Sunday, November 18, 2018

Crab fishers sue fossil fuel industry over climate damage

The lawsuit by the largest West Coast commercial fishing association seeks to hold 30 companies accountable for harming shellfish and livelihoods as the ocean warms.

David Hasemyer reports for Inside Climate News:
Crab fishermen bring in a haul of Dungeness crab in 2006. Warming ocean water has forced fishery closures over the past four seasons that have hurt the industry. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Crab fishing on the West Coast has become so threatened by warming oceans that a coalition of commercial fishers has now joined the climate litigation fray with a lawsuit filed Wednesday to hold 30 fossil fuel companies accountable for losses caused by climate change.
The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco County Superior Court by the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, seeks damages on behalf of crab fishers, their businesses and families, and local communities in California and Oregon.
It describes losses caused by the closing of crab fishing waters over the past four years because of algae blooms in the warming Pacific waters, and warns that these closures will keep happening as warming continues.
"These changes threaten both the productivity of commercial fisheries and safety of commercially harvested seafood products," the lawsuit says. "In so doing, they also threaten those that rely on ocean fisheries and ecosystems for their livelihoods, by rendering it at times impossible to ply their trade."
At the heart of the 91-page lawsuit are claims similar to those being used by several California cities that are suing the fossil fuel industry over sea level rise. It accuses some of the world's largest oil and gas producers, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and BP, of negligence, defective-product liability, creating a nuisance, and failing to warn about the dangers of fossil fuel products that the companies knew would result in warming of the oceans and atmosphere.
But this case is unusual in pitting one industry against another.
Because of the ocean warming brought on by greenhouse gas emissions, the crab fishing industry has been deprived of fishing opportunities, and consequently suffered severe financial hardships, the lawsuit says. "These injuries derive from rising ocean temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean generally and periodic extreme marine heat waves—the results of anthropogenic ocean warming caused by the foreseeable and intended use of defendants' products," the suit says.
Significant portions of the Dungeness crab fishing region along the Pacific Coast have been closed repeatedly since 2015, including parts along the West Coast this year, according to the lawsuit.
Warming water can generate algae blooms that can cause a buildup in shellfish of domoic acid, a potent neurotoxin that is a health threat to people and an economic threat to the entire crab fishery. Earlier this month, the California Department of Public Health issued a warning not to eat the internal organs of Dungeness crab from the Bodega Bay or Russian River areas because of high levels of domoic acid.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Forecasters Blew It, Rutgers Climatologist Says

Tom Haydon reports in TapIntoBayonne:
Thursday's autumn snowstorm hit much harder than weather forecasts predicted, the worst of it when most people would be on the roads for the evening rush hour, said Rutgers University professor and state climatologist David Robinson.
"The weather forecast was incorrect. I'm not a forecaster and I don't like to throw darts, but it was a blown forecast," Robinson said.
Contributing to the problem was the colder than expected air temperatures. Warmer air was expected to change the snow to rain, Robinson said.
Snow came down fast, an inch to two inches an hour at times during the storm, and it occurred "at the absolute worst time," he said.
"Everything had to align just right, and unfortunately it did," Robinson said. Had the storm hit after the evening commute home, plows could have cleared city streets overnight, he said.

The #MeToo movement falls flat in the Pa legislature

Despite sexual misconduct scandals in both chambers, leadership will remain largely unchanged.

Sarah Anne Hughes reports for BillyPenn:

HARRISBURG — The General Assembly adjourned for the final time this session without any meaningful movement on #MeToo legislation, despite the fact that several of the body’s own members have faced accusations of sexual misconduct.
In the wake of those scandals, leadership on both sides of the aisle will remain largely unchanged.
There were no votes on a package of bills offered by Democrats that would offer greater sexual harassment protections and accountability in state government. The legislation, which was offered in both the House and Senate, would ban non-disclosure agreements that hide the names of accused lawmakers and forbid the use of taxpayer money to settle sexual harassment claims against elected officials.
While the Republican chair of the Labor and Industry Committee, Rep. Rob Kauffman, initially supported the House bill, he withdrew his support after accusing Democrat Leanne Krueger-Braneky of politicizing the issue. Kauffman refused to allow Krueger-Braneky to respond to the accusation during a committee hearing.
Other bills in the Democrats’ package would:
  • Extend Pennsylvania Human Relations Act workplace protections to businesses with fewer than four employees
  • Extend protections to interns at workplaces across the state
  • Update Employment Fair Practices notices to include examples of sexual harassment
What did pass was a Republican-introduced resolution directing the bipartisan Joint State Government Commission to study sexual misconduct in state government.
Another House resolution that would establish the Task Force on Harassment and Sexual Misconduct in the Workplace also passed, but still needs Senate approval.

Friday, November 16, 2018

NJ in sweet spot for offshore energy investments

At NJ Spotlight offshore-wind roundtable, advocates help chart a path to administration’s aggressive goal — 3,500 megawatts of capacity by 2030
liz burdock
Liz Burdock, president and CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind
Tom Johnson reports
for NJ Spotlight:
By 2030, more than 10,000 megawatts of electricity could be produced from wind turbines located along the Eastern Seaboard, with New Jersey well-positioned to reap the economic benefits associated with this emerging industry, according to offshore wind advocates.
The Murphy administration’s aggressive goals to build more than one-third of that projected capacity make it an attractive place to invest and grow the sector, proponents said at an NJ Spotlight event on the state’s energy future in Hamilton on Friday.
Offshore wind is viewed as a key component of Gov. Phil Murphy’s plan to have 100 percent of New Jersey’s power come from renewable energy by 2050. By 2030, the state hopes to develop 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind capacity; it plans to decide next spring who will build an initial 1,100 megawatts, followed by two additional solicitations of 1,200 megawatts each in 2020 and 2022, respectively. Only one offshore wind farm in Rhode Island is currently operating in the United States.

Delivering transparency and a timeline

“You’ve done everything right to attract the industry to the state,’’ said Liz Burdock, president and CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, a panelist at the roundtable.
“You have given them scale; you have given them transparency, and you’ve given them a timeline. What I think you will see is an enormous amount of job growth and investment in the state.’’
Thomas Brostrøm, president of Ørsted North America, a leading offshore wind developer with projects in six states, said his company is excited about developments in New Jersey and the wider Eastern Seaboard relative to renewables and offshore wind. “We basically can see 10,000 milliwatts built essentially over the next 10 years, and that is very, very big,’’ he said.
If all those projects get built, it could create 96,000 jobs in the region, Burdock said. “It’s a big pie — there is a lot to go around,’’ she added, especially if states cooperate in growing the sector instead of competing against one another.

High cost of doing nothing

Board of Public Utilities President Joseph Fiordaliso
Joseph Fiordaliso, president, New Jersey Board of Public Utilities
But Board of Public Utilities president Joseph Fiordaliso, whose agency is overseeing the state’s offshore wind plan, noted that prices are going down in a keynote to kick off the event. “Can we afford not to spend the money?’’ he asked, referring to offshore wind’s importance to mitigating the effects of climate change.
Others argued the costs for offshore wind, much like those for solar, have declined dramatically in the past few years. “The U.S. and New Jersey has hit the timing absolutely perfect,’’ Brostrøm said, noting costs have dropped by more than 60 percent.
The state has long been targeted as one of the best places to locate offshore wind farms, largely because of bountiful wind resources off the coast and a relatively shallow continental shelf. The ocean off New Jersey also has the most variable temperatures from summer to winter in the world, a big factor in its wind resources, according to Josh Kohut, an associate professor at the Center of Ocean Observing Leadership at Rutgers University.

This Murphy administration figure must love a challenge

Lisa Plevin is trying to sway leaders of more than 20 municipalities to sign on to the effort to preserve the environmentally sensitive hill country

Lisa Plevin
Lisa Plevin
Jon Hurdle reports
for NJ Spotlight:
Lisa Plevin is hitting the reset button on the Highlands Council‘s relationship with municipalities and counties in the region, a protected area that supplies drinking water to more than two-thirds of New Jersey’s population.
For the past eight years, the council has faced opposition from key constituencies. Some local governments oppose the council because they do not want to have it curtail development. The council has also been accused by environmental advocates of doing little to advance its goals of controlling development and protecting water supplies.
As the council’s new executive director, Plevin has been reaching out to the people who can help her overcome those challenges. She is making a fresh attempt to win the backing of more than 20 municipalities that previously had no plans to conform to the Highlands Regional Master Plan (RMP), which implements the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act of 2004, but now may be reconsidering that position.
Sixty-one of the region’s 88 municipalities and five of its seven counties already intend to conform with the plan, which requires local governments in the “preservation” area to align their local master plans and development regulations with the RMP. Counties and municipalities in the region’s larger “planning” area are also urged to conform to the master plan but their participation is voluntary.
No new municipalities have signed on since Plevin’s outreach campaign began four months ago. But she is optimistic that more will join when they get beyond what she calls “misconceptions” about the council — a state agency — and recognize that conforming with the plan is in their own best interests.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

EPA to squeeze more emissions from heavy-duty trucks

Agency promises new standard for emissions of nitrogen oxide, a pollutant that’s a big issue in a corridor state like New Jersey

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:
For the first time in 17 years, the federal government is planning to clamp down on a type of smog-forming pollution from heavy-duty trucks.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week announced it will come up with a new standard to decrease emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) from heavy-duty trucks and engines; the rule has not been changed since 2001.
The issue is important to New Jersey, a corridor state with significant truck traffic on interstate highways and urban areas in and out of its ports. Transportation is the major source of air pollution in the state, which has never complied with certain requirements of the Clean Air Act.
The pollutant targeted by the agency contributes to the formation of smog, or ground-level ozone, that can cause lung disease and asthma. New Jersey has failed to achieve the federal health quality standard for ozone, a pollutant formed by the baking of emissions from vehicles and power plants during hot summer months.
In announcing the initiative, the EPA said it would reduce emissions from the pollutant significantly, helping communities attain clean air standards. It is estimated heavy-duty trucks will account for one-third of NOx emissions from the transportation sector in future years.

EPA has been ‘rolling back’ other regulations

The agency’s announcement was welcomed by environmentalists, but greeted with some skepticism, considering the Trump administration has moved to freeze rules to tighten fuel-economy standards for light-duty vehicles and cars, a step being challenged by New Jersey and other states.
“Before this decision, the EPA has been rolling back, changing or delaying Obama administration efforts to reduce air pollution and transportation regulation,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. He fears the new proposal will deregulate how the standards are enforced.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Jersey Shore homeowners opt to ignore Sandy's lesson

Report questions how seriously policymakers and officials have taken the threat from climate change. Advocate suggests that decision was made to stay put and ‘live with the risk’

To activate, click Read the Full Story below  Some areas at risk of annual flooding (projected
for 2050)
Tom Johnson reports for
NJ Spotlight:
Superstorm Sandy wiped out thousands of homes at the Jersey Shore, but the increasing threat of devastating coastal storms like it has hardly deterred building in areas most at risk of chronic flooding as sea levels rise from climate change, according to a new analysis.
In a pattern repeated nationwide in more than half of coastal states, the number of new homes and reconstructed houses built in flood-prone areas during the last decade outpaced those outside such risk zones. In New Jersey, more than three times as many homes were built in low-lying coastal zones than in safer areas.
The report, jointly done by Climate Central, an independent news site run by scientists and journalists, and by Zillow, an online real estate data company, is likely to rekindle debate over land-use planning and development in coastal areas while raising questions over how seriously policymakers and local officials have taken the threats their communities face from climate change.

To activate, click Read the Full Story below
While many municipalities are increasingly developing plans to adapt to sea-level rise, the recent pattern of actual construction may be a better guide to which places are taking the risks most seriously.
In New Jersey, around 2,700 new homes, worth some $2.6 billion, were put up in the flood-risk zone after 2009. That’s more than double the number North Carolina built in risky coastal areas. Many of those were reconstructed after Sandy hammered the state in 2012.

Living with the risk 

To activate, click Read the Full Story below
The analysis also compared counties and communities within the coastal states where there are flood-risk zones — defined as locations at risk of experiencing ocean flooding at least once per year, on average, by 2050.
Ocean County led the way, with nearly 1,300 homes built or rebuilt in flood-prone areas after 2009. Cape May ranked second with 824 homes and Atlantic County (331) ranked sixth in the analysis.
The findings failed to surprise coastal advocates and planners.
“Overall, we only are half-paying attention to the lessons of Sandy,’’ said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, a coastal advocacy group. “For the most part, the decision was to stay put and live with the risk. We simply don’t want to face up to the actual degree of risk of building along the Shore.’

Penn State grad uses his environmental science degree to create a floating (and growing) bioremediation business

Colin Lennox put his Penn State degree in environmental science and English (product development and marketing) to good use when he created floating hydroponic mats that pull contaminants out of water bodies. His first big success was with treating acid mine drainage. On the horizon: a unit for cannabis growers. Altoona Mirror reporter Walt Frank has the interesting details--Editor

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec / Bioremediation sales representative Andrew Gentry (left) and EcoIslands LLC creator Colin Lenox showcase a piece of solar pump cleaning technology at a pond near Duncansville on Oct. 31.

Colin Lennox wanted to do his own thing and “didn’t want to work for anybody.”
So, in 2010, he put his Penn State degrees in environmental studies and English to use and created EcoIslands LLC, which sold floating islands, hydroponic growth mats that clean water by pulling nutrients out of ponds.
Lennox, 39, admits following the recession was not the greatest time to start a business, which is housed in his home near Penn State Altoona.
“We only sold three floating islands. I did environmental landscaping, anything to keep me outside,” Lennox said.
Lennox carried on and his bioremediation company got involved with acid mine drainage cleanup in 2012.
“We clean acid mine drainage by building wetlands in a box,” he said. “Wetlands are catalyzed by microbes and efficiently cleans mine drainage. If you build wetlands in a box, you can do any bioremediation process that natural wetlands can. The elements are directly affected by microbes.”
Lennox has done work for the Clearfield Creek Water Association.
“He installed one of the first of his metal removal systems at the Glasgow treatment system where the Clearfield Creek Watershed Association had recently overseen an upgrade of an earlier treatment system. His unique experimental system extracted mainly manganese from the partially treated water, and showed great success,” said Arthur Rose, a retired Penn State professor, geochemist and advisor to the association.
Rose said Lennox’s technology represents a new and different approach to mine drainage treatment and has been able to remove a variety of metals – iron, manganese, aluminum, and others — from some very bad water.
“His methods are being recognized as a significant new approach for treating acid mine drainage and other contaminated waters. CCWA is currently collaborating with Colin on testing the removal of iron from a very high-iron acid drainage at our Klondike site near Ashville,” Rose said.
Rose also said Lennox’s technology is not a testing method, it is a treatment method.
Today, acid mine drainage work makes up 85-90 of his business, Lennox said.
“We sell wetlands bioreactors; there are different sizes. In 2017, we started going smaller in size, building 100-gallon bioreactors for home agriculture and demos, but we make them as large as 1,800 gallons,” Lennox said.
EcoIslands LLC received the Technology Award from the Blair County Chamber of Commerce in both 2012 and 2013.
The business received funding from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners in 2014 and 2016. The $50,000 in 2016 was to support its sales and marketing efforts, while also making engineering improvements to its system.
“It has been incredibly important, it got us through our mid-stage generation of bioreactors. The design was good but need improvements. We now have a production unit to produce bioreactor metal removal units, which are very advanced and capable of an enormous microbial diversity, which means a huge array of purposes and markets,” Lennox said.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Pa court allows Penn Twp. fracking sites to continue

A pond below a drilling rig used to extract natural gas from the Marcellus shale near Houston in Washington County in 2008.

The Tribune-Review reports:

Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has ruled development of four Penn Township fracking sites can continue, stymieing a local advocacy group’s attempt to stop the projects.

The Penn Township Zoning Hearing Board in early 2017 approved special exceptions for four well pads proposed by Apex Energy, known as the Backus, Deutsch, Drakulic and Numis pads.

The advocacy group Protect PT appealed the decision to Westmoreland County Court, which ruled in favor of the township.

Protect PT appealed again, to the Commonwealth Court, arguing that the wells would hurt the quality of the air and water in the township, and that the proposals did not adequately address the storage of wastewater.

Once again, the court upheld the zoning board’s decision. An opinion written by Judge Robert Simpson and announced Thursday says Protect PT did not present sufficient evidence to put the board’s decision in doubt.

“We’re very disappointed at the commonwealth’s decision today. We don’t feel the court upheld our constitutional rights as Pennsylvanians to clean air and pure water,” said Protect PT Director Gillian Graber. “We had hoped the court decision would do what the zoning hearing board failed to do.”

Township Community Development Director Bill Roberts said the ruling affirms the work done by the zoning board.

“Obviously we thought the zoning hearing board had done its due diligence,” he said. “We respect the effort that the zoning hearing board puts into these decisions.”

There are more than a dozen fracking wells in various stages of development in the township. In 2016, the township rejected two Apex well pad proposals. Apex sued the township in federal court for $300 million, arguing the denials were unlawful.

The township settled with Apex to avoid the lawsuit, The rejections were reversed, four other wells were approved and Apex agreed to several stipulations, including air and sound quality monitoring during construction.

Graber said Protect PT is considering whether to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court

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Monday, November 12, 2018

After microbrew flap, Gov. Murphy replaces ABC director

State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced Friday that Murphy will nominate attorney and municipal judge James B. Graziano to become the division’s new director.
David Levinsky reports for the Burlington County Times:
TRENTON — Gov. Phil Murphy is moving to replace David Rible as the head of the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control just a few months after the division issued and then overturned controversial rules about activities and special events at microbreweries.
State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced Friday that Murphy will nominate attorney and municipal Judge James B. Graziano to become the division’s new director. He will replace Rible, who is leaving the post to pursue other opportunities, the Attorney General’s Office said.
Graziano’s nomination is subject to advice and consent of the state Senate. He will begin serving as acting director of the agency on Nov. 26, officials said.
“James is a seasoned civil litigator and experienced municipal judge whose legal background makes him an excellent candidate to lead the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control,” Grewal said in a statement.
Rible, a Wall Township police officer who represented the 30th Legislative District in the state Assembly from 2008 until the summer of 2017, when he was nominated to lead the ABC by then-Gov. Chris Christie in June and then confirmed by the Senate the following month.
Rible remained in his position under Murphy’s new administration but created controversy in September when the division issued a special ruling capping the number of in-house public events microbreweries could hold each year at 25 and restricted the number of private events and live sports broadcasts permitted in the tasting rooms. The ruling also banned menus from local restaurants from being displayed there.
Rible said the ruling was meant to define the terms set in a 2012 amendment that created limited brewery licenses, which cost between $1,250 to $7,500 a year depending on the number of barrels brewed annually. No microbrewery is permitted to make more than 300,000 barrels per year, or 9.3 million gallons of beer.
Burlington County is currently home to eight microbreweries.
The ruling created a stir with brewery owners, patrons and local government officials and were frozen shortly after it was issued. Since then, Assemblymen Joe Howarth, R-8th of Evesham, and Wayne DeAngelo, D-14th of Hamilton, have introduced legislation to allow microbreweries to host an unlimited number of events each year, eliminate a state-mandated tour breweries are now required to offer patrons, and allow brewery owners to sell water, soda and unprepared snacks on site with beer.
The legislation also would let brewery owners provide menus to customers and work with vendors to serve food on site.

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