Saturday, June 24, 2017

Philly politico Renee Tartaglione guilty on all charges

Renee Tartaglione - David Maialetti photo for

Joseph A. Slobodzian & Julie Shaw report for

Philadelphia politico Renee Tartaglione was convicted Friday on all 53 counts of conspiracy, theft, fraud, and tax evasion in a scheme in which prosecutors alleged she fleeced $1 million from a Fairhill mental health clinic of which she was both president and landlord.

A federal jury of six men and six women deliberated for just about four hours before returning its quick verdicts.

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Pa. Auditor General rips Penn State leaders, NCAA

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale

Eugene DePasquale pulled no punches in his press conference Thursday announcing the results of his audit of Penn State.
Pennsylvania’s auditor general had harsh words for the university, former president Rodney Erickson, former FBI director Louis Freeh, Jerry Sandusky and the NCAA.
He unloaded a lot of numbers, a lot of statistics, a lot of data, but he also unleashed a hefty amount of opinion on how the Penn State board structure works and how things have happened since the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
“I’m gonna get myself in trouble,” he said at one point.
It didn’t stop him.
Read the full story here
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Friday, June 23, 2017

LaRossa leaving PSE&G for new role leading PSEG Power

Eric Strauss reports for NJBIZ:
Ralph LaRossa is leaving his post as president and Public Service Electric & Gas for a new position in the Public Service Enterprise Group family, PSEG announced Friday.
Ralph LaRossa is moving to a role leading PSEG Power.
LaRossa, who has led the New Jersey’s largest utility for more than a decade, will become the president and COO of PSEG’s merchant generation business, PSEG Power.

In this role, he is replacing Bill Levis, who announced his retirement in December. PSEG Power is an independent power producer that generates and sells electricity in the regional PJM, New York and New England wholesale markets.

“In his career at PSE&G, Ralph has demonstrated the right skills to step into this key leadership role,” PSEG Chairman, CEO and President Ralph Izzo said in a prepared statement. “For the past decade, Ralph has successfully led PSE&G through the largest capital program in its history. During this period, he led the recovery from Superstorm Sandy and maintained a focus on operational reliability and the needs of our customers. Ralph has demonstrated strong leadership and is respected across PSEG and the industry as he assumes this role as PSEG Power.”
Meanwhile, David M. Daly, president and COO of PSEG Long Island, has been chosen to replace LaRossa as president and COO of PSE&G, as well as chairman of PSEG Long Island.

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Philly comptroller wants to kick BigBellys off the curb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The City Controller says those Bigbelly trash compactors around Philadelphia are in a sorry state. And, he claims, they’re not working as advertised. But city officials strongly disagree with his findings.
The Bigbelly Solar compactors created a buzz when first installed in Center City in 2009.
They were supposed to be smarter than those old wire mesh trash receptacles that were always overflowing, and were intended to make our streets cleaner, save money, and improve the environment.
But, Controller Alan Butkovitz is trashing the system.
“While the Bigbellys were promoted as a tool to reduce the collection rate, with their ability to store more trash, there’s been no sufficient documentation to substantiate any financial savings,” Butkovitz said.
img 6866 City Controller Trashes Philadelphia Bigbelly Compactors
(credit: Steve Tawa)
Butkovitz says there’s no viable work order and maintenance tracking system, and the original Bigbellys, many of which he says are disgusting, are reaching their life expectancy.
Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams disputes Butkovitz’s claims that the Streets Department has not done a comprehensive cost benefit analysis.
“We’re saving about $650,000 per year with the decreased collection costs,” said Williams.
Williams says they’ve reduced the frequency of collections from 17 per week at the old litter bins, to 3.5 per week at each Bigbelly.
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

A landmark Pa. decision on Environmental Rights

Drilling rig in Pa's Tioga State Forest - Scott Detrow photo - StateImpact

Susan Phillips reports for StateImpact:

In a landmark environmental decision, a majority of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court justices established a broad interpretation of the Environmental Rights Amendment to the state constitution Tuesday, cementing in place the commonwealth’s role as trustee for public natural resources. The move is a victory for environmental advocates, and a defeat for the state and industrial polluters, who had argued that granting a wider interpretation could deter economic development.
Writing the majority opinion, Justice Christine Donohue said the prior interpretation of the amendment, which included a 3-part legal test and was in place for four decades, “strips the constitution of its meaning.” The opinion clearly defines the role of the state as trustee, which the court said is associated with fiduciary responsibilities.
“The Commonwealth (including the Governor and General Assembly) may not approach our public natural resources as a proprietor, and instead must at all times fulfill its role as a trustee,” wrote Donohue. “Because the legislative enactments at issue here do not reflect that the Commonwealth complied with its constitutional duties, the order of the Commonwealth Court with respect to the constitutionality of 1602-E and 1603-E is reversed, and the order is otherwise vacated in all respects.”
The case brought by the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation challenged the use of oil and gas lease proceeds for anything other than environmental preservation. Each year the state brings in millions of dollars from leasing state forest land to drillers, which was directed back into environmental conservation programs. In 2009, the legislature and former Governor Ed Rendell allowed some of that money to flow into the general fund. Commonwealth Court in 2015, upheld diverting income from those leases to the general fund.
Tuesday’s Supreme Court decision rejected the Commonwealth’s ruling that employed a more narrow interpretation of Article 1, Section 27 of the state constitution, also referred to as the Environmental Rights Amendment, which was passed by referendum in 1971:
The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.
The decision relies on a 2013 ruling that struck down parts of a major gas drilling law known as Act 13. But in that case, only a plurality of justices agreed with a broad interpretation of the Environmental Rights Amendment. Tuesday’s 4-2 decision is more solid, according to John Dernbach, an environmental law professor at Widener University who filed an amicus brief in the case.
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Gov. Wolf to veto bill blocking local plastic-bag bans

Jon Hurdle reports for StateImpact:

Gov.Tom Wolf said he will veto a bill that would stop Pennsylvania towns and cities taxing or banning plastic single-use shopping bags.
The bill, HB 1071, went to Wolf’s desk after receiving final legislative approval from the Senate on June 14. It received bipartisan support, including from the lead sponsor, Democratic Rep. Mike Hanna of Centre County, who sought to protect jobs in a plastic bag factory in his district.
Wolf’s spokesman, J.J. Abbott, said Thursday he expects the governor will formally veto the bill in the next week, and will give his reasons for doing so at that time.
“He plans to veto the bill,” Abbott said in a statement. “When that is done, we will send a veto message to the General Assembly explaining why.”
Supporters say that by preventing cities limiting the use of single-use bags, the bill would help to protect some 1,500 jobs at bag manufacturers statewide, and that the governor’s promised veto puts those jobs at risk.
Matt Seaholm, executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a trade group, urged Wolf to reconsider his veto in view of the bill’s bipartisan support in both houses.
“These legislators are concerned about their constituents and the jobs in their districts,” Seaholm said in a statement. “The Governor should follow their lead.”
Seaholm said plastic bag ordinances enacted by local government restrict consumer choice, and argued that 90 percent of Americans have access to voluntary bag-recycling programs which have shown strong growth in the last decade.
Critics of the bill say single-use bags are an unnecessary use of fossil fuels, clog drains, pollute waterways, and add to waste-disposal costs in cash-strapped cities. They also argue that municipalities should be allowed to write their own ordinances on matters such as waste disposal that are legitimately a matter for local regulations rather than a statewide law.
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Sustainable Raritan River Awards Presented at Rutgers

Raritan River scene - Photo credit Andy Kazie

Eight individuals and organizations received Sustainable Raritan River Awards at the 9th Annual Sustainable Raritan Conference and Awards Ceremony June 9 at Rutgers’ Douglass Student Center. The annual awards recognize outstanding achievement in efforts to revitalize, restore and protect the Raritan resources and promote the area as a premiere place to live, work and raise a family.

“As in previous years, we were very impressed with both the range and sophistication of activities and projects which are underway on the Raritan Watershed. This year’s awardees represent an extremely thoughtful group of individuals and organizations who are truly making a significant difference” stated Michael Catania of Duke Farms, one of the judges for these awards.

The Sustainable Raritan Awards were established in 2010 to promote innovation and energize local efforts to restore and protect the rivers, streams and habitat of the Raritan River and Bay. There were originally six categories of awards: Government Innovation, Leadership, Public Access, Public Education, Remediation and Redevelopment, and Stewardship. Due to the breadth of nominees, additional awards have been added over the years; in 2017 a new award for Citizen Action was added. The awards highlight extraordinary accomplishments and inspire other groups across the watershed to achieve comparable levels of excellence.

"It is great to celebrate our successes in the Raritan River Basin and Bay to improve water quality with these awards," said Debbie Mans, Executive Director, NY/NJ Baykeeper. "All the awardees are real inspirations and remind us that local action matters and can make a big difference to improve our communities and environment."

This year’s recipients and a description of their achievements are as follows:

Government Innovation Award – Monmouth County Planning Department/Monmouth High Water Program. The Monmouth County High Water Mark Initiative is a unique public education effort that is raising awareness in Raritan Bayshore communities about flood risk and encouraging smart mitigation actions. To date, 72 signs have been posted in 15 municipalities showing where floodwaters reached during Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy. The Initiative provides participating Community Rating System communities an opportunity to gain points towards lowering their community rating and saving property owners money via lower insurance premiums. Launched in 2015, the Initiative is being led by the Monmouth County Division of Planning and County Office of Emergency Management in partnership with FEMA National Flood Insurance Program, Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute, and New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium.

Leadership AwardDaniel Van Abs, Rutgers University. Dr. Daniel Van Abs is a true leader in protecting the Raritan River. Dan has over 30 years of public and non‑profit sector experience developing and implementing successful and award winning programs in watershed protection, water supply management, water quality protection, open space planning, land use management, and wastewater management. During his career at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Dan managed statewide water resources planning. He created the Watershed Protection Unit at the New Jersey Water Supply Authority. As its first director, he created the source water protection program and led the effort to create the comprehensive Raritan Basin Watershed Management Plan in 2002. As Senior Director for Planning & Science with the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council, he was instrumental in creating and implementing the Highlands Regional Master Plan. Throughout his career, Dan has taught, led, and mentored many of those who work to improve conditions in the Raritan Basin and throughout New Jersey today. His contributions to the Raritan Basin are unparalleled.

Leadership AwardPeter Palmer, Freeholder Director, Somerset County. During a 55-year long career dedicated to public service, Peter has served as Mayor of Bernardsville Borough, Freeholder for Somerset County, Chair of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Agency, President of the New Jersey Association of Counties, and as a member and officer of other public bodies, boards and commissions too numerous to mention. Throughout this time, he has been a stalwart leader who has made a significant difference in the quality of life for citizens of Somerset County, the Raritan River watershed, and the State. Included among his signature accomplishments are: (1) providing assistance to 19 of the 21 municipalities in Somerset County for their participation in and certification by Sustainable Jersey; (2) preserving of significant amounts of open space and farmland throughout the county; (3) creating and implementing the Somerset County Economic Development Strategy via a unique partnership between the county and the Somerset County Business Partnership; (4) creating the successful “One-Seat Ride Campaign to allow local commuters to have direct passenger rail access to New York City; (5) supporting Priority Investment in Somerset County Initiative to advance smart planning and preservation; and (6) obtaining the designation of the Somerset County Library System as one of America’s Four Star library systems.

Public Access AwardCity of Perth Amboy. Perth Amboy is committed to making the entirety of its three-mile shoreline publically accessible. The City is currently investing in the remediation and redevelopment of a former scrap metal yard and historic fill site into new park spaces along the Raritan River. The vision is to link this to existing waterfront open space, walkways, and municipal fishing piers. The City also sponsors kayaking events and high school sailing activities.

Public Education AwardSandra Meola, Communications and Outreach Director, NY-NJ Baykeeper. As part of her responsibilities for Baykeeper’s outreach program, Sandra manages the Plastics Reduction Campaign. She developed the sampling protocol for this effort, conducted sampling throughout the Estuary, partnered with Rutgers to conduct lab analysis of the samples, and then wrote and released the first NY-NJ Harbor Estuary Plastic Collection Report. This report helped to draw public attention to the fact that, at any given time, there are up to 165 million pieces of plastic floating around the Estuary, which creates a plastic smog that threatens water quality and wildlife and slowly works its way up the food chain. Sandra’s work on this issue has greatly increased community awareness not only about the problem of plastic pollution, but also how individuals contribute to the problem by littering and by using single use plastics and products that contain microbeads, and how they can change their own behavior to lessen their impact on the environment.

Stewardship Award - AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassadors. This award is presented to AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassadors Carmela Buono, Anna Marshall, and Katee Meckeler for their work on a riparian restoration project that targeted six different areas for tree planting. The Ambassadors picked up tree saplings, sorted them, and took the lead in organizing two planting sites each. They recruited, organized, and trained numerous volunteers from local partner organizations and communities. Collectively, 700 trees were planted. Their effort inaugurates a legacy project intended to be continued by future Watershed Ambassadors in the Raritan basin. The passion, enthusiasm, and initiative demonstrated by Carmela, Anna, and Katee reflect great credit on themselves, the AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassadors program, and the communities they serve.

Non-Profit Innovation Award coLAB-Arts. The mission of coLAB-Arts, a New Brunswick-based and artist-driven organization, is to “create more livable, sustainable and exciting communities through art.” It does this by engaging “artists, social advocates and communities to create transformative new work.” This mission has been well realized to the benefit of the Raritan River and watershed. In 2016, coLAB-Arts engaged a special focus on re-connecting central New Jersey residents to the River and the lower Raritan watershed through several events, including “A Watershed Moment”, an immersive dance and musical performance piece; and second, “Squaring the Circle”, a commissioned piece of new choreography developed as part of the Motion New Dance Work residency of Monteleone Dance with the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership. These works served as wonderful tools to convey the wide variety of ecological issues facing the river. This unique and effective approach to watershed protection represents an innovative use of the performing arts as an effective means of promoting social change and ecological enhancement.

Citizen Action AwardAndy Still. If anyone embodies the idea that one person can make a difference, it is Andy Still. Andy has participated in dozens of Raritan River clean-ups, resulting in tons of garbage removed from the watershed. Andy has volunteered numerous hours to assist with the Rutgers Raritan River Migratory Fish Passage Study. Andy shares his personal reflections and passions for the River via social media, inspiring us all to do our part to make the Raritan River fishable and swimmable.

Award nominations are accepted throughout the year. To learn more about the Awards, the Sustainable Raritan River Collaborative, or Rutgers’ Sustainable Raritan River Initiative, visit

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NJ energy and enviro bills up for pre-summer-recess votes

The New Jersey Senate and Assembly are adding bills by the day to their already long lists of legislation posted for votes during the remaining, pre-summer-recess sessions tomorrow and next Monday and  (if necessary) Thursday.

Here are the energy and environment bills on tomorrow's voting agendas:


A-1672  Schaer, G.S. (D-36); DeAngelo, W.P. (D-14); Quijano, A. (D-20); Benson, D.R. (D-14)
Establishes "Neighborhood Solar Energy Investment Program."  Related Bill: S-2275
A-2095  Mukherji, R. (D-33); Spencer, L.G. (D-29); Jasey, M.M. (D-27)
Requires posting of signs warning of presence of, and potential danger caused by, duckweed on water bodies in public parks.
A-3295  McKeon, J.F. (D-27); Benson, D.R. (D-14); Kennedy, J.J. (D-22)
Concerns low emission and zero emission vehicles; establishes Clean Vehicle Task Force. Related Bill: S-985 
A-3945  Gusciora, R. (D-15); Conaway, H. (D-7); Chiaravalloti, N. (D-31)
Prohibits certain possession, sale, trade, distribution, or offering for sale of shark fins.
Related Bill: S-2044
A-4118  Mazzeo, V. (D-2); Lampitt, P.R. (D-6)
Authorizes annual issuance of permit to sell alcoholic beverages at seasonal farm market.
A-4152  Andrzejczak, B. (D-1); Mazzeo, V. (D-2); Land, R.B. (D-1); Burzichelli, J.J. (D-3)
Limits application of DEP shellfish habitat rules for certain dredging activities.  Related Bill: S-2369
A-4540  Muoio, E.M. (D-15); Eustace, T. (D-38); Kennedy, J.J. (D-22); Mukherji, R. (D-33); Gusciora, R. (D-15)
Requires municipal land use plan element of master plan to address smart growth, storm resiliency, and environmental sustainability issues.  Related Bill: S-2873
A-4606  Dancer, R.S. (R-12); Houghtaling, E. (D-11); Eustace, T. (D-38); Space, P. (R-24)
Directs DEP to designate native bee nesting habitat areas in each State park and forest.
A-4630  Jones, P.E. (D-5)
Repeals law regulating charges assessed by a miller for grinding grain.Related Bill: S-1938
A-4631  Lampitt, P.R. (D-6); Quijano, A. (D-20); Eustace, T. (D-38); Kennedy, J.J. (D-22); Benson, D.R. (D-14); Muoio, E.M. (D-15); Zwicker, A. (D-16); Mukherji, R. (D-33)
Establishes State food waste reduction goal of 50 percent by 2030.  Related Bill: S-3027
A-4787  Andrzejczak, B. (D-1); Houghtaling, E. (D-11); Taliaferro, A.J. (D-3); Mazzeo, V. (D-2); Space, P. (R-24)
Authorizes alternate members for farmers on State Agriculture Development Committee.  Related Bill: S-3285

A-4804  Gusciora, R. (D-15); DeAngelo, W.P. (D-14); Muoio, E.M. (D-15)
Establishes Green Jobs Training Partnership Program.
     Jun 22, 2017   – Posted: Assembly

A-4849  Andrzejczak, B. (D-1)
Clarifies law concerning circumstances in which members of Pinelands Commission may vote.  Related Bill: S-3283
AJR-144  Taliaferro, A.J. (D-3); Andrzejczak, B. (D-1); Houghtaling, E. (D-11); Space, P. (R-24); Dancer, (R-12)
Establishes "Healthy Pollinators Task Force."
AR-200  Singleton, T. (D-7); Benson, D.R. (D-14); Quijano, A. (D-20)
Urges DEP to revise and update Statewide Water Supply Plan and urges citizens of State to conserve water.
Related Bill: SR-93
S-1808  Van Drew, J. (D-1); Diegnan, P.J. (D-18)
Designates striped bass as NJ State Saltwater Fish; re-designates brook trout as NJ Freshwater Fish.
Related Bill: A-3342
S-2369  Whelan (D-2); Van Drew (D-1); Connors (R-9)
Limits application of DEP shellfish habitat rules for certain dredging activities.
Related Bill: A-4152
S-3027  Smith, B. (D-17); Greenstein, L.R. (D-14)
Establishes State food waste reduction goal of 50 percent by 2030.  Related Bill: A-4631
SCR-144  Sweeney, S.M. (D-3)
Commends Rutgers University Coastal Ocean Observation Laboratory for contributions to ocean research, data collection, technology, and forecasting.  Related: ACR-231

S-1076  Turner, S.K. (D-15)
Designates "Garden State" as State Slogan.
Related Bill: A-3437

S-2874  Greenstein, L.R. (D-14); Cunningham, S.B. (D-31)
Authorizes use of certain electric school buses.
Related Bill: A-4538
S-3181  Smith, B. (D-17)
Permits solar electric power generation facility projects not having commenced commercial operation to retain designation through May 31, 2018 as connected to distribution system.  Related Bill: A-4756
Looking Ahead: Assembly list for June 26, 2017

S-3240  Greenstein, L.R. (D-14); Codey, R.J. (D-27)
Authorizes NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust to expend certain sums to make loans for environmental infrastructure projects for FY 2018.  Related Bill: A-4996
S-3241  Smith, B. (D-17); Codey, R.J. (D-27)
Appropriates funds to DEP for environmental infrastructure projects for FY 2018. Related Bill: A-4998
S-3242  Gordon, R.M. (D-38); Oroho, S.V. (R-24)
Clarifies procedures for approval of environmental and transportation infrastructure projects.  Related Bill: A-4997
SCR-153  Kyrillos, J.M. (R-13)
Approves FY 2018 Financial Plan of NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust.  Related Bill: ACR-246
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How to fix Penn Station? Architects: Rebuild the original

Larry Higgs reports for

A plan to recreate the architectural masterpiece that was the original Penn Station, built in 1910 and demolished in the mid 1960s, could solve some of the overcrowding and delay issues that plague commuters on a daily basis, said supporters of the idea.
The proposal by the National Civic Art Society, would build a replica of the original station, which featured Roman inspired architecture and columns, soaring interior spaces and skylights that earned it the nickname, "the temple of transportation."
The loss of the station spawned a preservation movement that was credited with saving Grand Central Terminal from demolition.
The proposal calls for replacing the current dismal subterranean Penn Station with a $3 billion to $3.5 billion replica, which could be constructed in five years to serve the 650,000 daily passengers that use Penn Station, said Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society, which proposed the project.
By contrast, the $4 billion World Trade Center transportation hub's Oculus, built by the Port Authority, only serves 60,000 people a day, Shubow said.
The recreated Penn Station could be financed with bonds, the selling of air rights, and the creation of a redevelopment and revenue capture district, similar to one proposed by the Municipal Arts Society in a 2013 report, he said.
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Report calls on Phila. landlords to test for old lead paint

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For years, Philadelphia has struggled to protect kids from exposure to lead. In December, a special advisory group began to address the problem. The group released its final report and recommendations Tuesday calling on landlords of properties built before 1978 to test and certify those properties as being lead safe or lead free.  (Newsworks)

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