Tag Archive: environment

Why did Sarlo put this bill up and why was it posted for hearing?

This is the kind of BS that I find absolutely intolerable.

I just got the Senate Environment Committee Agenda for December 14.

Sarlo sponsored S3004, a bill designed to REDUCE the public notification requirements polluters must provide to property owners and residents near toxic contaminated sites.

1. Who is Sarlo trying to protect?

2. Why would Chairman Bob Smith post the bill?

http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2…

This bill changes the scope of the public notification required of any person responsible for conducting the remediation of a site that has been contaminated with any hazardous substance, hazardous waste or pollutant.  Currently, any such person is required to provide written notification, which includes a summary of the site conditions and information about actions being taken to remediate the site, to any local property owners and tenants who reside within 200 feet of the contaminated site.  This bill changes this provision to require that written notification be made only to local property owners and tenants who reside within 200 feet of any “area of concern” within the contaminated site.  Under the law, “area of concern” is defined as any location where contaminants are or were known or suspected to have been discharged, generated, manufactured, refined, transported, stored, handled, treated, or disposed, or where contaminants have or may have migrated.

Lame Duck bill shines light on major flaws in privatization

What it boils down to is this: Would you promise not to sue your doctor based only on his/her certification that he/she did a good job? Of course not.

Would a town promise not to sue a builder based only on the builder’s engineer’s certification that the construction project was done right? Of course not.

But the state of NJ has promised not to sue toxic site cleanup contractors, developers, and polluters based only on the certification of their paid private cleanup contractor that the cleanup was done right. Absurd? Of course.

Today, the Senate Environment Committee released  S3040 (Smith (D) Ciesla (R).

According to the S3040 bill statement, the bill would:

This bill would provide consistency so that a covenant not to sue by operation of law for a remediation that has department oversight for which a no further action letter is issued would be available just as for a remediation that is performed by a licensed site remediation professional for which a response action outcome (RAO) is issued. This correction to the law would apply retroactively to October 16, 2009.

I testified in opposition to S3040 today, primarily on the grounds that it invited abuse, created moral hazard, protected wrongdoers, and that allowing private consultants and their polluter/developer clients to benefit financially and legally via self certification created conflicts of interest. I mentioned that the Wall Street collapse was caused by market failures, unregulated conflicts of interest, lax regulatory oversight, false certifications by professionals, and privatization – the exact same polices promoted by the NJ LSP program.

read the complete version with supporting links at:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2009…

World’s leading climate scientist calls out NRDC

[Note: cross post – for links and protest photo’s, go to:

http://wolfenotes.com/2009/11/…

Jim Hansen Takes on NRDC and Bank of America

Cap and trade with  offsets would guarantee that we pass climate tipping points, locking in climate disasters for our children. Cap and trade benefits only Wall Street and polluters, sacrificing humanity and nature for their profits.  Dr. James Hansen

Will the media and policy makers finally wake up and pay attention after the world’s leading global warming scientists takes the extraordinary and unprecedented step to publicly criticize US national environmental groups for their lax posture on global warming?

Or will the mighty Obama Administration, Democratic Washington DC beltway, and corporate PR Wurlitzer continue to dominate US public opinion?

[Update: NYC Independent media: NRDC Protested For Greenwashing and Support of Carbon Trading and Coal!

Alternet: Activists Protest Environmental Agency for Collaborating With Polluters

After years of battling NJ environmental groups for their support of the symbolic political gesture known as the NJ Global Warming Response Act (see NJ Star Ledger Op-Ed: “No teeth in “tough” pollution law” ) and the fatally flawed Regional Green House Gas Initiative (RGGI) cap and trade program (e.g. see “Lame Global Warming Bill Goes to Governor”, and see this and this) (both supported by NRDC), I am so glad that someone is now calling out national environmental groups for similar sell outs.

That much needed criticism could not have come from a more credible source or at a better time – Dr. James Hansen, world renown global warming scientist.

Today, in an effort to pierce the mounting propaganda war in the run up to the global warming treaty negotiations in Copenhagen, world renown atmospheric scientist Jim Hansen broke new ground by calling out both the Bank of America (for financing coal power) AND the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) for supporting fatally flawed “cap and trade” legislation.

I know I was livid when I learned that NRDC supports “carbon capture and storage” (CCS), when NJ Activists are fighting to block a massive $5 billion coal plant called “PurGen” planned for Linden, NJ. That CCS plant would pipe CO2 70 miles out and “store” it 1 and 1/2 miles deep under the ocean.Recently, I wrote:

Why are national “environmental groups” supporting new coal power plants and so called  “clean coal technology”? (link)

I refer to Senate testimony yesterday by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in support of the so called “clean coal technology” incentives in the Kerry Senate global warming bill:

Here’s the testimony of NRDC:

I was even angrier at NRDC when I learned that they had done an end run around Copenhagen global negotiations and worked with China on a bilateral US – China coal and CCS deal.

On the 10th anniversary of the “Battle of Seatle” protests against the WTO, Hansen joined Climate Justice activists in New York as part of a nationwide mobilization and explained why the world is at a critical juncture that requires mandatory steep cuts in emissions, not the flawed market based cap and trade approach of the pending Waxman-Markey and Kerry -Boxer bills. (see this YouTube “The Huge Mistake” for explanation of flaws in cap/trade). Hansen said:

Cap and trade with  offsets would guarantee that we pass climate tipping points, locking in climate disasters for our children. Cap and trade benefits only Wall Street and polluters, sacrificing humanity and nature for their profits.”

Hansen has joined AL Gore and called for civil disobedience to stop mountaintop mining, block construction of new coal power plants, and force the shut down of existing plants.

Let’s hope that Hansen’s groundbreaking truth telling move to call out big national environmental groups is a game changer.

And let’s hope that the media pierces the spin machine in the run up to Copenhagen and critically scrutinizes government claims. Thus far, it seems like there are major efforts underway, including those by the Obama administration, to spin failure as a success.

Check out photo’s from today’s NYC protest event below:

Christie will get to choose 12 of 15 members for the Highlands Council

Just another example of how elections matter:

The man who has led the New Jersey Highlands Council through the long, arduous job of completing a regional master plan is planning to leave.

Nearly the entire 15-member council could be new next year after Chris Christie takes office as governor because of 12 vacancies and expired terms.

John Weingart, associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, announced at Thursday’s council meeting that he told the governor he did not wish to be reappointed.

Weingart said he initially told Corzine he wanted to leave last summer, but the Governor asked him not to step down yet. And now, because of the delays, it’s unlikely Corzine or the Democrats could have their choice before the end of his term:

Although Corzine has another two months as governor, it’s unlikely he will make any appointments to the council, or that any appointments would be approved. He took years, in at least one case, to nominate members and four of seven people he attempted to put on the council early this year were rejected by the state senator in their district through a process known as senatorial courtesy. Republicans hold nearly all of the state Senate seats in the Highlands, and most are unhappy with the law.

So add this to the list of issues awaiting the new Governor when he takes office. We’ll see if environmental groups are happy with the positions they took during the election once Christie is all done.

New Jersey Environmental Federation

Unbelievable. After endorsing Christie, these people have the nerve to call me and ask me for MORE money.

Look, I’m as big an environmentalist as the next guy. I’ve supported NJEF for years, but there’s such a thing as destructive tunnel vision.  How can you possibly support a man who thinks that childhood education equates with baby sitting?

The response of the caller was, “I’m sure you are familiar with the concept of choosing the lesser of two evils.” For me, at least, there is not a worse thing she could have said.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Christie actually does anything good for the environment, and how much this boneheaded move has cost NJEF.

Christie: “Cutting Onerous Regulations”

[Note: cross post – for version with links, go to:

http://wolfenotes.com/

I just listened to Governor Elect Chris Christie’s victory speech, where he pledged to “turn Trenton upside down” and, among other things, focus on “cutting onerous regulations“.

As I wrote previously, I believe that these are traditional conservative republican code words for slashing DEP employees and rolling back environmental regulations opposed by corporate business interests.

So, my pledge to you Mr. Christie, is that we will be very closely monitoring what you do at DEP and to the body of environmental and public health protection regulations.

As you move into transition planning (hopefully a transparent and balanced process we volunteer to participate in, but doubt your interest in appointing our expertise), we remind you of some basic facts:

1) taxpayers pay less than 2 tenths of 1% of the State budget to fund the operating budget of DEP. This implements the polluter pays policy. There is no taxpayer savings to be had by further slashing DEP budgets. ONLY 24.7% of DEP’s FY 2009 $230 million operating budget, just $56.81 million, is paid by taxpayers from the state general fund. (read DEP budget here);

2) numerous studies show that the benefits of environmental and health regulation far exceed the costs;

3) numerous studies show that pollution imposes massive public health and ecological costs of NJ residents and the economy;

4)  DEP and enforcement of environmental regulations have had no impact on the current economic recession, which is driven by collapse of the financial system, not “onerous regulations”;

5) almost all DEP programs are federally funded, federally enforceable, and/or federally delegated. NJ is currently not in compliance with many federal clean air, clean water, safe drinking water, and toxic site cleanup requirements

6) the people of NJ strongly support enforcement of environmental and public health protections, on a bipartisan basis.

(and the two south jersey republican who called for elimination of DEP lost)

Last, I hope the NJ Environmental Federation was listening closely tonight – and wonder how well they will sleep.

EPA NJ School Air Toxics Data Misleading

[Note – cross post – for the version with links to documents and photo’s, see:

http://wolfenotes.com/2009/10/…

EPA today released interim air toxic monitoring results at two NJ schools participating in a new national program that is monitoring air quality around 63 schools in 22 states.The new EPA  program was a response to major investigative reports by the Houston Chronicle (“In Harm’s Way”) and USA Today (“Toxic Air and America’s Schools“) that documented serious health threats due to exposure to toxic air pollutants, particularly to children from chemical plants and refineries located close to schools (read this for background) and (this for Senator Boxer’s commitment at EPA Administrator Jackson’s confirmation hearing)

The initial NJ results are misleading.

First off, if you read the EPA press release below, you wouldn’t know that the NJ schools (Paulsboro High School and Mabel Holmes Middle School in Elizabeth) are located very close to and virtually surrounded by chemical plants and refineries that emit thousands of pounds of volatile organic toxic air pollutants to the local air.

Second, if you looked at the initial sample results, you might conclude that everything is OK – , until you realize that EPA sampled mostly for heavy metals, not volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and chemicals emitted by the chemical plants and refineries. Those VOC pollutants are “yet to be monitored” according to EPA. EPA sampled for

Antimony

Arsenic

Beryllium

Cadmium

Cobalt

Formaldehyde

Manganese

Mercury

Propionaldehyde

Selenium

This is especially troubling, because not only do these results mislead the public by creating a false appearance, but the results will be used by EPA “to help determine next steps, which could include more monitoring, if needed”.

That’s right – EPA could say that based on these results, there is no problem and no further sampling is required.

The industry lies and excuses have already been framed to spin this data.

First, the oil and chemical industries are suggesting that the risk are negligible and the sources of pollutants are mobile sources – cars and trucks. We doubt the EPA sampling protocol will be able to distinguish between sources, so EPA is not challenging this lie. Worse, these facilities are issued permits under the Clean Air Act, so EPA knows exactly what hazardous air pollutants are being emitted by those facilities. These hazardous air pollutants should have been targeted and the first one sampled, not metals. Second, EPA – as per below press release – will stress chronic long term exposure risks to downplay the risks of any high level local VOC results.

We Await the VOC monitoring.

Update:

I just looked at the full list of EPA monitored pollutants at schools. As I suspected, all of them involve naturally occurring sources of pollution, or are related to vehicle exhaust or mobile sources. This seems designed to allow the chemical & oil industries to make the argument that industry emissions are not the problem and to point the finger at mobile sources and naturally occurring sources. EPA could have considered the hazardous air pollutants emitted by nearby refinery and chemical plants (in EPA air permit data), and then designed a monitoring scheme that included those pollutants. That way, EPA would have a solid scientific basis to modify air permits to force facilities to reduce their emissions, based on impacts to nearby schools. But EPA DID NOT DO THIS! What a sham! Check out the EPA short list of VOC’s

Here’s today’s EPA press release:

The first results from ongoing air toxics monitoring at two New Jersey schools and one New York school are now available on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Web site. A total of four schools in EPA’s Region 2 were selected as part of the agency’s national Schools Air Toxics Initiative. The initiative, which is monitoring 63 schools in 22 states, will help EPA and the states learn if long-term exposure to toxics in the outdoor air poses health concerns for school children and staff.

   Outdoor air at the schools is being monitored for 60 days, and air quality monitors will collect at least 10 daily samples during the sampling period. EPA will use this information to help determine next steps, which could include more monitoring, if needed. Results are posted at http://www.epa.gov/schoolair.

   Today, EPA is posting data for Olean Middle School in Olean, New York, Mabel Homes Middle School in Elizabeth, N.J. and Paulsboro High School in Paulsboro, N.J. The fourth school, IS 143 in Manhattan, New York, had its first data posted previously and it is also available at the web site.  The Agency is monitoring the air around these schools for several contaminants associated with industrial and mobile sources such as cars, trucks and airplanes.

   Early sampling at all the schools show that levels of air toxics are below levels of short-term concern. EPA scientists warn against drawing conclusions at this point since the project is designed to show if long-term, not short-term, exposure poses health risks to school children and staff. Once monitoring is complete, the full set of results from all of the schools will be evaluated for potential health concerns from long-term exposure to these pollutants. EPA will post this analysis to the Web once it is complete.

   To learn more about EPA’s efforts to study outdoor air near schools, visit: http://www.epa.gov/schoolair

Republicans Want to Eliminate DEP

[Note: cross post – for version with links to supporting documents, see:

http://wolfenotes.com/

According to the Press of Atlantic City today, Republican challengers in the Assembly 1st District (Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic) want to eliminate the DEP.

Let me repeat that – political candidates for the NJ Assembly want to eliminate DEP.

I am one of DEP’s biggest critics, but this is ridiculous – I think we’ve crosed some kind of rhetorical threshold (and DEP does not get $327 million in state funding).

This kind of know nothing assault is what happens when the environment is taken off the public policy agenda during an election cycle.

This is not the mere radical craziness of a couple of South Jersey Republican challengers. These perverse views are shared by many uninformed politicians and voters.  

The Governor has failed to lead on the environment, and has a poor record. So Corzine has no incentive for even mentioning the environment during the campaign.

Worse, Republican challenger Christie recklessly invites such crazy attacks by his call to slash DEP budgets further and transfer the natural resource programs out of the agency.

Independent Daggett, a candidate who knows better and has actual environmental management experience as USEPA Regional Administrator and DEP Commissioner, is not exactly out there leading the charge defending DEP.

The media is depleted by downsizing, diverted by the political circus, and seemingly locked into traditional horse race electoral coverage that ignores policy issues.

Environmental groups – heavily invested in Trenton lobbying –  seem to have lost all ability to organize and mobilize the public, or shape public opinion.

Let’s hope the voters can see through it, but that may be tough, because no one is talking about the environment, the protections DEP provides,or the economic facts.

If the typical voter is not concerned about DEP’s public health protections (clean air, clean water, drinking water, toxic site cleanup, oil and chemical plant safety, et al) and is concerned only about taxes and money, one fact they might want to consider is that ONLY 24.7% of DEP’s FY 2009 $230 million operating budget, just $56.81 million, is paid by taxpayers from the state general fund.

Over 75% of DEP’s budget comes from industry fees, pollution enforcement fines, and federal EPA grants. (read DEP budget here)

The total State budget for FY 2009 was $32.87 BILLION. That means that DEP’s share of the state budget was less than 2 tenths of 1% (0.17% – do the math).

There is NO money to be saved by cutting DEP.

Additional cuts to DEP’s budget can not be justified on fiscal grounds.

Actually, cuts would INCREASE taxpayer burdens because DEP would receive less federal grant funds and fee and fine revenues would be reduced as DEP workload decreases. These would have to be made up with general funds from the taxpayer.

Taxpayers are getting a bargain at DEP!

It’s the polluters and developers who want DEP eliminated, not the voters.

Shameful republican hacks are manipulating public opinion and doing the bidding of polluters and developers, who want DEP off their backs.

 

Lisa Jackson on Real Time with Bill Maher

Former head of the DEP and current EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was on Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday. Here is much of the segment:

They talked about states that have brought the federal government along to higher standards, but said that we should be past the states leading the way on clean energy because in a year or two, China will literally clean our clock. They talked about hybrid technology, but that how the electricity is generated is very important. Maher brings up how raising beef causes more global warming than cars, to which Jackson tried to gloss over the answer, but Maher wasn’t having any of it. Then they started talking about water and people getting sick from it with everything added in the water supply. Jackson said we should be concerned that we don’t know enough about clean water and water is a concern for us. Then they moved to toxic chemicals management, to which Jackson said they’re trying to move the bar back to think about what will happen at the end

Enviropolitics blog questions strategies of Environmental Groups

Frank Brill puts up an interesting read over at the Enviropolitics blog searching for answers about the recent endorsement decisions and rhetoric of the state Environmental organizations:

The New Jersey Environmental Federation (NJEF), one of the largest enviro-activist organizations in the state has endorsed not only a (gulp) Republican for governor but (double-gulp) one who served in the federal government under Bush/Chaney.

Yes, we’re talking about Chris Christie.

Surprised? Amazed? And maybe a bit baffled?

We are, too.

It was one thing for the Sierra Club to endorse former NJDEP Commissioner Chris Daggett’s independent campaign for governor. But it’s another for the NJEF, which had originally announced it would make no endorsement in the race, to come out for Christie.

And on the Sierra Club’s endorsement of Christie and criticisms of Corzine, which have been over the top and relentless:

The pounding culminated in the astonishing claim that Corzine is the worst environmental governor in history.

Whoa! Did they forget all about Christie (Honey, I shrunk the DEP) Whitman and Jim “fast track development” McGreevey?

If they think shrinking the DEP was bad, just wait for Christie who wants to “Restore the DEP to it’s core mission. Brill wonders why Corzine doesn’t get any credit for the work he has done from these groups:

Is this the same Jon Corzine who the rest of us have seen signing one environmental bill after another? The governor who got out ahead of virtually all other states in setting aggressive goals for greenhouse gas reductions. The guy who has backed cap-and-trade, solar-energy incentives and offshore wind power development?

And, even if the Sierra Club wasn’t satisfied with Corzine’s record, it’s one thing to back another candidate to display your convictions but totally another to flay a sitting governor who just might win re-election. That, we submit, is just plain dumb.

I haven’t understood the politics of their approach all along. I just don’t understand how Chris Christie is a logical choice for people that have been disappointed with the current Governors policies and neither do other groups. Brill says that the flaw in their plan is that Corzine may win, so all of this opposition and rhetoric may come back to bite them. We’ll have to see how this one shakes out.