Tag Archive: Upendra Chivukula

Blue Jersey Focus: Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (Part 2)

This past Saturday, I sat down with Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula to conduct a video interview. Part 1 was posted on Blue Jersey here. Part 2 appears below the fold.

Following the interview, I met with the Assemblyman and his press aide for over an hour for an off-the-record discussion of New Jersey politics and other topics.  I don’t know if there’s a word in Hindi or Punjabi for “mensch”, but I came away realizing that the assemblyman from Central Jersey is one. He may not have the pizzazz that some of his colleagues exhibit, but I believe he has a passion for service, both in his legislative life and his “civilian” profession – developing learning software for autistic kids.  He may be the first Indian-American to serve in the New Jersey legislature, but his concerns transcend ethnic boundaries.

Blue Jersey Focus: Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (Part 1)

Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula was born and educated as an engineer in India, and came to the United States at age 24. He has represented the people in his Central Jersey district for 10 years. When he’s not working to serve the people of his district, he develops software to assist autistic children in the learning process. Yesterday, I spoke with him at the Akbar Restaurant in Edison about many of the issues facing New Jersey.

My interview appears in two parts. In Part 1, below the fold, Chivukula discusses two areas that he is passionate about – telecommunications and energy. He brings an engineer’s expertise to these topics, and explains the complex technical and economic issues in  layman’s terms.

Part 2 will appear on Tuesday and there he will discuss  education, the budget, New Jersey’s competitiveness, and marriage equality. He will offer comments on the 2013 gubernatorial election and what he hopes to accomplish in the legislature next year.

Trenton’s Energy Wizard

For me, as an engineer and a political junkie, listening to Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula give a speech is a treat. The legislator from Somerset county is a walking encyclopedia on energy, both from the policy and technology standpoints. Before he went to Trenton, the engineer-politician designed power plant simulators and worked at one of the premier research institutions on Earth, AT&T Bell Labs.

undefinedChivukula gave the keynote address at the NJ/PA Sustainability Forum on the Rutgers – Camden campus today. He provided a concise summary of the state of energy production and distribution as well as his view of the energy-political landscape.

With all the attention on other issues, Chivukula said that it’s difficult to get the general public interested in energy policy. Media coverage is sparse, and with our cheap and (usually) reliable electricity supply, he said, most people take energy for granted.

Chivukula pointed out that New Jersey gets over half its energy from the four nuclear plants in the state – three in Salem County and one (Oyster Creek) in Ocean County. But Oyster Creek’s operating license will expire in 2019. (The plant’s owners, Excelon, refused to build cooling towers to protect Barnegat Bay, hence the plant will be decommissioned at the end of the current license.) The closing of the plant will leave a 640 megawatt hole in New Jersey’s electricity production.

While he pointed out that energy is a non-partisan issue, Chivukula lamented the politicization leading to delays in the release of Governor Christie’s Energy Master Plan. He said that all the governor’s people are doing is tweaking the 2008 plan, but no one in the legislature has had any input to it. Offshore wind is part of this plan, but there’s a seven-year permitting process and the deep water sites are conducive to construction only two months of the year.

He spent a lot of time discussing Governor Christie’s conditional veto of A2529, a bill to promote renewable energy, and felt that the veto was based on a fit of pique by one of the governor’s aides and not on the merits of the bill. Chivukula also pointed out that sixty percent of our greenhouse gases come from transportation, so it is critical that the Energy Master Plan address that also.

I wish I were wonky enough to understand everything in his remarks, but alas, I am not. We elect our legislators to do the hard work of understanding the issues and promoting legislation that meets our needs. While I’m leery of most politicians (in both parties), Assemblyman Chivukula is one who my gut tells me is doing the right things, and deserves our support.

A Sunny Forum on A Rainy Day

What do you get when you put 100 policy wonks, technologists, energy executives, local politicians, and energy consumers in the same room to discuss New Jersey’s solar energy policy?  Once you get past the acronyms and technobabble, you learn a lot about the status, plans, and issues pertaining to an important renewable energy initiative.

At a forum today in Trenton, this diverse group of citizens came together at an event sponsored by NJ Spotlight, a six-month-old online news service.

New Jersey is second only to California in the number of solar power installations.  The panelists pointed out that solar power brings down the total energy cost because it generates its energy during the day when there is peak demand.  On especially hot days, the use of solar power helps eliminate the need to fire up older and more expensive power plants to meet surge demands, thus providing cost savings even to non-solar users.  While today’s solar power is more expensive than fossil fuels, as technologies and economies of scale kick in, the cost of solar is decreasing while the cost of conventional power goes up.   Pam Frank, an executive from Sun Farm Network, pointed out that while the cost of conventional power is volatile; the price of solar is steady, making long-term planning less risky.

More, including a list of the panelists, below the fold…

Offshore Drilling off Atlantic Coast Poses Grave Risk to Jersey Shoreline

Promoted by Rosi Efthim

The catastrophic proportions of one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history with more than 210,000 gallons of oil is continuing to leak daily from a ruptured oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico is continuing to threaten the shores of Louisiana and Florida. The unprecedented underwater leak has led to hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil spewing unchecked into the Gulf and moving to the coast, between the mouth of the Mississippi River and Florida.

The “potentially unprecedented environmental disaster,” as President Obama describes the Gulf of Mexico oil spill which was caused by an explosion and fire on the Transocean Deepwater Horizon drilling rig followed by a ruptured well. It is sadly noted that 11 workers were killed in the explosion. In addition, the total bill to include clean-up and compensation for damages could exceed $14 billion.

Environmental scientists estimate the ecological and biological consequences could last for years, if not decades. These include, oil remaining in the sediment of a marsh for 20 years, complete plant and animal species being wiped out, and oyster reefs being endangered. Several attempts to contain it have been unsuccessful and only estimated 15 to 20 percent of oil can be recovered from water.

Then, there is the question of corporate responsibility of the London-based BP Plc that owned the oil involved in the recent spill as well as the regulatory environment that oversees the offshore drilling. Three years ago, BP was reeling from accusations of putting profits before safety because of the high incidence of on-the-job accidents in its Texas City refinery, including a deadly explosion. That was turned around by new management, but, it appears that accidents still continue.

Green Jersey

(Trenton)–
UPDATE: PASSES TO THE FULL ASSEMBLY

The Assembly Telecom and Utilities Committee is hearing arguments for and against A-3301 (aka the “Global Warming Response Act.”)

This bill would establish ambitious goals of greenhouse gas omissions cuts by 2020. And pending a favorable vote later, would be released to the full Assembly.

The bill’s sponsor, Linda Stender is currently in the hot seat and luckily she’s an articulate spokesperson for the cause.  The primary co-sponsors are Valerie Huttle and Reed Gusciora.  I am sure it’s no small coincidence that the friends of the planet are also friends of Blue Jersey.

Update: Assemblywoman Huttle weighs in:

Global Warming is one of the most pressing issues that the world faces today. I think NJ can be a leader for the entire nation. Our goal is to cut global warming pollution and emissions by 20 percent below current levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050. This not only protects our environment but also our economy. Investments in clean energy and energy efficiency will certainly provide economic stimulus.

A new caucus is being formed by Reed Gusciora called the Green Caucus, I am honored to be a member and look forward to addressing these issues to help make NJ Green.

Transforming NJ into a Digital Business Powerhouse

(Trenton)–Sen. Paul Sarlo wants to turn NJ into the digital media epicenter of the nation.  At a noontime press conference in Trenton today, Sarlo (D-36) announced an ambitious legislative initiative to draw high tech, high-growth digital media platforms to the Garden State. 

Sarlo:

New Jersey is committed to taking a leadership roll in the "new economy" and we are serious about supporting the growth of digital media in our state.

 Presumbaly the idea is to woo high-tech and new media businesses with tempting tax packages. 

 Maybe you guys remember a few years back when the motion picture industry was given incentives which boosted that industry here in the state?  This new idea is akin to that.  And according to Republican Sen. Kyrillos, (a co-sponsor) since the restrictions on filmmaking were lifted here, the industry is thriving.  Nowadays, New Jersey ranks fifth in the nation for movie making which I would have never guessed.  Who knew?

 In addition to the Senators — both of whom were positively effusive when describing the virtues of this legislation — some heavy hitters from business and academia showed up including Vans Stevenson, senior VP of the motion pictures association of America who mused that this legislation "puts NJ on the forefront of the fast growing and dynamic digital media industry."  

 Dr. Donald Sebastian (Sr. VP of R&D at NJIT) reminded everyone that NJ is the birthplace of landline and broadcast technology and urged  an "unfair competitive advantage in the global competition to capture jobs in the knowledge economy."

 No sooner did I sit down to post this when i get a press release from Assemblyman  Upendra Chivukula who gave the Sarlo bill a fullthroated endorsement: “Growing  New Jersey’s  economy with new jobs in the high-technology sector is just what we need to help  ensure our state’s economic future,” said Chivukula (D-Somerset) who chairs  the Assembly Telecom and Utilities Committee.

Chivukula translated the technical into layman's terms after the flip…

News Round-up for Wednesday, March 15

  • The ethics inquiry at the State Department of the Treasury now includes Revenue Director Jack Tully. The expedited inquiry has expanded to include 29 state workers. Tully has been reasigned with no confirmed replacement while Gov. Corzine is in the last days of working on the budget. This is going to get ugly. Well, uglier.
  • Gov. Corzine is calling for a complete overhaul of the state corrections system in a speech to the state PBA at their convention in Atlantic City. Considered improvements include increasing identification of gang members and restoring mandantory annual training for officers. The governor also stated that he opposes priviatization of the prison system.
  • Assemblyman Peter Biondi’s bill A-1327, requiring Internet forum users to register their names and addresses with the forum operators and making the operators liable for defamation damages if they do not enforce the policy; and Assemblymen Wilfredo Caraballo and Upendra Chivukula’s bill A-2623, which would require forum operators to immediately remove any material deemed defamatory and to release the name of the poster to the person claiming the defamation, came under well-deserved fire from a coalition led by the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, who state that the bills “run afoul of the First Amendment” and the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. Make your thoughts known about these two bills- write your Assemblyfolk today.
  • The NJ Supreme Court yesterday voted that it takes only a “preponderence of evidence” to prove fraud under the Insurance Fraud Prevention Act, not a tougher standard of “clear and convincing evidence” in civil cases. Insurance thieves, beware!
  • A study released by the AFL-CIO reveals that Wall-Mart, the eighth-largest private employer in NJ,  has more has more workers and dependents using state-funded health coverage than any other employer in the state. “This abuse of poverty health care programs means Wal-Mart is directly contributing to the nation’s Medicaid crisis,” the AFL-CIO said. State Sen. Joseph Coniglio is quoted: “Here’s an example where someone has the ability to pay for health care, and they are pushing it off on the states.”
  • Ain’t it great to live in New Jersey? Our economy is gaining strength, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Pensylvania. Although not quite ready to declare it a boom, the bank predicts growth in excess of 3% through this fall. It’s certainly not all wine and roses, however; increasing sales taxes, coupled with huge spending cuts, are predicted to be in the budget package proposed next week.
  • Some drivers in Our Fair State will be randomly chosen to recieve six-year driver’s licences instead of four years, in a program to even out the renewal process for DMV. (Great, now I could be stuck with that unflattering picture for two more years.)