Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A good old New Jersey environmental controversy


Oh what we would give for a good old-fashioned environmental controversy.

The kind that folks, pro and con, can really get worked up about.

One that generates dozens of op-eds, thousands of letters to the editor. One that drives industry lobbyists to fundraisers and causes enviros to descend on the Statehouse, with props and costumes, chasing legislators through the corridors and threatening to canvas in their home districts.

But what, really, is there to get worked up about these days?

Artificial turf is so 2008. So are the offshore LNG platforms.
The windmills vs. birds thing hasn't evolved enough to be interesting.
Ditto: the annually rumored rebirth of nuclear power.
Most of the wind has leaked out of the Highlands balloon and the Pinelands 'taking' issue is ancient history.

Drilling off the shore is still more Texas dream-figment than fact.
Sprawl was a bore even before the economy took out development.
The dearth of manufacturing is so severe that one can get teary-eyed with nostalgia for the days when editorials demanded tighter and tighter controls on emissions and hazardous byproducts.

What's an environmental news junkie to do?

Sure, there's the flap in New Jersey over licensed site professionals, and the electric transmission line proposal that's raising localized temperatures in Pennsylvania's Poconos and New Jersey's northwest. But neither issue has moved the needle much on the scale of public controversy.

We thought Pennsylvania and New York might rescue us with stories about the secret sauce that the well drillers were planning to ram through the subsurface to extract riches from the Marcellus Shale. But the economy has sidelined that one, too.

But despair not. Yesterday's (Newark) Star-Ledger reported on a new proposal that has some of earmarks of a real controversy. Maybe even a big one.

It's a $5 billion project called "PurGen," described by reporter Brian T. Murray as a "500 megawatt, coal-fueled facility using a 100-mile, underground pipeline to push as much as 10 million tons of CO2 annually -- emissions from the new plant and eventually neighboring industrial operations -- to a point 70 miles off the coast and about 2,200 yards beneath the Atlantic Ocean."

Now that, boys and girls, has a chance to raise some serious feathers!

First it's big--$5 billion. And it involves 'industry' and is 'coal burning' and includes 'gasification' and a 'pipeline' and 'CO2' and 'greenhouse gases,' not to mention the 'bay' and the 'ocean.'

Good grief, that's half the hot buttons in the Sierra Club's entire sewing box.

Perhaps best of all, the lawyer who will be trying to sell this thing is none other than former NJDEP Commissioner Brad Campbell who some environmental groups still blame for all kinds of things, even though he did kill off the bear hunt. Ingrates!

We hope the enviros take their time on this one. They need a good, long-running controversy as much as the rests of us.

With any luck, the issue will summer-over, get sucked into the governor's race and keep on trucking right into next fall when the Legislature will be back in session. Then the enviros can get Rutgers students to dress up like dead fish and hold a Halloween teach-in outside Pur-Gen's gates.

Pur-Gen. Pur-fect. I'm pumped. Are you?

Use the response box below--or click on the 'comments' line to tell us what you think.



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