Friday, August 18, 2017

$70 in federal funds will help NJ upgrade water systems

Allocation will help finance $500 million in upgrades to sewage-treatment plants through the New Jersey Drinking Water State Revolving Fund

waste water treatment

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:

The federal government yesterday awarded nearly $70 million to New Jersey to help fund projects to upgrade sewage-treatment plants and drinking-water systems.

The allocation should help finance more than a half-billion-dollars worth of projects through the state’s Environmental Infrastructure Trust, a vehicle set up to help communities fund clean-water projects.
The award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is part of an annual appropriation to help the state raise water quality by improving treatment at wastewater plants and public systems providing drinking water to residents.
The money will help put a dent into one of New Jersey’s most pressing infrastructure needs — upgrading aging sewage-treatment systems and drinking water facilities.
By the EPA’s estimate, the state needs to spend $17 billion to fix its wastewater systems over the next five years and another $8 billion to upgrade drinking water infrastructure.
The biggest chunk of the money, $54.2 million, will go to the state’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, administered by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Infrastructure Trust. Along with a 20 percent state match and repayments from prior loans, the award will help finance approximately $510 million in clean-water projects at wastewater facilities.
The EPA also awarded $15.7 million to the New Jersey Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which should help finance up to about $115 million in drinking water projects.
“Resources such as these will help in the effort to modernize our aging infrastructure in our big cities, small towns, and rural areas,’’ said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin.
The EPA award comes from a program that has averted deep cuts in President Donald Trump’s first proposed budget. Forty percent of the New Jersey DEP’s budget relies on funding from the federal agency, according to Ed Potosnak, executive director of the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters.
Earlier in the day, environmental groups, members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation, and local officials held a press conference calling on the GOP-led House to block the cuts in environmental spending.
Since 1960, the federal agency has awarded $2.5 billion to New Jersey through these clean-water programs, which has enabled New Jersey to finance $6 billion in projects, largely through low-interest loans.
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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Two NJ solar companies power onto Inc's Top 100 list

Eric Strauss reports today in NJBiz: 
Inc. is out with its annual Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies, and more than 140 from New Jersey made the 2017 list, including four in the Top 100 overall.
The companies were ranked by their percentage growth in revenue over three years.
Interestingly, the four from the Garden State that cracked the Top 2 percent were divided evenly among the beverage industry and the solar energy sector
The top-ranked company in New Jersey was Newark-based Single Serve Beverage Distribution, which distributes single-serve beverage pods for Keurig machines and other drink devices. Single Serve came in at No. 11 overall thanks to a three-year growth rate of more than 13,739 percent.
The second-best-performing New Jersey business was West New York-based Dyla, which serves two beverage brands, Forto coffee drink and Stur fruit drink mix, in retail stores. Dyla ranked No. 41 overall, with three-year growth of 6,634 percent.
Momentum Solar, based in Metuchen, was the third-ranked company in the Garden State, finishing at No. 67 overall with a three-year growth rate of 5,223 percent. Momentum installs custom-designed residential and commercial solar systems.
The final New Jersey company in the national Top 100 was Sun Up Zero Down, based in Egg Harbor, which also designs and installs residential solar systems. The company had three-year growth of 4,407 percent, good for the No. 84 spot nationally.
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Offshore energy waiting on gentler political winds in NJ

The state’s industry sector needs to be brought back to life, and that will take a new administration — for starters

offshore wind

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight: 
It has been nearly seven years since a measure to promote offshore wind in New Jersey was signed into law, and not a single turbine is turning off the state’s coast.
But clean-energy advocates and some business executives remain upbeat about prospects for the sector in the state, saying there is still an opportunity for New Jersey to nurture an offshore wind industry and create tens of thousands of jobs.
At a conference in Atlantic City, the Business Network for Offshore Wind outlined steps to resuscitate the state’s offshore wind program, including increasing the commitment to build at least 3,500 megawatts of capacity, up from the existing target of 1,100 megawatts.
That would be an ambitious goal — given the repeated missteps and delays the industry has encountered in New Jersey. Although a law designed to spur offshore wind farms along the coast was passed in 2010, not a single project has won state approval.

Christie cools on wind

Gov. Chris Christie signed the law, passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, but the governor has since cooled on the technology, fearful the cost of developing the wind farms would spike energy costs in the state.
Also, his administration never bothered to implement a key provision of the law — developing a financial mechanism to provide ratepayer subsidies to help pay for the projects. Without such a mechanism, offshore wind developers say they will be unable to obtain Wall Street financing.
Nevertheless, two developers, DONG Energy and U.S. Wind Inc., have paid nearly $2 million to secure leases to build wind turbines off the coast, but their projects are still in the early stages, assessing the suitability of the sites to build the farms. By most estimates, no turbines will be operational until the middle of the next decade.

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Pa. takes first step toward regulating PFOA in water

Kyle Bagenstose reports for the Courier-Times:

A Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection board unexpectedly voted Tuesday morning to order a review of PFOA in drinking water, after being petitioned by the Bristol Borough-based environmental nonprofit Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
The chemical, along with sister chemical PFOS, has been found in nationally high levels in drinking water near military bases in Bucks and Montgomery counties, and has also been found in lesser amounts in other parts of the counties.
Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Riverkeeper Network, said the unanimous vote by the DEP’s Environmental Quality Board caught her off guard. “I’m pleasantly surprised,” Carluccio said.
The Riverkeeper Network announced in May that it was petitioning the DEP, initiating a formal regulatory process that required Carluccio to present the petition at Tuesday’s board meeting. Carluccio said she spoke for several minutes and fielded “good questions” from the 20-member, volunteer board.
“There seemed to be a lot of interest in this … they had obviously read the petition and had taken on looking at the issue in a serious way,” Carluccio said.
In an email earlier this month, DEP press secretary Neil Shader said that once the board votes to accept such a petition, DEP staff must study the chemical in question and make a formal recommendation to the board about whether a regulation should be set, and if so, the level of the chemical. If approved, every water authority in the state would be required to test for the chemical and install filtration systems if it’s found above the safe limit.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Why is Trump rolling back build standards in flood areas?

Executive order rescinds rules intended to safeguard government-financed projects against sea-level rise, climate change

flooding brick
Tom Johnson reports
for NJ Spotlight:

President Donald Trump yesterday repealed stringent building standards aimed at protecting government-financed projects in flood-prone areas by accounting for sea-level rise associated with climate change.
In overturning the two-year-old regulation initiated by the Obama administration, the executive order will roll back protections for infrastructure projects funded with federal aid from the impact of rising sea levels.
The standards, adopted in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and other big storms, were viewed as one of the most significant steps taken in decades to reduce exposure to more frequent flooding due to sea-level rise and climate change.
The action is part of a broad-based effort by the Trump administration to streamline the process for approving infrastructure projects and to roll back regulations dealing with climate change.

A baffling move

The repeal disappointed and baffled environmentalists, planners, and flood-plain managers who argued the Obama standard ensured taxpayers’ dollars would not be wasted on infrastructure projects subject to repeated flooding.
“This anti-regulatory agenda is really going to put lives, first responders, and property at risk,’’ said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society. “Economically, it is going to increase costs for disaster bailout and storm recovery efforts.’’
The order will not bar state and local agencies from using a more stringent standard, nor does it apply to private investments.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Trump moving ahead on drilling off nation's coast

Administration seeks to develop program to open all the nation’s coasts to exploration along outer continental shelf

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:

A lot sooner than they expected, coastal advocates find themselves in a new fight to prevent oil and gas drilling off the Jersey Shore.
The Trump administration will close comments on Thursday on the first step to develop a new program for oil and gas exploration on the outer continental shelf along virtually the entire nation’s coasts.
The process, governing the years 2019-2024, comes only six months after the federal government finalized a five-year program beginning this year for oil and gas leasing — one that excluded the Atlantic from any sales after a huge outcry from public officials, residents, and conservationists.
While the process is only just starting, opponents of oil and gas exploration off the Jersey coast want to send a strong signal during this phase that any drilling poses a threat to the state’s vibrant coastal communities — and its $44 billion tourism industry.
“We’ve got to be on the record at the earliest moments to make sure the state is not included in this new plan,’’ said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, who said the process is being fast tracked by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in the U.S. Interior Department.
So far, some of New Jersey’s congressional delegation has weighed in with a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Both U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker, as well as fellow Democrats Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th), Albio Sires (D-8th), Donald Norcross (D-1), and Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-9th) signed the letter.
“The reopening of this process not only endangers New Jersey’s coastal economy, but also ignores the will of the local communities that would be most impacted by oil drilling — including over 120 municipalities, 1,200 elected officials, 41,000 businesses, and 500,000 fishing families from up and down the Atlantic coast who have all voiced their opposition to oil and gas activities,’’ the delegation wrote.

Where’s Christie?

To date, Gov. Chris Christie and his administration have not taken a stand. Questions to the governor’s press office were redirected to the state Department of Environmental Protection, which did not respond to queries.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Layers of fracking contaminants found in reservoir bottom

Mike Reuther reports for the Sun-Gazette:

Releasing millions of gallons of treated water from hydraulic fracturing wastewater into area surface waters may have had a longer-lasting impact than originally thought, according to a study.

Penn State researchers have revealed that many of the pollutants remained intact after wastewater was treated at facilities.
The study, published in a recent issue of Environmental Science and Technology, considered sediment samples collected from a reservoir in western Pennsylvania.
“There wasn’t a water keeper who was sitting in these rivers collecting these samples at a great continuous clip, so in a way, a lot of information just flowed by,” said Penn State environmental professor Bill Burgos, who along with his colleagues conducted the research.
“But in certain reservoirs, where sediments collect over time, there are layers of sediment that are like rings of a tree; you can look into the sediments and capture time and spatially composite samples.”
The study considered sediments that built up over time to reconstruct the oil and gas activity occurring during the boom days of Marcellus Shale drilling from roughly 2008 to 2015.
“You need a lake or reservoir that allows sediments to lay down undisturbed in those layers,” Burgos said. “The (term) we use is a ‘coherent temporal record.’ You only get a coherent temporal record if it’s a lake that continuously accumulates sediments and isn’t subject to a flood or scour.”
The research noted that large quantities of oil and gas wastewater with high loads of chloride, barium, strontium, radium and organic compounds left high concentrations in the sediments and pore water.
The organic contaminants, nonylphenol ethoxylates and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (carcinogens) were found with the highest concentrations in sediment layers deposited five to 10 years ago during the peak of Marcellus Shale activity.
It was noted that while the findings show long-term contamination of watersheds, the effects on the environment and human health are still unknown and difficult to assess.
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E-vehicle sales surging, charging stations not keeping pace

With more than 10,000 plug-ins on the road in New Jersey, sales grew by 79 percent over prior year
electric vehicle charging station

Tom Johnson reports
for NJ Spotlight:

It might be a tad unnerving trying to find a charging station at times, but that hasn’t prevented over 10,000 drivers in New Jersey from buying electric vehicles.
Even with fewer than a thousand public charging stations in the state, the sale of electric plug-in vehicles is growing rapidly, according to an analysis by ChargEVC, a coalition supporting the growth of the market for electric vehicles.
Consider the numbers: Sales of model year 2016 electric vehicles grew by 79 percent over the prior year in New Jersey. Sixty percent of those 10,000 cars were sold in the past two years, the coalition analysis found.
“Interest in these cars is growing,’’ said Pam Frank, CEO of ChargEVC. “We expect this trend will continue as more affordable vehicles with longer range become available in the next 24-36 months.’’

Surprising trend

The trend is surprising given the frustration vented by clean-energy advocates over what they view as the state’s lackluster efforts to build the infrastructure for electric vehicles. By most accounts, the number of charging stations in New Jersey is in the hundreds.
“There’s a lot more that we could have done in New Jersey over the last seven years,’’ lamented Chuck Feinberg, president of the New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition, an organization that promotes the use of alternative-fueled vehicles.
The transformation of the transportation sector, the largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions, is widely seen as crucial to New Jersey’s efforts to improve its air quality and curb climate-warming pollution. At a legislative hearing last week on climate change, several speakers addressed the need to accelerate the use of electric vehicles.
Compared to neighboring states, New Jersey offers fewer incentives to build the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, a step that can ease range anxiety of motorists fearful their car will run out of power before they can charge the battery.

‘Out of juice’

“We need to catalyze EVs by building out an infrastructure so you don’t have to worry about running out of juice when you are out on the road,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.

Read the full story here

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Former NJ Senate President John Russo dead at 84

John Russo
Credit: Princeton Public Affairs
By Steph Solis of the Asbury Park Press:

Former Senate President John Russo, a man who defined Ocean County politics for two decades, died late Saturday night after battling an illness. He was 84.

Russo, a Democrat, was arguably Ocean County's most powerful politician, rising to the ranks of Senate president in 1973 and launching an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1985. He served five terms in the state Senate before stepping down in 1991.

"Ocean County lost a legend last night," said Russell Corby, who worked as Russo's director of legislative services.

Russo, who served 18 years in the state Senate, was known as a law-and-order legislator. He was known as the father of the state's death penalty law and sponsored the state's ban on assault weapons. In an interview with the Press in 1991, Russo said his greatest regret was never getting a ban on handguns passed in the state Senate.

"Hopefully, I leave - not with any statues in the park, but just maybe with a feeling of respect that I did the best I could," Russo told the Press at the time.

Russo was also the architect behind New Jersey's cap on state spending, the first such law in the nation. He cited that as one of his two proudest achievements in the Legislature; the second was a law that exempted senior citizens from paying income tax on their first $10,000 in earnings.

As a Democrat, Russo defied the odds, winning five terms in heavily Republican Ocean County. Once Russo left the scene — with the exception of the 1991 legislative race to succeed him — Democrats have never again won a statewide race in Ocean County.

John F. Russo is pictured on the front page on Nov. 7, 1973, the morning after he won his state senate race. (Photo: ASBURY PARK PRESS ARCHIVE)

Former Assemblyman John Paul Doyle was Russo's running mate and served with him for 18 years.

"It's kind of hard to think that there ever were Democrats elected to more than a municipal office in Ocean County," he said. "In 1973, the stars were aligned."

Doyle and Daniel Newman ran for the General Assembly with Russo in 1973, forming the Russo-Newman-Doyle trio. They created a joint constituent services office so residents had one place to go to meet their legislators.

Russo led the operation, determined to work 110 percent, Doyle said. He reached out to constituents and knew how to connect with the working man.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

New California law allows for faster shutdown of polluters

Children play in a neighborhood behind a metal-processing facility in Paramount. (Katie Falkenberg, LA Times)

Tony Barboza reports for  the Los Angeles Times:

Local air quality officials are gaining new powers to quickly stop polluters when they endanger people’s health under legislation signed by Gov.
Jerry Brown on Monday.
The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, follows years of frustration in communities such as Paramount, Boyle Heights and Maywood — where regulators have struggled to stop highly polluting operations after discovering hot spots of Chromium-6, lead and other dangerous pollutants.

Currently, air regulators seeking orders to curtail operations that violate rules and threaten public health must go through an administrative hearing board. The process can take months, while the pollution continues unabated.
As a result, residents “were being told: ‘You are in grave danger, but we can’t do anything about it,’ ” said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), who wrote the legislation.
“What we’re saying today is that when we have imminent health threats, that trumps the right to do business,” Garcia said.
The new law will give pollution control officers the power to issue immediate orders to stop polluting operations when violations pose an “imminent and substantial” danger. The orders are temporary, pending a hearing before an administrative board.
South Coast Air Quality Management District Executive Officer Wayne Nastri welcomed the legislation as “an important new tool to protect public health.”
At Anaplex Corp., a metal-finishing facility in Paramount, it took the South Coast air district months to secure an administrative order to curtail operations after the carcinogen Chromium-6 was detected last fall at levels up to 350 times normal. The district has said it would have used the new authority to stop dangerous levels of lead from the now-shuttered battery recycler Exide Technologies in Vernon and Chromium-6 from Hixson Metal Finishing in Newport Beach, among other cases.
Some industry groups opposed the legislation, while cities backed it as giving air districts the tools they need to protect residents.
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