Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Jersey City hires law firm to fight Liberty State Park marina

By Ron Zeitlinger

Jersey City is not sitting back and waiting to see how the proposed development of Liberty State Park plays out.
The city announced this morning that it has hired the law firm of Riker Danzig, Scherer, Hyland, & Perretti, LLP to protect Liberty State Park against the development of a new marina.
The Jersey Journal reported last week that Suntex, which operates Liberty Landing Marina on the north side of the park,
has a proposal before the state Department of Environmental Protection to lease 45 acres of the the south side of the park to open another marina; and to expand the existing marina by 10 acres.
"Once again, the Christie Administration has proven their utter disregard for the importance of public parks in New Jersey," Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop said. "This development is one that would drastically change the landscape of one of the state's best public parks, and to add insult to injury, has progressed up until this point behind closed doors.
"This lack of integrity has become business as usual, and this time, one of our best public assets will suffer unless we as a city fight back."
City officials said the law firm will pursue legal options against the proposed marina, citing a misalignment between the proposed use and the original purpose of the public park, as well as safety concerns for residents and local wildlife.
The contract with the firm is not to exceed $25,000, according to a resolution on the agenda for tonight's City Council meeting.
"We are immensely grateful to Mayor Fulop for delivering the legal resources necessary to protect the south side of Liberty State Park for the public to continue to picnic, fish, walk and
enjoy unblemished views of the New York Harbor freely,"
Greg Remaud, deputy director of the NY/NJ Baykeeper, said
in a statement.
Sam Pesin, president of the Friends of Liberty State Park, has been vocal in his opposition to the proposal. He organized a rally in the park on Dec. 2 to show state leaders the immense local opposition to the plan.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

France's Macron to Trump: Up yours, but with politeness

France's President Emmanuel Macron meets with former U.N. Secretary-Generals
Kofi Annan (left) and Ban Ki-moon (right) at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Monday.AP photo

Richard Gonzales reports for NPR:

French President Emmanuel Macron, in a not-so-subtle jab at President Trump, has awarded long-term research grants to 18 climate scientists — 13 of them U.S.-based researchers — to relocate to France and pursue their work with the blessing of a government that doesn't cast doubt on the threat of climate change.

The announcement Monday makes good on a pledge Macron made earlier this year after the U.S. pulled out of the Paris climate accord to offer France as a "second homeland" to climate researchers in order to "make our planet great again."

Macron's appeal produced 1,822 applicants, nearly two-thirds from the United States. Candidates had to have a proven track record on climate research and propose a project that would take three to five years to complete. That period roughly matches Trump current term in office.

Trump has proposed cuts in federal funding for scientific research. As Macron told the winners of the French grants, "we will be there to replace" U.S. support for climate research.

One of the winners, Camille Parmesan of the University of Texas at Austin, told the Associated Press that the French offer "gave me such a psychological boost, to have that kind of support, to have the head of state saying I value what you do."

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Marshall Loeb, editor, shaped Money and Fortune, 88

Marshall Loeb, left, on retiring from Fortune magazine in 1994. He was succeeded by Walter Kiechel 3rd

Robert D. Hershey, Jr. reports for the New York Times:

Marshall R. Loeb, a business journalist who turned a floundering Money magazine into one of the nation’s most successful publications in the 1980s and then led a similar revival at Fortune, died on Saturday in Manhattan. He was 88.

His daughter, Margaret Karen Loeb, said the cause was Parkinson’s disease.

On retiring as Fortune’s managing editor in 1994, Mr. Loeb was hailed in The New York Times as “one of the most visible and influential editors in the magazine industry.”

He joined Money in 1980 as managing editor, the magazine’s top editorial post, after 14 years at Time magazine. Inheriting a magazine that was barely profitable, Mr. Loeb set about expanding its coverage of personal finance, among other things.

“Loeb wanted to make investing and spending money fun at a time when a lot of young people were having fun making a lot of money, but not necessarily knowing what to do with it,” Folio’s Publishing News said in 1991. “He created a voyeuristic publication that enabled readers to peek into the finances of their neighbors.’’

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Friends of Liberty State Park prove what DEP is up to

**UPDATED AT 12:55 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2017 to add related story**

Sam Pesin, the leader of Friends of Liberty State Park, has been warning everyone who will listen that the NJ Department of Environmental Protection has been secretly planning to turn the popular southern end of the park--currently available to the public for picnics, jetty fishing, or viewing the Statue of Liberty and New York Bay--into a private marina for the rich. 

Park protectors tell NJ Gov. Christie: Keep your hands off

Now he has proof—artist sketches of the waterfront property and adjoining acreage that the state would lease to a Texas developer for 50 years.  Moreover, Pesin fears that outgoing Governor Chris Christie will try to enter close the deal before he leaves office in January.

David Cruz of NJTV News has the interview (click arrow in photo).

Related story:

Details emerge about new Liberty State Park marina

After costly race, Norcross to raise funds for Sweeney PAC

George Norcross. (Photo: Observer file photo)
Christian Hetrick reports for Observer:
George Norcross and Senate President Steve Sweeney are teaming up next month to raise money for New Jerseyans for a Better Tomorrow, the super PAC that spent big on Sweeney’s re-election.
Norcross, the South Jersey Democratic power broker, and his brother Phil Norcross, a prominent lobbyist, will be at the $2,500 per person fundraiser Jan. 9 at the Westin of Mount Laurel, according to an invitation obtained by Observer. Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Sean Kennedy, the executive director of New Jerseyans for a Better Tomorrow, are attending too. 
The invitation bills the event as a celebration of Sweeney’s swearing-in for another term. But it’s also an opportunity to replenish the super PAC’s bank account after it helped Sweeney win what’s likely the most expensive state legislative race in American history. New Jerseyans for a Better Tomorrow spent $5 million to defend Sweeney, according to the Election Law Enforcement Commission.
The New Jersey Education Association’s failed bid to oust Sweeney cost $18.7 million, according to ELEC. The powerful teachers union tried to take out Sweeney after he reneged on a promise to put a pension funding amendment on the ballot in 2016. The NJEA’s super PAC, Garden State Forward, dumped $4.8 million into Sweeney’s 3rd district Senate race.
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Sunday, December 10, 2017

EPA to give two North Jersey Superfund sites attention

Polluters have already removed some of the cancer-causing dioxin from the lower Passaic River near the former Diamond Alkali plant in Newark. But much of the contamination is still spread out in the river's lower 17 miles.

James M. O'Neil and Scott Fallon report for The Record:

The federal Environmental Protection Agency identified a portion of the Passaic River and Berry’s Creek in the Meadowlands on Friday as two Superfund sites that will receive more "intense attention" from the agency as it decides the best route for cleanups.

The two North Jersey sites are among 21 Superfund sites across the country that have been added to a special list requested by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to receive more immediate focus.

However, the new designation does not provide any additional funding to help with cleanups. And agreements with polluters, which often take years, will have to be secured.

The agency wants to target a nine-mile stretch of the Passaic River – from Belleville north to Clifton and Garfield – contaminated with cancer-causing dioxin.

Funding: Christie administration diverted $3 million from Meadowlands restoration fund

Superfund site: 'Oil Lake' in Meadowlands to get $24 million EPA cleanup

Within the next month or two, companies and other entities responsible for the pollution are expected to submit to EPA an investigation they have been conducting that includes the nine miles, the agency said Friday evening.

The EPA already ordered polluters last year to conduct a $1.4 billion cleanup of the lower 8.3 miles of the river from Belleville south to Newark Bay.

Much of the pollution comes from the former Diamond Alkali facility in Newark where dioxin was dumped into the river during the production of the notorious defoliant known as Agent Orange, used during the Vietnam War. Other chemicals of concern include PCBs, mercury and pesticides.

Berry’s Creek is a tributary of the Hackensack River in the Meadowlands. After seven years of study and research, the EPA has been inching closer to a proposed cleanup plan for the highly contaminated creek.

Berry's Creek south of the Meadowlands Sports Complex. (Photo: James W. Anness/

The cleanup of sediment contaminated with mercury and PCBs will likely wind up being some combination of dredging and capping, and the plan should be ready sometime in mid-to-late 2018, the EPA said Friday.

The actual cleanup would still be three or more years away.

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Another aide to Congressman Brady pleads guilty in payoff

Donald “D.A.” Jones pleaded guilty Friday in an ongoing probe of efforts to hide a $90,000 payoff U.S. Rep.
Bob Brady’s campaign made to convince a 2012 primary challenger to drop out of the race (Jessica Griffin)

Jeremy Roebuck reports for

A top political strategist for U.S. Rep. Robert Brady on Friday became the latest defendant to admit his role in a scheme to illegally cover up $90,000 the congressman’s campaign paid a 2012 primary challenger to drop out of the race.

Donald “D.A.” Jones pleaded guilty to charges of lying to federal agents and agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation in a brief hearing in federal court in Philadelphia.

His admission of guilt is the first to come from within Brady’s camp in a case that already has wrung guilty pleas from the congressman’s 2012 opponent – former Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore – and the judge’s former campaign manager.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions and consider my guilty plea a first step in making amends,” Jones said in a statement issued by his attorney Alan J. Tauber after the hearing. “I apologize to the people of Philadelphia and to my family for bringing this dishonor upon them.”

What Jones’ plea means for Brady – one of the longest-serving congressmen in the state and the powerful head of Philadelphia’s Democratic Party – remains unclear.

For months, federal investigators have signaled that they were building a case against the 10-term incumbent. But last month, prosecutors allowed an agreement preserving their right to charge Brady outside the traditional statute of limitations to lapse, raising questions about their willingness to move forward with a case.

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Seniors group, AARP, to Congress: Don't cut Medicare

AARP Chief Executive Officer Jo Ann Jenkins called on congressional leaders Thursday to keep their promise to America’s seniors and prevent a large cut to Medicare that the tax bill now being debated on Capitol Hill would trigger.

The tax measure would result in a $1.5 trillion increase in the federal deficit over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Such a deficit would prompt an automatic $25 billion cut to Medicare as soon as January because of the “pay-as-you-go” law, commonly referred to as PAYGO.
The law was designed to keep the deficit in check by requiring the administration to reduce spending in many mandatory federal programs if Congress enacts a law that increases the deficit but doesn’t provide offsetting revenue.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Charles Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Jenkins reminded McConnell and Ryan that they had recently issued a statement promising that “we will work to ensure these spending cuts are prevented.”
In their statement, the Republican leaders pointed out that the PAYGO law has never been enforced since it was passed in 2010 and “we have no reason to believe that Congress would not act again” to forestall the cuts PAYGO would require.
Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps and some other social safety net programs are exempt from the PAYGO law. But Medicare and programs like federal student loans, agricultural subsidies and the operations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection are not exempt.
The law caps how much the government can trim from Medicare at 4 percent. That’s $25 billion the first year, according to CBO. The amount could be higher in subsequent years, depending on the size of the deficit and Medicare’s budget.
The reduction would affect the payments that doctors, hospitals and other health care providers receive for treating Medicare patients. Individual benefits would not be directly cut, but the reduction could have implications for the care beneficiaries receive.
“The sudden cut to Medicare provider funding in 2018 would have an immediate and lasting impact, including fewer providers participating in Medicare and reduced access to care for Medicare beneficiaries,” Jenkins wrote. Health care providers might stop taking Medicare patients, she added, even as 10,000 older adults are enrolling in the health program each day.
In addition, Medicare Advantage plans and Part D prescription drug plans may compensate for the cuts by charging higher premiums or shifting more costs to beneficiaries in future years.

Friday, December 8, 2017

MacArthur, NY buddies put GOP tax-plan blame on states

Tom (What, me worry?) MacArthur, best congressional friend of the rich
Tom MacArthur--the only congressman from New Jersey backing the GOP tax plan that will deliver huge tax breaks to one-percenters while ravaging the middle class-- joins five fellow Republicans from New York in a novel defense: It's all the fault of your spend-crazy state.

The Times' Jesse McKinley and Nick Corasanti lay it out in
 If the G.O.P. Tax Plan Hurts You, Congressmen Say It’s Your State’s Fault

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Opinion: We need ZECs but not just for nuclear power

We need a comprehensive ZEC policy that reflects the total costs of all power sources — including solar and wind — in the rates charged for them by the state’s utilities

Credit: Amanda Brown
R. William Potter
The State House is all abuzz with rumors that the Legislature will try to pass a controversial bill during the brief, January lame-duck session authorizing payment of so-called zero-emission credits (ZECs) to Public Service Electric & Gas as the price for keeping its three nuclear plants, which supply 40 percent of our electricity, in operation.
PSEG argues that the influx of ultra-cheap natural gas from the fracking fields of Pennsylvania will soon render zero-emission electricity — produced by the Salem I and II and Hope Creek nuclear units — uncompetitive in the brave New World of competitively priced power, forcing PSEG to shut the plants down, causing an increase in pollution from the gas-fired units that will replace them.
At one time, natural gas was considered the cleanest-burning fossil fuel, but recent studies confirm that its “fugitive emissions” of methane gases spewed into the atmosphere are far more potent agents of global warming and climate change than even carbon dioxide from coal-burning units.
In short, PSEG’s vocal push for ZECs has solid support in economic theory — which holds that consumers should willingly pay more for fuels that in addition to generating energy also produce “positive externalities” that go by other names, including “environmental benefits” or “societal services” like cleaner air and better health.

Cleaner is costlier, but worth it

Put simply, cleaner is often costlier, but well worth the premium in health and environmental benefits.
Conversely, energy sources that pollute the environment produce “negative externalities” — such as greenhouse-gas emissions, sulfur dioxide, smog, particulates, and so forth — and for that reason they should be penalized and taxed so that they do not push cleaner sources out of the marketplace.
In effect, authorizing ZECs is a way to level the playing field so that dirtier and often cheaper fuel sources do not have a competitive advantage over cleaner but more expensively produced electricity, including nuclear along with renewable sources, solar and wind.
Recently Illinois enacted a ZEC law for the purpose of preventing the threatened shutdown of several nuclear power plants that were facing stiff competition from natural gas.

Responding to PSEG

In response to PSEG’s urgent requests, the Senate and Assembly environment committees held a rare joint hearing that ended with environmental groups shouting their opposition to the ZEC initiative, in part because the hearing ended before they could testify.
A few days earlier NJ Spotlight published an articulate denunciation of the ZEC legislation, titled “PSEG, Open Your Books!,” by noted energy attorney Stephen Goldenberg. He characterized the ZEC proposal as a “nuclear subsidy … a huge, multibillion-dollar nuclear tax imposed on all New Jersey citizens” leading to “windfall profits” for the utility.
Citing past “stranded cost claims” that nuclear units would be unprofitable in a deregulated era, Goldenberg wisely called for lawmakers not to enact the proposal — which has yet to be introduced or made public — during the lame-duck session, concluding that “the Legislature should just say no to nuclear taxes!”
Instead, they should say "maybe."

Getting it half right

Goldenberg got it half right: Legislators should take some time to consider ZEC legislation and not rush it through in the few days of the lame duck before Gov.-elect Phil Murphy takes office. ZEC legislation should not single out nuclear power as the sole beneficiary. We need a comprehensive ZEC policy that ranks all power sources — including solar and other renewables — on an “externality scale.” The cleaner the energy source, the greater the “positive externalities” and the higher the ZEC premium to be paid for it.
But how do we do that, put a price tag on the “societal benefits” and “societal harms” of diverse energy sources?
In 1990 Pace University and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) published a massive study, “Environmental Cost of Electricity,” directed by former Congressman Richard Ottinger, an early leader in the environmental movement, that provides some answers.
The Pace/NYSERDA tome attempts to “quantify environmental externality costs and include them in utility rate-making and resource selection” through a process wonkily called “monetization” of impacts. In short, we need a comprehensive ZEC system that reflects and incorporates the total costs of differing power sources in the rates charged for them by the state’s utilities.
This should be a priority for the incoming Murphy administration.

R. William Potter is a partner in the Princeton-based law firm Potter and Dickson. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm or any client.

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