Saturday, October 3, 2015

How many solar panels do we need to power the Earth?

Keep this article nearby for the next time one of your fossil-fuel-loving friends scoffs at your solar energy advocacy and demands to know how many solar panels it would take to power the Earth’s needs.

Rebecca Harrington
 of Tech Insider posed that question and got the answer from the Land Art Generator Initiative which provided the map below that shows just how little space it really would take. 

And the answer is?

If solar is 20% efficient (
as it has been in lab tests) at turning solar energy into power, we'd only need to cover a land area about the size of Spain to power the entire Earth renewably in 2030.

And this is today. Solar panels and solar battery storage, however, are both areas of intense research that has been producing significant cost-savings for the technology in recent years.  The amount of energy that solar panels generate will continue to rise as its cost of application continues to drop.
Recent blog posts:
NJ Dems pressing Christie to act on offshore wind farms

Friday, October 2, 2015

As hurricane nears, New Jersey closes shellfish beds

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin today issued an Administrative Order temporarily closing state waters to shellfish harvesting effective at sunset as a precaution due to expected heavy rainfall from a pair of weekend storms.

Following is the full text of a news release from the department

The precautionary closure affects more than 720,000 acres of commercial shellfish beds in the state’s ocean waters and estuaries as well as all recreational harvesting. Bivalves in these beds such as clams, oysters and mussels are filter feeders that can accumulate harmful bacteria carried into waterways from the land by stormwater runoff.

The DEP will continue to monitor a Nor’easter expected to continue impacting the state through Saturday, as well as the track of Hurricane Joaquin. The DEP will make further determinations regarding shellfish bed closures as necessary.

The harvest ban applies only to shellfish such as clams, oysters, mussels and scallops, and does not apply to crustaceans, such as crabs. If the storms do not impact the shellfish beds, the Administrative Order will be immediately revoked.

The DEP works with the New Jersey Department of Health and U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure that shellfish are safely harvested in state waters. The DEP monitors, classifies and enforces shellfish regulations in 425,830 acres of estuarine beds and 295,857 acres of ocean beds.

The New Jersey Department of Health Food Safety Program regularly inspects shellfish processing plants to ensure they follow regulations that outline health and safety precautions. Shellfish samples are regularly collected from harvest areas, certified shellfish dealers and retailers for bacteriological examination.

The program oversees a certification program which requires all wholesale shellfish dealers to handle, process, and ship shellfish under sanitary conditions and maintain records verifying that the shellfish were obtained from approved areas. For a copy of the Administrative Order, visit: 

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NJ Dems pressing Christie to act on offshore wind farms

Democrats from New Jersey's congressional delegation are prodding the Christie administration to finalize a key funding mechanism for offshore wind energy projects in light of an impending federal auction to sell lease rights for wind farms off the New Jersey coast.

James M. O'Neill reports in The Record:    
In 2010, Governor Christie signed legislation designed to make New Jersey a leader in offshore wind energy. The bill directed the state Board of Public Utilities to develop a plan that would ensure that offshore wind farms had a buyer for the electricity they produced. It also guaranteed a purchase price that would help cover the upfront costs of building the wind farms while not being too expensive for the state's ratepayers. But five years later, the BPU has yet to finalize the mechanism.
Several members of Congress from New Jersey sent Christie a letter Wednesday urging him to get a plan in place, because the federal government recently announced it will auction off the lease rights to nearly 344,000 acres for wind farms about seven nautical miles off New Jersey.
If fully developed, the area up for lease could generate at least 3,400 megawatts of wind energy — enough to power about 1.2 million homes, according to the Department of Energy's Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Environmental groups and some Democrats in the Legislature have criticized the Christie administration for not developing the funding mechanism, saying the state is losing ground in its bid to be a leader in wind energy. This summer, a company began construction of the first offshore wind farm in the country — off Rhode Island.
 Some in the industry say the state that develops offshore wind first will benefit most from the new jobs created to support the industry, including manufacturing companies that might set up shop in-state to build the parts needed for wind turbines.

Read the full story here

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Water panel to renew call for NJDEP to regulate 1,2,3-TCP

A molecule of 1,2,3-TCP, which is known to cause cancer in humans

"A scientific panel that recommends safe drinking-water standards will issue a new recommendation on the regulation of a carcinogenic chemical in coming months. That measure is likely to be adopted by New Jersey officials, the panel’s chairman said on Wednesday."

Tom Johnson
reports for NJ Spotlight that:
Dr. Keith Cooper, chairman of the Drinking Water Quality Institute, said the body is gathering new evidence on the occurrence, treatment, and health effects of 1,2,3-TCP, a chemical that may cause cancer in humans, after first recommending a safety limit for its presence in drinking water in 2009.
Speaking after the latest meeting of the DWQI in Lawrenceville, Cooper called the institute’s work on the chemical “unfinished business” after it recommended a limit that was not adopted by the Department of Environmental Protection six and a half years ago.
Cooper said he did not know why the DEP didn’t act on the panel’s recommendation at the time, but predicted that officials will accept it this time because of strong evidence of the chemical’s threat to public water supplies.
He said the new investigation was recently requested by DEP Commissioner Bob Martin following an independent decision by the DWQI to reopen the probe.
DEP officials could not immediately be reached to comment on why the department did not accept the DWQI’s earlier recommendation.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Opponents turn up the heat on PennEast gas pipeline

A couple dozen protesters marched from the NJ State House yesterday, chanting their objections to the proposed PennEast Pipeline, Brenda Flanagan reports for NJTV News. (Video above)

The 36-inch-wide underground pipeline would carry a billion cubic feet of compressed natural gas every day– from fracking operations in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale formation — along a 118-mile corridor that crosses the Delaware River and then runs southwest in New Jersey, through what protesters called preserved farms and forests.

“They don’t care about our environment, about our communities, about our kids, about our families, about our creeks, rivers, forests and farmlands. They have made clear they are going to try to pass this pipeline thru no matter what it takes,” said Delaware Riverkeeper Maya Van Rossum.

“The DEP better do its job and not permit this pipeline. We’re also here today to tell the governor we don’t need another fracking’ pipeline in this state. We got too many of them,” said NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.

The six utility companies that comprise PennEast include PSE&G and South Jersey Gas. They filed a formal application last week with FERC — the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — and produced a website and videos promoting the $1 billion project. It emphasizes the proximity of the Marcellus Shale’s abundant natural gas supply.

Related news coverage:
PennEast Opponents rally outside PSEG offices (NJ Spotlight)

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Disembowelment of the New York Daily News

Another sad day for newspapers and newspaper lovers.

"When it was over and the feature page was gone, dozens of reporters had been fired and the morning assignment editor was shown the door only minutes after handing out the morning’s first assignments, The Daily News — or what was left of it — was in a state of shock, "

Alan Feuer wrote for The New York Times:

For weeks the staff had known that layoffs might be coming, and when they did come, on Sept. 16, it was with the swiftness of a Soviet-era purge. Newsroom veterans were summoned into an office and told about a digitally driven corporate restructuring.

Those outside the building were told their fates by phone — some while on vacation. One reporter was so left in the dark that when she got to work that day, there was already an intern in her seat.

“It was not the normal thing with a few cuts here and there,” said one employee who was fired and who, like many, spoke on the condition of anonymity because his severance package had not yet been delivered.

“This was a total
re-positioning of the product.”
From The New York Herald to The New York Tribune (to say nothing of The New York Herald Tribune), newspapers have been dying in New York for nearly as long as they have been born. But to some journalists who have watched their share of these deaths, this month’s disembowelment of The Daily News seemed like something new."
Full story: The Daily News Layoffs and Digital Shift May Signal the Tabloid Era’s End 

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Job opening for regional planner at NJ Highlands Council

The New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council, the regional planning agency charged with protecting drinking water for approximately half the residents of New Jersey, is seeking is seeking a full time Regional Planner.

The planner would assist with implementation of the Highlands Regional Master Plan in protecting the resources of the 860,000-acre Highlands Region.

This position involves interaction with and provision of planning assistance to local government units within the Region, review and preparation of land development and resource regulations applicable to New Jersey counties and municipalities, and varied planning-related duties in support of the Regional Master Plan, including resource protection, economic development, project review, and sustainable development practices.

More information on the position can be found here

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Did last-minute changes cripple oyster restoration bill?

NY/NJ Baykeeper's Oyster Restoration Program Volunteers

Did last-minute amendments submitted by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday cripple
a bill to remove the state's ban on an oyster restoration program
in Raritan Bay?

Check out the latest episode of EnviroPolitics Podcast 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Big new fund looks to invest to revitalize recycling in U.S.

 New recycling plant in Baltimore from recycling company QRS.
A New fund wants to disrupt recycling with the help of $100 million from corporate giants like Walmart, Goldman Sachs, and Coca-Cola.
Katie Fehrenbacher reports for Fortune that: 
By this time next year a major high-tech recycling plant in Baltimore could be sorting 54,000 tons of recycled plastic materials—yogurt cups, milk cartons, plastic soda bottles— annually and servicing a 500-mile radius area across the East Coast. It will be one of the largest of its kind in the U.S.

While the factory’s laser technology, which identifies and sorts different types of waste, is cutting edge, it’s not really what makes the plant so remarkable. That would be how the factory was financed.

The Baltimore recycling plant is one of the first projects funded by a new group called Closed Loop Fund. It has amassed $100 million from ten of the largest U.S. consumer goods companies including Walmart  WMT 0.42% , Coca-Cola  KO 2.04% , PepsiCo  PEP 1.55% , Johnson & Johnson  JNJ 0.41% , Procter & Gamble  PG 2.01% , Unilever  UN 3.70% , 3M  MMM 1.30% , and Goldman Sachs  GS 1.87% .

The fund uses its checkbook to provide zero interest loans to cities and companies that want to build new recycling centers and projects. Company QRS, which is building the plastic recycling plant in Baltimore, used $2 million from the fund, and combined that with other types of financing, to support the new site’s construction.

The idea is so simple, it’s snooze-worthy. But unlocking capital for such an underdeveloped industry could be transformational.

“Recycling has been stagnant for the last five to ten years in the U.S.,” Closed Loop Fund co-founder Rob Kaplan told Fortune in an interview.

The U.S. has few nationwide waste and recycling standards, and cities—many strapped for cash—have often been unable to find money to pay for new recycling facilities and programs. But many of the companies that generate the most waste hope for more recycling infrastructure and recycled goods.

Enter the fund to close the gap. Last year, Kaplan, Walmart’s former director of sustainability, and Ron Gonen, Mayor Bloomberg’s former New York City deputy commissioner of recycling and sustainability, founded the fund.

After working out the many details, the group on Thursday announced that it has funded its first three projects. The Baltimore plant is just one of them.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

PADEP revokes accreditation for environmental laboratory

**The PA Department of Environmental Protection today issued the following news release** 

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced today it has revoked accreditation in-full for Cedar Grove Environmental Inc., an environmental laboratory in Chester County, PA. 

DEP’s Laboratory Accreditation Program (LAP) conducted a regularly scheduled assessment of the facility in July 2015, and found repeat violations from 2012, 2009, and 2007 on-site assessments. These violations were in spite of claims from Cedar Grove that corrective measures had been taken and despite previous suspensions. 
“Revoking the accreditation of a facility like Cedar Grove is not an action taken lightly,” said Dr. Martina McGarvey, director of the Bureau of Labs for DEP. “However, given the pattern of violation, and apparent lack of ability or intent to rectify the violations, DEP was left with little alternative.”
Cedar Grove has had various specific accreditations revoked and in some cases reinstated since 2003. Among the repeated violations were, but are not limited to:
• Failure to mark improperly preserved samples
• Use of expired testing materials
• Failure to maintain adequate records
• Use of inappropriate sample sizes
• Failure to properly train analysts and ensure appropriate testing procedures
• Reporting SDWA sample results that are analyzed outside of the required holding time
At a minimum, the laboratory will be required to satisfactorily demonstrate correction of all violations, submit to a follow-up on-site assessment to confirm corrective action, pay a civil penalty as restitution for the violations found during the Department’s July 2015 on-site assessment, and agree to stipulated penalties for failure to maintain corrective action if repeat violations are found by the Department in follow-up on-site assessments. 

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