Saturday, August 18, 2018

A Great Way to Explore the Environmental Field

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is seeking candidates to apply to its AmeriCorps NJ Watershed Ambassadors program marking 19 years of continuous stewardship protecting water quality in NJ.  Twenty members are selected each year to raise public awareness about water and watershed issues and to promote stewardship through direct community involvement.

 Ambassadors are placed with host agencies in each of New Jersey's twenty Watershed Management Areas and work with local non-profit organizations, government agencies, schools, utilities authorities, and citizens to improve water quality through education and restoration projects such as stream cleanups, invasive species removal, rain barrel workshops etc. 

The NJ Watershed Ambassadors Program was recognized as an honoree at the 2018 NJ State Governor’s Jefferson Awards for their service to the public through their Green the Scene 2018! Regional Tree Planting Project.

The Department is actively recruiting for the 2018-2019 term which runs September through July. To apply, visit the Department’s web page at

Application review process is currently underway. Candidates are especially needed in Watershed Management Areas (WMA) 9 Lower Raritan/Lawrence Brook and 10 Millstone River Watershed both of which are within the Raritan Water Region. 

The WMA 9 ambassador will serve out of dual host agencies, the New Jersey Water Supply Authority office in Clinton and Duke Farms Hillsborough Township and the WMA 10 ambassador will serve out of The Watershed Institute in Pennington.  

The program will review all potential candidates and reach out to those who are best qualified to serve. For questions regarding the application process, please call Amanda Lotto, Program Manager, Trish Ingelido, Program Supervisor or Kim Cenno, Bureau Chief at 609-633-1441.

Friday, August 17, 2018

New Jersey wind power: How big, how soon?

New report suggests Garden State is uniquely placed to make hay with wind, but critics have doubts and developers say state must push the process

Offshore wind
Tom Johnson reports for
NJ Spotlight:

Offshore wind could provide four times as much electricity as states along the Atlantic coast currently use, according to a new report touting the technology as a key to the region’s clean-energy future.
The 32-page report, Wind Power to Spare: The Enormous Energy Potential of Atlantic Offshore Wind, suggests New Jersey is uniquely positioned to harness that promise with the most aggressive goals in the nation.
But with only one offshore-wind farm now operating in the U.S., achieving that goal will require policymakers at the state and federal levels do much more to ensure a spate of current projects move forward, the report said.
Thirteen offshore projects, including two in New Jersey, have secured leases to build wind farms in coastal waters with enough projected capacity to provide power to 3 million homes.
“The winds of the Atlantic Ocean contain immense, abundant energy and the time is right to begin harnessing that energy to power the region,’’ the report said. The goal is ambitious, given that states along the Eastern Seaboard account for more than 25 percent of the nation’s energy consumption — more than that of all but four countries.
“The building blocks were put in place by the Obama administration,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center, which released the report.

“It’s good for the environment and good for the economy,’’ said O’Malley, citing why there is new momentum on offshore wind. “States are recognizing it as a huge opportunity. It’s the path forward on clean energy.’’

Credit: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
Pink shading represents currently leased areas for planned offshore-wind development

Until recently, New Jersey had done little to achieve its own goal of building 1,100 megawatts of offshore-wind capacity by 2021, a target it will not achieve because of eight years of inaction during the administration of former Gov. Chris Christie.

With the administration of Gov. Phil Murphy establishing a target of 3,500 mw of offshore wind by 2030, state officials recently have taken steps to advance those goals. Last week, the state Board of Public Utilities posted draft regulations designed to help offshore-wind developers finance their projects, a proposal crucial to lining up financing.

“Offshore wind is the ideal resource for states like New Jersey — it’s clean, it’s renewable, and it’s conveniently located near our biggest cities,’’ said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, a co-author of the report.

Concerns about the cost

But critics say it is not cheap, a huge concern in a state typically ranking as among the ten most expensive for energy costs in the country.

The report, however, noted advances in technology and declining costs, coupled with growing concerns about the environmental impacts of fossil fuels, have generated new momentum for offshore wind.

Between 2012 and 2017, the overall cost of offshore wind dropped by 27 percent, according to the asset-management firm Lazard. The price is in line with new coal plants and cheaper than new nuclear units, according to the firm.

Credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

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Related news story: Multidisciplinary Team Assembles To Spur NJ Offshore Wind

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Feds approve $128M gas pipeline plan in Meadowlands

Williams' gas tanks in the Meadowlands as seen from the Hackensack River in 2012.
(Photo: Mitsu YASUKAWA/ Staff Photographer)

Scott Fallon reports for the North Jersey Record:

Christopher Stockton, a Williams spokesman, said Thursday that the company has obtained all the permits it needs to move forward. Construction is slated to begin early next year and be finished by late 2019 for the winter heating season.

“The demand for clean, reliable and low-cost natural gas continues to climb, particularly in northeastern markets like New Jersey and New York City,” said Michael Dunn, chief operating officer of Williams.

The new project, called Rivervale South to Market, would upgrade more than 10 miles of pipeline through Bergen County to allow about 10 percent more gas to be pumped to northeastern customers for heat and electricity generation. With the increased capacity, the pipeline would provide enough natural gas to meet the daily needs of about 1 million homes, Williams said.

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In the Meadowlands, the new 42-inch pipeline, called a loop, would be built on property the Oklahoma-based company owns along Metro Road near its two large gas storage tanks in Carlstadt. It would be placed parallel to two existing pipelines east of Williams' tanks to relieve pressure on them from the increased flow of gas.

In its certificate issued on Aug. 10, FERC said the project’s direct impacts to wetlands, water and other environmentally sensitive areas would be "minimal and would not contribute to adverse cumulative impacts."

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, criticized the approval, saying FERC did not address a plan to build a gas-fired power plant in North Bergen near the Williams facility.

The proposed North Bergen Liberty Generating plant, which is still being reviewed by state environmental regulators, would need to hook into Williams' Transco pipeline and use the gas as fuel to generate 1,200 megawatts of electricity that would be sent via underground cable to New York.

A decades-long effort to rehabilitate the Meadowlands has succeeded in making the more than 5,000 acres of wetlands cleaner, attracting fish and birds back to what was once a wasteland but remains a key stop on the Atlantic bird migration route.

Williams's gas tank in the Meadowlands.

Williams's gas tank in the Meadowlands. (Photo: File photo)

Bill Sheehan, director of Hackensack Riverkeeper, said the pipeline proposal is a step back for the region. "FERC isn't on the ground here," he said. "They don't see what we see, and so the deck is stacked against us."

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Thursday, August 16, 2018

A 28-year-old takes on the Lambertville machine and wins

Julia Fahl, 28, a first-time candidate for elected office, defeated an incumbent in the primary race for mayor of Lambertville, N.J., who had been in office since the year Mrs. Fahl was born. She is running unopposed in November. Credit Michelle Gustafson for The New York Times

Nick Corasanti reports for the New York Times

LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. — The welcome mat at the entryway to the home of this town’s likely next mayor reads, “The Patriarchy.”
“So you have to step on it before you come into our home,” said Julia Fahl, 28. “We had that custom-made,’’ added Kari Osmond, 31, Mrs. Fahl’s wife and campaign manager.
It is a fitting symbol of what Mrs. Fahl managed to pull off in this bucolic city along the Delaware River that draws visitors for its blend of antique shops, eclectic galleries and trendy restaurants. Mrs. Fahl, who had never run for office, upset a 61-year-old incumbent in June, Dave DelVecchio, who had been in office since Mrs. Fahl was born and is known to residents simply as “Mayor Dave.”
Mrs. Fahl mounted the first challenge in Mr. DelVecchio’s 27 years as mayor, a contentious race that for 97 days after her announcement to run engrossed this heavily Democratic community.

As a young, energetic female candidate campaigning on a message of change, Mrs. Fahl has drawn some comparisons to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the upstart 28-year-old Democratic candidate in New York who also upset an entrenched incumbent with a grass-roots campaign.
Like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, Mrs. Fahl had to overcome the support of the county political machine, which had endorsed and thrown its operation behind Mr. DelVecchio, including, she said, blocking her from accessing voter data. And the same energy for a fresh direction among an energized Democratic base was palpable in her victory here, evidence that the desire to upend the establishment extends down to the local level.
“I think people are thinking they should have done more in the presidential election, so they’re getting a lot more active now,” Mr. DelVecchio said. “But it’s definitely a good time to be a woman running for office and it has been for some time, but now more than ever.”
Still, the similarities to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez only go so far.
For one, Mrs. Fahl counts herself more in what she calls “the Clinton wing’’ of the Democratic Party and her calls for change are rooted in municipal business rather than the national issues animating the Democratic Party (on those, Mrs. Fahl and Mr. DelVecchio share similar views). But when it comes to shade trees, trash and City Hall hours, Mrs. Fahl seized on a growing unrest with how the town was run.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Murphy vetoes minutes of board allied with Sweeney

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney is pictured. | AP Photo
New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney 

Ryan Hutchins reports for Politico:

Gov. Phil Murphy this week vetoed the minutes of a South Jersey board stacked with allies of Senate President Steve Sweeney after the directors refused Murphy‘s request to cut ties with the agency’s general counsel.

Murphy rejected all actions the board of the South Jersey Port Corporation — a 50-year-old agency that operates marine shipping terminals across seven counties — took at its July 31 meeting. It was the first time Murphy has exercised his power to block actions by a state board since he took office in January.

In a letter sent Monday to the corporation’s acting executive director, the governor cited numerous issues, including finding “absolutely no evidence that the corporation conducted a fair and objective procurement process.”

“The lack of attention to governance procedures is inexcusable,” Murphy wrote in the letter, which was
obtained by POLITICO.

The governor, who has clashed with Sweeney over a number of policy issues, was primarily concerned with the decision to renew a contract with General Counsel Raymond Zane, a former state lawmaker, according to three sources familiar with the issues that led to the veto.

Sweeney ousted Zane from the Senate in 2001, but the two men later became allies.

The sources, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to characterize the behind-the-scenes squabble, said the governor’s office had made it clear to the corporation’s board members that they believed Zane was not serving the agency’s interests. In particular, the governor’s staff cited Zane’s handling of what the front office considered “credible accusations of sexual harassment in the work place,” the sources said.

While the employee who faced the accusation ultimately retired, Zane had indicated “that some comparatively minor level of reprimand would be sufficient despite the intensity of the sexual harassment,” one of the sources said, declining to discuss details of the case.

The governor’s staff told the board that Murphy would veto the minutes if Zane was given a new agreement, the sources said. But the board voted anyway, approving his firm and six other incumbent law firms for new professional services agreements. Just one member, a designee of the state treasury, voted “no.”

“The board basically responded that this is essentially Steve Sweeney’s pick,” one of the sources said.

Sweeney said Tuesday evening that he wasn’t familiar with the issues surrounding the governor’s veto and that he was not involved with Zane’s appointment as general counsel.

NJ Supreme Court upholds 'extreme violation' of preserved farmland law but raps state on guidelines


New Jersey Supreme Court rules that alterations to field destroyed it for other agricultural uses, criticizes state for failing to give clear guidelines on what’s allowed on preserved agricultural land

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:

The owner of preserved farmland in Franklin Township violated the law when it excavated and leveled 20 acres in building temporary greenhouses, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
In a 38-page decision, the court found the resulting destruction of “prime’’ soil constituted a violation of deed restrictions on the preserved land even though new buildings for agricultural purposes are a permitted use.
To farmland advocates, the case is significant because it upholds one of the prime purposes of farmland preservation: retaining those lands permanently for a variety of agricultural uses by future generations.
“The preservation of high quality soil and open space for future generations is one of the chief aims of the Farmland Preservation Program,’’ Justice Barry Albin wrote for the court. “Although Quaker Valley had the right to erect hoop houses, it did not have the authority to permanently damage a wide swath of premier quality soil in doing so.’’

It all started with a hailstorm in 2007

The case involved a family farm of 120 acres that became part of the farmland preservation program in 1993. The Matthews family had owned the farm for over a hundred years, harvesting corn, wheat, oats, soybeans and hay on the land.
The dispute arose a decade after Quaker Valley Farms LLC, a wholesale horticultural business, purchased the deed-restricted land in 1997. In September 2007, a hailstorm damaged a crop of chrysanthemums on a 20-acre field, saddling the owner with a million-dollar-plus crop loss.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The EPA is seeking to “veto” its own veto authority?

K&L Gates attorneys Ankur K. TohanCliff L. Rothenstein
Endre M. Szala and Tad J. Macfarlan report:

On June 26, 2018, in one of his final acts as Administrator of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), Scott Pruitt issued a memorandum [1] that has set in motion a process to amend the regulations that govern the agency’s exercise of its “veto” authority under Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act. [2] The memo directs EPA staff to prepare a proposal, within six months, that would potentially curtail EPA’s authority to effectively bar development projects that require a Section 404 dredge-and-fill permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
As background, Section 404 of the Clean Water Act authorizes the Corps (and state agencies with delegated permitting authority) to issue permits authorizing the discharge of dredged or fill material into regulated waters at “specified disposal sites.” [3] However, the statute provides EPA the authority to “prohibit” or “withdrawal” the specification of any area as a disposal site when it determines that a proposed discharge will have an unacceptable adverse effect on water supplies, fisheries, wildlife, or recreational areas. [4] This is commonly known as EPA’s “veto” authority because the EPA can effectively veto a project that would otherwise be authorized under Clean Water Act permits issued by the Corps by prohibiting construction in areas for which there is no reasonably available alternative disposal site. EPA currently administers its veto authority through regulations that were last amended nearly four decades ago, in 1979. [5] To date, EPA has used its final veto authority only 13 times. [6] 
The new memo grows out of concerns surrounding EPA’s prior use of its veto authority before a Section 404 permit application had been filed—i.e., a “preemptive” veto—or after a permit had already been issued—i.e., a “retroactive” veto—rather than in the midst of the permitting process. [7] Recent examples include EPA’s proposed preemptive veto of a high-profile copper and gold mining project near Bristol Bay, Alaska in 2014 (which remains pending), [8] and its 2011 retroactive veto of a coal mining project in Logan County, West Virginia. [9] Both of these cases spawned substantial litigation [10] and caused many observers (including former Administrator Pruitt) to question whether in the future “the mere potential of the EPA’s use of its section 404(c) authority before or after the permitting process could influence investment decisions and chill economic growth by short-circuiting the permitting process.” [11]
In response to these concerns, former Administrator Pruitt’s Memo directs EPA staff to prepare and provide to the White House Office of Management and Budget a proposal within six months (before the end of 2018) that would consider and seek public comment on the following changes: 
  • Eliminating EPA’s authority to veto a project before a permit application has been filed. 
  • Eliminating EPA’s authority to veto a project after a Section 404 permit has been issued. 
  • Requiring EPA regional administrators to obtain approval from EPA headquarters before initiating the Section 404(c) veto process. 
  • Requiring the completion of environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act before preparing and publishing a proposed veto determination. 
  • Requiring EPA to publish and seek public comment on final veto determinations before those determinations take effect.
While former Administrator Pruitt is no longer in office following his July 5 resignation, all indications are that the new Acting Administrator, Andrew Wheeler, will forge ahead with the rulemaking process initiated by his predecessor. Administrator Wheeler has publicly expressed his commitment to the regulatory agenda pursued by Pruitt prior to his departure and he has strong ties to the mining industries which, of all industries, were most negatively impacted by EPA’s application of the agency’s veto power under the Obama administration.

Edward A. Hogan of Norris McLaughlin & Marcus elected as Fellow of American College of Environmental Lawyers

Edward A. Hogan, Esq.
The American College of Environmental Lawyers recently announced the election of 24 new Fellows and two Honorary Fellows.
Included in this group of attorneys from throughout the nation is Edward A. Hogan, a Member of law firm Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, P.A., and Co-Chair of its Environmental Law Group.  
ACOEL President, John C. Cruden, stated that the lawyers elected as Fellows to the College “include the top environmental lawyers in government service, public interest, academia, and private practice drawn from across the country. These individuals, chosen by their peers, have earned this recognition based on achievements over a minimum 15-year period, during which they have led the field in diverse areas of environmental law and policy.”
ACOEL is an association of distinguished environmental lawyers whose members are admitted by invitation only. ACOEL members are dedicated to maintaining and improving the ethical practice of environmental law, the administration of justice, and the development of environmental law at both the state and federal level.
Hogan represents and counsels developers, redevelopers, manufacturers, commercial entities, and highly-regulated service businesses in all aspects of environmental law and litigation.
He earned his J.D. from Georgetown University, his M.F.S. from Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and his B.S. from Saint Peter’s University.

Map zeroes in on Delaware River watershed pollution

A new interactive map shows threats, old and new, to the vital water source. It underlines challenges that remain for a river that ‘has come back from the brink’

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:

Delaware River
Credit: Steve Guttman/Flickr CC
Delaware River
It is the longest free-flowing river east of the Mississippi, the source of drinking water for more than 15 million people and a dynamic natural resource providing billions of dollars in economic activity.
But the Delaware River Watershed faces numerous threats from both longstanding and persistent pollution. A new interactive map developed by Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center aims to pinpoint those challenges and help identify ways to address them.
“The Delaware River is a vital source of water for drinking, wildlife, and recreation,’’ said John Rumpier, clean-water program director at Environment America Research & Policy Center. “But as our map shows, we still have work to do to ensure that the watershed is — and remains — as clean as we want it to be.’’

Map of Delaware River Basin showing sites of industrial pollution and hazardous waste: Click to expand/collapse
The challenges, identified in the interactive map, are fourfold, perhaps the most troublesome involving urban runoff fouling the Delaware River and its 216 tributaries. The map also looks at the pollution threats from hundreds of industrial facilities discharging wastewater into the basin, and thousands of hazardous-waste sites in the region, including more than 100 Superfund sites.
While investments have led to improvements in water quality, more than 250 sewage-treatment plants remain to discharge effluent in the watershed. Many are antiquated, still putting much pollution into the river and other waters, according to Rumpier. At another 350 locations, combined sewer-overflow systems carry stormwater and raw sewage into waterways during times of heavy rain.
Finally, the map identifies the legacy of the region’s reliance on fossil fuels — more than 150 active and abandoned coal mines in eastern Pennsylvania and the millions of barrels of oil shipped on the Delaware each year.

Striking workers in New Jersey assured jobless benefits

Daniel J. Munoz reports for NJBIZ:

Gov. Phil Murphy inked a law Friday that extends jobless benefits to striking works.
The measure, Assembly Bill 3861, was among 19 bills signed by the governor. It had passed out of the Assembly by a 48-25 vote and a 23-14 vote in the Senate.
Under the new law, workers will be allowed to access unemployment compensation during a strike if the labor dispute was caused by the employer’s noncompliance with an agreement or existing labor laws, according to the legislation.
The workers would be subject to a 30-day waiting period unless the employer hires a permanent replacement worker. If not permitted to return to work, the former employer would have to provide back pay lost during the 30-day waiting period.
Friday’s law takes effect immediately and applies to any unemployment claims made after July 1.
Former Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a similar measure in 2016.

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