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Christie DEP Says Decision to Recommend That EPA List A NJ Toxic Site on federal Superfund Is “Not a Public Process”

June 17th, 2014 No comments

DEP Opposes Public Hearings and Prefers to Work Confidentially With Mayors

Key DEP & EPA Superfund Listing Decisions Remain a “Black Box”

“National Priority List” has become a “Mayor’s Priority List” 

Today, we are taking a new direction. Today, a new era of accountability and transparency is here. ~~~ Gov. Christie, first Inaugural Speech (1/19/10)

The bill opens a Pandora’s box of controversial issues regarding exactly how a toxic site gets listed on the federal Superfund NPL: i.e. who makes that decision, on what basis the decision is made, the public’s right to know and role in those decisions, and what are the roles of the federal and state governments.  ~~~ Bill Wolfe, 3/11/14

I was prepared yesterday to testify to the Senate Environment Committee on an important bill that would require that NJ DEP prepare a Report and hold public hearings before recommending that a toxic site be listed by US EPA on the federal Superfund “National Priorities List” (NPL)  (See A2340).

I testified, recommended strengthening amendments, and wrote about that bill during the recent Assembly consideration, see:

The bill passed the Assembly on May  22 by a unanimous 78-0 vote. It is sponsored by Louis Greenwald, the Assembly Majority leader, so there is obviously significant pressure on the Senate to move the bill to the Governor’s desk.

According to DEP testimony, the bill grew out of a controversy in South Jersey, where DEP recommended a site to EPA for NPL listing. Local officials were blind sided and did not find out about DEP’s recommendation until after the fact, when the EPA formally proposed the site in the Federal Register.

DEP refused to name that south jersey site in Greenwald’s district – or whether EPA followed through with the Superfund listing.

In a letter submitted to the Committee “late on Friday”, the DEP flat out opposed the bill because they said a public process would “tip their hand” and undermine enforcement of State cleanup laws.

DEP also flat out claimed that their decisions about whether to recommend that EPA list a NJ site on the federal Superfund NPL was “not a public process” (you can listen to the testimony here).

Hundreds of people in Pompton Lakes fighting to get the Dupont toxic site listed on the NPL would disagree strongly with that DEP claim. They are demanding transparency and a very public process.

DEP also claimed that they currently worked well with Mayors on a confidential basis, and that they are sensitive to and would not over-ride a Mayor’s preferences, so there was no need for the bill.

Again, the  people in Pompton Lakes, who have criticized DEP’s closed door dealings with Mayor Cole – and thousands of people in Roxbury Township denouncing DEP’s lack of communication and questioning Mayor Rilee’s efforts on the Fenimore Landfill – would disagree strongly with that as well.

Throughout DEP’s testimony, they misleadingly emphasized that the Superfund NPL listing process is a federal responsibility and that it is subject to public participation during the EPA rule making process.

This is misleading on at least two grounds – first, EPA defers to NJ DEP in making NPL decisions, so DEP’s recommendation to EPA is crucial. It is vital that NJ residents have an informed opportunity to influence DEP’s recommendations to EPA.

Second, both EPA and DEP are aware of and have tons of important information on toxic sites that the public should be aware of, including the Superfund eligibility, scoring, and risk ranking system known as the “HRS” – which takes ut to how sites are listed and on what basis they are listed.

  • The implications – How the Superfund NPL listing process works

The DEP’s decision whether to recommend that EPA list a site on Superfund is extremely important for the protection of public health and the environment.

As even DEP noted, a Superfund NPL site benefits from significant US EPA financial and technical resources, enforcement leverage, and public participation in cleanup decisions.

High risk toxic sites that qualify for Superfund on a risk basis may languish for years under NJ’s voluntary cleanup program, which lacks those federal resources and enforcement stick.

So, DEP’s decision to recommend that EPA list a NJ site provides huge benefits to the people of a community.

Under current EPA Superfund listing policy known as “state concurrence”, the support and recommendations of States are prerequisites for Superfund listing.

EPA will not list a site on the NPL without the support of the State Governor. Similarly, State’s can block EPA scientists’ recommendations that a site be listed on the NPL.

But, communities across NJ lack awareness of the Superfund listing process, the existence of these high risk sites, or the opportunity to secure EPA Superfund resources.

If communities became aware of the fact that high risk sites were eligible for Superfund, they could put pressure on DEP and EPA to list those sites and bring additional federal resources and enforcement authority to their towns.

To provide transparency and this critical information to local residents, PEER sought to obtain DEP and EPA documents, known as “Hazard Ranking Scores” (HRS) on NJ sites that qualify for Superfund. Both DEP and EPA conduct HRS scoring.

A toxic site with a HRS score greater than 28.5 qualifies for Superfund listing. For example, the Dupont site in Pompton Lakes scored an astronomical 70, even without consideration of vapor intrusion risk, a facts that residents have emphasized in urging DEP and EPA to pursue Superfund listing.

EPA denied our request for these HRS documents under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), so we had to sue EPA to obtain those HRS documents.

Settlement of the PEER EPA  lawsuit resulted in ou discovery of the fact that at least 36 NJ sites qualify for Superfund, but DEP has not recommended that EPA list those site -for a list of those sites and communities, see:

  • Bill Held, no testimony taken (other than DEP)

DEP asked that the bill be held.

Chairman Smith agreed with both DEP and  Greenwald and offered a compromise. Smith suggested that instead of a public hearing, the bill be revised to require just a 90 day notice to the Mayor.

The Smith compromise is a bad idea that would continue to shut communities out of a critical decsion-making process at DEP and maintain the status quo black box and behind closed door local politics.

Smith then asked for and received a motion to hold the bill.

That move blocked any testimony, so none of all these issues got discussed.

  • “National Priorities List” (NPL) has become a “Mayor’s Priority List” (MPL)

Under the federal Superfund law, the decision about whether to list a contaminated site on the NPL is a federal US EPA responsibility, not a State or local responsibility.

NPL listing decisions are supposed to be based on science and risks to human health and the environment, not politics, economics, or local parochial concerns.

States are given no role in this decision, but the law does give State’s an opportunity to express concerns and, under a separate provision, to target a very small number of  sites for priority consideration.

Unfortunately, ever since the Clinton Administration aquiesced to the Gingrich Revolution (Contract On America) and the radical federalism policies of the 94th Congress, (does anyone still recall Al Gore’s “Reinventing Government”?) EPA has pursued a “partnership” relationship with the States.

Under Superfund, this means “state concurrence”, which has effectively delegated federal NPL decision-making to the States.

Now, in NJ, the State of NJ is giving local Mayor’s a veto power over State NPL recommendation decisions.

It’s a two step rollback: the National NPL has become the Mayor’s MPL.

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Christie Is An Authoritarian (Part 7)

June 1st, 2014 No comments

“Language matters – it is a window into attitude” ~~~ Gov. Chris Christie


Gov. Christie (press conference at Union Beach firehouse - 2/13/14)

Gov. Christie (press conference at Union Beach firehouse – 2/5/13)


Since his first Inaugural, I’ve written that Gov. Christie exhibits tendencies that former President Nixon’s White House Counsel and Watergate nemesis John Dean described as “authoritarian” – a “conservative without conscience“, see:

I guess you can say that I have a strong opinion on the matter! (and this was all before his Pinelands hardball and retaliatory Pinelands Purge!)

Anyway, today, I was struck by this quote from the Star Ledger’s Auditor column, which reveals Christie’s true authoritarian belief system – and how openly her reveals it:

“Economies go up and down. Unemployment rates go up and down. GDP goes up and down. And yes, leadership can play a role in making sure that either goes in the right direction or wrong direction. But ultimately, the greatest moments in American history, in my opinion, have been determined when the true heart and soul of the American people has been embodied in our leaders.”

Note how objective conditions and facts and public policy don’t matter.

Note how, in rejecting objective reality, Christie appeals to and invokes “the true heart and soul of the American people” – he might as well have pulled a Dr. Strangelove and appealed to the “volk” and “the Homeland”.

Note how that “true heart and soul” – like material objective conditions and public policy – don’t matter either, but only to the degree that they are expressed and “embodied in our leaders”.

Got it?

Real leaders channel the “true heart and soul” of the people, who are only effective to the degree that the leader leads them.

That kind of “leader” worship could have sprung from the lips of Hitler.

As even the Gov. himself has said, words do matter. 

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The Model for Gov. Christie’s “Office of Intergovernmental Affairs”

May 8th, 2014 No comments


Christie's first term Inaugural

Christie’s first term Inaugural (Jan. 19, 2010 – Bill Wolfe)

On top of the Mastro Report interview summaries, with the testimony of Christina Renna, the former Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (IGA), there can be no doubt that IGA was a political operation designed for and fully integrated into the Christie re-election campaign.

I have called it Christie’s CREEP.

The NJ media has not gone there yet, but that is clearly the direction the Legislative investigation is going, as evidenced by yesterday’s subpoena to Michael DuHaime, Christie’s re-election political strategist.

So, I thought I’d offer up a little historical research to frame and feed the shifting investigative focus.

For just a tiny taste of the many striking parallels between President Nixon’s CREEP and Gov. Christie’s IGA, check this excerpt out, from the official Nixon Library on the Administrative history of CREEP:

“Malek’s other task when made the head of the White House Personnel Operation was the “responsiveness program,” a way to gain political support for Nixon’s re-election by using federal resources and grants to influence key states and voting blocs, especially minority groups (the Senate Watergate Committee later investigated and censured this program). While still running the personnel operation, Malek played an active role in the Committee for the Re-Election of the President by applying the methods and information used in the “responsiveness program” to CRP programs.

Obviously, IGA was serving exactly the same purpose and function as CREEP, i.e. to use governmental resources, programs, powers, and funds “to gain political support for Nixon’s re-election by using federal resources and grants to influence key states and voting blocs”.

That is the true scandal – not some traffic at the GWB and Ft. Lee.

And, like Nixon, the coverup is criminal and should result in similar political consequences.

[ps – and how did Christie ever dodge the Karl Rove US Attorney scandal? And why did NJ press never connect the dots like this: Chris Christie’s Entire Career Reeks – It’s Not Just the Bridge]

 Richard M. Nixon takes the oath of office as President of the United States.  Date:   January 20, 1969  (Source: Nixon Library

Richard M. Nixon takes the oath of office as President of the United States.
Date: January 20, 1969 (Source: Nixon Library)


President Nixon points out the NVA sanctuaries along the Cambodian border in his speech to the American people announcing the Cambodian incursion.  Date:   April 30, 1970  (Source: Nixon Library)

President Nixon points out the NVA sanctuaries along the Cambodian border in his speech to the American people announcing the Cambodian incursion.
Date: April 30, 1970 (Source: Nixon Library)


President Nixon delivers his Farewell Remarks to the White House Staff in the East Room, with his family looking on.  Date:   August 9, 1974 (Source: Nixon Library)

President Nixon delivers his Farewell Remarks to the White House Staff in the East Room, with his family looking on.
Date: August 9, 1974 (Source: Nixon Library)


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End of Christie’s First Term – Gov. Signs Bill To Extend Cleanup Deadline For Toxic Polluters

January 22nd, 2014 No comments

Gov. Pocket Veto’s Bill To Require Public Notification of Raw Sewage Discharges

Why Would Gov. Christie Want to Keep Raw Sewage A Secret?

[Important updates below]

Governor Christie ended his first term as the first  NJ Governor ever to complete a 4 year term with virtually no environmental legislative accomplishments, serious legislative rollbacks, and nothing but rollbacks on the regulatory front.

Christie ends his first term attacking environmental protections, just where he started, when in the first hour of his first day in office, he issued a series of sweeping Executive Orders: establishing a moratorium on regulations (EO #1); regulatory relief, federal standards rollback, and cost benefit analysis (EO #2); a new Red Tape  Czar and Red Tape commission (EO #3); and restrictions on unfunded state mandates (EO #4).

Going out with a bang, Christie also ended the 215th Legislative Session (2012-2013) with more evidence of his hostility to environmental protection – evidenced in the bills he signed and the long list of bills he refused to sign and let expire (a “pocket veto”).

But the Governor did so quietly, under cover of his scandal, Inauguration, and a major snow storm that triggered an emergency declaration (view Gov. press release and the massive legislative dump here).

In fact, the Gov.’s action on two bills in particular provide a stunning example of that hostility.

First, the Governor signed a bill that would provide a two year extension of toxic site cleanup deadlines and allow private consultants for the polluters to self certify that the delay is justified.

The bill was rammed through the lame duck session, got no press, and is a poster child for abuse.

The bill guts the only enforceable deadline in the new DEP privatized toxic cleanup program and is a stunning contradiction of the corporate polluters’ promises to expedite cleanup in exchange for privatizing the cleanup program.

The law will only result in more pollution of our soil, groundwater, drinking water, rivers and streams and wildlife –  while allowing the cleanup of  toxic hazards in our communities to fester for two more years.

The only beneficiaries of the law are corporate polluters, who dodge costly cleanup requirements.

I wrote about that bill here:

Second, the Gov. “pocket vetoed” a bill that would have required public notifications and warnings about raw sewage discharges to our rivers, streams, and bays.

Jim O’Neill at the  Bergen Record gets it:

Governor Christie declined to sign a bill that would have required public notification whenever sewer-outfall pipes dump raw sewage into local rivers and bays, legislation that had received overwhelming support by both parties in the state legislature.

The bill also would have required outfall pipes to be clearly marked with signs for swimmers, fishermen, kayakers and other who use the water.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Debbie Mans, head of the NY/NJ Baykeeper, which supported the bill. “This is a significant public health issue. Unfortunately the governor didn’t think important that the public be informed that they are swimming in raw sewage.”`

Killing that bill makes an absolute mockery of the Governor’s promise made at his first Inaugural address that:

Today, a new era of accountability and transparency is here.

Christie is the “worst environmental governor ever” (sorry, I stole that phrase from Jeff Tittel, who used it to describe Gov. Corzine).

Here are other pro- environmental and public health related bills the Gov. pocket vetoed – without explanation.

The legislation would have improved a myriad of protections and programs for: coastal dunes; transportation infrastructure financing; coastal rebuilding and home elevation; fire prevention; health risks from mold; clean energy; green buildings; water conservation; and hurricane flood protections – take a look:

S-2602/A-3893 (Smith/Spencer, Rudder) – Repeals law providing CAFRA permit exemption for certain grading or excavation of dune

CC SCS for S-2143/ACS for A-3177 (Gordon, Norcross/Wisniewski, Singleton, Stender, Caride) – Establishes State Transportation Infrastructure Bank and Energy Bank within New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust

S-2976/A-4394 (B. Smith, Bateman/Wisniewski, Amodeo) – Provides standards for, and requires registration of, home elevation contractors

A-1570/S-2273 (Wisniewski, Green, Jasey/Norcross) – Requires fire suppression systems in new single and two family homes

A-1588/S-2081 (Benson, Riley, Ramos/Singer, Greenstein) – Requires DCA to establish procedures for inspection and abatement of mold hazards in residential buildings and school facilities, certification programs for mold inspectors and mold hazard abatement workers

A-2888/SCS for S-2733 (Chivukula, McKeon, Eustace/Smith, Greenstein, Whelan, Bateman, Beck) –Creates Office of Clean Energy in BPU

A-3103/SCS for S-2732 (Ramos, Spencer, Gusciora, DeAngelo, Benson/Gordon, Greenstein) – Provides for priority consideration, by DCA, DEP, DOT, and municipalities, of permit applications for green building projects

A-3898/S-2632 (Ramos, Spencer, Eustace, Vainieri Huttle, Sumter/Smith, Greenstein) – Authorizes municipalities to finance water conservation, storm shelter construction, and flood and hurricane resistance projects

[Update #1: 1/23/13 – Gov. Christie’s signing the 2 year delay in toxic site cleanup got no press. Compare that silence to the ton of coverage given a similar 2 year delay in a water quality rule – could that be because Jeff Tittel curiously testified in support of the cleanup bill delay and then left that bill out of his press release? Why would Tittel support delay of a bad privatization law he opposed and used as his primary example of why Jon Corzine was “the worst environmenntal governor ever”?  Don’t believe he supported it? Listen to the testimony (hit link for Senate Env. 12/5/13). The media stenographers tend  to defer to Tittel for determining what’s newsworthy and lord knows, he works the phone).

But, the raw sewage bill got a good followup story in the Bergen Record, see: Backers of sewage spill bill are baffled –

But oops! reporter Jim O’Neill forgot to ask Sen Smith about his toxic cleanup delay bill! That might muddy the narrative of Smith as environmental champion.   end update #1].

[Update #2– Kirk Moore does a good story on pocket veto of home elevation safety bill, see:  Christie’s pocket veto:No boost for house-lifting safety measure – but again, Sen. Smith is a hero and not asked about his toxic delay bill. – end update #2]

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Why Did Christie BPU Keep Economics of Pines Pipeline Gas Deal Secret?

December 16th, 2013 No comments

BL England Plant Gets Below Market Rates and Millions in Subsidies

South Jersey Gas Seeks Rate Increase Before Pipeline is Even Built

South Jersey Homes and Businesses Will Pay More To Subsidize BL England

Corporate Profits Prevail Over Public Interest

Today, a new era of accountability and transparency is here.” ~~~ Gov. Chris Christie, Inaugural speech, Jan. 19, 2010

Compliance and Ethics Program: Since our company was founded, we have had a reputation for being an honest and fair company with which to do business. Over time, we have demonstrated the ability to operate transparently by establishing policies and procedures that ensure integrity and fair business practices. ~~~ South Jersey Industries

[Update below]

On November 29, 2013, South Jersey Gas announced their request to BPU for a huge rate increase, which would cost the average homeowner, at least $18 per month:

Should the full amount of the request be approved, a typical heating customer’s monthly bill at 100-therms would increase by $18.43, from $128.31 to $146.74.

For context of how much gas 100 therms is, consider the fact that the proposed Pinelands pipeline to BL England  is designed to carry 20 million therms per year – so, doing the math, the proposed rate increase, if applied equally to the BL England plant, should be a whopping $307,176 per month.

But that ain’t gonna happen – businesses and homeowners will see huge rate increases while BL England gets cheaper gas and exempted from energy taxes and charges.

That’s right – BL England will pay far less for gas than other south jersey businesses and homeowners. All while consumers pay for the lion’s share of a $100 million private gas pipeline dedicated to the BL England plant, as well as the $8 million bribe to the Pinelands Commission to get it approved.

Is that all part of SJG’s “honest and fair business practices”?

The SJG rate increase request appears to include an up front recovery of the full costs of the controversial $100 million Pinelands pipeline, which was scheduled to begin construction in 2013.

Do typical local construction contractors get paid up front for work not even done yet? (see the controversial Christie policy that allowed that:  GAS UTILITIES LOOK FOR RAPID RECOVERY OF COSTS FOR UPGRADING INFRASTRUCTURE)

This filing primarily seeks to recover costs for $553 million of necessary infrastructure investments made to enhance the safety and reliability of SJG’s system that will have been and will be spent between September 2010 and the end of 2014. 

But regardless of whether this huge SJG rate increase reflects the costs of the proposed Pinelands pipeline, why did Board of Public Utilities (BPU) keep the economic details of a below market gas deal between South Jersey Gas Co. (SJG) and the BL England plant (BLE) secret?

Is that part of Gov. Christie’s “new era of transparency”?

Here is the secrecy provision from the BPU’s April 29, 2013 Order:

(Source: BPU Order April 2013)

If you look at the fine print of you gas and electric bill, you might see that as a consumer of energy, you pay a very small per unit energy consumed fee  known as the “Societal Benefits Charge” –  that funds clean energy programs is NJ. It cost a homeowner a few dollars a month, but large energy consumers, like the BL England plant, could pay millions of dollars a year.

So why did BPU grant BL England millions of dollars of subsidies from exemptions from charges like the Societal Benefits Charge, paid by all other energy consumers?

Here are the exemptions from the BPU Order:

(Source: BPU April 2013 Order)

Could that secrecy and all those millions of dollars in subsidies and loopholes it be the result of insider access and revolving door lobbying of well connected former officials?

Consider the fact that BL England’s lead legal Counsel is John Valeri, now at Wolff Samson – a former lawyer from the Whitman Governor’s Office and EPA.

So it is almost certain that Valeri’s inside access produced these kind of results, which provide huge corporate profits but are strongly not in the public interest or those of south jersey ratepayers.

Did Mr. Valeri work on any energy issue while employed by the Governor?

Why aren’t any of these issues investigated or reported in the press?

Are there any intrepid reporters out there? There are at least 3 huge stories here –

  • corporate subsides, tax breaks and loopholes – while small consumers get screwed
  • secret regulatory deals
  • revolving door access from former Governor’s Office lawyers and questionable ethics


Update: 12/19/13 – Looks like BL England got a much better deal from BPU and that south jersey consumers got screwed, compared to this deal in central Jersey. South Jersey consumers pay 60% of the $100 million pipeline, which is dedicated to the BL England plant. The Cape May “reliability” crap is cover for that ripoff. On top of that abuse, south jersey consumers pay far more for gas than BL England does::

N.J. Natural Gas strikes long-term deal to provide service to Sayreville power plant

“Red Oak, a natural gas-fired plant, will be responsible for the cost of connecting to NJNG’s distribution main, which now runs within 600 feet of the facility.

New Jersey Natural Gas, which is a subsidiary of New Jersey Resources, said its customers won’t pay for the cost of connecting or providing natural gas service to the plant.” – end update]

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