehensively regulate water quality standards issues.

The DRBC review completely ignored the impacts of climate change on important and comprehensive DRBC water resource management responsibilities under the DRBC Compact.

The DRBC is a powerful institution (State Compacts are established under the US Constitution and the DRBC Compact was created by an act of Congress, signed by President Kennedy). The 4 Delaware watershed State Governors are DRBC’s Commissioners, so this is not some backwater or rinky dink operation. DRBC not only has a broad mission and broad authority, but it also has broad legal discretion. For example, Section 3.6 General powers include:

(b) Establish standards of planning, design and operation of all projects and facilities in the basin which affect its water resources, […]

(h) Exercise such other and different powers as may be delegated to it by this Compact or otherwise pursuant to law and have and exercise all powers necessary or convenient to carry out its express powers or which may be reasonably implied therefrom.

An LNG plant obviously – via climate change – “affects its water resources”.

These impacts are “reasonably implied” by the best available science and the Commission’s mandate to manage water resources.

Furthermore, effectively as a legal matter, DRBC’s jurisdiction, authority, responsibilities, and obligations are broader under the Compact than under the limited specific DRBC management policies, standards, and project review regulations and protocols.

What this means in practice is that just because there is no specific DRBC water quality standard, regulation, or permit review protocol that explicitly identifies “regulated activity” (i.e. LNG) and mandates consideration of climate impacts does not mean that the Commission can not do so if the best available science demonstrates that activity would adversely effect the water resource management objectives delegated to the Commission under the Compact.

But instead of assuming the Commission’s responsibility under the Compact, the Commission tries to evade it with BS like this: (NJ Spotlight)

“The Commission does not exercise jurisdiction over the surface transport of cargo to regional port facilities; nor does it review or approve the cargo that moves through our region’s ports,” the DRBC said in a statement on Thursday. “We have no comment on matters outside of DRBC’s authority and jurisdiction.”

What irresponsible bullshit – this is not about shipping or cargo, it’s about major fossil infrastructure and climate impacts to protected DRBC resources (and I could even make a case that DRBC does in fact have jurisdiction to review cargo shipping under the recreational powers of the Compact).

This is no esoteric or theoretic debate. The failure by DRBC to consider climate impacts include consideration of climate change impacts on:

  •  water quantity (i.e. changes in precipitation that effect river flows, flooding, and drought); climate change
  • impacts on water demand (i.e. higher domestic, industrial, and agricultural water use due to increased temperatures); 
  • climate change impacts on hydrology and water availability (e.g. additional evapo-transpiration, changes in river flow conditions as there is more rain and less snow, reduced and accelerated snowmelt, loss of forest cover alters runoff dynamics, etc), and
  • climate impacts on water quality.

Instead of the falsely claimed “comprehensive scientific and technical analysis“, the DRBC considered climate impacts on just 3 features: migration of the salt line; impacts on T&E species, and impacts on certain fisheries like sturgeon. DRBC did not even conduct these narrow reviews, they delegated them to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

These are not just hypothetical or theoretical omissions in the DRBC review of the climate impacts of a major fossil infrastructure project.

DRBC’s own scientist have analyzed climate impacts on the Delaware River and watershed, see:

Here are DRBC’s scientific findings on climate change impacts on water resources regulated by DRBC under the Compact:

Climate Change Impacts in the Delaware River Basin

Climate change has the potential to impact water availability, water quality, and the ability to meet water management goals in the Delaware River Basin. […]

DRBC science also notes, in more detail:

Sea levels are rising. Since the early 1900s, sea level has risen at an average rate of about 2.93 mm/year, which equates to 0.96 ft/100 years. A change in sea level affects the overall volume of water in the Delaware Estuary and Bay, which can affect the movement of the salt front, increasing salinity in the upper portion of the estuary….

Local climate change impacts for the Delaware River Basin include increased temperature, changes in precipitation patterns, and sea level rise, all of which affect water supply and water quality.

  • Increased temperatures will affect evapotranspiration rates; more evaporation means less water available for streamflow. Increased temperatures will also affect stream water quality; turbidity levels will likely increase, and dissolved oxygen levels decrease.
  • Precipitation is predicted to occur in the form of fewer, more intense storms occurring in the winter months. This means a potential increase in flood events coupled with extended drought cycles.
  • The seasonality of flows may also change, for example, less snowpack in the winter may cause lower flows in the spring.
  • Sea level rise may require increased releases from storage to augment river flows to repel salinity and/or costly modifications by water suppliers to treat increases in dissolved solids.
  • Climate change could also affect instream flow and temperature conditions for aquatic biota.

In December 2019, DRBC formed the Advisory Committee on Climate Change (ACCC) to provide the Commission and the basin community with scientifically based information for identifying and prioritizing these threats to the basin’s water resources, as well as recommendations for mitigation, adaptation and improved resiliency. Its inaugural meeting was held on August 4, 2020. Please visit the above link for committee information.

The effects of climate change are being considered as DRBC plans for future water supply availability and whether new drought or flow management programs are needed in the basin. Modeling and other analyses are already underway to further define the range of risks due to climate change as well as evaluate future water demands for different purposes. Once this work has been completed, different approaches and mitigation measures will be needed to develop robust plans and resources to address the risks posed by climate change

But don’t let the recent December 2019, DRBC formed Advisory Committee on Climate Change fool you.

DRBC’s consideration of climate science is longstanding. Over a decade ago, way back in 2010, DRBC scientists were involved in this study:

We wrote in detail about that study – which predicted the devastating impacts of Superstorm Sandy – in a July 2012 post:

But over a year before the recent DRBC approval, the Murphy DEP quietly issued permit approvals – the Gov. has not even tried to explain how this happened. These DEP permits call into question not only the Gov.’s veracity, but the competence of his DEP Commissioner.

 DEP permits include: (source: DRBC Docket approval)

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) on May 20, 2019 issued its Waterfront Development Individual Permit for the Project (0807-16-0001.2 WFD190001), which includes the Water Quality Certificate required by Section 401 of the federal Clean Water Act.

III)  The DEP review was not science based or comprehensive

The DEP Waterfront Development permit failed to consider climate change impacts or safety impacts.

The DEP Water Quality Certificate failed to consider climate impacts. The NY DEC denial of WQC for pipelines provides a template and precedent for DEP to use.

I’ve written about these major flaws many times, so will not repeat all that now.

IV) The LNG Kill Path

Tomorrow, I’ll post Part 2, which lays out a specific regulatory strategy to kill the project. Here’s the gist, without the regulatory text, citations, and links:

As we noted above, the project has not yet received DEP Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act (TCPA) approval. Not sure if they’ve submitted a TCPA application yet. Someone needs to file OPRA requests about this TODAY! Importantly, the DEP Waterfront Development Permit standards explicitly include a review of public safety, which DEP failed to do.

Basically, what the DEP can do now is suspend and re-open the current Waterfront Development Permit and Water Quality Certificate (similar to how DEP recently suspended permits for the NJ Natural Gas pipeline in the Pinelands).

Based on the new review during suspended permits, based on “new information” and/or information they failed to consider in issuing the original WFDP and WQC, DEP would mandate a new review of climate change impacts and water quality impacts they failed to do initially.

DEP would also mandate a TCPA analysis as part of the suspension process, including for off site consequences of the LNG operation.

DEP would have a very strong hand to deny the TCPA approval as an unacceptable risk.

This denial would be based on both TCPA risk analysis and the DEP waterfront development “public safety” regulatory standards.

The climate and WQC are more technically difficult and less likely to succeed, but must be made.

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