Tag Archive: environment

Menendez opposes Energy bill in committee

Yesterday, Senator Menendez against the energy bill in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The Senator said the bill doesn’t go far enough and pointed to specific issues he has:

  • Setting a weak renewable energy standard of only 15 percent by the year 2021 ? a number that in reality could be closer to nine percent according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, because one quarter can be met with efficiency, many utilities are exempt, and the definitions of “renewable” have been stretched. That would amount to less than business as usual on renewable energy generation. President Obama had called for a standard of 25 percent by 2025. This standard represents the percentage of energy generated by utilities that must come from renewable sources.
  • Allowing expanded coastline drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and setting a short buffer zone of only 45 miles from the coast. Oil companies already control 68 million acres that they are not using. In addition, the short buffer zone could set a risky precedent for states like New Jersey, which could be affected by coastline drilling off of nearby states.
  • Electricity transmission provisions that encourage the continued production of coal-generated power and threaten to cite power lines on personal property in New Jersey. These provisions failed to require that a substantial portion of the electricity transmitted on new lines come from renewable sources.
  • The Senator had this to say about the measure:

    “I also have strong concerns about this bill’s potential effects on families in New Jersey. It lays the groundwork for unwanted power lines running through personal property in our state and it sets a precedent that could bring oil rigs close to the Jersey Shore. I am standing up in strong opposition to those provisions.”

    Environment New Jersey criticized the energy bill and applauded the Senator for his opposition:

    The proposal risks sensitive coastal ecosystems to pollution and spills from off-shore drilling, while worsening global warming by opening the door to high-carbon fuels such as liquid coal, tar sands and oil shale, according to Environment New Jersey.  

    “The Senate energy bill misses an unprecedented opportunity to repower America with clean energy and reduce global warming pollution while putting millions of Americans back to work,” said Doug O’Malley, field director for Environment New Jersey.  “We oppose the bill in its current form because it threatens Florida’s white sandy beaches and encourages dirty fuels while doing little to realize the promise of a clean energy future,” he concluded.  

    [snip]

    “Sen. Menendez has been a tremendous advocate for clean energy and our coastlines time and again,” O?Malley said. “His vote opposing this bill reaffirms that he is willing to stand up for the environment and New Jersey.”

    The Senator said he looks forward to working closely with chairman to improve the bill on the Senate floor, so we will have to see how the bill is modified as it moves forward.

    Is there too much Lead in the Raritan Bay?

    Here is the summary NJ.com has with the video:

    A standoff is brewing between local fisherman, environmental groups and state and federal agencies after three beach sites along the Raritan Bay in Old Bridge and Sayreville were closed by the state. Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency found toxic levels of lead, arsenic, copper and other metals in the sand, sea walls and water. Further testing found high levels of lead in sea life like mussels and bait fish near the Laurence Harbor sea wall in Old Bridge. Environmentalists point the finger at National Lead, which operated a 400-acre industrial facility in Sayreville from 1935 to 1982. The company agreed with towns to deposit what is now known to be toxic slag to help support the shoreline. (Two environmental watchdog groups, the Edison Wetlands Association and NY/NJ Baykeeper, have filed letters of intent to sue National Lead, as well as local and state organizations, in federal court for the pollution of the Raritan Bay, although the lawsuit is not related to the slag sites in Old Bridge and Sayreville.) In April, the EPA formally recommended the site as a Superfund site — a federal designation for the most polluted areas in the country – but local fisherman are frustrated, saying the closures are overkill and will affect local businesses.

    Here’s the video:

    EPA finds high levels of lead at Raritan Bay sites

    The EPA seemed very concerned in March:

    The Environmental Protection Agency has called for the immediate closing of three waterfront sites along the Raritan Bay in Old Bridge and Sayreville due to health concerns after finding high levels of lead in the area.

    “We found very, very high levels of lead,” Walter Mugdan, the EPA’s director of the Emergency and Remedial Response Division for the region, said earlier this week. “It’s way above what anybody would think would be appropriate. … It’s a matter of concern.”

    We’ll have to follow this because the problem isn’t going to get any better.  The question is what do you do about it? Officials from the EPA have already acknowledged the cleanup would take several years. If the site was designated a Superfund location, the EPA could investigate to find out who is responsible for the contamination. The public comment period has ended and they are expecting a decision in the fall. But finding out who is responsible doesn’t clean up the contamination, it just lets you know who to go after to collect on the bill.

    $600 million Open Space Ballot question

    Senator Bob Smith yesterday amended previous legislation that would have put a ballot question to the voters in November to provide for $300 million in bonding. The amended bill will now total $600 million to be split over 3 years.  His Senate Environment committee took up the bill yesterday and passed it by a 4-1 vote:

    “We’re broke. And you have a historic opportunity. Land prices in New Jersey are at historic lows,” Smith said. “Of course, at the same time you have an economic tsunami that is very difficult for our citizens in this state.”

    Smith said the borrowing would permit the state to spend $200 million a year for three years buying open space and preserving farms and historic sites. There isn’t a dedicated stream of revenue identified to repay the bonds.

    Governor Corzine has said there will be an open space ballot quesiton, but has not committed to a funding amount as of yet. The original version of the bill was bi-partisan with two members of each party sponsoring.  Senator Bateman tried to reduce the amount back to $300 million, but still supported the amended version.  Senator Phil Haines pulled his support:

    Sen. Phil Haines, R-Burlington, withdrew as a prime sponsor of the bill, which he said ignores taxpayers’ unease and would be the second-largest borrowing plan ever put before New Jersey voters.

    “A bond issuance of this size, in these perilous economic times, will almost certainly fail at the ballot box. Failure will cause irreparable harm to the cause of preserving open space and farmland,” Haines said.

    And there were many others voicing concern and opposition as well:

    That prospect of rejection in November was cited by the advocacy groups – Environment New Jersey, New Jersey Environmental Federation, New Jersey Environmental Lobby and the Sierra Club – now opposing the bill.

    “Given the economic climate and state’s reckless borrow-and-spend history, we’re not confident a majority will support this question despite the popularity of open space, and a failed question would do more damage to the state’s open space program than no question,” said Mike Pisauro of the Environmental Lobby.

    The last question on the ballot regarding open space funding passed in 2007, but by a smaller margin than past questions.  Some environmental supporters would prefer to see a dedicated revenue source rather than a ballot question because they worry the public won’t continue to the funding at necessary levels. This concern is enhanced when you look at our long term devt issues. But many of the programs with dedicated funding are now worried about facing the budget ax however. Assemblyman McKeon says the Assembly environmental committee will consider the legislation this monday. How would you prefer to see us fund Open Space and do you think the voters can stomach the $600 million number?

    Christie’s Environmental “Cuts” are Dangerously Vague

    From from the diaries. Another incidence of Christie coming up short on details – shocker! – promoted by Rosi

    Update: And welcome bytheshore73 as Blue Jersey’s newest staff writer – – Rosi

    If you’ve been wondering why Chris Christie hasn’t introduced a budget proposal of his own, it’s likely because he’s bad at math. After all, talking vaguely about cuts is easier than sitting down and crunching the numbers. In a campaign stop yesterday, Christie vowed to implement unspecified cuts in the environmental protection budget for New Jersey.

    Christopher Christie, the former U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, said the DEP is too big and is “killing business” with permit delays and indiscriminate fines.

    He said he would lay off DEP workers and strip the agency of its fish and wildlife oversight.

    It’s not surprising that a Republican candidate would use our environment as a punching bag (remember “Drill, baby, drill”?). Predictably, Christie attacks Gov. Corzine, saying the DEP has gotten too big (even though the DEP budget has shrunk 12% in the past four years).

    But let’s not kid ourselves. Christie doesn’t say how many jobs would be cut. He doesn’t say in which areas the jobs will be cut. He doesn’t say how much this will save in salary, benefits, and pension payouts. He doesn’t say how these cuts would affect the state’s ability to protect and preserve the environment.

    But you’re not supposed to notice that. There will be cuts! (Just don’t ask him how).

    In a state that with more Superfund toxic cleanup sites than any other state in the nation, that’s dangerously vague. In a state with one of the most delicate environmental balances in the nation, New Jersey’s DEP plays a critical role in protecting New Jersey families. Christie should stop being irresponsible and immediately release the details of his dangerous proposed environmental cuts. I won’t hold my breath.

    Clean coal coming to New Jersey?

    Crossposted from Channel Surfing:

    Clean coal may be coming to New Jersey — a Massachussets firm wants to build a $5 billion, 500-megawatt electrical generating facility that would capture emissions, pump them a hundred miles and store them under the Atlantic Ocean.

    If approved and built, it would be the first plant of its kind and would move us in a new energy direction, say advocates. It would allow us to continue using coal — the cheapest energy source — without its polluting effect, they say.

    But there is a flaw in the reasoning. Finding a way to limit or eliminate the emmissions from energy sources seems a positive step, until it is made clear that there are other environmental problems with coal and other fossil fuels.

    Wal-Mart Tops List of Least Socially Responsible Companies

    According to the recent BBMG Conscious Consumer Report: Redefining Value in a New Economy that asked which companies come to mind as the least socially or environmentally responsible companies, Wal-Mart topped the list as the worst:

    “Wal-Mart also topped the list of the least responsible companies (9%), along with Exxon Mobile (9%), GM (3%) and Ford (3%), Shell (2%) and McDonald’s (2%). Interestingly, 41% of Americans could not name a single company that they consider the most socially and environmentally responsible.”

    New Jersey’s Top 10 Local Environmental Issues for 2009

    Promoted by Jason Springer: I would add the licensed site professional legislation (LSP) as a top issue, since it will change the way many other environmental issues are handled.  That’s up for a vote in the Senate on Monday.

    New Jersey, partly a mid-Atlantic corridor to the northeast, partly a suburban sprawl nightmare, is an environmental epicenter for not only the region but the nation. As progressives, we have a responsibility to preserve as much clean air, land, and water as possible for future generations. As New Jerseyans, we have a major stake in preserving the environment all the way from Bergen to Salem County. What might a list of the ten most important local environmental hot-spots in New Jersey look like?

    Preserving Remaining Open Space in Camden County

    In the thin sliver of a county that is Camden County, with over 500,000 residents bunched into 222 square miles, remaining open space is few and far between. Unmitigated growth of this Philadelphia suburban county, with very little foresight, has resulted in one of the most developed counties in the state. The problems and financial constraints involved in open space preservation, though, coupled with the high cost of land in places like Cherry Hill, Haddon Heights, and Haddonfield, make preserving open space a difficult endeavor. My sense is that any progressive agenda must include environmental preservation and long-term sustainability as part of its platform, and this includes work to preserve open space on a local level.

    Translating the Walmart PR Spin

    Walmart’s hometown newspaper, the Northwest Arkansas Morning News, has an interesting article up today about Walmart executives meeting with 200 of their cronies at a conference and outlining their plans for 2009.  It could be a watershed year for progressives, but the Bentonville behemoth has some plans of its own and they ain’t pretty.

    So I thought I’d go through each one of Walmart’s plans and translate some of their PR spin – or wipe the lipstick off the pig, if you will.  All stats and figures are compliments of WakeUpWalmart.com, with whom I do some work.