Thursday, May 5, 2016

NYC imposes 5-cent fee on single-use grocery bags

On a 28-20 vote, the New York City Council has passed a controversial bag bill that will impose a 5-cent fee on paper and plastic single-use bags throughout the city. The law will go into effect Oct. 1.

Waste Dive reports:

The fee will apply to retail, grocery, and convenience stores as well as some street vendors. The merchants will pocket the money, unlike similar bills in which cities use the money for education or cleanup programs.
The bill will exempt NYC residents that are shopping with the assistance of government benefits. It will also exempt restaurants, so consumers will not need to worry about paying extra for delivery.

Dive Insight:
This decision wasn't made easily, though. According to Councilman David Greenfield, the vote was one of the "most divisive issues" that the Council has dealt with this legislative season, as both sides of the debate had strong reasoning for why the bill should or should not have passed. The city intended to have a decision on the matter two weeks ago, but it was pushed back due to three co-sponsors being out of town.
Since that time, NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito backed the bill, which was likely the final push it needed to get passed today.
Opponents, however, are not pleased, as many of them believe the bill will have a negative effect on low-income consumers, and that the bill wouldn't change behavior. To address these concerns, the fee was halved from the original 10-cent proposal to 5, but that still was not enough to keep opponents from fighting it to the last minute.

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Yes, a big new manufacturing plant is rising in Camden

Holtec construction site on the waterfront in South Camden, NJ 

Officials at Holtec, the company moving its headquarters and manufacturing facilities
to Camden, hope to help change the city's
economic landscape, bringing jobs to a place
long starved for them.
 reports for the Courier-Post:
Ray Jones grew up in Camden; he’s a Camden High School graduate and says, proudly, “I’m a Camden guy.” Though he lives in Sicklerville now, the president of We See You Security still has “Camden in my heart.”
He’s heard the bad things about his hometown — the violence, the poverty, the decay. Still, Jones said, “I can tell you the good things about Camden, too.”
Asked about those good things, the 55-year-old pointed to Camden's people.
“I came from here, I went to school here; I have a master’s degree,  and I did all these things when I was a Camden resident. I’m still here every day,” said Jones, the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey police captain.
"And the young people who are here now deserve the same chances I had.”
Jones says he believes Holtec is committed to offering Camden workers good jobs, and the training they need to compete for those jobs. He’s not alone.
Walt Dixon is a co-owner of Contractor Service, a Federal Street company that supplies construction materials and equipment to contractors. They are working with Joseph Jignoli & Son Inc., the primary contractor on the Holtec project, one he calls “by far the biggest job we’ve had in 26 years in Camden.”

Dixon’s business is relatively small, employing 17 people (many of them city residents), but he’s already seen the benefits of Holtec’s investment in Camden. He’s hoping to hire more people in the near future, a result of the six-figure windfall Contractor Service has seen from Holtec.
“It’s important to get the idea out there that this is not going to be the Camden of the past,” he said. “Buildings don’t make a city — people make a city. Quality jobs can help, but it comes down to education.”
Like Jones, he believes it’s about providing training and opportunity, but also about commitment from the workers.
“We don’t need college graduates; we need people who can come in to work every day and have a good attitude. Our business is about building relationships.”
Holtec, he said, is holding up its end: “They want to hire local people and do business locally. And that’s great.”
'A win-win'
Robert Lee of Jingoli & Son said his company has made a point of approaching Camden institutions, from local unions to the mayor’s office, to ensure as many city residents as possible are employed on the 52-acre site. Nearly 200 people, from laborers to pile drivers to welders to truck drivers, are working on the project.
“We call the union halls and make sure that we get Camden residents before they send anyone to us,” Lee said. “We go to the community leaders and ask for individuals who are willing to work, to show up on time. We went to City Hall to get a list that the mayor’s office has of individuals who are ready and willing to work on a construction site.
“It ended up turning out great,” he said, noting Jingoli has 30 Camden residents working on the site and is using city vendors like We See You and Contractor Service.
Taariq Ayers is a pile driver and pre-apprentice who came to Jingoli through his masjid in Camden. The 21-year-old Woodrow Wilson graduate said he’s getting on-the-job training and calls his work “a great opportunity.”
Jones, of We See You, said Holtec and Jingoli began their community outreach “a year before the shovels hit the ground,” and he knew he could help provide the Camden residents they wanted to hire

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Dangerous pollutant spreading in Pompton groundwater?

A cancer-causing pollutant in the groundwater beneath a Pompton Lakes neighborhood was also detected in a nearby residential well in Wayne, raising the possibility that the contamination could be migrating under Pompton Lake to the other side.

James M. O'Neill
reports in The (Bergen) Record:

State and federal officials say the pollutant — TCE, a solvent — is found in cleaners, paints and other products commonly used by homeowners and that one of these could have been the source of the pollution that showed up in the Wayne well.

And officials overseeing cleanup of the contaminated groundwater beneath hundreds of homes in Pompton Lakes have said for years that the pollution wasn’t likely to migrate deep beneath the lake to the Wayne side.

However, two independent hydrogeologists, who looked at the geology underlying the region at The Record’s request, say it’s certainly possible the contamination could have traveled under Pompton Lake and then been detected in the residential well in the Pines Lake section of Wayne.

“It has been in the ground for decades, so it could easily move by tens of feet per year,” said David Yoxtheimer, a hydrogeologist at Pennsylvania State University. “These contaminants, I have found, can go right under rivers.”
Indeed, chromium that spilled at an industrial site in Garfield decades ago and spread beneath hundreds of homes has migrated under the Passaic River and was detected on the other side in the city of Passaic.

Yoxtheimer and John Schuring, a hydrogeologist at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, said that, given the contamination detected in the one well in Wayne during two tests in 2011, it would be prudent for the other residential wells in the Pines Lake neighborhood to be tested.

Wayne Mayor Christopher Vergano said that to his knowledge there was no systematic effort to test the other wells in the Pines Lake neighborhood after the pollutant was found in the well.

“I’m a little surprised there has not been testing on the Wayne side of the lake,” Yoxtheimer said. “Pompton Lake is shallow and there’s deeper groundwater flowing there.”

The federal Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Protection said that while TCE, or trichloroethene, is one of the pollutants under homes in Pompton Lakes, the solvent is also present in paint strippers, adhesive removers, rug cleaners, disinfectants, varnishes and paints, and that one of these may have been the source.

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NJDEP proposes to allow more septic systems in Highlands

State agency claims new water-quality data allows for loosening of current rules; opponents argue data is flawed
The state wants to loosen up the rules governing building in the New Jersey Highlands, changes critics say will allow up to 1,100 new septic systems and more development in the preservation area.

Tom Johnson
reports today in NJ Spotlight:
The proposal, to be published today in the New Jersey Register, is based on more extensive water-quality data concerning how much building could occur in the region, which supplies drinking water to more than 5 million residents.
Conservationists view the revisions as the latest effort by the Department of Environmental Protection to roll back protections in the Highlands, coming on the heels of other proposed rule changes that also have come under fire from Highlands advocates.
The Highlands are a sprawling 860,000 acres of forested ridges and rolling farmland in northern New Jersey that was originally protected under a law enacted 12 years ago.
If adopted, the latest rule would deal with how many septic systems would be allowed in the 414,000 acres of the Highlands preservation area, an issue that led to litigation over the existing rules by the New Jersey Farm Bureau. The bureau contended that the rules lacked any scientific foundation. The new rule would increase the potential number of septic systems by 12 percent, according to the DEP.
“The proposed septic system density standards provide a common sense, science-based approach to protecting the region’s precious water supplies, while creating reasonable opportunities for economic growth and jobs,’’ said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin.
Based on data collected from the U.S. Geological Survey, the agency contends the density of septic systems can be increased within the three different land-use categories in the preservation area without degrading water quality.
Critics of the proposal, however, say the data is flawed and predict it will have an adverse impact on water quality.

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

What will it take to repair NJ's ailing water infrastructure?

Lead is just the most publicized of several serious problems; meanwhile, costs for consumers continue to climb

The New Jersey Legislature appears poised to take a crack at fixing the state’s aging drinking-water systems, which have exhibited several highly visible problems in recent months.
Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:
A special legislative task force would be given six months to come up with recommendations to deal with issues related to the drinking-water infrastructure under a measure (SCR-86) to be considered early next week.
The issue, long festering even while being acknowledged by state officials and experts, is daunting. New Jersey faces at least $8 billion worth of needed improvements, according to estimates by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The problems are well documented. Schools in Newark and elsewhere have had to switch to bottled water as water fountains and sinks have been found to contain high levels of lead, a dangerous contaminant. At least 20 percent of treated water leaks from aging pipes before it ever gets to the home. New pollutants, some not even regulated, show up in supplies more often.
As policymakers wrestle with those issues, the cost of delivering safe drinking water to consumers continues to rise. Yesterday, the state Board of Public Utilities approved a pair of rate increases, including one for Suez Water New Jersey, which is among the state’s larger water companies.
The safety of drinking water delivered to customers emerged as a top priority after reports last year of widespread lead contamination in the city supplies of Flint, MI, and then again after unsafe levels of lead were reported in 30 Newark schools last month.
“Lead is what made people aware of how fragile our drinking water is, but there are a lot more problems than just lead,’’ said Chris Sturm, who directs policy development and advocacy for New Jersey Future. “We all assume our drinking water is safe -- until it’s not.’’
For too long, those problems have been ignored, say some environmentalists.
“This administration especially, but others as well, are guilty of being (missing in action) when it comes to protecting our drinking water,’’ said David Pringle, campaign director for Clean Water Action, one of the state’s largest environmental organizations.
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Friday, April 29, 2016

NJ forest management or logging in sheep's clothing?

Residents in the small, bucolic community of Sparta are gearing up for a battle to spare their mountain from what they say is a disastrous state DEP plan that will do more harm than good.

NJTV's David Cruz
, who's more accustomed to filing stories from the streets of Hudson County or the hallways of the State Capitol, takes to the woods for this one.

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NJ: No intent to comply with federal Clean Power Plan

Proponents of EPA policy say state is risking chance that feds will step in and draft regulations to ensure compliance

Tom Johnson
reports today in NJ Spotlight:

"There is no chance the Christie administration will draft a proposal to comply with the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan to sharply curb global-warming emissions from power plants, officials said yesterday."

“It’s not in our DNA,’’ said John Giordano, an assistant commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection said yesterday at a break in a hearing called by an advisory council to solicit information on how New Jersey will implement the plan. “We don’t need EPA’s re-engineering.’’

New Jersey is making great strides in cleaning up its air and reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, Giordano said, an argument echoed by Board of Public Utilities President Richard Mroz. He called the CPP, as it has been dubbed, an unconstitutional intrusion by the federal government on state rights.

While acknowledging that staff from both agencies are looking at what options are available to comply with the law, Mroz noted “there is no specific effort to draw up a compliance plan.’’

The Christie administration has joined in a lawsuit with 27 other states seeking to block the plan, a step the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily ordered in a narrowly approved ruling this past February. The state contends the plan fails to credit New Jersey for past actions that have already cut carbon pollution from power plants, as well as the more than $4 billion ratepayers have invested in renewable energy and reducing energy use.

New Jersey has the fifth-lowest carbon-dioxide emissions, a primary greenhouse gas, of power plants in the country, officials said. That is a reflection of how electricity is generated here with nearly half the power coming from nuclear plants and more than 40 percent from natural gas plants, which pollute less than coal-fired units.

The stance taken by the state is risky, according to proponents of the government plan, because if no proposal is submitted, the federal agency will step in and decide what regulatory steps are needed to achieve compliance with the law. That could lead to more costly strategies to consumers to comply with the plan, according to business interests.

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U.S. Steel files against unfair trade practices by China

Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) against several large Chinese steel producers and their distributors.
The complaint asks the ITC to initiate an investigation under Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 and alleges what U.S. Steel calls “illegal unfair methods of competition.” It seeks the exclusion of what U.S. Steel considers unfairly traded Chinese steel products from the U.S. market.
The complaint accuses the Chinese steel producers and distributors of three actionable offenses: an illegal conspiracy to fix prices, the theft of trade secrets and the circumvention of trade duties by false labeling.
“We have said that we will use every tool available to fight for fair trade,” says U.S. Steel president and CEO Mario Longhi. “With today’s filing, we continue the work we have pursued through countervailing and antidumping cases and pushing for increased enforcement of existing laws.”
According to a Reuters report on the filing, among the Chinese steel producers named in the complaint are Hebei Iron & Steel Group, Anshan Iron and Steel Group and Shandong Iron & Steel Group Company.
Actions covered under Section 337 include the infringement of intellectual property rights (such as patents and copyrights), unfair methods of competition and unfair acts in the importation and sale of products in the United States. The remedy sought by U.S. Steel through the ITC “is the exclusion of the unfairly traded products from the U.S. market,” according to a U.S. Steel news release.
The ITC has up to 30 days to evaluate the submitted U.S. Steel petition and to decide whether to initiate the case. If the case proceeds, an administrative law judge is assigned. During the investigation process, nationwide subpoenas and orders for the production of relevant documents could be issued by the judge.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Feds approve permit for new PSEG Nuclear reactor in NJ

This aerial photo shows the northern end of Artificial Island in Lower Alloways Creek Township where the PSEG Nuclear generating complex is located. If the utility decides to go ahead and build a new reactor there, it would be located along the Delaware River to the left of the white tank seen at the center of the photo. (PSEG Nuclear)
Federal regulators have OK'd a key permit that would be needed for the construction of a new nuclear reactor in New Jersey, officials
said Thursday
Bill Gallo, Jr. reports for
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, following numerous reviews, found that PSEG Nuclear met all safety and environmental requirements needed for the Early Site Permit.
That permit is not a green light for the utility to build a new reactor at its generating site at Artificial Island along the Delaware River in Lower Alloways Creek Township.
The permit will be good for 20 years.
It does not, however, mean that PSEG Nuclear is ready to put a shovel into the ground. Many federal, state and local approvals would still be needed.
"This is an important final step to have the ESP issued," said Joe Delmar, spokesman for PSEG Nuclear. "It provides us with a 20-year window to pursue a construction and operating license."
PSEG Nuclear has said during the application process that it was not ready to build another plant, but wanted to be prepared.
"Though we have no immediate plans to pursue construction, we continue to believe that nuclear plays a key role today and also in the future in meeting New Jersey and America's clean air goals. These goals can't be achieved without carbon free nuclear power," said Delmar.
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Judge: No garbage-can snooping for food waste in Seattle

A Washington State Superior Court judge has ruled that Seattle's residential garbage inspections to check for compostable waste are unconstitutional, rendering that portion of the city's food waste recycling ordinance as invalid.

Valerie Richardson reports for The Washington Times:

“This ruling does not prohibit the city from banning food waste and compostable paper in SPU-provided garbage cans,” the 14-page decision said, referring to the Seattle Public Utilities. “It merely renders invalid the provisions of the ordinance and rule that authorize a warrantless search of residents’ garbage cans when there is no applicable exception to the warrant requirement, such as the existence of prohibited items in plain view.”

Under the 2015 ordinance, garbage collectors were required to determine by “visual inspection” whether more than 10 percent of a trash can’s contents were made up of recyclable items or food waste. Violators are subject to having their garbage cans tagged and fines of $1 per can for curbside collections or $50 per collection for multi-family units.
Ethan Blevins, attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of eight Seattle residents, called the ruling a “victory for common sense and constitutional rights.”
“A clear message has been sent to Seattle public officials: Recycling and other environmental initiatives can’t be pursued in a way that treats people’s freedoms as disposable,” Mr. Blevins said in a statement. “Seattle can’t place its composting goals over the privacy rights of its residents.”
The lawsuit argued that the ordinance essentially allowed warrantless searches, which Mr. Blevins described as an invasion of privacy and a “policy of massive and persistent snooping.”
The measure, which went into effect in January 2015, is intended to encourage conservation by requiring residents to separate their food waste and compostable paper for recycling in order to meet Seattle’s goal of composting 60 percent of waste.
“Before the ordinance, Seattle sent approximately 100,000 tons of food waste 300 miles to a landfill in eastern Oregon each year. This resulted in higher costs and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Seattle Public Utilities on its website.
“Today, Seattle sends more than 125,000 tons of food and yard waste to composting processors. The material is now turned into compost for local parks and gardens,” the website said.
What do you think about the ruling? We suspect it will lead to cheating and render food waste recycling less successful and more costly.  The ruling allows a few uptight residents, allegedly concerned about the individual freedom of their garbage, to muddle up a program that serves the overall good of the community. This was anything but a victory for common sense.  Share your view below by clicking on the tiny 'comments' link.
Give it a few moments to open. It's slow, like the judge in Seattle.

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