Archive for May, 2014

Powerful Charts of the Day

May 22nd, 2014 No comments

Christie’s NJ Blown Away by Windy New England

Retiring Nuclear and Fossil Plant Capacity Replaced by Gas & Wind

“Green Path” Provides More Jobs at Lower Cost

new england

Including the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, New England expects to see more than 1,369 MW of generation retired between 2013 and 2016. Dominion Energy Resources is planning to retire the nearly 750-MW Salem Harbor coal- and petroleum-fired power plant in Massachusetts in 2014. Dominion cited a combination of the costs of compliance with new environmental regulations as well as declining profits for coal-fired units in Independent System Operator of New England.

On the other hand, 1,193 MW of capacity is expected to come on line in New England between 2013 and 2016. Half of the capacity additions will be from natural gas, with another 406 MW – 34% coming from new wind turbines. (Source: EIA)

If New England can manage to shut down fossil and nuke plants and keep the lights on and houses warm, NJ surely can shut down Oyster Creek and BL England, and ultimately phase out fossil

New England is also light years ahead of NJ not only on renewable wind power and shutting down nukes, but in considering the jobs issue in energy alternative analysis.

Take a look at this chart – the “green” alternative produced more jobs than relicensing the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant –

vermont yankee


So why is Christie still allowing Oyster Creek to operate and backing BL England repowering?


Source:   Joe Novarra BC Express, HVAC contractor, opposes Gov. CHristie diversion of Clean Energy Funds (3/25/10)


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NJ Geological Survey Report Shows Impacts of Development on Water Supplies

May 21st, 2014 No comments

Development Diminishes and “Takes” Public Water Supplies

DEP Stormwater Regulations Significantly Reduce Loss of Groundwater Recharge

The NJ Geological and Water Survey just released an interesting Report:

  • What Does The Report Mean?

The Report confirms arguments environmentalists have made for many years regarding the adverse impacts of development in terms of loss of groundwater recharge.

The report also quantifies the benefits – in terms of reduction of loss of recharge – of DEP regulations.

It is well known that groundwater recharge provides important ecological functions and services and public water supply benefits. Those functions, services, and benefits have significant economic value that has been quantified (i.e. see Valuing NJ’s Natural Capital (2007).

Given the extent of the adverse impacts in terms of loss of the ecological functions and water supply benefits associated with groundwater recharge documented by this Report – coupled with the success in DEP regulations in reducing these harmful impacts –  the report makes the case for both stronger policies, in terms of stricter land use controls and storm water regulations, and some form of economic compensation (i.e. impact fees) by developers for the loss of groundwater recharge caused by development.

Developers should compensate the public for “lost use” of natural resources and lost use of publicly owned water supplies resulting from loss of groundwater recharge.

  • What Does The Report Say?

So, lets take a look at how the Report supports those kind of regulatory and compensation policies.

The Report appropriately begins with this lovely Epigram, From Chapter III, The Woods (Marsh, 1864 – no typo 150 years ago!)

Influence of the Forest on the Flow of Springs

It is well established that the protection afforded by the forest against the escape of moisture from its soil, insures the permanence and regularity of natural springs, not only within the limits of the woods, but at some distance beyond their borders, and this contributes to the supply of an element essential to both vege- table and animal life. As the forests are destroyed, the springs which flowed from the woods, and, conse- quently, the greater water courses fed by them, diminish both in number and in volume.

General Consequences of the Destruction of the Forest

With the disappearance of the forest, all is changed. … The face of the earth no longer a sponge, but a dust heap, and the floods which the waters of the sky pour out hurry swiftly along its slopes, carrying in suspension vast quantities of earthy particles which increase the abrading power and mechanical force of the current, and augmented by the sand and gravel of falling banks, fill the beds of the streams, divert them into new channels and obstruct their outlets. The rivulets, wanting their former regularity of supply and deprived of the protecting shade of the woods, are heated, evaporated, and thus reduced in their summer currents, but swollen to raging torrents in autumn and in spring.

I suggest you read the entire Report, but I’ll summarize the methodology and findings here.

The Report examines and quantifies 3 things:

  • conversion of land to development and associated increase of imperious surfaces
  • loss of groundwater recharge resulting from land use change and increased impervious surfaces
  • simulates the reduction in loss of recharge under DEP storm water “Best Management Practices” (BMP’s)

During the 1995 – 2007 period,  the 3 counties lost significant forested and agricultural lands to development. These lands provide recharge, and development and impervious surface reduce that recharge, while at the same time increasing demand for water from the development.

According to the report, from 1995 – 2007, that development created 7,711 acres of new impervious surface in the 3 counties.

Conversion of land to development reduced groundwater recharge by approximately 2.018 billion gallons per year.

The Report goes on to simulate how full implementation of DEP’s storm water BMP’s would have reduced the loss of recharge associated with development.

The Report has to assume full implementation, but that is an unrealistic assumption, given poor implementation by local governments and builders and DEP’s lax monitoring and enforcement of those BMP’s.

Full implementation of the DEP’s stormwater BMP’s would have reduced that loss of recharge by 35% (Sussex), 69% (Atlantic) and 88% (Mercer) – see Table 8.

But, surprisingly, the Report’s list of BMP’s did not include what is perhaps DEP’s strongest and most effective storm water BMP, the 300 foot wide (both sides) Category 1 stream buffers, so the benefits are likely larger in magnitude.

These C1 stream buffers are codified as water quality BMP’s in the DEP storm water management rules (@ NJAC 7:8-5.5 (h), but they also serve to reduce loss of recharge associated with development by reducing the intensity and footprint of development; reducing impervious surfaces of development; preserving natural vegetation; reducing soil disturbance; and providing direct recharge.

  • Bottom Line – Reforms Going Forward

The bottom line is that development has a significant impact on groundwater recharge. The loss of recharge is essentially “taking” public property that should be paid for by the developer in terms of some form of impact feee, e.g. based on calculated loss of recharge or area of impervious surface and the value of “natural capital” consumed and permanently lost.

As our water supplies, ecosystems, and physical infrastructure become increasingly stressed and financial deficits magnify, all water users must begin to pay their fair share for “consumption”, whether at the back end use from the tap, or on the front end in terms of loss of recharge to source waters.

Similarly, towns need to do build out capacity based land use planning and zoning that reflects the capacity of water resources. Towns like Hopewell (Mercer County) have done exactly this and provide a model.

State and local open space acquisition programs need to better target aquifer recharge areas.

Last, given the fact that DEP BMPs can work to reduce adverse impacts, DEP needs to expand regulatory efforts, strengthen regulations, and more strictly monitor and enforce compliance.

Interesting report, read the whole thing.

Of course, none of these policies can be enacted under the current Christie regime or what passes for political reality in the legislature and municipal planning boards.

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Pipe Dreams

May 21st, 2014 No comments
Tennessee Gas Pipeline Construction (Wawayanda State Park, West Milford NJ) (8/18/11)

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Construction (Wawayanda State Park, West Milford NJ) (8/18/11)


Here we go again.

Just as South Jersey Gas and Gov. Christie double down on the Pinelands pipeline, another battle over a literally insane fossil fuel pipeline, see NJ Spotlight:

The only good news I can see here is the cooperation and coalition between NY and NJ activists.

But in framing the issue, it seems like – again – the activists and the media are missing the proverbial 800 pound iceberg in the room.

All the science tells us that we are approaching – or may have already crossed – tipping points in the climate crisis, triggering runaway warming that would end industrial civilization and agriculture as we know it.

That crisis has to be front and center focus of the debate and the strategic objective.

The policy implication of that science is that we have to leave fossil fuels in the ground, stop investing in fossil infrastructure, and radically ramp up government mandates and make massive financial investments in energy conservation, efficiency, and renewables.

A rational response to the climate crisis would require a complete reorientation of our values, lifestyle, and economy.

We must honestly confront that reality, not pipe dreams.

In the recent context of the release of the US National Climate Assessment and the terrifying news on irreversible melting of the west antarctic ice sheet, folks need to go back and re-read Bill McKibben’s “Terrifying New Math” 

The environmentalists and media have to start educating the public along these lines of crisis and catastrophe.

Environmentalists must reorient the losing project by project infrastructure battles to attack the sources of the problem: extraction of the fossil fuels for corporate profit.

Once it leaves the ground, it will be burned.

If “free market” capitalism and corporations are allowed to continue to control government and policy, we are doomed.

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Gov. Christie’s Pinelands Purge Shifts Spotlight to Senate President Sweeney and Senate Dems

May 20th, 2014 No comments

[Updates: 5/24/14 – Star Ledger editorial raises very similar concerns as I do: “Don’t Let Christie Bully Pinelands Panel”:

Kirk Moore’s Asbury Park Press story: Christie Moves to Replace Pinelands Commissioners

Another pipeline critic, Bill Wolfe of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said the move to get rid of Green shows the pressure on commissioners. In the run-up to the vote, Wolfe had questioned Green’s ownership of energy stocks on her state financial disclosure form, after the Christie administration forced another commissioner, environmental law professor Edward Lloyd, aside over ethics allegations.

“And as soon as she steps out of line, he (Christie) yanks her,” Wolfe said. “How can government do its job… if people who do their job with integrity, they can’t serve?”  ~~~ end update]

NJ Spotlight reports today that Gov. Christie has proposed to replace two Pinelands Commissioners who had the courage and integrity to buck the Gov., enforce the Comprehensive Management Plan,  and vote NO on his Pinelands pipeline, see:

The Gov.’s nominations require Senate confirmation.

This is a test of the integrity of Senate Democrats, particularly those on the Judiciary Committee who must vote to confirm the Gov.’s nominations.

I hope they do not roll over like they did on confirming Gov. Christie’s Highlands nominations (including Christie’s firing of the Executive Director).

Since then, the politics have changed completely given the Bridgegate scandal and the facts on the ground have changed as well.

The Gov.’s attempted replacements follow ugly strong arm tactics used in 1) the forced recusal of Commissioner Lloyd; 2) the replacement of deceased Commissioner Haas, before he was even laid to rest;  3) the nasty removal of Commissioner Ficcaglia; and 4) Gov. Christie’s veto of a proposed salary raise.

Christie also appointed the Executive Director of the Commission – a former NJ Builders Assc. lobbyist – so his control is almost total.

These replacements are clearly done in a retaliatory manner. This must stop.

The Gov.’s action is totally unacceptable intimidation and it undermines the independence of the Pinelands Commission, and all “in but not of” independent Commissions.

It is gross abuse of raw Executive Power that must be blocked.

The Spotlight is on Senate President Sweeney and Chairman Scutari and members of the Judiciary Committee to speak out now and refuse to confirm these nominees.

The message:

Block the Gov.’s retaliatory abuse of Executive Power – Purge Politics are no longer tolerated.

Preserve the independence and integrity of the Pinelands Commission and all independent Commissions.

Honor the rule of law, not corrupt corporate crony power politics.

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Looming DEP Regulatory Backlog as Major Rules Expire

May 20th, 2014 No comments

Gov. Christie’s Hostility Toward Regulation Sets Several Historical Low Records

[Important Update – Correction below]

The Christie Administration has a number of historical environmental records:

  • first to allow the Green Acres fund to go broke
  • first to have no major environmental achievement to point to
  • record low enforcement fines and penalties
  • record low proposal and adoption of new regulations
  • first to ignore climate change
  • first to block the meeting of the Drinking Water Quality Institute for 4 years
  • first to stall work at the Water Supply Advisory and Clean Water Councils
  • first to attempt to abolish numerous DEP advisory groups
  • first to halt the work of the State Planning Commission
  • first to politicize and attack the Highlands and Pinelands Commissions
  • record high number of self serving press releases
  • first to encourage a mass exodus through retirement of scores of experienced professionals
  • first to appoint a DEP Commissioner with no environmental training, knowledge, or experience

We can add to this ugly list a looming backlog of updates of DEP regulations as rules expire.

DEP rules set the level of protection afforded our air, water, land, natural resources, and public health.

I spoke last night to the Sierra Club Shore group at Brookdale College on this set of issues.

Let’s just say that I am not a good public speaker, and lack of preparation doesn’t help.

So I wanted to follow up today on my rambling presentation to provide a few resources for anyone wishing to pursue some of the material I threw out there or document the harsh claims I made. Readers can find at the links the following:

If you go to LexusNexus, you will find that the following DEP rules have expired or will expire in CY 2014. List below.

Regulations used to expire on a 5 year cycle. Expiration was intended to allow DEP to update regulations in light of experience, e.g. close loopholes and fix flaws, to address emerging issues and public concerns, and to incorporate new science, data, or changes in conditions.

In this way, rules are supposed to adapt to changes – the general trend over the last 25 years or so is for rules and standards to get stronger, broader, more specific, more protective, more stringent than federal requirements, and allow for more transparency and more public involvement in DEP decision making.

All that – every historical trend – has changed radically under Gov. Christie’s Executive Orders and DEP Commissioner Martin’s “Transformation Plan“, whereby DEP’s mission now includes “promotion of economic development” and “customer service” to the regulated community – mostly through voluntary and unenforceable Guidance documents, not regulatory mandates.

On top of that, the Legislature recently passed law extending the expiration period from 5 years to 7 years, (sponsored by NJ’s ALEC rep. Sen Oroho and Assemblyman Burzichelli) so rules have become less dynamic and amenable to adapting to changes.

Below are the rules that have already expired (*) or will expire this year, with their expiration date- when rules expire, they remain on the books and still are enforceable, but DEP must go to the Gov. for an extension that must be published in the NJ Register – an embarrassment that is avoided and only done as a last resort.

  • CAFRA – 12/15/14
  • stormwater – 8/2/14
  • * groundwater quality standards – 4/4/14
  • * well construction – 3/13/14
  • Flood Hazard/Stream encroachment – 11/5/14
  • * laboratory certification – 11/22/13
  • * water allocation – 2/23/14
  • * agricultural water use – 12/15/13
  • fish & wildlife – 7/13/14
  • hazardous waste management – 10/11/14
  • * Highlands – 11/2/13
  • * landscape irrigation – 5/19/14 [Correction – this rule was readopted on 3/17/14]

Wonder what all those Stakeholder groups have been doing for 5 years now.

Time for “Metrics” Bob Martin to get on the stick!

[Update – A friend just called to correct this post and advised me that DEP now readopts rules by notice – without public comment opportunity or change to incorporate new science and information.

 I worked on a lot of rules at DEP for a long time, was familiar with the OAL Rulemaking Manual, and never heard of this “re-adoption by notice” procedure.

So, it must be another of the Christie – Martin “reforms”. I’ll look into the legality, but whether or not it is legal, it certainly is an abuse and a stealth practice. – end update]

[Update #2 – 5/22/14 – embarrassed to say that I missed this change in the original bill – I was focused on the 10 year period, not this:

2) establish a new procedure for the readoption of rules without substantive changes.

This really gives the bureaucracy an incentive to avoid the work and controversy of keeping rules current with respect to new science and new conditions,  and serving a role that environmental laws call technology forcing. Awful policy.

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