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Christie Administration Dodges Water Infrastructure Deficits, Blames Regulatory Oversight

August 31st, 2011 No comments
wastewater treatment plant - over 30 year old technology in need of upgrades

wastewater treatment plant - over 30 year old technology in need of upgrades

Higher Water Rates – Bigger Profits – Dirty Water – Less Accountability on The Horizon

Tom Johnson at NJ Spotlight writes today about a Christie Administration proposal to reduce Board of Public Utilities (BPU) regulatory oversight of how private water companies and public authorities recover the costs of investments in infrastructure upgrades (see:

Water Utilities May See Faster ROI for Infrastructure Upgrades -State agency’s proposal would mean speedier recovery of costs and less regulatory oversight

The proposal grew out of the Christie Administration’s infrastructure asset management and financing” initiative discussed at last October’s Clean Water Council annual public hearing at DEP.  BPU President Lee Solomon spoke at that hearing – see:

Clean Water Council Considering Privatization

At that time, the Gorilla in the Room shining a bright light on NJ’s aging infrastructure was not a huge hurricane and severe flooding, but the emergence from another serious statewide drought (see:

The Christie proposal amounts to another incremental (and stealth) step down the road of privatization and deregulation.

Again, the Christie Administration misdiagnoses public policy problems and diverts the focus, thus frustrating real reform.

This misdiagnosis is the result of pervasive themes in the Christie Administration, including:

  • a deep hostility to government, regulation, and independent local public authorities
  • a fact free faith in private sector and markets
  • ideological opposition to raising public sector revenues (AKA “starve the beast”)

The basic problem is underinvestment, not regulatory oversight.

Slogans like cutting “Red Tape” will not close NJ’s $28 billion water infrastructure deficit.

Drinking water infrastructure deficits exceed $8 billion and waste-water exceeds $20 billion.

So, if, as Tom Johnson reports, the private water companies and the Administration are seeking a “regulatory mechanism” to “minimize impacts on customers”, then I say retain the current traditional rate base rate of return regulatory oversight mechanism.

But, if what they really seek are higher profits while dodging public accountability and avoiding raising the money to finance needed investments, then by all means proceed with the Christie proposal.

That will produce higher profits for private corporations, while consumers will pay higher bills for the status quo.

The policy discussion must include DEP mandates for utilities to conduct infrastructure assessments and then make necessary upgrades.

There must be DEP enforcement driven mandates for investment in infrastructure.

If not, our huge infrastructure deficits will continue to go unaddressed, as the private sector will not make these investments and public authorities will not take on the fight due to local political pressure to control user rates.

But, of course these views were not considered, as I’ve been blackballed from participation in any Christie hand picked “Stakeholder group”.

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Some Delaware River Scenes From Irene

August 28th, 2011 1 comment

[Update 4 - 9/2/11 - Did a United Water reservoir dam release cause a "wall of water" to flow down Swan Creek? (see boat in road below). see:

One thing is for sure, if a United Water dam release caused the flash flood, it certainly does matter, suspending parking fees is what doesn't matter, and Mayor Delvechio will eats these words:

"We've asked them [United Water] in writing. There’s only one way to be sure. When we hear back, we’re happy to make that public. We have three hills and the water came off all three hills.There are enough people with concerns about it that saw the flow.”

In the meantime, DelVecchio said, there are more pressing tasks.

We have to question formally, but now we go back to the cleanup, because in some ways … it doesn’t matter,” he said. DelVecchio has ordered that all parking meter fees in the city be suspended a few days so residents can mobilize to repair the damage.

Residents should file OPRA requests to DEP and United Water to get a hold of the emergency response plans, United operating logs, and documentation of all communications between United and DEP. – end update]

Update 3 – 8/30/11 – River crested at Stockton at 18.6 feet, more than 5 feet less than the prediction I originally quoted of almost 24 feet. I wonder what explains that?

These photos are shot traveling by bicycle – I’ll try to head south today to see Rt. 29 washout in  Hopewell. Gotta wait for morning rush chaos to diminish, because I need to travel by road at least 8 miles to reach the Canal Town Path. But my favorite route is to take back road to Hunter Road, bomb down that hill (by Wheelfine bike store on Rt. 518), wind up behind Howell History Farm, and then shoot down Pleasant Valley Rd to Rt. 29.]

Update 2 – 8/29/11additional photos below]

Update 1: Monday, 8/29/11 8:30 am- Looks like good news, but George Orwell must be in charge of NOAA’s “Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service” – the peak flood stage has been reduced several feet (20.6 feet), yet you’d never know that. Yesterday’s projections are down the memory hole. Pretty nifty, eh? Errors never made!

Away, You Rolling River! - end update.]

Got out of the house mid morning and did a local tour. Delaware River flood-waters are projected to peak tomorrow at Stockton at about 5 am at 24 feet, 6 feet above flood stage and a major flood event.

That would rank Irene as the sixth highest flood elevation ever -

In the last decade, the Delaware has seen 4 of its top ten record floods in over 170 years of records posted (see this history)

Think of the interaction of global warming (more frequent and intense storms) and destruction of the landscape and natural hydrological cycle by development (more and faster stormwater runoff), which vastly increase risks and storm damage.

But enough with the data – ever notice that disasters are one of the few times that neighbors talk to each other and people freely congregate in numbers on the street?

It was one of those days on Main Street in Delaware River communities Stockton and Lambertville today. Take a look:

Stockton – Stockton got hit hard last night with flash floods, but folks were out chatting about the rising river. A “major flood” 24 foot stage is predicted for tomorrow morning, triggering a mandatory evacuation by 4 pm today.

(N Railroad Ave.) Cars were floating in several feet of water here last night

(N Railroad Ave.) Cars were floating in several feet of water here last night

I came across this globe, in a plant stand. Is an upside down planet a distress signal, like an upside down flag? Was this some kind of creative statement about global warming?

upside down globe at curb is ignored, as neighbors chat. What's up with that?

upside down globe at curb is ignored, as neighbors chat. What's up with that?

Nope – it was just being thrown out.

But maybe that is the statement? The Earth is trashed – we’re fucked!

So I picked it up! (and the light even works!) – Hell, tell Bill McKibben to relax: I got the whole world in my hands!

Irene4

Rt 29 and 519 - Overall, surprisingly few trees down

Rt 29 and 519 - Overall, surprisingly few trees down

Wickecheoke Creek is roaring, just north of Rt. 29 and Prallsville Mills

Wickecheoke Creek is roaring, just north of Rt. 29 and Prallsville Mills

Lambertville

(South Union Street). Boat washed up in road, over bridge across Swan Creek, in background

(South Union Street). Boat washed up in road, over bridge across Swan Creek, in background

South Union Street, at Swan Creek bridge.

South Union Street, at Swan Creek bridge.

All American flood scene - this spot will be under 2-3 feet of water by tomorrow morning. Get used to it.

All American flood scene - this spot will be under 2-3 feet of water by tomorrow morning. Get used to it.

D&R Canal discharging into Swan Creek, on way to the Delaware. Bridges serve Tow Path.

D&R Canal discharging into Swan Creek, on way to the Delaware. Bridges serve Tow Path.

West Amwell

Rocktown - Lambertvile Road closed

Rocktown - Lambertvile Road closed

Rt. 179 closed by downed wires

Rt. 179 closed by downed wires

Alexauken Creek floodwater overtop new bridge abutments, adn almost wash away cosntruction equipment

Alexauken Creek floodwater overtops new bridge abutments, and almost wash away construction equipment

Bulls Island State Park

Signs say "Area closed". 3 State park cops later told me I was tresspassing.

Signs say "Area closed". 3 State park cops later told me I was trespassing.

irene14

looks like that new over-engineered bridge is working

looks like that new ugly over-engineered bridge is working

Campers need canoes - "No Pets in Campground"! Can't you read the sign!

Campers need canoes - "No Pets in Campground"! Can't you read the sign!

View north from footbridge -

View north from footbridge -

Black Bass Inn- Lumberville, Pa. River is projected to rise 10 more feet, possibly overtopping wall at Inn.

Black Bass Inn- Lumberville, Pa. River is projected to rise 10 more feet, possibly over-topping wall at Inn.

River and Canal (PA side) are one (view north)

River and Canal (PA side) are one (view north)

Black Bass Inn - canal - river (looking south from same spot)

Black Bass Inn - canal - river (looking south from same spot)

Updated – photos – 8/29/11 Rocktown

Rocktown - Lambertville Road

Rocktown - Lambertville Road

East Amwell

Wertsville Road closed (at bridge just past Rocktown Road)

Wertsville Road closed (at bridge just past Rocktown Road

Rocktown Road closed

Rocktown Road closed

"You've Got mail!"

"You've Got mail!

Lambertville lambertville

lambertville2

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Storm Damage Assessment

August 28th, 2011 2 comments
home, unscathed

home, unscathed

My cabin is surrounded by large mature trees – with the ground saturated by historically high August rainfall, I really feared that one would fall and maybe kill Buoy (my pup) and I.

But, my biggest storm scare and damage was cleaning up the crap my puppy took on the floor.

He’s been housebroken for weeks, but the storm disrupted our routine.

The wind was howling so bad last night that he was scared.

High winds and heavy rain made our before bed piss walk impossible.

Despite that, we did manage a quick piss in the front yard bushes though, and since he never craps at night, I thought that was adequate.

But, pup would not settle down in bed and go to sleep.

I assumed it was the same fear of the storm I felt (that I got hammered to avoid thinking about), so I put him out of my bed and into the rear bedroom.

My cabin is surrounded by large mature trees – with the ground saturated by historically high August rainfall, I really feared that one would fall and maybe kill us both.

So, with fear and many beers rattling my addled brain, I failed to realize that earlier in the day, I had taken the food and water bowls (both full) inside to the rear bedroom (where I had just put the pup!).

As a result, pup ate a bellyful, and predictably crapped his ass off an hour or so later.

My bad!

Just goes to show, dogs are smarter than people.

Still pretty good gust with light rain, but I’m now headed out – down to look at Alexauken Creek and Delaware – I assume the Delaware will crest high with flooding.

[Update - looks like I spoke too soon – just returned from my local tour, and noticed that part of my ceiling fell, due to roof leak around chimney:

irene22

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Many Rivers to Cross

August 27th, 2011 No comments
Hudson River

Hudson River

Hurricane Irene has me as a captive Rider on the Storm right now and literally Waiting for the Sun, but I’m feeling like Jimmy Cliff - Listen

Many rivers to cross
But I can’t seem to find my way over
Wandering I am lost
As I travel along the white cliffs of dover

Many rivers to cross
And it’s only my will that keeps me alive
I’ve been licked, washed up for years
And I merely survive because of my pride

[EndNote: hit all these links to listen to some special stuff , when I was back at school, and read of  current affairs.

This is especially provided for a nostalgic trip for my Salem NY reader - a Wild Child .

Salem is a special place with lots of memories, if only for our brief afternoon - on love street, in light on the experiences of a changeling.

It sure would be lovely to see you again my friend (cause you know I've always been your man - and gone to great lengths to prove it , so touch me! - and don't ask why, but tell all the people that you see).

No regrets Coyote!

This is the End, so when the music's over, turn out the light, but not before listening to my friend Neil Young, just for old time's sake:

The world is turnin',
I hope it don't turn away,
The world is turnin',
I hope it don't turn away.
All my pictures are fallin'
from the wall where
I placed them yesterday.
The world is turnin',
I hope it don't turn away

[...]

Get out of town,
think I’ll get out of town,
Get out of town,
think I’ll get out of town.
I head for the sticks
with my bus and friends,
I follow the road,
though I don’t know
where it ends.
Get out of town, get out of town,
think I’ll get out of town.

‘Cause the world is turnin’,
I don’t want to
see it turn away.

~~~ “On the Beach” Neil Young (1974) (listen)

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Real Recent Fracking News

August 26th, 2011 No comments

A Fracking Ponzi Scheme on Steroids

In case you got diverted by environmentalists criticizing Governor Christie’s conditional veto of a meaningless fracking ban bill (a political stunt by Democrats), you might want to know that there have been extremely important revelations regarding the fundamental economic viability of natural gas fracking.

The NY Times has written devastating investigative stories on the gas fracking industry (see “Drilling Down” series).

In the wake of stories that suggest that the fracking industry exhibits the economics of a “Ponzi scheme, yesterday, the Times reported that previous estimates of gas reserves were off by 80%:

WASHINGTON — Federal geologists published new estimates this week for the amount of natural gas that exists in a giant rock formation known as the Marcellus Shale, which stretches from New York to Virginia.

The shale formation has about 84 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas, according to the report from the United States Geological Survey. This is drastically lower than the 410 trillion cubic feet that was published earlier this year by the federal Energy Information Administration.

As a result, the Energy Information Administration, which is responsible for quantifying oil and gas supplies, has said it will slash its official estimate for the Marcellus Shale by nearly 80 percent, a move that is likely to generate new questions about how the agency calculates its estimates and why it was so far off in its projections.

The decision by the agency to lower the estimates comes amid growing scrutiny from Congress about how the administration calculates its numbers and why it depends on outside and industry-tied consultants to produce some of its reports.

Wow! Wonder if Chesapeake Energy stock price dropped by 80%, given that they hold almost 16 million acres of shale gas, and especially in light of Forbes’ report on the NY Attorney General subpoena of natural gas drillers).

With all that, it’s no wonder Chesapeake stock in on price alert.

In light of these new facts, will Governor Christie re-assess the promotion and huge reliance on natural gas in his Energy Master Plan?

Do we still need all those massive gas pipelines?

Looks like gas may not be the “transition” fuel. Some “game changer” ey, oilman Jim Benton?

The revised estimate confirms major problems the Times previously disclosed, that suggest that the economics of fracking are a Ponzi schme:

Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush

Natural gas companies have been placing enormous bets on the wells they are drilling, saying they will deliver big profits and provide a vast new source of energy for the United States.

But the gas may not be as easy and cheap to extract from shale formations deep underground as the companies are saying, according to hundreds of industry e-mails and internal documents and an analysis of data from thousands of wells. …

In the e-mails, energy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts voice skepticism about lofty forecasts and question whether companies are intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves. Many of these e-mails also suggest a view that is in stark contrast to more bullish public comments made by the industry, in much the same way that insiders have raised doubts about previous financial bubbles.

“Money is pouring in” from investors even though shale gas is “inherently unprofitable,” an analyst from PNC Wealth Management, an investment company, wrote to a contractor in a February e-mail. “Reminds you of dot-coms.”

“The word in the world of independents is that the shale plays are just giant Ponzi schemes and the economics just do not work,” an analyst from IHS Drilling Data, an energy research company, wrote in an e-mail on Aug. 28, 2009.

Now that is NEWS!

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