Life In A Police State

November 20th, 2015 No comments

Tripping the Terror Surveillance Network?

Or Andy of Mayberry Just Looking Out For Me?


Behind Winston’s back, the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig iron and the over-fulfillment of the Ninth Three Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what systems, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate, they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to.  You had to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

(1984 – George Orwell, p. 6-7)

Our Story

The story you are about to read is true – no names have been changed to protect the innocent.

It is unlikely that the true events in this story are random and unrelated. And even if they are, my point is made.

It all begins on Wednesday night, when I was reading an essay Learning How Not To Rule the World, and noted a reference to the classic movie The Battle of Algiers. (the website on which I was reading that essay runs a proud banner: “The only news organization in the US to be labeled a threat by the Department of Homeland Security”).

Given that I had never seen the movie, I Googled it and watched and enjoyed it.

One of the next videos in the Google que caught my eye, a CIA history of the Cuban Revolution – so I watched that too and learned about some Cuban history and CIA propaganda.

No big deal – or was it?

Fast forward to this morning (Friday).

I had a 9:30 am meeting at DEP in Trenton and was running late, so, to save time, I took the dog for a walk by driving to the park we usually walk to.

When I got back home to drop the dog off before getting the train to Trenton, he wouldn’t get out of the car. Curiously, for the last few weeks, I’ve noticed that he likes to stay in the car as his “den”.

So, I let him stay put and drove to the train station. It was in the high 40’s but just in case it warmed up, I found a parking space in the shade and cracked the windows and opened the sunroof so the car wouldn’t get too warm and hopped the 8:39 to Trenton.

I got back home a few hours later and the phone was ringing.

It was the Bordentown Police. Uh oh. What did I do now? Is it that Mount Holly parking ticket I haven’t  paid yet? Did someone complain about the dog crapping in the woods?

The police said they had gotten a call from the NJ Transit Police, who noted my car with the dog in it and wondered where I was. The cop said the police had come to my house this morning to check up on me and see if I was all right, but no one was home. Cop asked if I was OK.

I told him I was fine and thought nothing of it.

After I hung up, I noticed a message on my cell and listened: it was from the State Police – asking me to call them immediately.

Now I began to think something was not right: the NJ Transit police, local police, and State police all involved? They come to my house? Call me twice?

And all they are concerned about is if I’m OK?

I wondered just how they even noted a “problem” with my car in the NJ Transit parking lot at the Bordentown train station.

Do police typically track down, call, and visit the homes of owners of “suspicious” cars?

The dog sleeps in the back of my hatchback and is not visible from the street. There are maybe 75 or more cars in that parking lot.

What was so special or suspicious about my car that NJ Transit police noticed?

My mind raced.

So I called the State Police – the Sergeant who had called me wasn’t in, so I left my name and number. Never heard back from him.

Suddenly it occurred to me what might have happened –

Given the Paris attack and threats on NY, the NJ Transit cops could have been on heightened security. If so,  it could have been three possibilities:

1) I’ve been stopped by Homeland Security and local police when driving – several times – and not for traffic violations, but to ask me detailed questions about what I was doing and where I was going. Those stops virtually confirmed that I am on some kind of domestic watch list or database and likely was screened by digital license plate scan technology.

The NJ Transit police could have scanned my license plate and gotten a “hit” from whatever database I am in.

The origin of all this was way back in 2008, when I was photographing south jersey refineries and chemical plants just off Rt. 130.

Because those facilities are “critical infrastructure” – I triggered some kind of Homeland Security, FBI, Joint Terror Taskforce and regional Fusion Center episode.

As I was taking photos, the police arrived and I was detained at the scene and later brought to Paulsboro police station for questioning.

A few days later, the FBI, Homeland Security and the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office investigators came to my home to conduct an investigation.

2) In the alternate, my internet viewing of The Battle of Algiers and the Cuban Revolution could have triggered some kind of terrorist surveillance alerts.

Do the internet surveillance cops think only terrorists are interested in history?

3)  Or, it could have been both the prior watch list, license plate scan, AND internet monitoring.

The fact that I even imagine such things to be possible is perhaps the strongest evidence that we are living in a police state.

The world Orwell imagined is here.

And Big Brother has far more powerful tools than the telescreen.

[End Notes:

1. I bought my Riverline ticket with a credit card.

Did NJ Transit Police have access to my credit card records and note that I was riding their system?

2. Did the State Police call me so that they could GPS my location by use of my cell phone?

3. I left my cell phone home –

Did State Police find it suspicious that my cell phone was at home, my car was at the train station, and I had purchased a train ticket? Did they think it odd that someone would travel on a train without their cell phone?

4. NJ Transit trains and stations have video surveillance – Was I tracked by digital facial recognition?

5. I got a email on Thursday from a friend at Yale who wrote that she was too busy preparing for Paris Cop21.

Did the internet spies use key word monitoring for sensitive phrases like “Paris”?

6. Did this 48 hour pattern of behavior trigger some kind of terrorist profile?

This is the rabbit hole we’ve gone down.

This is the kind of thinking one does when one knows that Big Brother has total information awareness.

Or maybe Big Brother was concerned about this “scary” photo printed in the newspaper story on the Salem nuclear permit – I got that tee shirt from American Indian Movement folks – if you can’t see it, it reads: “Homeland Security – Fighting Terrorism Since 1492″

PSEG nuke2

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In The Midst of Exploding Statewide Pipeline Controversies, The Christie DEP Quietly Proposed To Eliminate Current Cap on Pipeline Buffer Disturbance

November 19th, 2015 No comments

Flood Hazard Rule Would Increase Allowable Sensitive Buffer Disturbance Limits

Tennessee Gas Pipeline (8/14/11)

Tennessee Gas Pipeline (8/14/11)

I’m surprised that given all the controversy over numerous gas and oil pipeline projects in New Jersey, that no on seems to have picked up on the fact that the Christie DEP’s proposed new Flood Hazard Act “stream encroachment” regulations would eliminate the current cap on “riparian zone” disturbance and increase allowable disturbance limits.

That outrageous rollback is not mentioned in the Legislative Veto Resolution either.

Existing Limits On Disturbance of the Buffer of a C1 Water by Pipelines

Specifically, under current stream encroachment permit rules, a pipeline crossing a category one stream with a 300 foot “riparian zone” would be allowed – for a “temporary disturbance only” – a maximum of 12,000 square feet of disturbance of vegetation (see Table C in this post).

That sets a cap on allowable disturbance. (exceedence triggers a 2/1 compensation requirement).

Proposed New Disturbance Limits

In contrast, under the proposed new Flood Hazard Act stream encroachment permit rules, the current 12,000 square foot maximum disturbance is replaced by a new standard, which would allow disturbance of 30 square feet per linear foot of pipeline. (see Table 11.2 in this post)

That proposed standard is a RATE, not a total limit on disturbance. (That appears to eliminate or reduce compensation requirements , obviously dependent on the site specific stream crossing)

Therefore, for example, a pipeline could follow a C1 stream for 3 miles, and be allowed to disturb a whopping 475,200 square feet! That’s 10.9 acres.

(5,280 feet/mile) X (3 miles) = 15, 840 linear feet X (30 square feet/linear foot) =  475,200 square feet

475,200 square feet)/43,560 square feet/acre – 10.91 acres

In addition to that, DEP would allow an additional 6,000 square feet of disturbance for access to the project, per crossing.

I’ve been told that the PennEast pipeline would cross 31 Category One streams (including tributaries) – so that means that for access alone, DEP would allow 186,000 square feet of disturbance (4.27 acres).

On top of all that, DEP proposes NO LIMITS at all for “reconstruction, upgrade, expansion, or maintenance” of an existing pipeline.

Finally, the concept of “temporary disturbance only” is eliminated, thus implying that DEP is allowing permanent disturbance.

Just when DEP should be developing methodologies to strictly enforce current stream buffer disturbance standards to protect NJ’s water quality from pipelines, the Christie DEP is proposing to repeal the Category One “Special Water Resource Protection Area” buffer rules, eliminate the cap on total disturbance under current stream encroachment rules, and increase allowable disturbance.

These rules could have been written by the pipeline lawyers – and very well may have been.

Curiously, the DEP “by invitation only” Stakeholder process webpage seems to omit the invited stakeholders for this rule.

[End note: for folks who like to understand the technical issues, the applicable regulations for a utility crossing are found at NJAC 7:13-11.9 (starting on page 126). Note that there is no requirement to comply with the anti degradation policy, surface water quality standards, or other restrictions on disturbance in the storm water rules SWRPA @ NJAC 7:8-5.5(h). DEP proposed to repeal those strong SWRPA which could authorize denial of a permit.

Also see NJ DEP’s Technical Manual – it provides maps of riparian zones and flood hazard areas and illustrations of how the rules apply to disturbance and stream crossings. It also provides revealing admissions that the stream encroachment rules are less protective than the C1 SWRPA buffer rules:

Note that any feature that meets the definition of a “swale” under the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act rules at N.J.A.C. 7:7A- 1.4 is not regulated under the Flood Hazard Area Control Act rules and therefore has neither a flood hazard area nor a riparian zone. This is true because a swale, by definition, drains less than 50 acres and has no bed and banks, and therefore meets the requirements for a non-regulated water under N.J.A.C. 7:13-2.2(a)3.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline (11/2/10)

Tennessee Gas Pipeline (11/2/10)

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Pipe Dreams

November 18th, 2015 No comments

A Moratorium On Fossil Infrastructure Is Necessary

Local Resolutions, NEPA, & FERC Won’t Block Pipelines

“I’m not afraid to listen to Bill Wolfe when he has a good idea,”[Senate Environment  Committee Chairman] Smith said. Wolfe says he would like the Legislature to take a stronger stance with a bill to require action by the DEP. ~~~  Kirk Moore of thAsbury Park Press story on 9/27/10

NJ doesn’t have coal mines, oil wells, tar sands, or fracking wells to shut down – our challenge is infrastructure.

Aim high friends, this is what is necessary: along with a pledge of resistance and direct action to “throw your body on the gears of the machine” (Savio).

Dear Senator Smith:

I am writing to suggest the need for legislation and present a modest proposal for your consideration.

I assume you are familiar with the various pipeline controversies underway throughout the state, as well as the most recent climate science that warns that we must keep at least 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic warming.

The PennEast gas pipeline capacity alone (1 billion cubic feet per day) would create 21.5 million tons per year of CO2 emissions – that’s more than NJ’s entire instate power sector (using US Energy Information Administration emission factors) – and that does not include far more potent methane emissions from upstream fracking wells and transmission.

Obviously, NJ can’t honor or attain the Global Warming Response Act emission reduction goals if we continue to build fossil infrastructure. 

While the Governor’s power to veto off shore LNG is well known, relatively few people are aware that the DEP has power to kill a FERC regulated pipeline under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act by denying a “water quality certification”. There is a sound legal and scientific basis to do so, given the fact that the PennEast pipeline would cross many (some estimate 31) Category One streams protected by NJ’s EPA approved Clean Water Act anti degradation policy of “no measurable or calculable change in existing water quality”.

(DEP could use State law and regulation to deny permits for non-FERC regulated and intrastate pipelines that impact C1 waters – and all reservoirs are C1 waters. A regulatory roadmap outlined in this post).

Similarly, the Pinelands Commission blocked the proposed South Jersey Gas pipeline, but BPU revived it and is poised to approve it via unilateral and highly dubious regulatory determinations by the Pinelands Commission’s Executive Director.

So, here’s my idea for legislation – it is modeled on the Newark Watershed Moratorium and the Gibson bill Pinelands/Cape May moratorium on water withdrawals:

Introduce a bill to impose a moratorium on State agency approvals of pipelines pursuant to Clean Water Act and NJ Water Pollution Control Act until DEP conducts a study of water quality and climate impacts and develops adequate regulatory safeguards.

There have been many moratoria in NJ –

Some have been declared by the Gov. via Executive Order and some by the Legislature via legislation and one by an administrative agency (DRBC fracking moratorium).

The Pinelands Act and the Freshwater Wertlands Act came about as the result of moratoria declared by Governors.

The common theme in all of them is the existence of an immediate and dire threat that requires some kind of time out until safeguards can be put in place.

The Pinelands Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer study to determine ecologically safe amounts of withdrawals came about with a kind of a moratorium: as a response to salt water intrusion threats, a law was passed that funded the Pinelands Commission/USGS research and it prohibited additional water withdrawals in Cape May until science found a “safe” level”.

New York Times:

“Mr. Gibson’s bill, which was approved in 2001, called for a $2 million study of the projected population and water demands in Cape May County over the next 50 years. The bill also called for a moratorium on new permits to withdraw groundwater in Cape May County — unless the applicant could prove the withdrawal would not exacerbate the saltwater intrusion.

Statement on Gibson bill:

As amended by the committee, this bill would require the Pinelands Commission, in cooperation with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Rutgers, the State University, and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), to assess and prepare a report on the key hydrologic and ecological information necessary to determine how the current and future water supply needs within the pinelands area may be met while protecting the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer system and while avoiding any adverse ecological impact on the pinelands area. This bill as amended would appropriate $5.5 million to the Pinelands Commission for that purpose.

Also, as amended by the committee, the bill would require the DEP, in cooperation with the USGS, to assess and prepare a report on sustainable water supply alternatives within Cape May county, but outside of the pinelands area, necessary to meet the current and future water supply needs of Cape May county while avoiding any adverse ground water or ecological impact on Cape May county.

During the assessment and preparation of the report, the bill allows DEP to issue approvals or allocations for increased ground water withdrawals in Cape May County only upon a finding that they will not accelerate salt water intrusion, lower existing stream base flow or harm ecological functions or wildlife.

Here’s another example from North Jersey – the Newark Watershed development moratorium – which was linked to passage of legislation authorizing DEP to regulate buffers – that bill never passed and the moratorium remains almost 30 years later. The Appellate Division explained:

“The vehicle chosen was a moratorium on the transfer of watershed lands, to permit time for the DEP to study and report on the need for and means to secure watershed protection. Included in the proposed study was an evaluation of the effectiveness of establishing buffer zones around public water supply reservoirs for the purpose of protecting drinking water quality.

DEP was further directed to transmit its study, upon completion, to the Governor, the BPU and the Legislature. The Act provided for exemptions from the moratorium, but only upon a showing “that there is a compelling public need for the conveyance of the property, that the denial of the exemption would result in extraordinary hardship, or that the sale or development of the watershed property is otherwise consistent with the purposes of this act.” Applications for exemptions under the Moratorium Act were made subject to consideration by the Review Board, which was created by the Act, consisting of the Commissioner of DEP, the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs and the President of the BPU.”

We now are faced with a far more significant – in fact existential –  imminent and substantial threat of climate catastrophe that warrants a moratorium.

No more carbon fuel infrastructure until we know what the impacts of more greenhouses gases are going to be.

No need to be timid or reluctant in making this bold demand – similar moratoria have been enacted – This is politically feasible – and we are on firm scientific and historical grounds.



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Calling Out The NJ Farm Bureau For Lies In Support of Christie DEP’s Repeal of Stream Buffer Protections

November 17th, 2015 No comments

Tom Johnson at NJ Spotlight has a good story covering yesterday’s Assembly Environment Committee hearing, read the whole thing:

After having exposed the DEP lies, now I need to call out to the Farm Bureau’s over the top “nightmare” comment and the Builders Association’s claim about duplication:

But advocates said the current rules are so cumbersome that it prevents people like farmers from doing good things to protect water quality. “The existing rule structure is a nightmare for farmers,’’ said Ed Wengryn, of the New Jersey Farm Bureau.

George Vallone, president of the New Jersey Builders Association, called the existing rules duplicative, lauding the proposal as a common-sense approach to regulation.

First to the farmers – for context, keep in mind that the Farm Bureau sued DEP to block the septic density standards in the Highlands, which should be all you need to know about their agenda.

The storm water rules’ “Special Water Resource Protection Area” (SWRPA) 300 foot buffers along Category One streams are only triggered by “major development”. The definition of “major development” does NOT include farming.

The SWRPA buffers DO NOT APPLY to farming activities. There is no reason to repeal the SWRPA rules tp protect farmers from any “nightmare”.

The Farm Bureau KNOWS THIS and – along with Christie DEP political appointees – is knowingly misrepresenting facts.

However, if a farmer wants to SELL his land for development, the SWRPA would reduce the development potential of the land and thus its appraised value.

The Farm Bureau’s support for this clean water rollback PROVES that all they care about is money from selling their land for development. 

Now to the Builders – again, for context, keep in mind that the Builders sued DEP 3 TIMES – and lost all three – to block the C1 buffers. (*see this Appellate Division opinion and this one and this one). Three strikes and you’re out.

There are two different regulatory “buffers” involved in the DEP proposed rule addressed by the subject Resolution:

1) the “Special Water Resource Protection Area” (SWRPA) in the storm water rules (NJAC 7:8-5.5(h)) that apply to “category one waters” designated in the Surface Water Quality Standards (NJAC 7:9B-1.5) and

2) the “riparian zone” in the stream encroachment rules (NJAC 7:13-1 et seq).

Each buffer has different policy objectives, different technical definitions, and different regulatory standards and protections.

DEP is proposing to repeal the SWRPA and replace it with the riparian zone.

In 2002, DEP launched a water quality initiative to target “exceptional” value high quality waters called “Category One” (C1) for additional protections, above and beyond then current protections provided in various DEP programs, including the stream encroachment permit program.

In 2003 DEP proposed and adopted in 2004 the SWRPA buffers under the storm water rules as a non-point source pollution water quality “best management practice” to protect the exceptional C1 streams from “any change in existing water quality“. (see 35 N.J.R. 136 – 138 – January 6, 2003 for the scientific and technical basis of SWRPA).

The SWRPA was designed to provide protections above and beyond the stream encroachment program protections.

Testimony by the NJ Builders Association stated that the aforementioned two distinct regulatory buffers were redundant and that the subject DEP rule proposal merely streamlined permit programs to avoid duplication.

That is flat out false.

This has nothing to do with eliminating redundancies.

The DEP admits that the proposal will allow additional disturbance that would not be allowed under current rules (page 8 of proposal):

“First, the total amount of riparian zone vegetation allowed to be disturbed for roadways, utility lines, buildings, and other construction activities is proposed to be increased to better reflect the Department’s experience in permitting these activities.

The stream encroachment regulations allow many types of disturbance in the buffers that is not allowed under the SWRPA regulations and very different demonstrations and standards to justify disturbance.

Let me offer just one example of how DEP is not streaming or eliminating redundancies, but seriously reducing protections from an Appellate Court decision upholding the DEP’s findings regarding a SWRPA on a C1 stream. That Appellate Court decision clearly distinguished a SWRPA from a riparian zone:


The stream encroachment regulations apply only to streams with defined stream bed and bank features. Intermittent streams and swales and sensitive headwaters streams that have no defined bed and bank are not provided a “riparian zone” buffer.

In contrast, the SWRPA buffers apply to intermittent streams and swales, as the Court found:

“The intermittent stream exists without definable bed and banks but is identifiable as a linear depression, commonly referred to as a “swale.” The Stormwater Management Rules do not require that a perennial or intermittent stream be defined by bed and banks in order to have a SWRPA established. N.J.A.C. 7:8-5.5(h)1.1 states: “A . . . special water resource protection area shall be provided on each side of the waterway, measured perpendicular to the waterway from top of bank outwards or from the centerline of the waterway where the bank is not defined . . . .” (emphases mine)

There are many, many other examples I could provide of ho DEP is allowing additional disturbance on the SWRPA buffers that will reduce water quality and increase flood risks.

That is why EPA objected to the DEP proposal as a violation of the Clean Water Act, see EPA letter:

I am appalled at all the dishonesty by the supporters of this obvious rollback rule.

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The Legislature Must Not Allow Gov. Christie to Undo a Legacy of 40 Years of Progress on Clean Water Laws

November 17th, 2015 No comments

Call Assembly Speaker Prieto Today and Ask Him to Post ACR 249

Via abuse of his executive regulatory power, the Christie DEP is proposing to rollback laws that the Gov. can not weaken via the Legislative or Judicial branches.

The Resolution to block the Christie DEP’s rollbacks of clean water protections has passed the Senate and is now before the Assembly.

The Resolution (ACR 249 (Spencer/McKeon) was approved by the Assembly Environment Committee yesterday, so the ball now is in Assembly Speaker Prieto’s Court.

People need to call  – (201) 770-1303 and email Speaker Prieto – – and ask him to post ACR 249 for a vote before the end of this legislative session.

Below is a letter I just fired off to urge him to do so:

Dear Speaker Prieto:

For over 40 years, the NJ legislature has passed a series of laws to protect clean water – from the 1960’s Hackensack Meadowlands, to the 1970’s Coastal Zone and Pinelands, the NJ Legislature led the country in establishing regional planning and regulatory frameworks that sought to integrate land use and water resource protections.

The NJ Water Pollution Control Act, the Water Quality Planning Act, and the Water Supply Management Act established a comprehensive planning, standards, monitoring, permitting and enforcement scheme to assure clean and plentiful water for all NJ residents and the ecosystems that rely on clean water.

In 1990, when DEP failed to properly enforce these water pollution laws, the Legislature responded by passage of the Clean Water Enforcement Act, which eliminated DEP enforcement discretion and set mandatory penalties for certain permit violations.

In 1997, recognizing that water resources transcend political boundaries, the Legislature established a new vision, with passage of the Watershed Management Act.

In 2004, when the water resources of the NJ Highlands were threatened by over-development and the uncoordinated planning of many local governments, the legislature again rose to the challenge and passed the Highlands Act, designed to protect existing water quality.

NJ’s clean water laws have continued to evolve and strengthen protections for water resources.

Today, Governor Christie threatens that tremendous progress.

Via abuse of his executive regulatory power, the Christie DEP is proposing to rollback laws that the Gov. can not weaken via the Legislative or Judicial branches.

You must not let that happen.

I strongly urge you to post ACR 249 (Spencer/McKeon) to block DEP’s proposed rollbacks of current flood hazard, storm water management and coastal management regulations. Below is a short note to Chairwoman Spencer who released the Resolution from her Environment Committee yesterday.

The Senate version SCR 180 has passed the Senate – Please post a vote before this legislative session expires.


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