Monday, January 22, 2018

Ex-NJ Sen. Ray Lesniak: Missing the circus, not the clowns

He founded New Jersey's first recovery high school for young people battling addiction. He won a landmark case for reproductive rights, Ponter v. Ponter, which established a woman's right to obtain sterilization without the consent of her husband. His law firm is among the best-connected in the state, though it was largely a result of Lesniak being the most formidable political power broker and fund-raiser in Central Jersey. He's the guy who testified on behalf of the crack addicts who robbed him at gunpoint in his bedroom - who would do that?
But as he enters retirement, his record over 40 years in the state Legislature - the second-longest stint in our history - has also established the 71-year-old lawmaker as a champion for environmental protection, social justice, education, women's rights, and animal welfare.
Legislation that banned the death penalty and mandatory minimums and validated marriage equality all have Lesniak's name on it.
We spoke with the eccentric and outspoken state Senator spoke after he stepped down Jan. 8.

Read the Q&A here

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Stormy Daniels suddenly a draw at a Greenville strip club

Trophy Club employee “Bird” arranges letters on the marquee in Greenville, S.C. (Kevin D. Liles for The Washington Post)

Dan Zak reports for The Washington Post:

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Year two of the Trump presidency began here overnight much like year one had ended: with his alleged ex-mistress smashing people’s faces into her bare chest at a strip club between an airport and a cemetery.

Adult film star Stormy Daniels, who once claimed to have slept with Donald Trump not long after he married Melania, performed at 11 p.m. Saturday — the anniversary of his inauguration — and 1 a.m. Sunday here on the outskirts of town.
“HE SAW HER LIVE,” the Trophy Club’s flier said. “YOU CAN TOO!”
The federal government remained shut down, but Daniels was open for business.

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Conventional drilling causing radioactivity spike in rivers?

Treated oil and gas wastewater flows into a western Pennsylvania stream. (Photo: Avner Vengosh, Duke)
Treated oil and gas wastewater flows into a western PA stream. (Photo: Avner Vengosh, Duke)

Reid Frazier reports for StateImpact:

Treatment plants that handle conventional oil and gas waste water are causing a buildup of radioactive materials at the bottom of three Western Pennsylvania waterways, according to a new study from researchers at Duke.

“We concluded that recent disposal of treated conventional (oil and gas waste) is the source of high (radium concentrations) in stream sediments at (waste) facility disposal sites,” the authors wrote.

The study found high levels of radium, a naturally occurring, radioactive material, in river and stream sediment at levels up to 650 times those found upstream of three industrial waste treatment plants that handle fluid produced by conventional oil and gas wells.

“I don’t see it as a life-threatening risk, but it’s one of those chronic effect that over the long term it will have a toll on the environment,” said Avner Vengosh, one of the study’s authors. “What is the toll? We can only speculate.”

In 2011, Pennsylvania asked treatment plants not to handle waste water from Marcellus shale producers, and in 2016, the EPA banned the process.

But treatment plants in Pennsylvania can still take waste water from conventional, or shallower, oil and gas operations. Those operations don’t generally use hydraulic fracturing, but they still produce waste water, said Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University.

This fluid is also called “brine,” a salty mixture that brings with it minerals and elements found in gas-rich rock formations.

“What you have coming up to the surface is a mix of water and gas, and sometimes oil,” he said.

Ziemkiewicz says even conventional waste water can be high in radium, so he’s not surprised at the study’s result.

“When we’ve compared conventional and unconventional brines, chemically they’re almost identical,” he said. “It would be surprising to me if radium didn’t show up.”

Ziemkiewicz says drinking water facilities must remove radium from drinking water; the most obvious concern he has would be for the accumulation of radium in the food chain, and eventually, fish.

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Philadelphia may scrap E-V charging station program

Andrew Maykuth reports for The Philadelphia Inquirer:

A city task force has recommended scrapping Philadelphia’s contentious curbside electric-vehicle parking program while stepping up efforts to create more off-street charging stations accessible to the public.

The Electric Vehicle Policy Task Force, created last year after City Council voted by 11-6 to impose a moratorium on the program that allows EV owners to install a private curbside charger on city streets, posted a draft report Friday that recommends abandoning the 11-year-old program.

The 16-member panel included Councilmen David Oh and Mark Squilla, who sponsored the moratorium, and its report reflects their view that the curbside EV parking program is not sustainable in the long term.

Fewer than 70 electric-vehicle owners have signed up for the parking privilege, which requires the owner to pay an annual fee and the expense of installing the charger. But that was enough to trigger a backlash in parking-starved areas like Society Hill and Fairmount, where owners of conventional vehicles struggled to find an open space while electric-vehicle slots stood vacant.

The report says the program “is not reliably accessible to the public, it is not scalable, it does not meet the needs of EV owners without access to curbside parking, and it has had limited effectiveness in encouraging more EV use.”

Read the full story

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Outdoorsmen upset by NJDEP plan to tear down cabins

Stephanie Brand to stay on as utility rate counsel in NJ

Most recently, Stefanie Brand played a key role in derailing PSEG's bid for a $300 million annual subsidy to keep the lights on in its nuclear plants

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:

Stefanie Brand is staying put as director of the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, a post she has held since 2007.

The reappointment retains an experienced and knowledgeable litigator for the agency that represents millions of consumers and thousands of business on issues dealing with regulated companies supplying electricity, gas, water, and other services.

With the state Board of Public Utilities facing decisions on pending and future rate cases involving billions of dollars of infrastructure improvements, the division faces big challenges in keeping costs stable for ratepayers.

As director, Brand most recently was the most outspoken advocate for consumers in opposing efforts by Public Service Enterprise Group to secure up to $300 million a year in subsidies from electric customers throughout the state to shore up its nuclear plants in South Jersey. The bill to allow subsidies died in the lame-duck session that ended earlier this month, but is expected to resurface early this year.

Brand also questioned the need and cost of major gas pipelines that have been proposed in New Jersey, a stance that was welcomed by local communities who have mounted stiff opposition to the projects.

The next few months are shaping up to be a turbulent time in the energy marketplace. Besides determining the role of nuclear power over the next few decades, the Murphy administration wants to have 100 percent of the state's electricity produced by clean energy by 2050.

Read the full story

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Friday, January 19, 2018

FERC approves 100-mile PA to NJ PennEast gas pipeline

WFMZ-TV's 69 News reports tonight:
The PennEast Pipeline Project between eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey has gained approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The announcement was made Friday.
The company says the more than 100-mile pipeline between eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey would deliver safe, low-cost energy.
But opponents say the project threatens thousands of acres of open space and drinking water sources.

In the full order, commissioners say “Based on the benefits the project will provide to the shippers, the lack of adverse effects on existing customers, other pipelines and their captive customers, and effects on landowners and surrounding communities, we find…that the public convenience and necessity requires approval of PennEast’s proposal, subject to the conditions discussed below.

Shortly after the news was released, a statement was issued by PennEast saying in part, “Today’s approval of the PennEast Pipeline is a major victory for New Jersey and Pennsylvania families and businesses,” said Dat Tran, Chair of the PennEast Pipeline Company LLC Board of Managers. “They will reap the benefits of accessing one of the most affordable and abundant supplies of natural gas in all of North America. PennEast will lower gas and electricity costs, increase reliability, improve air quality, and make the region more competitive for jobs in the coming decades.”

The New Jersey Sierra Club, which has opposed the project every step of the way, also issued a statement vowing to continue the fight saying, “Now the fight begins. We will organize to stop this pipeline that people vigorously approve. PennEast has a long way to go and many permits to get. We also have a new Governor who opposes the project. We won't stop until we stop this dangerous and unneeded pipeline."

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It's stinking sinkhole season again; Send us a shot of yours

The photo above was snapped this afternoon in Philadelphia’s Fishtown section. You might happen upon--or plunge into--one tomorrow.

Grab a shot of the ##**!! monster and email it (or the news story that reports it) to us at: 

In the spirit of schadenfreude, we'll share your misery.

Feds to retry Senator Menendez for bribery after mistrial

Sen. Bob Menendez, center, arrives with his children, Alicia Menendez and Robert Menendez Jr., to court for his federal corruption trial in Newark, N.J., Wednesday,
Sept. 6, 2017. (Seth Wenig/AP)
The Justice Department plans to put Sen. Robert Menendez back on trial on corruption charges, according to a new court filing Friday, following a mistrial last year in which most jurors wanted to acquit the lawmaker.
The trial in Newark federal court of Menendez (D-N.J.) and his co-defendant, Dr. Salomon Melgen, ended in a hung jury in November. When he came back to the Senate in December, the lawmaker said he doubted prosecutors would continue to pursue the case, but if they did, he added: “bring it on.”

On Friday public corruption prosecutors from the Justice Department filed notice in federal court saying they want a retrial “at the earliest possible date.”

Thursday, January 18, 2018

McDonald's says its customers want recycling with that

David Carrig reports for USA Today:

McDonald’s announced Tuesday that it has set two ambitious environmental goals that it wants to achieve by 2025.

The fast food giant wants to have 100% of its customer packaging come from renewable, recycled, or certified sources and have recycling available in all its restaurants.

Currently, 50% of its guest packaging comes from sustainable sources and only 10% of its restaurants are recycling.

The company says it is making this move in response to customer demand and its desire to help reduce waste and have a positive community impact.

“Our customers have told us that packaging waste is the top environmental issue they would like us to address,” Francesca Debiase, McDonald’s chief supply chain and sustainability officer, said in a statement.

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