Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Despite the media narrative, recycling will survive



Neil Seldman & Peter Anderson offered their opinion in WasteDive

The Atlantic and The New York Times recently carried near identical stories about what they portrayed as the "end of recycling" due to China's ban on scrap imports from the U.S. They outlined how this sent the price of recycling soaring, causing some cities to begin cutting down or even eliminating programs and sending materials to incinerators or landfills.
They got some of the story right, but omitted the fact that some 20 years ago, Big Waste companies made a deliberate decision to disrupt the then well-functioning dual-stream systems by convincing cities to switch to single-stream recycling. This caused contamination rates to increase and led to the market crunch started by Chinese import restrictions

Pitfalls of single-stream recycling

Recycling is a cyclical industry. In the past 50 years, commodity prices fell — in some cases more than they have during the current China-induced crisis. In each instance, many in the media proclaimed the death of recycling. Each time, recycling revived and returned better than before.
After rising quickly in the 1980s and 1990s, recycling rates slowed in 2000 and peaked to around 34% by 2010, where, according to the most recent EPA data, the country has remained since. Most cities had programs that collected paper separately from glass, metal, and plastic, minimizing contamination and allowing for cost-effective processing that was attractive to local and regional markets. According to a 2016 EPA study (based on 2007 data), the U.S. recycling industry comprised of more than 757,000 jobs, $36.6 billion in wages and $6.7 billion in tax revenue.
At the close of the 20th century, most homes had a recycling service. Recyclables that were collected in dual-stream systems had less than 10% contamination at local sorting facilities, which made them highly desirable to domestic processing plants. Citizens and small business networks did their job to promote recycling by working hard and long to promote laws that mandated recycling and composting.
Other new rules encouraged reuse and minimum scrap content in finished products. Container deposit laws, dedicated industrial parks and waste surcharges that capitalized a public-private recycling infrastructure were all components of an increasingly sophisticated system that waste hauling companies had to adhere to in order to keep their market share while still allowing small local operations to flourish.
Wall Street told Big Waste for decades that recycling diversion was "the enemy of [waste industry] profits" that had to be halted — or materials would continue to be diverted from landfills, "where they are supposed to go." The vibrant, environmentally-sound network was disrupted. Big Waste was content with a stagnation of U.S. recycling at 34%, which kept their lucrative hauling and landfill monopolies in place.
The nation’s largest waste collection and disposal companies pushed a system that allowed all recyclables to be dumped in the same container, promising that this would lead to increased diversion from landfills — and cities eagerly adopted it. Single-stream collection replaced dual-stream at an accelerated pace after being introduced in the 1990s, and by the mid-2000s, it was well on its way toward becoming the predominant collection method throughout the country. Today, 9 of the 10 largest U.S. cities use single-stream.
Single-stream systems did increase participation, but not actual recycling — contamination levels climbed toward 30% in some cases. For a number of years, China was willing to accept these increasingly contaminated bales, becoming the favorite dumping ground for America’s waste companies. U.S. residents believed that whatever they dumped into that single container ended up being recycled.
Then, China wised up as labor costs rose in its expanding economy. The country stopped accepting our contaminated materials, and soon other importing countries did the same. But by that time — like Gresham’s law about bad money pushing good money out of circulation — China’s two-decade willingness to accept contaminated materials had already undermined U.S. recycling markets.
This made cities dependent on large-scale processing facilities that produced low-grade materials and often don't recover any quality glass – 20% of the single-stream recycling mix. In many cases, the companies that run these facilities also manage — and profit far more from — collection and landfill disposal, disincentivizing them from maximizing recycling. Big Waste promoted the mantra of single-stream with evangelical enthusiasm.

NOAA just released an ominous map that shows 'unprecedented' flooding across the US that might affect 'more than 200 million' Americans

A BNSF train sits in flood waters from the Platte River in Nebraska. Nati Harnik/AP

Eric Holthaus reports for Grist 

NOAA's National Water Center released an ominous map that shows what flooding could look across the US in 2019.
"This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities," the center's director said.
Across the Midwest, the recent floods have already caused an estimated
$3 billion in damages.
Rainfall in the eastern US is now
between 29 and 55% heavierthan it was 60 years ago.

"This is shaping up to be a potentially unprecedented flood season, with more than 200 million people at risk for flooding in their communities," said Ed Clark, director of NOAA's National Water Center, in a press release. That represents about 60 percent of all Americans.

Across the Midwest, the recent floods have already caused an estimated
$3 billion in damages— a total that will surely rise. Extremely heavy snowfall in the upper Midwest this winter, combined with a forecast for a wetter-than-normal spring, set the stage for this calamity. With the exception of Florida and New England, soil moisture in much of the eastern United States is above the 99th percentile — literally off the charts. When the ground is this saturated, there's nowhere for water to go but into streams and rivers, taking precious topsoil with it and carving lasting changes into the land.

NOAA

And that's exactly what's been happening in Nebraska, where
flood-protection infrastructure has been utterly overwhelmed by record-setting water levels. Virtually every levee on the Missouri River between Omaha and Kansas City has been breached in the last week. "I don't think there's ever been a disaster this widespread in Nebraska," said Governor Pete Ricketts.




Monday, March 25, 2019

Vote on marijuana legalization postponed in New Jersey



Failing to round up enough votes today, Senate President Steve Sweeney postponed a scheduled vote on a bill that would have legalized adult marijuana use in New Jersey.

Michael Aron reports the story for NJTV News

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Pols, locals push for landmarking interior of historic tavern



Lizeth Beltran reports for Crain's New York Business
A coalition of tenants living in residential buildings owned and operated by notorious landlord Steven Croman held a rally and wake for the White Horse Tavern Thursday urging the city to landmark the interior of the historic tavern.

About 30 people attended the rally held outside the tavern, located at 567 Hudson Street in Manhattan, according to Cynthia Chafee, co-founder of the Stop Croman Coalition.


Five public officials, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, submitted a letter to the Landmarks Preservation Committee stressing their concern for the preservation of the interior of the building.


"Although the new owner has pledged to maintain its history and preserve the legacy, we believe the interior will now be open to destruction and that a landmark designation of the inside of this cultural and literary treasure is necessary to ensure its protection," officials wrote in the letter, according to Curbed NY.


Croman is part of a group of investors in contract to buy the building for $14 million.


Eytan Sugarman of Hunt and Fish Club NYC, who signed a 15-year lease on the building, is said to have done so under the condition that the bar be maintained as is, according to the Commercial Observer.


But many people are not convinced Sugarman will hold up his end of the bargain because Croman is involved. Croman was confirmed as one of the building's landlords by a representative to Sugarman, according to Curbed NY.


"They say the owner who leased the restaurant for 15 years is going to keep it exactly the same, but every time Croman has a commercial business in a building, once the lease is up, these people are gone," said Chaffee.


The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has also shown its support in preserving the interior of the building. The Preservation Society submitted a request to landmark the tavern earlier this month.


The exterior of the building itself is landmarked as part of the Greenwich Village Historic District but landmarking the interior, a rare move in the city, would protect fixtures and woodwork that date back generations to when the tavern was a hangout spot for James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg and Dylan Thomas.


Croman's long history of tenants' rights violations and harassment is widely known around the city.


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Friday, March 22, 2019

Residents try new tactic to block waste incinerator in Pa.

Falls Township residents opposed to Elcon’s hazardous waste disposal facility say the ordinance could keep the site from operating, while officials say they can’t preempt state laws.
Chris Ullery reports for the Bucks County Courier-Times
Falls and area residents opposed to a planned hazardous waste treatment plant shouldn’t hold their breath on a “clean air ordinance” vote anytime soon.
An ordinance proposed by local environmental group Bucks Power our Water & Air sought to have Falls enact clean air requirements in an effort that some believe could prevent the proposed Elcon Recycling Services LLC facility from opening on a 23-acre parcel of land previously owned by U.S. Steel in the township.
Elcon officials have said the facility would treat up to 193,000 tons of hazardous and pharmaceutical waste per year while maintaining safe air standards with “state-of-the-art” pollutant-reducing technology.
Critics of the proposal, several of whom spoke at Tuesday’s 45-minute public comment period at the Falls Board of Supervisors meeting, have likened the plans to a simple incinerator that will leak harmful pollutants into the air.
Supervisor Chairman Bob Harvie said Tuesday night Township Solicitor Michael Clarke reviewed the draft law and found state laws pre-empted the township from enacting it.
“Our attorney and his firm took a look, several times, at this issue and had discussions with other attorneys ... but we do not have the ability to pass a clean air ordinance,” Harvie said.
The ordinance, drafted by attorney Mike Ewall, founder of the Energy Justice Network of Philadelphia, would enact monitoring, access to testing results and fines upward of $50,000 and jail time for each violation.
The draft ordinance provided by Ewall, a Bensalem native, would give any Falls “resident or taxpayer” the ability to sue Elcon for violating the ordinance.
Clarke was on vacation and unavailable for comment this week, but Harvie provided two letters referenced at Tuesday’s meeting that Clarke’s office reviewed.
The letters are from the Governor’s Office of General Counsel to Allentown officials in 2013, and another to Susquehanna municipal and county officials in 2016.
Harvie clarified Thursday he mistakenly referred to the Susquehanna County opinion as “a community in Lancaster County” on Tuesday.

Planning to buy property containing abandoned rail tracks?


An appellate court decision in New Jersey highlights the need to do a proper legal review before the purchase, these Gibbons real estate attorneys caution 



The conveyance of property containing embankments or former railroad facilities may invoke complicated title issues that could lead to significant costs and delays for real estate purchasers seeking to develop the property if such issues are not adequately addressed prior to the acquisition.
On January 23, 2019, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued an unpublished decision in 212 Marin Boulevard, LLC, et al. v. Chicago Title Insurance Company and Consolidated Rail Corporation, concerning a party’s alleged misrepresentation about whether the conveyed embankment property was subject to the Surface Transportation Board’s (“STB”) abandonment authority. 
The STB is the federal agency established to oversee rate and service disputes for railways, as well as railway restructuring transactions, including the abandonment of rail lines. Presumptively, any abandonment of rail lines by an entity regulated by the STB requires STB approval, unless excepted under federal statute. 
The seller, Consolidated Rail Corporation (“Conrail”), represented to Chicago Title Insurance Company (“Chicago Title”) that STB abandonment was not required, and Chicago Title, in apparent reliance on this statement, issued policies for the conveyed parcels when the purchaser closed on the property. Even so, the Appellate Division rejected Chicago Title’s third-party complaint against Conrail for negligent misrepresentation. 
The decision should remind real estate developers to be wary of properties containing railroad lines, whether in use or not, particularly if they are still owned by a railroad company. Developers purchasing these types of properties should undertake an extra level of analysis and due diligence to ensure any abandonment issues regarding the railroad lines do not hinder the planned project.
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Could New Jersey pick up the tab for your Florida crib?

This Florida alligator will take a smaller bite out of you than the New Jersey tax collector. .

I was down in Florida the other day communing with my many high-school friends who have moved there when I came upon yet another of those articles ranking New Jersey in the top tier of states from which people are moving.
As I read it, I was sitting in the house of a friend who has every reason to move his residency out of the reach of the New Jersey Division of Revenue.The house in question has two bedrooms and is on a lake, one that comes with the alligator that seems to be de rigueur these days in Florida. Next door is the community clubhouse and pool.
The finest beaches in Florida are but a 10-minute drive away.
The cost of this crib? A mere $80,000 when my old high-school pal bought it two years ago.
That got me doing the math that so many Jerseyans do when they contemplate escaping the cold north for the Sunshine State.
My friend reported that the total cost of keeping up the house, including the club fees and taxes, is about $500 a month. That’s a mere $6,000 a year.
My friend pays several thousand more than that in New Jersey income taxes each year. But if he were to stay in his second home for six months and a day of every year, he could declare himself a resident of Florida, which has no income tax.
At that point, he would be saving more in taxes than he is spending to buy his second home. He told me he will soon be meeting with his financial advisor to discuss that very issue.
That sort of thing is far from uncommon, said another financial adviser. Josh Jalinski, who has an office in Toms River, told me he meets many a wealthy senior citizen who is planning to make the switch to Florida residency.
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Offshore drilling: What Trump's tweets don't mention

  Signe in the Philadelphia Inquirer


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Mystery water invades a New Jersey home, 500K gallons and counting in less than five months

Gerard and Penelope Garcia stand on their front lawn in February 2019. They posted a sign that asks for help to stop water coming into their home. (Photo courtesy of Gerard and Penelope Garcia)
Gerard and Penelope Garcia stand on their front lawn in February 2019. They posted a sign that asks for help to stop water coming into their home.

Every 50 seconds, for nearly a year, about 2.5 gallons of water has flowed into Gerard and Penelope Garcia’s Summit home.
You read that right: about 2.5 gallons of water every 50 seconds. Rain or shine.
The Garcias have become water detectives, but their sleuthing hasn’t solved the problem.
Neither have attempts from the couple’s water company, New Jersey American Water (NJAW), nor have efforts from elected officials, inspectors and engineers from Summit, Gerard Garcia said.
The water just keeps flowing into their basement, spewing from a source no one can find.
“It’s costing us our home. Right now our home is worth nothing,” Penelope Garcia said. “There’s no way we can sell it. We can’t even leave it for long periods of time because we don’t know what will happen to the basement.”
The first water invasion
The Garcias purchased their home in 2012, and the first sign of trouble came in April 2014.
During a powerful rainstorm, the couple’s sump pump - which they never needed before - failed. The basement flooded with several inches of water, Gerard Garcia said.
The couple assumed the water came from the heavy rains, so they fixed the sump pump.
But that didn’t correct the water problem. Instead, days after the rain stopped, the sump pump kept pumping water. Instead of the basement, the water now flooded into Garcia’s and a neighbor’s yard.
Garcia contacted NJAW, the water company.
NJAW didn’t find a line break at the Garcia home, but it did find one at a nearby condo development.
Garcia said he learned from NJAW that the home flooded in 2008 after a similar line break at the condos.
Over the next several weeks, Garcia said and records show, fixes were made to multiple pipes at the development, but that didn’t stop the water flow into Garcia’s basement.
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Suez to remove 50,000 feet of lead pipes this year in NJ



Scott Fallon reports for the North Jersey Record

About 25 percent of the lead pipes in Bergen and Hudson County will be replaced this year under a plan unveiled Thursday by Suez water company to help reduce high lead levels found in water pouring from the taps of homes last year.

The $15 million project will remove 50,000 feet of lead pipes - the equivalent of 34 Empire State Buildings laid end to end - in more than a dozen towns and cities served by the Paramus-based division of the worldwide company.

“It was important to us to make sure that our customers in these homes know we are doing everything we can for them,” Mark McKoy, vice president and general manager, said in a statement.

In what it calls a "sweeping attack," Suez will replace more than 9 miles of pipes beginning with eight towns that have the highest number of lead service lines - the pipes that connect the water main to the property line. They are:

Teaneck
Rutherford
Hackensack
Ridgefield Park
Bogota
North Bergen
Union City
West New York.

The announcement comes
a month after officials in several towns complained that Suez was moving too slowly to replace its lead lines at the minimum-mandated rate of 7 percent a year.

Oradell Council President Tracy Schoenberg, who lead the fight to get Suez to increase its replacement efforts, said she was pleased with both the announcement and the choice of towns because they have some of the oldest and most widespread lead lines.

But Schoenberg said she wants to know what Suez's plan is beyond 2019.

"It's great that they're doing 25 percent this year, but will they be able to keep up that pace in the next three years so they can get all of their lead out of the system," she said. "It puts communities like mine on the back burner without any firm idea of when they're going to start work here."

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