Stories and Photos From 2016 – Part 3 (of 4)

December 30th, 2016 No comments

See Part 1 (Jan. – March) and Part 2 (April – June).

If you’ve enjoyed or benefited from our work, please consider providing financial support – you can make a non-tax deductable contribution to our PayPal account. Or, shoot me an email and we can arrange something different: bill_wolfe@comcast.net

July

EPA Asked To Review Christie DEP Order for Compliance With the Clean Water Act

Senator Sweeney Sells Out NJ’s “Exceptional Value” Streams and Rivers – Cuts Deal With Christie DEP To Avoid Veto

Democrats Go All In For Hillary’s Military Madness

DNC – Clinton Wrap-up: No Room Under the Tent for Dissent or Activists

DNC – Everybody Knows

DNC in Philly Day 3 – Loathing and Dissipation At FDR Park “Philly Awakening”

DNC In Philly Day 2 – Jill Stein Talks To Bernie or Bust

Camden NJ and the Democratic Convention

My Lunatic Fringe Moment On InfoWars

Thousands March In Philadelphia for Climate, Clean Energy And Bernie Sanders

Clinton’s VP Pick Is A Climate Disaster

Christie DEP Will Hold Public Hearings On Water Permits For Controversial Pinelands Pipeline and Compressor Station

Christie DEP Denies Public Records Request For Emails On Highlands Act Science and Legislative History

Ah, Pastoral! – A Pipeline Runs Through It

Trump – Pence Logo

This Is What Commercialization of State Parks Looks Like

Oversight Of Toxic Site Cleanup Is Not A Local Government Responsibility

(In Search Of) Civilization

A Brief Note To Those Who Report On The Weather

Trump’s NJ Partner

Turtle Law A Perfect Example of Everything That’s Wrong With NJ’s Conservation Community & Press Corps

Star Ledger Editorial Repeats Call on Senate President Sweeney and Legislature to Veto Christie DEP’s Highlands Septic and Stream Buffer Rule Rollbacks

Christie DEP Report Outlines Devastating Impacts Of Climate Change On NJ Coast

NJ At A Crossroads: Garden State or Pipeline State?

The Real Significance of “The Chairman”

The Invisible People of Plumsted, NJ

Dog Days

NJ Highlands Defenders Blast Christie DEP Proposal To Rollback Clean Water Rules

Public Meeting On Christie DEP Highlands Septic Density Rollback Tonight

We Who Believe In Freedom Can Not Rest Until It Comes

“Extremely Dry” Drought Conditions Contradict “Normal” Drought Status – Scientists Warn “Trouble Ahead”

Citizen’s Guide To Using The Clean Water Act To Kill Pipelines

Trumpet Vine

“Heavy Hitter” My Ass

The Section 401 Water Quality Certificate Ice Is Broken

Plumsted Pastor Joins Developer In Seeking To Silence An “Outside Agitator”

Dear Pipeline People: The Christie DEP Is Not Your Friend

Plumsted Land Use Board Approves Massive Crosswicks Creek Development

State Ethics Commission Asks DEP To Conduct Ethics Review Of Corporate Drinking Water Quality Institute Appointee

EPA Did Nothing To Mitigate Risks Of Dupont-Chemours Spinoff Bankruptcy

Sentiments That Flow From Soils, Streams, and Rivers

Major Plumsted Sprawl Development Hearing On Tuesday July 5

FERC’d Again

State Ethics Commission Asked To Review Appointment of Chemical Industry Rep To Drinking Water Panel and Limit His Role

NJ Drinking Water Panel Welcomes New Chemical Industry Member

August

California Groundwater Fracking Story Sheds Light On Similar NJ Loopholes and Abuses

The Origin and Demise of New Jersey’s Open Market Emissions Trading Program

National Park System History “Not a Bed of Roses” – A “Bitter Struggle” Against “Private Exploitation At The Hands Of The Selfish Few”

Protesters Denounce Christie’s “Apartheid” School Funding Plan

Hundreds of Pipeline Opponents Force DEP To Cancel Public Hearing On Controversial Compressor Station Wetlands Permit and Clean Water Act Certificate

Climate Science Trumps Political Science

The Weight of the Flag

Ford Ringwood Superfund Debate on Chemical 1,4, Dioxane Illustrates Flaws In Drinking Water Standards

Beach Access Debate Is A Diversion From Climate Change and Real Ocean and Coastal Issues

Advice for PennEast and All NJ Pipeline Opponents On Upcoming DEP Permit Hearings

Hillary Clinton’s White House Transition Chief Cut Dirty Deal on Delaware Watergap Powerline

Anti-Pipeline Activists Target Christie DEP’s Clean Water Act Powers

Extreme Heat Wave Causes Blackout – Not of the Electric Grid, the News Grid

EPA Science Advisory Board Criticizes EPA Fracking Finding On “No Widespread Impacts”

Field Commander Renna Opens Space

Fundraiser

DEP’s Own Scientific Report Finds Data DEP Relied On For Highlands Septic Rollback Is Riddled With Errors

Why Christie DEP Commissioner Martin Shut Down The Drinking Water Quality Institute

Senators Booker and Sweeney Team Up To Promote More Nuke Subsidies

USGS Study Finds NJ Highly Vulnerable To Lead In Drinking Water Due To Corrosive Water

View From the Crotch

Christie DEP Approves Another Fossil Fueled Power Plant

September

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

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

The Chromium Pipe Treatment

Christie DEP Continues To Commercialize and Ruin State Parks

Whitman’s 9/11 Lies Were Not The First Time She Lied About Significant Public Health Risks Of Exposure To Toxic Chemicals

Beauty

E.P.I.C.

NJ Senate Takes First Step In Addressing Christie DEP Neglect of Drinking Water Protections

Think Before You Litigate – Public Access Lawsuit Blunder Now Apparent

Developing A Strategy To Move A Climate And Green Jobs Agenda

Labor Day Thoughts

Christie DEP Abusing OPRA to Cover Up Privatization Of Planning, Financing, and Management Of Public Lands

Pompton Lakes Drinking Water Contaminated With Same Toxic Chemical Recently Found At Ford Ringwood Superfund Site

Christie DEP Demands $1 Million Insurance Policy And A “Special Use” Permit Before Local Group Can Hike To See Sparta Mountain Logging Damage

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Stories and Photos From 2016 – Part 2 (of 4)

December 29th, 2016 No comments

As I noted in Part 1, we receive no Foundation, government, consulting, private environmental group funding, grants, or salary income. We accept no advertising revenue or reader fees. We work solo and rely on no “fundraising/development/promotional” or “public relations” staff flacks. We provide all this work for free.

If you’ve enjoyed or benefited from our work, please consider providing financial support – you can make a non-tax deductable contribution to our PayPal account. Or, shoot me an email and we can arrange something different: bill_wolfe@comcast.net

Hit links below to see stories, events, maps, charts, and pictures:

April

Support The Weedman –

Sparta Mountain – Take A Walk On The Wild Side

The Transco Compressor Station and Gas Pipeline Dewatering Permit Is Not In the Public Interest

Residents and Officials Demand That Christie DEP Deny Permits To Kill Controversial Pipeline

Dear Mayor Fulop

NJ DEP Has Know For YEARS that Up to 18% of NJ Homes Have High Lead Levels

Christie DEP Proposes To Weaken Key Highlands Water Quality Protections To Promote More Growth

Christie DEP and Highlands Council To Present Septic Density Rollbacks Tomorrow

Gov. Christie & Bob Martin Celebrate Earth Day

A Heartfelt Note To My New York Friends – Vote For Bernie!

Bernie Makes Brilliant Buy

Look At Who’s Watching

Mission Accomplished In The Pequannock Watershed?

Pinelands Forest Stewardship

Conducting Forensic Autopsies On the Canaries, While the Miners Are Poisoned

Christie DEP To Roll Out Rollbacks of Core Highlands Act Water Protections

Hardyston Township Officials Slam Christie DEP Sparta Mountain Logging Plan

A Last Ditch Effort To Avoid Disaster On Christie Flood Hazard Rules

Gov. Christie Evokes “I Worked the Cones” In A Stunt To Obscure Vulnerability On Lead and Drinking Water

New Jersey’s Notorious Lead Legacy

No Daylight Between Christie DEP and The Loggers In Sparta Mountain Battle

Bulls Island Remains Closed For The Sixth Year

NJ Audubon Is Today’s “April Fool” For Spinning Their Sparta Mountain Logging Plan

May

Christie DEP Holds Public Hearing On Highlands Clean Water Rollback

Public Comment Period Closes Today On Transco Compressor Station “Dewatering” Permit for Southern Reliability Link Pipeline

Strategic Advice To NJ Pipeline Foes: Build A Public Campaign To Pressure DEP To Deny Clean Water Act 401 Approval

Climate Deer In The Headlights

Christie DEP Commissioner Bob Martin Misleads Legislature On Pipelines – With a Little Help From His Friends

Take a Look At Christie DEP “Lowest Priority” Streams For Updating Flood Maps

Christie DEP’s “Concurrent Proposal” to “Fix” Flood Hazard Rules to Avoid Legislative Veto Is A Sham

EPA Asked To Conduct Enforcement Review of BL England Plant and Christie DEP Permit Renewal

Christie DEP Adopts Flood Hazard Rule Despite Pending Legislative Veto

Sponsors of Highlands Act Urged to Veto Christie DEP Proposed Rollback of Groundwater Protection As “Inconsistent with Legislative Intent”

USGS Study Christie DEP Relied On To Rollback Highlands Protections Is Challenged Under Federal Data Quality Act

“The Whole World Is In Non-Attainment for Greenhouse Gases”

Time To Pull The Plug on the BL England Power Plant

Dear Chairman Gusciora

The Renewable Energy “Ventilator Death” Legislator Lied About Tennessee Gas Pipeline

Christie DEP Has New Role: Consultant To Polluters

NJ Legislator Deploys A “Death Panel” Scare Tactic In Climate Denying Attack on Solar and Wind Power

The Fine Art of Pipeline Kabuki On Display Today in Trenton

NJ Legislators Must Strengthen Proposed Pipeline Resolution

Bordentown Files Clean Water Act Based Challenge of FERC Transco Pipeline Approval

Continuing Misplaced Focus Diverts Pipeline Foes

Sanders NJ Rallies Provide A Great Opportunity To Contrast Clinton Climate Policy And Shine a National Media Light On Christie Pipelines and Power Plants

Pipelines and Private Property Rights

DEP Scientists Document Ecological Health of Headwater Streams At Same Time Christie Hacks Rollback Their Protections

June

Tell Senate President Sweeney – No Deals On Clean Water

Pipeline Activists Declare Energy Independence In Celebration of the 4th – Urge Sweeney To Block The Pinelands Pipeline

Some Advice for the Open Space Crowd

Does Back Room Open Space “Deal” Provide Cover for Democrats To Abandon Veto of DEP Flood Hazard Rules?

Casino Gambling Partners With Farmland Preservation

Highlands Documentary Exposes Folly Of Christie DEP Logging Scheme

Hey You!

We Call on NJ Audubon To Repudiate Trump Money and Sever Partnership

Is Senate President Sweeney Playing Politics With Clean Water?

Massive Sprawl Development Follows Christie DEP Approval of New Sewer Plant

Connecting the Dots Between Pipelines and Clean Water

Bordentown Bluffs – A Wonderful Walk

Legislature Will Veto Gov. Christie’s DEP Flood Hazard Rules

While PennEast Pipeline Foes Focus on FERC, Pennsylvania DEP Quietly Issues Water Quality Certificate

DEP Has No Legislative Authority To Establish A Riparian Mitigation Bank And Trading Scheme

FERC Struggling With Chesterfield – Bordentown Clean Water Act Challenge To “Southern Reliability Link” Pinelands Pipeline

Christie DEP Casually Notes That DEP Has Known About The Lead In Drinking Water Problem “For a Generation Or So”

Why Is NJ Media Keeping NY Gov. Cuomo’s Pipeline Kill A Secret?

Senate Will Decide Fate Of Christie Flood Hazard Rule Rollback

Sparta Mountain Logging Debate Pits Ecologists Against Commercial Logging and Hunting Interests

Response to NJ Farm Bureau Lies On Highlands Water Quality Rollback

Standing Room Only To Protect The Highlands At DEP Hearing On Water Quality Rollback

(next: July – September)

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Stories and Photos From 2016 – Part 1 (of 4)

December 29th, 2016 No comments

Overall, 2016 was a disaster – our greatest policy disappointments were the continued denial of climate change in Trenton and at the Pinelands Commission and the failure by the Legislature to follow through with the veto of the Christie DEP Flood Hazard rules, a dirty deal engineered by Senate President Sweeney  –  but we had fun anyway.

Here’s some stories we wrote – while many were ignored by the mainstream press, we know we had an impact.

We create content, offer expert analysis, and provide science and law based strategic and technical assistance to community and environmental groups that is unique in NJ. We testify before the legislature and hold accountable regulatory and planning agencies like the DEP, EPA, USGS, Pinelands & Highlands, DRBC, and BPU. We challenge regulations and permits. We support whistleblowers. We name names and don’t pull punches. We even criticize our environmental “colleagues” and media and the corporatized Foundations that fund and manipulate them.

This work involves countless hours in the field and reading and writing. It is a labor of love, but I do have to eat.

We receive no Foundation, government, consulting, private environmental group funding, grants, or salary income. We accept no advertising revenue or reader fees. We work solo and rely on no “fundraising/development/promotional” or “public relations” staff flacks. We provide all this work for free.

If you’ve enjoyed or benefited from our work, please consider providing financial support – we thank our generous friends who have helped keep us going – you can make a non-tax deductable contribution to our PayPal account. Or, shoot me an email and we can arrange something different: bill_wolfe@comcast.net

Hit links below to see stories, events, maps, charts, and pictures:

January

More Dual Sexed Fish Documented In NJ Rivers (look at THAT map!)

Gov. Christie Cans Pinelands Commission Chairman

Huge Turnout of Pinelands Pipeline Opponents In Bordentown Last Night

The Elysian (Fracked) Fields of Princeton – Montgomery

Sparta Mountain Is Public Land, Purchased with Green Acres Funds

Meet Your New Pinelands Commissioner

Christie Energy Plan Attracts Another Huge Fossil Fracked Fueled Power Plant

Environmental Damage Of DEP Sparta Mountain Logging Plan Largely Unregulated

Gov. Christie Uses The Environment To Bash Public Workers

Legislature Invokes Constitutional Power, Moves To Veto Christie DEP Flood Hazard Rules

Port Authority Dirty Diesel Rollback Must Have Had Green Light From Christie DEP

DEP’s Sparta Mountain Logging Scheme Conflicts With Golden Wing Warbler Recovery Plan It Allegedly Is Based On

Senate “Emergency” Session Moves Bill To Respond to Court Decision Striking Down DEP Public Access Rules

Christie DEP Proposes Vast Expansion of Logging On Sparta Mountain (Part One)

February 

USGS Study Documents High Levels of Prescription Drugs In Streams – Source is Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plants

“People Over Pipelines”

Christie DEP Managing NJ State Parks, Public Lands & Forests As Cash Cows

Is The Legislature Serious About Responding to Problems Highlighted In Flint Michigan?

High Point State Park (photos)

Take A Look At DEP & Audubon “Forest Stewardship” On Sparta Mountain (photos)

NJ Highlands Coalition Joins Public Debate On DEP Sparta Mountain Logging Plan

Calling Bullshit On NJ Audubon’s “Forest Stewardship”

Sparta Mountain Update – A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Audit

NJ Pioneers Another Toxic Superfund Reform

Deadline Passed For Christie DEP To Respond To Legislative Veto of Flood Rules

Anarchy In The Pines (incredible photos!)

The Legislature’s Time Is Better Spent Conducting Oversight Than Passing Environmental Bills For Christie’s Veto Pen

“Amusing Ourselves To Death”

An Artful Dodge On Lessons of Flint For New Jersey

Expanded Logging On Sparta Mountain Could Contribute To Widespread Ecological Harm

The “Crime” At Fenimore Landfill Was Lax Oversight by Christie DEP

Essential Reading For NJ Shore Dwellers – Back Bays & Barrier Islands

Maps, Lies, and the DEP Webpage

A Key Lesson of the Victory That Forced Cancellation of the Amwell Power Plant In Hillsborough

Christie DEP Clean Water Act Report Shows That 99% of NJ Watersheds Fail to Meet Fishable and Swimmable Standards

March

Christie DEP Highlands Logging Plans Would Reduce The Forest’s Carbon Storage Capacity and Worsen Climate Change

The DEP Sparta Mountain “Stewardship” Plan Contradicts Governor Christie’s Veto of “Forest Stewarship” Legislation

Sponsors of the Highlands Act Asked To Block The Christie DEP Logging Plan for Sparta Mountain & Highlands Forests

Christie DEP Budget Flouts EPA Oversight – May Jeopardize Federal Funding

A Road Toward Redemption for The Pinelands Commission

No Solitude (photos)

This is not a flood – it’s a high tide

Historic Bordentown Home Facing Sheriff’s Sale

Green Mafia Strikes Again – Chapters 27 & 28

NJ Audubon Supported Preservation of Highlands Forests, Not Logging – What Explains The U-Turn?

Warning: Climate Bomb Train Ahead

Star Ledger Editorial Board Joins Kabuki Dance on Christie DEP Clean Water Rule Rollback

Christie BPU Commissioners Literally Run and Hide From Protesters of Pinelands Pipeline

Newark Lead Story Hitting the Cover-up Phase

Christie BPU Slated To Approve Another Pinelands Pipeline Tomorrow

Inside Christie DEP Commissioner Bob Martin’s Management Bubble of True Believers (or Cynical Bastards)

The Newark Lead Scandal Is The Tip of the Iceberg and A Predictable Outcome of Christie Policy

Why Is The Bergen Record Misleading Readers and Protecting Dupont?

Pinelands Commission Moves To Restore Credibility – Signals Intent To Regulate Motorized Vehicle Destruction

Lack of NY State Water Quality Permit Blocks Constitution Pipeline

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Buy ‘Em

Make Polluters Pay For Lead Abatement

Newark Garbage Incinerator Emissions: “A Billion Lead Bullets to the Brains of Newark’s Kids”

Senate Committee Blinks In Showdown On Veto of Christie DEP Clean Water Rule Rollbacks

NJ Audubon Is Misrepresenting Facts, Science and Regulations In Defending Their Sparta Mountain Logging Plan

Assembly Moves To Veto Christie DEP’s Clean Water & Flood Rule Rollbacks

Billionaire’s Elite Hunting Club Gave NJ Audubon $140,000 To Develop Sparta Mountain Logging Plan

NJ Audubon Partners With Donald Trump

(coming soon – Part 2 – April – June)

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Another Fossil Energy Industry “Reliability” Lie Exposed

December 28th, 2016 No comments

NJ Exports of Power to NY Are A Massive Ripoff

Opponents of PSEG Susquehanna- Roseland Powerline Proven Correct

Very similar energy industry lies being used to justify gas pipelines

view from Blairstown Rd - looking west

view from Blairstown Rd – looking west (9/3/13)

[Update below]

Today we have some news from New York, which we use to focus on the NJ side of the story and the larger energy infrastructure and climate policy implications.

David Giambusso, reporter for POLITICO New York, just wrote an important killer story that exposes lies by PSEG used to justify billion dollar investments in unnecessary boondoggle fossil energy infrastructure,  see:

A regional fight between utilities could end up costing the New York Power Authority dearly if a decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission doesn’t go its way.

At the center of the fight is the Hudson Transmission Partners (HTP) line between New Jersey and New York City — so far an underperforming investment by New York State that now could be saddled with hundreds of millions in additional costs.

The 660-megawatt transmission line has underperformed since it opened in 2013. NYPA is the leaseholder for the line and has to pay for 75 percent of its capacity whether it delivers electricity or not. So far, the line has delivered far less than needed to make it profitable. In June, POLITICO reported that NYPA could shell out $500 million by 2020 for the line.

Use of the word “underperformed” is an understatement – the HTP powerline is virtually useless. In a prior story, Giambusso reported:

Last May, POLITICO New York reported the line did not deliver electricity 73.6 percent of the time between April 2014 and April 2015. For roughly 24 percent of the time, it delivered less than 99 megawatts. (see: Underperforming NJ-NY transmission line becomes money pit for state authority

The HTP boondoggle exposes the big lie about “reliability” that the fossil energy industry repeatedly uses to justify needless fossil infrastructure projects to boost their profits.

The HTP line was a component of the controversial Susquehanna – Roseland Powerline (SRP) through the Delaware Watergap and NJ Highlands.

Stop the Lines was a local group that opposed the SRP project. They explain the link between the Susquehanna Roseland line and the Hudson line: (read the STL BPU motion to dismiss)citations omitted @ page 12)

In the FERC rate recovery tariff for this project and three others , the Susquehanna-Roseland line is committed to serve points east. This purpose and commitment is evidenced by firm transmission withdrawal rights established for Neptune Regional Transmission System (Neptune) at 685MW and East Coast Power (ECP) at 330MW, totaling 1,015MW of firm transmission withdrawal rights. The PJM tariff assigned cost responsibility for the Susquehanna-Roseland to Neptune and ECP, based on these firm transmission withdrawal rights. This 1,015MW is soon to be joined by Hudson Transmission Partners at 670MW. Exhibit STL-12, p. 8 (firm transmission withdrawal rights allocated and Susquehanna-Roseland cost allocation regarding those firm transmission withdrawal rights); Ex. S-96, Hudson Transmission Partners firm transmission withdrawal rights of 670MW presumed in staff base case). The firm withdrawal rights from the Roseland substation already in the tariff at 1,015MW plus that of the Hudson Transmission Partners (HTP), 670MW, which will be added as soon as the interconnection agreement is signed, totals 1,670MW or more committed.

The SRP opponents  “Stop The Lines” warned that the project was not needed, that PSEG “reliability” claims were lies, and that the real motivations were driven by private profit and expanding markets for coal based power:

Q. Please describe the purpose of your testimony.

A. I have been asked by the Municipal Interveners to challenge the New Jersey segment of the Susquehanna to Roseland 500 kV line (the “Project”). The purpose of my testimony is threefold. First, I believe that the Public Service Electric & Gas Company’s (PSEG) justification for the Project is unsound, and that the Project is not needed due to reductions in electricity demand and diminished economic growth. Second, I will demonstrate that, even if there is a proposed need for electricity, energy efficiency and demand side management, along with the deployment of distributed generation, offer much better alternatives than the Susquehanna-Roseland project. Third, I will describe how the Project appears to violate reasonable standards for electricity reliability, and that it conflicts with New Jersey’s stated energy policy due to the substantial environmental and social costs of the project. (read the energy expert testimony to BPU)

The link to expansion of coal power was made clear in a petition to BPU:

The “PJM Eastern Interface along the Delaware River, separating Pennsylvania and New Jersey” has been described as a “constraint,” and an “impediment to west/east trade,” one of three “certain physical constraints on the transmission system that have limited further flows of coal based generation to markets in the east.”

The Susquehanna-Roseland transmission project, at the northeasterly part of Project Mountaineer Line 1, would traverse that constraint, the “PJM Eastern Interface along the Delaware River, separating Pennsylvania and New Jersey” and address that impediment of coalbased generation to markets in the east. (read the STL BPU motion to dismiss)

Can you even imagine the kind of warped power engineering mentality that views the lovely Wild & Scenic Delaware River as a “constraint” to expansion of coal based markets? That allows those views to dominate energy policy?

In another major “I told you so!”, Stop the Lines even criticized and predicted the current battle over cost allocation:

… cost allocation schemes shifting costs away from economic benefactors so egregious that the court has rejected the cost allocation scheme for the Susquehanna-Roseland project. Foisting this project on landowners and ratepayers of New Jersey would be against the public interest and against the charge of the Board of Public Utilities. (@page 10)

The HTP fiasco should inform the current debates over the need for gas pipeline capacity, which are based on similar lies. (think “resilience“)

[End note: In a 2008 post about legislative hearings on proposed PSEG NJ exports to NY, we questioned how new energy infrastructure for NJ was needed when NJ exported large amounts of power to NY City.

We highlighted contradictions and concluded:

During the recent RGGI debate, energy lobbyists suggested that NJ power demand far outstripped instate energy supply, causing imports of dirty mid-west coal power. How can they now claim that EXPORT of NJ generated power to New York City will have no impact on system reliability or air quality? …

According to PJM, the following NJ power exports are planned or underway:

1,200 MW (Bergen, proposed)
300 MW (Linden under construction)
200 MW (Linden, proposed)
660 MW (Neptune to Long Island, existing)

The testimony of PJM representatives should be required reading – a primer on the economic and regulatory policy barriers to reducing coal based global warming emissions and market entry/access restrictions to renewable power technologies. The PJM primary goal is system reliability – with reliability viewed very narrowly as limited to increases in power production and distribution. As a result, economic regulatory policies provide incentives for more traditional power production that undermine energy conservation and renewable power.For example, no one mentioned the concept of a “carbon adder” to make dirty coal power prices reflect their true staggering environmental costs. The Committee took no testimony from environmental experts or those concerned about global warming.

[Update: My friend Scott Olson, one of the leaders of the SR line opposition, just sent me bunch of new articles that show that I vastly understated the lies. OMG, the entire public justification for the project was a massive and systematic set of lies, see:

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Christie DEP Set To Issue Controversial Compressor Station and Pinelands Pipeline Permits

December 26th, 2016 No comments

Documents Show DEP Repeatedly Lied About Stream Buffer Rollbacks

“Response to public comments” opens door to abuse

The skids have been greased – the DEP permit process is rigged

groundwater monitoring wells, Williams compressor station site, Chesterfield NJ (12/26/16)

recently installed groundwater monitoring wells, compressor station site, Chesterfield NJ (12/26/16)

Given how the Pinelands Commission responded to the Court’s remand and the fast track BPU amendment of the Orders in response, we can only assume that DEP will jump on the bandwagon and issue the DEP permits BEFORE THE PINELANDS COMMISSION’S PUBLIC HEARING ON THE *SJG PIPELINE ON JANUARY 24.

A lot of complex moving parts here, so pay attention!

According to *documents* obtained by the Pinelands Preservation Alliance under NJ’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA), it appears that the Christie DEP is ready to issue environmental permits for the controversial Transco compressor station (“Garden State Expansion” (GSE)) to serve the NJ Natural Gas’ (NJNG) proposed “Southern Reliability Link” (SRL) and the South Jersey Gas pipelines (SJG). Both pipelines go through the Pinelands National Reserve and were blocked by lawsuits filed by environmental groups. The compressor station is planned to be located in forested wetlands and farm fields in Chesterfield, outside but on the northern edge of the Pinelands.

These DEP permit documents also provide a smoking gun: they prove that DEP lied repeatedly to legislators, the media, EPA and the public about whether DEP’s massive 1,000+ page “overhaul” and “re-alliagnment” (DEP’s words) of the flood hazard act (stream encroachment) regulations would weaken protections and make it easier for pipelines to secure DEP permits.

DEP repeatedly claimed the the proposal would merely “streamline” the permit process and maintain current standards and protections. DEP claimed that environmental critics simply were wrong and did not understand the rule.

Those DEP lies derailed a pending Legislative Veto of the rules, and provided political cover for a dirty deal between Senate President Sweeney and Gov. Christie.

But buried on the final page of a complex 14 page December 2, 2016 letter from Williams (Transco, GSE) to DEP, we find this smoking gun admission that DEP’s rules weakened stream buffer protections:

screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-11-39-46-am

Got that? Let me repeat: Transco noted that  “change in the Flood Hazard Act Control Act Rules (sic) eliminat[ed] the 150 feet riparian zone” and that now there is a “50 foot riparian zone now present on site”.

DEP lied about how that was done too – i.e. under revised and weaker standards to obtain a “Permit by rule” (PBR). On day one, we told you so:

  • proposes 19 new permits-by-rule (PBR). There is no DEP or public review of a PBR.

Recent background

The overall project involves BPU, Pinelands Commission, and DEP approvals.

On December 9, 2016, the Pinelands Commission announced plans to fast track approval of two controversial natural gas pipelines: NJNG SRL and the SJG pipeline. The Commission schduled a public comment period and public hearing on the SJG pipeline for Jan 24, 2017 and passed a Resolution seeking to consolidate the NJNG and SJG litigation.

The Commission was forced to respond to a November 7, 2016 decision by the Appellate Division that found the prior unilateral approval by Executive Director Wittenberg violated the Pinelands Act. The Court directed the Commission to hold public hearings and determine whether the SJG pipeline was consistent with the Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP).

Wasting no time, the following Monday (12/12/16), the Christie Board of Public Utilities (BPU) quickly followed suit and responded to the Court by rubber stamping and revising prior approval Orders, as the Court directed.

Like the Pinelands Commission, BPU also ignored the Court’s mandate to revise the Pinelands CMP to address “coordinating permitting by state agencies“. After a detailed discussion of how Wittenberg violated the Pinelands Act and applied the CMP regulations to, among other things, the “coordinating permitting by state agencies”, the court directed (see the Court’s opinion @ page 20 – 24):

The Commission shall consider whether the same or similar procedures should be followed in reviewing Wittenberg’s decision. (p. 24)

Both the Commission and the BPU failed to consider and comply the Court’s mandate with respect to “coordinating permitting by state agencies” before they reconsidered prior approvals overruled by the Court.

DEP Environmental Permits

During the same timeframe that the BPU and Pinelands Commission were engaged in behind the scenes moves, the Christie DEP also has been quietly working behind the scenes to facilitate approval of pending freshwater wetlands, dewatering, and coastal zone permits for the compressor station and NJNG SRL pipeline, including a critical Clean Water Act Section 401 Water Quality Certification.

The dewatering permit for the compressor station has been held up since May. One of the key issues raised by opponents was whether construction would harm nearby wetlands and residential drinking water and agricultural irrigation wells. As the photo above shows, DEP required that Transco install groundwater monitoring wells. I suspect that this will be the cover for DEP approval of this permit: “don’t worry, we’re monitoring the situation”.

Opponents should demand that DEP require at least 4 quarters of groundwater elevation and water quality data before issuing the dewatering permit.

Similarly, for the same reason DEP required groundwater monitor wells, the project applicants should be required to collect at least 4 quarters of surface water monitoring data to document “existing water quality”, including existing biological uses.

The compressor station and NJNG SRL pipeline also must obtain freshwater wetlands and CAFRA permits. Under an EPA delegation agreement, the DEP State wetlands permit satisfies the federal Clean Water Act 401 Water Quality Certification.

After huge public turnout force cancellation of hearings back in August on wetlands and CAFRA permits, DEP held a series of public hearings on those permits, the final one was held on October 19.

Since then, DEP has been working with Transco GSE (compressor station) and NJNG SRL pipeline. It looks like DEP has sent two letter to Transco and Transco sent 2 replies. I don’t now if these are all the documents. I don’t have the DEP letters.

The most recent documents obtained by PPA involve the response to public comments on the compressor station and NJNG SRL pipeline wetlands permits.

The documents discuss a range of about a 15 technical issues – curiously they are silent on the 401 WQ Certification – but Transco and DEP seem to be focused on the alternatives analysis for the compressor station required under the wetlands rules. Here’s how Transco sees things (12/2/16 letter):

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I need to review Attachment A, but there obviously are alternatives “which would have a less adverse impact on the aquatic ecosystem”, so DEP may have a strong basis to deny this permit. We won’t hold our breath for that!

Transco says they’re just responding to public comment. But obviously they are providing legal and technical defenses and are provided with another shot at persuading DEP – an opportunity the public does not have!

Here’s how Transco summarizes the conversation, at the close of a November 10, 2016 letter to DEP:

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Transco merely seeks “to assist the Department with the task of responding to all comments” in “preparation of the approved permit.”

Right.

The DEP permit process is rigged

The permit process is heavily biased in favor of the permit applicant not the public.

The bias is present at the beginning and the end of the process.

At the beginning, months before the project was announced publicly, Transco, NJNG, and SJG were given multiple opportunities to meet with DEP staffers and managers.

Those meetings are known as “pre-application conferences”. They are secret and not subject to OPRA. (Listen to how the Pinelands Commission got caught on tape responding to my criticism of “pre-application conferences” with SJG pipeline.)

Those meetings provide access to DEP technical staff and upper management. They allow permittees to understand how DEP interprets the regulations and how to comply with them. They basically iron out all problems in advance and receive conceptual approval of a project before the public is even aware of the existence of a project.

After many months of technical coordination, the public then gets to comment on draft permits at the end of the process.

In this case, DEP held public hearings on the permit applications, not draft permits.

This process allowed the permit applicants to get another bite at the apple and fix any deficiencies the public identified during comments!

But Transco wants even more! They want DEP to provide any additional “new comments” to them as a courtesy so that they can “review and respond” to them –

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In contrast, the public must file OPRA requests to obtain this kind of information and has no opportunity to respond to it (a repeat of getting shut out of the secret pre-application conference process).

The DEP permit process is rigged.

Given how the Pinelands Commission responded to the Court’s remand and the fast track BPU amendment of the Orders in response, we can only assume that DEP will jump on the bandwagon and issue the DEP permits BEFORE THE PINELANDS COMMISSION”S PUBLIC HEARING ON THE SJG PIPELINE ON JANUARY 24.

[* Documents provided as PDF’s upon request – sorry I don’t have them as links.]

[*Correction – I stand corrected (h/t to Theresa Lettman of PPA). I incorrectly combined the Pinelands Commission’s public hearing for the SJG and NJNG pipelines. The Jan 24 hearing is only for the SJG pipeline.

But that is merely a procedural technicality on the scheduling of the public comment and hearings.

Under the Appellate Court decision, the SJG case set the precedent for the NJNG pipeline.

Recognizing that legal reality, the Pinelands Commission passed two Resolutions on 12/9  –  Res. # 4-16-43 sought to consolidate SJG and NJNG cases:

https://connect.xfinity.com/appsuite/#!!&app=io.ox/mail/compose

So, in addition to the Court’s legal precedent, it is only a matter of time before the Commission public notices the NJNG pipeline based on the SJG process.

As we noted, the Commission signaled a rubber stamp on the SJG pipeline.

So, as a matter of law and policy, NJNG approval will closlely follow the SJG approval.

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