Tag Archive: environment

Toxic New Jersey

“We are living in a toxic soup.” – Peter Montague

This summer’s fiasco at Kiddie Kollege was just the tip of the environmental iceberg – New Jersey is filled with toxic sites that haven’t been properly cleaned up.

“The people suffering the most impact aren’t getting the most action.” – Ana Baptista

Read Leigh Davis’ full story here at City Belt.

News Round-up and Open Thread for Tuesday, November 21st

Open Thread: What’s on your mind today, Blue Jersey?

Salem County News

Lots of news this week.  I’m “shocked” by how many new government plans and reports are being released after the election.  No more election news here, but it’s worth noting the general sense is that campaigns were positive and the election ran fairly smoothly.  Since the previous year involved a defamation of character suit and an election decided by a missing absentee ballot, I don’t take that for granted.  As always, check out Today’s Sunbeam.

Salem County News: Election Edition

Here’s some Salem County election news:  Look for a special appearance by Max Cleland!  As always, please check the county paper Today’s Sunbeam.  This should be another close election, since the Sunbeam points out:

There are currently 41,943 registered voters in Salem County. Among them 9,364 are registered as Democrats, 7,308 as Republicans and 25,262 are unaffiliated, according to the Board of Elections.

No wonder we are one of the few New Jersey counties to have both Republican and Democratic freeholders.

News Round-up and Open Thread for Tuesday, August 8

Open Thread- What’s on your mind, Blue Jersey?

Part-Time Morality: The Rhetoric of George W. Bush

by Walter Brasch

  George W. Bush says he believes in up-or-down votes. He proclaimed it shortly after his first inaugural, and included that belief in his 2005 State of the Union address, when he demanded that “every judicial nominee deserves an up-or-down vote.”
  A one-vote majority, says the President, should decide nominations and issues. He constantly talked about up-or-down votes in the Senate for the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the U.N., for bills to ban gay marriages, to make it illegal to burn the flag, and almost every bill his administration proposed. His words were echoed by the Congressional leadership and by the evangelical fundamental Christian base.
  He disagrees with Senate rules, which require 60 votes to override a filibuster. The reason President Bush believes in the “up-or-down” theory of governance is because for most of his Administration he has had a Republican Congress willing to do whatever it takes to advance a neoconservative political and social agenda.
  Since President Bush believes in one-vote majorities, it shouldn’t have been a problem for him to accept a 238–194 vote in the House and a 63–37 vote in the Senate to allow medical researchers to use stem cells from embryos, with their donors’ consent, that would have been discarded by fertility clinics. About 400,000 frozen embryos are in clinics; a few will be “adopted” by mothers who have them implanted in their uteruses; most embryos will be thrown away.
  Embryonic stem cells are the basic building blocks of life, cells that will develop into any cell in the body, and are the key to learning more about life itself. Stem cell research could lead to cures for Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes, numerous cancers, spinal cord injuries, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. Nancy Reagan, whose husband’s last years were spent in the fog of Alzheimer’s, is a strong proponent of stem cell research.
  Almost seven months after his first inauguration, President Bush declared that the federal government would fund research only on stem cell lines that had already been developed, and not for any new ones. He equated the medical use of stem cells with murder, and threatened to veto any new legislation to expand stem cell research. His veto threats had worked on 141 other bills over a five and a half year period, as the Republican-controlled Congress meekly revised bills or eliminated them.
  This time, Congress—faced by the political reality that about 70 percent of Americans supported expanded stem cell research—didn’t buckle. Fifty House Republicans broke from the White House legislative controls; in the Senate, nineteen Republicans and all but one Democrat voted for the bill. The President renewed his veto threat.
  Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) had asked the President, ”not to make the first veto of your presidency one that turns America backward on the party of scientific progress and limits the promise of medical miracles for generations to come.” Bill Frist—heart surgeon, Senate majority leader, and one of the most active voices in pushing the Bush–Cheney agenda—also opposed the veto. “Given the potential of this research and the limitations of the existing lines eligible for federally funded research, I think additional lines should be made available,” Dr. Frist said.
  But the president did veto the bill, and neither the House nor the Senate had the two-thirds majority necessary to override the veto. The President’s veto, said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is a “shameful display of cruelty, hypocrisy, and ignorance.” Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said he thought the President was “captured by his own ideology and taking his ideology to an extreme.” Research, said Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) “will now continue in the private sector with insufficient funding and a lack of government oversight, all while millions of people wait for cures to devastating diseases.
  President Bush said in April 2002, “We have a moral imperative to protect the sanctity of life,” and continued to throw “sanctity of life” in almost every speech or comment about stem cell research. At the time he explained his veto, he declared the bill—approved by significantly more than an “up-or-down” vote—“crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect.”
  If the President honestly believed in a “moral boundary” and the “sanctity of life,” he would not have exploited a couple of dozen “snowflake babies”—children born from implanted embryos—by using them as props in the East Room when he explained why he vetoed the bill.
  If George W. Bush understood moral boundaries and the sanctity of life, he would not have lied about the non-existent ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda or the weapons of mass destruction he claimed were in Iraq in order to launch an invasion that has cost more than 2,500 American lives and caused injuries, many life-threatening, to another 18,000, in addition to 50,000–70,000 civilian deaths. He would not have decided that the Geneva Accords didn’t apply to thousands of prisoners that his Administration confined in Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, and other prisons. If he had any kind of a “moral compass,” he would have allowed prisoners to have due process, to be treated humanely, and not be subjected to “renditions,” the transfer to secret prisons in countries that use torture.
  If this former non-combatant National Guard officer had any concern for humanity, he would not have ordered severe cuts in combat pay and family benefits for active duty military, proposed a $1.3 billion cut in veterans’ benefits, and an increase in health care costs, while also pushing for massive tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent of Americans.
  If he believed in a moral administration, he would not have allowed Halliburton, the financial empire once run by Dick Cheney, to continue to get several multi-million dollar no-bid contracts in New Orleans and Iraq after being exposed for price gouging and fraudulent business practices.
  If George W. Bush understood the meaning of the “sanctity of life,” he would not have spent several minutes at a photo-op in Florida where he read “My Pet Goat” to children after being notified that the first plane had hit the Twin Towers. He would not have been embarrassingly slow and seemingly unconcerned to respond following the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake/tsunami in Southeast Asia or after Hurricane Katrina hit America’s Gulf Coast.
  He would not have disregarded the ubiquitous warnings from the scientific community about global warming and the multitudinous pleas to preserve and defend the environment and all of its life. He would not have diverted funds for disaster relief, and cut back on health and welfare needs. He would not have placed political cronies into senior administrative positions in the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and then cut that agency’s funding for disaster response.
  If he believed in “morals,” he would have cut all ties with his good buddy, “Kenny Boy” Lay, whose company cheated thousands of employees out of their pensions, while the executives were living in luxury.
  If the President of the United States was concerned about “morals” and the “sanctity of life,” he would have condemned hunting and the gun lobby that was one of the primary contributors to his political campaigns. He would have condemned the spurious and vicious attacks upon Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the 2000 primary contest, and the Swift Boat attacks upon Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 general election.
  There is a lot that George W. Bush, who campaigned on promises to bring morality to the White House, could do to prove he is a moral leader, one who believes in the sanctity of life. But, his record, not his rhetoric, shows otherwise.

  [Walter Brasch’s current books are America’s Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government’s Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights and ‘Unacceptable’: The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina. Both are available through amazon.com and other on-line sources. You may contact Dr. Brasch at brasch@bloomu.edu]

Op-Ed: Congressmen Holt and Pallone on the Environment and Energy

Thirty years ago, Richard Nixon — a Republican president — signed into law some of our strongest environmental protections, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.  Back then, environmental protection was not a partisan matter.  Ensuring that our children breathe clean air, that our lakes, streams, rivers, oceans, and beaches are clean, and that our most precious public lands were protected was neither a Republican nor a Democratic issue — it was an American priority.

Unfortunately, President Bush and the Republican majority in Congress have taken a totally different tack.  They view environmental protection not as an opportunity for a better future, but as a hindrance to corporate bottom lines.  Rather than protecting public health and our natural world, they have sought to reward campaign contributors by loosening critical environmental regulations.

Nowhere is this failure more evident than in federal energy policy.  Our country is in critical need of policies that lead us to a sustainable energy future to end our unhealthy dependence on fossil fuels.  Rather than adopting meaningful measures to increase fuel economy standards in cars, promote energy efficiency, and encourage the use of renewable sources, however, Republicans have chosen to give tax breaks to oil, gas, and coal companies even at a time when these companies are raking in record profits. 

This backwards energy policy, which pretends that we can drill our way out of our energy problems, is making the looming threat of global warming even worse.  Unfortunately, President Bush and Congressional Republicans have blinders on when it comes to global warming, alleging falsely that scientific opinion is divided as to whether human behavior is a contributing factor.  Such a failure of leadership is inexcusable.  We need to wean ourselves of our addiction to fossil fuels and take concrete actions to reduce the threat of global warming in the long term.

Our responsibility to protect the environment continues at the local level.  It is essential that we preserve open space and wetlands, which play a valuable role in decreasing the frequency and severity of floods like the ones that have hit towns throughout Central New Jersey in recent years.  We also need to protect our beaches and oceans from the threat of offshore drilling or other sources of pollution that could pose threats to beachgoers and to marine life.

Protecting our natural environment should be a primary responsibility of all levels of government.  This nation – and especially New Jersey – needs leadership from its elected officials to put the public’s interest in protecting the environment, seeking a sustainable energy future, and preventing dangerous global warming above corporate interests.

News Round-up and Open Thread for Tuesday, July 11

Hazy, hot and humid today! Ahhhh, summer in New Jersey.

Open Thread: What’s on your mind, BlueJersey?

Thinking Twice About The Hybrid Tax Exemption

Today an Assembly panel released bill A-3193 which would exempt hybrids, and any car that gets at least 35 mpg from the sales tax. On it’s surface, this sounds like a great idea. For a $20,000 car, this would shave $1,200 off the total price, in effect partially subsidizing the added cost of hybrid vehicles and encouraging environmentally-conscious behavior. The reality is quite different.

The bill’s major flaw?

18mpg 18 MPG

Ironically enough, the flaw is that it applies to hybrid vehicles. That’s the Chevrolet Silverado — a hybrid truck that gets 17 mpg in city driving and 19 mpg on the highway. The base price is $30,000, meaning our state government would lose $1,800 in revenue to reward the purchase of a truck that gets half the mileage of the cars the bill should be intended for.

As the authors of the bill note, the purpose is to “create incentives for motorists to adopt more fuel efficient driving habits.” The bill can and should be tweaked so it does exactly that. It can be counter-productive to reward specific technologies like hybrid. Instead, we should reward efficiency, whether it’s achieved through a hybrid system, an efficient diesel engine, or any other technology. The qualification for sales tax exemption should simply be: does it achieve a fuel economy of at least 35 miles per gallon? Once that happens, I’ll become this bill’s strongest supporter.

Sierra Club to target Ferguson

I’m happy to hear the Sierra Club is going to target Mike Ferguson.  We had a meeting with him last August through MoveOn, where his in district guy, Marcus told us that we could agree on the environment!  It seemed like they wanted to campaign on that, but then LCV came out this winter with a rating of 17% for Fergie on the enviroment.  His big local issue was moving some WWII era weapons that contained toxic chemicals (was it mercury?) from Hillsborough to Hawthorne, Nevada.  I’m sure the people there and all along the way are going to be happy about that.

Sierra Club vows to mobilize to defeat Rep. Ferguson

He calls 2 groups’ attacks on his environmental record unfounded

With Rep. Mike Ferguson’s rating by environmental groups dropping to an all-time low, the 7th District congressman is being targeted for extinction.

The Sierra Club, which has never opposed the three-term congressman, last week endorsed Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Union) and pledged to put money and volunteers into the field to unseat Ferguson. The 7th Congressional District includes portions of Union, Somerset, Middlesex and Hunterdon counties.

  Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club’s New Jersey chapter, said Ferguson now has one of the worst environmental records of the state’s 13-member congressional delegation.

“I think he’s more likely to be seen in Georgetown going to restaurants than be seen in his district caring for the environment,” Tittel said.

The League of Conservation Voters, which tracks environmental votes, said Ferguson, who scored a 59 in his earlier terms, had dropped to a 17 last year. Only Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5th Dist.) scored lower, receiving an 11, while Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.), Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th Dist.) and former Rep. Robert Menendez (D-13th Dist.) all scored 100s…

  The past congressional session witnessed some of the most anti-environmental votes in history, said conservation league spokesman Chuck Porcari.

Congress “slathered billions in subsidies to oil and gas” while making “minuscule investments in renewables … the kinds of things that can take us away from dependence on oil,” he said.

Ferguson “voted for every bad environment bill,” Porcari said.

The conservation league’s complete breakdown of how members of Congress voted on environmental issues can be seen at www.lcv.org.

Tittel maintains that Ferguson has drifted from the moderate Republicans who predominate the 7th District.

“He doesn’t represent the mainstream of his own party, let alone the people of his district,” Tittel said.

The Sierra Club, which has 3,500 members in the 7th District, intends to commit money and people to oust the congressman.

“I think we can muster a couple of hundred people,” Tittel said, noting that all of the chapter’s 24,000 members would be asked to help.

“This is our target race for the year,” he said. “This is where we are putting all our resources.”

Sierra officials believe that the 7th District race is the one contest in New Jersey where an incumbent is vulnerable and that Stender stands a real chance of winning in the Republican-dominated district.

“We’re going to make this a big push,” Tittel said.