Democratic Legislature Supports Water Privatization – Again Revives Zombie Development Projects

December 18th, 2014 No comments

 Sweeney Senate Approves Water Privatization and Permit Extension Act

Bills on Gov. Christie’s Desk – Expected To Be Signed

Corporate Interests Rule – The Cruel Hoax Continues

sweeney7Yesterday’s ray of sunshine created by NY Governor Cuomo’s ban on fracking in NY was dimmed by today’s shameful acts of the NJ Legislature, under the leadership of Democrats.

Both bills advance Gov. Christie’s privatization, political machine politics, and corporate agenda and are expected to be signed by the Gov. The Democrats did Christie’s dirty work.

The Senate rammed through two bills today that will continue a long pattern of abuse, promotion of corporate interests over the public interest, and weakenings of environmental protections.

As if eliminating local residents’ current rights to vote on whether their local water systems should be sold to a private corporation headquartered in France weren’t bad enough, today Senate President Sweeney’s Senate also approved a bill to extend the 2008 “Permit Extension Act”.

The corporate interests and political players are the same they were back in 2008  - Lou Greenwald in the Assembly and Paul Sarlo in the Senate.

But this time they are joined by right wing Republican Swentor from Sussex County, Senator Oroho.

Oroho recently served as NJ’s representative to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

So, NJ Democrats are teaming up with the ALEC agenda.

To illustrate a continuity of shame and total failure to progress over a long period of time, I thought I’d reprint my 2008 letter to Gov. Corzine requesting a veto of the original Permit Extension Act, which at the time I called a “cruel hoax” that would not solve underlying problems. Over six years later, the beat goes on:

June 30, 2008
The Honorable Jon S. Corzine
State House
Trenton, New Jersey 08625
Via hand carry
Re: request to Veto the “Permit Extension Act” A2867[2R]/S1919[2R]

Dear Governor Corzine:

On behalf of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), I am writing to request that you issue a Veto of “The Permit Extension Act” which passed both houses on June 23, 2008. PEER is a national support group for professionals in environmental agencies that seek enforcement of environmental laws and ethics.

The premises and provisions of the bill are fatally flawed. These flaws cannot be corrected by the series of narrowing amendments negotiated by Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson, or the issuance of a Conditional Veto on your part.

The bill provides no economic stimulus whatsoever, or other valid economic relief for the national economic recession and collapse of the housing market, the purported justifications for the legislation. As such, the bill represents a cruel hoax upon New Jersey residents suffering real economic hardship.

The regulatory relief provisions of the bill are totally unrelated to the causes of the economic problems the bill purports to address. The bill would apply to an unknown universe of thousands of DEP permits and municipal approvals.

It is simply reckless to enact legislation whose impacts have not been even crudely analyzed.

Implementation of the bill would undermine environmental protection by exempting prior approvals from changes in environmental standards and community preferences reflected in municipal land use planning and zoning. This is a fatal blow to core principles of environmental and land use law. Principles known as “time of decision” and “technology forcing” seek to assure that technology and markets adapt to meet changing environmental laws and standards that have evolved to meet changing conditions and new scientific knowledge, and that economic activities reflect those changes.

The bill would frustrate the ability of NJ to implement and meet the emission reduction goals of your signal accomplishment, The Global Warming Response Act. For example, thousands of projects would be exempt from any new energy conservation, energy efficiency, building codes, or other requirements to install renewable energy. This alone is sufficient policy grounds to kill this bill.

The amendments that carve out the Highlands, Pinelands, and “environmentally sensitive areas” under the State Plan would sacrifice urban areas and result in de jure and de facto differential and unequal protection of urban New Jersey. This would violate fundamental principles of environmental justice. As succinctly stated by South Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance Co-Chair Roy Jones:

“Separate and unequal … dates back to slavery” (Asbury Park Press, June 26, 2008).

We strongly urge you to Veto this bill and uphold your Constitutional obligation as Governor of all people of New Jersey, urban, suburban and rural, and not provide favors to special interests.

Sincerely,
Bill Wolfe, Director

NJ PEER

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Obama Coast Guard Issues Favorable Initial Environmental Review for Off Shore LNG Import Facility

December 18th, 2014 No comments

A Test For NJ Governor Christie:

Will Christie Protect US Domestic Gas Producers by Vetoing Gas Import Project?

Will Christie Continue His Huge Support of Gas Pipeline Companies and OK The Deal?

Or Will Christie Continue to Duck The Project Due to National Political Ambitions?

We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth, and then some. . . . In fact, the problem . . . is that we’re actually producing so much oil and gas . . . that we don’t have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it where it needs to go.” ~~~ President Obama

Keep these fundamentals in mind while thinking about the off shore Port Ambrose LNG import facility:

First, for obvious economic profit reasons, the US energy industry strongly supports energy exports and offshore export facilities. So do Congressional Republicans and the Obama administration. Exports would provide a lucrative high priced foreign market and alleviate domestic low prices associated by gluts in US production, particularly for Marcellus shale fracked gas.

Second, four the same economic reasons, the US energy producers – but not all pipeline companies –  oppose energy import facilities – to protect US markets and US production and to avoid compounding low prices associated with the current market glut of gas in the region.

Third, the so called “Port Ambrose” offshore LNG project is an energy IMPORT facility that is supported by a major US pipeline company. Gov. Christie has consistently supported expansion of gas pipelines.

Fourth, it is a no brainer that the US energy industry, especially during the current steep decline in world oil prices, would strongly oppose any energy import facilities, such as Port Ambrose.

Fifth, regardless of whether the gas is exported or imported, there are huge greenhouse gas emissions associated with the operations.

Now to the story.

  • Obama “all of the above” energy policy invites Climate Chaos

The Maritime Administration (MARAD), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) announced the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Liberty Natural Gas LLC, Port Ambrose Liquefied Natural Gas Deepwater Port License Application for the importation of natural gas.  The release beings a 60 day public comment period and series of public hearings (See this for DEIS documents).

The favorable review of Port Ambrose represents another example of the Obama administration’s “all of the above” energy policy that has driven record fossil fuel production, exports, and infrastructure expansions (pipelines, rail, ports). Emissions from these oil, gas, and coal production will offset and/or exceed any greenhouse gas emissions reductions his EPA has proposed to secure.

Obama policy will drive emissions beyond what scientists see as irreversible tipping points that will result in climate chaos, including virtual destruction of current agriculture.

  • Import or Export? Bait and Switch?

The Coast Guard goes out of its way to stress that this project is a import facility – and to distinguish that from an export operation:

Please note that this application is only for the construction and operation of a deepwater port that could only be used as a natural gas import facility. The considerable technical, operational, and environmental differences between import and export operations for natural gas deepwater ports is such that any licensed deepwater port facility that proposed to convert from import to export operations would be required to submit a new license application (including application fee) and conform to all licensing requirements and regulations in effect at such time of application. In addition to payment of the application fee, licensing requirements include, but are not limited to, completion of an extensive environmental impact assessment and financial resources review which would include public participation.

Why would the US government – support gas imports when US markets are glutted and at a time when the price of oil and gas are dropping to record lows?

Clean Ocean Action has proposed an explanation, suggesting that the real objective is gas exports and this project is just a bait and switch:

BAIT AND SWITCH—Port Ambrose Will Export US Natural Gas.

Port Ambrose is currently proposed as a facility to “import” natural gas from foreign sources. However, clearly there is no need; the United States has an abundance of natural gas. The real plan is that Liberty Natural Gas will flip this facility into an EXPORT facility to ship US domestic natural gas to Europe or to the highest bidder. This will dramatically increase the hydro-fracturing (fracking) of natural gas here in the US, and increase pressure to tap new sources, such as in the Marcellus Shale in New York.

Port Ambrose would have a 750 million cubic feet per day capacity (by way of comparison, the recently approved Cove Point Maryland LNG export project has a capacity of 1 billion cubic feet per day).

Port Ambrose proposes to connect to the existing Transco pipeline that serves NYC and Long Island

the existing Transco Lower New York Bay Lateral in New York State waters 2.2 nautical miles south of Long Beach, New York and 13.1 nautical miles east of Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

transco

Given that location, the demand for gas in NY City and Long Island region, Governor Cuomo’s ban on in NY fracking, and the outrageous regulatory bad faith that a bait and switch would entail, I must disagree with COA that this is a Trojan Horse export facility.

  • What will Christie Do?

Under federal law, any final Coast Guard’s approval of the project could be vetoed by Governor Christie.

Before Christie was running for President and before Republicans were aggressively promoting energy exports, Christie exercised his veto power to block a previously proposed offshore LNG facility known as Port Liberty.

As late as March 20, 2012,  in a letter NJ Attorney General Chiesa reiterated Gov. Christie’s “steadfast opposition to the proposed deepwater port”.

But since the alternative new and modified Port Ambrose import project has been proposed, Gov. Christie has been silent.

The emergence of the new project and the Gov.’s  odd loss of his bold outspoke voice coincides with Christie’s pursuit of the Presidential nomination.

I think we all now realize that Christie will not buck the energy industry and the national republican party to protect the best interests of NJ.

  • Bad News

So, with all this background in mind, I was again deeply disappointed with Jim O’Neill of the Bergen Record’s coverage. O’Neill ignores all this, while pouting Christie in a favorable light for his prior veto:

The project’s opponents remain confident that Governor Christie will eventually veto the project, just as he did with a similar proposal in 2011. In his veto message at the time, Christie cited fears about damage to the state’s commercial fishing and tourism industries and concern the facility would undermine the state’s investments in developing alternative, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

Confident in a Christie veto? Absurd.

Christie concerned about undermining investments in off shore wind? Laughably out of touch.

But you don’t have to take my word for it, here’s NJ Spotlight:

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Christie’s Sandy Poll Driven Bubble Has Burst

December 18th, 2014 No comments

Why Is a Public University Polling Operation Ignoring Critical Public Issues?

Source: Eagleton Institute, Rutgers (12/18/14)

Source: Eagleton Institute, Rutgers (12/18/14)

[Update below]

I saw todays news coverage of the latest Eagleton issues poll and decided to drop by and look at the actual polled questions.

Right off the bat, I read a trend chart that validated something I’d previously written about almost 2 years ago, see:

That trend has to be one of the most significant aberrations in political polling history – Christie’s Great Sandy Bubble.

Take a look at the poll results above – note when Christie’s favorable ratings skyrocketed and his unfavorable ratings dropped like a stone.

It was all a result of the Governor’s cynical manipulation of the Sandy disaster – his Blue Fleece Bubble has now burst.

Why has so little – to nothing – been written about such an enormous aberration in the history of political polling?

Perhaps worse, in reviewing the question and issues Eagleton polled, I was shocked to find a total neglect of all the critical public issues of the day. The issues that mean the most to the people of the State. The issues that have drawn the most attention of media and activists alike.

So, I fired off this note to the folks at Eagleton asking them what’s up with that? We’ll let you know if we get a response:

Greetings – I just checked out your most recent poll on Governor Christie’s performance.

Frankly, I was shocked to find that the issues that are demonstrably of most importance right now – as measured by several criteria – are not even on your polling radar.

In case you haven’t noticed, there are thousands of NJ residents actively involved in organized efforts – which have been the subject of huge public displays, including formal involvement at public events and informal protests – regarding the following issues:

  • income and wealth inequality, loss of upward mobility, decline of the middle class, and overall fairness
  • climate change, extreme weather events, and renewable energy
  • privatization of public schools
  • segregation of communities and public schools
  • police violence and racial profiling of black men
  • land use and environmental quality
  • transportation
  • crumbling water, sewer, & energy infrastructure
  • affordable housing crisis
  • cuts to unemployment, social safety net and seeming war on the poor
  • immigration

Where have you been? Are you paying attention to public events? From policy wonk reports to the people in the Streets, at local government hearings, on the State House steps, etc.

Why are none of these issues on your polling radar? (and please don’t say that “education” addresses the privatization and segregation issues)

Bill Wolfe

[Update – Wow, this is perhaps the most rapid and intelligent response I’ve ever got to. Kudos to Eagleton – let’s hope they broaden their polling operations:

Mr. Wolfe,

Thank you for your email. We’re always glad when folks bring ideas to our attention.

You are absolutely right that there are many issues beyond the ones we’ve included in our routine question about the “most important issue”. The reality of survey research is that we simply cannot ask about everything every time. It’s frustrating, but true. We try to keep the questions to a reasonable length so that people are willing to talk to us, and in order to manage the costs of each Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. This means we always have to make choices about what to ask and we always wish we could ask more.

In terms of our standard issue question, we identify the top 8 or 9 issues through “open ended” questions generally once or twice a year, and then include the ones people name most in the list. So from time to time we DO ask a question that lets people tell us what issues they are most concerned about in their own words. We don’t do this every time because it is very time consuming and costly. And routinely, people tell us – in their own words – that their top issues in NJ are taxes, the economy, jobs, and education. Other issues generally fall behind these, though not always.

As for the specific issues you mentioned, we have done versions of several of those quite recently. In fact, we just asked about perceptions of state road conditions (related to a gas tax increase), as well as about the grand jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island.  While it has been a while, we have asked about climate change in the past – New Jerseyans strongly believe it is happening.

You can see all of our releases on our polls at our website: http://eagletonpoll.rutgers.edu. There you can look through years of press releases and examine our data archives which lets you look up polls all the way back to 1971. The whole site is searchable, so you can find releases on various topics over the past five years or so.

Again, we very much appreciate your interest and ideas for questions we might ask in the future.

Best wishes,

Dave Redlawsk
Director, Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling

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DEP Plumsted Sewer Plant Permit Has Statewide Implications

December 18th, 2014 4 comments

 Allowing Decline in Water Quality Could Destroy What’s Left of Rural NJ

Oakford Lake, downtown New Egypt - severely polluted by failing septics, illegal cesspools & discharges, & storm water outfalls

Oakford Lake, formed by Crosswick Creek, in downtown New Egypt – severely polluted by failing septics, illegal cesspools & discharges, & storm water outfalls

The Plumsted Town Hall building was packed and standing room only last night for DEP’s public hearing on a draft water pollution permit that would allow a new 600,000 gallon per day sewer plant on the Crosswicks Creek.

bridge over troubled water

bridge over troubled water

The meeting began with a political signal –  in the opening statement, the DEP hearing officer said that they were pleased to note the presence of former Mayor and current Assemblyman Dancer, who had long been involved in developing the New Egypt redevelopment plan that was driving the sewer plan.

Dancer did not speak, but took copious notes and his presence clearly influenced – and likely inhibited – local residents’ criticism. In fact, one man, who testified that the Township Committee had blocked an offer by the Trust for Public Land to purchase the 150 acre farm site that is part of the development scheme to finance the sewer plan, later got up to speak a second time to rescind that claim. I can only assume that Dancer somehow intimidated him.

The DEP hearing officer then wisely made a small concession to residents who had requested an extension of the comment period. DEP extended the comment period for 14 days, until December 31. Let’s hope they continue to listen to the public’s concerns and base the final decision on science and law. Residents asked for an additional 60 days, which DEP agreed to consider but could not grant at the hearing.

Ironically, residents noted that they had learned of the permit hearing only recently via social media and emails from fellow resident Tony O’Donnell who sounded the alarm, not from the formal DEP public notice process or from their local officials.

All the residents who spoke opposed the sewer plan, which is linked to a large 400 – 600 unit new development of a 150 acre farm and wooded parcel along the creek.

Residents spoke passionately in support of preserving the rural character of their community and raised concerns about the cost of the new sewer plant and impacts on quality of life, odors, water quality, traffic, and the new political priorities that massive new development projects bring to small rural towns. Some said they didn’t want to become another Jackson or Lakewood.

The only person who spoke somewhat favorably of the plan was Ocean County Planning Director, Dave McKeon, who was careful to say he was not supporting the DEP permit per se. He explained the rationale and history of the project to resolve longstanding water quality problems caused by many failing septic systems in densely developed downtown New Egypt and he responded to some of the public’s criticisms regarding failure to adequately consider cheaper and less environmentally damaging alternatives.

But the DEP’s permit would not only lower water quality in Crosswicks Creek and promote growth in rural Plumsted Township.

If the draft permit is issued in its current form, it would threaten virtually all of what is left of rural NJ.

Developers have long sought to build in rural locations, but the key constraint they faced was the inability to get wastewater discharge approvals from the DEP, especially to discharge to small low flowing and environmentally sensitive headwater streams and creeks with very little dilution for pollution.

The DEP surface water quality standards regulations, and a policy known as “antidegradation” basically blocked that option by strictly limiting the lowering of existing water quality, forcing any new treatment plant to meet costly state of the art advanced wastewater treatment.

A policy of no lowering of water quality meant that any discharge would have to meet strict water quality standards at the end of the pipe, which was deemed to be not economically feasible.

In addition, treatment systems to meet such low effluent limits could not meet them consistently, thereby triggering risks of repeat violations and huge fines under NJ’s Clean Water Enforcement Act, which sets mandatory penalties for any violation of DEP permit effluent limits.

The DEP regulations were so strict and the DEP watershed policy to protect these small streams was so strong that the development community wouldn’t risk spending huge amounts of money on technical water quality studies to try to get DEP approval of a new sewage treatment plant to discharge to these kind of streams. (In this case, the local government has picked up much of the tab for over $1 million in studies to date. The public will pick up much of the costs and economic risks of the sewer system as well, as opposed to a private development  package treatment plant).

They knew that the DEP answer would be NO.

As a result, scores of small septic reliant rural communities and thousands of rural acres remained off limits to large scale development that the builders love to build.

It was not just local zoning that blocked these developments, it also was DEP water quality regulations and restrictions.

But all that could change if the DEP approves the Plumsted sewer permit – an approval that would set a very bad regulatory precedent and send a bright green light to the development community that these small streams are now open for new sewage treatment plants to serve massive new developments in rural areas.

The Christie DEP is now willing to say YES to these projects, and once they approve this permit, it will become a model for future permits and limit the ability of DEP to deny any water discharge permit.

Bad precedents would be set by DEP allowing:

  • a new sewage treatment plant to discharge to a tiny headwaters stream that would cause a lowering of water quality in that stream
  • permit effluent limits to be eased based upon socio-economic considerations and flawed analysis
  • rejecting state of the art advanced tertiary treatment for all pollutants based on economic costs (reverse osmosis)
  • a plan to attract massive new development to rural and environmentally sensitive lands as the means of financing a portion of the capital costs of a new sewage treatment plant, sticking the rest of the community with huge capital and operating costs and risks of an entire new sewer system
  • accepting failing septics as a justification for massive new growth inducing sewage treatment capacity
  •  a new sewer plant without adequate water quality and alternative analysis

I urge all local and statewide environmental groups that work on land use and/or water quality to join the battle in opposition to the DEP’s approval of the draft Plumsted sewer permit.

As a starting point, here are my initial comments about regulatory flaws:

December 17, 2014

Dear Ms. Patterson:

Please accept my initial brief written comments on the subject draft NJPDES permit. I plan on testifying at the public hearing and will raise additional concerns.

I stress that these are my initial comments, and that I have not had adequate time to review the administrative record.

I am a resident of Bordentown and a recreational user of Crosswicks Creek.

1. Request for extension of the public comment period for 60 days after the public hearing.

It is unusual to close the public comment period prior to holding a public hearing and not to keep the comment period open for at least 15 days after the public hearing. I object to these procedures.

There is substantial public interest and controversy surrounding this draft permit. Since I learned and wrote briefly about this permit on Sunday, I have received over 1,000 hits from people interested in the water quality of Crosswicks Creek, see:

It is my understanding that the DEP has not issued a NJPDES permit for a new POTW discharging to a low flowing headwaters tributary in many years.

It is also my understanding that the DEP has not relied on an anti degradation analysis to lower water quality in an impaired waterbody based on alleged socioeconomic issues.

Given the significant policy, regulatory, and technical issues involved in this permit and the substantial public interest concerns, I request, based on DEP NJPES permit rule hearing procedures at NJAC 7:14A, that the DEP extend the public comment period for 60 days following the public hearing.

2. Inconsistency with the Ocean County Areawide Water Quality Management Plan

The Water Quality Planning Act prohibits the DEP from issuing a NJPDES permit that is not consistent with the applicable areawide water quality management plan - see this DEP fact sheet

I was unable to locate the document where the DEP made a required consistency determination. Please provide the formal CD.

I note that the applicant’s documents expressly state that although the proposed sewer service area is consistent with the current Ocean County WQM, there are numerous aspects of the project that are not consistent with the May 2014 proposed (not yet DEP approved and thus applicable) Ocean County WQMP, including wastewater flows, apportionment of wastewater flows between commercial and residential, septic management issues, build out and land use, and other technical requirements of NJAC 7:15 – 1 et sq.

3. Failure to identify and protect all existing uses

The Clean Water Act and DEP surface water quality standards and NJPDES regulations prohibit any discharge or permit that does not protect all designated and existing uses.

I was able to find the demonstration in the applicant’s documents of alleged protection of designated uses, but I could not find any demonstration – or even an assertion – of protection of existing uses, particularly biological uses of the Creek.

Accordingly, the draft permit is not shown to be protective and must be withdrawn until the applicant inventories and demonstrates protection of all existing uses, especially biological uses.

4. Failure to address impairments and cap new point source pollutant loads to impaired waters

Crosswicks Creek is listed as an “impaired” waterbody on the most recent DEP and EPA 303(d) list. Impairments include phosphorus, bacteria and mercury – perhaps additional impairments exist for aquatic life support that I have not been able to determine given the short period for review.

Accordingly, the Department may not issue a new NJPDES permit for a new point source pollutant load to these impaired waters without demonstrating pollutant load reductions that will result in attainment with surface water quality standards. The proposed WQBEL for phosphorus is insufficient in that regard.

Additionally, the draft permit fails to include caps on pollutant loads for parameters for which the Creek is impaired.

The draft permit is not adequately protective and should be withdrawn.

5. Flawed anti degradation analysis used to reject reverse osmosis treatment

EPA regulations and guidance apply to the antidegradation review of this project, see:

Policy & Guidance: Interim Economic Guidance for Water Quality Standards

The applicant’s analysis does not meet minimum EPA requirements.

There are several major flaws in the applicant’s antidegradation and social-ecnomic analysis.

The Department has improperly relied on these flawed analyses to approve a lowering of in stream water quality, rejection of the reverse osmosis advanced treatment technology, and to allow less stringent effluent limitations.

Flaws include:

a) failure to meet the minimum requirements of EPA regulations and anti degradation Guidance, see above link.

b) the applicant asserts that the proposed treatment technology may not reliably comply with the DEP’s proposed effluent standards for certain parameters. Th applicant then explicitly claims that the anti degradation analysis and socio-economic impact documents justify rejection of advanced treatment reverse osmosis and reducing the stringency of proposed effluent limits. This is an impermissible use of and reliance on an anti degradation review.

c) the applicant improperly selects a “median” income for a lower income segment of the population. The applicant must use township wide median income, not a biased low income segment.

d) even with section of this low income biased segment, the applicant’s analysis shows user costs for reverse osmosis treatment that are within the EPA’ 2% median income affordability criterion that the applicant has selected.

e) the applicant has failed to include numerous critical variables in the analysis, including capital costs, distribution system costs, connection fees, and enforcement/compliance costs and risks. The latter is a major failure, because the applicant notes that the treatment technology is not expected to reliably attain DEP’s proposed effluent limits. Under NJ Clean Water Enforcement Act mandatory penalty scheme, the faulty is likely to generate significant enforcement fines.

6. Lack of adequate consideration and lack of scientific basis to reject alternatives 

The alternatives analysis is cursory at best, and what appear to be more cost effective and environmentally sound alternatives are rejected without a scientific basis.

7. All costs not documented in anti degradation analysis 

EPA regulations and Guidance provides worksheets to document capital and operating costs. The applicant has failed to include most of these costs. Accordingly, it is seriously flawed and the Department may not rely on it to support a lowering of water quality and a rejection of advanced treatment reverse osmosis technology and stricter effluent limits.

8. failure to consider ecological impacts of unregulated contaminants 

The Creek flows through the environmentally sensitive Trenton/Hamilton marsh and is tributary to the Delaware River.

Recent sampling of the Delaware River has found “dual sexed” fish, likely suffering the impacts of biologically active compounds that are discharged from wastewater treatment plants. These compounds include endocrine disruptors and pharmaceuticals that are not removed by conventional treatment.

The applicant has not adequately considered how new pollutant loads and unregulated compounds might impact these important natural resources.

Unfortunately, lack of adequate time to review the administrative record prohibits me from meaningfully reviewing the documents and adequately documented my comments with evidence and regulatory citations.

I urge you to extend the public comment period so I and the concerned public may do so. I reserve my rights to raise additional concerns.

Sincerely,

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Gov. Christie Doubles Down on Climate Denial Policy, Attacks Obama EPA GHG Rule

December 17th, 2014 No comments

Another Example of Gov. Christie’s National Political Ambitions

Despite horrible record, Christie DEP had the audacity to take credit for reducing greenhouse gas emissions

[Update: 12/21/14: AP story:

Bill Wolfe, founder of New Jersey Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said the DEP’s letter is troubling partly because he believes Obama’s proposed rules are too weak and cede too much control to state governments in the first place.

He also said it’s the latest in a string of actions Christie has taken on environmental issues.

“He doesn’t deny science,” Wolfe said. “He’s willing to acknowledge the problem, but he’s not willing to do anything about it.”  ~~~ end update]

Tom Johnson has a great story running today in NJ Spotlight about the Christie DEP’s comments on the Obama EPA’s proposed  rule on greenhouse gas emissions reduction from existing power plants, see:

 The state Department of Environmental Protection is opposing the Obama administration’s proposal to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, calling the draft rule fundamentally flawed.

In a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, the state described the draft rules as “incomplete, needlessly complex, and impossible to implement,’’ according to a letter from DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. The state agency said the proposal could not be redeemed through mere revisions and ought to be scrapped.

Ironically, the story comes just one day after news reports of EPA’s $500,000 grant to NJ for climate change research, see:

My guess is that EPA Region 2 Administrator Enck and Bergen Record reporter Jim O’Neill are both feeling pretty embarrassed right now – Gov. Christie’s DEP just told EPA to pound sand the day after they were on a very different page.

But thankfully, Tom Johnson did not buy the Christie DEP spin and held them accountable to a terrible record on climate:

Nevertheless, the state still has a long way to go to achieve an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, a target set by a law passed by the Legislature under the Corzine administration. To reach that goal, the state identified three primary programs for reducing emissions: the state’s new Energy Master Plan; a program to promote cleaner-running vehicles in New Jersey; and participation in a regional initiative to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants.

The Christie administration pulled out of the regional initiative, and efforts to promote cleaner and zero-emission vehicles have been spotty at best. As for the Energy Master Plan, some of its initiatives to produce cleaner electricity are stuck in neutral, particularly a plan to promote offshore wind along the coast of New Jersey.

Tom could have mentioned a lot more, like diverting over $1 billion in Clean Energy Fund to pay for corporate tax cuts and using the Energy Master Plan to reduce efficiency and renewable energy goals, and promote new fossil plants and pipeline infrastructure.

Despite this horrible record, the Christie DEP had the audacity to take credit for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 33%:

In New Jersey, the Christie administration argues it is ahead of the proposed reductions the EPA is calling for, saying it has cut carbon dioxide emissions — a primary component of global warming — by 33 percent, more than the 30 percent target the federal agency has set as the 2030 goal for the entire nation.

The Christie administration has done NOTHING to reduce GHG emissions.

The alleged 33% reduction is as result of economic recession; fuel switching to natural gas (with questionable assumptions about lifecycle GHG emissions from gas); and efficiency and renewable energy plans and programs put in place BEFORE the Christie Administration started dismantling all climate initiatives and promoting fossil energy in the new Energy Master Plan.

If anything, the Obama EPA rule sets the bar far to low on emissions reductions and it gives states far too much power and control in the design and implementation of the emissions reduction program.

The 40+ year history of the Clean Air Act SIP process demonstrates that State’s rarely if ever make timely and sincere efforts.

As I’ve written, the SIP process is technocratic, captured by polluters, and actively hostile to the activism required to make real deep emissions cuts and accelerate the change to a low carbon economy.

And politically, Jeff Tittel gets it right – this is another example in a growing list, where Gov. Christie is appeasing corporate campaign funders and putting his national political ambitions above good public policy and the best interests of NJ.

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