Thursday, March 5, 2015

Is your snow-day shoveling finished? Time to catch up on energy and environment news in NJ, PA, NY and DE


So you just had a hot shower after an hour of shoveling the latest, latest, snow of this miserable winter. Time for a break and a nice reward.

Click this link for your free copy of today's EnviroPolitics newsletter.

Pour yourself a schnapps, pull up close to the warmth of your computer screen and enjoy.  

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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

EPA McCarthy's cuddly pitch for safe-cleaning products

Even a Tea Partier set on defunding the Environmental Protection Agency might have a tough time saying no to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy's adorable dog Emma.

Yeah, we know you don't want the government telling you what to buy, or who to vaccinate, or how soon in life to let your kids practice with automatic weapons down at the firing range.

But Emmy just wants to help you keep your floor clean without harmful chemicals. Maybe we can start the dialogue at that level--three feet below the conference table--and work our way up to nuclear disarmament. Waddaya think?


As for cleaning products with EPA's Safer Choice label, they'll be hitting the grocery
shelves this Spring and Summer. McCarthy explains it all in the video above and Emma approves the message.

Related environmental news stories:
EPA introduces new household chemical product labeling system - National Monitor 
Look for safer cleaning supplies to get the job done - Consumer Reports.org 
Buying green - Tucson News Now – Electronics 
Interview with Dr. Michael Hansen, Consumer Union Senior Scientist

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Curious about EnviroPolitics? Latest 2 issues here--FREE


Maybe you've heard about our daily energy and environment news source from a fellow environmental attorney...

Or from an energy or environment consultant, a trade association exec, an environmental organization, or a state regulator or legislator.

Maybe you already subscribe to our free EnviroPolitics Blog or our Enviro-Events Calendar.

Still, you haven't seen our flagship information resource--EnviroPolitics.

Today's your chance. Not only can you simply click here for today's issue,

You also can download yesterday's issue here.

If you like what you see, you're really in luck. One last click for a full month's worth of daily, EnviroPolitics issues. No charge. No catch. No kidding.

Find out why the region's brightest environmental attorneys, engineers, consultants rely on EnviroPolitics to stay up with--and ahead of--targeted political, energy and environment
issues, legislation and regulation.

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Donna O'Gorman to manage projects for architect firm


DMR Architects
in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ, announces that  Donna Coen O’Gorman, AIA  has joined  the firm’s project management staff. With more than 30 years of experience in the construction industry, Donna is accomplished in managing large, complex construction projects, particularly in the education and higher education sectors.  
Previously, Donna served as Assistant Director at Kean University, managing facilities, construction projects and grant reporting. She also worked for the New Jersey Schools Development Authority for 10 years, managing daily operations of the Northern Regional Office, supervising staff and overseeing construction projects ranging from $1.5 million to $65 million in 18 school districts.

With a background in architecture, she has worked at several architectural firms in both New Jersey and Florida. Donna earned her Bachelor of Architecture degree from the New Jersey Institute of Technology and a Mini-MBA in Finance from Rutgers University.
Donna can be reached at DMR at 201-288-2600 or donnao@dmrarchitects.com
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Monday, March 2, 2015

NJ Spotlight picks state's 10 top energy policy-shapers














Who would you pick as the 10 individuals who are having the greatest impact on energy policy in the Garden State?


Tom Johnson, the energy and environment writer for NJ Spotlight floated his Top 10 today. We find it difficult to argue with, but you may not agree.  

Johnson designates Governor Chris Christie as #1. That's pretty much a given, considering how nothing gets done (or undone) in New Jersey without the approval of this micro-managing chief executive. Here's how Tom describes Christie's influence on energy policy:
Early in his tenure, Christie engineered a revamping of the state’s Energy Master Plan, the document that primarily spells out the priorities for how New Jersey residents and businesses get their electricity and gas. The plan advocated increasing reliance on natural gas, developing offshore wind farms, and building more efficient and localized power plants to add resiliency to the power grid. The results have been mixed at best. New power plants have sprung up, but without the subsidies proposed by the administration, which is good for ratepayers. No offshore wind farms have been approved. The administration and lawmakers also have diverted more than $1 billion in ratepayers’ subsidies from clean-energy programs to plug holes in the state budget, a strategy some say has hurt efforts to shift New Jersey away from fossil fuels to a clean way of producing electricity. He also pulled out of a 10-state initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global climate change, calling the program a tax on utility customers.

Following are NJ Spotlight's remaining Top Ten members 

2. Ralph Izzo

As chairman, president and chief executive of Public Service Enterprise Group, Izzo exerts enormous influence on the state’s energy policies, some of which are shaped by actions taken by Public Service Electric & Gas and the company’s fleet of unregulated power plants. He presides over the company at a time when the energy and utility sector is rapidly changing, a trend Izzo often talks about and is adapting strategies to accommodate the shift. PSE&G also is the most aggressive utility in promoting energy efficiency to reduce costs to customers, as well as installing solar systems. At the same time, PSE&G is embarked on a $1.2 billion program to make its power grid more resilient to extreme storms, such as Hurricane Sandy. All of those projects and investments increase the company’s revenues and profits.

3. Sen. Bob Smith

As chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, Smith has been instrumental in enacting many of the major energy bills approved by the Legislature in recent years. They include a measure to revive the state’s once-thriving solar sector, which seems to have succeeded. Much more dramatic changes could be in the offing, if Smith gets his way. Probably the most dramatic would be to change the business model of the traditional utility -- no longer linking a utility’s revenue to the amount of gas and electricity sold to customers, a process known as decoupling. Some clean-energy advocates say such a change is critical to promoting increased use of renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects.

4. New Jersey Board of Public Utilities President Richard Mroz

Mroz has not been at the BPU long, but he has a lot on his plate. The agency’s ability to control what customers pay on their utility bills has been greatly reduced in recent years, partly because of the deregulation of the energy and cable TV sectors. Nevertheless, bills could rise on a number of fronts, including state efforts to reduce power outages during major storms -- an undertaking that could require big investments from both electric and gas companies. The BPU, too, has little control over transmission projects and the costs imposed on ratepayers, which have risen dramatically in recent years. The agency, however, has taken a more aggressive stance when fighting proposals from both the federal government and the regional operator of the power grid that could increase costs to consumers.

5. Division of Rate Counsel Director Stefanie Brand

Brand is the primary advocate for residential and business customers on ratepayer issues, no small task in a state with some of the highest energy costs in the nation. Her office filed a petition to the BPU, arguing Jersey Central Power & Light might be earning more than the amount regulators had approved. The case, which has dragged on for years, could be settled this month or next, likely with steep cuts in bills for the utility’s 1 million customers. Brand, however, has won few friends in the solar sector for her frequent comments that subsidies to support the industry should be eventually phased out. She also opposes efforts to give solarlike subsidies to promote more energy efficiency in New Jersey.

6. Senate President Stephen Sweeney

Sweeney controls what bills other senators have an opportunity to vote on. A Democrat, widely believed to be a likely gubernatorial candidate in 2017, he has been increasingly critical of some of the Christie administration’s energy policies. His biggest beef is that the administration has yet to adopt crucial regulations to allow offshore wind farms along the Jersey coast. He has shown an ability to make deals with Christie, but none yet on the energy issues he seems to most care about.

7. Laurence Downes

Downes is the chairman and chief executive officer of New Jersey Resources, the owner of New Jersey Natural Gas. His company, too, has been adapting to changes in the energy sector, installing natural gas refueling stations in its territory -- a strategy that might help convert fleets to cleaner-running vehicles. The utility also has been in the forefront of efforts to convince customers to use more natural gas via a special tariff adopted by the state BPU. How successful has it been? The parent company’s stock hit an all-time high early last month.

8. Steven Gabel

The president and founder of Gabel Associates, based in Highland Park, Gabel is an economist and former BPU staffer often called on to testify on energy issues before the Legislature. Soft spoken and dispassionate, he is good at boiling down the arcane details of energy policies and their impacts on consumers and markets, issues not so familiar to many lawmakers. His firm also has been successful in helping 15 towns reduce energy bills by pooling all customers together to negotiate cheaper electric bills from utilities.

9 Lyle Rawlings

A longtime proponent of solar energy, Rawlings is owner and president of a solar firm based in Flemington. The New York Times Magazine called him the founding father of renewable-energy legislation in New Jersey. He has yet to stop. A broad coalition he created is trying to convince the Legislature and Christie administration to ramp up New Jersey’s goals so that 80 percent of its electricity comes from renewable energy. It is not likely to happen anytime soon, but don’t expect Rawlings to give up the cause.

10. Steven Goldenberg

An attorney (also formerly with the BPU), Goldenberg represents (and founded) the New Jersey Large Energy Users Coalition, a group representing big manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies. As such, his views carry a lot of weight among policymakers seeking to reduce the state’s energy costs and make it more competitive, a goal that has yet to be achieved. He served on Christie’s transition team and a special task force charged with helping develop the state’s Energy Master Plan. He also has been a big advocate of legislation to promote energy efficiency to reduce those costs.

Don't agree? If you would switch up the batting order or substitute others at various positions, please provide details in the comment box below. It will be fun to read how others assess this.
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Energy and environment legislation in Trenton this week

Here are the energy and environment bills that will be considered
in committees of the New Jersey Legislature this week:
  
 
MONDAY

ASSEMBLY TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND UTILITIES
3/2/15 10:00 AM
Committee Room 9, 3rd Floor, State House Annex, Trenton NJ

For consideration:
A-3862
  Pintor Marin, E. (D-29); Wilson, G.L. (D-5); DeAngelo, W.P. (D-14)
Requires State to use certain energy-efficient outdoor lighting fixtures.
     
ACR-143  Mazzeo, V. (D-2); Chivukula, U.J. (D-17)
Urges President and Congress to reinstate and extend production tax credit for wind energy.
    
AR-209  Mazzeo, V. (D-2); DeAngelo, W.P. (D-14); Spencer, L.G. (D-29)
Urges BPU to expeditiously adopt regulations needed to facilitate construction of offshore wind energy projects and to establish energy efficiency portfolio standards.
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THURSDAY

ASSEMBLY TRANSPORTATION AND INDEPENDENT AUTHORITIES
3/5/15 10 AM
Committee Room 11, 4th Floor, State House Annex, Trenton, NJ
The committee will take testimony concerning the current status and health of the Transportation Trust Fund.
 
For discussion only:
A-4151  Wisniewski, J.S. (D-19); Singleton, T. (D-7)
Establishes State Transportation Infrastructure Bank Fund within New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust.   
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ASSEMBLY AGRICULTURE AND NATURAL RESOURCES
3/5/15  2 PM
Committee Room 15, 4th Floor, State House Annex, Trenton, NJ
 
For consideration:
A-2780  Andrzejczak, B. (D-1)
Prohibits DEP from reducing fishing quotas established by federal or regional entities, unless authorized by law.
      
A-2786  Andrzejczak, B. (D-1)
Creates striped bass license plates.
     
 A-3897  Andrzejczak, B. (D-1)
Allows nonprofit organizations to serve food made from wild game animals at charity and fundraising events and meetings.
Related Bill: S-2580
     
A-4025  Mazzeo, V. (D-2); Andrzejczak, B. (D-1); Space, P. (R-24); McHose, A.L. (R-24)
Creates "Fishing Buddy License."
Related Bill: S-2567
     
AR-151  Singleton, T. (D-7)
Urges Congress to pass "Summer Meals Act of 2014," which ensures children across America have access to quality meals during summer months.   
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ASSEMBLY ENVIRONMENT AND SOLID WASTE
03/5/15  2 PM
Committee Room 9, 3rd Floor, State House Annex, Trenton, NJ
 
For consideration:
A-1738  Eustace, T. (D-38); Wimberly, B.E. (D-35); Gusciora, R. (D-15)
Establishes Capture, Control, and Conserve Reward Rebate Program in DEP to encourage property owners to implement certain techniques to conserve water or control stormwater runoff.
      
A-1782  McKeon, J.F. (D-27)
Establishes criteria and requirements for shore protection project priority list and funding from Shore Protection Fund.
Related Bill: S-183
     
A-3954  Conaway, H. (D-7); Singleton, T. (D-7); Spencer, L.G. (D-29)
Requires maximum contaminant level to be established for 1,2,3-trichloropropane in drinking water.    
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Slicing up the NJ open-space funding pie could get bloody

The Christie administration is proposing how New Jersey should allocate money to open-space preservation projects in its new budget, but its plan differs in significant respects from how lawmakers want to divvy up the funds, which could trigger a fight, Tom Johnson reports today in NJ Spotlight.

"The good news, however, is that the administration is anticipating a slight boost in revenue collected from corporate business taxes, which could mean the program has $80 million to spend rather than previous projections of $71 million. That depends on whether those projections hold up, a recurring failure with the administration’s past budgets.

"With less money available than in previous years for such projects, however, the differences could create deep divisions among the many groups, towns, counties and others seeking to obtain a share of the funding -- as well as legislators. Some key lawmakers have their own priorities as to how the money should be spent, including more money for farmland preservation.

"The issue will be played out in budget negotiations that could drag on until the end of June, when the state needs to adopt a fiscal plan for the upcoming year. The debate follows approval of a ballot question last November by voters that would divert corporate business taxes to preserve open space and farmland, as well as fund other programs."

Full story: Administration, Lawmakers Could Clash Over Who Gets Open-Space Funding 

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

More coverage of NJ Senate panel’s Pinelands vote

MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Inquirer Staff Photographer

Yesterday afternoon, we reported on the Senate Judiciary Committee's split approval
of Robert Barr, Gov. Chris Christie's controversial nominee to the New Jersey Pinelands Commission.

Our post included the first-out-of-the-gate news story on the action reported by Chase Brush of PolitickerNJ: Judiciary quietly approves Christie's Pinelands Commission nominee  

A number of additional stories appeared later in the day and today. Here are a few:

Panel pushes controversial nomination for Pinelands Commission to Senate --NJ Spotlight 
With foe absent, Pinelands nominee advances in N.J. Senate - Philly.com
Ocean City man moves closer to Pinelands Commission post - Press of Atlantic City
Pipeline sparks debate at committee meeting - Shore News Today
Christie's nomination for Pinelands Commission OK'd as pipeline project looms - NJ.com
Sweeney and Christie-Crats throw Pinelands legacy under the bus - Wolfe Notes.com 

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Three energy, environment bills advance in Pa Senate









The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee yesterday released bills to:

  • Extend natural gas service into un-served or underserved areas
    (
    SB 214 -Yaw, R-Lycoming);
  • Allow municipalities to use public funds for the improvement, extension, repair or rehabilitation of private lateral sewage lines connected to public sewer systems where the municipality or municipal authority determines that such activities will benefit the public sewer system (SB 289 - Fontana, D-Allegheny); and
  • Provide for an independent counsel for the Environmental Quality Board
    (SB 307 - Yudichak, D-Luzerne)

 

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