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Fake “Green” Groups Are Not Only Ineffective, They Are Dangerous

July 9th, 2020 No comments

[Updates below]

Today’s NJ Spotlight story on the efforts of “non-profit” groups to construct rain gardens as a tool to reduce Harmful Algae Blooms – which also “reported” on DEP’s new Harmful Algae Bloom (HAB) “warning” system – was worse than traditional corporate greenwashing.

It is worse than traditional corporate greenwashing because, in this case, the anti-regulatory lies, the failure to base recommendations on science, and the political manipulation came from groups that the public considers to be credible and motivated by “green” objectives, and reported in a media outlet that purports to be “progressive” and dedicated to environmental coverage. (a reader just dubbed this “pay-to-play propaganda” – h/t JT).

I’ve written many times about DEP’s numerous and longstanding regulatory failures that have resulted in continuing declines in the ecological health and water quality of NJ’s lakes (and rivers and streams and bays and ocean and groundwater), particularly, the recent rollback of the scientific thresholds for HAB’s that trigger closure of lakes to recreation uses (swimming, etc), see:

Shortly after DEP announced it, I provided this HAB analysis to NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle and responded to one of his questions about it (he asked only who former Star Ledger outdoors reporter Fred Aun was and nothing on the substance).

So, I was stunned – but not surprised – by his failure to report the DEP rollback, while creating exactly the opposite impression with this spin and gibberish:

Their efforts complement those of the Department of Environmental Protection which has a new system for warning the public whether lakes are safe for bathing, and which is offering grants to local groups to build rain gardens. Earlier this summer, officials unveiled a color-coded warning system containing five rising stages of hazard from the blooms. Even at the lowest level, when harmful blooms are suspected, people, pets and livestock are advised not to ingest the water in that lake; at the highest level, which has not applied so far this summer, people are instructed to avoid “primary contact” such as swimming.

According to the DEP’s new interactive map on the blooms, seven lakes had algae levels at the “Advisory” levelat which swimming beaches are closed — as of July 6. Another 12 lakes had received the “Alert” designation, under which beaches remain open but harmful blooms are confirmed.

In 2019, more than 30 lakes were closed at different times because of an outbreak of harmful blooms that formed in response to warm water temperatures resulting from climate change, polluted runoff from impervious surfaces in the watersheds, and leaking septic systems in some places.

Let me break this down to elucidate why that reporting is so wrong.

First, Hurdle fails to put the rain garden “green infrastructure” non-profit program in context. Specifically he fails to report the fact that DEP recently rolled back the Statewide stormwater regulations, a move that was blasted by FEMA and State floodplain managers, specifically because, among other things, DEP rolled back prior numeric water quality standards that applied to nutrient runoff, eliminated the prior “non-structural” stormwater management requirements, and failed to make the new non-structural “green infrastructure” (including rain gardens) mandatory.

So, for non-profits to come along now – driven by DEP grant funding – and ignore all that, while touting rain gardens, is corrupt.

For Hurdle to just casually tack on the fact that DEP is funding these groups, without providing the context or explaining the significance, misleads readers and is journalistic malpractice.

But it actually gets worse.

Second, Hurdle fails to report that the DEP’s “advisory level” that triggered the 7 lake closures this year (2020) is 80,000 cells per ml.

Same problem with the 12 lakes in 2020 that

“received the “Alert” designation, under which beaches remain open but harmful blooms are confirmed.”

What this means is that people are swimming at unsafe levels – up to 80,000 cells/ml – that DEP thresholds closed beaches last year (20,000).

This “sample confirmation” inaction and delay multiple step process under DEP’s new “tiered” “warning” system reminds me of when DEP failed to warn parents and allowed a daycare center (the infamous Kiddie Kollege) to remain open for over 14 weeks until they conducted confirmatory indoor air sampling, despite knowing that it was located in a former mercury thermometer factory and that DEP inspectors were warned to wear gas masks before entering the building!

If you think I exaggerate, read the NY Times story that I blew the whistle on:

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection knew in 1994 that a building that later housed a Gloucester County day care center was so dangerous that state inspectors were instructed to use respirators when entering the building, according to an internal memo obtained by The New York Times yesterday. …

The internal memo, dated Oct. 12, 1994, said “Level C at a minimum is required for entry into the building,” meaning respirators were required, said Bill Wolfe, a former department employee who is the director of New Jersey Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group that provided a copy of the memo.

I guess DEP lives matter! (someone needs to ask DEP Commissioner McCabe is she would let her grandkids swim at levels Upton 80,000 cells/ml, while DEP conducted confirmatory sampling).

[Full disclosure: I was forced out of DEP as a whistleblower back in 1994, when I exposed a DEP coverup of high levels of mercury in freshwater fish and refusal to publicly release the science, to act to regulate mercury sources, to warn the public, and to issue public health fish consumption advisories. So, as the Wall Streeters like to say, I’ve got “skin in the game”.]

Hurdles then compares the 7 closed so far this year with 30 lakes closed last year (2019), but fails to report that last year, DEP issued these warnings and lakes were closed when levels exceeded 20,000 cells per ml.

So, he not only failed to report a HUGE rollback in the HAB thresholds – from 20,000 to 80,000, a four fold increase – but creates the impression that the HAB problem is being alleviated (i.e. reduction of 30 HAB closures last year to just 7 so far this year).

Of course, if DEP increases the HAB threshold from 20,000 to 80,000, then the number of closures will be smaller!

If DEP ever tried to do this with the air quality ozone standard that triggers bad air day warnings – explicitly to increase the number and make air quality seem to be improving –  they would be pilloried by environmental and public health groups and the media.

Question: Why are the non-profits not criticizing this egregious DEP rollback?


Disgusted, I fired off this note:

Jon – your story today is a perfect example of why many NJ “green” groups are so misguided and downright dangerous.

They promote ineffective, feel good, individual, site specific “solutions”, that provide cover for DEP statewide failure to implement and enforce regulatory programs, all while receiving funds from Foundations with a policy (ideological) agenda and DEP. This not only provides cover for failure, it diverts media, resources, and citizen activism from real State solutions to failed individual non-threatening “solutions” (like the Clean Water Act’s TMDL & Clean Lakes Programs, and numerous other regulatory tools and programs DEP has than actually work (but impose costs on corporations, towns, homeowners, and limit growth).

I’m curious how you could report about DEP’s new “color coded” system (rehash of Bush political manipulation of terror warnings) without reporting the fact that DEP rolled back the threshold (standard) to warn and trigger lake closures by 400% – particularly after I told you specifically about it and provided 3rd party traditional journalism reporting on it (Fred Aun story). For documentation of that again, see:

Murphy DEP Rolled Back Toxic Harmful Algae Bloom (HAB) Standards by 400%

BTW, Mr. Souza and coastal groups have been milking DEP grants for Deal Lake restoration for over 15 years. Take a look at Souza’s work, submitted to DEP back in 2008

It’s all about consultants getting funded and green groups getting Foundation and DEP grants.

Meanwhile, water quality and ecological health continue to decline and go unreported.


[Update #1: Green ghouls.

I am so disgusted by the total frauds that parade around NJ as “environmental groups”.

At  a time when climate catastrophe and increasing nutrient pollution loads are destroying the ecological health of NJ’s waters, and a deadly public health epidemic is raging, these bastards only care about funding their organizations.

Here’s the latest creepy and corrupt BS from the Highlands Coalition – just give them money when you die:

Naming the New Jersey Highlands Coalition as the beneficiary of an account is a simple way to give and doesn’t cost you any money. As part of your estate planning, you can name a charity as the beneficiary of any of the following accounts

[Update #2NJ spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle didn’t only ignore my analysis and the prior report by Fred Aun.

He ignored other news coverage and an Op-ed that addressed what NJ Spotlight and their fake green sources intentionally suppressed.

His flawed reporting was no accident – powerful forces want to keep the facts and science from the public, because, just like closing the economy to slow the spread of COVID – science requires that we reduce economic activity.

First, as NJ TV mis-reported, here is the NJ DEP’s Chief of Staff openly revealing DEP’s abdication – with no explanation of what this means, by a NJ TV news reporter:

“So at that first level and that middle level you can take a swim if that’s your choice, you can boat. Be aware though that there could be a risk,” LaTourette said.

Second, here is Jeff Tittel of Sierra Club’s Op-Ed, which exposes the DEP fraud, see:

end update.]

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Murphy DEP Sends Troubling Signals In Rollout of Climate Report

July 5th, 2020 No comments

The “Regulatory Prelude” Continues – For Over 15 Years

Little Transparency Or Scrutiny Of Critical DEP Climate Regulations

All signs point to a massive DEP failure to regulate greenhouse gas emissions

I want to make a few important points on the media’s coverage of the Murphy DEP’s release this week of the Climate Science Report and the over the top DEP press release (check out the rhetoric and screaming headlines!)

(the only good news is that at least this press release didn’t include gushing praise quotes from the sycophantic fake green cheerleaders DEP funds. Notably absent are Ed Potosnak, Doug O’Malley, Tom Gilbert, Tim Dillingham, Eric Stiles, Jim Waltman, & Amy Goldsmith! Perhaps they heard my criticism about unethical conflicts of interest? I’ll take credit.)

Taken together, they provide very troubling signals for the upcoming regulatory package Gov. Murphy has dubbed “PACT” – for “Protecting Against Climate Threats”.

For those that don’t know me, for 13 years as a DEP policy planner, I worked with Governors’ Offices (Kean, Florio, McGreevey) and DEP Commissioners from the inside on developing policy, writing regulations, representing DEP before the legislature, and drafting the spin in DEP press releases. I was forced out as a whistleblower and then spent 20+ years as an advocate in the ENGO community. So I know exactly how the game is played and where the skeletons are buried – what they want you to know and what they want to hide and obscure. So I hope you will read this entire post, including hitting the links to verify my claims.

I have to limit my comments to the media coverage and Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order for now, because the link to the Report will not open on my computer. Perhaps because the link is not working, or because the Report is a large document, or because my internet connection is too slow to open it up. Hit the link above and try for yourself.

1. The Context and History Are Missing

The Report was prompted by Governor Murphy’s Executive Order #100:

WHEREAS, in accordance with the GWRA, N.J.S.A. 26:2C-41, DEP will deliver, by June 30, 2020, a GWRA report that will: (1) identify all significant sources of Statewide greenhouse gas emissions, including short-lived climate pollutants; (2) monitor progress toward the 2020 limit, the 2050 limit and any interim limits; and (3) inform further actions the State must take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon;

Deliver”? Who uses such language? Is DEP delivering a pizza?

While the Report was prompted by Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order – which he falsely touts as leadership – the actual legal basis, as stated in the Order itself, is the Global Warming Response Act (GWRA).

The Gov. has not sought to expand or strengthen that 13 year old GWRA law, and, in fact did just the opposite, by effectively blocking passage of a bill  – (see A1212[1R] and the original version (A1212) – originally designed to strengthen the RGGI program to, among other things, ratchet down on emissions and set a real enforceable emissions cap.

That is important, because the GWRA was signed into law in July 2007, and DEP has virtually ignored the GWRA for 13 YEARS.

So, Gov. Murphy broke no new legal or policy ground and is asserting no leadership at all.

Worse, as we note in detail below, several elements of his Executive Order merely rehash GWRA requirements, or duplicate DEP programs in existence since the Whitman Administration (1994) (e.g. the greenhouse gas emissions monitoring and inventory program).

Here is some evidence to support that, from DEP regulatory documents:

On January 23, 2003, the Department adopted regulations requiring large stationary sources to report emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) (DEP Docket No. 03-02-01/149).

Readers that are interested in this shameful history should visit my September 2017 post:

2. DEP Commissioner McCabe misrepresented the purpose of the Report

As I noted, the Report was prompted by Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order #100.

The primary stated objectives of the Report, under the GWRA and the EO 100, are to present to the public and scientific community and provide the scientific basis of the DEP climate regulations Gov. Murphy called “PACT” – “Protecting Against Climate Threats”.

But DEP Commissioner McCabe not only ignored the actual purpose of the Report, she shifted the focus away from DEP’s obligations to adopt regulations and instead to the actions of individuals.She also narrowed the scope to “adaptation”, virtually ignoring the need for DEP to adopt regulatory mandates on GHG emissions reductions: (DEP press release quotes McCabe):

“As our climate continues to change, it is urgent that New Jerseyans understand what future impacts are likely to occur, and when. Together, we can plan for and adapt to those changes, helping one another to keep our communities safe and our economy strong. This report provides the information necessary to focus New Jersey’s strategic climate resilience planning initiatives while we work to modernize our environmental regulations, making them more responsive to these climate realities.”

Did you get that? Let me put a finer point on it:

  • We are experiencing catastrophic climate impacts now – emphasis on the “future” contradicts emergency timeframes (e.g. according to the overwhelming scientific consensus (i.e. the IPCC Special Report), we have about 10 years to make deep emissions reductions in order to avoid catastrophic irreversible effects) and current and future catastrophic impacts are masked by the use of the term “climate change” .
  • The DEP’s “organic” legislation and the NJ GWRA do not direct DEP to “keep our economy strong”. There is no legal basis for this economic policy. As we’ve written, continued economic growth wipes out any emissions reductions associated with energy efficiency and renewables.
  • The “information” is supposed to provide the basis for DEP regulation and to promote public support for those regulations
  • “Resilience planning” is only one part – the bigger part is emissions reductions, which McCabe totally ignores!

3. DEP is falsely claiming that this is the “first” DEP Climate Science Report

The press has emphasized this Report as “the first” ever. But that’s not true.

DEP “resilience” head Dave Rosenblatt (who worked closely with Christie’s “Sandy Czar and played a role in Christie’s Bridge-gate scandal) spins this line too: (NJ Spotlight)

“If you’ve been reading every report that comes out, you will see it as a summary of what’s already available,” said David Rosenblatt, the state’s chief resilience officer. “But for the first time in one place, New Jersey has put out the science that it is going to respond to.”

That’s just an historical whitewash. Here are the facts.

Prior to the passage of the GWRA, back in 2003-2004, DEP summarized the then current climate science  in two regulatory proposals.

In the first regulation, adopted 2005, DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell adopted regulations that defined GHG’s as “air contaminants” pursuant to the NJ Air Pollution Control Act. This legal basis anticipated the groundbreaking US Supreme Court’s decision in the Massachusetts case that required that EPA make a “finding” and regulate GHG’s.

However, a later Rutgers’ Report noted that these 2005 rules did not regulate GHG emissions – just the opposite, contrary to media and public understanding, DEP exempted them from regulation! Here’s Rutgers’ explanation of that sellout:

NJDEP has affirmed that “air pollution” as it is defined under the APCA is broad enough to encompass GHGs. In 2005, NJDEP promulgated a regulation that revised existing regulatory definitions to clarify that CO2—as a GHG—met the definition of an air pollutant under the Act.873. The agency exempted CO2 from existing regulatory requirements, but did require that stationary sources report emissions of CO2 and methane as an air pollutant.874 (see page 165 of the Rutgers Report)

DEP wrote this in the second rule proposal, to explain why they deregulated GHG emissions – it was all just a “regulatory prelude”. The Campbell DEP wrote:

This clarification of the status of CO2 is a regulatory prelude to anticipated future regulatory adoption of a Model Rule proposed through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Note how “market based” RGGI – which later would emerge with huge and fatal flaws which included actually setting the emissions “caps” ABOVE THEN CURRENT EMISSIONS! – was used to displace real climate regulations. And RGGI has served as an excuse for DEP regulatory abdication and inaction for the last 15 years!.

But that second Campbell DEP rollback rule, however, also provided the real “first” comprehensive scientific basis to support regulation of greenhouse gas emissions:

Prior to regulating CO2 as an air pollutant, the Department would need to make a formal determination and advise the public that regulating CO2 is in the “best interest of human health, welfare, and the environment” as required by the Air Pollution Control Act (APCA), N.J.S.A. 26:2C-1 et seq. This proposed rule also serves as this formal determination and public advisory (See N.J.S.A. 26:2C-9.2i).

That scientific basis included virtually all of the current DEP Science Report findings, including stuff like this: (and this was way back in 2003 – 2004)

Over the past decade an overwhelming body of scientific evidence as emerged linking anthropogenic emissions of CO2 to climate change and sea level rise. The projected climate impacts and related impacts on ecosystems and society related to increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere due to anthropogenic emissions supports he conclusion that CO2 should no longer be disregarded in the formation of environmental policy. […]

The projected climate impacts and related impacts on the environment, ecosystems, and society due to increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere from anthropogenic emissions clearly supports the conclusion that CO2 emissions create significant adverse impacts on the State.

(you can read each specific findings and DEP’s formal legal and scientific determinations, starting on page 7.

In a future post, I will line item compare the 2004 DEP scientific findings to the current 2020 Report – I suspect there will be a very large over-lap, and the 2020 Report will include little new basic science, other than it’s getting much worse and far faster which should justify emergency action!

So, legally, NJ has been in “regulatory prelude” for over 15 years.

Despite this shameful 13 year history – DEP did actually issue a “draft” of the Report required by the GWRA – the Murphy DEP is falsely claiming that the current Report is the “first” ever.

This is nonsense.

And is serves to perpetuate the false narrative that Gov. Murphy is a leader on climate.

Similarly, in an effort to create the false impression of the Murphy “breaking new ground”, DEP Chief of Staff LaTourette is whitewashing all this history and made this egregiously false historical claim to NJ Spotlight:

DEP Chief of Staff Sean La Tourette said existing land-use regulation, as currently being reviewed by the department, is no longer suited to current environmental conditions.

“If we are confronted with rising sea levels and chronic inundation, we should not confine ourselves to regulating what and where we build by rules that we made 30 years ago,” he said. “We need to make rules that govern us far into the future.”

Mr. LaTourette is either incompetent or a liar.

The current DEP land use, water, and flood/stormwater rules are not 30 years old. The DEP’s land use and certain water resource rules were comprehensively “aligned” (code for rollback) by the Christie DEP just 3 years ago.  Even more recently, in addition to Christie rollbacks, the Murphy DEP just weakened them LAST YEAR! LaTourette doesn’t want to talk about that, so he makes shit up. See the: FEMA Flays Murphy DEP Stormwater Proposal

4. The DEP is echoing the gas industry’s claims

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer story, the DEP Report says:

“transition from coal-fired power plants to natural gas has led to a reduction in greenhouse gases in the US”

That is highly misleading, lacking in scientific support and consensus,  and I would argue outright false.

(This is not an inadvertent or small error. The exact same gas industry propaganda and lies crept into the Murphy BPU Energy Master Plan and form the basis of the Murphy NJ Transit $500 million fossil boondoggle and are implicit in the Murphy billion dollar wind expansion – these are no small matters when you consider all the gas infrastructure projects now before DEP and the call by environmentalists for a fossil infrastructure moratorium. These lies can provide cover for the Gov.)

I sent this note to Inquirer reporter Frank Kummer to explain:

Hi Frank – good story. But, FYI, this DEP claim is not even close to a consensus science conclusion:

“But the report found that the transition from coal-fired power plants to natural gas has led to a reduction in greenhouse gases in the U.S.”

There is significant disagreement about this for at least the following reasons:

1) the US GHG emissions inventory accounting does not fully consider the lifecycle emissions of methane from fracking, including fugitive emissions throughout the production, transmission and distribution chain;

2) methane has significantly greater warming potential than CO2, short term it’s more than 80X greater;

3) the transition of power plants from coal to gas has been accompanied by huge US fracked oil and gas production boom. This has led to significant exports of US fossil fuels, oil & gas, including coal exports. A lot of the coal that previously was burned at US power plants is exported. Checkout EIA data for support of that.

The foreign GHG emissions from US exports of coal, oil and gas are NOT considered in this claim of reduction of US emissions – nor are the GHG emissions from the production and transportation of goods that are imported to the US.

Climate change is indifferent to the location of GHG emissions.

So, at best, that is misleading – while I say it is false. The DEP is repeating the gas industry’s arguments – this is hugely significant, because we’re calling for the Gov to impose a moratorium of gas infrastructure. He can hide behind this false claim.

I should have referred Frank to Cornell Professor Ingraffia and provided links to his work on fracking and methane.

5. DEP and media are silent on upcoming regulations

To their credit, the NJ Spotlight story does mention the lack of “policy”, but provides no specificity  on the huge pending DEP regulatory issues.

We need to begin by analyzing Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order #100, which has been falsely praised by environmental groups and misreported by the media.

To illustrate this point, it is instructive to compare the provisions of the EO governing “climate adaptation” with those addressing greenhouse gas emissions reductions (“climate mitigation”).

Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order #100 clearly directs DEP to “integrate” climate adaptation considerations in various specific DEP land use and water resource regulations. DEP shall:

Integrate climate change considerations, such as sea level rise, into its regulatory and permitting programs, including but not limited to, land use permitting, water supply, stormwater and wastewater permitting and planning, air quality, and solid waste and site remediation permitting.

However, with respect climate greenhouse gas emissions reductions, the EO uses very different and vague and misleading language. The emissions reduction (AKA “mitigation”) are not specified, regulations are not specified, and instead vague and legally meaningless terms are used. DEP shall:

Establish criteria that shall govern and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and, where necessary, short-lived climate pollutants, including but not limited to, black carbon, hydrofluorocarbons, and methane;

I’ve worked on regulatory policy for 35 years and I have no idea what the hell the phrase “Establish criteria that shall govern and reduce emissions” means.

“Criteria” are NOT enforceable standards and regulations.

No specific DEP emission reduction regulations and permits are specified (contrary to the mitigation regulations that are).

So, it really is an open question of exactly how the DEP has interpreted EO #100 and if they will even regulate greenhouse gas emissions or continue to rely on RGGI and the BPU Energy Master Plan.

This set of issues warrant close examination and scrutiny, but is getting none.

Furthermore, DEP is actually erecting barriers to the public’s ability to look inside and participate in DEP’s rule development process, which takes me to my final point.

6. There has been no media coverage of DEP “Stakeholder” process for developing climate regulations – governing emissions reduction and adaptation.

The DEP has a web page for the PACT regulations.

The DEP has held several “Stakeholder” meetings to solicit public input.

The PACT rules are broken down into 3 categories:

  • monitoring
  • carbon emissions
  • adapting land use regulations

Curiously, written Stakeholder comments to DEP are accessible on the monitoring and the adaptation rules, but NOT ON THE CARBON EMISSIONS RULES! 

It would be very interesting to know who is saying what to DEP on these essential core regulations, the ones that are being ignored or downplayed by the Gov.’s Executive Order, DEP Commissioner and even the DEP website!

I’ve already tried to warn about comments from PSE&G that seek a huge waiver – obviously that strategic request is related, among other things, to PSE&G’s development of a wind turbine assembly facility at their nuke site in the Delaware.

How many other favors are being sought and by whom?

What kind of emission reductions is DEP considering? What is the timetable? What sectors, who and what kinds of facilities will be subject to these emissions reductions? Will they be mandatory? Will they allow “offsets”? Carbon capture? Nuke credits?  

Voluntary market incentives and corporate subsidies or strict regulatory mandates?

The people want to know.

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A Bold Stealth Camping Move

July 3rd, 2020 No comments

_DSC6247 (1)

We’re heading east across Michigan’s upper peninsula.

It’s been extremely hot and humid, the last 3 days around 95 and humid. Local fishermen and birders I spoke with tell me this is highly unusual, that July days are typically in the 60’s and even have dipped to the 50’s. I haven’t confirmed that, but can confirm that it is HOT and HUMID.

Nights haven’t cooled down, and the skeeters are murder (especially in the places we find to camp, which typically are boat launch sites surrounded by water.)

Last night we found an excellent place in Rapid River, Michigan at a pretty  isolated boat launch on the Little Bay de Noc on Lake Michigan. Gorgeous! I figured we could spend several days here, despite the pretty intense skeeters (many beers and bug spray solved that problem).

But, just after dark, assholes showed up with fireworks, that totally freaked out my dog!

So we left mid morning today.

After our morning walk, breakfast, and coffee, by 10 am, it was already hot.

I gave Bouy one more swim to cool down and headed out along Route 2 eastbound.

Tons of traffic, mostly headed west. As we go further east, it got more and more touristy and second home development. Bad driving and a bad signs for finding a good stealth spot for overnight camping.

After a few stops along the way to get the dog in the water and cool him down from the heat, by 3 pm, I was tired and looking for a place to park for the night.

After a few failed attempts on forest and local roads, as I was driving by an old abandoned gas station, I notice that it had an old rusted out Skoolie parked in the lot.

So, I figured that old bus needed company and pulled in right next to it!

Hope I live to see the sun rise –

The dude who owns the place has a large “Locked and Loaded” poster on the window, and the grass is freshly mown. But I figured the odds of someone coming by on Friday night on a 4th of July weekend were slim. Ditto for the cops and my bus blends in with the other one already there.

Perhaps my boldest stealth camping maneuver ever!

Happy Fourth of July – Freedom and USA! USA! USA! all the way, baby! (snark)


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Billionaire State Park Privatization Scheme Sheds Light On Prior Diversion of Hundreds of Millions Of Dollars Of Constitutionally Dedicated Park Maintenance Funds To Open Space

July 3rd, 2020 No comments

The Theft Of State Parks Funding Has Become The Pretext For Privatization 

[Important Update below]

There has been swift public and press outrage over a stealth provision in the emergency COVID budget that mandates that DEP “shall” solicit privatization proposals for all State Parks, including the crown jewel Liberty State Park, where billionaire Paul Fireman is seeking to expand a golf course into LSP lands.

Yesterday, the NY Times ran a killer story, that amounts to a huge national embarrassment for NJ Gov. Murphy, see:

Today, the Star Ledger editorial board followed up to flat out condemn Gov. Murphy, Trenton legislators and lobbyists for billionaire’s, see:

  • Murphy and his golf cronies have Liberty State Park in their crosshairs.

    Today, the 21 acres of Caven Point is a sanctuary for migratory birds, a pristine place where New Jerseyans gather to catch a glimpse of the peregrine falcon, the yellow-crowned night-heron, or the snowy owl.

    But because Gov. Murphy has decided to collaborate with plutocrats who believe that the public interest can be sold, this corner of Liberty State Park may soon be populated by — mirabile visu! —hideously-dressed millionaires clutching their 3-irons and whacking their double bogeys.

But, in contrast to other harsh coverage, NJ Spotlight ran a typically tepid piece of he said/she said bullshit, that provided a platform for Gov. Murphy’s office to spin, deny and dodge accountability for an egregious betrayal of the public.

It’s hard to know where to begin in correcting the spin, half truths and lies (by omission) in that Spotlight story, so let’s start from the totally misleading primary premise.

The sole justification for privatization and commercialization of State Parks is that current State budget revenues are inadequate to fund a huge deficit in State Parks maintenance.

Spotlight bemoans that fact with this bullshit lie:

The provision, buried in a 110-page bill that many lawmakers never noticed, is reigniting a long-running dispute over how the state can both maintain and invest in its extensive park system, which has suffered years of funding neglect, in the wake of recurring budget crises.

While it is correct that State Parks have a huge unfunded maintenance backlog and are not adequately funded by the State budget, the cause of the deficit has been ignored.

NJ Spotlight reporter Tom Johnson knows why the deficit was caused. Tom knows that the voters of NJ approved an amendment to the NJ Constitution to dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars to fund this maintenance deficit. He knows that his fellow foundation funded friends at the Keep It Green Coalition ran a $1 million PR campaign to dupe the public into stealing this money and diverting it to open space.

Tom knows all that.

But he not only fails to report it to explain the “years of funding neglect”, he outright intentionally misled readers about it.

So, let me be clear: The cause of the deficit is the fact that hundreds of millions of dollars of previously Constitutionally dedicated State Parks maintenance money was stolen and diverted to the Open Space program, see:

NJ Spotlight outright lies about this, both by omission and commission.

First, they distort the funding deficit issue, by implying that it is caused by the huge revenue declines caused by COVID, and they do that right up front, at the outset, in the he said/she said sub-headline of the story:

Administration says ‘no,’ but paragraph buried in 110-page budget extension suggests that private developers could help counterbalance some COVID-19 deficits

The budget language says NOTHING about any objective to “counterbalance COVID-19 deficits”.

That was totally made up by Tom Johnson, and it was done for a reason.

That reason is: if the State Parks maintenance funding deficits were caused by COVID-19, then the real cause of the deficits remains obscured.

Tom Johnson seeks to obscure the real cause of the deficits because if the real cause were widely known, it would expose his schlock reporting in failing to write about the impacts of the diversion of State Parks maintenance funding to the open space program.

Tom Johnson seeks to obscure the real cause of the deficits because if the real cause were known, it would embarrass and humiliate and expose the venality of his friends in the Keep It Green Coalition, who successfully advocated for the diversion of Parks funding that has harmed the parks and become the justification of privatization.

If the real cause of the deficit were known, then those huge NJ Foundations – Dodge, Fund For NJ, Wm. Penn – who funded the Keep It Green Coalition $1 million PR campaign to steal State Parks funding would be exposed as the elite frauds and hypocrites that they are – including their Neoliberal ideologies about elevating private and corporate interests over public goods, the public commons, and the public interest.

If the real cause of the deficit were known, then the Governor and legislators would have no cover story and pretext to hide their efforts to reward their billionaire donors by privatizing public assets.

(of course, they could also raise taxes on the rich and corporations, but that option is not even on the table, which just proves that Murphy & his Dems are really Neoliberals.)

That’s what’s really going on here.

And that’s the danger of the corrupt self serving frauds who parade around under “Keep It Green” banners and faux notions of progressive public interest journalism. 

Let’s hope that their greedy over-reach triggers a backlash that results in the passage of the Liberty State park protection act, the abolition of privatization of all State Parks and State lands, and the defunding and public shaming of the elite hypocritical Foundations and faux “conservation” groups of the Keep It Green coalition.

[End Note: And if it wasn’t for the diligence of Jeff Tittel of Sierra Club – who has criticized prior Murphy privatization schemes and exposed this latest one – this may have passed under the radar. Kudos also to LSP champion Sam Pesin.

Also Note that all the Keep It Green Coalition groups I criticize above have done NOTHING on this issue or mumbled a word of criticism of Gov. Murphy. That silence speaks volumes. They are corrupt and in the tank for Murphy.]

[Update: Wow! A NJ reader just sent me this story, which illustrates that this privatization scheme was totally consistent with former Wall Streeter Gov. Murphy’s prior scheme to “monetize” “undervalued” State assets, including State Parks – here’s the story, reported by NJ Spotlight, but not by reporter Tom Johnson:

Like I said, this is worse than Christie’s park revenue/privatization schemes.

Failure to hold the Dems accountable to  betrayals and sellouts like this is what led to Trump.

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NJ Gov. Murphy Approves Stealth State Parks Privatization Provision In Emergency COVID Budget

July 1st, 2020 No comments

Liberty State Park Highly Vulnerable to Private Development

NJ Gov. Murphy signed an emergency COVID budget that includes a provision that could lead to private development and commercialization of State Parks, including the controversial proposed development of Liberty State Park.

It remains unclear exactly how the privatization language was stealthed into the budget by lobbyists, but it was approved by the Governor’s Office, over the objection of several legislators and park advocates.

Here is the language, as in the adopted emergency budget law the Gov. just signed (@ page 95)

On or before September 1, 2020, the Department of Environmental Protection shall issue a solicitation to engage the private for-profit and non-profit sector in reducing maintenance and capital investment backlog and environmental remediation at state parks in order to facilitate enhanced cultural, recreational and local economic opportunities for New Jersey residents through appropriate means including leaseholds.

This is actually far worse than Gov. Christie’s Parks privatization schemes we’ve been harshly critical of, including attempts to develop Liberty State Park.

And the language is a mandate, on an incredible short timetable. It is rare for the legislature to mandate that DEP do anything and rarer still that the mandate includes a very short timetable.

After the stealth move was discovered, several legislators issued an incredibly harsh statement strongly opposing the  outrageous “back door” move and urged the Gov. to conditionally veto the language.

The Gov.’s Office not only signed the language into law, the Gov.’s Office defended it.

The Hudson Reporter story focused on Liberty State Park, but the language applies to and threatens all State Parks (read the whole thing!):

Back door’ line item could privatize parts of Liberty State Park

Despite calls from legislators and open space advocates, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a three-month budget extension bill, which includes language that could lead to the privatization of parts of state parks like Liberty State Park. […]

‘Sneaky’ move

Senator Loretta Weinburg called on Murphy to veto the line item, calling it a “sneaky” attempt to change public policy.

“Advocates have fought for years to keep Liberty State Park free from private development and open to all,” said Senator Weinberg. “They have worked far too hard to have their efforts thwarted by a few lines buried in an emergency, never-before-done budget at the crest of a global pandemic. This was a sneaky, backdoor way to attempt to change important public policy…”  

“New Jersey is attempting to navigate entirely uncharted waters and needs to focus on the essential business of keeping people safe, keeping our economy afloat and supporting the people who have been affected the most by this virus,” Weinburg said. “This was a shameful sleight of hand by a couple of paid lobbyists, and it is simply not how these things should be done – not ever, but certainly not now.”

Senator Brian Stack, Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro, and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji released a joint statement on the language, which they say was sneaked into the bill.

“The irony of sneaking in language compelling the privatization of our state parks in a budget continuance amid a global pandemic is that so many New Jerseyans have found relief in nature, including Liberty State Park and her sister state parks, during the pandemic…Now, more than ever, we must fight to ensure that Liberty State Park remains a free, open, urban green oasis protected from commercialization and privatization,” they said, calling for immediate passage of the Liberty State Park Protection Act (LSPPA).

The governor’s office said it will work with the DEP to evaluate options that will keep parks accessible for residents.

This has nothing to do with “access” to State Parks.

This is about whether the State parks will be privatized, developed, and commercialized and controlled by private for profit corporations.

By signing off on this disgraceful corrupt privatization measure, Gov. Murphy has shown utter contempt for the public and State Parks and revealed his true Wall Street values.

DEP Commissioner McCabe must ignore the law or resign in protest if she is pressed to comply with it.

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