Tag Archive: RGGI

What’s Happening Today Wed. 01/08/2014

Newark in Crisis – Again! Just a week or so ago the crisis in Newark was gangs and the murder rate, while this column pointed to more systemic problems. Now we learn a stern letter from the State Department of Community Affairs to Mayor Luis Quintana “has upped the ante in an ongoing battle with Newark City Hall, ordering a new audit and threatening action if Newark does not fall in line.”

Newark has been in a financial crisis particularly since the flight to the suburbs in the 60’s which precipitated a drastic reduction in population and the tax base needed to support itself. Past mayors and councils at best have found only partial, short-term, band-aid solutions.

Cory Booker brought outside dollars to help, strengthened the downtown area and infused optimism, but his cavalier management style was also the cause of some of the problems the state is asking the city now to address. The State indicates among other issues the city violated a memorandum of Agreement of December 2012 by “failing to outsource the collection of court fines and by not advancing a 2013 accelerated tax sale essential for Newark to avoid a deficit situation.” The city’s 2014 budget begins with a $30 million structural imbalance – not uncommon for cities (and the State) but a burden nonetheless.

The city’s governance is currently ill-equipped to address these problems. With upcoming municipal elections in May the Mayor is a  placeholder selected by council members to not rock the boat. Three of the seven council members are mayoral candidates who have their own separate political agendas.

The State’s letter ends on an ominous note: “If Newark fails to propose and introduce a budget that addresses its fiscal challenges in a timely manner, the Division will take appropriate action.” Any bromance between Christie and Booker which might have helped Newark has vanished. The city only rarely has been able to produce a budget on time. This year without a united effort from the Council and the Mayor and some creative planning, the city may be facing a financial takeover from the State – never a good thing.

State Appeals Court today at 9:30am will hear arguments on “whether  Gov. Chris Christie’s administration illegally pulled New Jersey out of a regional program (RGGI) meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions” by not giving the public an opportunity to comment, Trenton.

Gov. Chris Christie: 11am, trumpets a “Sandy housing recovery milestone,” Stafford Township Volunteer Fire Company #1.

Assembly Housing and Local Government Committee: , 2:00pm, will hear testimony from invited guests on the current status of the State’s administration of federal Hurricane Sandy recovery funding and review two bills on home elevation contractor standards, State House Annex. For more information go here.  

What’s Happening Today Tue. 12/31/2013

UNFINISHED BUSINESS

As 2013 fades into history, let’s look forward to tomorrow. There is plenty of unfinished business to occupy our attention in 2014. Here are some suggestions:

  • Budget Safety Net: The poor and the middle class are not a priority for Gov. Christie, but with an upcoming strained budget they must be for the legislature.

  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Continue local efforts in support of this national initiative and urge your congressman to support it.

  • Drug Courts & Sentencing: Gov. Christie supports drug courts but more funding is needed. It is time to reduce prison entries for nonviolent offenders and revamp existing drug laws.

  • Earned Income Tax Credit: Gov. Christie should restore the credit to 25%.

  • Economy: Reduce wasteful subsidies to large corporations and invest more in good schools and a well-trained, highly-educated workforce.  

  • Education: Expand State-funded pre-school classes for needy kids and reduce inflated college costs.

  • Financial Assistance for Dreamers: The other half of the Dream Act.

  • Gun Control: The legislature should reintroduce bills vetoed by Gov. Christie.

  • GWB Scandal: Find out the truth behind the lane closures and reform the Port Authority.

  • Halfway Houses: Reform this system which is a bonanza for corporations and politicians but no help for inmates or the public.

  • Health Insurance & Medicaid: Provide education and assistance to assure more enrollment into better quality ACA insurance and into the expanded Medicaid program.

  • Housing: Gov. Christie should end his raiding and obstruction of the affordable housing program.

  • Infrastructure: New Jersey has about $70 billion worth of infrastructure work and the price tag will only increase if the state continues to put off making the needed improvements.

  • Marriage Equality: Continue discussion as to whether ME should be passed by the legislature, and create a veto-proof majority.

  • Millionaire Tax Surcharge: Implement this fair and essential method to increase needed state revenue.

  • Pinelands & Fracking: There should be no gas line through the Pinelands. There should be no fracking or transportation or disposal of its waste in NJ.

  • Property Tax: Encourage (and remove barriers to) consolidation and sharing services.

  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative: Christie withdrew NJ from RGGI. It’s time to rejoin the initiative.

  • Retire Rep. Scott Garrett (CD 5): Will a worthy opponent please stand up.

  • Sandy Recovery: Start with transparency, bring an end to discrimination, assure financial aid to those most in need, strengthen the State-wide plan (including safe location for buses and trains) and insist on resiliency.

  • Solar Power: The administration should move forward with plans for offshore facilities.

  • Supreme Court Nominees: Christie has already placed two Republicans on the court. He should nominate a Democrat and grant tenure to Chief Justice Stuart Rabner or the Senate should continue ignoring his nominees.

  • Womens’ Healthcare: Gov. Christie should fund Planned Parenthood.

    Open thread: What is on your agenda for 2014?

     

  • What’s Happening Today Fri. 12/06/2013

    GLOBAL WARMING, CLIMATE CHANGE & CARBON POLLUTION

    Attitudes on carbon pollution may be changing: During Sen. Barbara Buono’s campaign for the governorship, the NJ chapter of Americans for Prosperity (whose director for many years was the ill-fated Steve Lonegan) said, “Cap and Trade is dead. Yet this is the very kind of scheme that Senator Buono supports.” Well, good for her! Governor Christie had followed the Republican orthodoxy when he ended NJ’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The NY Times now points out that “More than two dozen of the nation’s biggest corporations, including Walmart, G. E., Microsoft and the five major oil companies, are planning their future growth on the expectation that the government will force them to pay a price for carbon pollution as a way to control global warming.” AFT is funded by Koch Industries, a major player in oil refineries, which has spent a lot of money over the years campaigning against those who accept the science of climate change or advocate carbon pricing. If Walmart and Exxon accept cap and trade as inevitable and Christie acknowledges “climate change is real and human activity plays a role,” we might yet succeed in putting a price on carbon pollution and reversing the disastrous path we are are currently following.

    Off-shore wind turbine energy projects are one approach: Yesterday Environment New Jersey, Sen. President Steve Sweeney and Sen. Jim Whelan joined to urge Governor Christie and the Board of Public Utilities to get off their rear ends and implement the 2010 law which calls for the establishment of off-shore projects. Environment New Jersey estimates that carbon pollution could be reduced by 825,000 metric tons in 2018 – equivalent to carbon pollution produced by 171,000 cars. In spite of the fact that our southern NJ coast has the high winds needed, other states may well leap ahead us if we do not seize the moment. Yes the investment is not inexpensive, but it could be far more beneficial in the long run that many other State commitments, including those to Revel Casino.

    Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

    I had an opportunity to talk with him in 1996 at the XI International AIDS Conference in Vancouver, Canada where the meeting theme was “One World One Hope” – appropriate for people working together in the AIDS epidemic, and not inappropriate for a man who united individuals throughout the world. Already in somewhat fragile health, he displayed dignity, conviction, and concern. With his own nation wracked by the AIDS epidemic he took time to ask about HIV in NJ and what we were doing. I remember to this day the African garb he was wearing, his gentleness, the twinkle in his eyes,  and his warmth.

    EVENTS TODAY

    Governor Christie: goes to Northern Idaho for a fund-raising, VIP reception for Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter this evening.

    Enroll America: brings its ACA “Get Covered America” campaign to Elizabeth for a health panel hosted by the National Council of Negro Women, Grassman Hall, Trinitas Regional Medical Center, 655 E. Jersey St, 9:00am – 1:00pm.

    Jeff Tittel on Climate Change and Chris Christie

    Yesterday, New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel testified about climate change at the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee hearing.

    Tittel started out by describing how environmental concerns and remediation have traditionally been a bipartisan issue and how a small group of deniers has hijacked the Republican party away from reasonableness. He excoriates Chris Christie’s policies which have diverted almost a billion dollars earmarked for clean energy to balance the budget, how New Jersey has lost our federal tax dollars to other states who choose to comply with federal guidelines, and some potential solutions.

    Fighting An Uphill Battle Against Christie’s Climate Deniers

    There are a lot of issues facing us today, but arguably the most important one for this and future generations is the impact of global climate change. Even if we solve our problems with civil rights, the economy, and jobs, without a habitable planet, all of those solutions are for naught.

    Searching for solutions, today Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula convened an informational session of his Telecommunications and Utilities Committee to hear testimony from all sides of this issue.

    As David Pringle of the New Jersey Environmental Federation put it, this is not a zero sum game. In other words, we don’t have to choose between a clean environment and jobs. We can have both. In fact, according to Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club, the state has lost 1,800 jobs since Governor Christie unilaterally pulled the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We have fallen into fourth place in terms of solar energy, and our wind energy projects are stalled as they continue to wait for Christie administration approval. Jobs in these industries are going to neighboring states.

    Probably the biggest waste of time, and yet the most entertaining part of the hearings was the testimony of climate-change deniers from Americans for Prosperity – a group that was led by Steve Lonegan before his Senate run. Every time they espoused their Fox “News” talking points, Chairman Chivukula struck them down with something the AFPers are unfamiliar with – facts. When confronted by Chivukula with scientific evidence, they determined that it was just “fairy tales.” One of them testified that RGGI was costing a 7 percent hike in electricity rates. Chivukula did not let them go unchallenged -he pointed out that the correct number is 0.7 percent. So in my estimation, the AFP crew is either stupidly misinformed or a bunch of liars.

    After the hearing, I spoke with Chairman Chivukula to get a brief summary. Below the fold is a short audio interview with renowned climate scientist Dr. Anthony Broccoli of Rutgers.

    NJ Sierra Club to Endorse Barbara Buono

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    Tomorrow’s “dog bites man” story will be the endorsement of Barbara Buono by the New Jersey Sierra Club. The official endorsement will happen mid-day in Hoboken.

    This, of course, is not unexpected. Chris Christie has been in the pocket of the polluters ever since he took office. His withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, his virtual elimination of environmental protections in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and his overall sucking up to the Koch Brothers earned him the title of “worst environmental governor in history” – a label that Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club pinned on Jon Corzine four years ago. Christie has also stolen funds earmarked for environmental protection to use as one-shot gimmicks to “balance” the state budget.

    Not only do Christie’s policies perpetuate dirty air and water, but they eliminate the potential for tens of thousands of jobs in “green” industries.

    Buono, on the other hand, has indicated that as governor, she will be a good steward of the environment. From her campaign web site:

    Barbara will restore New Jersey’s leadership in clean energy, attracting solar and wind projects and spurring new hiring. As governor, she’ll put a stop to the Christie Administration’s use of waivers that allow polluters to dirty our air and water and jeopardize public health.

    Heck, her campaign is so environmentally-friendly that she chose green as her theme color.

    Now is the time for national environmental groups to step up to the plate and support the Buono campaign. After all, the pollution that Chris Christie promotes does not know state lines.

    Christie Administration Celebrates Earth Day

    You read that right. The Christie administration issued a press release today touting Earth Day. That’s like the Westboro Baptist Church celebrating tolerance.

    The press release talks about the “focus on Governor Christie’s commitment to … environmental protections from future storms” without mentioning how that same administration has unilaterally waived nearly all environmental regulations. They talk about how they “administer aggressive environmental and conservation efforts.” If by “aggressive”, they mean “ready or likely to attack” (Google Dictionary), then they are right. The governor was “aggressive” in his attack on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative when he unilaterally took the state out of this job-creating, pollution-reducing plan.

    Any espousing of how the Christie administration is eco-friendly is disingenuous at best. But on Earth Day, it’s a downright insult to the citizens’ intelligence.

    The Smoking Gun and the Media

    Prodded by the right wing truth-challenged propaganda machine, the mainstream media are relentlessly looking for a smoking gun in the dealings of Senator Robert Menendez. Now that the prostitution allegation has been shown to be a false sensationalistic report promulgated by the Breitbart Bunch, the media have shifted their attention to campaign contributions and a grand jury investigation, implying that Senator Menendez granted a quid pro quo to a longtime friend, ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen.

    Melgen is not only a contributor to Menendez, but also has given money to many other politicians. Like it or not, that’s the way the system works. Until we get rid of Citizens United and enact public financing of election campaigns, the money will flow to both parties. And a lot of that money, especially from big donors, is not for altruistic purposes, it’s there to buy influence.

    There’s no clear dividing line between ethical and non-ethical behavior. Every elected official spends a lot of time on constituent relations. Where the quid pro quo starts along that ethical spectrum is not always clear.

    A Tale of Two Governors

    Today’s New York Times profiles a Tea Party governor, and mentions his approach to the environment:


    “Environmentalists, who once pilloried him for slashing state regulatory agencies, now have a seat at the table. In fact, they are consulted regularly”

    By contrast, Governor Christie not only ignores environmentalists (as evidenced by his unilateral withdrawal from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, for example), but takes money earmarked for environmental protection and uses it as a one-shot gimmick to balance the budget.

    Who is the governor that the Times is referring to? It’s Florida’s Rick Scott – elected in the Tea Party onslaught in 2010, and widely regarded as an extreme right-winger on most issues.

    But when it comes to protecting our natural resources, who is the real extremist?

    Yes, Governor Christie. You Did Think About The Cause of Sandy

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    Here’s Governor Chris Christie answering a difficult question today in his classic, refuse-to-answer form:

    “I have to tell you the truth, I’ve been focused on a lot of things, the cause of this is not one of them that I’ve focused on,” Christie said in response to a question about the role climate change could have played in fueling the Oct. 29, 2012 storm. …

    “I try not to give answers that I haven’t thought about yet,” Christie said. “It’s not a main concern for me.”

    Yes, Mr. Governor.  You have thought about it, and it was a concern for you just three years ago when you did this:

    In a blow to clean energy advocates throughout the Northeast, Gov. Chris Christie said this morning that the state will pull out of the region’s “gimmicky” cap-and-trade program by the end of the year. …

    “I’m glad the governor went to global warming school but he didn’t learn his lesson,” said David Pringle, political director of New Jersey Environmental Federation, which backed Christie for the top office.

    During an afternoon news conference held by environmentalists, Luis Martinez, an energy attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Christie bowed to fossil fuel lobbyists targeting the initiative.

    Cap and trade is a conservative, market based system for addressing pollution that was first implemented under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George HW Bush, and it worked flawlessly in reducing acid rain to the point where it is not an issue anymore.

    To the “conservative” Christie that’s “gimmicky.”