Toxic Alternatives To Chemical PFAS Illustrates Failure Of TSCA “Reforms”

February 5th, 2019 No comments

NJ’s US Senator Booker declared victory 

Now that he’s running for President, will he be held accountable for failure?

Bill Wolfe, director of the New Jersey office of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said not having Lautenberg in the Senate is a “huge loss.” He would “step on toes to get things done,” whereas Wolfe said Booker is “the antitheses of that.” He called the former mayor a “calibrated corporate Democrat who worries about alienating Wall Street and corporate America.” ~~~ E&E News (10/31/13)

Scientists at the NJ Department of Environmental Protection are criticizing the US EPA for failure to consider the toxicity of alternatives to the controversial group of toxic chemicals know as PFAS.

NJ Spotlight reported:

New Jersey scientists are accusing the federal government of failing to consider many health risks posed by a group of chemicals that are designed to substitute for some of the controversial PFAS substances which are now being strictly regulated by the state. Regulation of PFAS has been deemed necessary because of growing evidence that they are a danger to public health.

That directly contradicts claims by NJ US Senator Cory Booker, who declared victory on this set of issues:

“Congressional approval of this bipartisan chemical safety law is a major victory for our state and for the legacy of Sen. Frank Lautenberg who championed this fight.  I am proud of the long-overdue improvements I fought to include in this bill, including provisions that strengthen EPA’s ability to regulate toxic chemicals, provide EPA with dedicated funding, give more scrutiny to new chemicals before they come on the market, allow states to continue to co-enforce with EPA, and minimize animal testing when scientifically reliable alternatives exist.

As we recently wrote (scroll down to second point)

II)  GO ASK BOOKER

Second, while exposing the failure to screen the toxicity of substitute chemicals, NJ Spotlight failed to note the key reason for that failure:

New Jersey’s nation-leading efforts to protect the public from a class of toxic chemicals in drinking water are being threatened by the emergence of substitutes that may be just as hazardous to human health, experts argue.

That failure is due to a federal law known as the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is a law, passed by Congress in 1976 and administered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, that regulates the introduction of new or already existing chemicals.

TSCA was just overhauled in 2016 by legislation negotiated by NJ Senator Cory Booker

Here’s Booker’s self congratulatory press release:

“Congressional approval of this bipartisan chemical safety law is a major victory for our state and for the legacy of Sen. Frank Lautenberg who championed this fight.  I am proud of the long-overdue improvements I fought to include in this bill, including provisions that strengthen EPA’s ability to regulate toxic chemicals,provide EPA with dedicated funding, give more scrutiny to new chemicals before they come on the market, allow states to continue to co-enforce with EPA, and minimize animal testing when scientifically reliable alternatives exist. Despite long odds and difficult challenges, common sense and finding common ground won the day. I want to thank all of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle that came together to make this bill possible. I look forward to celebrating when President Obama signs this important chemical safety reform legislation into law, helping to keep American families and children safe from toxic chemicals.”

In May, Sen. Booker spoke on the Senate floor urging swift passage of the bipartisan, bicameral agreement on the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which makes badly needed reforms to the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976.  His remarks can be viewed here.

To read the act, see:  

Someone needs to go ask Booker about all that.

Is EPA stronger and subject to stricter legal standards? Is so, how could they do what DEP claims?

Is NJ DEP authorized to enforce those stricter standards? If so, why are they blasting EPA?

Are children safe from toxic chemicals, as Booker claimed?

And we predicted this Booker sell out:

Bill Wolfe, director of the New Jersey office of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said not having Lautenberg in the Senate is a “huge loss.” He would “step on toes to get things done,” whereas Wolfe said Booker is “the antitheses of that.” He called the former mayor a “calibrated corporate Democrat who worries about alienating Wall Street and corporate America.”

Categories: Family & kids, Policy watch, Politics Tags:

NJ Stormwater Utility Bill Includes Stealth Privatization Provisions

February 3rd, 2019 No comments

Will Gov. Murphy Follow Christie & Sign Another Major Infrastructure Privatization Bill?

Over a decade ago, NJ Democratic legislators privatized the DEP toxic site cleanup program, a radical reality just dawning on many NJ residents with toxic sites in their communities, see:

More recently, the NJ Democratic legislature passed – and Republican Governor Christie signed into law – controversial bills that authorized the privatization of public water supply and wastewater treatment systems.

They’ve done that again this week, passing legislation (S1073) which would authorize the creation of local and county stormwater utilities.The bill is now on Gov. Murphy’s desk.

For the dominant narrative on the bill, read the NJ Spotlight story, which plays up the Republican “rain tax” slogan, but ignores the privatization issue:  SPLIT LEGISLATURE GIVES THUMBS-UP TO STORMWATER RUNOFF CONTROLS

(NJ Spotlight repeatedly has turned a blind eye on the privatization controversy, possibly due to potential conflicts of interest).

This expansion in privatization comes at a time when the NJ Courts have recognized the implications of privatization of essential governmental regulatory functions, see:

If it’s bad public policy for DEP to outsource and privatize their regulatory responsibilities, it may be legal but it is equally bad policy for the NJ Legislature to do so.

And once again, the “elite charade” “green” organizations that backed the bill – many aligned with the “Keep It Green” Foundation funded faction  either overtly support privatization of public infrastructure, or they got duped again, because there has been no mention of this massive expansion of privatization of public infrastructure and core governmental functions.

(An astute reader just reminded me that ALS supported the bill and was involved in drafting it. The bill would codify a scheme ALS was involved in. Specifically, ALS benefited financially via a huge Christie DEP Grant to retrofit stormwater impounments in Barnegat Bay (a voluntary private scheme to avoid compliance with the the federal Clean Water Act “TMDL” regulatory cleanup program). ALS basically skimmed off a chunk and funneled the DEP grant money to a private contractor, so they fully support these privatization schemes.

Similarly, Dodge Foundation funded corporate NJ Future and NJLCV both supported the bill. Those groups essentially front for private water corporations like Suez, under the fake astroturf group, NJ Water Works.)

Here is the privatization provision, from Section 6:

or may enter into a contract with a private firm for the operation or improvement of works for the collection, storage, treatment or disposal of stormwater, and the cost and expense of such collection, storage, treatment and disposal.

That provision would allow not only local and county governments, but also local sewer authorities – who already operate with little transparency or public oversight – to enter into multimillion dollar taxpayer and/or ratepayer backed contracts with engineering firms or private water corporations – (fueling their “mission creep” into stormwater management).

The potential for graft and abuse is virtually unlimited.

If the bill is signed into law as passed by the legislature, expect your local taxes to pad the profits of the big engineering firms and water companies that contribute to the Democratic lawmakers who supported the bill.

The management of stormwater involves protection of public safety (from flooding) and public health (from water pollution and impacts on drinking water).

Protection of public safety and public health are essential government functions that should not be privatized, outsourced, and influenced by the profit motives or priorities of private corporations.

People should call on Gov. Murphy and demand that he conditionally veto the bill to eliminate the privatization of critical public infrastructure.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Green Greed – Reduced Funding For Public Lands, More Money To Private Groups

January 30th, 2019 No comments

Robbing Peter To Pay Paul and Getting Paid For It

The Dismantling of the Green Acres Public Legacy

weeds grow at restroom at Bulls Island SP – park is still closed. The building has since been demolished

weeds grow at restroom at Bulls Island SP – park is still closed. The building has since been demolished

They say it’s not over till the Fat Lady sings – well the Fat Lady just sang.

The mask is completely off – as NJ Spotlight reports today.

The corrupt saga of renewal of funding for NJ’s Green Acres open space, farmland and historic preservation is over. And so is the consensus and good will that built that legacy.

The Green Acres funding renewal saga has ended as it began, on a corrupt note.

I say “corrupt note” because I can’t think of anything more precise than corruption.

When elite private conservation groups negotiate a very bad deal, then mislead the public about it (via a $1 million PR campaign), and finally benefit financially while the public and environment suffers, that’s corruption.

And that is exactly what’s transpired.

As NJ.Com reported in the wake of passage of the Constitutional amendment:

Bill Wolfe, the head of the New Jersey chapter of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said voters were “actively misinformed” about the “unprecedented, deep cuts” brought about by the ballot initiative, blaming the Keep It Green coalition for overemphasizing the benefits to open space and downplaying the cuts.

“The public was duped on this,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe recommended restoring funding for state parks and the DEP, which could see significant staff cuts from the shortfall, before appropriating money elsewhere. (He outlined those recommendations on his blog here.)

The corruption is the result of 3 bad outcomes that we predicted would result from a very bad and self serving deal the Green Mafia negotiated:

1. A significant reduction of millions of dollars in funding for open space acquisition, farmland preservation, and historic preservation.

NJ Spotlight reports on LESS money:

Still, the overall funding falls short of what had been spent in past years when — relying mostly on borrowing — the state would devote up to $200 million on open space and farmland projects.

Despite LESS overall money, MORE money and greater share of the money goes to private conservation groups:

Nonprofit conservation groups, which leverage state open-space and farmland money with their own funds to preserve undeveloped and agricultural land, also saw increases in funds allocated to their efforts. Open-space acquisitions for nonprofits increased from 2 percent to 10 percent and farmland preservation efforts also rose from 3 percent to 4 percent.

Five times more funding to the elite conservation groups that reduced funding and screwed everybody else.

2. On top of that, hundreds of millions of dollars were diverted from State Parks capital budget; State clean water protection programs; and DEP toxic site cleanup funding;

The diversion of State Parks capital funds prompted NJ DEP State Parks Director Mark Texel to speak out publicly in opposition.

Director Mark Texel wrote the following on Keep It Green Facebook page on 11/5/14:

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.

Washington Crossing SP – historic buildings crumbling.

Washington Crossing SP – historic buildings crumbling.

Those greedy diversions prompted the Bergen Record to editorialize in opposition to the Ballot Question.

The Bergen Record editorialized, warned voters, and urged a NO vote, see: Public Question No. 2

It may seem obvious to support dedicating money to preserve land in the nation’s most congested state, but voters really have to consider the fine print on this one.

The dedicated money from the corporate tax now is used primarily to improve water quality, to clean polluted sites and to remove underground tanks. The proposed amendment would redirect most of that money to preserve open space, farmland and historic sites. The amendment would raise the dedicated portion of the corporate business tax to 6 percent in 2019.

Critics, including some environmental groups, fear that the redirection would hurt the state’s ongoing water quality and cleanup programs.

Those chickens have now come how to roost – and the Greedy Green thieves are being rewarded.

3. Despite FAR LESS TOTAL GREEN ACRES MONEY, MORE public funds – and a greater percentage of public funds – are allocated to private land conservation groups for private purposes.

Private  land conservation groups negotiated this Green Acres funding renewal bad deal privately, behind closed doors.

Those same private land conservation groups make private decisions about where to acquire and protect land; what lands to protect; who to buy it from; how much to pay for it; and how those lands are managed and used.

Those same private land conservation groups now get more money for the terrible deal they negotiated and lied to the public about.

If the rich folks up in Harding want to pay top dollar to greedy land speculating corporations and the landed gentry, then let them spend their own money to do so – don’t steal public funds that have been taken away from State Parks and DEP environmental programs.

And what really galls me is that this elite, greedy, self dealing is masked by Big Lies and slogans like “environmental justice”, see:

And all this damage because NJ Conservation groups were too cowardly and corrupt to take on Gov. Christie and demand he renew traditional Green Acres funding levels & finance mechanism.

As the Bergen Record reported (see: Budget cuts doom state parks to disrepair (6/28/17):

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.”

The people of NJ should be outraged by this incompetent, greedy self dealing masquerading as public interest public land conservation.

Contact your legislators and tell them to REDUCE allocations to the non-profits as punishment for the bad deal they negotiated with the Christie administration and Democratic lawmakers.

If the public budget is DEEPLY reduced, then non-profits must share the pain.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Murphy RGGI “Cap” Would Lock In Huge Subsidies To Major Carbon Polluters

January 27th, 2019 No comments

Murphy proposed RGGI cap translates into a $2.33 BILLION annual subsidy

RGGI allowances, cap, and price constitute a license to pollute

Murphy DEP ignores climate science and NJ law

We’ve written frequently about huge flaws in RGGI, but today I want to take on a basic lie at the heart of the RGGI program.

Here it is, out of the mouth of a NJ environmentalist: [WHYY story]

Environment New Jersey president Doug O’Malley welcomes New Jersey’s reentry into the program.

“You’re finally putting a thumb on the scale and putting a price on carbon that’s being emitted from fossil-fuel power plants,” he said. “You’re creating a market to reduce that pollution, and creating a revenue stream to invest in clean, renewable energy solutions.”

I like Doug, but he is just dead wrong here.

1. RGGI does not “put a price on carbon”

RGGI does not put a price on carbon.

Just the opposite: it locks in below market allowance rates and provides regulatory certainty, thereby providing huge subsidies to major carbon polluters.

Let me offer an analogy: the benefits of RGGI to corporate polluters are similar to a renter in a rent controlled 3 bedroom apartment on the upper east side of Manhattan – with views of Central Park – that pays $500 per month rent for a guaranteed 20+ year period.

The actual market rent for that apartment is probably 25 times higher (or greater).

The most recent RGGI allowance auction clearing price was a paltry $5.35 per ton (and that’s a 4 year high, it will decline after the winter).

In contrast, DEP mandates air pollution emission fees, for far less damaging pollutants than carbon, of $122 per ton (the fees were just increased).

RGGI carbon polluters pay 22.8 times less than DEP emission fees for other pollutants, like SOx, NOx, et al.

Gov. Murphy DEP’s proposed NJ RGGI “cap” is about 20 million tons, so polluters would pay about $107 million per year.

In contrast, if they were required to pay just the same as far less damaging air pollutants, the annual cost would be  $2.44 BILLION – so the Murphy proposed RGGI cap translates into a $2.33 BILLION annual subsidy to the most harmful polluters!

Similarly, summing up all the negative economic impacts from climate change, economists have calculated the “social costs of carbon” (SCC).

EPA estimates the SCC at $105 per ton (in 2015), escalating to $212 per ton in 2050. And EPA is conservative. Other leading climate economists have estimated the SCC to be far higher, over $300 per ton.

Again RGGI polluters pay far, far less than the true cost of carbon- just like that 3 bedroom Manhattan apartment for $500 per month.

There is no RGGI price on carbon and there is no functioning market for carbon.

What we have here is NOT a market. It is what economists call massive market failure due to “externalities”, i.e. the failure of the market price of energy to incorporate the real costs of carbon.

This massive market failure is compounded by regulatory failure – so we have the worst of both worlds: market failure exacerbated by weak regulation.

The reality of RGGI is way beyond traditional “regulatory capture” and represents the State intervening on behalf of major corporate polluters to subsidize them and protect them from real market forces and strict regulation (like a total phase out of carbon fuels, something the scientists are demanding).

And the major carbon polluters are guaranteed these huge subsidies for 20 years, eliminating any market or regulatory risk.

The elimination of risk in an of itself is a huge economic benefit that can be quantified – I have not done so, but it is a huge economic subsidy.

Again by analogy, it would be like a rent control law that locked in the $500 per month Manhattan rent in perpetuity. The renter would never face a rent increase and could plan accordingly.

2. The Murphy DEP proposed RGGI “cap” ignores climate science and NJ law

The head of the Murphy DEP air pollution program basically openly admitted that the proposed RGGI “cap” was based, in part, on costs, and that it did not reflect climate science and the deep GHG emissions reduction goals of the NJ Global Warming Response Act: WHYY story:

He [DEP’s Baldauf] pointed to the juggling act between reducing emissions and being fair to consumers.

“You need to have a cap that does its job, which means it’s stringent, like all the other RGGI states have, and it drives down greenhouse gases. But in consideration, you also need a cap that is fair to the ratepayer and is not something that becomes too burdensome.”

DEP has no legislative authority to set a RGGI cap based on ratepayer or economic concerns.

In proposing a RGGI cap, by their own statements, DEP has “balanced” GHG emissions reductions against cost and ratepayer impacts.

In addition to having no legislative authorization, I guarantee that DEP has no technical basis for this “balancing”, i.e. no credible cost-benefit analysis.

DEP is subject to the Global Warming Response Act and the deep emissions reduction goals of that Act, but DEP has ignored that law in setting the RGGI “cap”.

In addition to lacking any credible technical or economic basis for setting the cap and ignoring NJ law, DEP’s proposed RGGI cap also ignores climate science, which strongly recommends even deeper and faster GHG emission reductions than the NJ GWRA 80% by 2050.

Finally, DEP still has not finalized and adopted the original 2009 GWRA Report and still lacks any plan to achieve the GHG emissions reduction goals of the GWRA.

Such a plan would expose the RGGI program for the fraud and huge polluters’ subsidy that it is.

[End Note: Doug O’Malley use of the “thumb on the scale” metaphor was a very poor choice.

That metaphor connotes cheating and ripping off people: e.g. the butcher with his thumb on the scale.

So, it plays right into the right wing ideology that government – not corporations – are corrupt and are cheating people and driving up energy costs.

It also plays right into the market fundamentalism and right wing myth that government’s role is not to pick winners and losers, but to let the so called “free market” decide. According to these folks, a government thumb on the scale distorts markets and leads to inefficient outcomes.

Ideas and words matter. Greens gotta do better than this.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

We’re On The Bus!

January 26th, 2019 No comments

Year 3 on the road starts with a new home

_DSC5303

Greetings, and a belated Happy New Year.

We’ve not posted recently about our journey because we’ve been busy renovating a school bus – here’s a thumbnail of that incredible experience.

Last I posted about the journey, I was bouncing down the California coast, headed for the Arizona desert for the winter.

After a stopover in Berkeley and San Francisco, a wonderful month in Monterey, and another month in Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, I was ready to get off the coast and into the desert. So I headed to Bisbee Arizona for New Year’s.

But, after a few cold nights in the California high desert,

_DSC5309

and “The Heart of the Mojave”

_DSC5319

I arrived in Bisbee and was greeted by snow, 20 degrees, and 30 mph winds!

_DSC5332

After freezing my ass off, I headed back to the Coast and arrived in San Diego, where it was 65 degrees.

And that’s where our incredible story begins.

The first morning in town (Ocean Beach), we walked “Dog Beach” at Sunrise.

Later that morning, I came across this really cool looking turquoise school bus parked by the beach. It had a hand made “For Sale” sign on the windshield, so I poked my head in and was amazed by the interior woodwork and cabinets.

I met the owner, a guy named Adam.

Adam is a former US Marine, and lives in his 4 window turquoise bus with his wife Kristen and 4 year old son Micah.

The bus is decorated with Dr. Seuss trufula trees on the ceiling and quotes on the exterior and door panels:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

The front of the bus has Adam’s logo: “A Good Life -Time, Freedom, Grace” – and the rear of the bus has a “Semper Fi” USMC logo.

I’ve never come across that juxtaposition.

I asked Adam who did all the beautiful painting and wood work. He said he did.

After a long and interesting conversation, I asked him if he could build me one.

He said sure thing, and that he knew a guy who had 100 school buses for sale I could look at.

Next day, we drove to the bus guy and I bought a clean as a whistle 2007 Chevy (6.0 L Vortec engine with 100,000 well maintained miles) 5 window bus.

We immediately started on the project that night, when we removed the seats.

Here’s Adam at the start (Jan. 3, 2019) – that’s his bus in the background:

_DSC5334

Here’s what the interior looked like before we removed the seats – that’s Kristen, Adam’s lovely wife (Kristen was awesome in the seat removal effort and later helped with the painting and did the windows treatments and couch fabric):

_DSC5335

The next morning, we headed to Home Depot to begin the interior – first Adam installed the hard wood floor and then the bed and cabinets – check it out:

_DSC5338

_DSC5339

_DSC5340

The interior was done in less than a week. And all the work was done in the Home Depot parking lot!

The interior includes a a queen size platform bed; a kitchen with hand pumped water, a counter-top for food preparation, a stove, and propane tank; a couch (with storage underneath); slide out drawers under the bed (with huge storage area under bed); a table (with dirty laundry storage under it), a refrigerator; and gorgeous trim.  The cabinets are tight and click shut. Nothing rattles. It’s solid as a rock.

Kristen then went shopping for the fabric for the windows and couch – check out the gorgeous color and awesome pattern!

We then got hit with 10 days of rain and high winds, which delayed the painting and installation of the solar system. I also had shipment problems with the solar, which delayed the finish. The Renogy solar system is huge: 300 watts of panels on the roof, a 40 amp MPPT solar controller, 300 amp hours of battery storage and a 3000 watt inverter.

Here’s Adam, Kristen and Micah smiling before their completed creation on Jan. 25, 2019:

_DSC5372

Here’s some shots of the interior:

_DSC5379

_DSC5380

Adam is an incredibly talented carpenter/bus builder – he’s straight up honest and a generous and wonderful person. There were no surprises with the money end of things either.

And the experience of building the bus and hanging out with Adam and his Ocean Beach friends was awesome fun and something I will never forget.

Adam summers in Oregon and fishes and hosts a camp on the Columbia River.

He’s looking for work building your bus and will work with you throughout the process to make things easier.

If you are interested, drop me an email and I’ll get you his phone number.

And Bouy loves his new home too!

_DSC5371 (1)

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: