Tag Archive: Jim Walsh

A Senate Bill Nobody Likes

At the end of her testimony on a bill she is sponsoring, Senator Diane Allen noted that neither side on this contentious issue likes the bill, so it must be a good one.

Senator Allen, one of a rare breed of sensible Republicans, introduced a bill, S2534, that would set standards for the levels of toxins allowed in dumped wastewater from hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

In his quest for the GOP (Gruesome Oil Panderer) presidential nomination, Governor Christie twice vetoed bills that would have completely banned toxic fracking waste in New Jersey.

Senator Allen, along with environmentalists, and fracking lobbyists, discussed her bill at a meeting of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee today. The chairman, Senator Bob Smith, announced that no vote would be taken today, as there’s still much work to do in crafting the language of the bill.

Naturally, this bill is opposed by environmentalists – and with good reason. Since Governor Christie has eviscerated the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP),  even if this bill were to be enacted, what kind of weak regulations would the DEP consider or enforce?

The bill is also opposed by the dirty fuel industry. Their lobbyists testified that current regulations are generally sufficient to ensure safety to the state’s drinking water supply.

I spoke with Jim Walsh of Food and Water Watch before the hearing.

As Amy Hansen of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation put it, natural gas extracted from the fracking process is a “fuel of procrastination.” I agree. There’s no reason not to devote the bulk of our resources to renewable energy now, as the costs are dropping and the technology for these safe, non-polluting fuels is maturing.

E Pluribus Cleanum

Pipelines leaking toxic material into our water supply. Oil bomb trains traveling on antiquated infrastructure through our towns and villages. Fossil fuel plants spewing carcinogens into the air we breathe. These are the things we can look forward to if we conduct business as usual.

Today, a coalition of 36 environmental, religious, and activist groups announced the launch of a coalition to scrap  “business as usual” and jump start an aggressive campaign to address these problems.

Most of the actions taken by these individual groups to date have been in opposition of something – a pipeline through the Pinelands or processing of liquefied natural gas, a highly explosive and dangerous endeavor. Each group has done its own thing, often without specific goals other than to shut down a harmful project.

Now, the coalition is going head on with the dirty fuel industry by promoting the eventual elimination of these energy sources in favor of renewable energy. In a nutshell, they are proposing that our electricity be generated 100% from renewables by 2030, and the we totally eliminate dirty energy by 2050. These are realistic goals based academic research being conducted at Stanford University.

A Healthy New Jersey is a Prosperous New Jersey

While taxes, revenue, and spending are keys to improving New Jersey’s moribund economy, they are not the only factors that enter into the equation of the state’s prosperity. While we need to spend money on preventable health issues and environmental cleanup, if we could avoid or mitigate such problems in the first place, the state’s economy would be much stronger. Yet Governor Christie’s actions indicate that he has blinders on to these fundamental truths.

Recently, the Governor vetoed a bill that would have prohibited the storage and treatment of highly toxic waste water from hydraulic fracturing. That veto was the subject of a conference call today organized by Food and Water Watch, with participation from several dozen other environmental groups.

During the call, these groups announced that they are working with the legislature to override the veto. We were told that Assembly Speaker Oliver will soon post the override in the lower chamber, and if the override is successful, it would then be brought to the Senate.

While the original bill was passed with a bipartisan majority in both houses, according to the Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel, the vote was 3 short in the Senate and 7 in the Assembly of the supermajorities needed to override.

In his veto message, the Governor contended that the bill was unconstitutional and that the harmful effects of fracking waste water were unknown. But as discussed in today’s call, the non-partisan Office of Legislative Services has analyzed the bill, and its legal experts have concluded that the bill passes Constitutional muster. And even if the effects of fracking waste leaking into our drinking water supply are not proven, why take the risk until a full analysis is completed? (Oh yeah – I forgot that Republicans generally eschew scientific fact.)

It is a sad fact of life that the Governor is in the back pocket of the Koch Brothers, and that a large number of decent Republican legislators are in the back pocket of the Governor. It’s also sad that not every Democrat voted to ban these harmful chemicals from entering our drinking water. Below the fold, you can find how your legislator voted on the original bill.

We can spend our scarce resources on cleanup and health issues which do nothing to promote a better economy, or we can spend the money on education, infrastructure, and development to bring New Jersey back to the top of the economic pile. The choice is ours. Will the legislature do the right thing and override?

What the Frack?

How would you like it if your neighbor dumped the waste from his septic tank into your back yard? Well, that’s what Christie’s Cronies are proposing to let happen in New Jersey, and some legislators are working to prevent this.

Energy companies are promoting the use of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, to extract gas and oil from underground deposits. Fracking involves injecting millions of gallons of water laced with proprietary chemicals into the ground to force the gas and oil out. But the broth that is injected into the earth must go somewhere, and that detritus contains carcinogens and radioactive materials.

The New Jersey legislature banned fracking, but the governor issued a conditional veto which only puts a one year moratorium on the practice in the state. However, states like Pennsylvania and Ohio permit the process, and much of the toxic waste liquid is shipped to the Garden State for disposal.

Today, a coalition of 70 environmental and other organizations held a press conference in Trenton in support of a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Connie Wagner and supported by Assemblyman John McKeon and 15 other co-sponsors that would prohibit the transport and storage of fracking waste in the state. No matter how safe the energy companies claim their processes are, this is a human endeavor and involves accidents. We are endangering New Jersey’s drinking water for the enrichment of the energy barons and out-of-state employers.

While tax relief is at the top of the agenda for everyone in Trenton, if we don’t have clean air and water, no amount of tax relief will make New Jersey a pleasant place to live. That message needs to be sent loud and clear to our leaders in Trenton.