Thursday, September 3, 2015

PADEP sets 14 'listening sessions' on Clean Power Plan


The following is a news release issued today by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is announcing more than a dozen listening sessions and a 2-month comment period on the federal Clean Power Plan to hear from Pennsylvanians about the plan to cut carbon pollution. Fourteen listening sessions in locations across the state will take place between September and November.

 
“We want to hear from the people of Pennsylvania and all stakeholders as we prepare a Pennsylvania-centric plan to comply with the Clean Power Plan,” said DEP Secretary John Quigley. “Governor Wolf is committed to making the Clean Power Plan work for Pennsylvania and these listening sessions will help meet that goal. We strongly believe we can reduce carbon emissions statewide and address climate change in fair and smart ways that take into account legitimate concerns of all parties.”
 
In addition to the listening sessions, DEP will accept comments on Pennsylvania’s compliance with EPA’s Clean Power Plan through November 12, 2015. DEP is soliciting comments on the Clean Energy Incentive Program component of the CPP and on the EPA-proposed Federal Plan that serves as a model rule for states developing their state plans. DEP is also soliciting comments on specific compliance related questions which are available on the Department website.
 
Comment submissions can be made here: http://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/eComment/ or emailed to ecomment@pa.gov or mailed to 400 Market Street P.O. Box 2063 Harrisburg, PA 17105.
 
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will also hold a webinar on the Clean Power Plan at 10 a.m. on Wednesday September 9, 2015. Speakers will include DEP Secretary John Quigley and DEP Policy Director Patrick McDonnell. To register, please click here.
 
The listening sessions will begin September 15. Participants wishing to speak must register at 717-787-8727.
 
September 15, 2015: Dauphin County                            
o 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
o Department of Environmental Protection South Central Regional Office
o 909 Elmerton Ave
o Harrisburg, PA 17110
 
September 21, 2015: Allegheny County                         
o 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
o Carnegie Mellon University
o Roberts Hall – Singleton Room
o 4th Floor
o 5000 Forbes Avenue
o Pittsburgh, PA 15213
 
September 22, 2015: Cambria County                           
o 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
o Conference Center at University of Pittsburgh – Johnstown
o Heritage Hall A
o 450 Schoolhouse Road
o Johnstown, PA 15904
 
September 22, 2015: Greene County                             
o 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
o Waynesburg Central High School
o Auditorium
o 30 Zimmerman Drive
o Waynesburg, PA 15370
 
September 28, 2015: Luzerne County                            
o 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
o Wilkes University
o Henry Student Center Ballroom, 2nd Floor
o 84 West South Street
o Wilkes-Barre, PA  18701
 
September 30, 2015: Philadelphia County                                  
o 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
o University of Pennsylvania
o Kleinman Center
o Fisher Fine Arts Building, Room 401
o 220 South 34th Street
o Philadelphia, PA 19104
 
September 30, 2015: Delaware County                          
o 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
o Marcus Hook Community Center
o 7 West Delaware Avenue
o Marcus Hook, PA 19061
 
October 5, 2015: York County                                        
o 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
o Wyndham Garden York
o White Rose Event Center
o Crystal Ballroom
o 2000 Loucks Road
o York, PA 17408
 
October 22, 2015: Lehigh County                                   
o 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
o Muhlenberg College
o Trumbower 130
o 2238 Chew Street
o Allentown, PA 18104
 
October 28, 2015: Schuylkill County                               
o 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
o Penn State Schuylkill
o John E. Morgan Auditorium
o 200 University Drive
o Schuylkill Haven, PA 17972
 
October 29, 2015: Erie County                                        
o 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
o Hirt Auditorium at Blasco Library
o 160 East Front Street
o Erie, PA 16507
 
October 30, 2015: Clarion County                                   
o 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
o Clarion University
o Corner of Payne St & Wilson Ave
o Clarion, PA 16214
 
October 30, 2015: Clearfield County                               
o 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
o Penn State Dubois
o 7 Hiller Building – Auditorium
o One College Place
o Dubois, PA 15801
 
November 4, 2015: Lycoming County                            
o 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
o Penn College – Williamsport
o Mountain Laurel Room
o One College Avenue
o Williamsport, PA 17701
 
For more information on upcoming listening sessions, please visit the DEP Calendar of Events.
 
For questions concerning the comment period and listening sessions, contact the DEP Policy Office at 717-783-8727. The schedule for the sessions is also available through the Department’s website at www.dep.state.pa.us.


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San Jose Mercury reporters win prize for drought coverage

The ongoing California  drought has dropped water levels far below boat ramps at the
popular camping/fishing site, Cachuma Lake, near Santa Barbara (Photo: Frank Brill)

“Two San Jose Mercury News reporters have won one of environmental writing's most prestigious prizes -- the 2015 John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism -- for their reporting on the California drought,” their fellow SJMN staffer Bruce Newman reports.
“Lisa M. Krieger and Paul Rogers immersed themselves in the story of the state's dwindling water supply amid an era of otherwise matchless abundance, creating a lively narrative for the Bay Area News Group's readers by drilling down through arid hydrology reports and fallowed farmlands in an exceptional series of 98 stories on the slow-rolling disaster.
Lisa M. Krieger
“Whether they were exposing the "water hogs" of Beverly Hills, deconstructing the 300-mile path of the Sierra snowmelt, or explaining a 2,000-mile-long ridge of high pressure that was deflecting rain from California, the pair made "an important contribution to the public's understanding of environmental issues," said a citation accompanying the $5,000 prize.
Paul Rogers
“Earlier this year, Rogers and Krieger were given the Edward J. Meeman Award for Environmental Reporting by Scripps Howard for their drought coverage. "It's quite an honor for all of our staffers who contributed to drought coverage to see it receive the top two national awards this year in environmental reporting -- Oakes and Meeman," said David J. Butler, editor of the Mercury News and other Bay Area News Group newspapers. "And it underscores our continued commitment to serve our readers -- online and in print -- with critically important information. This was truly a team effort and the coverage continues, just like the drought."
“The other finalists for the award were InsideClimate News, the Center for Public Integrity and the Weather Channel for their collaborative investigation on the environmental hazards of fracking; and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for its report about ongoing threats to the Great Lakes.The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism presents the Oakes award annually in honor of the late New York Times' editorial writer and pioneering environmental journalist. It will be presented to Rogers and Krieger on Sept. 16 in New York by Steve Coll, the school's dean.”

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Bills appropriating $1.94B for drinking water and infrastructure projects signed by NJ Gov. Christie

 
Sayreville pump station will be “hardened” against flooding (Photo: Hatch-Mott MacDonald ) 
 
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed legislation authorizing up to $1.94 billion in state financing for projects to improve drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. The funding includes $776 million to upgrade and protect facilities from storms and flooding such as occurred during Superstorm Sandy.

In a news release, Christie said: “Through this legislation, more than 280 projects will be authorized for low-interest loans and no-interest financing that will make infrastructure throughout New Jersey more storm-resilient, enhance and protect the state’s water quality, and create jobs and advance economic development.”

The New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust (NJEIT) and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have been working in partnership for decades to provide financing to projects that will protect and enhance water quality. This mission took on added significance following Sandy, with the development of the Statewide Assistance Infrastructure Loan, or SAIL, program, which expedites the financing process to get work done more quickly in anticipation of Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster reimbursement.

Operators of infrastructure in New Jersey have undertaken a wide range of storm-resiliency projects, including replacement and hardening of pump stations, restoring and protecting key treatment and administrative facilities, construction of flood-protection walls and elevation of existing walls, ensuring backup power generators are protected, relocating infrastructure to safer ground, and construction of pumping systems to remove flood waters.

“Projects such as these are critical to ensuring these vital public services remain in operation in times of natural disasters, and that our environment is protected,” NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin said. “Sandy dealt a devastating blow to our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, much of which is located along rivers and coastal areas that are vulnerable to severe flooding.”

Storm-hardening projects authorized for funding include:

  • Nearly $185 million for the Middlesex County Utilities Authority that will allow for restoration of Sayreville and Edison pump stations, and takes steps to protect them from future flooding. The financing will also fund upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant;
  • Approximately $78 million for the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission for repairs and upgrades to infrastructure;
  • More than $72 million for ongoing restoration and resiliency projects for the Bayshore Regional Sewerage Authority in Union Beach;
  • More than $33 million for work to construct a sea wall and improve the resiliency of the Atlantic County Utilities Authority treatment plant in Atlantic City;
   Nearly $16 million for construction of wet weather pumping stations and up to $30 million in additional funds for storm water and green infrastructure to address flooding in Hoboken.

BILL SIGNINGS
:

A-4527/S-2964 (Pintor Marin, Diegnan, Tucker, Pinkin/Smith, Bateman) - Makes certain changes to Environmental Infrastructure Trust Financing Program

A-4528/S-2957 (Prieto, Coughlin, Taliaferro, Andrzejczak, Wimberly, Caride/Sweeney, T. Kean) - Authorizes New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust to expend certain sums to make loans for environmental infrastructure projects for FY2016

A-4529/S-2962 (Spencer, Mukherji, Eustace, Burzichelli, Jimenez, Egan, Caputo/Sweeney, T. Kean) - Appropriates funds to DEP for environmental infrastructure projects for FY2016
 
 

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

EPA pushed to rewrite oil and gas waste disposal rules

                                                 Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
Seven environmental organizations say they will sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to force the agency to set new and tighter standards for disposal of oil and gas drilling and fracking waste that they say now threatens public health and the environment, Don Hopey reports in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The groups, in a notice of intent to sue filed last week in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., allege that the federal agency has failed for 27 years to update and tighten baseline drilling and waste disposal regulations, as required by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the federal law that governs waste disposal.
Adam Kron, an attorney at the Environmental Integrity Project, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental group that was among those filing the notice, said the agency should “do its legal duty” and follow its own 1988 determination that concluded federal regulations for oil and gas wastes were inadequate and should be changed.
“The oil and gas industry has grown rapidly since then, and yet EPA has repeatedly shirked its duties for nearly three decades,” Mr. Kron said. “The public deserves better protection than this.”
The official court filing of a notice, a requirement under the recovery act, gives the agency 60 days to review and revise the regulations for disposal of the waste, which includes carcinogenic chemicals and radioactive waste found in drilling mud, drilling wastewater and fracking flowback water. If environmental officials do not begin to revise rules and commit to a schedule for completing those revisions within the next two months, the groups plan to ask the federal court to set tight deadlines for a regulatory update, said Matthew McFeeley, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, another participant intending to file suit.
The defense council filed a rule-making petition in 2011 asking the agency to update the waste rules but received no response, he said.
The agency issued a statement saying it will review the notice and any related information submitted to the agency. It noted that the agency proposed pretreatment standards that would require zero discharge of pollutants from unconventional oil and natural gas extraction facilities into municipal wastewater treatment plants, and has worked with states on better regulation of deep well injection of drilling and fracking wastewater.
 

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Christie's $225M Exxon settlement wins judge's approval


A state judge Tuesday approved a controversial $225 million settlement negotiated between ExxonMobil and the Christie administration related to decades of extensive pollution at two of the oil giant’s former refineries in Linden and Bayonne and other sites around the state, James M. O'Neill reported this afternoon for The Record.

The settlement had drawn intense criticism from both environmentalists and Democrats in the state legislature because it was so much smaller than the nearly $9 billion the state had originally sought when it first filed the case in 2004 during the McGreevey administration.

“After giving considerable time and thought to its task,” Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan wrote in his decision, “the court finds that the proposed consent judgment is fair, reasonable, in the public interest, and consistent with the goals of the Spill Compensation and Control Act,” the state law under which the state had originally sued Exxon.

The settlement also covers natural resource damages at 15 smaller sites, including a Teterboro fuel tank farm, as well as nearly 1,800 gas stations, that were not originally part of the case.
Several environmental groups vowed to appeal the decision to the appellate division.

“Exxon’s massive damage to New Jersey’s environment couldn’t have been more clear,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey.

“Today’s decision by the Court sadly rubberstamps the Christie Administration’s sell-out settlement. This settlement still stinks. The disregard of a generation of pollution at hundreds of Exxon facilities around the state is a slap in the face to New Jersey. Exxon has created a legacy of pollution and public health risks in our state, and we will be taking further legal action to hold the Christie Administration accountable.”

Friday, August 21, 2015

Pines exec hurled fastball win as team was still lacing up


How must it feel to be standing in the cleats of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission's ace, rookie, relief pitcher Robert Barr. Denied? Relieved? Confused?
Barr got called up this year from the political minors when his team was in big trouble.
Here's why,
Last season, team owner, Gov. Chris Christie, and General Manager Jeff Van Drew (the local state Senator) had promised big-time, corporate ticket-holder, South Jersey Gas, a pleasing outcome.
But the Pinelands Pipelayers saw their pennant hopes slip away when a bunch of local enviros fielded a Green Team that took the corporate squad into extra innings in the season's final game.

Looking decidedly Double-A alongside the Commission's Yankee pinstripes, the greenies nonetheless hung in with sterling defensive plays and support from screaming fans. As darkness descended, the game was halted--in a tie.  
In a postgame cell-burner from somewhere out of state, Christie growled into Van Drew's ear:

"I don't like losers, understand numbnuts? I don't support losers. I don't hire losers and I don't hang out with losers (pause) except for that nerd Wildstein back in high school."
"Make no mistake, sir," Van Drew said. "I've got the answer for the new season, a fireballer named Barr. All we have to do is get rid of somebody so we can put him on the roster." 
Fast, fast forward to this season. Barr's in the bull pen. The enviros are shaking. With the big game almost ready to start, and most of the Pipelayers still in the locker room checking stock picks on their smartphones, their pitching coach Nancy Wittenberg  strides to the mound. Yes, pitching coach.
Amazingly, it only takes Nancy ONE pitch to save the season.
Some claim it was an inside fastball.
Jeff Tittel insists it was a spitter. No matter, Wittenberg delivered. And Barr? Not a single pitch thrown. Who'd have thunk it.
If the foregoing fable makes no sense to you, fear not. Our interview with Carleton Montgomery, the Pinelands Preservation Alliance's Executive Director Carleton should clear it up.

[Actually, Carleton is not as happy today as when the photo at right was taken, but who could blame him.]

Interview with Carleton Montgomery
(Click on the little arrow to launch the audio)


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