Tuesday, July 22, 2014

NJ Sierra Club blasts extension for coal-power plant

B.L. England coal-burning power plant in Beesleys Point, NJ

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has approved an administrative consent order allowing the coal-burning B.L. England Generating Station in Beesleys Point, Cape May County, to continue to operate for up to two years beyond its ay 2015 shutdown date.

“It very simply extends the air permits for the plant for another one to two years to give the operator time to consider options for re-powering the facility,” Larry Ragonese, spokesman for the DEP told the Atlantic City Press.

The Sierra Club reacted with a statement today calling the approval a "unilateral action (that) violates the EPA Mercury Air Toxic Standards (MATS) and nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide limits."  

The statement continued:

"This plant was supposed to close years ago and the DEP cannot just extend without EPA approval because it is the result of a settlement under a New Source Review challenge.  Sierra Club is also concerned as this will give the plant operators time to continue pushing for a new gas pipeline to connect to the facility, even though the Pinelands Commission rejected the proposal in January.   

"In addition to the air pollution produced by the plant, billions of fish and aquatic organisms that are killed by the once through cooling system used at the plant’s Unit 4 each year. Sierra Club and other groups are currently challenging the DEP New Jersey Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NJPDES”) permit for the plant because DEP did not require the plant operators to install cooling towers as the plant is being repowered and rebuilt. 

“Great Egg Harbor Bay’s waters are significantly impacted by the discharge of super heated water by the BL England plant, resulting in significant dissolved oxygen problems.  The discharges from the plant have resulted in the Bay failing to meet state and federal water quality standards.  Cooling towers would reduce these impacts and bring the facility into compliance with the Clean Water Act.”

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Fear of contamination shuts frack waste injection well

The award-winning investigative journalism publication, ProPublica, reports today:

"California officials have ordered an emergency shut-down of 11 oil and gas waste injection sites and a review more than 100 others in the state's drought-wracked Central Valley out of fear that companies may have been pumping fracking fluids and other toxic waste into drinking water aquifers there.
"The state's Division of Oil and Gas and Geothermal Resources on July 7 issued cease and desist orders to seven energy companies warning that they may be injecting their waste into aquifers that could be a source of drinking water, and stating that their waste disposal "poses danger to life, health, property, and natural resources." The orders were first reported by the Bakersfield Californian, and the state has confirmed with ProPublica that its investigation is expanding to look at additional wells.
"The action comes as California's agriculture industry copes with a drought crisis that has emptied reservoirs and cost the state $2.2 billion this year alone. The lack of water has forced farmers across the state to supplement their water supply from underground aquifers, according to a study released this week by the University of California Davis.
"The problem is that at least 100 of the state's aquifers were presumed to be useless for drinking and farming because the water was either of poor quality, or too deep underground to easily access. Years ago, the state exempted them from environmental protection and allowed the oil and gas industry to intentionally pollute them. But not all aquifers are exempted, and the system amounts to a patchwork of protected and unprotected water resources deep underground. Now, according to the cease and desist orders issued by the state, it appears that at least seven injection wells are likely pumping waste into fresh water aquifers protected by the law, and not other aquifers sacrificed by the state long ago."

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

One South Jersey project follows another another

Gov. Christie (left) and Senate President Stephen Sweeney speak about the Holtec deal in Camden, which leads to  a new marine terminal in Paulsboro finally being completed. (Tom Gralish – Inquirer Photo)

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports today that:

The $260 million tax incentive that lured a power-plant supplier to Camden's waterfront is sending a ripple effect down the Delaware River.
Officials on Monday confirmed that Holtec International, now based in Evesham, will build its manufacturing plant at the Port of Camden's Broadway Terminal - sparking another company now working there to partner with a long-anticipated port in Paulsboro.
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Holt Logistics has struck an agreement with the South Jersey Port Corp. (SJPC) to become the operator of the Port of Paulsboro, also called the Paulsboro Marine Terminal. SJPC, which oversees the Camden terminal, had asked Holt to vacate some of its space on Pier 5 to make room for Holtec's 600,000-square-foot development.
The state Economic Development Authority approved the tax credits, among the largest of awards given in the state, to Holtec on Thursday, the same day SJPC directors accepted the Paulsboro deal.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Coming: The pensions, The Rock, The Christie Rescue

NJ Gov. Chris Christie, whose pre-Bridgegate fame was in no small measure due to skillful use of entertainment media, was forced to scale back his big PR machine when the traffic cone scandal was daily, front page and TV news.

Now that the issue has waned, he's back on the tube, call-in radio, Twitter and today offered up a slick YouTube parody on action-packed Hollywood disaster movies. The point of it (besides portraying the governor as New Jersey's bulwark against impending chaos (unsustainable public employee pensions and benefits) is to lay the emotional groundwork for his yet-to-be disclosed solution.

All we know for sure from the faux trailer is that the Christie solution is going to involve a heck of a lot of 'pain.'

Could the design of the video be to instill such anticipatory anxiety in the average taxpayer that his or her support for the solution will immediately follow (after an enormous sigh of relief) when it finally is revealed that public workers will be the primary recipients of that pain?
Check out the YouTube teaser and let us know what you think. Is this a winner? Or something that could backfire as badly as a cone-handler joke?

Does PJM need to run new line through wildlife refuge?

Section of letter from the NJBPU to PMJ questioning route of proposed new power line

NJ Spotlight today reports on a letter from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to the regional electricity grid operator, PJM Interconnection, questioning why PJM staff is recommending a preferred route for a proposed new transmission line that would cut through a national wildlife refuge and state-run wildlife management areas.

NJ Spotlight’s Tom Johnson writes:

“The 18-mile high-voltage line will run from the Hope Creek nuclear power plant in Salem County to neighboring Delaware, a project designed to address potential reliability problems in the region. The current transmission lines are pushed to the limits of how much power they can deliver from the facility, according to the PJM.

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“The proposed route, one of nine projects under consideration, may affect the Supawana Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsville, the Alloway Creek Watershed Wetland Restoration site, the Abbots Meadow Wildlife Management Area in Elsinboro, and the Mad Horse Creek Wildlife Management Area in Salem, according to the BPU letter mailed in early June.

“In expressing concerns over the preferred route, the BPU compared the proposal with the highly contentious Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line now under construction, which also crosses federally protected land.”

Read the full story here

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

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Monday, July 7, 2014

No, they won't tell you where the ginseng is growing

In Pennsylvania a few plant species - valuable and, in some cases, at risk of extinction -
are in a sort of plant "witness protection program," their identities and precise locations
kept secret as poachers hunt them for sale on the black market.

The Associated Press reports that, across the state, the plants are stolen for foreign markets, high-end restaurants or backyard gardens.

Harvested ginseng in Germany (Wikipedia photo)
"When there's something rare or special in a place, someone, unfortunately, is going to try and take it," said Donald Schwartz, Bedford County's planning director.
In Bedford's current Natural Heritage Inventory, which land developers follow for permitting, at least eight locations feature secret species. The county isn't alone: Across the state, government agencies avoid publishing the locations of sought-after plants like ginseng and rare orchids.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Raritan Bay Superfund site lawsuit allowed to proceed

A lawsuit filed against a New Jersey town and county and the Army Corps of Engineers over the nearly $80 million cleanup of a Raritan Bay Superfund site can proceed, a federal judge ruled this week.

The Associated Press reports:

"U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp's ruling means that NL Industries can continue its attempt to divide the costs of the cleanup of the site in the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge Township. The defendants include Old Bridge, Middlesex County, the Army Corps and more than two dozen individual companies that NL Industries claims are responsible for the contamination.

"The federal Environmental Protection Agency last year announced NL Industries was responsible for lead pollution at the site dating back decades and was liable for a cleanup estimated at $78.7 million, according to court filings. The company had operated a smelting plant in nearby Perth Amboy.

"NL Industries sued, claiming it never dumped any material at the site and that the state, county and township allowed a developer to build a seawall with soil contaminated by used batteries, scrap metals and other waste trucked from its plant by a third party.

"NL Industries is suing the state in a separate action in state Superior Court, said Christopher Gardner, an attorney representing the company."

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fracking waste water ban heads to NJ Gov Christie

For the second time in two years, the New Jersey Legislature has passed legislation that would prohibit the importation, processing or disposal of waste water generated during the natural-gas drilling process called fracking.

The state Assembly on Thursday voted its approval of S-1041 on a 62-16 vote. That follows
a 32-5 vote in the Senate.

In 2002, similar legislation was vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie who more often than not sides with business interests, like the State Chamber of Commerce, Business and Industry Association, Chemistry Council and Petroleum Council--who all oppose the anti-fracking measure.

In passing the bill, New Jersey legislators joined lawmakers in several other northeast states that also seek to block fracking water produced by drilling companies in Pennsylvania's natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale.

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Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy last week signed into law a moratorium that outlaws the collection, storage, treatment, transfer or disposal of waste from hydraulic fracturing for at least three years. The law goes beyond a temporary ban to also require the state's Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection to issue new regulations that mandate the “disclosure of the composition of the waste from hydraulic fracturing."

Vermont led the pack in 2012, when it passed a law banning both fracking and the receipt of fracking wastewater.

Earlier this week, the New York Assembly passed a bill extending the state's current moratorium on fracking for three-years. No action on the bill is expected in the state Senate before the fall.

Listen to our interviews with an advocate and an opponent
On Thursday, we spoke with an advocate of the frack water ban, and with a business opponent. Click on their names to hear the interviews. Doug O'Malley and Michael Egenton.

Related environment and energy news stories:
Northeastern States Push to Keep PA Fracking Waste Out
Will NJ Gov Christie Veto Frack Wastewater Ban a 2nd Time?
Fracking Debate Rages On - New Providence 
Pennsylvania Health Department employees instructed to hide

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Funding for open space hangs by a thread in New Jersey

Members of NJ Keep it Green, the environmental coalition that has been fighting for
two years to get the state legislature to adopt a dedicated funding source for open
space preservation, experienced the highs and lows of dealing with the state legislature
yesterday in Trenton.

Early in the afternoon, group members were elated when the state Senate provided overwhelming support (35-1) for SCR-84, a bill that would constitutionally dedicate a
portion of corporate business taxes to fund the preservation of open space, farmland,
and historic structures.

Within hours, however, hopes for final passage of the legislation in the Assembly,
before the legislature's summer recess--and in time to get the measure on the
November ballot--were deflated when the Assembly's Democratic leadership
decided not to post it for a vote.

We spoke with Keep it Green's Tom Gilbert before the Assembly adjourned for the day, when there still was hope that the measure might be posted at an Assembly session scheduled for Monday, June 30. Today the Assembly canceled that session. 

Listen here to what Gilbert had to say 

It appears now that the only chance that voters will get to decide the issue in November is
if the Assembly holds another session by early August and the bill is posted and passed.

NJ Keep it Green no doubt will be pulling out all the stops to make that happen.   

Related environmental news stories:
Open space bill sails through Senate, but Assembly deadline looms - NJ Spotlight
Opinion: NJ can't give up on parks, open space preservation - The Times, Trenton
Environmentalists press NJ to include open-space funding question on ballot - Newsworks
EDITORIAL: Put open space bond on ballot - MyCentralJersey.com
Smith, Bateman tout bill reallocating corporate tax revenues for open space - PolitickerNJ

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