New Jersey Currents - Fall 2015

November 4, 2015
Sprinkler at a coal ash disposal site. Photo credit: bibiphoto / Shutterstock

NJ Legislature Still Flunking on the Environment

By David Pringle, Campaign Director

Clean Water Action’s 2014-15 NJ Legislative Scorecard found a majority of state legislators failed on the environment, much as they did 2 years ago.

There were fourteen notable exceptions. These legislators, whom Clean Water Action called ‘heroes’, joined the call for immediate corrective action by the legislature. Click here to see what the heroes are saying.

Overall the Legislature took pro-environment positions less than half (47%) of the time. On every legislative initiative the anti-environment position succeeded or the pro-environment position was watered down because: <--break->

  • Democratic leaders failed to post good bills,
  • Republicans refused to buck the Governor even when they disagreed with him, and/or
  • Enough Democrats teamed up with Governor Christie to pass bad bills — most notably two — the Pinelands nomination of Robert Barr and the 4th Permit Extension Act.

The scorecard also found:

  • The top scores were bipartisan, with Republican Senator Kip Bateman and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg each scoring 103%
  • Senators Sarlo (D-Bergen) and Lesniak (D-Union) were most improved with scores increasing by 36% and 31% respectively from 2013 to 2015
  • Democratic rank and file outscored their Republican counterparts (54% to 35%)
but Republican leaders performed better than their Democratic counterparts:
Sen. Minority Leader Kean (66%), Sen. President Sweeney (34%), Asm. Minority Leader Bramnick (32%), Asm. Majority Leader Greenwald (25%), and Asm. Speaker Prieto (24%).

 Here’s a partial to-do list that the Legislature can act on before the end of the year:

  • Constitutionally dedicate environmental funds to their intended purpose.
  • Override the governor’s veto of the ban on dumping fracking waste in New Jersey.
  • Get moving on stalled legislation:
  • Set and achieve aggressive energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy goals (S2444/A4224), making New Jersey a hotbed for jobs in the manufacturing, research, development, installation and maintenance sectors;
  • Promote environmental justice (S1150/A1594) by addressing the cumulative impact of multiple pollution sources;
  • Protect the coast with smart planning (S64/A2117); and
  • Ensure safe playing fields (S541) by making them pesticide-free.
  • Use legislative oversight power to veto Governor Christie’s just proposed weakening of key protections against flooding and for drinking water especially in the Highlands.

Make the Garden State a Clean Energy Leader

By Jenny Vickers, Communications Manager

Accelerate New Jersey’s transition to a clean energy economy:

  • A 30% increase in efficiency by 2030 and 100% clean, renewable energy sources by 2050. This will also make the Garden State a hotbed for manufacturing, R&D, construction, installation and maintenance of green technologies and create sustainable jobs;
  • Stop the expansion of the oil and gas industries by blocking new pipelines, reducing  oil train traffic, and vetoing LNG gas terminals; and
  • Address equity and environmental justice issues in future energy policy. Click here to view the full platform.

From the Highlands to the Pinelands and the Delaware River to the Jersey Shore, the Garden State is home to almost 9 million people who rely on clean water, air and land to keep their families safe and healthy. New Jersey is also home to critical natural areas which provide clean drinking water, air, and habitat for native plants and animal species.

Unfortunately, there are dirty, dangerous, and unneeded fossil fuel projects impacting every corner of the state. Oil pipeline proposals in the Pinelands and Highlands…oil trains rolling through neighborhoods from North Jersey… a liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal and oil drilling off the Jersey Shore…and gas infrastructure proposals near the Delaware River.

To fight back, Clean Water Action has joined 50 organizations to launch a clean energy coalition. The goal is to make New Jersey a national and global leader in clean energy strategies, technology and the creation of a green economy and sustainable jobs. The coalition has developed a platform with meaningful benchmarks to promote clean, renewable energy projects and phase out dirty fossil fuel projects including:

Stopping pipelines in the Pinelands and Highlands which put public health, land and water resources at risk. An oil pipeline rupture in Michigan in July 2015 released nearly 845,000 gallons, polluting thirty-five miles of the Kalamazoo River.

  • The Penn East pipeline would pass under the Delaware River and other waterways and major highways. Its path would cut through densely populated urban centers and scenic , unspoiled woodlands.
  • The Pilgrim Oil pipeline would carry oil from Albany, New York to a refinery in Linden, New Jersey. The 178-mile pipeline would pass through twenty-eight towns and environmentally sensitive areas, increasing pollution and reducing property values. The pipeline would service Bakken crude oil shipments from North Dakota, which is more volatile than other oil.

Oil trains carrying Bakken crude oil. Oil from the Bakken is particularly volatile. Several derailments, explosions and fires have occurred in the past three years as the amount of Bakken crude transported by rail has increased dramatically. In an incident in February 2015 in West Virginia 26 rail cars derailed: 19 of them burned, some for days, and more than 100 people were evacuated.

Each week, 15-30 trains carrying as much as 3.6 million gallons of Bakken crude oil travel on the CSX River Line from New York through densely populated Bergen County to a refinery in Philadelphia. The trains pass thousands of homes, middle schools and ball fields, endangering the safety of residents and drinking water supplies. What’s worse is that current regulations do not disclose information about the movements and contents of the trains to residents or first responders. If an accident were to happen, emergency responders would not be prepared to protect its residents.

Port Ambrose Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Terminal. The coalition is calling for Governor Christie to veto this LNG project which would increase greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels, cause habitat destruction, heighten security risks, and pollute the Jersey Shore. LNG would close off vast areas of the Atlantic from recreational and commercial uses, and only create six long-term jobs.

Join the clean energy coalition and put an end to dirty and dangerous oil and gas projects. Help ensure the Garden State leads the way in renewable and efficient energy technologies while creating more jobs at less cost than burning up the planet. Find out more and take action here.

Feds Cancel NJ Nuke Cancer Study Already Underway

By Janet Tauro, NJ Board Chair

Hopes that federal nuclear regulators might demonstrate real concern for people living in frontline communities were squashed recently when a cancer study around nuclear power plants was abruptly cancelled.

Citing cost and difficulty, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission halted a study to determine if there are elevated pediatric cancer rates in communities surrounding nuclear power plants.

Saying Congressional money must be spent “wisely,” the NRC decided that looking into childhood cancer rates was not worth the expense.

Nuclear power plants, including Oyster Creek, emit daily low-level radiological releases into the environment. A government report in the late Nineties had concluded that no level of continuous radiation exposure can be considered safe.

It’s difficult not to conclude that the NRC didn’t want to learn the results of this updated research.

Clean Water Action Appeals Exxon Sellout Upheld By Court

By David Pringle, Campaign Director

Clean Water Action continues to contest the Exxon and NJDEP sellout-settlement which allows Exxon to pay just $225 million in natural resource damages (NRD) with most of proceeds going to lawyers and cover budget holes created by Governor Christie instead of restoration.

The State previously estimated $8.9 billion for damages at Exxon’s Bayonne and Bayway Linden refineries. The settlement also delays cleanup, misuses NRD restoration funds, adds 15 additional contaminated industrial sites and over 800 gas stations without any record, and violates the Spill Act and the Public Trust Doctrine. The groups are represented by Ed Lloyd and Susan Kraham of Columbia University Law Clinic.

In October, the Superior Court in Burlington County rejected environmental groups’ motion to intervene and approved the settlement. Clean Water Action, with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Environment New Jersey and Sierra Club, is appealing both decisions. The coalition is committed to exhausting every legal avenue to get the public a better deal.

Great Adventure, Forest Clearcut, Solar Farm Update

By David Pringle, Campaign Director

Clean Water Action’s litigation continues against Jackson Township and Six Flag Great Adventure’s plan to clear cut 90 acres of environmentally sensitive forest to make way for a solar facility.

Sierra Club and Environment New Jersey have joined the original four groups as plaintiffs — Clean Water Action, Crosswicks Creek Doctors Creek Watershed Association, NJ Conservation Foundation and Save Barnegat Bay.

Due to our coalition efforts, Great Adventure has proposed to reduce the footprint by 20 acres through better technology but continues to resist using a more suitable location, such as their 100-acre parking lot as the Philadelphia Eagles Stadium and Rutgers Athletic Center have done.

Clean Water Action will continue to push Great Adventure and Jackson Township for a reasonable settlement especially in light of the public’s overwhelming support expressed through our letter-writing campaign.

Port Authority is Not Even Close

By Amy Goldsmith, State Director

Clean Water Action’s recent truck count along Frelinghuysen Avenue in Newark demonstrated that dirty trucks still frequent port-adjacent neighborhoods at a rate of 250 trucks per hour, putting these communities’ health at risk. It is time for #ZeroEmissionsNow.

The Port Authority of NY&NJ (PANYNJ)’s Clean Air Strategy commits the agency to clean up dirty diesel trucks, ships and cargo handling equipment at the NY&NJ port complex. Plan details can be found here.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence that the PANYNJ will meet its self-imposed deadline to ban all pre-2007 engine trucks from entering port terminals by January 1, 2017.  If this deadline is enforced, the Port Authority would achieve a 90% reduction in truck-related diesel pollution.

While the Port Authority has targeted 8,000 “frequent calling” port trucks, its expensive loan program for low wage drivers has only replaced 469 trucks. Additional funding will only get eight additional dirty trucks off the road.  When asked how the Port Authority was going to achieve their clean air and truck replacement goals, Port Authority officials had no answer.

The Coalition for Healthy Ports (CHP) which Clean Water Action chairs, has an alternative strategy:

  • concentrate capital investments into truck fleets and companies willing to invest and maintain, them, not individual owner-operators
  • create public-private financing mechanisms which share the cost between ship owners, terminal operators, trucking companies and retail chains who profit the most from goods movement

Ecoflow, a successful trucking company, determined it was profitable to buy clean trucks to buy clean trucks (i.e. zero emissions hydrogen trucks) and employ union workers,  with benefits. Why? To grab a more significant market share of goods movement at the Port of Los Angeles because only trucks with 2007 and newer engines are allowed in the gate. If the PANYNJ actually stuck to its plan to ban older dirtier trucks, and encouraged new trucking companies like EcoFlow, it would be on a path towards clean air, healthy neighborhoods and good jobs for area residents and port workers.

TAKE ACTION here, where Clean Water Action is helping to launch the national Moving Forward Network petition drive for federal port diesel standards at all US ports.   

More information about CHP is here.