Wednesday, October 26, 2011

In New Jersey, energy is the big new environmental story

Remember back when toxic waste, leaking landfills, industrial discharges and syringes on the beaches were scoring daily headlines in New Jersey newspapers?

The good old days of prop-wielding PIRG-ies jamming committee hearings in Trenton and legislators scrambling to outdo each other in solving environmental problems with groundbreaking new laws and tighter regulations have abated--almost to silence.

It must even be difficult for the NJ Sierra Club's Jeff Tittel to get up every day and work up his normal quotient of outrage. Thank God, he's got Chris Christie to prod him.

Yes, many of the state's environmental problems (most involving pollution) have been addressed.

New Jersey today is greener and healthier and public interest has moved on to other issues. Like jobs and upside-down mortgages and outsized corporate influence in every aspect of life. (You have been paying attention to the 'Occupy wherever' movement, haven't you?)

That does not mean that that there are no important environmental issues left.

They've just shifted.

Today the focus is on energy--the power that heats your latte, cools your townhouse, and lets you  flip through the pages on your iPhone 4S at record speed.

The environmental imlications--and they are huge--reside in decisions about what resources are consumed to produce that power, how it travels to your home and whether you consume it wisely or squander it

These are the new environmental issues that New Jersey's businesses, governor, legislators and regulators are grappling with in 2011/2012.

They don't make for sexy reading like back when the mob would bury drums of chemicals in the back reaches of some field, nor are they as photo-friendly as foamy stuff oozing out of of a discharge pipe and into a river.

In fact, they're pretty darn boring.

They're complicated, too, involving engineering and technical terms that will put you to sleep within minutes of the opening of a legislative or BPU hearing. And they involve all sorts of economic projections and jargon. The boys down at Goldman Sachs love this stuff. Hold on to your wallets, New Jersey!

Tom Johnson is one of New Jersey's original environmental reporters. He reported environmental news for the Star-Ledger back when the stories were a lot more fun to write. Today, he's covering the new environmental beat--energy--for New Jersey Spotlight.

Tom not only understands what he's following but he translates it in terms that the rest of us can understand, too--minus the political and ideological shadings that often creep into other reports.

Some of his recent stories include:
Coalition Formally Asks State to Extend Utility-Sponsored Solar Installations 
Regional Grid Operator Agrees to Ease Impediments to Building New Power Plants

Today, Tom reported on a stakeholders' meeting at which Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula and his colleagues grappled with recent problems that are troubling the state's wildly successful solar-energy industry. Also covering the hearing was a less likely source of environmental reporting--Blue Jersey--the daily blog that chronicles state political news with a distinctly (and often delightfully) left-leaning flair.  

Blue Jersey contributor deciminyan (I have no idea why they use names like that--maybe it's a blog thing) did a solid job of framing some of the larger issues. He then summarized the meeting and even shot and appended two video interviews.  Nice job, deciminyan! 
**Warning: Shameless Plug Ahead**

If environmental/energy (call it what you will ) news is important to you, you should check out our daily newsletter, EnviroPoliticsWe carry all the environmental and political news of the day, from every daily newspaper, many blogs (like Tom's and denciminyan's) and other sources worth reading in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware. We also track all environmental and energy legislation in New Jersey and Pennsylvania--from introduction to enactment. Our publication has become 'must reading' for scores of the region's leading businesses, attorneys, consultants, utilities, real estate and development interests, green organizations, educators, students and legislators and regulators, too. If you never heard of us, take a second to remedy that embarrassing oversight by filling in this form.  Why? It will get you a free, no-obligation, 30-day subscription. It will impart knowledge and inner peace. Well, OK, at least you'll learn important stuff. Take us up on the offer. You won't regret it. If you do, complain to Jeff Tittel.

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