Tag Archive: bob martin

Proposed Exxon Mobil settlement update

Where we are today in terms of the Department of Environmental Protection and ExxonMobil settlement should come as no surprise. Gov. Christie in 2010 appointed Bob Martin as the DEP Commissioner. Martin’s background was consulting with large utility and energy companies in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Europe. He served on Christie’s transition team as chair of the energy and utilities group. Gov. Christie in his infinite wisdom felt it made perfect sense to appoint an energy expert as his environmental commissioner. Even Martin was surprised after his appointment as he said he had expect to land an energy post.

Burlington County Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan originally scheduled oral arguments for today, but rescheduled them for Thursday, July 30. Environmental groups which oppose the settlement had to petition the court and submit their amici briefs by yesterday. The responses from NJ DEP and Exxon, which are now in cahoots with each other, are due Friday, July 24.

The Sierra Club announced yesterday it has “petitioned to file an amicus brief along with other environmental groups. We will show that the environment is being shortchanged and that the DEP does not represent the people of New Jersey. We want to be a friend to the court because the DEP has proven to only be a friend to Exxon,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

So Gov. Christie early on signaled that energy company concerns trump environmental concerns. Exxon in particular reciprocated with donations that greased the settlement. Christie’s recent Chief Legal Counsel Chris Porrino and Bob Martin achieved a deal which Christie considers to be “historic” and “exemplary,” but which others view as the greatest boondoggle since the ARC tunnel. We have yet to find out what Judge Hogan, called out of retirement to handle the case, will rule.    

Too Big to Sue?

After the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection proposed an eight-billion dollar lawsuit based on Exxon’s despoiling of numerous sites in New Jersey, the Christie administration is pushing through a $225 million settlement – less than three cents on the dollar – ending any future remediation or consideration for Exxon’s pollution.

Today, Assemblyman John McKeon, chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, held a hearing to gather facts to try to determine if this settlement is in the best interests of the public.

While such a low cash settlement without much public discussion may seem odd, it makes sense if you look at it through the lens of Governor Christie’s political aspirations. Settling for the low number now, and channeling most of that money into the general fund,  provides Christie with another one-shot gimmick to enable him to boast of a balanced budget, even though that goal is constitutionally required. Waiting for prolonged litigation to force Exxon to pay its fair share would not help Christie, who will be long out of office by the time the lawsuits are settled.

This Guy has One of the Toughest Jobs in Trenton

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin has a tough job. He has to convince the legislature and the general public that his boss, Governor Chris Christie, is pro-environment at a time when the governor is putting the financial desires of his polluting friends above the health and well-being of New Jersey’s citizens.

The most egregious example in the recent past has been the governor’s unilateral withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – a money-saving, job-creating clean air program. Why did he do this? No doubt it is due to Christie’s alliance with the Koch Brothers coal barons, with whom the governor had a secret meeting just prior to his withdrawal announcement. But that’s not all. Today’s Philadelphia Inquirer editorial pointed out that the governor “has received a well-deserved failing grade for his environmental policies.” They mention instances where he appointed unqualified cronies to important environmental posts, and how Christie has weakened protections.

Yesterday, Commissioner Martin tried to put a positive spin on the governor’s actions when Martin testified in front of the Assembly Budget Committee. He failed.  Martin’s testimony is below. The Sierra Club’s reaction is below the fold.





Necessary But Not Sufficient

Nuclear power, once viewed as the panacea that would wean us from fossil fuels, is starting to show some of its hidden costs. Despite the fact that they will impact Japan’s economy and quality of life for decades to come, the Fukushima disaster is just the tip of the iceberg. As plants built during the nuclear boom times come to the end of their useful lives, more of these hidden costs will be exposed to the public. And that’s becoming evident here in New Jersey.

The privately-run nuclear reactor at Oyster Creek in Lacey Township is scheduled to be closed and decommissioned starting December 31, 2019. The plant’s owner, Exelon, has made the decision to close the plant rather than build cooling towers that would reduce the amount of heated water that is currently dumped into the environmentally-fragile Barnegat Bay.

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…

Lessons of Gulf Oil Spill Lost on Martin

[Update: Philly Inquirer story:

“Let’s just say I’m flabbergasted by the irony,” said Wolfe, a former DEP employee and now a frequent critic.

He said Gov. Christie’s current policies, including more self-regulation of industry, “are exactly the kind of problem that caused the oil spill to begin with.”

“There are so many issues that it masks,” he added. “It leads to the appearance that the department is actively engaged and has the staff resources and leadership to respond. None of that exists.”

N.J. monitors spill, prepares action plan

http://www.philly.com/inquirer…

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin today issued an over the top press release touting his efforts.

The spin and huge ironies force me to call BS on it all:

COMMISSIONER CREATES GULF SPILL TEAM TO CONSIDER  POSSIBLE  IMPACTS OF LOUISIANA OIL SPILL ON NEW JERSEY

IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                              Contact: Lawrence Ragonese

(609) 292-2994

May 25, 2010

Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795

(10/P47)TRENTON – While it is improbable the BP oil spill off the coast of Louisiana will have any effect on the Jersey Shore or the State’s fishing industry this summer, the Department of Environmental Protection is not taking any chances. Commissioner Bob Martin today announced formation of a special Gulf Spill Team to closely monitor the situation, to create a unique scientific model of the likely path of the contaminated waters, and to develop a plan of action if the oil should reach New Jersey.  …

Scientists have told the DEP it is not likely the oil will reach New Jersey beaches, making it clear that for the oil slick to hit the Jersey coast, “it would require a sequence of unlikely events.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been the lead agency in dealing with the situation nationally, providing daily briefings to New Jersey and other states that could be affected by the spill. But Commissioner Martin has directed the special Gulf Spill Team to create a unique model of the potential course of the oil for New Jersey.

“We want to gather the best scientific data available to help guide us,” said Commissioner Martin. “We have to be fully prepared to protect the interests and residents of this state. But we expect, at this point, that our beaches will be open and we’ll have a great summer season in New Jersey.”

Martin’s press release both exaggerated the threat (in conflict with scientific advice) and created a misleading appearance of aggressive regulatory oversight by DEP.

Worse, the press statement has at least 3 glaring conflicts with Martin’s own policy:

1) Need for precaution and strict environmental regulations

If nothing else, the Gulf oil spill shines a bright light on what happens when lax regulation, cozy relationships between regulators and  industry, and an emphasis on cutting costs and maximizing economic production prevails.

Taken together, this is an industry dominated and economically driven culture.

It represents the opposite of a precautionary policy (e.g. first do no harm – when in doubt, err on the side of safety) and strong regulatory culture, which views industry as an adversary, not a “customer”.

Governor Christie and Commissioner Martin have pushed exactly the same policy agenda and culture that created the BP oil blowout. Today’s press release does nothing to alter that reality.

The DEP Transition Report called for DEP “to do less with less”. From then on, it only got worse.

On his first day in office, the Governor issued a series of Executive Orders that elevated cost benefit analysis to at least the equivalent of  environmental and health protection. It also put industry in the driver’s seat to block regulations they oppose as too costly or burdensome.

Lt. Governor Gudagno’s “Red Tape Review Report” and Martin targeted DEP and demonized environmental “red tape”. Martin blasted DEP culture and blamed DEP for the economic and budget crises. Martin repeatedly has demanded that DEP culture must change and treat industry – including the oil industry – as customers, not adversaries.

But now, Martin claims he’s not willing “to take any chances”.

If Martin wants to learn the lessons of the Gulf disaster and protect the Jersey Shore and Delaware Bay, he need look no further than his own back yard, which is home to major oil refineries and chemical plants that are accidents waiting to happen.

Martin surely knows that the BP Gulf oil well blowout was preceed by a deadly 2005 Texas oil refinery fire – the same thing could happen here. Martin needs to stop coddling the oil and chemical  industries as “customers” and ramp up regulatory oversight and enforcement.

2)  Need for State role and more stringent state standards than federal minimums.

While under most environmental laws, State’s can act to go beyond federal minumums, but for the most part, federal regulators are in charge in the Gulf.

But the Gulf blowout exposed lax federal regulatory oversight of the oil industry, which has been compounded by a less than aggressive federal spill and cleanup response effort, where BP has been allowed to call the shots.

State and local concerns have ben given short shrift in the BP dominated federal response.

Martin repeatedly has emphasized the need for “waivers” from compliance with strict NJ State regulation to promote economic development. He has said there is little need for DEP to go beyond federal minimums.

But now, Martin apparently sees the light. Martin now recognizes the need for strong and independent state regulatory power and the need to go beyond federal minimums.

Yet, under an industry supported policy seeking federal consistency so that NJ can be economically competitive,  Governor Christie’s Executive Order #2 (as well as pending legislation backed by the Administration) would rollback NJ’s strict regulations in favor of a federal minimums.  

3) Role of independent public science  

Martin now realizes that an independed scientific capability to support government decisions – free of regulated oil industry bias – is key.

Yet, Martin just appointed an industry dominated and biased Science Advisory Board.

And Martin recently over-rode the recommendatrions of his own scientists in abandoning a proposed drinking water standard for perchlorate.

As I said, the contadictions between Martin’s press release on the gulf spill and his policy are just too great.

As we move forward, which will prevail? the precautionary rhetoric in today’s press release – or the rollback policies  in Christie’s Executive Orders and Red Tape Review Report

Bully Bob Martin Now Attacks BPU and Rutgers on Energy Master Plan

[for version with supporting links:

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2010…

Martin: BPU/Rutgers EMP “one of the worst pieces of economic analyses I’ve ever seen”

Fresh off last week’s unprecedented and false attacks on DEP scientists and Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin repeats and expands his errors.

Martin now is attacking the Board of Public Utilities staff, Rutgers economists and planners, and state econometric and energy models.

A “NJ Spotlight” story by former longtime Star Ledger energy and environment reporter Tom Johnson reported on the Assembly oversight hearings on how Governor Christie’s 90 day “reassessment” and more than $300 million cuts will impact the Energy Master Plan (EMP) – we wrote about the Assembly hearing here). In the Spotlight story, Martin blasted the economic analysis of the EMP.

But compare Martin’s hack attack with the professional response of his colleague, BPU President Lee Solomon (who merely put a happy face on a bad Christie policy):

   

Cabinet officials insist they do not envision a radical rewriting of the [Energy Master] plan. But Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin and Board of Public Utilities President Lee Solomon have made it clear they believe it fails to consider the economic consequences of pursuing such ambitious targets, including reducing energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020. …

   “There has to be a cost benefit analysis on the things we do,” said Solomon, whose agency will take the lead in reviewing the plan. “We can’t simply impose what we would like to happen on the state of New Jersey.”

   Martin is even more adamant about the plan’s flaws. “It is one of the worst pieces of economic analyses I’ve ever seen done,” he said at a clean energy summit in New Brunswick last month. “They didn’t put the numbers of what it would cost the ratepayer or industry.”

Like the bully on the playground, someone has got to take Mr. Martin on. He can not be allowed to go around trashing things and people he knows so little about.

Although I trained in planning at Cornell’s Graduate School and was a DEP planner and policy analyst for 13 years, I am no expert on the EMP and economic modeling. But it might as well be me because I don’t see any profiles in courage out there stepping up to the plate and taking on Bully Bob Martin.

The economic analysis of the EMP was conducted by Rutgers University (see: Updated Modeling Document) :

   

The Center for Energy, Economic and Environmental Policy (CEEEP) and the Rutgers Economic Advisory Service (R/ECON™), both located within the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, have been tasked by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to provide data and modeling support for the master plan effort.

The data for the U.S. used come from Global Insight, Inc., a national leader in economic forecasting

The economic analysis was based on econometric and energy models used widely in NJ. The modeling and economic analysis were extensively reviewed during a 2 year planning process:

 

A series of prior events helped to build the foundation for this report. On December 18, 2006, CEEEP and R/ECON™ presented the modeling framework used in this report to stakeholders. On January 5 and 19, 2007, CEEEP convened two technical working groups to elicit input on electric generation and transmission. In addition, CEEEP and R/ECON™ participated extensively in many stakeholder meetings convened as part of the Energy Master Plan process from late 2006 through September 2008.

The electric utilities and the business community participated in the EMP model development, planning, and economic analysis.

If  the Rutgers economic analysis “was one of the worst pieces of analysis ever done” as Martin now claims, where were the energy industry experts and business community economists and why weren’t they raising objections to correct such a flawed piece of work?

A valid critique of the EMP analysis would  focus on its failure to include billions of dollars in economic benefits and avoided costs of dirty coal power and global warming, which should be right up Martin’s alley as DEP Commissioner. But he is silent on these flaws because they make a stronger case for efficiency and renewables, while his objective is to gut those policies for short term economic rewards to the business community.

Martin is simply taking cheap shots by using after the fact economic conditions (i.e. dramatic drop in oil and gas prices; economic recession; reduced demand).

Martin’s severe criticism shows he’s not only a political cheap shot artist, but that he  knows nothing about economic modeling, sensitivity analysis, scenario testing, or the role of models in planning. As the EMP itself explained, models are not precise and uncertainties are inherent in the modeling exercise:

 

In short, the Energy Master Plan must explicitly deal with uncertainty and the prospect that things will turn out differently from what was assumed. This often gets lost in the discussions as modeling is frequently assumed to be a forecasting effort with definite outcomes. The data and modeling assumptions have associated ranges of uncertainties. Even in situations in which one would think the range of uncertainty should be small, e.g., the cost of a combustion turbine, they can be surprisingly large. These uncertainties need to be considered when evaluating calculations. Although models calculate numbers to a precise value, this “precision” is a programming artifact and must be understood as such. What also should be kept in mind is that the range of uncertainty varies with specific assumptions. The uncertainty in the cost of a combustion turbine is smaller than the uncertainty of the cost of off-shore wind, which is in turn smaller than the uncertainty associated with the cost of a new nuclear power plant.

   A primary driver for the current modeling draft calculations is the assumptions about the cost and magnitude of energy efficiency and demand response for electricity and natural gas. If one assumes that energy efficiency and demand response are cost-effective (which numerous studies have concluded) and that state policies can successfully influence energy efficiency and demand response, then one does not need modeling to conclude that energy bills will decrease, environmental impacts will be lessened, and the New Jersey economy will not be harmed. The modeling provides the order of magnitude, confirms the intuition, and helps target policies that can help to make these outcomes more likely. Thus, the preliminary calculations to date reflect the assumptions that they are based upon.

Here are the details, for Mr. Martin’s edification (and I question whether he has even read the EMP and reviewed the modeling):

(see above link):

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

Quote of the Day: I thought I’d probably end up at the BPU

If environmentalists had concerns about the direction of the DEP under the leadership of Christie nominee Bob Martin, they aren’t going to feel any better after reading a Q & A with him in the Star Ledger where he says this:

“I never anticipated being at the DEP. … I thought I’d probably end up at the BPU (Board of Public Utilities) since I had dealt with utilities at Accenture,” Martin said.

The article says he’d be the first to say “he’s not a big greenie” and he thought he’d end up overseeing the utilities. He talks about simplifying the permit process so that business aren’t hindered. If that’s not sending a message, I don’t know what does.