Tag Archive: pollution

Today at the State House: Rally & lobbying against Chris Christie’s Exxon giveaway

Rally Against NJ Exxon Settlement

Today at State House: Rally against the Exxon giveaway

Thousands of postcards from NJ residents are being  delivered to the NJDEP today, calling for rejection of the Christie administration’s $225M settlement for polluting New Jersey. About 3¢ on the dollar for a 10-year lawsuit filed for $8.9B.

Rallying on the Statehouse steps are reps from NJ Sierra Club, NJ Citizen Action, Environment NJ, NY/NJ Baykeeper, Food and Water Watch, NJ Clean Water Action. They’re joined by assemblymen John McKeon and Carmelo Garcia, and Sen. Ray Lesniak. At a public hearing Wednesday, Lesniak testified that his read of the settlement language may allow Exxon to write off that $225M as a business expense. That would reduce Exxon’s cost, and shift the difference to taxpayers. Lesniak cites the word “alleged” in the language, which Exxon may use to distance itself from liability – enough to seek a state and federal tax break. Yesterday’s hearing was in Bayonne, one of the towns damaged by years of Exxon contamination. Everything about this deal stinks, including how it came about and the highly unusual way Chris Christie’s chief counsel inserted himself into the case. (Read Brad Campbell, former commissioner of the NJDEP).

Advocates are also inside the State House lobbying for SCR163 (Smith)/ACR230 (McKeon), which would constitutionally dedicate monies received by the state in Natural Resource Damage litigation That’s intended to stop the administration from raiding those funds to close budget holes. (see The Cost of Budget Raids)

Public comment period ends tomorrow. You still have time to register your comment. Here are 2 ways: (1) Use this Sierra Club form (2) Or, email directly to: ExxonMobilBaywaySettlement@dep.nj.gov

An Interview with ENJ’s Doug O’Malley

For those basking in the schadenfreude of Chris Christie’s tribulations, don’t take any pleasure in the fact that the traffic jams are gone today and he’ll be gone in two years. His lasting legacy will not be Bridgegate, but rather the dereliction in his duty to protect New Jersey’s air and water.

While the governor has placed the wants of the dirty fuel industries and big business above the health and welfare of those he’s sworn to serve, there are groups who are working to counter his actions. One such group is Environment New Jersey, and I spoke with their Director, Doug O’Malley today.

Making things Right

Up until recently, the State of New Jersey figured it would take $9 billion to make things right at pollution sites that were created by Exxon Mobil Corporation. In a surprise move, the Christie administration proposed a $225 million settlement, less than 3% of the original value. Today in Trenton, I spoke with Senator Ray Lesniak on the impact of this settlement and how he proposes to make things right moving forward.

Click below, or subscribe to our podcasts to hear the interview.

NJ Court: Gov. Christie Illegally Repealed Climate Change Pollution Rules

We don’t always get good news. From Gov. Christie, a politician happy to sacrifice common sense to impress far-right contributors and keep good buddies with the Koch boys, we mostly get bad news. Today, we got good news, because the NJ Appellate Division essentially overruled him, deciding that Christie illegally repealed RGGI, and broke the law in 2011 by excusing power plants from complying with regulations limiting pollution that contributes to climate change. It’s a huge win for Environment New Jersey and Natural Resources Defense Council. Susan Kraham, Senior Staff Attorney at Columbia University’s Environmental Law Clinic, represented the environmental groups in court:

“The court ruled that the public needs to be involved. Neither Governor Christie nor the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection can simply repeal state laws by fiat. The court gave the administration 60 days to initiate a public process around any changes to the climate change pollution rules.”

The case against the NJ DEP began two years ago, a year after Christie posted notice on a website that plants no longer had to comply with pollution limits, with the effect of killing NJ’s participation in RGGI, the 9-state program that has been reducing pollution from East Coast plants for 5 years.

More on the jump page, including reactions from Rush Holt & Steve Sweeney.

Protesting Works

Despite the fact that big corporations wield more power than ordinary voters, sometimes our voices are heard and we can savor our small victories.

Case in point is the proposed hazardous waste incinerator proposed for Bristol, PA – just across the Delaware River from New Jersey. The developer was far from forthright in disclosing the types of waste being spewed by his smokestacks and there was concern from the local residents as well as people in Mercer and Burlington Counties. Burlington City hired Governor Jim Florio’s law firm to represent their interests, and at a recent zoning board meeting, air breathers and water drinkers from both sides of the river lodged protests. Burlington County Freeholders Aimee Belgard (D) and Joe Howarth (R) were there to express opposition to the plan.

This opposition worked – at least for now. The developer withdrew his plans and the incinerator is on hold. Of course, the battle is never over, and concerned citizens need to remain vigilant.

The argument that the developer relies on is the creation of local jobs. That may be true, but if we were to legalize crack houses and brothels, those would create jobs too. It’s not the number of jobs we create, but the quality and societal benefit that those jobs bring.

We need to emphasize recycling and conservation to reduce the overall amount of waste that we dispose of. And using our air and water as a repository for the inevitable waste we create is not the right answer. That’s the message we need to send to our corporations and elected officials. Constantly.

Shale Gas Reserves in NJ May Lead to Fracking HERE

To all those state legislators who were lulled into thinking there was no shale in NJ and so no need for a moratorium, please read THIS.

There is actually shale under North Jersey – in Cory Booker’s neighborhood to be exact.  

Could this be why he has been so strangely silent on the issue of fracking and actually came after me on twitter for questioning his loyalties on the issue?

NJ Legislators who were lied to that there was no potential for shale exploration in NJ and so blithely let the moratorium lapse should revisit the issue. ASAP.


“Celebrating” the Six Month Anniversary of Governor Christie’s Paean to the Dirty Water Lobby

If Governor Christie gets his way, New Jersey’s water will soon contain toxic and radioactive materials. That’s because he vetoed a bill that would prohibit the transport and storage of waste water from hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking.”

If you think it can’t happen here, remember the recent accident in Paulsboro where a train full of toxic chemicals fell off of an ill-maintained bridge and displaced dozens of people from their homes for weeks. Now multiply that impact by several orders of magnitude. That’s what’s hanging over the people of New Jersey if the Governor’s veto is not overridden.

Currently, there are no treatment plants in New Jersey that can handle fracking wastewater. Do we want to invest in plants to treat pollutants, or is that money better spent investing in clean energy? The dirty energy lobby has managed to cajole the federal government into not classifying fracking wastewater as something that is handled as hazardous material, so it is up to the state legislature to ensure this garbage does not infiltrate our water supply.

Today in Trenton, a coalition of environmental groups led by the Sierra Club lobbied legislators to override the Governor’s veto. About 20 lobbyists buttonholed approximately half the Assembly members to urge them to override. Later, the leaders of these groups spoke to the press:

Don’t Hold Your Breath

While the media’s attention is focused on the Democrats this week, Governor Christie’s kowtowing to the Koch Brothers continues to fly under the press’ radar screen.

When you can’t jump over the bar, you have two choices – work at it to improve, or lower the bar. When it comes to meeting Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air standards for New Jersey, Christie chooses the latter.

The Christie Administration’s Department of Environmental Protection is petitioning the EPA to declare the Garden State’s highly developed counties around New York and Philadelphia as having attained the requirements for what is referred to as “fine particulate matter”, even though they are neither in compliance, nor improving in those areas. Rather, Christie’s DEP is proposing gimmicks like moving monitoring sensors to less-polluted areas and claiming that due to the recession, more people are using mass transit and leaving their cars at home.

This year, the American Lung Association graded 13 of our 21 counties on air quality, with the best grade being a D in two of those counties, while 11 received an F.

Yet, at a hearing today in Trenton, the only group that came to testify was the Sierra Club. Have other clean air advocates lost their mojo? Have the Koch Brothers been successful in keeping these issues out of the press?

Lowering the bar for fine particulate matter is, of course, not the only area where Christie sides with the polluters over the health of New Jerseyans. His pullout from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, his stonewalling on developing regulations for wind power, his silence on fracking, and his failure to collect fines from polluters are other examples of his disregard for the environment. All of these will ultimately result in increased health issues, costing businesses money in health care and employee productivity – not a very business-friendly platform.

When Christie was elected, there was hope that at least on the environment, he would live up to his reputation as a “moderate” Republican. But after his secret meeting with the Koch Brothers, he swiftly moved in the direction of the GOP extremists. I was hoping that after his national ambitions were thwarted, he would move more toward Christine Todd Whitman’s position and away from those of Michele Bachmann. But I’m not holding my breath.