Saturday, October 22, 2016

Kelly: Christie knew of Bridgegate plan before it happened

"It was the most anticipated testimony of the six-week (Bridgegate) trial and, for sheer drama, Bridget Kelly delivered," NJTV NEWS correspondent David Cruz says
in his introduction to the video report above.  

Kelly's message: Chris Christie was a profane and violent bully who held a grudge and made opponents pay.  

Also, he knew there was a traffic study coming a month before it happened.

Watch the video above for the details of Kelly's testimony which will continue on Monday.

Other Bridgegate trial coverage:
Ex-aide: Christie knew of Bridgegate plan before 'traffic problems' email (USA Today) 

Aide Says Christie Knew Of Traffic-Snarling Plan Well In Advance  (National Public Radio)

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Bridgegate defendants: Kelly/Baroni or Wildstein/Christie?

Bridgegate defendant Bridget Anne Kelly could take the stand today,  Friday, October 21
Ted Sherman and Matt Arco report for The Star-Ledger:

David Wildstein pleaded guilty more than a year ago to orchestrating the Bridgegate scandal.

But for much of the day Thursday, it seemed as if Wildstein was on trial, as defense attorneys for two former Christie administration insiders facing federal charges sought to portray the prosecution's key witness as a political con artist and "dangerous" figure who misled jurors.
At the same time, the testimony offered an inside look at the on-going war over regional interests involving the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, that continued top play out as the scandal at the bridge came to light in the fall of 2013.
And it also revealed the growing realization among top advisers to Gov. Chris Christie that the lane shutdowns might present a political problem, at a time the Republican governor was seeking to mount a campaign for the presidency.
Kelly is expected to be on the stand as early as Friday.
Read the full story here

After the prosecution unsuccessfully tried to exclude his testimony, Port Authority Commissioner Scott Rechler took the stand in the Bridgegate trial, sharing his thoughts on David Wildstein. David Cruz has the video story for NJTV NEWS below.


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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bridgegate: Who knew what. when inside Christie's circle?

Michael Drewniak, former Press Secretary to NJ Gov. Chris Christie, testifies in the Bridgegate trial and his answers to questions by defendant Bridget Anne Kelly's defense attorney begin to paint a picture of "willful blindness" among members of the governor's top echelon, NJTV News correspondent Michael Aron reports.   

In other Bridgegate trial coverage, Asbury Park Press reporter Dustin Racioppi writes:

An outgoing commissioner of the Port Authority [Scott Rechler] said he viewed David Wildstein, the government's main witness in the George Washington Bridge lane-closure trial, as a political operative who was a “cancer” to the agency during his time there.

David Samson, the board's former chairman and a close ally to Gov. Chris Christie, was seen as someone who regularly sought to undermine the power of the New York side of the agency in an attempt to gain leverage for New Jersey, the commissioner testified Thursday.

And those two, along with former deputy executive director Bill Baroni, were seen as a “team” inhibiting efforts to depoliticize the bistate agency, he said.

Read the full story here

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NJ Meadowlands moving to stop methane bird burns

Kestrel with singed tail feathers - Jill Homcy photo

After years of complaints by environmental advocates, a state agency indicated Wednesday that it is taking steps to prevent raptors and other birds from getting singed wings and tails as they fly through a nearly invisible flame that burns off methane at a landfill in the Meadowlands.

James M. O'Neill reports for
he Record

The agency responsible for the landfill met with federal wildlife officials Wednesday and said it will start clearing vegetation around the area to remove attractive areas for birds to perch around the flame.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority plans to have landscapers start the work by the end of this week. The agency, which oversees the Kingsland Landfill in Lyndhurst, has retained a consultant to inspect the flare and see whether a "spiky crown" could be installed on top of the flame to keep birds away, or whether any other alterations could be made to ensure that the flare is safer for birds.

"They’ve come a long way from where they were just a few weeks ago. It’s certainly a positive development," said Don Torino, president of the Bergen County Audubon Society, which has complained to the agency for two years about the problem. "I’m cautiously optimistic."

Torino said, however, that none of the proposed changes address the issue of birds flying through the flame.

Torino and other birders have seen a number of species with singed wing and tail feathers, including rough-legged hawks, osprey and American kestrels, a small hawk with declining populations that is considered threatened in New Jersey. One raptor was found hiding in a drainage pipe near the landfill, unable to fly, Torino said.

He said birders have also seen smaller birds, including starlings, flying through the nearly invisible flame. "They get torched, hit the ground and run into the vegetation," he said. "There are probably a lot more birds being injured than we can even tell."

In an email, Christine Sanz, the sports authority’s senior vice president, told authority President Wayne Hasenbalg that the agency met with two special agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the landfill Wednesday and came up with a list of initial steps.

The service will try to find an extra camera to watch the flare and see just how many birds are being affected. The federal agency will also contact the Public Service Electric and Gas Co. to discuss ways to make the utility’s poles and other infrastructure in the area less appealing as spots for birds to perch.

"We are making good progress and moving as quickly as we can to address the issues you have raised," Hasenbalg told Torino in an email Wednesday.

Read the full story here

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Energy and environment bills - Oct 20 Trenton voting lists

New Jersey Assembly Chamber in Trenton

The following environment and energy bills are scheduled for floor votes in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate on Thursday, October 20, 2016:

10/20/16  1:00 PM

A-1628  Rodriguez-Gregg, M. (R-8); Holley, J.C. (D-20)
Codifies DEP's New Jersey Recycling Awards Program to annually recognize outstanding recycling achievements.
A-2584  Gusciora, R. (D-15); Giblin, T.P. (D-34)
Prohibits purchase of certain items by scrap metal businesses.
A-3914  Mazzeo, V. (D-2)
Allows existing rural development areas zoned for industrial use under Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan to be included as eligible areas under certain business incentive programs.
Related Bill: S-2338
ACR-25  Singleton, T. (D-7); Gusciora, R. (D-15); Benson, D.R. (D-14); Zwicker, A. (D-16); Danielsen, J. (D-17)
Determines that Fish and Game Council's adopted rule to allow use of enclosed foothold traps is inconsistent with plain language and legislative intent of 1984 law banning animal traps of steel-jaw leg-hold type.
Related Bill: SCR-11

10/20/16  2:00 PM

A-793  Andrzejczak, B. (D-1); Land, R.B. (D-1); Taliaferro, A.J. (D-3)
Requires Dept. of Agriculture and DEP to work with US Army Corps of Engineers to establish joint permit application process for aquaculture projects.
Related Bill: S-316      

AJR-24  Andrzejczak, B. (D-1); Houghtaling, E. (D-11)
Declares aquaculture an important State economic driver and urges State to include aquaculture industry in its economic development plans.
Related Bill: SJR-36
S-227  Holzapfel, J.W. (R-10)
Requires DOT, NJTA, and SJTA to use only native vegetation for landscaping, land management, reforestation, or habitat restoration.
Related Bill: A-963
S-316  Van Drew, J. (D-1); Connors, C.J. (R-9)
Requires Dept. of Agriculture and DEP to work with US Army Corps of Engineers to establish joint permit application process for aquaculture projects.
Related Bill: A-793
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Monday, October 17, 2016

New Jersey moving to turn food waste into energy

Making smart use of biomass could be a win-win: It can be used a source of power and it prevents methane from being released into the atmosphere

Tom Johnson writes today in NJ Spotlight:

The food waste from a local supermarket, restaurant, or catering hall could end up being the fuel that serves a source of renewable energy for New Jersey.
That’s the goal of a bill moving through the Legislature, which would require large generators of garbage to separate and recycle food waste with the aim of converting it to energy.
The bill (S-771), approved by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee last week, would encourage composting and building more food-waste-to-energy facilities in the state.
Food waste is a big source of trash in the United States, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, with Americans throwing away more than 36 million tons in 2012. Less than 5 percent of that was recycled.


While the focus of this story is the potential to turn food waste into energy, a second benefit is the conversion of table scraps into rich compost material for gardening, farming and landscaping -- Editor

Most of the rest ends up in garbage dumps, where it rots and releases methane into the atmosphere, a potent greenhouse gas contributing to global climate change.
The proposed bill is similar to laws that have been adopted in Connecticut and Massachusetts, as well as a number of large cities, including New York, which requires food scraps to be separated by sizable generators of waste, like hospitals, prisons, and supermarkets.
“This is an intelligent alternative to improve our environment,’’ said Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), the sponsor of the bill. “We have a problem with waste in this country, and recycling solid waste is a viable system that will produce energy to provide to our homes, schools and businesses.’’
According to the EPA, if half of food waste could be properly recycled and used as a fuel for energy, enough electricity would be generated to power 2.5 million homes for a year.
A study by Rutgers University’s Agricultural Experimental Station last year suggested that New Jersey was not utilizing the potential energy from biomass — organic materials like plants and waste that could be used to produce electricity or propel vehicles.
Beyond just curbing greenhouse-gas emissions, biomass, largely underutilized, could reduce dependence on fossil fuels and improve air quality, according to the study. The state spent about $3 million last year trying to promote biomass energy.
“This is common sense and it works to resolve multiple problems, from generation of energy so we can work to become more energy efficient to addressing our landfill issues, as well as combatting global warming,’’ Smith said.
The legislation would affect large food-waste generators located within 25 miles of an authorized recycling facility. The generators would be required to separate the food waste if they generated a volume of more than 104 tons per year.

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Bridgegate: No doubt about it, somebody's lying

Bill Baroni, left, arrives at the Federal Courthouse for a hearing, today.  AP Photo/Mel Evans

We've already heard David Wildstein, the man that Gov. Christie put on the Port Authority to serve as his 'enforcer,' testify that he and Bill Baroni, another Christie appointee, spoke with the governor about the political-retribution, lane closing while it was happening.

In federal court today, Baroni told a different story.

Ryan Hutchins of Politico reports:

Bill Baroni, one of two defendants on trial over a scheme to close access lanes to the George Washington Bridge, took the witness stand in federal court on Monday, painting himself as a marginalized leader who was led to believe by his subordinate that that the closure of the access lanes was part of a traffic study.

Baroni, who served as Gov. Chris Christie's top appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, said he thought David Wildstein — the admitted mastermind of the scheme — was telling him the truth at the time of the lane closures in September 2013.

The former Republican state senator, in direct contradiction of Wildstein’s testimony in the same case, said the two had a discussion with Christie at the Sept. 11 memorial that made no mention of Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich or the traffic problems that were occurring in the town as a result of the lane closures.

While Wildstein had testified under oath that Baroni “bragged” to the governor that Sokolich was not getting his calls returned, Baroni said no such conversation ever took place. In reality, he said, the governor was told by Wildstein about an ongoing traffic study that could help improve traffic at the bridge and let Christie swoop in as a hero to motorists.

“David Wildstein discussed with the governor the traffic study that was going on at the bridge in order to see if he would be able to move mainline traffic faster into the toll booths, so Gov. Christie could announce he was able to fix the traffic problem at the George Washington Bridge,” Baroni testified, saying he was part of the conversation for three or four minutes.

Baroni is charged alongside Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff. They were indicted last May on charges of conspiracy, fraud and civil rights violations. They are accused of closing local access lanes to the bridge — the world’s busiest — to punish the Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie’s re-election bid.

Read the full Politico story here

The question now is which version of the governor's role will Bridget Anne Kelly support when she takes the stand.

Kelly Heyboer of the Star Ledger writes:

The hint came in the midst of a routine cross examination of a government witness in the Bridgegate trial.

Michael Critchley, the prominent defense attorney, was grilling one of Gov. Chris Christie's senior aides on the stand in the Newark courtroom on Tuesday about the 2013 lane closures at the George Washington Bridge.

"Did you know that Bridget Kelly and the governor had discussions about the governor's knowledge of the lane closures before they occurred?" Critchley asked Deborah Gramiccioni, Christie's former deputy chief of staff.

"Did you know that Bridget Kelly and the governor had discussions about the lane closures during the occurrence of the lane closures?" the attorney pressed.

Gramiccioni answered no to both questions and Critchley quickly moved on to other topics.

But the cryptic questions remained. Was Critchley hinting that his client, Kelly, would testify she spoke to the governor about the lane closures while they were happening? And would she say she mentioned the political retribution plot?

This trial is better than
Law and Order because you don't need to wait a week for the next shoe to drop. What are we in for next? What will Kelly say? Who's telling the truth? Tell us what you think by clicking the tiny 'comments' line below.
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Beer, bears and Jersey Fresh in committee in Trenton

The New Jersey Senate's Economic Growth Committee meets this morning at 10:30 a.m. in Committee Room 1, 1st Floor, State House Annex in Trenton, NJ

Among the bills scheduled for consideration are these:

S-1334  Kean, T.H. (R-21); Diegnan, P.J. (D-18)
Permits certain breweries to sell beer at community farm markets.
Related Bill: A-1949  

S-2454  Lesniak, R.J. (D-20); Cruz-Perez, N. (D-5)
Provides for confiscation and forfeiture of animals involved in animal cruelty violations, and for cost of their care while being held.
S-2457  Van Drew, J. (D-1)
Enables collection of voluntary contributions for Jersey Fresh Program through gross income tax returns.
Related Bill: A-3999     
S-2702  Lesniak, R.J. (D-20)
Prohibits hunting and establishes non-lethal control program for black bear for five years; prohibits certain actions that result in feeding of bears and requires use of bear-resistant containers; dumpsters, and food boxes in bear habitat.

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

New Jersey volunteers build another Bayshore oyster reef

Stories like this seem to be growing like, well, oysters? And that's a good thing.

Justin Auciello reports for newsworks:

The third annual "Shell-a-Bration" oyster reef building volunteer event earlier this month brought together two conservation organizations that have been leading efforts to restore the ecology and economy of New Jersey's Delaware Bayshore communities, an environmental organization announced
The volunteers worked alongside the American Littoral Society and the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey to build a near-shore oyster reef at Dyers Cove, at the end of Dyers Creek Road in Newport, Cumberland County, New Jersey.
The organizers say the goal is to prevent beach erosion from wind-driven waves. 
The near-shore project will also test whether the shell bar creates calmer water for spawning horseshoe crabs.
Horseshoe crab eggs are vital to shorebirds, such as the federally listed Red Knot, when they visit the Delaware Bay during the annual migration, according to David Wheeler, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey Executive Director. 
“There are many strategies to defend our Delaware Bayshore, but one of the best and most productive are these oyster reefs,” stated Dr. Larry Niles, a biologist with American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. “They not only replicate a lost but important habitat on Delaware Bay — reefs once covered much of the Bayshore — but they provide just enough protection to make a difference in how long our beaches persist against the unrelenting forces of nature. In a way, we are fighting nature with nature.”
Volunteers built a similar reef at South Reeds Beach in Cape May Court House last year.  

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Methane vents at NJ landfill are torching birds

Brenda Flanagan reports for NJTV NEWS:

The images break your heart. Kestrels — small birds of prey — their wings and tails torched, some burned down to the skin.

“It hurts me. Hurts me in here,” said Chris Takacs.
Audubon member Takacs — an avid bird photographer — took a picture of a kestrel burned by flying through a virtually invisible flare emitted by a pipe. It vents flammable methane 15 to 20 feet into the air at Kingsland Landfill, nonstop — a continuous 1,700-degree vortex created as the gas from decaying garbage burns off, unseeable except for shimmering heat unless you look at it after dark. Takacs took a video. He caught the burned kestrel in his photo, says it was grounded.

“Severely burned on two wings and severely burned in the tail. There was almost two-thirds of the feather gone. This bird could not fly. We watched it run around and jump to catch grasshoppers,” Takacs said.

“When you have even their feathers burned, you have to consider it a dead bird. They might not die at that instant but if they can’t hunt, if they can’t migrate — anything that hinders that — you have to consider that a bird that’s not going to survive the winter, unfortunately,” said Don Torino.

Torino heads the Bergen County Audubon Society. He says they found four burned kestrels around the landfills in North Arlington last month, don’t know how many they missed. But it’s prime kestrel habitat, located in the Meadowlands near DeKorte Park. Not that kestrels are the only birds burned by the methane flare.
Read the full story here

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