Friday, August 29, 2014

Win a grant to help switch your Pa. fleet to natural gas

Pennsylvania opens its third round of Natural Gas Vehicle grants tomorrow, Aug. 30.
The grants will provide an estimated $6 million to help pay for the incremental purchase
and conversion costs of heavy-duty natural gas fleet vehicles.

Since 2013, the state Department of Environmental Protection says it has awarded $14 million to 44 organizations and companies making the switch to compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG), and bi-fuel vehicles weighing 14,000 pounds or more.

Those eligible to apply include non-profit organizations, local transportation organizations, state owned or state related universities, commonwealth or municipal authorities, for-profit companies and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
Requests can be no more than 50 percent of the incremental purchase or retrofit cost per vehicle, with a maximum total of $25,000 per vehicle.

Grant applications are due by 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 14, and will be awarded this winter.

Eligible applicants are encouraged to participate in a related webinar, scheduled for
Sept. 22, from 2 to 3 p.m.

To register for the webinar and view the updated guidance document and online grant application, visit and click on the “Natural Gas Vehicle Grant Program” button.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The rebirth (we sure hope) of the famed Rutgers tomato

Rutgers tomato seedling - Jennifer  Pottheiser photo

Everyone pays lip service to the juicy Jersey tomato.

Here's how tomato expert Jack Rabin describes the famed Rutgers variety that ruled summer picnics and sandwiches from the 1950s to the mid 1980s:

You’re on your way home from the Shore, you stop at a farm market, you buy some tomatoes. The car smells great. You grab a saltshaker and take a bite. You take another bite. Ahhhh…”

What happened to them?

In New Jersey Monthly, Paula Spam writes: “Blame interstate highways, which enabled produce to be trucked longer distances more quickly, but also encouraged plant scientists
to produce firmer hybrids with thicker skins and interior walls (and less taste) for improved “shippability.”

She adds: “Also blame North Carolina State University, where now-retired breeder Randolph Gardner developed high-yielding, crack-resistant hybrids that became Eastern U.S. standards by the 1990s.”

But now, after four years of “
diligently hybridizing and selecting,” three Rutgers scientists are close to recreating the greatest Jersey tomato of them all.

Tomorrow, at the
Open House and Great Tomato Tasting at Snyder Farm in Pittstown, NJ, the public will decide it the three tomato nurturers have pulled it off.

Let us know how it goes. We’ll be at the grocery store buying white bread and mayonnaise.  We can taste those Rutgers Tomato sandwiches already.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Historic $260 million FEMA mitigation grant will help Sandy-smashed NJ wastewater plant shore up defenses

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has awarded a $260 million Public Assistance grant to the
Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC). It is the largest mitigation grant FEMA ever has issued through the Public Assistance Program. 

New Jersey Business reports that the funding will be used to build a comprehensive flood protection system at the wastewater treatment facility in Newark and incorporate microgrid technology to allow the facility to continue to operate when the larger electric grid fails.
"PVSC’s Newark wastewater treatment plant, the fifth largest in the nation, serves an estimated two million residents of New Jersey and New York. The plant processes 25 percent of New Jersey’s waste and 15 percent of New York City’s. Forty-eight communities feed into the system.
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"The extensive physical damage to the 152-acre facility from Sandy’s storm surge and the resulting power outage caused significant community and environmental impacts.  Power outages shut down key pumping stations for 48 hours and, in order to prevent raw sewage from backing up into thousands of homes, PVSC was forced to discharge 840 million gallons of untreated sewage into Newark Bay.

"It took six days for workers to restore wastewater treatment capabilities, and the facility was not fully functional for months."

Friday, August 22, 2014

Wall Street Tom targets Pennsylvania Tom's re-election

Tom Steyer
A billionaire climate activist is putting big bucks into a campaign to defeat Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, The Allegheny Front reports today.
Tom Steyer made his fortune managing a hedge fund he created, Farallon Capital Management. Now the political action committee he created, Next Gen Climate, is trying to elect candidates who will act to slow down climate change.
Tom Corbett
That’s put Tom Corbett in Steyer’s cross hairs. Next Gen Climate spent at least $480,000 airing an ad in July attacking Corbett, according to FCC records made available through the Sunlight Foundation.
Steyer's pledged $50 million of his own money and said he'd try to raise another $50 million for the campaign, but he's had a hard time raising that cash.
“We're trying to participate in places where there is a big differential on something that we think is the generational challenge of our times,” he told NPR in February.
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Next Gen Climate says it zeroed in on Pennsylvania because of Corbett’s past comments that climate change was still “a subject of debate.”
The Republican Corbett faces a stiff challenge from Democrat Tom Wolf in November’s election.
The ad Next Gen aired (seen below) slams Corbett’s ties to the gas industry, and insinuates that giving tax breaks to oil and gas companies was a higher priority to his administration than education

Does this make you more or less inclined to vote for Tom Corbett?  Let us know
in the comment section below.

Recent blog posts:
NJDEP says no to DuPont cleanup modification request

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

NJDEP says no to DuPont cleanup modification request

The town of Pompton Lakes, with the DuPont plant site in the distance and Pompton Lake in the foreground.
                                                                                                                                         Record File Photo
The town of Pompton Lakes, with the DuPont plant site in the distance and Pompton Lake in the foreground.

New Jersey environmental officials said Tuesday they will not grant DuPont’s request to change its plan to deal with contaminated air inside Pompton Lakes homes sitting above polluted groundwater, The Record reports.

"Residents had been worried that if DuPont’s request to change its plan were granted, it would prevent some residents from getting vapor mitigation systems installed on their homes to remove the polluted air.

"Groundwater beneath the neighborhood of about 450 homes is contaminated with the cancer-causing solvents TCE and PCE, which had migrated for decades off of DuPont’s former munitions plant nearby. DuPont and state officials had known about the contamination since 1985, but never tried to clean it up because they thought it posed no hazard. In 2008, however, testing indicated that the solvents were vaporizing up through the soil and into some of the neighborhood’s basements.
"DuPont agreed to install vapor mitigation systems on homes in the plume at no cost to residents, even if air and soil testing showed no elevated levels in the homes. So far 329 homes have had systems installed.

When the state relaxed its residential screening levels for PCE gas in soils and in air last year, DuPont asked the DEP and federal Environmental Protection Agency to adjust its work plan to reflect the new levels.

That, the Record reports, generated dismay in the affected neighborhood, “because residents thought it might make it more difficult to obtain the vapor mitigation systems or even that they would be removed from some homes,”

”Some questioned whether changes might also shrink the size of the plume area and therefore the number of homes that qualified for the systems."
Read the full story here 

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Related environmental news stories:
DuPont wants cleanup eased
DuPont wants relaxed standards for cleanup of Pompton Lakes Superfund site
EPA joins probe of tainted wells
EPA Will Regulate Some TCE Uses Unless Industries Take Voluntary Action

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Can NY nuke plant afford to close for spawning fish?

"New York State is prepared to close 40 years of intermittent and costly legal wrangling over the annual destruction of billions of fish by the twin Indian Point nuclear power plants in the productive Hudson River estuary if the plant agrees to shut down during peak spawning and hatching seasons for the river’s major fish populations," Roger Witherspoon writes in Energy Matters,

"But such a deal, if ratified, would mean the plants could be shut from 13 weeks to 32 weeks, an enforced idleness which could doom the already stressed financial position of Indian Point, which is having difficulty securing steady customers for its electricity due to increased competition, particularly from lower cost wind and natural gas.

"The maximum shut down, if required, would close the plant from February 15 through September 15, and would cut Indian Point’s revenues by about $9.5 billion over 20 years, or 57% of their revenue, according to an analysis prepared by Entergy, the plants’ owner, for ongoing hearings before a panel of Administrative Law Judges at the Department of Environmental Conservation.

"The panel will hold a public hearing on the proposed forced outages July 22 in Cortlandt Manor, about two miles from the power plant site."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

DOE reports encouraging signs for U.S. wind energy

New Jersey might be dragging its heels on wind energy but other states are not.

According to the 2013 Wind Technologies Market Report, released yesterday by The Energy Department and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, after modest growth in 2013, total installed wind power capacity in the United States now stands at 61 gigawatts, which meets nearly 4.5 percent of electricity demand in an average year.

The report found that wind energy prices – particularly in the Interior region of the United States–are at an all-time low, with utilities selecting wind as a cost-saving option.

"With utility-scale turbines installed in more than 39 states and territories, the success of the U.S. wind industry has had a ripple effect on the American economy, spurring more than $500 million in exports and supporting jobs related to development, siting, manufacturing, transportation and other industries," the report states.
State renewable portfolio standards policies, along with federal policy drivers such as the Production Tax Credit (PTC) and accelerated tax depreciation, are expected to help drive growth in the domestic wind power market for the next two years. 

Although the PTC expired last year (after fossil fuel interests in Congress defeated its renewal), projects that began construction by the end of 2013 were eligible for the tax credit; many of these projects will be commissioned over the next couple years.

The American Wind Energy Association says that more than 14,000 megawatts of wind power capacity were under construction in the second quarter of 2014.

Students involved. National competition winner was a local university

The prospects of a growing wind energy industry in the U.S. is encouraging college students like the ones interviewed in the following video who competed in a small, mobile, wind-turbine design competition. The winner was from our readership area. No spoiler here, you'll have to watch for yourself.

What are your thoughts about wind energy? Let us know in the comment area below.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

NJ green businesses losing out to annual budget raids

Energy-savings businesses are feeling the pinch
New Jersey environmentalists are frustrated by the millions of dollars in green program money that have been transferred each budget year by Gov. Chris Christie to non-environmental purposes.

But New Jersey's governor is not alone in shunting green money to patch budget holes in other programs.

In the audio story below,WNYC's Jessica Gould reports on the growing trend and interviews two New Jersey men whose green businesses have been hurt by the diversions. Still, one of them says he'd vote for Christie again.


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Sunday, August 17, 2014

When temperatures soar so do profits for energy traders

                                                    Scientific American graphic
When summer temperatures soar, air conditioners get cranked up and so do profits for some who uses clever financial maneuvers tied to supply pressure on the electric grid.
The New York Times reports on how a Virginia-based company named DC Energy made made more than $1.5 million within 48 hours "by cashing in on so-called congestion contracts, complex financial instruments that gain value when the grid becomes overburdened."
Times reporters Julie Creswell and Robert Gebeloff write:
"Those profits are a small fraction of the fortune that traders at DC Energy and elsewhere have pocketed because of maneuvers involving the nation’s congested grid. Over the last decade, DC Energy has made about $180 million in New York State alone.
"Across the nation, investment funds and major banks are wagering billions on similar trades using computer algorithms and teams of Ph.D.s, as they chase profits in an arcane arena that rarely attracts attention."  

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