The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

New Jersey Alters Health Study Under Industry Pressure

Industry Allowed Private Meetings to Lobby for Changes in Camden Study


Facing a lawsuit, the New Jersey Department of Environmental
Protection has released documents outlining how an air polution study
of Camden neighborhoods was re-written to allay industry objections.
The released e-mails depict a clubby, closed door climate in which the
state regulators seek to assuage industry concerns even while keeping
the affected community in the dark, according to Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

At issue is an October 6, 2008 study by DEP scientists in
partnership with the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New
Jersey entitled "Final Report: Contribution of Particle Emissions from
a Cement Facility to Outdoor Dust in Surrounding Community". It
assesses how much dust is blowing from piles of granulated blast
furnace slag at the St. Lawrence Cement Facility onto adjacent Camden
neighborhoods. The report concluded that -

  • There was a significant impact on nearby homes: "The
    estimated contributions of cement dust to outdoor dust measured by
    deposition dust samplers ranged from 4.9% to 18.2% ... and 5.6 to
    21.8%"; and
  • Simple controls are available: "A cover over the
    piles would be a reasonable and well tested way to control these
    fugitive emissions."

After this final report was posted on the DEP website, industry
consultants sent objections to Nancy Wittenberg, DEP Assistant
Commissioner for Environmental Regulation and a former lobbyist for the
New Jersey Builders Association. DEP removed the "final report" from
its website and Wittenberg set up a closed-door June 2, 2009 meeting
with industry consultants to review their concerns.

response to an Open Public Records Act request filed by former DEP
employee Bill Wolfe for the final report and agency communications with
industry, the agency initially claimed that no documents could be
released because they were "deliberative" in nature and covered by
"attorney-client privilege". After PEER informed DEP that it was
preparing to file suit challenging the basis for non-disclosure as
bogus, on July 17, 2009 DEP released the requested material - except
for the revised study which is slated for publication later this week,
according to an agency official.

"In New Jersey, even science is negotiable," stated PEER Senior
Counsel Paula Dinerstein, who helped prepare the lawsuit. "Notably left
out of the loop are the people in Camden who have to breathe this stuff
daily and get no say as to whether a tarp over the slag heaps would be
a commonsense step."

This also appears to be yet another recent instance where state
political appointees inappropriately screen scientific work. In fact
this June, DEP formalized its political review process for all
technical reports.

"DEP has become a serial offender against government transparency
and scientific integrity," added Wolfe. "This is only one sample of DEP
cooking the books and then violating OPRA to cover the smell."

Read the withdrawn Camden dust study "final report"

Look at the e-mail exchanges between DEP officials and industry

View the court-house steps OPRA reversal by DEP

See the industry comments on the dust study

Examine how DEP political appointees vet scientific and technical reports

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.