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

May 18th, 2016 No comments

BL England plant – fossil dinosaur – Gateway to Cape May

Corporate Polluters Hijack Cape May County’s Good Name

BL England coal plant - soon top become "Cape May Energy Center"

BL England coal plant – soon to become “Cape May Energy Center”?????

[Update below]

Did Cape May County get naming rights?

That’s the least they could ask for as corporate polluters seek to appropriate the County’s good name in a scheme to rename the notoriously ugly industrial pollution scar on Great Egg Bay – The Gateway to lovely Cape May County –  “The Cape May Energy Center”.

Cape May – a special place known for charming gingerbread Victorian B&B’s along narrow gas lamp lit streets, and world renown migratory and shorebird habitat, and intimate lovers’ walks on the beach.

Is a climate destroying fossil fuel plant compatible with that? Be sure to put that landmark on the brochure for “Eco-tourism”!

Cape May7

Cape May8

Cape May9

Cape May peninsula - this is what coastal erosion looks like

Cape May peninsula – this is what coastal erosion looks like

That ugly industrial scar would remain for another 40 years or so – if it’s not underwater by then – if DEP approves a new air pollution permit for the proposed re-powering of the old coal & oil plant to a natural gas fueled plant, cynically to be renamed “The Cape May Energy Center”.

Over a hundred people came out last night – including a small group of dedicated activists – to urge DEP to think about what’s at stake – captured in the above photos.

Enjoy it now folks, because it’s soon all gone as climate driven sea level rise and storm surge erode and ultimately inundate the whole Cape May Peninsula – Game Over for Piping Plover!

Small group of activists protest before the hearing. Where the hell was everybody? What are all those well Foundation funded groups doing?

Small group of activists protest before the hearing. Where the hell was everybody? What are all those well Foundation funded groups doing?

Ignoring all this beauty and meaning, I tried to speak the language of the DEP bureaucracy last night – complex technocratic regulatory-speak, designed to obscure reality and mask the operation of economic and political power and  frustrate democracy and evade responsibility.

I advised DEP that the whole world is in non-attainment for greenhouse gases – a riff on “The Whole World Is Watching!” – as CO2 levels exceed 400 ppm and record heat and extreme weather are experienced throughout the world at a terrifying and accelerating rate.

[Update 5/23/16this is what I mean by a terrifying and accelerating rate.]

The DEP hearing officer and stenographer duly noted my testimony.

But did they listen? Do they get it?

Sunrise on the beach with Dad

Sunrise on the beach with Dad

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Time To Pull The Plug on the BL England Power Plant

May 16th, 2016 No comments

Climate Change crisis demands zero carbon renewable energy future

Insane fracking, pipeline, and power plant scheme must be killed

DEP Holding Public Hearing Tuesday Night on New Air Pollution Permit

Investor alert: There will be protracted legal battles, growing public opposition, and civil disobedience to block these pipeline and power plant projects.

ble[Updates below]

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will hold a public hearing on Tuesday (5/17/16) night at 7 pm at the Upper Township Municipal Building located at 2100 Tuckahoe Road Petersburg, NJ 08270 on  a new air pollution control permit for the BL England plant (BLE). There will be a protest at 6:30 before the hearing – bring your friends and a sign.

It is important that people attend the hearing and speak out against this fossil fuel plant. Those who can’t attend to speak can submit written comments until May 23 (see public notice for where to send written comments).

NJ Spotlight wrote a good set up story CLOUD OF CONTROVERSY HANGS OVER AIR PERMIT FOR NEW B.L. ENGLAND POWER PLANT and Jeff Tittel has an Op-Ed which provide some helpful information.

We go a little deeper in the weeds and provide the permit documents and some context and history.

Climate crisis – “Leave it in the ground”

In 2007, the Legislature passed and Governor Corzine signed the Global Warming Response Act (GWRA) P.L.  2007, c. 112;  (N.J.S.A 26:2C-37), at the time, one of the strongest greenhouse gas laws in the country:

The Legislature therefore finds and declares that it is in the public interest to establish a greenhouse gas emissions reduction program to limit the level of Statewide greenhouse gas emissions, and greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generated outside the State but consumed in the State, to the 1990 level or below, of those emissions by the year 2020, and to reduce those emissions to 80% below the 2006 level by the year 2050.

Since then, the science of climate change has become far more dire and demonstrated that we must make far deeper cuts in emissions much earlier than previously thought to avoid irreversible climate change and catastrophic warming.

Simply put, NJ can not meet the aggressive GWRA emission reduction goals with continued investments in and construction of major fossil fuel infrastructure.

The most recent science suggests that we need to leave at least 80% of known fossil fuel reserves (coal, oil, & gas) in the ground if we are to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius, and even more to avoid the 1.5 degree goal recently embraced in the Paris climate accords.

Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, especially in the short run. Several credible recent studies document that the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas, i.e. from fracking wells, fugitive pipeline and compressor station emissions, through power plant emissions are at least as bad – or even worse – than coal, thus gas is not a “bridge fuel” to a stable climate future.

Failure to regulate greenhouse gas emissions

Greenhouse gases are defined and regulated as “air contaminants (pollutants) under NJ’s State Air Pollution Control Act. The draft air permit would allow emissions – from the BL plant alone – of 1.6 million tons of greenhouse gases, as CO2 equivalents.

The NJ Air Pollution Control Act mandates that air permits reflect “State of the Art” (SOTA) pollution control requirements. No GHG emissions controls at BLE clearly can’t be SOTA.

The DEP permit fails to require any pollution controls for greenhouse gas emissions and fails to even consider lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from upstream gas sources that power the project. Failure to conduct lifecycle cumulative impact analysis and compare emissions for compliance with the GWRA reduction goals can not be SOTA.

The Christie DEP has no plan for how to meet the federal EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan regulations. It is irresponsible and reckless for DEP to issue approvals of major new GHG emission sources in the absence of a State plan that meets federal requirements.

It is not clear whether the BLE plan and the DEP draft air permit will comply with EPA’s proposed new power plant emission regulations (Clean Power Plan), so this permit should not be issued before those regulations are adopted in final form. BLE emissions would impact the entire State’s power sector, first by impacting the State’s GHG  emissions rates under EPA CPP rules and secondly by undermining investments in renewable energy via subsidized and artificially low energy price that fail to consider the social costs of carbon

Source: US EPA (hit link)

Source: US EPA (hit link)

The Long Strange Trip of BLE – Well Past Time to Pull The Plug

Back in December, I flagged the issue and anticipated the need to revise the air permits after significant changes were made to the original BLE re-powering plan, which was part of the South Jersey Gas Pinelands pipeline approval, see

This last minute change in the BLE re-powering plan and how it was kept from the public and the Pinelands Commission is just another example of how absurd this whole review process is and how dirty the regulatory process has become.

Over a decade ago, US EPA and NJ DEP found that the BL England plant’s pollution violated the Clean Air Act and took enforcement action. That resulted in a Jan. 4, 2006 Administrative Consent Order (ACO) that required that the plant either be upgraded to meet the standards of the Clean Air Act or shut down.

The costs of upgrading the plant were determined to be an uneconomic investment, so the decision was made by the owner Atlantic City Electric, to shut down the plant.

But later in 2006 ACE sold the plant to financial speculators named “RC Cape May” who decided to repower the plant and convinced the Corzine DEP to extend the compliance deadlines. Ten years later, the plant is still polluting.

Then the pro-gas Christie Administration came along in 2010 – lobbied by the infamous law firm of Wolf & Samson – and green lighted DEP permits, BPU approvals, and extended the original 2006 ACO compliance deadline 3 times. No regulatory uncertainty under Bob Martin’s leadership!

The Christie crew also rammed a dedicated private pipeline through the Pinelands to serve the plant and make ratepayers pick up 60% of the $100 million construction costs of the pipeline, while providing even more public subsidies by exempting the BL England plant from various greenhouse gas emissions fees and charges.

The BLE repowering is part of a $500 million boondoggle – $400 million for the BL repowering and another $100 million for their private SJG Pinelands “dedicated” pipeline.

It will be provided gas from a multi-billion dollar regional fossil energy Ponzi scheme that begins with fracking wells from the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania, and the $1+ billion new PennEast pipeline, which will also serve the other Pinelands pipeline, known as the “Southern Reliability Link” (SRL) owned by the NJ Natural Gas Co.

Both those Pinlands pipelines are facing litigation – and DEP has not even issued all permits to the SRL, which are sure to have appeals – and the PennEast pipeline is certain to face litigation as well should FERC or DEP issue final approvals.

Investor alert: There will be protracted legal battles, growing public opposition, and civil disobedience to block these pipeline and power plant projects.

It’s time to pull the plug on the entire fossil enterprise and accelerate investments in renewable power.

[Update: 

I’ve previously disclosed the fact – unreported by NJ press – that Wolff & Samson ELEC reports show meetings with the Gov.’s Office to lobby for the BL England plant and the SJG pipeline (see this and this for examples of W&S lobbying of DEP)

Here are some of the benefits of that lobbying, worth hundreds of millions of dollars granted by Christie controlled state agencies:

1.In an April 29, 2013 Order, BPU quietly granted huge tax breaks and subsidies to the Rockland Capital BL England Plant:

Source: BPU Order

2. This BPU Order also provided secrecy to cover up the amount of huge ratepayer subsidies to Rockland Capital.

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Dear Chairman Gusciora

May 14th, 2016 No comments

An Open Letter to the Chair of the Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee

Tolerance is not an absolute and Respect must be earned

Facts matter

Dear Assemblyman Gusciora:

I want to expand upon and explain my revulsion to your exercise of the power of the Chairman of the Assembly Regulatory Oversight Committee at the May 12, 2016 hearing.

There was only one bill on the agenda and one Resolution. As far as I know, there were no conflicting Legislative activity or competing commitments of the members of the Committee.

So no one should have been in any hurry, particularly on an issue as important as pipelines.

At the outset of the hearing, you noted “a plethora” of people signed up to testify and used that as a justification for a strict 2 minute time limit on testimony.

There were 10 people who testified. None of them were lobbyists for commercial for profit interests.

I’ve never experienced a 2 minute time limit on legislative testimony in my 31 year Trenton career – even DEP regulatory hearings allow a minimum of 3 minutes, and a person can provide a second round if they are unable to finish their testimony in the 3 minute period.

I would think that such a severe restriction would require extraordinary circumstances.

In my view, objectively, there were no extraordinary circumstances and there was not a “plethora” of people seeking to be heard.

I find the 2 minute limit you imposed arbitrary, contrary to democracy and the public interest,  and an abuse of the power of the Chair.

I am copying Speaker Prieto on this to request that he look into this matter and provide guidance about whether there is Assembly policy or rules of procedure that govern and constrain a Committee Chairman’s discretion in this regard.

Furthermore, I want to object to the inappropriate manner in which you introduced my testimony. Your voice clearly paused and your inflection and tone changed when you introduced me as “a citizen”.  I signed in to testify as “citizen” – with no quotes or no need for the way you handled it.

I am sure you are very familiar with how subtle behaviors – like inflection and tone of voice – can convey disrespect.

Finally, and most importantly, I must object to how you managed the testimony and questions posed by Assemblyman Auth.

Assemblyman Auth made repeated factually false and misleading statements on air pollution, climate change science, energy economics, and the Tennessee Gas Pipeline.

You can find detailed analysis, with verbatim quotes, in these three essays:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2016/05/nj-legislator-deploys-a-death-panel-scare-tactic-in-climate-denying-attack-on-solar-and-wind-power/

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2016/05/the-renewable-energy-ventilator-death-legislator-lied-about-tennessee-gas-pipeline/

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2016/05/the-fine-art-of-pipeline-kabuki-on-display-today-in-trenton/

But you went way beyond a mere passive tolerance.

In the extended silent confusion following Auth’s “ventilator” comment, you even felt the need to explain Auth’s outrageous remark about turning off the hospital ventilators.

Perhaps worst of all, you abandoned a passive approach and silenced the only witness before the Committee with the capability and desire to rebut Auth’s ugly and false remarks.

In this pattern of conduct as Chairman, you effectively legitimized Auth’s remarks.

How would you have felt if the Assemblyman engaged in a series of lies, smears, and homophobic attacks?

Would you have sat back and let them go unchallenged?

Would you have explained them?

Would you have silenced testimony of a witness that would challenge them?

Would you have said “all views are respected” in their wake?

Assemblyman Auth acted like a jackal in targeting his inquisitions to weak members of the herd – note that he did not cross examine Assemblywoman Muoio, who had the capability to effectively rebut his false statements and defend her position.

You let all that go, which you may find a noble exercise of liberal tolerance, but that I find contemptible and cowardly.

Bill Wolfe, Bordentown

ps – I respected and reached out to you via email well before the hearing, but was not provided the respect or courtesy of a reply. In contrast, Assemblywoman Muoio’s Chief of Staff replied almost immediately.

c: Assembly Speaker Prieto
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The Renewable Energy “Ventilator Death” Legislator Lied About Tennessee Gas Pipeline

May 14th, 2016 No comments

“We’ve never had any issue with it. Nobody knows it’s there.”

Previously, I wrote about how Assemblyman Auth (R-Bergen/Passaic) used disgraceful fear mongering to attack renewable energy (i.e. turn of hospital ventilators), spouted climate denial science, and distortions and lies about energy economics.

But I omitted one of his most egregious lies about the Tennessee Gas Pipeline (TGP), which runs through his district.

Auth not only praised TGP, he denied any adverse impacts.

In explaining his vote to oppose the FERC Resolution, Assemblyman Auth stated:

We’re talking about these pipelines. And its not like I live somewhere where we’re not exposed to any of this. We have the Tennessee pipeline that runs through my town. It runs through other towns in the District I represent. And we’ve never had any issue with it. Nobody knows it’s there. Once its in its done. It’s a bucolic area to live. We don’t have any problem with it….This is a clean, economic way to go. We should be doing this.

The Assemblyman is from Ringwood. He needs to get out more often – or just read the Bergen Record, who reported on the extensive damage cause by the TGP, or talk to the North Jersey Pipeline Walkers in his district.

Take a look at the damage the TGP caused to Auth’s neighbors at Lake Lookover in West Milford.

TGP crosses lake look over, West Milford, NJ

TGP crosses lake look over, West Milford, NJ

TGP8

And a few miles west, look at the damage in Vernon, NJ:

TGP pipeline, Vernon NJ

TGP pipeline, Vernon NJ

TGP12

And look at the sinkhole collapse a few more miles west in Montague NJ:

sinkhole caused by TGP, Montague, NJ

sinkhole caused by TGP, Montague, NJ

Assemblyman Auth is either ignorant or a flat out liar.

Either way, shame on him – and the voters of the 39th District who elected him.

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Christie DEP Has New Role: Consultant To Polluters

May 13th, 2016 No comments

Christie DEP Guts Environmental Regulation Via Lax Enforcement

I initially wrote about this huge shift in Christie DEP enforcement policy way back in 2012, see:

Is it DEP Enforcement’s job to serve as “sustainability and stewardship salesmen” and consultants to regulated industries? To provide free advice to help business increase profits?

Maybe those new enforcement visions and priorities explain why DEP enforcement performance is at a record lowas reported by Todd Bates of the Asbury Park Press: …

This “sustainable business” promotional effort is part of a broader Christie/Martin “DEP Transformation” agenda to gut the traditional DEP regulatory enforcement paradigm and replace it with a voluntary, privatized, corporate model (based on private 3rd party “certifications” and “incentives)“.

Now, almost 4 years later, you don’t have to take my word for it – in their own words, DEP confirms it in virtually the same terms I used: (Bergen Record today)

Hajna said the DEP’s compliance division has taken on some new roles, such as working with regulated companies to develop environmental stewardship programs that promote green technology in buildings, energy efficient lighting and manufacturing processes that use fewer harmful chemicals or produce fewer emissions.

“Our regulated community in New Jersey gets it,” Hajna said. “We’re not stuck in 1972. We have a very responsible regulated community out there. We recognize the regulated community is not out there to destroy the environment.”

The Christie DEP has fundamentally changed DEP’s relationship to the “regulated community” (polluters).

Inherent in environmental law is DEP’s adversarial role with the regulated community via a compliance and inspection and enforcement program, the Cop on the Beat.

Historically, strict compliance monitoring and enforcement has served two roles:

1) to create deterrence and an economic incentive to avoid harms to the public health and the environment, and

2) to punish violations and restore damages that result from violations.

The Christie DEP abandoned all that, under the remarkably naive and dangerous premise that “Our regulated community in New Jersey gets it” and is “not out there to destroy the environment.”

The DEP regulated community is predominately for profit corporations. In a capitalist system, their objective is to make profits.

Complying with environmental regulation costs money and cutting corners can reduce costs and increase profits. Cutting corners can lower operating costs and provide competitive advantage and increase market share –

That’s why the US industrial and manufacturing sector moved to unregulated places like China and India.

Those fundamental economic realities have not changed. So, it is absurd for the Christie DEP to assume otherwise.

The economics of compliance boils down to whether DEP oversight and enforcement deter violations, whether:

(probability of detection) X (magnitude of fine)  > (avoided costs of compliance)

If a hazardous waste hauler can save $10,000 by illegally dumping a load of toxic waste in the woods, that would be the avoided cost of compliance.

If the is a 1% chance that he could get caught, then the fine would need to be at least $1 million to deter violation.

If a developer can fill wetlands and create 5 new lots that sell for $50,000 each, he has a huge economic incentive to violate DEP wetlands laws.

If the manger of an industrial facility can increase profits by lowering his operating and compliance costs by various schemes to fabricate water, air or soil sampling data, he will do so if he thinks he won’t get caught.

There have been allegations that the Newark School System stopped routine maintenance of lead filters due to budget cuts, so these same fundamental economics apply to the public sector as well. (The Flint Michigan disaster was a result of an attempt to reduce water costs by just $1 million per year).

It doesn’t matter if DEP managers think they “get it”.

Again, it’s Christie DEP who doesn’t get it.

But, perhaps I’m too naive myself – they clearly do get it.

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin spent his career advising corporations how to maximize profits and privatize public assets.

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