Tag Archive: DEP

Don’t Hold Your Breath

While the media’s attention is focused on the Democrats this week, Governor Christie’s kowtowing to the Koch Brothers continues to fly under the press’ radar screen.

When you can’t jump over the bar, you have two choices – work at it to improve, or lower the bar. When it comes to meeting Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air standards for New Jersey, Christie chooses the latter.

The Christie Administration’s Department of Environmental Protection is petitioning the EPA to declare the Garden State’s highly developed counties around New York and Philadelphia as having attained the requirements for what is referred to as “fine particulate matter”, even though they are neither in compliance, nor improving in those areas. Rather, Christie’s DEP is proposing gimmicks like moving monitoring sensors to less-polluted areas and claiming that due to the recession, more people are using mass transit and leaving their cars at home.

This year, the American Lung Association graded 13 of our 21 counties on air quality, with the best grade being a D in two of those counties, while 11 received an F.

Yet, at a hearing today in Trenton, the only group that came to testify was the Sierra Club. Have other clean air advocates lost their mojo? Have the Koch Brothers been successful in keeping these issues out of the press?

Lowering the bar for fine particulate matter is, of course, not the only area where Christie sides with the polluters over the health of New Jerseyans. His pullout from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, his stonewalling on developing regulations for wind power, his silence on fracking, and his failure to collect fines from polluters are other examples of his disregard for the environment. All of these will ultimately result in increased health issues, costing businesses money in health care and employee productivity – not a very business-friendly platform.

When Christie was elected, there was hope that at least on the environment, he would live up to his reputation as a “moderate” Republican. But after his secret meeting with the Koch Brothers, he swiftly moved in the direction of the GOP extremists. I was hoping that after his national ambitions were thwarted, he would move more toward Christine Todd Whitman’s position and away from those of Michele Bachmann. But I’m not holding my breath.

Assemblyman McKeon on the Governor’s Environmental Record

Earlier this year, shortly after what was to be a secret meeting with the infamous Koch Brothers, Governor Christie announced that he would withdraw New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). As Assemblyman John McKeon explains in this interview, RGGI is a consortium of eastern states with a goal to reduce greenhouse gasses (carbon emissions). After Christie bowed down to the pollution lobby, the legislature voted to compel the Governor to reverse his egregious decision. Of course, the Governor vetoed that legislation.

Assembly McKeon explains why this veto is foolhardy – not only because it works against the goal of breathable air and mitigating the effect of man-made climate change, but because the Governor’s veto is detrimental to the economy and the creation of much-needed jobs. McKeon also talks about Christie’s evisceration of the Department of Environmental Protection.





Stop Chris Christie From Gutting Environmental Protections

As you know, earlier this year Governor Christie set out to change the rules and allow corporations to end-run long-standing environmental laws. Essentially, this would weaken over 100 necessary protection guidelines. The Christie’s Administration’s radical, regressive push would put not only New Jersey’s land, air and water in harm’s way, but the health of our families, as well.

The Wind Beneath our (Economic) Wings

There’s a term going around these days – “disruptive technology.” It refers to innovations that result in a totally new way of using technology to do something that causes an existing technology to rapidly become obsolete. One example is portable music players. Soon they will completely supplant compact disk recordings, which itself was a disruptive technology that replaced cassette tapes.

Generation of electrical energy from wind is not strictly a disruptive technology because it will not totally replace fossil fuels (at least in the near term), but it does hold the promise of clean energy while reducing our dependence on dirty fuels like coal, oil, and uranium.

No Gas Pipeline in Jersey City

Erg … the Gasland screening in my earlier promoting comment was last month, not tonight. My bad – 100% my bad – not KendalJames’ fault. – promoted by Rosi

On September 9, a natural gas pipeline in San Bruno, CA exploded, killing 8 people and injuring at least 60, some critically. According to the NTSB, an electrical problem caused the explosion. There were 47 pipeline incidents in the U.S. last year that caused serious injury or death. So in Jersey City, they’re trying to stop a pipeline.

If you go to the activist website NoGasPipeline.org you get the picture right away – noted shady energy outfit Spectra Energy wants to run a 30″ pipe – identical to the one that exploded in San Bruno – straight through Jersey City and into Manhattan. You could say that New York gets the gas and New Jersey gets nothing, but that’s not true – with the pipeline, Jersey City would assume a permanent dark cloud of grave danger and potential catastrophe; not to mention a blast radius that includes numerous schools, churches, homes and playgrounds, two hospitals, a chemical storage company and multiple redevelopment sites. (“Jersey City – come for the cheap real estate, stay for the slow poisoning and threat of fiery annihilation?”)

The activists behind No Gas Pipeline and their supporters do have some help in trying to keep this awfulness out of Jersey City, including Mayor Jeremiah Healy and his ’12 competition, councilman Steven Fulop (the earliest public supporter of the anti-pipeline effort), the NJ DEP, The Sierra Club and others. So if no one wants the pipeline built, why can’t they stop it or get it rerouted? Because in order for that to happen, Governor Christie must formally file for Intervenor status with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission – the body that (almost always) approves of these kinds of projects. (Funny thing – Spectra Energy board member Nora Brownell was Commissioner of FERC under Bush-Cheney. Weird!) Just last week, Christie filed to intervene in the construction of a pipeline between Asbury Park and Middlesex County. “I will not subject our state’s shore and economy to the environmental risks that are inseparable from such a project,” said Christie of the pipeline that would be located 16 miles offshore. Yet he has yet to indicate any opposition Spectra’s plan for a pipe right through one of New Jersey’s most densely populated and economically vibrant areas.

Spectra Energy had agreed to come speak at a No Gas Pipeline-sponsored community forum scheduled to take place last week, but they bailed and instead decided to put up their own website, called YesGasPipeline.org. Despite such clever maneuvering, Spectra isn’t actually interested in persuading the people of Jersey City that this dangerous, toxic pipeline is a good idea. They don’t have to, because eminent domain and Governor Christie’s inaction will see them through.

Postscript: It’s worth noting that this pipeline will carry “fracked” gas, originating in the now-infamous Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. “Fracking” – or hydraulic fracturing – is Halliburton’s proprietary process for extracting natural gas from underground. Byproducts of fracking include poisoned water supplies, dire environmental damage, and very sick people. (Have you seen the clips of people who can light their tap water on fire? That’s a result of fracking, and it’s most certainly not good.) The recent Sundance-winning documentary Gasland is currently the best resource available for learning about fracking.

DEP Dead in the Water – Eye of Category 5 Hurrricane Christie/Martin Passing Over Trenton

After pounding Trenton for months with record breaking sustained 175 mile per hour winds, destroying several major programs, and killing the morale of over 3,000 DEP workers, the Christie/Martin anti-regulatory winds have gone slack over Trenton.

As the eye of the storm passes over Trenton, we thought we’d take this opportunity to inventory the current damage and outline the path of destruction to follow (done in summary fashion – please hit the links for the full discussion and source documents, or use the word search function on the top righthand corner of this page to access my prior posts on that topic). We invite and welcome additional reports from readers out there – and please provide documentation.

I)  Damage Assessment Thus Far

1. New regulations virtually stalled.

To give readers a sense of the radical nature of the Christie/Martin assault and illustrate just how dead in the water DEP is, we gathered data on historic DEP rulemaking activity:

Year                                          Rules Proposed                       Rules Adopted

2004                                                 NA                                           8

2005                                                 NA                                           8

2006                                                 NA                                          11

2007                                                 22                                           11

2008                                                  18                                          24

2009                                                 21                                            9

2010                                                 4                                             2

[for full post with numerous links, hit this link:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

Drink Water and Get Lung Cancer

promoted by Rosi

There’s a disturbing article in the South Jersey section of today’s Inquirer about how the state is ineffectively handling the levels of cancer-causing radon in our drinking water.  The article points out that in some communities, the level of this carcinogen in drinking water is 25 times more than that deemed “safe” by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  And this so-called “safe” level is set at a point where “an additional 1 in 2000 people would develop cancer over a lifetime of exposure.”  Let’s do a back-of the envelope calculation:  The population of New Jersey is 8.7 million.  I don’t know how many people live in the Garden State all their lives – so just for argument’s sake let’s say half of them – 4.35 million.  So if 1 in 2000 would develop cancer over their lifetime, that’s an “acceptable “rate of almost 2200 cancer cases due to radon in the drinking water.

Radon occurs naturally, so it is inevitable that people will be exposed to this toxic gas.  But the technology exists to mitigate its effects by filtering it out of the water supply.  According to the article, it would cost only $79 million over 20 years to make drinking water safe for the sixty percent of New Jerseyans who get their water from river sources – peanuts compared to the tax break that our Governor gave to millionaires.  Filtration systems for homes that get their water from wells could cost up to $5000 – less than the medical care for cancer treatment.

So a decade after this problem has been identified, how is the state responding?  They are “analyzing” the data!   Governor Christie and his Evian-drinking cronies are no friend of the environment, so don’t look for leadership from his office to address the problem.  Fortunately, radon – unlike other nasty stuff that pollutes the environment – has no lobby, so there’s a chance that progress can be made in cleaning up this toxin.

I’m glad that the Inquirer devoted space to this issue, but like other stories in this short attention span society, it will be stale and forgotten by this time tomorrow – only to be recognized by those families whose loved ones succumb to radon poisoning.  It is up to us to bring this to the forefront and ensure our legislators are aware of the problem that impacts all of us – and they take action.

Memo to Menendez

Senator: Just noted your letter regarding the oil spill research capabilities of Earl Naval Weapons Station.

While that facility is important, there are far bigger fish to fry right here in NJ.

If you would take a peek, you would see that  Governor Christie is slashing NJ’s capabilities to prevent and respond to an oil spill or chemical accident:

“Maybe Commissioner Martin will do more than just issue press releases and computer model the highly unlikely impacts of the Gulf oil on NJ’s shore.

Like maybe he might do some actual field tests of DEP’s emergency response plans (like DEP did in 2005) and assure that they are fully resourced. Perhaps he might be asked to assure that prevention/TCPA & DPCC regulations are strictly enforced (or compare those plans and capabilities to the highly deficient BP and Coast Guard plans in the Gulf, so that lessons can be learned).”

For details and links, see:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

APP Editorial: Aiding Economy Not DEP’s Job

I’ve been writing about this issue for weeks (see: http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

so I was pleased to read a strong editorial by Asbury Park Press:

When will Dems press these issues?

Now and then, some public official will say things that make the attentive listener go, “Whoa! That doesn’t sound quite right. Does this guy understand his job?”

The most recent example to come out of the Christie administration is found in the musings of Bob Martin, the new commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection

“I am very excited about taking on this position – and, if confirmed, I will work to advance DEP’s core mission of protecting and preserving the environment of New Jersey,” Martin said at his confirmation hearing last month. “At the same time I will help the DEP fulfill its role in growing the economy of this state.”

Whoa. Since when is the role of the DEP to “grow the economy?” We thought the sole mission of the DEP was to protect the environment.

[…]

The DEP’s job is to protect and preserve the environment, not to insert itself into questions of the economic issues involved. That’s for other state policymakers to address. It is much too early to form any judgments on how Martin will do on the job. But some of his statements thus far should give those who care about New Jersey’s environment real pause.

full editorial here: http://www.app.com/article/201…

New World Order at DEP – Martin Uses State Police To Eject Enviro

[for version with supporting links, go to:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

Ironically, the DEP PowerPoint briefing title was “New World Order”

DEP held an important meeting today to brief consultants and environmental groups about implementation plans for the new privatized controversial toxic site cleanup Licensed Site Professionals (LSP) program. Here is the DEP’s April 5 email invitation and agenda:

 A Site Remediation Advisory Group meeting has been scheduled for April 13, 2010 at 1:30 in the Public Hearing Room at the Department of Environmental Protection Headquarters.   The agenda will be as follows:

   1.Update from each of the Site Remedation Reform Act teams

   a.  Measures of Success

   b.  Near-term Priorities

   c.  Technical Regulations

   d.  Guidance Documents

   2.  Presentation of the draft Remedial Priority System

   3. Open forum

I was forwarded this email by an environmental colleague (See below for email and those invited). I have gone to SRAG meetings in the past, which have been open to the public and included a public comment opportunity. Given the importance of the agenda items, particularly the DEP’s new draft Remedial Priority System, I decided to attend and report to the public about these issues via this blog.

I arrived at the DEP building, signed in, and entered the meeting in DEP’s public meeting room. There were well over 50 people in attendance, mostly consultants and LSPs.

While I was having an informal conversation with a Deputy Attorney General, DEP Security advised me that Commissioner Martin  directed me to leave the meeting. I asked him on what basis this Order was issued and was told the meeting was by invitation only. I replied that if this were the case, then Martin should try to enforce that restriction, as I was under the impression the meeting was open, and not by invitation, having attended open SRAG meetings before. Other  NJ environmentalist were invited, so this was not a private confidential industry only meeting.

Shortly thereafter, 3 state police officers showed up, directed me out of the public hearing room, told me that Martin has asked them to eject me, and took my personal identification information for their police action report.

Today’s over the top use of State Police is part of a troubling an unacceptable pattern by Martin to shut down public involvement in DEP decisions.

New World Order indeed!

Dear Commissioner Martin:

I am writing to condemn your decision to ask the State Police to eject me from the Site Remediation Advisory Group (SRAG) briefing by DEP staff, which was held today at DEP’s public hearing room.

Such heavy handed tactics are un-American, and have no place in state government.

I have attended SRAG meetings in the past.

I testified throughout the legislative debate on the Licensed Site Professional bill, the subject of today’s briefing.

I testified in the legislature specifically on the topic of the risk based priority system, which also was on today’s briefing agenda.

I received the DEP’s email invitation last week, which was forwarded to me by an environmental colleague. So the meeting was open to other environmental and public interest advocates.

There were dozens of people in the room. No DEP staffer requested identification at the door to assure that all in attendance were on an invitation list. So it is obvious that I was targeted for removal.

It is also obvious why I was targeted, because I am an intense, vocal, and visible advocate of the public interest and transparent government.

In light of this episode, I ask for your support towards reforms to make all DEP advisory group deliberations are open and accessible to the public, transparent, accountable, objective, and subject to ethical standards, as provided by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

Sincerely

Bill Wolfe, Director

NJ PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)

609-397-4861