Friday, April 29, 2016

NJ forest management or logging in sheep's clothing?

Residents in the small, bucolic community of Sparta are gearing up for a battle to spare their mountain from what they say is a disastrous state DEP plan that will do more harm than good.

NJTV's David Cruz
, who's more accustomed to filing stories from the streets of Hudson County or the hallways of the State Capitol, takes to the woods for this one.

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NJ: No intent to comply with federal Clean Power Plan

Proponents of EPA policy say state is risking chance that feds will step in and draft regulations to ensure compliance

Tom Johnson
reports today in NJ Spotlight:

"There is no chance the Christie administration will draft a proposal to comply with the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan to sharply curb global-warming emissions from power plants, officials said yesterday."

“It’s not in our DNA,’’ said John Giordano, an assistant commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection said yesterday at a break in a hearing called by an advisory council to solicit information on how New Jersey will implement the plan. “We don’t need EPA’s re-engineering.’’

New Jersey is making great strides in cleaning up its air and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, Giordano said, an argument echoed by Board of Public Utilities President Richard Mroz. He called the CPP, as it has been dubbed, an unconstitutional intrusion by the federal government on state rights.

While acknowledging that staff from both agencies are looking at what options are available to comply with the law, Mroz noted “there is no specific effort to draw up a compliance plan.’’

The Christie administration has joined in a lawsuit with 27 other states seeking to block the plan, a step the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily ordered in a narrowly approved ruling this past February. The state contends the plan fails to credit New Jersey for past actions that have already cut carbon pollution from power plants, as well as the more than $4 billion ratepayers have invested in renewable energy and reducing energy use.

New Jersey has the fifth-lowest carbon-dioxide emissions, a primary greenhouse gas, of power plants in the country, officials said. That is a reflection of how electricity is generated here with nearly half the power coming from nuclear plants and more than 40 percent from natural gas plants, which pollute less than coal-fired units.

The stance taken by the state is risky, according to proponents of the government plan, because if no proposal is submitted, the federal agency will step in and decide what regulatory steps are needed to achieve compliance with the law. That could lead to more costly strategies to consumers to comply with the plan, according to business interests.

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U.S. Steel files against unfair trade practices by China

Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) against several large Chinese steel producers and their distributors.
The complaint asks the ITC to initiate an investigation under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 and alleges what U.S. Steel calls “illegal unfair methods of competition.” It seeks the exclusion of what U.S. Steel considers unfairly traded Chinese steel products from the U.S. market.
The complaint accuses the Chinese steel producers and distributors of three actionable offenses: an illegal conspiracy to fix prices, the theft of trade secrets and the circumvention of trade duties by false labeling.
“We have said that we will use every tool available to fight for fair trade,” says U.S. Steel president and CEO Mario Longhi. “With today’s filing, we continue the work we have pursued through countervailing and antidumping cases and pushing for increased enforcement of existing laws.”
According to a Reuters report on the filing, among the Chinese steel producers named in the complaint are Hebei Iron & Steel Group, Anshan Iron and Steel Group and Shandong Iron & Steel Group Company.
Actions covered under Section 337 include the infringement of intellectual property rights (such as patents and copyrights), unfair methods of competition and unfair acts in the importation and sale of products in the United States. The remedy sought by U.S. Steel through the ITC “is the exclusion of the unfairly traded products from the U.S. market,” according to a U.S. Steel news release.
The ITC has up to 30 days to evaluate the submitted U.S. Steel petition and to decide whether to initiate the case. If the case proceeds, an administrative law judge is assigned. During the investigation process, nationwide subpoenas and orders for the production of relevant documents could be issued by the judge.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Feds approve permit for new PSEG Nuclear reactor in NJ

This aerial photo shows the northern end of Artificial Island in Lower Alloways Creek Township where the PSEG Nuclear generating complex is located. If the utility decides to go ahead and build a new reactor there, it would be located along the Delaware River to the left of the white tank seen at the center of the photo. (PSEG Nuclear)
Federal regulators have OK'd a key permit that would be needed for the construction of a new nuclear reactor in New Jersey, officials
said Thursday
Bill Gallo, Jr. reports for
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, following numerous reviews, found that PSEG Nuclear met all safety and environmental requirements needed for the Early Site Permit.
That permit is not a green light for the utility to build a new reactor at its generating site at Artificial Island along the Delaware River in Lower Alloways Creek Township.
The permit will be good for 20 years.
It does not, however, mean that PSEG Nuclear is ready to put a shovel into the ground. Many federal, state and local approvals would still be needed.
"This is an important final step to have the ESP issued," said Joe Delmar, spokesman for PSEG Nuclear. "It provides us with a 20-year window to pursue a construction and operating license."
PSEG Nuclear has said during the application process that it was not ready to build another plant, but wanted to be prepared.
"Though we have no immediate plans to pursue construction, we continue to believe that nuclear plays a key role today and also in the future in meeting New Jersey and America's clean air goals. These goals can't be achieved without carbon free nuclear power," said Delmar.
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Judge: No garbage-can snooping for food waste in Seattle

A Washington State Superior Court judge has ruled that Seattle's residential garbage inspections to check for compostable waste are unconstitutional, rendering that portion of the city's food waste recycling ordinance as invalid.

Valerie Richardson reports for The Washington Times:

“This ruling does not prohibit the city from banning food waste and compostable paper in SPU-provided garbage cans,” the 14-page decision said, referring to the Seattle Public Utilities. “It merely renders invalid the provisions of the ordinance and rule that authorize a warrantless search of residents’ garbage cans when there is no applicable exception to the warrant requirement, such as the existence of prohibited items in plain view.”

Under the 2015 ordinance, garbage collectors were required to determine by “visual inspection” whether more than 10 percent of a trash can’s contents were made up of recyclable items or food waste. Violators are subject to having their garbage cans tagged and fines of $1 per can for curbside collections or $50 per collection for multi-family units.
Ethan Blevins, attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of eight Seattle residents, called the ruling a “victory for common sense and constitutional rights.”
“A clear message has been sent to Seattle public officials: Recycling and other environmental initiatives can’t be pursued in a way that treats people’s freedoms as disposable,” Mr. Blevins said in a statement. “Seattle can’t place its composting goals over the privacy rights of its residents.”
The lawsuit argued that the ordinance essentially allowed warrantless searches, which Mr. Blevins described as an invasion of privacy and a “policy of massive and persistent snooping.”
The measure, which went into effect in January 2015, is intended to encourage conservation by requiring residents to separate their food waste and compostable paper for recycling in order to meet Seattle’s goal of composting 60 percent of waste.
“Before the ordinance, Seattle sent approximately 100,000 tons of food waste 300 miles to a landfill in eastern Oregon each year. This resulted in higher costs and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Seattle Public Utilities on its website.
“Today, Seattle sends more than 125,000 tons of food and yard waste to composting processors. The material is now turned into compost for local parks and gardens,” the website said.
What do you think about the ruling? We suspect it will lead to cheating and render food waste recycling less successful and more costly.  The ruling allows a few uptight residents, allegedly concerned about the individual freedom of their garbage, to muddle up a program that serves the overall good of the community. This was anything but a victory for common sense.  Share your view below by clicking on the tiny 'comments' link.
Give it a few moments to open. It's slow, like the judge in Seattle.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Fight against gas pipeline through NJ Pines not over yet

The NJ Board of Public Utilities has approved it and the Pinelands Commission won't be holding any new public hearings on it, or putting it to a vote, but New Jersey Natural Gas's proposed, 28-mile natural gas pipeline through the Pinelands is not home free just yet.

The New Jersey Sierra Club announced April 25 that it is suing both state agencies in what may be the environmental community's last hope of blocking the controversial project that has been denounced by four pervious governors but is strongly supported by the administration of current Governor Chris Christie.

"We are suing the BPU (state Board of Public Utilities) and the Pinelands Commission to protect environmentally sensitive land and open space from this damaging and unnecessary pipeline," said Jeff Tittel, director of New Jersey Sierra Club in a statement. "This pipeline will cause irreparable harm  to the largest open space on the northeast seaboard, threaten our drinking water supply, and harm communities along the proposed route." 

For the details, see:
Sierra Club sues state to stop NJNG pipeline
(Asbury Park Press stories and video)
Another Pinelands pipeline approval, another environmental challenge (NJ Spotlight)

More coverage of NJ Senate panel’s Pinelands vote (EnviroPolitics Blog, Feb.25, 2015)

The Pinelands gas pipeline controversy gets interesting (EP Blog, Dec. 19, 2013)

NJ Pinelands gas pipeline touted; Commissioner tossed (EPs Blog, Dec. 14, 2013)

Recent blog posts:
Ringwood NJ still plagued by legacy of Ford contamination
Pa. commission OK’s new oil and gas regulations 
Founder of Brandywine Conservancy and Museum, 79
In Pa's fracklands, local economies feel pinch of a gas bust
Exxon, allies invoke 1st Amendment to fight climate probe


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ringwood NJ still plagued by legacy of Ford contamination

Michael Hill
reports for NJTV News

Ramapough Indian Vivian Milligan is compiling the obituaries. “We’ve lost a lot of people. It took quite a while to realize something was not right,” she said.

She’s keeping track of the tribe members in Ringwood who’ve died of cancer and other illnesses,

For years, the now-closed Ford Motor Company assembly plant in Mahwah dumped hundreds of thousands of tons of paint sludge in two, deep Ringwood mines and contaminated the soil and water.

When asked if there is any doubt the contamination led to the deaths, Milligan said, “No.”

Ford was ordered and did some cleanup in the ’90s and the EPA decided Ford had done enough and the risk had been contained. But, a few years later, in 2005, testing showed that assessment was wrong and the area went back on the Superfund list.

Residents say the government betrayed them then and still is by not informing them of test results, giving erroneous results and as late as this week, being told the government’s method of testing for the potential cancer-causing chemical — 1,4-Dioxane — was obsolete.

Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker wrote to the EPA urging it to do a much better job of keeping citizens in Ringwood informed and in a timely way. The EPA replied, “We will do that.” The EPA said it agrees that “… full transparency and proactive, timely updates … [are] critically important to … restoring public confidence…”

Read the full story here

Recent blog posts:
Pa. commission OK’s new oil and gas regulations
Founder of Brandywine Conservancy and Museum, 79
In Pa's fracklands, local economies feel pinch of a gas bust
Exxon, allies invoke 1st Amendment to fight climate probe

Christie looks to divert $20M in NJ conservation funding 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Pa. commission OK’s new oil and gas regulations

                                                                                                       WHYY photo
A state commission has signed off on significant changes to rules governing Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry. The approval signals a final step in an often contentious, five-year effort by the Department of Environmental Protection to modernize drilling regulations.
Marie Cusick reports for StateImpact:

After a seven-hour public meeting Thursday, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) voted 3-2 to give the green-light. The commission is charged with evaluating regulations for economic impact, public health and safety, reasonableness, impact on small businesses, and clarity.
The state House and Senate Environmental Resources and Energy committees now have 14 days to review IRRC’s decision.
“I believe the department has addressed this regulation as earnestly and honestly as it claims it has– intending to balance the interests of the affected industries and the public good,” says IRRC commissioner Murray Ufberg. “ [The regulations] have not been modified in so many years, and the industry has undergone dramatic changes which affect our population.”
The regulations, known as Chapter 78 and 78a govern both conventional drillers and the newer, unconventional, Marcellus Shale industry. Changes include updates to the permitting process. Drillers will now have to identify public resources such as schools and playgrounds. They will also have to identify old or abandoned wells that could be impacted by new drilling. If a water supply is tainted, the driller will have to restore or replace it to federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards, or the pre-drilling conditions, if they were better. The Marcellus Shale industry would also be barred from storing waste in pits, and using brine for dust suppression or de-icing.

Founder of Brandywine Conservancy and Museum, 79

George A. "Frolic" Weymouth, 79, a prominent conservationist and artist who founded and chaired the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art, died Sunday morning at his home in Chadds Ford, the conservancy said.

George Weymouth´s legacy includes 62,000 acres of protected land.
Chris Palmer writes today for that Mr. Weymouth had been hospitalized recently for pneumonia, according to Andrew Stewart, a spokesman for the organization.
Mr. Weymouth, a member of the du Pont family, was a seminal force in preserving tens of thousands of acres of picturesque scenery around the Brandywine River in Pennsylvania and Delaware. He also was an accomplished painter and combined his passion for nature and the arts by helping to establish the Brandywine Conservancy & River Museum of Art in 1967.
Nearly 50 years later, the organization has protected 62,000 acres, and the museum, which houses 4,000 pieces of art in a renovated grist mill, has become world renowned for its galleries showcasing the work of the Wyeth family, whose members were close friends with Mr. Weymouth.
Read the full story here 

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Exxon, allies invoke 1st Amendment to fight climate probe 
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How Google's celebrating Earth Day. How about you? 
Task force recommends changes to NJ beach-access law

Sunday, April 24, 2016

In Pa's fracklands, local economies feel pinch of a gas bust

In today's Philadelphia Inquirer, business writer Andrew Maykuth reports on how the plunge in natural gas prices has affected drillers
and businesses in Jones Township, Pa.

Gus Trejo, a career oil-and-gas driller from South Texas, moved his family to Pennsylvania in 2010, betting that the emerging Marcellus Shale gas industry would provide long-term security.

"Retirement is what I was thinking," he said.

Trejo supervised three drill rigs in this remote corner of Elk County for Seneca Resources Corp. until the industry crashed last year. He now manages one site, Seneca's sole remaining rig in the entire state. He's glad just to still be employed.

"Now, I'm sitting on the edge of my seat," said Trejo, 50, whose two brothers also resettled near his Tioga County livestock farm, though one has since returned to Texas. "I hope things get better and we stick around a lot longer. I like this part of the country."

Natural gas boom and bust in Pa chart

Five years ago, the Marcellus Shale bonanza attracted 115 drilling rigs to the state, each requiring a battalion of suppliers, trucks, earth movers, equipment manufacturers, and support services.

This month, the rig count fell to 16, a number not experienced since 2007, before hydraulic fracturing entered the public debate and when Marcellus was just a gangster in Pulp Fiction.

Last year's energy-price plunge undercut the business across the nation. Gas producers that borrowed heavily to acquire acreage and to drill struggled to cover their debt. They cut operations and sold assets to stay solvent. Some went bankrupt. Those financially strong enough to survive are hunkered down.

"We're going through a historic downturn," said David J. Spigelmyer, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry trade group.

"We lost maybe $10 billion in capital spending in 2015, and are heading the same way in 2016 with the rig count.

"Despite the slowdown in drilling, Pennsylvania is not likely to relinquish its new status as a natural gas giant. In 2008, it produced 198 million cubic feet of gas, about a quarter of the state's needs. Last year, Pennsylvania produced 4.6 trillion cubic feet, a fifth of the nation's gas demand.

The volume of gas production remains stable because of the large inventory of wells awaiting pipeline connections. As soon as the price rises, a producer brings a waiting gas well online. Producers expect the drilling slowdown to last at least 18 months.

Still, the downturn has depressed local economies. The traffic that energized and disrupted rural life has subsided. Sales of clothing, food, and vehicles are down. Skilled welders have taken jobs at Walmart. Unemployed workers stay home and don't spend.

"Just the sheer volume of people in restaurants, hotels, even at some charity events, they're definitely not there anymore," said Stan Foster, chief operating officer of Superior Energy Resources L.L.C., a Brockway, Pa., gas field-services company.

Three years ago, competition for skilled help was so fierce that Superior struggled to fill job vacancies. "During the peak we had up over 130 employees," Foster said. "Now, we're at 20. Of course, sales are also right in line parallel with that curve."

At midday recently, it was practically empty at the Mountain Inn in Clermont, McKean County, a bar and restaurant where once it was not uncommon for rig crews to order takeout of 30 hamburgers at a time. A game warden had come by that morning to install a trap for the most demanding patron, a black bear that raided the inn's dumpster. It left a lot of debris and, like a growing number of customers, no tip.

"Usually, we'd have a full bar now," said Brenda Walker, the inn's owner. She has cut hours and reduced her staff from nine full-time employees to four part-timers.

"The past year has been horrible," Walker said. "The best thing that can be said is we had a few good years."

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