Thursday, March 22, 2018

A bold, divisive plan to wean Californians from cars

The MacArthur Commons development, adjacent to an Oakland transit station, will create almost 400 units of housing. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Conor Dougherty and Brad Plumer report for the NY Times:

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s an audacious proposal to get Californians out of their cars: a bill in the State Legislature that would allow eight-story buildings near major transit stops, even if local communities object.

The idea is to foster taller, more compact residential neighborhoods that wean people from long, gas-guzzling commutes, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

So it was surprising to see the Sierra Club among the bill’s opponents, since its policy proposals call for communities to be “revitalized or retrofitted” to achieve precisely those environmental goals. The California chapter described the bill as “heavy-handed,” saying it could cause a backlash against public transit and lead to the displacement of low-income residents from existing housing.

State Senator Scott Wiener, the bill’s sponsor, responded by accusing the group of “advocating for low-density sprawl.”

In a state where debates often involve shades of blue, it’s not uncommon for the like-minded to find themselves at odds. But the tensions over Mr. Wiener’s proposal point to a wider divide in the fight against climate change, specifically how far the law should go to reshape urban lifestyles.

Although many cities and states are embracing cleaner sources of electricity and encouraging people to buy electric vehicles, they are having a harder time getting Americans to drive less, something that may be just as important.

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Transportation accounts for one-third of the nation’s carbon-dioxide emissions and recently surpassed power plants as its largest contributor to global warming. Even as stricter federal standards push cars to become more fuel efficient, the gains have been steadily offset as Americans drive more.

“We can have all the electric vehicles and solar panels in the world, but we won’t meet our climate goals without making it easier for people to live near where they work, and live near transit and drive less,” Mr. Wiener said.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Sunoco, regulators get a withering review at Pa. hearing

                                                             Mariner East pipeline construction (Jeremy Long, Lebanon Daily News)
Laura Legere reports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Pennsylvania environmental regulators were aware for days that collapsed soil along the path of the Mariner East pipeline construction project had exposed a parallel pipeline in Chester County this month before they informed safety regulators at another agency, according to testimony at a state Senate hearing on Tuesday.

Instead, safety inspectors with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission first learned about the sinkholes from local residents on March 3.

Four days later, the commission ordered an emergency shutdown of the exposed pipeline, known as Mariner East 1, to avoid potentially “catastrophic results” until the ethane, butane and propane pipeline’s stability can be confirmed.

Domenic Rocco, who runs the state Department of Environmental Protection’s regional permit coordination office, acknowledged that department officials did not notify the PUC when they first recognized subsidences related to Sunoco Pipeline’s Mariner East pipeline expansion project in November and only belatedly communicated with the PUC when more sinkholes appeared this month.

Communication between the organizations is improving, he said.
Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, said that is not enough. “If you’ve been in better contact since November, it certainly wasn’t shown in this situation.”
If any entity received more critical attention than the DEP during the joint committee hearing in Harrisburg, it was Sunoco Pipeline — the Energy Transfer Partners subsidiary whose cross-state Mariner East expansion project is designed to ferry vastly more natural gas liquids from western to eastern Pennsylvania.
State senators and residents along the pipeline’s path repeatedly rebuked the company, arguing that the project’s mounting environmental and communication failures have created a backlash that is making it difficult for other companies to build natural gas infrastructure in Pennsylvania.
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w more home building along
transit routes to r

educe gas-guzzling commutes. Some
who support the goal have denounced the method

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Kelp farms and mammoth windmills are just two of the government’s long-shot energy bets on conference display

A kelp forest off Mexico’s Pacific coast. A project presented this week at an energy research conference
proposes using tiny robots to farm seaweed for use in biofuels.
CreditReinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild, via Getty Images
Brad Plumer reports for The New York Times:

Off the coast of California, the idea is that someday tiny robot submarines will drag kelp deep into the ocean at night, to soak up nutrients, then bring the plants back to the surface during the day, to bask in the sunlight.

The goal of this offbeat project? To see if it’s possible to farm vast quantities of seaweed in the open ocean for a new type of carbon-neutral biofuel that might one day power trucks and airplanes. Unlike the corn- and soy-based biofuels used today, kelp-based fuels would not require valuable cropland.

Of course, there are still some kinks to work out. “We first need to show that the kelp doesn’t die when we take it up and down,” said Cindy Wilcox, a co-founder of Marine BioEnergy Inc., which is doing early testing this summer.

Ms. Wilcox’s venture is one of hundreds of long shots being funded by the federal government’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.Created a decade ago, ARPA-E now spends $300 million a year nurturing untested technologies that have the potential — however remote — of solving some of the world’s biggest energy problems, including climate change.

This week at a convention center near Washington, thousands of inventors and entrepreneurs gathered at the annual ARPA-E conference to discuss the obstacles to a cleaner energy future. Researchers funded by the agency also showed off their ideas, which ranged from the merely creative (a system to recycle waste heat in Navy ships) to the utterly wild (concepts for small fusion reactors).

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Is the long wait ending for NJ offshore wind energy?

The 24-megawatt Fishermen’s Energy pilot could pick up a tailwind thanks to governor’s ambitious clean-energy agenda

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:

Fishermen’s Energy, a small, pilot offshore wind farm three miles from Atlantic City, may happen after all. The 24-megawatt project, twice rejected by the Christie administration, could be revived under a bill (A-2485) up for consideration on Thursday in a legislative committee.

The resurgence of the project reflects a renewed commitment to develop offshore wind farms along the Jersey coast, a goal first pronounced in legislation adopted with widespread support and fanfare nearly eight years ago, but left to wither in the wind by the previous governor.

Gov. Phil Murphy has made it a top priority in his clean-energy agenda, establishing a goal of 3,500 megawatts of capacity of offshore wind by 2030. While two developers are working on plans to begin fulfilling that target, their projects are unlikely to be operational until 2023 at the earliest. 

Refocusing on Fishermen’s Energy That has advocates refocusing on the Fishermen’s Energy proposal, which would be built in much more shallow state waters than the other two projects, intended to be constructed in federal waters up to 20 miles off the coast.

“It’s a ready-to-go project,’’ said Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo (D-Atlantic), the sponsor of the bill, when asked why he is pushing to revive the measure. “It’s a good effort to diversify our energy portfolio.’’

“We have a fully permitted, ready-to-build project,’’ agreed Paul Gallagher, chief operating officer of Fishermen’s Energy. The $210 million project will be slightly smaller than previous versions submitted to the state Board of Public Utilities, consisting of four, six-megawatt turbines, Gallagher said. 

Previously, the BPU rejected the project as too costly to ratepayers, who will help pay for the facility through a subsidy on their electric bills. The Division of Rate Counsel disputed that assessment the last time the project came before the board, but that was when Fishermen’s had a federal grant of roughly $47 million.

The project also is backed by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester), who is sponsoring it in the Senate and trying to include it as part of a comprehensive clean-energy package that props up nuclear power plants and ramps up renewable energy goals in New Jersey.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Plans unveiled for innovation 'hub' in New Brunswick

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy today announced plans to turn a hole in the ground, known in New Brunswick as the hub, into a large incubator for scientific and technological research.

Michael Aron has the story for NJTV News.

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Mapping NJ's energy infrastructure of the future

Fundamental changes to ways electricity and gas will be delivered are in the offing, according to experts

Steve Corneli, principal, Strategies for Clean Energy Innovation

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:

With the state pursuing more aggressive clean-energy policies, the energy sector will undergo a major transformation that will require fundamental changes in how and when electricity and gas are delivered.

At least that seemed to be the consensus of experts during a NJ Spotlight roundtable event Friday that focused on modernizing the state’s energy infrastructure, an issue fraught with challenges and not insignificant costs.

It also comes at a time of rapid technological changes and the need to upgrade an aging power grid to cope with integrating cleaner, but intermittent, energy sources into the mix, while facing pressure to make the entire system more resilient, the panelists agreed.

Former Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, a keynote speaker whose city is now developing a microgrid to deal with future storms after being battered by Hurricane Sandy, stressed the importance of energy resiliency.

“We need to persuade the public that this is an investment that needs to be made,’’ Zimmer said. “Energy resiliency investments will save us in the long run.’’

Her community is one 13 New Jersey municipalities now assessing microgrids, a way of enhancing resiliency and reliability by relying on distributed energy resources, a localized way of providing power.

“We are looking at tremendous changes happening — really a transformation of the industry over the next five, 10, and 15 years,’’ said David Daly, president and chief operating officer for Public Service Electric & Gas, the state’s largest utility.

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Trump sued for detaining aslylum-seekers indefinitely

ACLU uses a detainee in New Jersey to make its case.

Matt Katz reports for WNYC:

The American Civil Liberties Union and other human and civil rights organizations filed a class-action lawsuit Thursday against the Trump Administration for what it describes as the unconstitutional, indefinite detention of immigrants fleeing persecution and seeking asylum. And it's using a detainee in New Jersey to make its case.

The suit says a man identified only as N.J.J.R. was beaten in his native Venezuela because he opposed the government. He arrived in the United States in October seeking refuge, but after he declared asylum he was detained as his case was adjudicated. Though N.J.J.R. proved to asylum officers that he had a credible fear of persecution, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not release him on parole to a sponsor, who had offered to give him a place to stay. He is still being held at Essex County Jail.

In fact the ACLU said 100 percent of detained asylum seekers in New Jersey were denied parole from February to September of last year — a sharp departure from past practice. ACLU said the Newark field office of ICE is among the toughest in the nation in withholding parole. John Tsoukaris, director of the Newark field office, was named in the suit.

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Philly workplaces join the Eagles in going sustainably green

Lincoln Financial Field solar wing facing I-95

Sandy Bauers reports for

Going green isn't just for the Eagles

Many companies have greened up their acts in ways that aren’t readily apparent – their lighting, for instance.

And then there’s the Philadelphia Eagles. They have 11,108 solar panels covering an entire side of their building, Lincoln Financial Field, and over some of the parking lot.  The Eagles say it’s the largest solar power plant in the NFL, producing 40 percent of the energy the stadium uses. On breezy days, 14 wind turbines atop the upper levels – the things that look a bit like giant egg beaters – generate more energy.

The Eagles divert virtually all of their waste from landfills, said Norman Vossschulte, the team’s Director of Fan Experience.  Post-consumer food scraps go to a Montgomery County composting operation, Two Particular Acres. Other waste is sent to a facility that separates trash and burns it for energy.

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Pa. GOP wants probe of 'irregularities' in special election

In the special election in Pa.'a 18th District, Democrat Conor Lamb beat Republican Rick Saccone by fewer than 1,000 votes

Liz Navratil reports for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The Pennsylvania Republican Party has asked the Department of State to investigate what it described as “a number of irregularities” in the 18th District special election.

Attorney Joel Frank, in a letter dated Friday, outlined five areas of concern, ranging from calls about machine errors to confusion about polling places and a dispute over whether a Republican attorney could watch part of the elections process.

“In the interest of transparency and nonpartisanship, we ask that you consider assigning this task to a Commonwealth elections official capable of conducting an impartial investigation in light of the positions you’ve taken on ongoing redistricting litigation,” Frank wrote.

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

NJ Assembly committee to focus on drinking-water safety

At its March 22 meeting, the New Jersey Assembly's Telecommunications & Utilities Committee will focus on legislation to improve the operations of water supply systems.

 "The public deserves the peace of mind to know that their water quality is not compromised or contaminated," said committee chairman Wayne DeAngelo. 

"We need to ensure that there is a system in place to have the best qualified professionals performing critical functions and to encourage public awareness of the operations funded by ratepayers.

"Most importantly, we need to notify residents quickly so that they can take needed action to protect themselves from possible contamination without incurring additional costs."

The committee will receive testimony from invited guests and consider the following bills:

     * A3352 – Requires public water systems to provide certain notice of boil water notices and violations of drinking water quality standards

     * A3354 – Removes certain requirements for professional engineers to take examination to operate water supply and wastewater treatment systems

     * A2429 – Requires water suppliers to reimburse residential customers for drinking water testing under certain circumstances.

The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Room 9 of the State House Annex in Trenton.

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