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Off Shore LNG Is Dead Gas Walking – But Will Christie Walk The Walk?

September 24th, 2010 No comments
Sargent at Arms try to seat a packed labor crowd at Senate LNG hearing.

Sergeant at Arms tries to seat a packed labor crowd at Senate LNG hearing.

“Deputy Christie spokesman Sean L. Conner said, We’re against all LNG.”  Bergen Record, April 23, 2010

 

Yesterday, the Senate Environment Committee either made a huge political blunder or they walked into an avoidable ambush. 

I wonder whose advise legislators were listening to?

The firestorm was in response to non-binding Senate Resolution 85, opposing the development of liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities off the New Jersey coast.

The rhetoric was heated.

Some environmental groups, such as Clean Ocean Action (COA), have dubbed off shore LNG “insanity Island” and a huge threat to the ocean, natural resources, and fisheries. 

COA’s testimony conjured up the energy equivalent of ”an invasion by a foreign country”. COA warned that LNG facilities would become targets for terrorists and that LNG imports would come from “middle eastern” countries, including Yemen. COA warned legislators that off shore LNG would increase “foreign dependence” and undermine Homeland Security and “energy independence”. They said an LNG tanker had the explosive power of “55 Hiroshima bombs“.  (I almost felt as if a 9/11 Mosque alert was next!).

COA managed to say all this in support of the Resolution, while giving Governor Christie a pass on his campaign pledge and Earth Day promise to kill off shore LNG.

The lobbyist for one LNG project developer, Liberty Energy, fired back. He claimed that the COA testimony was flat out “false and misleading” and then proceeded to rebut via a ”Fact versus Fiction” factsheet. He said his $800 million investment would create 1,100 jobs and have no impact on the ocean or create any emissions to the environment.

Organized labor was out in force, and framed the issue as a “vote against jobs”.

But why would anyone needlessly put themselves in such a position, especially under current economic conditions and unemployment rate?

I say needlessly for several important reasons:

1) The legislature has no role in off shore LNG. The LNG permit review and approval process is pre-empted by federal law.

2) Even if the Legislature had jurisdiction, a Resolution is a non-binding and essentially meaningless symbolic gesture. No gain, lots of pain.

3)  The ONLY NJ official with a role in LNG approval process is the Governor, who has a veto power under federal law.

4) Governor Christie has pledged to use his veto power and already has come out in strong opposition to off shore LNG.  

To high praise by COA and glowing press coverage, during Earth Week, Governor Christie held a big event down the shore (at a private beach club) to announce:

Gov. Christie issues potentially fatal blow to liquified natural gas proposals
Friday, April 23, 2010
BY JAMES M. O’NEILL
The Record
STAFF WRITER
Governor Christie used Earth Day on Thursday to issue a potentially fatal blow to private investors who want to build a $2.2 billion artificial island 20 miles off Sandy Hook for ships to unload liquefied natural gas.
 
 Christie expressed opposition to any facilities for liquefied natural gas off New Jersey’s coast, saying they “are not the answer for New Jersey’s needs.”

[...] 

 Asked for clarification of the governor’s comments, deputy Christie spokesman Sean L. Conner said, “We’re against all LNG.”

So why would a legislator agree to hold a hearing on a symbolic gesture opposing a dead project the Governor already killed???

5. On top of all that, private sector economic forcasters say the glut of domestic gas has killed all investment prospects for LNG import facilities:

 One by one, developers of US LNG import terminals pulled the plug this summer as overabundant domestic natural gas production turned what had been a challenging outlook for imported gas into an all but impossible business model. (full article here)  

By the end of the hearing, Senator Beck (R-Monmouth) was running away from supporting the Resolution and her Party’s Governor’s position to kill off shore LNG.

In our view, the entire hearing was an embarrassing self inflicted wound that stoked a far broader anti-environmental backlash – and all for no nothing!!.

COA somehow had managed to lose the battle, undermine their credibility, strenghten their opponents, and let the Governor off the hook.  Wow!

ps – In a comment to the Bergen Record story cited above, I submitted this comment:

Friday April 23, 2010, 12:33 PM – Gracus says:
How economically feasible are these projects in light of huge glut of domestic natural gas, including new large reserves in the Marcellus Shale? They were dead projects walking.

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Christie Red Tape Review Spawns More Red Tape

September 24th, 2010 1 comment
Christie gets big in California (photo credit: Star Ledger)

Christie gets big in California (photo credit: Star Ledger)

While the Cat is away the Rats will play!

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno takes the oath of Office

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno takes the oath of Office

With Governor Christie out of Town yesterday doing the Opra Show and other orchestrated political stunts, Lt. Governor Guadagno (AKA “Red Tape Czar”"), got into the Christie “decider” spirit and did some first rate State House ordering and directing. 

Guadagno issued an Executive Order of her own (click to see EO # 41).

Just like Dick Cheney who led the Bush search team for Vice President and found himself, Guadagno named herself as Chair of a new Red Tape Review Commission.

The Guadagno Order creates more bureaucracy and more centralized, politicized, murky, and unaccountable  review processes:.

The Order states: 

NOW, THEREFORE, I, KIM GUADAGNO, Acting Governor of the State of New Jersey, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and by the Statutes of this State, do hereby ORDER and DIRECT:

1. A Red Tape Review Commission (“Review Commission”) is hereby established. The Department of State shall provide support to the Review Commission from existing staff and resources.

Guadagno seems blissfully oblivious to the supreme irony that her 90 day temporary Red Tape Review Task Force has now created more permanent Red Tape!

The Order grants the new Red Tape Commission a very broad mandate.

The Order lacks any procedural or substantive safeguards to protect the public interest, promote ethics and transparency, or limit behind the scenes influence of powerful special interests. 

While the Order calls for 3 public hearings per year, there are no requirements that the Red Tape Commission abide by open public meetings, sunshine, or ethics laws.

There are no conflict of interest restrictions on Commission members.

There are no requirements that the Commisison meet and deliberate openly and comply with Open Public Records laws.

We view this Commission as a back channnel for secret business community attacks on regulatory protections.

The only positive aspect I see is that the Commission appears to be limited to review of existing rules and regulations and was provided no role in developing new regulations. 

However, there are no prohibitions on the Commission intervening in:

  • 1) the rulemaking process for new rules; 
  • 2) the reauthorization of existing rules; 
  • 3) pending DEP permit decisions or enforcement actions; or
  • 4) rate making processes of BPU .

And that ambiguity is a HUGE problem.

 

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Possible Break in Barnegat Bay Logjam

September 23rd, 2010 No comments

Clean Water Act Tools and Mandates May Strengthen Bay Response

BBay

[Update 2 - 10/8/10: Trenton's Sultan of the sound bite pans a science based Clean Water Act regulatory tool - Asbury Park Press story:  Bill requires limits on nutrient pollution for Barnegat Bay

In theory, the limits can be a powerful regulatory tool that forces state and local governments to track and clean up heavy nutrient sources in the watershed. Excessive nutrients are fueling algae blooms in the bay and changing its ecosystem at a basic level, according to marine scientists, who think last summer's outbreak of stinging jellyfish in the bay is linked to those long-term shifts.

But even some environmental activists are skeptical. Establishing load limits is a scientifically complex and expensive process, and good results are not guaranteed, said Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club.

Clean-water groups filed a lawsuit to get load limits for the Delaware River and Bay, "and the limits they came up with weren't very good," Tittel recalled.

Real smart move Tittel, just brilliant.

Update 1: 9/27/10 - excellent Kirk Moore story in today's Asbury Park Press: Sen. backs daily limits on pollution in the bay. Given that just a few weeks back, Senator Smith was quoted that my recommendations were "wrong", of course, I liked this line best:

A similar plan is needed for Barnegat Bay, said Bill Wolfe of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a former DEP official. In addition to the Chesapeake model, New Jersey can look to Florida, where EPA administrator Lisa Jackson is seeking to enforce phosphorus limits on Florida to clean up the Everglades, Wolfe wrote on his blog wolfenotes.com.

"I'm not afraid to listen to Bill Wolfe when he has a good idea," Smith said. Wolfe says he would like the Legislature to take a stronger stance with a bill to require action by the DEP.

Something potentially significant happened today as the Senate Environment Committee heard a new addition to the 4 bill package designed to protect and restore Barnegat Bay.

That package was initially heard on August 12, 2010 (i.e. S 1410 (soil compaction); S 1411 (fertilizer standards); S 1815 (stormwater demonstration project) and S 1856 (stormwater utility).

The package is stalled due to lack of support by Governor Christie and strong opposition by the Ocean County Freeholders and the fertilizer and lawn care industries.

Back in August, in hearing testimony, I criticized the package as technically flawed and called the voluntary approach unworkable due to Ocean County opposition.

I followed that testimony up with an August 17 Asbury Park Press Op-Ed .

To emphasize and elaborate on those flaws, I later wrote:

This [Rutgers Professor Kennish] quote from an August 6 Kirk Moore story from the  Asbury Park Press series on the Bay sums that perspective up:

“We have the data already. We’ve had it for years,” said Michael Kennish, a research professor who heads Rutgers University efforts to study Barnegat Bay’s pollution problems. “We know what the problems are. We need to have big stuff done, mandates and requirements imposed by DEP.”

I outlined some of that “big stuff” and DEP mandates by citing the need to enforce the federal and state Clean Water Act.

Under the Clean Water Act, both the New Jersey DEP and the US EPA have a mandatory duty to assure that water quality standards are met in Barnegat Bay so that the Bay is safe for fishing, swimming, and supports healthy aquatic ecosystems. Currently, the Bay is not meeting any of those fundamental Clean Water Act goals.

But let’s get back to today’s developments.

In keeping with the small bore piecemeal approach of the original package, the new additional bill, S 2275, would direct NJ Department of Transportation to inventory DOT owned stormwater basins in the Bay watershed.

The bill  amounts to a political concession to the Ocean County Freeholders, who complained that DOT failed to maintain DOT owned stormwater basins, in contrast to Ocean County, who allegedly did a fine job maintaining county basins.

The bill’s sponsor and Committee Chairman Bob Smith, introduced the bill to the Committee with an unusual statement. He said that he would hold the bill for testimony only, because he agreed with written comments he had received from myself and Tim Dillingham of the NJ Chapter of American Littoral Society.

I wrote Smith to note that yesterday EPA published a Clean Water Act based draft “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL) for nutrients and sediments into Chesapeake Bay (click here to read EPA’s Federal Register publication).

I reiterated that the Chesapeake Bay TMDL should be the model for Barnegat Bay.

I also warned that if NJ DEP continued to drag its feet on taking necessary steps to protect and restore Barnegat Bay, then NJ was vulnerable to a Clean Water Act lawsuit and the kind of harsh remedy that was imposed in Florida earlier this month via an EPA Order. 

An  EPA issued an Order directed the State of Florida to take specific steps to reduce nutrient pollution loadings to the Everglades to restore that precious ecosystem. According to PEER:

EPA PRESCRIBES FLORIDA TOUGH MEDICINE FOR EVERGLADES — State May Balk at Stringent Federal Water Quality Measures and Timetables

 Tallahassee — Facing a federal contempt citation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has ordered Florida to take immediate and dramatic attempts to reduce water pollution in the Everglades, according to documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). If EPA cannot get Florida to accept its conditions, it may lead to a federal takeover of state water pollution controls.

On October 7, 2010, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will personally appear before U.S. District Court Judge Alan Gold in a contempt hearing into repeated violations by EPA and Florida of a 2008 ruling to comply with phosphorous limits for sensitive Everglades waters. On the September 3rd deadline set by Judge Gold, EPA announced that it had a plan to comply with the order and avert a contempt finding but the agency did not release any details. This coyness may be explained by the fact that this new set of EPA Everglades dictates, called the “Amended Determination,” go far beyond any previous actions, including –

  • Florida is ordered to amend both its controversial Everglades Forever Act and its phosphorus rule to significantly cut pollution flows;
  • In order to reduce phosphorus loading into canals, the state must purchase at least 42,000 acres of land as Stormwater Treatment Areas; and
  • Existing water pollution permits must be tightened to conform to new limits by December 3, 2010.

The EPA Amended Determination also flatly declares that Florida is violation of the Clean Water Act and can no longer be allowed to ignore nutrient standards for the Everglades Protection Area. It indicates that if Florida does not take the stipulated steps EPA will directly impose these actions under federal law.

Much to my surprise, Senator Smith agreed to support a TMDL and to introduce a Resolution urging EPA and DEP to adopt one for the Bay.

So this is an opportunity to educate the Committeee on the DEP’s TMDL program and force DEP to ramp up efforts and make the Bay a priority.

While I don’t think a simple Resolution is sufficient, we may have a breakthrough in recognizing the TMDL as the proper regulatory vehicle on the Bay.

We will keep you posted and urge you to contact Senator Smith and members of the Committee in support of a TMDL approach.

After all, even the Ocean County Freeholders said that the Bay is a state resource and if it is of such economic importance, then the legislature should mandate a state solution. So I say:

Give them what they asked for!

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First Day of Fall

September 23rd, 2010 No comments

It was 90 yesterday – tomorrow expected to be 93. The Trenton area set a record for 90+ degree days – thus far this year, it’s about 54 (it was 51 on September 8). What’s the point?

fall

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Pay Attention To the Man Behind the Curtain

September 21st, 2010 No comments
"... for I am the Great and Powerful Oz!!!!"

"... I am the Great and Powerful Oz!!!!"

 "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain"

Governor Christie takes the oath of Office

Governor Christie takes the oath of Office

Regulatory Czar Lt. Governor Guadagno cuts Red Tape

Regulatory Czar Lt. Governor Guadagno cuts Red Tape

"I'll get you my pretty and your dog, Red Tape, too!"

“I’ll get you my pretty, and your dog, Red Tape too!” 

somewhere over the rainbow ...

somewhere over the rainbow ...

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