Wednesday, January 18, 2017

DRBC lifts drought watch, urges efficient water use

Delaware River winter view - DRBC photo taken in 2000

The following is taken from a DRBC news release:

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) today announced the termination of its drought management special permit in effect since Nov. 23, 2016, when the basin was placed in a drought watch.

"Due to recent precipitation and snow melt, combined storage in three large upper basin reservoirs has achieved and sustained a sufficient level for five consecutive days to result in automatic termination of the basinwide drought watch," said DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini.

"Although upper basin reservoir storage has rebounded in recent weeks automatically ending the drought watch operations, other indicators such as groundwater levels, stream flows, precipitation, soil moisture, and local reservoir storage have not all recovered," said Tambini. "As a result, various state-issued drought watches and warnings based on those indicators remain in effect across most of the basin."

"DRBC continues to urge all water users to maximize water efficiency wherever possible and to fully cooperate with requests by the basin states to curb water use where drought watches and warnings have been issued based on local conditions," added Tambini. "The importance of a coordinated response by all water users cannot be overstated."

The DRBC’s primary drought management objective, which complements the basin states’ drought response efforts, is to provide for conservation of regional reservoir storage for purposes of water supply and flow augmentation in the Delaware River and salinity control in the Delaware Estuary (i.e., the tidal river and bay). 

The upper basin reservoirs which determine DRBC drought stages are located in the Catskill Mountains at the headwaters of the Delaware River in New York State. These three New York City reservoirs provide about half of the city’s water supply and support a minimum flow target in the Delaware River at Montague, N.J. established by the U.S. Supreme Court Decree of 1954. Storage, releases, diversions, and flow targets in the DRBC drought management plan are determined in advance and must have the unanimous concurrence of the parties to the decree, which include the four basin states and New York City.

Combined storage in the three upper basin reservoirs had been as low as 39.3% of capacity in late November 2016. The reservoirs are currently at about 58% of capacity, which is approximately 70 billion gallons below normal for this time of the year.

By transitioning out of the drought watch stage, out-of-basin diversions to New York City and portions of New Jersey established by the decree will return to normal levels. In addition, the Delaware River flow objective at Montague and a second flow objective at Trenton, N.J. will also return to the normal targets of 1,750 cubic feet per second (cfs) and 3,000 cfs, respectively.

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Philly joins initiative seeking to cut building energy by 50%

PlanPhilly reports:

In a policy framework for advancing green building in Philadelphia published in January, the Delaware Valley Green Building Council (DVGBC) announced that it’s leading the formation of Philadelphia 2030 District, a private sector-led initiative to reduce energy use, water consumption, and transportation-related emissions from the building sector 50 percent by 2030 at a district scale.
By doing so, Philadelphia will be joining Los Angeles, Toronto, Pittsburgh, Austin, San Francisco and 10 other cities participating in 2030 District, a project that already covers almost 300 million square feet of new and existing commercial building space.
“This is a strategy to mitigate climate change, ultimately,” Katie Bartolotta, DVGBC’s policy and program manager told PlanPhilly.
Buildings are the single-greatest source of carbon pollution in Philadelphia, according to the City of Philadelphia Office of Sustainability, and are responsible for 60 percent of citywide carbon emissions.
“Right now, buildings are contributing to the problem, but strategies for reducing energy use in buildings is part of the solution,” Bartolotta said. “The city has a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. If you want to make strides in reaching that goal, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector is a really good target area to focus a lot of resources on.”
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Is this who you want to protect the nation's environment?

Scott Pruitt testifying today at EPA confirmation hearing

In an op-ed piece in the NY Times today, Eric Schaeffer writes:

The president-elect’s pick to run the Environmental Protection Agency is the antithesis of what the nation should expect in the next administrator of the agency responsible for protecting human health and the environment.

Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma has built his career suing the agency he would oversee to roll back its protection of the nation’s air and water, and challenging the very idea of federal action to control pollution.

At the same time, while Mr. Pruitt preaches the gospel of states’ rights, his record suggests he has been far from aggressive in enforcing environmental laws in his own state. Given his anti-regulatory mind-set, skepticism about global warming and support from the industries he would regulate, the Senate, which is set to begin to consider his nomination on Wednesday, should reject him.

His tenure in Oklahoma is instructive. Mr. Pruitt disbanded the environmental protection unit in the attorney general’s office and created a “federalism unit” to litigate against “overreach by the federal government.” Much of that overreach, in Mr. Pruitt’s view, was by the E.P.A.

A spokesman for Mr. Pruitt told The New York Times recently that environmental “bad actors” were still being held accountable by his office. But the paper noted that many of the actions cited by his office were initiated by his predecessor. And The Times reported that Mark Derichsweiler, a state environmental official who oversaw a major water pollution case, retired in 2015 because, in his own words, he was frustrated with Mr. Pruitt’s approach of standing up for business “at the expense of people who have to drink the water or breathe the air.”

Whatever Mr. Pruitt has done to actually protect the environment, he certainly hasn’t bragged about it. During his six-year tenure, his office issued more than 700 news releases announcing enforcement actions, speeches and public appearances, and challenges to federal regulations. My organization could not find any describing actions by Mr. Pruitt to enforce environmental laws or penalize polluters.

By contrast, more than 50 of those news releases promoted his efforts to sue the E.P.A. and challenge its authority. Among the examples: “Pruitt to Testify Before Congress on E.P.A. Abuses,” “Pruitt and Republican Governors Association Challenge Destructive Regulations on Hydraulic Fracturing,” “Pruitt to Appeal E.P.A. Decision on Regional Haze Rule.”

Read the full piece here

Related stories:
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If you thought the wait time for your bus was long...

During a legislative hearing in Trenton that was convened yesterday to dig deeper into the more than $30 billion capital plan that was put forward by the Port Authority earlier this month, lawmakers questioned high-ranking agency officials about a proposed new Port Authority Bus Terminal and learned that it might not be complete until of 2030--or later.

Demand at the current 1950s-era facility is projected to increase by 10 percent by 2020, and up to 50 percent by 2040.

Read John Reitmeyer's NJ Spotlight story here

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Obama's final green hours: Take the money and fund

From Grist:
Obama is spending another $500 million to fight climate change before Trump can stop him.
The State Department announced Tuesday that it will
send the money to the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund, which helps developing nations shift to cleaner energy and adapt
to climate change.

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NJ panels take up environmental, agriculture bills - Jan 19

Action scheduled on environmental and agriculture bills
in the New Jersey Legislature on Thursday, January 19.

10:00 AM
Aide: (609) 847-3890
Room 13, 4th Floor, State House Annex, Trenton, NJ

A-4454  Tucker, C.G. (D-28); Andrzejczak, B. (D-1)
Appropriates $300,000 from General Fund to New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers University.

1:00 PM
Aide: (609) 847-3855
Room 15, 4th Floor, State House Annex, Trenton, NJ

A-4488  Andrzejczak, B. (D-1); Taliaferro, A.J. (D-3)
Appropriates $3 million from General Fund to Dept. of Agriculture for financial assistance to farmers whose crops have been affected by Dickeya dianthicola disease and for related research.
A-4489  Andrzejczak, B. (D-1); Zwicker, A. (D-16); Space, P. (R-24); Houghtaling, E. (D-11); Mazzeo, V. (D-2); Taliaferro, A.J. (D-3); Dancer, R.S. (R-12)
Directs Dept. of Agriculture to develop and implement beginning farmer mentoring program in cooperation with certain agricultural and educational organizations and entities.
A-4490  Andrzejczak, B. (D-1); Zwicker, A. (D-16); Houghtaling, E. (D-11); Taliaferro, A.J. (D-3)
Provides corporation business tax and gross income tax credits to persons hiring beginning farmers to perform custom farming.
A-4491  Andrzejczak, B. (D-1); Zwicker, A. (D-16); Houghtaling, E. (D-11); Mazzeo, V. (D-2); Taliaferro, A.J. (D-3); Dancer, R.S. (R-12)
Establishes "New Farmers Improvement Grant Program" to provide matching grants for farm improvements to beginning farmers.
A-4492  Andrzejczak, B. (D-1); Zwicker, A. (D-16); Houghtaling, E. (D-11); Space, P. (R-24); Taliaferro, A.J. (D-3); Dancer, R.S. (R-12)
Requires NJEDA to establish loan program to assist beginning farmers in financing capital purchases.
A-4493  Andrzejczak, B. (D-1); Zwicker, A. (D-16); Mazzeo, V. (D-2); Houghtaling, E. (D-11); Taliaferro, A.J. (D-3); Dancer, R.S. (R-12)
Establishes Garden State Young Farmers Loan Redemption Program in Higher Education Student Assistance Authority.
A-4494  Andrzejczak, B. (D-1); Zwicker, A. (D-16); Dancer, R.S. (R-12); Houghtaling, E. (D-11); Taliaferro, A.J. (D-3)
Provides corporation business tax and gross income tax credits to persons leasing agricultural land to beginning farmers.
AR-206  Mazzeo, V. (D-2); Houghtaling, E. (D-11)
Urges National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to conduct new summer flounder assessment before implementing catch limits for 2017.

2:00 PM
Aide: (609) 847-3855
Room 9, 3rd Floor, State House Annex, Trenton, NJ

A-1484  McKeon, J.F. (D-27); Jasey, M.M. (D-27); Eustace, T. (D-38)
Requires installation of operational automatic rain sensor on lawn sprinklers as condition of sale and on lawn sprinklers on commercial, retail or industrial property and in common interest communities within specified time frames.
A-2081  Mukherji, R. (D-33); Pintor Marin, E. (D-29); Muoio, E.M. (D-15)
Provides for priority consideration, by DCA, DEP, DOT, and municipalities, of permit applications for green building projects.
A-3945  Gusciora, R. (D-15); Conaway, H. (D-7); Chiaravalloti, N. (D-31)
Prohibits certain possession, sale, offering for sale, trade or distribution of shark fins.
Related Bill: S-2044
A-4395  Schaer, G.S. (D-36)
Requires continuing identification and remediation of waste tire sites.      

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

On climate change, even forefront states are falling short

When Indian Point nuclear power plant north of New York City closes by 2021, New York State will lose almost a  quarter of its zero-carbon energy.  Credit Uli Seit for The New York Times

Eduardo Post writes for The New York Times

Is there a more environmentally conscious state than California? It has been at the forefront of climate policy for decades — from demanding stringent fuel economy and emissions standards to wholeheartedly embracing renewable energy from the sun and wind.

It has fighting words for the incoming administration of Donald Trump. “We will not deviate from our leadership because of one election,” the State Senate leader, Kevin de Leon, told The New York Times. Last fall, the state legislature committed to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below their 1990 level by 2030. “California is doing something that no other state has done,” proclaimed Gov. Jerry Brown.

State policies were always bound to play a central role in the decarbonization of the American economy. But with a president-elect who has asserted that climate change is a Chinese hoax, promised a bright future for fossil fuels and vowed to undo President Obama’s climate strategy, their choices have become more important than ever.

And yet for all the pluck of the Golden State’s politicians, California is far from providing the leadership needed in the battle against climate change. Distracted by the competing objective of shuttering nuclear plants that still produce over a fifth of its zero-carbon power, the state risks failing the main environmental challenge of our time. 

Read the full story here

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Kim Guadagno, NJ's #2, enters the race to become #1

Phil Gregory reports for newsworks:

The woman who's been New Jersey's lieutenant governor for seven years, has kicked off her campaign to replace her boss in 2018.

In her first campaign speech, Kim Guadagno told supporters Tuesday in Keansburg that she wants to be governor because she believes the state can do better.

"You want your governor to be committed to making New Jersey a place for families, who strives to do better, who answers the phone, who is there in a crisis, who walks in your shoes, who cares fearlessly and without exception about you, and only you," she said.

If she gets the Republican nomination and is elected in November, Guadagno said, she'd cut taxes, eliminate wasteful spending, and fund schools in an equitable way.

"We need a governor who will make tough choices to bring economic stability to our state. We need a governor who will fight the Democrats' knee-jerk reaction to raise your taxes."

Analysts say voter dissatisfaction with Christie could negatively affect Guadagno, but believe she can be an effective campaigner.

Without mentioning him by name, she criticized Christie's proposed $300 million Statehouse renovation plan.

"We simply do not have the money to turn the Statehouse into the Palace of Versailles," she said.

In another contrast to Christie, Guadagno said she did not use the State Police helicopter for official travels around the state.

She expects her campaign will be hard and challenging, but told supporters she's all in.

Guadagno faces a field of several other declared and potential Republican candidates in the June 6 primary.

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Hudson tunnel project lurches forward in New Jersey

Construction of a rail tunnel at the Hudson Yards redevelopment site. | AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Ryan Hutchins writes in Politico

A plan to build a new rail tunnel inking New York and New Jersey took a major step forward Thursday when the Gateway Program Development Corp. held its first public meeting, formally establishing a central clearinghouse for planning and funding the project.

The board of the new agency — a partnership between NJ Transit, Amtrak, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the U.S. Department of Transportation — will be headed by Richard Bagger, a former New Jersey state senator who served as Gov. Chris Christie’s chief of staff. Bagger is also a Port Authority commissioner.

In its first action, the board of trustees approved a resolution allowing the corporation to enter into an “emerging projects agreement” with DOT. The arrangement will allow for continued technical assistance from federal transportation officials and sets up a process by which the corporation can access federal loans.

“The emerging projects agreement will codify that work and formalize that kind of assistance — technical assistance — to move the project forward,”

John Porcari, the interim executive director of the corporation, said at the meeting in Newark. “It also, from the Gateway development perspective, lays down a marker for federal loan programs, with the explicit recognition that up to $6 billion of federal loan capacity will be needed for these projects.”

Previously, the exact amount of the loans that the corporation will be seeking had not been discussed. The Port Authority is also planning to include $2.7 billion in its 10-year capital program to support debt service.

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Opinion: Pa. bill eases the way for more toxic emissions

                                                                                                                                     Pittsburgh Post-Gazette photo

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
columnist Brian O'Neill opines:
It’s not often we see legislation that eases the way for the emission of methane and other volatile organic compounds we’d be better off not breathing, but America’s Largest Full-Time State Legislature is considering just that.
The idea is to make federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations the maximum, not the minimum, to protect oxygen-breathing life forms in Pennsylvania, a group you and your children are likely among.
The 10 Republican senators co-sponsoring the Pennsylvania bill all have been amply compensated with campaign contributions from the natural gas drilling industry, but let’s save details on that impressive cash outlay until later.
Senate Bill 1327 seeks to amend a state air pollution bill dating to 1960. The amendment would bar the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection from imposing any air pollution standards “more stringent than those promulgated’’ by the EPA. This would happen just as the new Donald Trump administration appears keen to relax those EPA restrictions.
Letting the feds provide the ceiling rather than the floor here would be a curious move for a citizenry that has this passage in the Declaration of Rights atop our Pennsylvania Constitution:
“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”
One can be pro-drilling, as I am, and still be baffled by how many current lawmakers seem never to have played a hand of poker. There is no need to fold to the gas industry when Pennsylvania is the heart of the largest natural gas field outside of Iran. That gives us the cards to make reasonable demands, one of which is surely this: Don’t leak so much damned methane.
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