Saturday, October 1, 2016

Second Bridgegate defense attorney grills Wildstein

On Friday, before the Bridgegate trial of Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly recessed for the weekend, it was Kelly's attorney Michael Critchley's turn to challenge the prosecution's star witness, David Wildstein.

David Cruz has the story for NJTV NEWS. (See print stories below)



Related Bridgegate news stories:

Wildstein details political involvement in Christie campaign
Bridgegate snitch testifies about bromantic photo with Christie 
Star Bridgegate witness admits career of 'lies and deceptions'


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Friday, September 30, 2016

A surprise agreement on transportation funding for NJ


After months of political maneuvering that resulted in the shutdown of almost all public road and bridge construction projects and lost pay for workers, Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democrat leaders of the Senate and Assembly this afternoon made the surprise announcement that they have agreed on a plan to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund.

In exchange for a 23-cent-a-gallon increase in the gas tax (from 14.5 cents to 37.5 cents), Christie, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said they also will phase out the estate tax and decrease the sales tax by 3/8 of a percentage point -- from 7% to 6.875% in 2017 and to 6.625% in 2018.

The deal also would increase a tax credit for the working poor, among other cuts.

The Legislature is expected to meet in a special session next week to adopt the agreement.

David Cruz of NJTV NEWS has the video story and Maddie Hanna of Philly.com covers the print side: Deal raises NJ gas tax by 23 cents 


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A surprise agreement on transportation funding for NJ


After months of political maneuvering that resulted in the shutdown of almost all public road and bridge construction projects and lost pay for workers, Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democrat leaders of the Senate and Assembly this afternoon made the surprise announcement that they have agreed on a plan to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund.

In exchange for a 23-cent-a-gallon increase in the gas tax (from 14.5 cents to 37.5 cents), Christie, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto said they also will phase out the estate tax and decrease the sales tax by 3/8 of a percentage point, both by 2018.

The deal also would increase a tax credit for the working poor, among other cuts.

David Cruz of NJTV NEWS has the video story and Maddie Hanna of Philly.com covers the print side: Deal raises NJ gas tax by 23 cents 


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Some fear new Pa. bill would weaken enviro standards

Pine Creek in Lycoming County, Pa.  Photo by Marie Cusick/STATEIMPACT 

A state Senate committee approved a resolution Tuesday calling for an analysis of Pennsylvania’s environmental laws and regulations, to ascertain which ones are more stringent than federal rules.
Marie Cusick reports for STATEIMPACT:

Proponents say it helps streamline government and encourage economic growth, while environmental groups argue it’s designed to roll back standards that protect public health.
Sen. Michele Brooks (R- Crawford) is the prime sponsor. She was not available to comment Wednesday, but in a memo to fellow lawmakers, says the resolution will give Pennsylvania a more competitive business climate.
“While most certainly all of us understand the importance of our environment, this resolution is intended to find balance through practical application of the laws and regulations and at the same time permit economic growth and job creation,” Brooks wrote. “Hopefully, this can be a first step in pinpointing current laws and regulations that impact hardworking citizens and businesses.”
Joanne Kilgour heads the Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club and says while the resolution appears innocuous, she remains concerned.
“Even though the resolution claims to only be about taking inventory, the obvious motivation is to try to move forward with Pennsylvania having the least restrictive regulations,” says Kilgour. “That’s the last thing we should be doing, as one of the top-polluting states in the country.”
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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Largest ever NJ beach replenishment project is launched



It will stretch from Manasquan Inlet to Barnegat Inlet along the northern New Jersey Shore--a 14 mile-long beach replenishment project expected to cost $150 million.  

Won't it eventually wash away like every previous project of its kind?  

Yes. Even the Army Corps of Engineers admits so, but they also say it's still the best available solution to protect shore properties and New Jersey's valuable tourist trade

Briana Vannozzi of NJTV NEWS has the details on the latest federal/state beach rebuilding effort.

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Driver strikes New Jersey deer and deer seeks revenge

The dashboard camera in a New Jersey police vehicle responding to a distress call from a woman whose car had just hit a deer caught this footage of the wounded deer trying to force its way into the woman's car.

Had Bambi decided not to go down without a fight?  

Here's the story (and amazing video) from Brick Shorebeat:


Video from a Howell Township police vehicle shows what the department likened to a “scene from a cheap comedy” on Wednesday – a deer jumping into a woman’s car.
In the incident, which occurred Sept. 18 at about 8 p.m., Patrolman Nicholas Austin was responding to a call for service while traveling on Oak Glen Road, approximately one mile west of Rt. 547, when he saw a deer cross the roadway from right-to-left several hundred feet in front of him.
Austin, according to Detective Sgt. Christian Antunez, wasn’t sure if the vehicle, a 2008 GMC Envoy, travelling in front of him struck the deer until the vehicle pulled over to the side of the road. Austin also pulled over to provide assistance to the driver, Ellen Sager, 43 of Howell.
While doing so, the same deer that Sager had just struck ran back across the roadway left-to-right and attempted to jump into Sager’s vehicle as she opened the door. Sager was still in the driver’s seat with the door open as the deer attempted to climb over her and into the vehicle.
“In what appears to be a scene from a cheap comedy, Sager physically struggles with the rather large deer and has to kick the deer out of her vehicle and quickly close the door to keep it out,” said Antunez. “Austin was nearly as surprised as Sager and the two shared a laugh after the incident.”
Sager reported a minor injury to her knee as a result of the “scuffle.” Unfortunately, Antunez said, the deer succumbed to its injuries as a result of the impact with the vehicle.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Cuomo's vision: New Penn Station for Amtrak and the LIRR


Charles V. Gagli reports for The New York Times:

For nearly a quarter-century, governors and mayors in New York have been stymied in their attempts to fix Pennsylvania Station, one of the busiest transit halls in the Western Hemisphere and one of the most crowded and confusing.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday presented a fast-track plan that would finally create a train hall and retail space in the James A. Farley Building, also known as the General Post Office, on the west side of Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, while renovating the cramped, dingy underground passageways and platforms across the avenue at Penn Station.

The Farley Building would become a home for both Amtrak and, in a break with past proposals, the Long Island Rail Road; that should bring some relief to the congestion at Penn Station, which also houses New Jersey Transit trains and two subway lines. On any given day, more than 600,000 commuters and travelers — triple what the station was designed for — move through it.

The Farley train hall is expected to open in December 2020.

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, said his administration had selected a team — the developers Related Companies and Vornado Realty and Skanska AB, the giant construction management firm — for the $1.6 billion plan. He announced the plan at a luncheon for the Association for a Better New York, a business organization.

“This plan is smarter and better for people who will use the complex,” Mr. Cuomo said in an interview. “And it will actually happen.”

According to state officials, all of the necessary approvals are in place, as well as the funding. The developers would pay New York State about $600 million, which would include an upfront payment of $230 million and annual payments in lieu of taxes over 30 years, which the city has to approve. The developers would also provide the state an unspecified share of the retail revenues at the train hall and, possibly, advertising, officials said.

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Wildstein says Christie knew; No evidence, Christie says

NJTV NEWS Correspondent Michael Aron calls Tuesday's testimony by David Wildstein, a former aide to NJ Gov. Chris Christie, 'explosive.'

Wildstein testified that the governor knew about the George Washington Bridge lane closures during the lane closures.



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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

NJ's largest utility moving into unregulated power sales

New Jersey's largest utility is quietly setting up PSEG Energy Solutions to sell
Ralph Izzo, chairman, CEO, and president of PSEG
electricity and gas to commercial and industrial accounts

NJ Spotlight's Tom Johnson reports:

Public Service Enterprise Group is getting into the retail energy business.
The Newark energy company is quietly setting up an unregulated business called PSEG Energy Solutions to sell electricity and gas to commercial and industrial customers.
The venture, expected to be launched early next year, is similar to businesses already set up by energy conglomerates, including by affiliates of the owners of the three other electric utilities in New Jersey, all of which have retail subsidiaries.
PSEG Energy Solutions is initially focused on providing a hedge to its PSEG Power, which owns more than 12,000 megawatts of generating capacity. With power prices slumping, the new venture can assure all of its generation assets are maximized.
“Our intention is to help hedge the power portfolio,’’ said Tom Chamberlin, the newly hired managing director of PSEG Solutions. The company will not market to residential customers, unlike other retail businesses set up by competitors.
Since the state deregulated the energy marketplace, utilities have gotten out of the generation business, making a profit only on delivering electricity and gas to their customer through their poles, wires and pipes. Unregulated companies, largely energy companies with power plants, and suppliers that buy the electricity and gas and sell it directly to customers, have taken their place.
Exelon, which recently acquired Atlantic City Electric, owns Constellation, one of the largest retail energy businesses in the country, with 2 million customers. PSEG Solutions’ ambitions appear to be much more modest.
In an earnings call earlier this summer, Ralph Izzo, the chairman, CEO, and president of PSEG, used that term when describing the new company’s aims.
“We remain interested in retail for our defensive purposes managing basis risk and not as a significant growth opportunity by any stretch of the imagination,’’ Izzo said, when asked about the issue.
With power prices depressed, PSEG has relied on its utility, Public Service Electric & Gas, in the past couple of years to earn the bulk of its profits, primarily by investing heavily in a multibillion dollar capital construction program.
A lot of energy companies are getting involved in the retail energy business, according to Paul Patterson, an energy analyst with Glenrock Associates. “It’s a way of hedging their output,’’ he said.
Initially, PSEG Energy Solutions will focus primarily on the electricity sector in areas where its generation assets are located (primarily New Jersey and Pennsylvania), but it also wants the option to provide customers with gas. The company recently applied to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities for licenses to sell electricity and gas.
The new company will probably be based in Newark, and is currently looking to fill two or three new positions, according to Chamberlin.

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Under fire, PennEast proposes 33 pipeline route changes


Beset with criticism about the environmental impacts of its project, the developer of the PennEast natural-gas pipeline is proposing dozens of modifications to its route through parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:
The PennEast Pipeline Company LLC Friday filed new changes to its pipeline route with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, including seven in New Jersey. All told, the company made 33 modifications to the 118-mile route, adding two miles in the process.
The changes minimize environmental impacts by modifying the route to run along existing transmission lines — avoiding wildlife habitats and reducing tree clearing, according to the company. No new landowners are affected by the revisions, the company said.
But critics argued that the modifications — made after public comment closed on a draft environmental impact statement — demonstrate the harm posed by building the pipeline and called on regulators to undertake a new analysis of the project.
“It’s pretty significant route changes — both in New Jersey and Pennsylvania,’’ said Tom Gilbert, campaign director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “It calls into question the whole EIS.’’
Not a single federal or state agency voiced any support for the projects submitted on its EIS, Gilbert noted. “FERC must withdraw the application to fully evaluate a no-action alternative.’’
But Pat Kornick, a spokeswoman for PennEast, said the company submitted its route modification based on comments made by the public and government agencies and were responsive to their recommendations.
The changes reduce the permanent impacts on forested wetlands by 64 percent; curb impacts to endangered species, including a known salamander habitat in Delaware Township; and incorporate 23 additional trenchless crossings to reduce impacts to pristine waterways. 
Read the full story here

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