Friday, July 29, 2016

New EPA rules to protect farm worker pesticide exposure

Brenda Flanagan has the story for NJTV News in the video above,

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday announced the first update in 24 years of rules to protect farm workers from pesticide exposure.

The announcement was made at a media event held at the Atlantic Blueberry Company in Hammonton, NJ.      

Regional EPA Administrator Judith Enck says the goal of the rules is to achieve both prosperous farms and healthy farm workers. 

The updated regulations will increase costs for farmers but larger operations like Atlantic Blueberry say they already are meeting most of what is called for in the new rules.

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Below are two videos produced by the EPA on the updated Worker Protection Standards.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

The DNC army does not march on an empty stomach

Here are some sights and sounds from Day 3 of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, including a visit to the famed Reading Terminal Market where hundreds of delegates have been chowing down each day at lunchtime.

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Wizniewski calls DNC platform the most progressive ever

Assemblyman John Wizniewski, who led the charge for Bernie Sanders' in New Jersey, has a message for the Vermont senator's army of supporters who are disappointed that their candidate did not capture the Democratic party's nomination.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Oyster projects, like their subjects, looking to grow

At  locations along the Jersey shore, IN New York Harbor, on Chesapeake Bay and in other states, volunteer organizations have joined with university researchers and shellfish businesses to test the best ways to restore the oyster to at least a fraction of its former bounty.

Associated Press writer Wayne Parry has this update on these promising efforts:

LITTLE EGG HARBOR, N.J. - Oysters were once so abundant in New Jersey that vacationers would clamber off trains, wade into the water and pluck handfuls to roast for dinner. Their colonies piled so high that boats would sometimes run aground on them, and they were incorporated into navigation maps. Even earlier, Native American tribes would have oyster feasts on the banks of coastal inlets.
But over the centuries, rampant development, pollution, overharvesting and disease drastically reduced the number of oysters, here and around the country; many researchers and volunteer groups estimate oyster populations are down 85 per cent from their levels in the 1800s.

In this July 20, 2016, photo, Nate Robinson, a staff member at Stockton University's marine field station, cuts open metal cages of whelk shells with tiny oysters growing on them in Little Egg Harbor, N.J. Efforts to restore once-abundant oyster populations are underway throughout the United States, and researchers and volunteers say they are optimistic the small-scale efforts will pave the way for a major comeback of oysters, whose populations have dwindled drastically from levels seen in the 1800s. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

That has sparked efforts throughout the coastal United States to establish new oyster colonies, or fortify struggling ones. Though small in scale, the efforts are numerous and growing, and they have a unified goal: showing that oysters can be successfully restored in the wild, paving the way for larger-scale efforts and the larger funding they will require.
While a main goal is increasing the numbers of succulent, salty shellfish bound for dinner plates, oysters also serve other useful purposes. They improve water quality; a single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. They also can protect coastlines; the hard, irregular oyster beds serve as speed bumps that obstruct waves during storms.
"It's many years and millions of dollars away, but it is attainable," said Steve Evert, assistant director of the Marine Science and Environmental Field Station at New Jersey's Stockton University, one of hundreds of organizations working to start or expand oyster colonies.
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Most of the projects are small-scale, funded by government grants and volunteer donations. Helen Henderson, of New Jersey's American Littoral Society, which is growing an oyster reef in Barnegat Bay, hopes successful demonstration projects can lead to an exponential increase in funding for bigger projects.
"Nature has shown us this can be done; we're just giving it a kick-start," she said. "Hopefully funding will flow from that once we can show successful outcomes, and we can really make a difference on a much larger scale."
The Barnegat Bay Partnership put up $52,000 for the oyster project Stockton is undertaking in New Jersey; matching funds came from the university, the Littoral Society, and a shellfish business that has invested many times that amount on equipment and oyster seedlings.
Fledgling oysters need to attach themselves to a hard surface in order to grow, preferably a three-dimensional one with plenty of nooks and crannies.
The projects usually involve dumping shells onto the sea bed, where free-floating oyster seed attaches to them, though some projects pre-load the shells with tiny oyster seedlings before dumping them at a reef site. Some involve transporting more mature oysters from established colonies to new sites.
Oyster restoration projects are underway or have recently been completed in San Francisco Bay; Puget Sound near Seattle; New York Harbor and the Hudson River; in coastal salt ponds in Rhode Island and the state's Narragansett Bay; in the Carolinas, as well as Florida and the other Gulf Coast states; New Hampshire; and particularly in Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia, where some of the nation's biggest oyster restoration programs have been underway for years.
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Thousands march in Phila. seeking change from the DNC

EnviroPolitics brings you the sounds and sights of yesterday's big protest march in downtown Philadelphia--on the eve of today's opening of the Democratic National Convention. Click the arrow in the middle of the picture to launch the video.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Thousands to march today for stronger DNC enviro stance


Environmentalists from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other states will arrive by buses this morning--on the eve of the opening of the Democratic National Convention--to join in the ‘
March for a Clean Energy Revolution.’

The Record's Scott Fallon focuses on the contingent from Bergen County, New Jersey for the following report:

When hundreds of New Jersey environmentalists decided to march at a major political convention this summer, they did not choose Cleveland where Republicans gathered in support of Donald Trump and a platform that calls coal a “clean” energy source.

When hundreds of New Jersey environmentalists decided to march at a major political convention this summer, they did not choose Cleveland where Republicans gathered in support of Donald Trump and a platform that calls coal a 'clean' energy source.

They will instead be in Philadelphia on Sunday as Democrats gather for their convention to criticize party leaders for failing to ban fracking. They are calling on the Democrats to adopt a more aggressive plan to shift the nation away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.

“We recognize that sometimes people compromise, but this was very disappointing,” said Eric Fuchs-Stengel, executive director of the Mahwah Environmental Volunteers Organization, many of whose members will be heading to the march in Philadelphia.

Criticizing the party that more often champions their issues is not new among environmentalists: They have routinely condemned President Obama’s support for the oil and gas industry that have expanded significantly under his tenure.

But the organizers of the March for a Clean Energy Revolution said their best chance at getting their message across is with the Democrats and Hillary Clinton.

“The Republican platform is so far away from where we need to be, we thought we would have a better opportunity to actually change people’s minds by being in Philadelphia,” said Jim Walsh, mid-Atlantic region director of Food & Water Watch, one of the advocacy groups organizing the protest.

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Fracking, the process by which fossil fuels are extracted from underground rock formations, resonates with many New Jerseyans, who have seen their state become a major transportation hub in recent years for natural gas fracked in Pennsylvania along with crude oil fracked in North Dakota.

Several pipelines have been built or expanded to handle the glut of Pennsylvania natural gas, including one by Tennessee Gas that cuts through some of the most environmentally sensitive areas of the New Jersey Highlands. Chemicals, discharged water, drill fractures and other waste from Pennsylvania fracking is transported to several sites in New Jersey to be processed.

In addition, up to 35 trains every week haul millions of gallons of volatile Bakken crude oil through some of the most densely populated areas of New Jersey, including Bergen County, on their way to East Coast refineries. The oil trains, which didn’t exist before North Dakota’s oil boom six years ago, have raised concerns from local firefighters and emergency management leaders after several fiery derailments elsewhere in the U.S.

Both Democrat and Republican lawmakers have come out in force against a proposal to build the Pilgrim Pipeline that would transport millions of gallons of fracked oil each day from Albany, N.Y., to the Bayway Refinery in Linden.

Democratic leaders have long viewed natural gas as a bridge fuel between coal — which produces much greater air pollution as well as greenhouse gases — and renewables like solar and wind power. The platform, which will be adopted at the convention, calls for the U.S. to be run entirely on clean energy by mid-century, to eliminate special tax breaks for fossil fuel companies and to extend tax incentives for energy efficiency and renewables.

That did not go far enough for some including many supporters of Bernie Sanders who called for a ban on fracking and fought to include it as the platform was being hashed out this month.

Fossil fuel lobbyists and local labor leaders say the pipeline projects created hundreds of temporary construction jobs in New Jersey while oil trains have helped resuscitate refineries. And they say that fracked fuels have made the U.S. less dependent on foreign oil and have brought down gasoline and home heating costs. The price, opponents say, is worse air pollution, contaminated well water and the risk of a catastrophic fire.

Fracking was long thought to be impossible in New Jersey because the gas-rich Marcellus Shale rock formation barely crossed under the Delaware River from Pennsylvania. That changed in 2012 when a report by the U.S. Geological Survey said an underground formation stretching from Trenton to Bergen County may contain more than 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. No energy companies have yet expressed interest in drilling in the state.

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Anti-fracking advocates to march down Market Street


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Trump developing federal purge list; EPA in his sights

If he wins the presidency, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would seek to purge the federal government of officials appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama and could ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire public workers, Trump ally, Chris Christie, said on Tuesday.

The Reuters news service reports:

Christie, who is governor of New Jersey and leads Trump's White House transition team, said the campaign was drawing up a list of federal government employees to fire if Trump defeats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” Christie told a closed-door meeting with dozens of donors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters and two participants in the meeting.

Christie was referring to Trump's starring role in the long-running television show "The Apprentice," where his catch-phrase was "You're fired!"


The Trump campaign did not respond for comment.

Christie also said that changing the leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency, long a target of Republicans concerned about over regulation, would be a top priority for Trump should he win in November.

Trump has previously vowed to eliminate the EPA and roll back some of America's most ambitious environmental policies, actions that he says would revive the U.S. oil and coal industries and bolster national security

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

We thought 'dormant clause' described Santa in summer

To win a point in some now forgotten environmental discussion, a friend referred to the "dormant clause." You know what that is, don't you? he asked with a devilish grin. Of course, I replied weakly before recalling an engagement requiring my  attendance.

Dormant clause, what the hell is that, I wondered. Summertime for Santa?

Well, now I know. And for the rest of you who also did not go to law school, three attorneys at K&L Gates explain what the dormant clause is and how it has become a key point in court challenges over how far states can go to regulate green house gas (GHG).

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Ankur K. Tohan, Alyssa A. Moir and Gabrielle E. Thompson
set up their article with the following four pellucid paragraphs before diving deeper into the legal thicket.

"Many states have enacted their own laws to regulate greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emission reductions.  Although the specific requirements of each state law differ, many of the laws incentivize the use of renewable energy and discourage, or even prohibit, the use of non-renewable energy.
"As these laws have been passed, several state-imposed renewable energy standards have been challenged on the ground that they impermissibly limit interstate commerce.  These legal challenges, which raise complicated issues of federalism, have had mixed results.  Nonetheless, these cases ask a question that is becoming increasingly pressing: what are the limitations on a state’s authority to regulate GHGs?
"Recently the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals weighed in on that issue in North Dakota v. Heydinger.[1]  In Heydinger, North Dakota, along with electric power cooperatives and coal companies, filed suit against Minnesota challenging the constitutionality of certain provisions of Minnesota’s 2007 Next Generation Energy Act (“NGEA”), a statute that regulates aspects of the use and generation of electric energy.[2]  The challenged provisions prohibited any person from importing or committing to import power from an out-of-state, new large energy facility, or from entering into a new long-term power purchase agreement that would increase Minnesota’s statewide carbon dioxide emissions.[3]  If an entity could demonstrate to the Minnesota Public Utility Commission’s satisfaction that it would offset prohibited carbon dioxide emissions, it could be exempted from the prohibitions.[4]  The plaintiffs in Heydinger argued that the GHG provisions of the NGEA violated the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.[5] 
"The Commerce Clause authorizes Congress to “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States.”[6]  Although the Commerce Clause does not expressly limit authority of states to regulate interstate commerce, the United State Supreme Court has interpreted the Commerce Clause to contain an implicit limitation on state authority.[7]  This implicit limitation is known as the dormant Commerce Clause, which prohibits states from passing laws that unduly interfere with interstate commerce.[8] "
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New support coming for grassroots solar program, PACE


A year ago, Gov. Chris Christie issued a conditional veto
that cut the heart of legislation that would have e
nabled property owners in New Jersey to obtain 10 to 30-year private financing (through special assessments attached to municipal property taxes).

That financing would have covered 100 percent of the cost of the installation of clean energy and resiliency improvements without any initial investment by the property owner.

Those involved with the national PACE (Property Assessment Clean Energy) program explain that it gives property owners the ability to install more extensive systems than they likely could afford under traditional financing programs and that the resulting saving in energy costs often outpaces the financing costs from day one of the project.

NJ Gov gets bill to boost private, clean-energy investment

Now the Obama administration is trying to bring it back to life

writer Heather Smith explains:

The Property Assessed Clean Energy program, known as PACE, was created in 2007 when Berkeley, California, realized the same tools used by neighborhoods to pay for big projects like street paving could also be used to pay for installing solar panels. People in homes with panels had to pay more in property taxes, but they saved money through lower energy bills.

They started “acting like East-Coast bankers,” said Gov. Jerry Brown of California, on a White House call to announce the plan. “After the mortgage meltdown, they’re so fearful they won’t step up to the plate.” PACE didn’t go away, but it was frozen, like Han Solo in carbonite.
So, how to fix this? As part of its “Clean Energy Savings for All” initiative, the Obama administration persuaded the Housing and Urban Development Agency and the Department of Veterans Affairs to support the program. As a result, the pool of people who can get a mortgage to buy a house with PACE-funded solar panels has widened to veterans and anyone with a HUD-backed mortgage.
“They’re doing what Fannie and Freddie say you can’t do,” said Brown. “Someday Fannie and Freddie will get on board.”

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Pay to Play in Pa: Enrich yourself with public money

Philadelphia Inquirer staff writers Mark Fazlollah, Craig R. McCoy, and Dylan Purcell report:

For decades, millionaire Main Line businessmen Richard Ireland and Brian McElwee have plied politicians with campaign money while landing government contract after contract.

None of it has provoked much attention. But now the two little-known partners are drawing scrutiny beyond political circles.
In the latest probe into "pay to play" in Pennsylvania, federal prosecutors and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission have subpoenaed a host of documents from the businessmen.

Prosecutors have deployed a former Pennsylvania treasurer against them. Before Rob McCord pleaded guilty last year to corruption charges, he secretly recorded Ireland as they talked over contracts, according to people familiar with McCord's undercover work.

Investigators have even gone back 15 years, to a watershed moment in Ireland and McElwee's business history.

That's when another state treasurer, Barbara Hafer, dramatically increased state business given the two men - after each, on the same day, made a $150,000 campaign contribution to her.

For connecting Treasury to an investment firm they once owned, the two men eventually pulled in $2 million a year in finder's fees for that single placement alone.

Their donations to Hafer were the biggest one-day donation she ever received from anyone.

A detailed look at McElwee and Ireland's thriving business model - an operation marked by $3 million in campaign donations since 2000 - shows how the clubby culture has benefited select businesses and political figures in Pennsylvania.

In the lexicon of high finance, Ireland and McElwee are known as "finders." They have been paid big finder's fees for serving as middlemen, connecting financial professionals with government officials who control public money and where it is invested.

The two men also have earned millions in finder's fees for helping financial advisers win contracts to manage billions of dollars in public money, including funds from Bucks,
Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, and SEPTA - all the while contributing to politicians who were influential for each entity.

Critics, such as the SEC, good-government groups, academics, and others, have long worried that the pay-to-play culture means financial advisers nationwide aren't being selected on merit to manage public money, but because of political juice.

Craig Holman, a finance expert with
Public Citizen, a national government-watchdog organization, said that when pay-to-play becomes business as usual, some firms avoid government contracting because of the corruption taint, and taxpayers get less for their money.

"I've seen more pay-to-play scandals in Pennsylvania than any other state," Holman said. "It hurts government, it hurts taxpayers, and it hurts legitimate businesses."

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