Monday, June 29, 2015

NJ Senate: Hands off enviro cleanup, restoration payments

Morses Creek, turned into a lagoon for waste products at Bayway Refinery in Linden, NJ (Stephen Nesssen - WNYC)
"After repeated vetoes by Gov. Chris Christie, the state Senate on Monday passed a constitutional amendment to require that settlement money from polluters be spent almost exclusively on restoring the environment," Christopher Baxter reports for

The measure (SCR163) would dedicate money received from lawsuits against polluters solely "to repair damage to, restore, or permanently protect the state's natural resources," with the exception of up to 5 percent for administrative costs.

Democrats want the change in response to the Christie administration's proposed $225 million settlement in a long-running case against Exxon, a deal they say sells the state short in a battle that had estimated damages as high as $9 billion.

The measure passed 27-12, which is more than the three-fifths needed to put it on the ballot in November. The Assembly must pass it by the same margin by August to seek voter approval this year. Otherwise, it would probably be next year.

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Supreme Court blocks EPA power plant emission controls

"The Supreme Court on Monday struck down the Obama administration’s plan for controlling emissions of mercury and other toxins from power-company smokestacks, saying the Environmental Protection Agency should have considered the cost of the rules first, "Robert Barnes
reports in the Washington Post.
The court’s 5-to-4 decision halts further implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards rule, which required hundreds of coal-burning plants to install equipment to control mercury, a substance linked in multiple studies to respiratory illnesses as well as birth defects and developmental problems in children.
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority, which included Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.
Justice Elena Kagan wrote the dissenting opinion for Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

NJ Gov gets bill to boost private, clean-energy investment

Now on the desk of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is A-2579/S-1510, legislation that would enable property owners to obtain 10 to 30-year private financing (through special assessments attached to municipal property taxes) to cover 100 percent of the cost of clean energy and resiliency improvements without any initial investment by the property owner.

Those involved with the national PACE (Property Assessment Clean Energy) program say that it gives property owners the ability to install more extensive systems than they likely could afford under traditional financing programs and that the resulting saving in energy costs often outpaces the financing costs from day one of the project.

The PACE program, which has had significant success in states like California and Connecticut. was hailed by a number of commercial developers, investors, energy construction companies and public officials at a seminar held on June 12 to boost the legislation's chance of passage.

Panelists at the event, held at Princeton University, included former NJ Governor Jim Florio, NJBPU Commissioner Upendra Chivukula, State Senator Bob Smith, Jersey City Deputy Mayor Marcos Vigil, executives from the Simon Property Group, MSLGroup, NJ Builders Association and others.

At the time of the seminar, PACE executives were concerned that the state legislature might recess for the summer before their bill cleared both houses, but final legislative passage was secured on June 25 in the Senate (36-1) and Assembly (63-9-3).

Now the question is whether Governor Christie will sign it. He pocket vetoed a PACE bill at the end of the previous legislative session but changes were made to the bill this year to address potential concerns.

In the videos above, NJ Builders Association President George Vallone and PACE co-founder Victoria Zelin highlight features of the program.

Jon Hurdle of NJ Spotlight covered the June 12 seminar and filed a detailed story here.  

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Who will pay for a sinking California? Ask San Luis Obispo

Who is responsible to pay for the damage when overpumping of groundwater causes surface soils to slump and properties to sink and crack? 

A legal suit that resulted from the practice 25 years ago in San Luis Obispo went all the way to the California Supreme Court. The result should have been fair warning to other towns. 

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Net metering bill lets solar owners sell back extra power

"The Legislature is poised today to pass legislation aimed at boosting the solar sector in New Jersey, but even its proponents concede it is only a temporary fix."
NJ Spotlight's Tom Johnson writes that, if approved and signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie, the measure would encourage increased investment in solar energy systems, particularly for residential and small business projects.
The legislation (A-3838) is important because New Jersey has ambitious targets to increase the use of cleaner ways of producing electricity for utility customers, hoping to have 22.5 percent of its power come from renewable sources of energy by 2020. It is unlikely to meet those goals if solar is not a big component of that mix.
The measure, which is expected to be voted on in both the Assembly and the Senate, would revamp the rules governing when owners of solar systems get paid for the power they produce but do not use. The electricity they do not need goes into the traditional power grid.
The system, known as net metering, is used by 44 states and is credited with helping to promote the rapid growth in solar not only in New Jersey but also in other states. New Jersey has more than 36,000 solar systems installed, making it one of the nation's leaders in the use of this technology.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

NJ Gov. and lawmakers diverting more Clean Energy funds

New Jersey’s clean energy fund is being tapped once again by legislators -- this time to provide $20 million for maintenance and salaries for the state’s park system,
NJ Spotlight's Tom Johnson reports
The proposed diversion from the often-raided Clean Energy Fund presumably would retain $20 million for a new open-space preservation program instead of being used to finance parks management as the Christie administration proposed in its spending plan for next year.
Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed budget already is counting on using approximately $152 million from the Clean Energy Fund to finance various energy initiatives and to pay utility bills at state facilities, including NJ Transit.
The persistent withdrawal of money from the Clean Energy Fund by lawmakers and the administration is a source of frustration for clean-energy advocates. More than $1 billion in clean-energy funds has been used to help balance budgets in the past several years. The fund is replenished by surcharges on gas and electric bills for residents and businesses.

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NY Energy Planning Board reschedules public meeting

Monday, June 22, 2015

NY Energy Planning Board reschedules public meeting

A meeting of the New York State Energy Planning Board was unexpectedly cancelled on June 15 due to "scheduling issues," according to spokeswoman Kate Muller, just three hours before the board was expected to meet with environmental groups hoping to comment on the state's draft energy plan before it is finalized.

According to the Legislative Gazette, the New York State Energy Plan establishes the foundation for future energy policies, investments in energy infrastructure and guides decisions that will impact how New York will meet its future energy needs. 

Last year, the 2014 Draft State Energy Plan was criticized by some environmental groups for its vague goals, lack of renewable targets, promotion of natural gas, and failure to address severe weather phenomenon.

The board is now scheduled to meet on Thursday, June 25.

Read the full story here

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

New Jersey refiner PBF Energy buying refinery in Louisiana

A New Jersey energy company will buy the Chalmette oil refinery in Louisiana for $322 million from ExxonMobil and its partner, the state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela,
Jennifer Larino reports in the
PBF Energy Inc., based in Parsippany, N.J., and one of the largest independent oil refiners in North America, has agreed to purchase the 189,000-barrel-per-day refinery as well as interests in chemical facilities, pipelines and other assets at the site.
A statement released by PBF Energy did not detail how the purchase would impact the refinery's workforce, though it appears leadership intends to extend job offers to many current employees.
"We are committed to the continued safe and environmentally responsible operations of the facility and look forward to welcoming Chalmette's well-trained and professional workforce to the PBF family," CEO Tom Nimbley said.
About 530 ExxonMobil employees and 500 contractors work at the refinery, according to figures provided by ExxonMobil.
PBF spokesman Michael Karlovich said the company intends to extend offers to all ExxonMobil employees. He said PBF would review the level of contract work needed to support safe operations at the facility.
The sale comes as Venezuela's government seeks ways to cover growing debt as low oil prices erode state revenues and a recession looms.
ExxonMobil and Petroleos de Venezuela each own a 50 percent stake in the refinery.
Chalmette Refining, built in 1915 on the site of a former plantation, is one of the largest employers in St. Bernard Parish. ExxonMobil operates the plant, though about a third of the oil refined there is produced in Venezuela.
The deal is PBF Energy's first refinery purchase on the Gulf Coast, expanding its refining capacity by 35 percent to more than 725,000 barrels per day.
PBR Energy operates refineries in Delaware, New Jersey and Ohio.
If regulators approve the deal, the new owners are expected to take over the Chalmette refinery later this year.
PBF Energy currently operates three refineries in Paulsboro, New Jersey, Delaware City, Delaware and Toledo, Ohio. Two members of its management,CEO Thomas J. Nimbley and Senior Vice President of Refining Herman Seedorf were part of the ConocoPhillips team that from 1993 to 2001 managed the Bayway Refinery in Linden, NJ  

Saturday, June 20, 2015

NJ's PSEG Makes Power Play in Maryland’s Energy Market

PSEG Power is expanding its base into Maryland, NJ Spotlight reports.
The Newark subsidiary of Public Service Enterprise Group announced that it has acquired a 755-megawatt natural-gas-fired project in Prince George County from Genesis Power LLC and Ares EIF Management, an energy-focused private equity fund.
PSEG Power will invest between $825 million and $875 million in the project, which is expected to begin construction sometime this year and to start supplying capacity to the regional power grid in 2018.

Full story: New Jersey’s PSEG Power Makes Power Play in Maryland’s Energy Market 

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Peek inside Amazon's super efficient NJ fulfillment center

Peek inside Amazon's super efficient NJ fulfillment center

What happens after you click “buy” on your Amazon purchase?

NJTV News Correspondent Briana Vannozzi provides the answer — 14 miles of conveyer belts that help sort and package products with the help of a part-robot part-human team, at Amazon's fulfillment center in Robbinsville, NJ which has been operating for almost a year.

“Our systems know exactly which item to pick and how quickly to get it to you. And that’s what we do next. We travel on our over 14 miles of conveyers up to our pack stations and then our packages are all sorted by customer by ship destination out to you,” said Amazon Director of Operations in Robbinsville Tim Hall.

The 1.2 million square foot center in Robbinsville is a maze of brightly colored sorting buckets and shelves. More than 2,500 employees have been hired since it unofficially opened last July.

“The goals are actually above where we believed we would be at this point,” Hall said.

It’s called an eighth generation facility, because of the advanced technology. Bright orange robots — Amazon officials refer to them as “NFL linemen” — lift up to 750 pounds. “They make our associates more efficient. They actually do the walking for our associates. They bring the shelves to them, take the shelves away. Our associates love interacting with them,” Hall said.

Jobs for urban youth

“We wanted to get young men and women from inner city of Trenton and give them an easier opportunity to come out here and get jobs, which they have. They can take one bus from the city of Trenton. We have a dedicated ZLine that comes right out here to the corporate center, which is free, and they can just hop on and hop off,” said Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes.

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