Pipeline Promotion: DEP Press Office Can’t Stop Lying

October 17th, 2016 No comments

Exposing Christie DEP lies is like shooting fish in a barrel

A friend just sent me Dave Levinsky’s Burlington County Times October 12 set up story for the pipeline public hearing (compressor station, freshwater wetlands permit).

The email’s subject was a provocative question: “They’re lying?”.

Have you seen this article? Read the very last sentence. DEP claims that the changes they made to the rules aren’t related to NJNG submitting a new application.

I previously wrote that the DEP had weakened the stream encroachment rules and that the NJNG permit by rule was directly related to those regulatory changes (boldface #4 is the specific relevant change):

The Christie DEP weakened regulatory standards and made it easier by: 1) eliminating a prohibition on disturbance of Category One stream buffers; 2) increasing the allowing disturbance of soils and vegetation in the “riparian zone”; 3) eliminating a cap on riparian disturbance and allowing mitigation; and 4) relaxing a restriction on eligibility for the “permit by rule” to exempt impacts from certain pipeline related construction activities that disturb vegetation and soils and negatively impact water quality.

I routinely let most DEP lies pass unchallenged, but because my own credibility was involved, I managed to find the October 13 dead tree version of the BCT at the local Library and read the story.

First of all, Levinsky left out the fact the DEP Assistant Commissioner Kopkash specifically testified before the Senate Environment Committee on SCR 66 and stated that – rebutting the testimony of Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club – that a pipeline would require an Individual Permit (IP) and would not be eligible for a general permit (GP) or permit by rule (PBR).

The NJNG permit by rule specifically contradicted that pledge.

But at the end of Levinsky’s story, sure enough, the DEP press office denied that the rule change was related to the NJNG permit by rule:

You’re going under the stream, essentially under the protected zone,” [DEP press spokesman] Hajna said, adding that the changes in the flood hazard rules were not a factor.

“We did make changes to the Flood Control Act (sic), but this was not one of them,” he said.

Mr. Hajna of DEP is lying –

Below is the specific applicable language from the DEP’s FHA rule proposal to Permit By Rule #36 (at page 613):

“7:13-7.36 Permit-by-rule 36 – placement of an underground utility line using directional drilling or jacking

(a) Permit-by-rule 36 authorizes the placement of an underground utility line beneath a regulated water through directional drilling or jacking, provided the conditions at N.J.A.C. 7:13-6.7 are met and:

1. The regulated water is not disturbed in any way except for temporary disturbance associated with soil borings necessary to ensure that the project is viable

Prior to this rule change, it was very difficult to get a PBR for HDD because of the disturbance and impacts associated with soil borings, et al.

Here is the text of the proposal explaining why DEP made the rule change: (see page 322-323 – boldface mine):

“Permit-by-rule 36 (N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.36)

Proposed N.J.A.C. 7:13-7.36 incorporates with amendments existing N.J.A.C. 7:13- 7.2(c)3, which authorizes the placement of an underground utility line beneath a regulated water through directional drilling or jacking. An exception is proposed to be added to the existing requirement that the regulated water is not disturbed in any way as a result of activities under this permit-by-rule. It is sometimes necessary for a small amount of temporary disturbance to take place within or adjacent to the regulated water to accommodate soil borings to investigate subsurface geology in order to ensure that jacking under the channel is viable. Given the limitations of this permit-by-rule, allowing borings to be taken within or adjacent to the regulated  water will not adversely impact flooding or the environment. The existing requirement that no manhole is constructed within 10 feet of any top of bank or edge of water (unless situated within a paved surface) is incorporated with two amendments. First, for the reasons discussed in the section of this summary that address the riparian zone, an exception is made for projects located adjacent to a lawfully existing bulkhead, retaining wall, or revetment along a tidal water. Second, the existing exemption for manholes in paved surfaces is not continued. Except for projects located adjacent to a lawfully existing bulkhead, retaining wall or revetment along a tidal water, manholes constructed within 10 feet of a top of bank are subject to damage and displacement during flood events, irrespective of the presence of pavement. Finally, the existing requirement that any manhole along a sanitary sewer must be constructed with a watertight cover in the flood hazard area is proposed to be expanded to cover all manholes proposed in the flood hazard area, in order to prevent leakage of material out of the system, or leakage of floodwaters into the system, during a flood event.”

Exposing Christie DEP lies is like shooting fish in a barrel.

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Christie DEP Deploys State Police To Eject Mayor and Critics From Public Hearing on Pipeline Permit

October 14th, 2016 No comments

I am really glad that I was unable to attend last night’s pipeline hearing in Bordentown – my dog could not tolerate me spending a night in jail!

I just read the NJ Spotlight story on that hearing and – casually mentioned several paragraphs into the story – learned that:

[Glenn] Ashton was one of at least two speakers who were ejected from the meeting by state troopers after exceeding a three-minute speaking limit set by DEP officials.


State Troopers eject “at least two” people from a public hearing for exceeding an arbitrary 3 minute limit set by DEP bureaucrats?

Are you kidding me?

[Update: Holy moly! I just read the Burlington County Times’ story, and they ejected the Mayor!

“I don’t need a microphone,” Popko said as New Jersey State Police troopers escorted her from the auditorium. “I find this outrageous and offensive. Three minutes to the mayor of this town is utterly wrong.” …

“You’re supposed to be for environmental protection, not business protection,” Popko said before being escorted out.

The permit applicant has had MONTHS of private behind closed door meetings with DEP staffers – the public was shut out and not made aware of all those meetings, phone calls, and correspondences.

The game is rigged, folks.

DEP just issued a “permit by rule” approval that essentially privatized the stream encroachment permit – there will be no public hearings or opportunity for public comment on that permit, including DEP’s critical applicability determination.

For the details on that, see:

It’s game over folks, because DEP already made the essential finding on the water quality issue, i.e. that pipeline stream crossings using HDD will “not disturb the stream in any way”.

The Christie DEP is a totally corrupt agency.

Last night was not the first time that Christie DEP used State Police to intimidate and suppress critics, see:

In my 30+ year career, I can not recall prior cases where the local Mayor and members of the public were ejected by State Police for exceeding a 3 minute time limit on public testimony.

Where is the outrage over this?

End Note to Jon Hurdle: Thanks for finally mentioning the NY State Cuomo DEC denial of Water Quality Certificate.

Ask the PennEast people about that and the implications of DEP’s recent “permit by rule” applicability determination for the stream encroachment permit for HDD issued to SJG.

PS to readers: I am writing from a library with time limits and other constraints, so can’t go into detail on these issues. More to follow on that.

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Tranquility Ridge Not So Tranquil

October 5th, 2016 No comments

Christie DEP Goes All Nixonian – A Hit Piece of the First Degree

Bergen Record reporter Jim O’Neill must be desperate and auditioning for the new McNews editors at the bought out Record.

Today, he got totally played by a cabal of Christie DEP hacks, NJ Audubon, and a notorious professional loggers’ lobbyist and wrote an incredibly ugly hit piece on NJ Conservation Foundation, see:

In my 35 year experience, I can’t recall DEP responding to complaints by a loggers’ lobbyist and NJ Audubon, and then doing press to drop a dime on and criticize NJ Conservation Foundation –

This is as ugly as it gets – and the Bergen Record goes along for the ride.

It must be payback for the State Parks defunding KIG story and followup editorial, both of which were highly critical of NJ Audubon.

Nixonian. Just more evidence that they know no shame.

I’ll be writing more on this in the near future, but for now I’m pressed for time at a local library, so here is my note to O’Neil

Jim – ask DEP and NJ Audubon and Mr. Kallesser the logger if DEP issued permits for the prior and proposed logging on Sparta Mountain and if they are seeking those permits under the current plan.(and if they support permits – specifically: stream encroachment, freshwater wetlands, soil conservation, Highlands (DEP and RMP), and local land use approvals.

The answer is no – here are the regulatory details and site specific facts if you are interested:

Environmental Damage Of DEP Sparta Mountain Logging Plan Largely Unregulated

You have been played and written an ugly hit piece of the first degree, when you should have been writing about the Sparta Mountain anti-logging protest hike on Saturday.


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From Defunding State Parks To A Partnership With Donald Trump – They Know No Shame

September 28th, 2016 No comments

Trump Calls Climate Change A Hoax, Pledges To Dismantle EPA

NJ Audubon Remains His Partner

I want to close out two issues I’ve been writing about for some time now.

I)  Stealing State Parks Funding and Still Lying About It

The Bergen Record finally published a story on funding cuts for the maintenance of NJ State Parks and how the Keep It Green Coalition – led by NJ Audubon and their Foundation and corporate friends – duped the voters into slashing those funds, despite a known $400 million backlog in capital maintenance projects, see:

It is a complex story to tell, but it all boils down to this:

Some environmentalists say the amendment had an unintended but severe impact on the Natural and Historic Resources capital budget. The budget had been replenished each year from the same tax, a dedication secured in a prior, 2006 voter-approved constitutional amendment. That amendment was to provide a “reliable and stable source of funding” that would enable the DEP to make “long-term investments in the state park system,” according to a 2013 draft of the state’s Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.

It provided about $15 million annually, and would have doubled to $32 million in 2016. ...

Mark Texel, head of the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry, called it a “massive blow” and said in a Facebook post soon after the vote that it was “the darkest day I have faced in my professional career.” [**Note: he called it “worse than Sandy“]

“We had a plan to really tackle some of these major capital projects that had been deferred for many, many years,” Texel said. “And we were making progress. Suddenly now our capital budget is having the legs cut out from underneath it. … It was disappointing, I admit. I was very disappointed.”

[***Update: Here is Texel’s full statement: (boldface mine)

As the Director of the NJ State Park Service now coping with the reality that our entire Parks capital budget will be completely eliminated beginning July 1, 2015 as a result of the YES vote I can say this is the darkest day I have faced in my professional career. Worse than Superstorm Sandy. 440,000+ acres of preserved open space, 52 historic sites, 39 parks — used by 8 million visitors each year — all managed by my agency and now with no funding plan in place for stewardship beginning in just 7 months. This is not a bad reality TV show. This is New Jersey’s Inconvenient Truth hidden from voters throughout this campaign.”

Finally, despite the continuing lies and pushback to undermine and divert attention from the nasty truth, the press held the culprits at Keep It Green accountable:

Bill Wolfe, director of the non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said he didn’t believe that voters in 2014 knew this would happen.

He accused NJ Keep It Green of “intentionally, knowingly” stripping state parks of capital funding to finance Green Acres so they wouldn’t have to ask voters to approve a bond. That, he said, let open space groups avoid a public brawl with Governor Christie, who has demanded no new debt be placed on taxpayers. The coalition, he said, “didn’t have the spine to fight for the money.”

Keep It Green was finally forced to respond, and they did so by continuing a pattern of lies, spin and omission – here’s a gem: If KIG knew there was a $400 million backlog, how can they still defend stealing $32 million that was previously Constitutionally dedicated to State parks maintenance?

Ed Potosnak, an empty suit that can only blow smoke, digs in deeper. He simply denies the reality of the fact that his Open Space ballot measure stole $32 million/year of dedicated State parks funding:

Ed Potosnak, chairman of Keep It Green and executive director of the NJ League of Conservation Voters, said the idea that the amendment had stripped money from the parks was a “smoke and mirrors argument” by the Christie administration.

“It’s just because they’re not prioritizing it,” Potosnak said. “That money is going other places … if they thought it was important, they’d put it towards the parks. It’s not because of [the constitutional amendment]. We’re seeing that slip because the administration has other priorities. And … they don’t want to say flat out, ‘We have other priorities.’ They’re going to point the finger.”

For environmental groups to buy into that story is “shameful,” Potosnak said. “Stand up for full funding — don’t point the finger at other factors and play into [the state’s] narrative that is false.”

I am perhaps the Christie administration’s harshest and most consistent environmental critic, but they are right on this one. It’s no false narrative:, it’s the truth, backed by budget evidence:

Brian Murray, Christie’s press secretary, said the 2014 amendment hampered DEP efforts to address capital improvements and left it with “fewer funds to use for parks and other crucial environmental protection efforts.”

The “other priorities” Potosnak refers to are DEP’s shifting million of dollars to restore cuts from other environmental programs – like clean water and toxic site cleanup. Those critical environmental funds also were stolen by KIG’s self serving “rob Peter to pay Paul” open space scheme. Those were in addition to the Parks maintenance money.

The Record followed the story up with a good editorial today, see:

I rarely get named in editorials, so vindicated, must note:

But the Christie administration and even environmentalists normally not aligned with the governor point to a 2014 referendum in which voters overwhelmingly endorsed a plan to use money from the corporate business tax to buy open space under the Green Acres program. Some of that money had been used for park cleanup and maintenance.

The success of the referendum measure was not surprising. New Jersey voters traditionally have supported initiatives to buy and preserve land on all levels of government. But as Bill Wolfe, the director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, told The Record, voters probably did not know the consequences of their vote.

The reason that voters did not know the consequences of their vote was due to a $1 million funded PR campaign of lies and deception by self serving conservation groups and their spineless and unprincipled “leaders” like Ed Potosnak and Ms. Mooij of NJ Audubon.

But the reality is actually far worse –

These conservation groups are funded by elite foundations and corporations. Their professionals report to elite boards and elite members.

Their “advocacy” work reflects the economic and political interests and ideology of those elites.

In this case, the defunding of State Parks fits their elite agenda.

First of all, the elites of the KIG Coalition don’t rely on State Parks for outdoor recreation and they don’t care about what they perceive as the riff-raff that do.

Second, defunding of State Parks creates a financial crisis that reinforces a privatization and commercialization agenda for State lands that elites are ideologically supportive of:

As to how the state could bridge the budget gap, Texel, the Division of Parks and Forestry head, points to the public/private partnerships meant to monetize parks — like the gazebo built at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park to play host to wedding ceremonies, or the caterer who calls Sussex County’s Waterloo Village home. He also suggested corporate sponsorships, used effectively by the National Park Service, as a money source.

Last, the Open Space program fits their elite and corporate ideological conservation agenda in several ways: 1) private wealthy landowners benefit from public subsidies, which amount to another regressive upward transfer of wealth. 2) At the same time, diversion of DEP funds to open space shrinks State government and DEP regulatory programs are slashed. 3) Groups like NJ Audubon “partner” with DEP and receive DEP funds and favors, e.g. just look at the Sparta Mountain logging debate.

Which brings us to our second close out issue:

II)  Donald Trump Promises To Abandon The Paris Climate Accords; Kill Obama EPA Clean Power Plan; Expand Oil, Fracking & Coal Production; and Slash Environmental Regulations – Yet NJ Audubon Maintains A Partnership With Him

A small sample of the insane Trump policy agenda: (see this and this and this)

What would a corporate partner with NJ Audubon have to do before Audubon terminated the partnership?

Just what would it take?

What would Donald Trump have to do for the leaders at NJ Audubon to publicly distance themselves from him and sever their partnership?



These are the warped and cowardly low lifes that populate elite conservation groups.

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Christie DEP Finds That Pipelines Crossing Streams Have “No Impact” On Them

September 26th, 2016 No comments

DEP Dirty U-Turn 

NJ Natural Gas Withdraws Stream Permit, qualifies for deregulated DEP approval

In a remarkably corrupt, cynical and significant regulatory move, the Christie DEP just determined that a pipeline crossing a stream will “not disturb the stream in any way“, thereby virtually deregulating pipeline stream crossings.

Just as pipeline activists finally began to focus on the achilles heel of pipeline regulatory vulnerability – the DEP Clean Water Act water quality certificate requirements –  the Christie DEP and lawyers for NJ Natural Gas’ Southern Reliability Link (SRL) pipeline have made an end run around that vulnerability.

The regulatory U-Turn stunt recalls the equally brazen move to skirt Pinelands Commission approval and public hearing requirements.

DEP just very quietly determined that “horizontal directional drilling” (HDD) – i.e jacking a pipeline under a stream – does not create any impact on the stream, i.e. does “not disturb the stream in any way

The proposed NJNG SRL pipeline will cross 43 streams.

Under the Clean Water Act and NJ State Water Quality Standards, NJNG was highly vulnerable to legal challenges of DEP approvals of those crossings, based on adverse impacts to water quality (i.e. existing physical, chemical, and biological characteristics).

DEP made this determination on the NJ NG SRL pipeline through the Pinelands.

But this DEP determination will set precedent for all pipelines. And it will impact not only Flood Hazard Area permits, but other DEP regulatory approvals under the Clean Water Act and NJ State water quality standards.

First, here’s what happened (correspondence provided upon request, h/t Teressa Lettman of PPA) – then we’ll tell you what it means.

1)  On August 29, 2016, NJNGas withdrew their Flood Hazard “Individual Permit” (IP) Application for the pipeline route. That permit application had been under review by DEP for over 1 year and public hearings were scheduled.

2)  On September 12, 2016 NJNGas submitted a new application for a Flood Hazard Applicability Determination for a “Permit By Rule” (PBR).

3)  On September 16, 2016 the NJ DEP issued a PBR eligibility determination– DEP found that no formal IP authorization for the proposed project was required and that the pipeline qualified instead for PBR’s under Flood Hazard rules.

A “permit by rule” is essentially deregulation – there is no permit application that is reviewed by DEP. Instead, NJNG privately certifies compliance with vague regulatory requirements. There is no public hearing and no opportunity for the public to comment on a PBR, and no obligation that the DEP respond to public comment. It is not even clear if and how a PBR can be legally challenged administratively and in the courts.

Basically, briefly, the argument is this:

1) Under DEP Flood Hazard Act regulations (NJAC 7:13-7.36), in order to quality for a permit by rule (PBR), the pipeline jacking and/or crossing the stream must “not disturb the stream in any way“.

In making the PBR “applicability determination”, DEP thereby agreed that the pipeline crossing would “not disturb the stream in any way“, via the determination that the project was eligible for the PBR.

This is a highly substantive determination (legally and scientifically/factually) because it determines regulatory requirements and outcomes, including for related DEP permits and approvals.

2) By making this finding, DEP just eliminated any possible water quality standards or Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certificate challenges we could make.

If a stream crossing does not “disturb the stream in any way” there is no way DEP can deny a water quality certificate or find a violation of State DEP Water Quality Standards.

Totally corrupt.

This DEP determination that a PBR applies must be challenged legally as “final agency action” made without any public process (lack of due process) and that lacks any scientific basis (arbitrary and capricious).

Also keep in mind that DEP Assistant Commissioner Ginger Kopkash testified to the Senate Environment Committee during consideration of legislative veto resolution SCR 66 on the DEP’s Flood Hazard rules that DEP would never issue a “permit by rule” or “general permit” to a pipeline – she said an individual permit would be required.

The DEP’s new FHA rules that survived that veto made it easier to approve pipelines across streams.

The Christie DEP weakened regulatory standards and made it easier by: 1) eliminating a prohibition on disturbance of Category One stream buffers; 2) increasing the allowing disturbance of soils and vegetation in the “riparian zone”; 3) eliminating a cap on riparian disturbance and allowing mitigation; and 4) relaxing a restriction on eligibility for the “permit by rule” to exempt impacts from certain pipeline related construction activities that disturb vegetation and soils and negatively impact water quality.

We warned legislators and readers about this during the SCR 66 debate.

This is the PBR DEP just found that SRL qualifies for under the weakened FHA standards.

So, on top of the horribly corrupt policy and DEP approval process, we have more DEP lies.

There is an audio tape of the Senate hearing that some intrepid reporter might want to listen to and ask Ms Kopkash and her collaborators at the DEP press office about in light of the SRL PBR determination.

[End Note: Here is what DEP said about the very limited nature of Permit By Rule in the Flood Hazard rule proposal – obviously a lie in light of the SRL PBR decision:

Activities authorized under the existing permits-by-rule are also generally limited to activities that do not constitute a “major development,” which is defined under the SWM rules at N.J.A.C. 7:8-1.2 to be a project that disturbs an acre of land and/or results in the creation of one-quarter an acre of impervious surface. Therefore, under many permits-by-rule, a person can undertake an activity that results in the loss of up to one-quarter an acre of riparian zone vegetation where “previous development or disturbance has occurred.” However, a person intending to undertake a project for which all requirements of a given permit-by-rule are not met must instead apply for and receive an authorization under a general permit or an individual permit under this chapter. In the majority of cases, an individual permit must be obtained, which subjects the activity to the requirements of existing Table C. Since the limits of Table C are in many cases much more stringent than that which could be allowed under a permit-by-rule for similar activities, this has led to an inconsistent approach toward riparian zone protection and has caused confusion among the regulated community. In order to harmonize the types of activities allowed under the different permits within this chapter, proposed N.J.A.C. 7:13-11.2(f)1 provides that the net loss of up to one-quarter acre of riparian zone vegetation within an actively disturbed area is not subject to proposed Table 11.2. 

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