Now Is the Time To Make Real Demands On Environmental Justice Legislation

July 21st, 2020 No comments

Why are EJ activists settling for a very old and flawed compromise bill?

Missing the moment, big time

The visibility, broad public support, and political power of environmental justice activists have vastly increased recently as the result of street protests over racist police violence.

So, now is the time to leverage that political power by making demands for significant substantive reforms, not the typical token window dressing, sham, and symbolic gestures that have characterized the last 20 years of public policy on “environmental justice”.

So, with the Movement rising, the moment ripening, and their power and leverage ratcheting up, why are NJ environmental justice activists supporting a very flawed and very old compromise environmental justice bill that is moving through the NJ Legislature? (see today’s NJ Spotlight story).

The current version of the bill is a significantly scaled back compromise of the original version, which was first introduced back in 2014, S1150 sponsored by Senator Weinberg.

The original bill was gutted in 2 major ways:

1) the local community veto power was removed; and

2) the scope of the community EJ review and DEP’s authority were limited to only “new or expanded” facilities for certain DEP permits (not existing permit, permit renewals, & all DEP permits, including land use).

In addition, there were several other important issues that were not included in the legislation back in 2014, such as:

1) including greenhouse gas emissions in DEP permit reviews and mandating numeric reductions and mitigation requirements;

2) revising the science of DEP’s health risk assessment methods, permit review procedures, and regulatory standards to reflect cumulative impacts of multiple pollutants from multiple pollutant sources;

3) revising DEP’s risk assessment procedures to include the vulnerability, susceptibility, and actual health status of poor and/or minority communities (including consideration of such things as lack of access to health care; lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables (food deserts); lack of access to open space, parks, and recreational opportunities; excessive noise; the daily chronic stressors associated with racism; and urban heat island effects; among others);

4) linking NJ environmental laws to federal civil rights laws to close legal loopholes and strengthen community and DEP powers;

5) expanding the current NJ Air Pollution Control Act to include a new public health oriented policy of “precaution”;

In addition to the above significant gaps and flaws, the DEP science, risk screening revisions, and overall policy do not address what public health advocates call the “precautionary principle“, which is:

The precautionary principle, proposed as a new guideline in environmental decision making, has four central components: taking preventive action in the face of uncertainty; shifting the burden of proof to the proponents of an activity; exploring a wide range of alternatives to possibly harmful actions; and increasing public participation in decision making.

6) putting teeth in current NJ Air Pollution Control Act “advances in the art of pollution control” legislative standards (known as “SOTA” for “State of the Art”) to enforce the above EJ policies and standards.

7) demand shutdown of polluting, paid for, and unnecessary dinosaur garbage incinerators (Camden and Newark and Union), see:

Now is the time to make real demands for real change, not settle for compromise.

A real change agenda is presented above.

It’s time for NJ’s EJ activists to get bold, not fold.

[End Note: This post is not about “purity trolling” or “virtue signaling”.

(Or a case of what  Lisa Jackson, Obama first term EPA Administrator, typically admonished bold thinking: “Don’t let the perfect drive out the good”).

Rather, reflecting current science and grounded in law, it is a technically sound and realistic assessment of the political viability and opportunity to leverage activists power, informed by 35 years of Trenton and DEP legislative, regulatory, political and activist experience.]

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Skoolie Hits Bernie’s Backyard

July 18th, 2020 No comments

Green New Deal in Montpelier, Vermont

Lovely scenery, horrible political scene

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After some rough Lake Champlain weather (whose high winds and whitecaps dissuaded us from taking the ferry out of Plattsburgh), we made a pleasant landing in Bernie Sanders’ backyard.

After a wonderful day touring Burlington, we headed east towards Maine and stopped over in Montpelier, the State Capitol. Lots of favorable glances from those who passed by.

The yellow lettering on the road in the foreground spells out “BLACK LIVES MATTER”.

Meanwhile, as we expected, Bernie sold out the Green New Deal and Medicare For All by supporting the Biden “Task Force” Report recommendations:

The task force recommendations don’t include the kind of wide-scale systemic upheaval that won Sanders such a fervent following in his two presidential campaigns — while provoking an outcry from moderate Democrats and Republicans alike. A single-payer health care system such as “Medicare for All,” a “Green New Deal” overhauling environmental policy, and doing away with Immigration and Customs Enforcement are not among the policy proposals.

I wonder how the kids at the Sunrise Movement feel right now – we tried to warn them. It sure looks like Varshini is varnishing the truth.

It’s a lot easier to advocate for an identitarian cultural agenda than to deal with political economy, capitalism, and corporate power. Nancy Fraser’s powerful “Progressive Neoliberalism” analysis still holds.

We head for the woods of Maine.

[End Note: glad I’m not on the west coast this summer, for surely I’d be in Portland, Oregon and in serious trouble.]

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Raquette River Sunset – Sagamore Scenery

July 15th, 2020 No comments

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Just a few photos today from the Adirondacks – first the Raquette River (above)

We tried to visit Great Camp Sagamore, but it was closed due to COVID.

After being run off by some maintenance guys, we managed a hike around the lake and got a shot though the clearing and across the lake (sorry, I would have needed a much bigger lens to capture the place).

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More Crappy Reporting On Climate Catastrophe

July 14th, 2020 No comments

Wall Street, the insurance industry, and local governments are far ahead of Tim Dillingham, Senator Smith, and DEP on coastal climate risks

In a July 5 post, I explained what I saw as the Murphy DEP’s climate train wreck in slow motion (known as “PACT”), and the media’s failure to cover the story, see:

So, I was stunned by NJ Spotlight’s story today that appears to be an attempt to address some of the DEP climate PACT issues.

But instead of engaging and drilling down on the issues I suggested badly need attention, Spotlight did exactly the opposite.

They doubled down on diversion. And laid out a perverse COVID cover story.

And they used Tim Dillingham to downplay expectations, divert the focus, and make absurd and timid arguments that sounded like those of the NJ Builders Association, NJ Business and Industry Association, and the Chamber of Commerce!

(Ironically, and this is the best case interpretation, reporter Jon Hurdle may have attempted to agree with my main point: that the upcoming DEP PACT regulations would be a disaster. But, because Spotlight doesn’t feature critical stories or quote real critics, he failed miserably.)

I wrote reporter Jon Hurdle this nastygram, which is self-explanatory:

Jon – when are we going to get a focus on the emissions mitigation side? Or is that TJ’s exclusive turf?

As I’ve written, it is very likely that DEP will defer to BPU Energy Master Plan and RGGI, and do virtually nothing on using DEP regulations to mandate emissions reductions.

One of the 3 DEP climate PACT regulatory categories is emissions reductions. On the DEP PACT website you can access their presentation to Stakeholders and see HUGE gaps and weaknesses– there’s more than enough information there to write a story on, especially when you compare the DEP focus with the BPU Energy Master Plan. Cities around the country are doing many things in all sectors (energy, housing, transportation, land use) to mandate emissions reductions. DEP should inventory and benchmark best practices – why isn’t anyone even making these demands of DEP? The BPU Energy Master Plan addresses much of this, but provides no mechanisms to implement the vague policies/goals they outline – many of which could be driven by DEP regulatory standards and mandates.

(Note to readers not included in Hurdle email: Which led me to ask: why is DEP not posting the comments of Stakeholders on emissions reductions, like they did with other Stakeholder comments? What are they hiding?)

BTW – contrary to what your story states as a fact, wind does NOT reduce current emissions. There is no legal mandate, policy, engineering practice, or economic/contract term that requires that every MW capacity of wind be offset by 1-1 reductions in carbon based energy sources. The wind industry argues they need fossil gas plants to provide base load reliability to address intermittency. And most energy analysts predict continued growth in electric energy demand, which is not subject to any limits or caps under NJ law (ironically, while solar and renewables are legally capped). So, wind may simply serve new energy demand/economic growth and not reduce emissions at all. The BPU EMP does not refute the wind industry’s arguments for the need for gas, but merely poses the issue as an open policy question.

Finally, if you’re going to quote Tim Dillingham on DEP coastal issues, you need to include the fact that he receives DEP funding for coastal related issues (I’m not positive if this funding is current this FY). Your readers deserve FULL DISCLOSURE – FULL TRANSPARENCY. This is especially so when he is used to downplay expectations, frame a narrative, and shift the focus, i.e. away from emissions reductions (mitigation), away from regulations, as well as away from other adaptation issues, which is exactly what DEP wants right now. Smith did the same thing with his support of Blue Acres, a voluntary willing seller market based program, not a DEP regulatory mandate. Frankly, I’m getting sick over groups that take DEP money doing DEP’s PR. Tim’s comments could have come from Ray Cantor NJBIA, the Chamber of Commerce or the NJ BUidlers Assc. Why not make the bad guys state their case? Why put their horrible arguments in the mouths of purported conservationists?

PS – ironically, the financial markets and insurance industry are far ahead of Tim, Senator Smith, and DEP on coastal risk issues.

Wolfe

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Green Ghouls

July 10th, 2020 No comments

What fine people at the NJ Highlands Coalition thought this was a good idea?

Last night, my inbox brought a reprehensible email from the NJ Highlands Coalition.

Frankly, I thought the constant fundraising emails from NJ Audubon – some of which manipulate poor & minority EJ communities under sales pitches for extremely expensive binoculars and luxury eco-tours or lie about logging – were about as low as it can go.

But now, the Green Ghouls are fundraising around death.

That’s right, in the midst of the deadly COVID pandemic, the NJ Highlands Coalition is fundraising on death.

I am so disgusted by the total frauds that parade around NJ as “environmental groups” and sell out in a heartbeat in favor of fundrasing.

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.

Hey all you rich old white people dropping like flies in NJ’s nursing homes and then stacked like cordwood, before you expire, be sure to call your estate planners and lawyers and name the NJ Highlands Coalition in your last will and testament.

And, best of all, it doesn’t cost you any money!

What fine people at the NJ Highlands Coalition thought this was a good idea?

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