Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hear it here -- Episode 9 of the EnviroPolitics Podcast

Pa. Governors Wolf (hello) and Corbett (good bye)

Who and what won and lost -
In our latest podcast episode, we review highlights of the November 4 Election, focusing on voting results that are likely to influence energy and environment policies, legislation or regulations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

Pig Farmers Rejoice - In Part 2 of the show, you'll hear former NJDEP Chief of Staff Gary Sondermeyer explain a new initiative that could require food waste recycling in the Garden State.

Who would it affect?  What will it cost?  Give a listen and all will be revealed.

Listen to our latest show here.

Please consider subscribing to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher--and giving us a rating. (Very helpful)

Got a suggestion for a future topic or interview? Drop us an email at;

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Recent blog posts:
Rutgers smart phone app reduces risk of power outages

Sandy anniversary reminds us of cold nights in the dark
Reporter stumbles upon most interesting lunch pals 

How did the environment do on Election Day 2014? 
EPA proposes modified cleanup for Pompton Lakes, NJ 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Rutgers smart phone app reduces risk of power outages

An easy-to-use smartphone app developed by Rutgers engineers will help keep the lights on in a heavily wooded New Jersey suburb that suffered widespread power outages during Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey Business reports.
"Officials in Warren Township, a country-like community nestled in Somerset County’s Watchung Mountains, knew they could cut the risk of future power outages if they documented vulnerable spots in the utility network, such as branches dangling perilously close to wires or poles cracking and leaning. But sending police and municipal workers to sniff out these trouble spots would be expensive and disruptive to municipal services.
"Rutgers and the township committee agreed to a solution – crowdsource the task.
"Crowdsourcing, an information-age technique that parcels out a large job to a community of unrelated experts – looked like a promising approach to Warren’s task. But it would work only if gathering the data and organizing it could be simplified.
"Janne Lindqvist, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, was up to the task. He had just received National Science Foundation funding to research crowdsourcing in local communities, and Warren Township’s challenge proved an ideal match for his concepts.
“The idea is basically simple,” Lindqvist said. “You have a smartphone app that walks you through documenting the hazard. Users are prompted to take a photo of the problem, classify it and verify the location provided by the phone’s location-sensing capability.”
"Hit “send,” and the hazard is catalogued in a server."
How was it implemented and what were the results?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sandy anniversary reminds us of cold nights in the dark

                                                                                                        Robert Sciarrino photo/The Star-Ledger
Two years have passed since Hurricane Sandy roared away, leaving us luck ones without major flood losses but shivering, without power, in the cold and dark.

Since then major area electric utilities have developed plans to have taken steps to prevent widespread outages and bounce back more quickly when the next storm hits. 

Erin O'Neill reports today that New Jersey's largest utility company, Public Service Electric & Gas, "received approval in May for a $1.2 billion program that officials said was the largest infrastructure investment settlement approved by the state Board of Public Utilities.
John Latka, the senior vice president of electric and gas operations at PSE&G, said the storm surge during Sandy exposed issues that other, recent storms had not.
“That was the big game changer,” he said. “It certainly put a new light on how we were set up, how our infrastructure was built.”
The recently-approved program — dubbed Energy Strong — includes $620 million for raising or relocating 29 flood-prone switching stations and substations and $200 million to deploy smart-grid technology and to create redundancies in the system to help reduce outages. The company had originally proposed a $3.9 billion investment but that amount was reduced following concerns about the scope of the plan and its impact on ratepayers.
Still, Latka said, “this is a great start and any time you can rebuild and repair stations it’s certainly going to help our cause.”
What about you?  Have you taken any special steps to keep your home warm and bright when the next inevitable winter storm snaps branches and power lines? 

We spent four days and nights in the dark during the worst outage in recent winters and see that a number of our wise, suburban neighbors have purchased gas-powered generators to run outside the house. Via electric power cords, the lower-priced models can supply enough power to keep your refrigerator running--and maybe some lights and space heaters, too. Larger a units can be wired directly into your circuit box and power your whole house like an oasis on a dark, winter night.

Following Sandy, you couldn't find a generator for sale and when stores began to re-stock, their prices were out of sight for most folks.       
What's your experience today? Have you purchased a generator?  What size did you get and what will it handle?  Have you had any experience with your generator since you bought it?  Any recommendations for all of us who are still hoping their electric utility is on the ball? Use the ‘comment’ box below to share your thoughts. Stay warm.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Reporter stumbles upon most interesting lunch pals

A routine, post-election assignment turned into a reporter's dream for Max Abelson.

Abelson's editors at Bloomberg sent him to lunch at the tony Four Seasons Grill Room in Manhattan where he was to mingle with members of the Wall Street crowd and sample their feelings about Election Day results.

The dutiful reporter collected some good quotes but scored a much bigger find when he spotted NJ Gov. Chris Christie lunching with billionaires Steve Wynn (casinos) and Richard LeFrak (real estate).

Max must have been still pinching himself when, lo and behold, who joins the pair but Henry Kissinger.

Henry Kissinger
Do you think the Governor is seeking world affairs advice for his upcoming presidential run from The Master?

See the full story (and video): Christie Lunches With Billionaires After Big Election Day 

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How did the environment do on Election Day 2014?

Pennsylvania's incumbent governor
, Tom Corbett, above left, a friend of the gas and oil industry who has opposed proposals to tax natural gas drilling and who installed climate skeptics to run the state's Department of Environmental Protection, LOST to businessman Tom Wolf, above right.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has avoided any decision on permitting natural gas drilling until after yesterday's election, WON. 

New Jersey's Public Question #2, 
which approves the dedication of a portion of the state's corporate business tax to fund the purchase of properties for open space, farmland preservation, flood protection, recreation and historic site preservation PASSED. Governor Chris Christie, some business organizations, and a lobby for the Koch Brothers had urged a no vote.

Philadelphia's Office of Sustainability
, a temporary creation of Mayor Michael Nutter will become a permanent part of city government as a result of an overwhelming 2-1 margin of votes cast by city residents. PASSED

Climate Progress reports today that voters in Denton, Texas banned fracking within the city limits by a large margin of 59 to 41. The first such restriction in energy-giant Texas, Denton has been a hotly contested site for the industry and one of eight locales with fracking bans on the ballot this election.

A city of about 125,000 residents located 35 miles northwest of Dallas, Denton sits atop the Barnett shale and already has some 275 fracked wells.

Another high-profile fracking ban in Santa Barbara County, California failed to pass on Tuesday after the oil and gas industry spent close to $6 million opposing it. However a similar version in California’s San Benito County overcame oil and gas opposition and passed by a large margin, 57 percent to 43 percent.

As of late Tuesday night, the third fracking ballot ban in California’s Mendocino County was leading by a large margin.

In Ohio, voters in Athens approved a fracking ban, while those in three other communities defeated their own ban ballot measures, according to preliminary results reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Related environmental news stories

Philadelphia ballot issues easily pass

Do you know of other environment-related votes yesterday that we have overlooked?
Let us know about them in a 'Reply' below.  Please include a story link if you have one.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

EPA proposes modified cleanup for Pompton Lakes, NJ

  Pompton Lakes, NJ with DuPont site in background. Lake in foreground -The Record file photo 

In a news release today, the EPA announced a proposed new plan...

" remove mercury contamination from areas of Pompton Lake in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, including the areas where the Acid Brook flows into the lake, called the Acid Brook Delta. Areas of the sediment on the bottom of the lake have become contaminated with mercury and lead that flowed down the Acid Brook into the lake.

The public is encouraged to review the new plan and provide input.

Under the plan proposed today, in the form of a modification of its existing federal permit, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Inc. will be required to dredge lake bottom sediment from a 36 acre area of the Acid Brook Delta and also remove sediment from two other areas of the lake near the shoreline that have elevated levels of mercury and are subject to erosion.

These areas total an additional three acres in size. The proposed permit also requires DuPont to remove contaminated soil from a shoreline area where the Acid Brook flows into the lake, and replace it with clean soil. All of the sediment and soil will be sent to a licensed disposal facility. A long-term monitoring plan will be designed and implemented to assess Pompton Lake after the work is completed.

Click here for more details, including dates of public meetings 


Another year of Hudson River cleanup draws to a close


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that next week the Hudson
River dredging will conclude for the year. Dredging is expected to continue in spring 2015. 

To date, about 2.5 million cubic yards of sediment contaminated with polychlorinated
(PCBs) have been removed. In 2014 approximately 575,000 cubic yards of
sediment were dredged from the bottom of the river, exceeding the
annual goal of 350,000
cubic yards.

The agency said that dredging will resume next spring when the Champlain Canal reopens 
for the season. The remaining dredge areas are expected to be completed next year. Habitat
planting and reconstruction will continue in 2016. The historic EPA-mandated cleanup, which 
began in 2009, targets approximately 2.65 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment from
a 40-mile stretch of the Upper Hudson River between Fort Edward and Troy, New York.

According to the EPA, For nearly thirty years, ending in the late 1970’s, an estimated 1.3 
million pounds of PCBs were discharged into the Hudson River from two General Electric 
Co. capacitor manufacturing plants located in Hudson Falls and Fort Edward, New York. 

PCBs are potentially cancer-causing chemicals that 
persist in the environment and can affect 
the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems. GE is conducting the cleanup work 
with EPA oversight under an agreement with the agency. 
According to GE, the company 
has invested more than $1 billion on the cleanup project to date.

Over the next several weeks, clean sand and gravel will be placed over previously dredged areas.
he dredged material remaining at GE’s de-watering and processing facility in Fort Edward will
be shipped by train to permitted out-of-state disposal facilities by the end of the year.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pitt research examines air pollution and a rise in Autism

Researchers think they've found a link between prenatal and early childhood exposure to air pollution and autism. The findings, by the University of Pittsburgh, are considered preliminary, The Allegheny Front reports.
Principal investigator Evelyn Talbott’s team interviewed more than 200 families with children on the autism spectrum in western Pennsylvania.
Autism diagnoses have risen sharply, about eight-fold in 20 years. Talbott says research into other potential causes, like genetics, is inconclusive. So, Pitt started looking at environmental factors, like air pollution from industry and transportation.
“There are more and more cars on the road,” Talbott says. “There are many chemicals out there that we should look at.”
Talbott’s team evaluated kids exposed to certain pollutants in utero to up to two years of age. They found autism levels up to twice as high as in children without those exposures. The researchers honed in on pollutants known to disrupt children’s endocrine systems and neurological development.
The Pitt study builds on three others that looked at children in North Carolina and West Virginia, California, and the U.S., and have similar results.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Busy environmental day coming up Monday in Trenton

The Senate and Assembly environmental committees will meet
in Trenton on Monday, October 27, to consider a variety of bills. Here are their agendas:

10 a.m. - Committee Room 10, 3rd Floor, State House Annex, Trenton, NJ

A proposed committee substitute will be considered for Senate Bill No. 444 and Senate Bill No. 2419.

For consideration:
S-444  Ruiz, M.T. (D-29)
Clarifies that certain types of sewage and sewage sludge do not constitute hazardous substances under "Spill Compensation and Control Act."
S-2166  Lesniak, R.J. (D-20)
"Comprehensive Regulated Grease Recycling Act."
S-2354  Stack, B.P. (D-33)
Requires local governments and authorities to obtain financing cost estimate required to be provided by NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust for certain projects.
Related Bill: A-3548
S-2419  Smith, B. (D-17); Bateman, C. (R-16)
Prohibits contribution action against local public entity for cleanup and removal costs or any other damages associated with discharge of hazardous substances.
S-2491  Smith, B. (D-17)
Establishes position of State Oceanographer.
S-2494  Lesniak, R.J. (D-20)
Requires composting or recycling of food waste by large volume generators.
For discussion only:
S-2511  Madden, F.H. (D-4)
Removes anhydrous ammonia used for refrigeration as substance regulated by "Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act"; eliminates DOLWD licensing for operators of refrigerating plants using anhydrous ammonia.

2 p.m. - Committee Room 9, 3rd Floor, State House Annex, Trenton, NJ

For consideration:
A-2913  Caride, M. (D-36); Dancer, R.S. (R-12); Bucco, A.M. (R-25); Watson Coleman, B. (D-15)
Designates Black Swallowtail butterfly as State Butterfly.
Related Bill: S-939
A-3125  Caride, M. (D-36)
Prohibits sale or planting of certain invasive plant species.
A-3133  Bramnick, J.M. (R-21); Burzichelli, J.J. (D-3)
Requires DEP to establish "private wildlife habitat certification program"; creates affirmative defense against municipal nuisance ordinances for properties certified under the program.
A-3354  Eustace, T.J. (D-38)
Establishes "Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management Program."
A-3355  Wilson, G.L. (D-5)
Requires training for pesticide applicators and operators concerning pollinating bees.
 A-3452  Mazzeo, V. (D-2)
Regulates planting and sale of running bamboo; establishes disclosure requirement for real estate licensees.
AJR-60  Wilson, G.L. (D-5); Riley, C.M. (D-3); Space, P. (R-24); Dancer, R.S. (R-12)
Designates June of each year as "Native Plant Appreciation Month."

Yo Philly, that's a fine-looking sewage overflow tank

Venice Island in Manayunk is a piece of infrastructure that doubles as a public park and theater.

"Venice Island, which will play an important role in managing stormwater in Philadelphia’s flood-prone riverfront Manayunk neighborhood, is hardly an ordinary piece of water infrastructure, "Sarah Goodyear writes in Next City.
"Yes, it incorporates that underground storage tank, which can hold up to four million gallons of overflow during heavy rainfalls, keeping raw sewage out of the Schuylkill. But the $45 million project also encompasses a theater, a spray park, a basketball court, and an outdoor amphitheater. It has a green roof and is surrounded by rain gardens that capture storm runoff.
Underground storage tanks and rain gardens make a critical stormwater management tool.
"The Venice Island facility is just the latest and most visible manifestation of Philly’s Green City, Clean Waters program, a 25-year, $2.5 billion initiative spearheaded by the Philadelphia Water Department that is changing the way the city manages its stormwater. The result of a groundbreaking agreement among the city and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green City, Clean Waters is emerging as a national model for how to go green from the bottom up. Crucially, the program involves both the public sector – led by the Philadelphia Water Department and Mayor Michael Nutter’s office of sustainability – and private landowners as well as neighborhood groups, residents and even schools."
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