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Spinning the Story In The Headline

July 30th, 2015 No comments

Dangerous Myths Propagated In Bad Headlines

A quick nitpickity but important note on a journalism issue, raised by the headline in the Newsworks story on the controversial NJ Natural Gas pipeline hearing – and a revision thereto.

Good headline writing is an art, and it plays a critical role in catching the reader’s eye and hopefully accurately encapsulating the story.

Headlines also reflect the style, philosophy, and readership of the news outlet – just compare a NY Post or Daily News tabloid headline with a NY Times or Wall Street Journal headline. It is clear who the sensationalist rag is and who appeals to a more informed or elite reader.

I put Newsworks in the latter category (i.e. aspiring NY Times/WS Journal) – in fact their motto is “Smart local news for the Philly region” and they come off as a PBS like outfit (perhaps they are? Are they a sister outlet to NJ Spotlight?).

Anyway, I don’t mean to pick on them and am not a regular reader, so I am not alleging that this is a common failure, but their headline yesterday on the NJ Natural Gas hearing was awful. You can still see it in the URL:

Pipeline Builder Says Superstorm Sandy Highlights Need For Backup Systems

I was not the only one at that hearing who was outraged by that misleading claim by NJ Natural Gas and I was shocked to see a quality news outlet carry that headline, so, in the spirit of the Newswork invitation to “Join the conversation”, I posted this comment on the story:

The headline is really bad – that claim about Sandy and LBI was ridiculed during the hearing.

Gas was shut off because pipelines were washed out by Sandy and caused fires. More gas or redundant gas would only make the problem worse.

Plus, extreme weather, storms like Sandy, and sea level rise are what threaten LBI and they all are driven by climate change.

Gas is a fossil fuel that is as bad or worse in terms of global warming potential.

The editors there must have listened, because I noticed that today the headline had changed to a similarly misleading and problematic headline – perhaps the headline writer was pissed off about criticism of her/his work, because, like sending a dish back to the cook, they made it worse:

Natural gas pipeline plan yields employment hopes, environmental worries in NJ

Again, I was not the only one at that hearing who was disturbed by the way that business groups tried to manipulate unions, so I posted this followup comment today:

Good that you changed the original headline regarding Sandy, but your new headline, which implies a conflict between jobs and the environment, may be worse.

Pipeline jobs are few and short duration.

In contrast, renewable energy jobs are many and permanent.

An industrial union that represents 110,000 workers that understands this, testified in opposition to the pipeline.

Stop creating false conflicts between jobs and environment and unions and environmentalists – that is a FAUX news tactic, not a Newsworks style.

The headline should fit the story: HUGE public opposition to pipeline!

The obvious “smart, local” story was about democracy in action – the hundreds of riled up local residents who turned out to oppose the pipeline! How could Newsworks miss that?

So, as you can see, there is a lot of meaning compressed in that headline. Beware of the hidden assumptions, ideology, and policy myths embedded in a headline!

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Hundreds Turn Out To Oppose NJ Natural Gas Pipeline

July 29th, 2015 No comments

Gov. Christie’s Pro-Gas Energy Plan Creates Democratic Crisis

Prelude

The Greek people just challenged the power of the banks, the oligarchs, and the Neoliberal policy of austerity.

Despite incredible pressure, which included closing the banks, scarcities of basic needs like medicines, and a massive propaganda campaign run by the Oligarchs who own and control the Greek press, they voted by an overwhelming majority to reject the austerity policy dictated by the European banks.

Austerity is driving depression levels of unemployment; cuts to salaries, pensions, and public services; dismantling of democratically enacted laws and regulations; and privatization of public assets.

But just days later, their government, elected on an explicit 40 point anti-austerity platform, capitulated to the banks and agreed to a humiliating set of austerity policies that are even more severe then when the debt relief negotiations began.

They lost – and the painful lesson they learned is that the European Union has no room for democracy: that the needs and desires expressed by people are subordinate to the power of money – that capitalism trumps democracy and the promise of integration into the European Union to advance social justice is a sham.

Similarly, the people of NJ are challenging the power of the energy industry, the BPU, and the pro-fossil fuels policy of Governor Christie’s Energy Master Plan (EMP).

I suspect that they will suffer a similar fate as the Greek people.

But will they learn the lesson now so clearly understood by the Greeks?

Ironically, it may be easier for the Greeks to “Grexit” the Eurozone, than for New Jerseyans to exit the Christie zone.

 Hundreds Oppose Pipeline

In a battle that is escalating across the state as deeply unpopular gas pipelines and other fossil energy projects proliferate, hundreds of people turned out at a Board of Public Utilities (BPU) hearing yesterday in Manchester to oppose a gas pipeline proposed by NJ Natural Gas, parading under the Orwellian name “the Southern Reliability Link”.

For local news coverage of the hearing, see the Burlington County Times story – waiver your ass goodbye:

My family and 140 other families live within 100 feet (of the proposed line). Why are we expendable?” Plumsted resident Jim Kelleher said about the possible impact of a natural gas explosion. “My house will be a crater. My wife and children will be gone.”

The BPU soon must decide whether overwhelming public opposition is trumped by the political power of the gas industry, who are backed by Governor Christie’s Energy Master Plan.

Will NJ BPU emulate the energy industry’s federal puppet FERC and serve the fossil energy industry profits over tremendous public opposition?

Gov. Christie’s EMP Is The Source of the Policy Problem

The Greek people understand exactly what the institutional and policy sources of their problem are: the European banks have been very open in dictating the specific terms of the austerity deal the Greeks must swallow.

But do all the pipeline, oil train, offshore drilling and fracking activists and renewable energy advocates understand that the Christie EMP is the single source of their common problems and thus unites their efforts?

The energy industry is openly justifying their projects on the basis that they are consistent with and promoted by the Christie EMP.

Government regulators, including BPU, are explicitly endorsing that rationale in rubber stamping industry proposals. This is made most obvious in last week’s BPU Order that approved the South Jersey Gas Pinelands pipeline:
BPU9

The BPU Order went on to state this critical point:

Therefore, one of the State’s energy policy goals is for New Jersey to foster in-state generation of energy. Ibid. B.L. England provides in-state generation of energy. Therefore, this Board supports the repowering of B.L. England to help meet one of the five overarching goals of the 2011 EMP. N.J.S.A 52:27F-15 (the actions of state departments, agencies, and commissions “shall to the maximum extent practicable and feasible conform to the [EMP]”) (@ p.6-7 – emphasis mine)

By the Board’s own admission, they cherry picked just one “overarching” goal from the EMP – and it was related to B.L. England plant, not the SJG pipeline application before the Board –  and ignored other competing goals and policies and tons of science, evidence, technical Reports, conflicting laws and policies, and testimony provided by the public.

But you wouldn’t know anything about any of that by reading the news coverage or listening to the testimony at the public hearings.

It is critical that people understand the source of their problems in order to effectively advocate – at this point in time, they are not properly focused on the common source of the problem and how to effectively challenge or change the policy.

Climate Crisis Demands Rapid Shift in Energy Infrastructure Investments

Th environmental groups have recently gotten much better in emphasizing the climate crisis as the primary reason why we must stop expansion and investments in fossil fuel based infrastructure.

But they need to improve their explanations of how fossil investments both accelerate climate catastrophe and erect huge barriers to the necessary rapid transition to renewable energy.

They also have not risen to the challenge of what a policy of “leave it in the ground” would really look like nor have they begun to make clear policy demands regarding how such a policy would apply in NJ, where there are no fossil fuels to extract. (HINT: “moratorium“)

Accordingly, none of these issues are reported in the news and play little or no part of the organizing of the various oppositions to the many fossil projects

We can and must do much better. The upcoming August round of Christie EMP public hearings will be a crucial test.

Of course, if one shares my belief that the system is completely broken and no longer able to respond to traditional rational science based public policy arguments, then direct non-violent action and civil disobedience tactics must be engaged on a wide scale to make any difference in the status quo.

Claims of Pipeline Supporters Are Not Credible – What Is the Real Need for all that gas?

A 30 inch high pressure (722 psi) pipeline can deliver a LOT of gas.

Where is all that gas going to go?

NJ Natural Gas claims that the pipeline is needed to provide “resilience” in the event of a Sandy like emergency. Amazingly, Mayor Mancini, representing Mayors on Long Beach Island echoed that claim.

That claim was effectively ridiculed by John Weber of Surfrider, who drew laughs and applause from the crowd as he noted that gas pipelines on LBI were washed out and shut off due to the fires they caused. High pressure gas lines would have made the problem far worse. Pipelines are the cause of the problem, not the solution.

The NJ Energy Industry Coalition supported the pipeline, again based on Sandy and the need for reliability and “resilience”.

That claim was ridiculed by Doug O’Malley of Environment NJ, who found it “galling” for the fossil fuel industry to try  to justify more fossil infrastructure based on a climate drive extreme weather event like Sandy.

Another group of business representatives supported the pipeline by shamelessly and very cynically playing the military patriotism card: the need to provide gas to Joint Base (McGuire & Dix). There is no evidence that Joint Base needs more gas capacity. No one openly challenged that claim, probably due to the fear of appearing to be “anti-military”. Time restrictions on my testimony prevented me from engaging this issue – I did that at a sewer line hearing in Plumsted recently and got some catcalls from the crowd for it.

NJ Natural Gas claimed that the pipeline is not intended to serve new growth.

That claim was challenged by Jacyln Rhoades of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, who cited remarks to investors by NJ Natural Gas CEO.

Is A New Gas Plant at Oyster Creek The Endgame?

The testimony of retired energy utility engineer George Hay let the cat out of the bag and revealed what could be the real endgame.

Hay casually remarked that they next pipeline hearing may be to connect to a new gas plant at the retiring Oyster Creek nuclear power plant. As George made that comment, I watched BPU Commissioner Solomon’s face light up and smile as she nodded her head and just about winked to a fellow BPU official in the front row.

George told me afterward that gas turbine’s just happen to need high pressure 750 psi gas lines like the one NJ Natural Gas is proposing.

Assemblyman Dancer Tap Dances

Our Plumsted pro-sewer friend, Assemblyman Dancer spoke. He used the opportunity to self promote and discuss his package of bills designed to: mandate current BPU 100 foot buffer (A4503); require consideration of co-location in existing ROW (A4455) and to require BPU to consider public comment at Board meetings and to hold local public hearings (A4501)

Beware, because his so called “legislative reforms” are a band-aid – they do not change any substantive requirements that could empower or force BPU to deny gas industry requests. Instead, they actually are part of an effort to manipulate and appear responsive to critics.

They are not intended to and could not stop any gas pipeline.

NJ History Suggests A Path Forward

I came to NJ DEP in 1985.

At that time, the Kean Administration had a $3 billion plan to build 21 garbage incinerators in NJ, one in each county.

That plan was wildly unpopular and thousands of people were turning out at public hearings to oppose incinerators, just like they are doing with various fossil infrastructure projects now.

All those anti-incineration people were organized into a formidable opposition that ultimately pressured the next Governor, Jim Florio, to declare a moratorium on any more incinerators and issue a Executive Order #8 that led to the cancellation of 12 garbage incinerators and a radical new solid waste policy and plan that set the highest recycling rate in the world at the time. [Full disclosure: I did a lot of work on these issues when I was with DEP.]

I see a similar pattern shaping up – but now the energy industry is FAR more powerful than the incinerator industry and environmental groups seem far less willing or capable to organize and make political demands.

Similarly, now the political process and government are far more corrupt and far less willing or capable of responding to democratic expressions of the will of the people.

There used to be a government for the corporate interests to “capture” – now those same forces literally own government. I got a charge from the crowd by calling it “phagocytosis”.

And the climate crisis can’t wait for those traditional political strategies to work, even if they could.

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Guest Post – Bill Neil: “THE TIME YOU ASK FOR DOESN’T EXIST”

July 28th, 2015 No comments

Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now. We need to reflect on our accountability before those who will have to endure the dire consequences.  ~~~ Pope Francis

I thought I’d post this from my good friend Bill Neil as I head out the door to the public hearing on the other Pinelands pipeline, NJ Natural Gas (NJNG) – a pipeline that could be even worse than the SJG pipeline that has gotten so much attention.

Actually the NJNG pipeline is longer (30 miles) and larger (30 inch) and higher pressure (722 psi) – and it is designed to serve new growth in Ocean County.* (corrected)
NJNG is using the Pinelands as a shortcut and trying to exploit a Pinelands CMP loophole designed for military need.
And this NJNG route was developed AFTER the big battle in the Pines over the South Jersey Gas/BL England pipeline. All that didn’t make a dent in energy industry strategy.
Environmental impact assessment should not come after the drawing up of a business proposition or the proposal of a particular policy, plan or programme. It should be part of the process from the beginning, and be carried out in a way which is interdisciplinary, transparent and free of all economic or political pressure. ~~~ Pope Francis
Not only do the corporate greed heads never give up, I think they enjoy pissing people off and then asserting power and control over them.
They enjoy all the economic monopoly benefits and legal powers of a public utility, without any of the public control or accountability. Privatize the profits, socialize the costs.
Given the real potential for a misuse of human abilities, individual states can no longer ignore their responsibility for planning, coordination, oversight and enforcement within their respective borders. How can a society plan and protect its future amid constantly developing technological innovations? One authoritative source of oversight and coordination is the law, which lays down rules for admissible conduct in the light of the common good. The limits which a healthy, mature and sovereign society must impose are those related to foresight and security, regulatory norms, timely enforcement, the elimination of corruption, effective responses to undesired side-effects of production processes, and appropriate intervention where potential or uncertain risks are involved. There is a growing jurisprudence dealing with the reduction of pollution by business activities. But political and institutional frameworks do not exist simply to avoid bad practice, but also to promote best practice, to stimulate creativity in seeking new solutions and to encourage individual or group initiatives.  ~~~ Pope Francis
There is no legal way to stop this pipeline if BPU approves – and the Christie BPU, just like FERC, has not met a pipeline they don’t love.
It says so in Gov. Christie’s Energy Master Plan – we need more pipelines and instate gas plants.
Obama energy policy says the same thing on gas and pipelines – Obama even bragged about setting a record for pipeline construction, something about enough miles of pipeline to circle the earth – recall that photo with him and the stack of pipes in the background?
 At the same time we can note the rise of a false or superficial ecology which bolsters complacency and a cheerful recklessness. As often occurs in periods of deep crisis which require bold decisions, we are tempted to think that what is happening is not entirely clear. Superficially, apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, things do not look that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as a licence to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen. ~~~ Pope Francis
But Enough of my rant – let’s get to Bill’s work, which is always thoughtful, well written, and historically grounded:

 

Dear Citizens and Elected Officials:

July 28, 2015

THE TIME YOU ASK FOR DOESN’T EXIST

STATEMENT OF WILLIAM NEIL, CITIZEN, TO THE MARYLAND CLIMATE CHANGE COMMISSION

I have two minutes to comment upon your more than “150” programs, and the slow, voluntary, incremental “Maryland temperament” approach. I strongly protest being forced into this two minute “corner,” but that’s where citizens seem to be these days, boxed into corners, as Yanis Varoufakis has warned us, and the fate of Greece has demonstrated.

It is true, though, that decent democracies often work that way, by slow and careful dialogue and that is as it should be. That’s mostly the way the abolitionist movement worked for 30-years, from 1830-1860, and how FDR brought the nation to the necessary intervention against fascism in the 1940’s. And that’s the way the movement to stop global warming has been working. But we are not succeeding, and we are not going to get there in time, and there are huge consequences looming if we are “late.” Forget the 150 programs to track: look at the tiny percentage of alternative energy generated inside Maryland – or the nation – under 1% of the total.

There are three major things we need to do change this. First, the public and private investments that have poured into gas and oil fracking need instead to “deploy” to solar generation and in selected locations, to wind power – and to remaking our grid. Our nation has to be willing to invest trillions to do this, just as we were willing to spend trillions on mission impossibles in the Middle East, being poised for yet another. We can’t do both. Therefore, say no unequivocally to fracking in Maryland. And to the Donald Rumsfeld like foreign policy voices, “new Russia Cold War” included.

Second, we need a public financing program, through public banks, to match on a sounder, less complicated basis what Elon Musk has done with the too complex Wall Street derivative model at Solar City, the one used in Garrett County that no one wants to talk much about.

And third, sadly, we will probably have to undergo the climatological equivalent to Pearl Harbor to change more minds, especially those in one of our two parties, before we reach a national feeling to match that of FDR’s One Hundred Days and post December 7, 1941 mobilization.

That’s where I am after reading Naomi Klein, Richard Smith, Pope Francis – and James Hansen’s latest paper. Hansen has told us “what time it is”: that we can’t afford 2 degrees of climate warming. Climate Pearl Harbor arrives with rapidly rising sea levels and catastrophic weather changes much sooner, even with one degree of warming, which we already have.

The poles which have delineated our world are melting as I speak, and the disorientation is already well under way.

My message to the Commission is the same one that James Baldwin delivered to novelist William Faulkner, his pleas to the North to let the South “go slow” in the early 1960’s, which I first read as a Lafayette College freshman in 1968, and I have never forgotten Baldwin’s stinging reply:

“… the time Faulkner asks for does not exist – and he is not the only Southerner who knows it. There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now.”

That’s always been the type of constructive pressure our slow moving political system has required “to get there in time.” Usually, it comes from outside the two party system.  It doesn’t always work neatly, as the Civil War demonstrated. Let’s hope it succeeds this time. More than you think depends on “getting there” in time.

William R. Neil

Frostburg, Md.

 

Sources:

James Baldwin, Nobody Knows My Name, 1961, Chapter 7.

James Hansen et al: “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observation s that 2 degrees of global warming is highly dangerous,” July 23, 2015, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/15/20059/2015/acpd-15-20059-2015.html

Naomi Klein, “Capitalism vs the Climate,” November 9, 2011, The Nation.http://www.thenation.com/article/capitalism-vs-climate/

___________, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, 2014.

Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si (On Care for our Common Home), June 18, 2015http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

Richard Smith, Green Capitalism: The God that Failed, 2014,http://www.worldeconomicsassociation.org/downloads/green-capitalism-the-god-that-failed/

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Christie BPU Goes All In For South Jersey Gas Pipeline and BL England Gas Plant

July 27th, 2015 No comments

BPU Finds Gas Pipeline & Power Plant Justified By Christie Energy Master Plan

Climate Impacts Ignored, No Demonstration of Need

BPU Cherry Picks Laws, Policies, Plans, Reports, and Data

In light of important new information, this is a quick followup to my post last week on the BPU hearing where the Commissioners approved South Jersey Gas’ request to amend a prior June 2013 BPU Order (see this). Apologies in advance for the poor format of this post.

In that post, I accused BPU Commissioners of not considering extensive public comments on the project and conducting no open deliberations – that remains an accurate statement.

But I just now received a PDF (no link) of the formal Board Order approving the project (signed 7/23/15, but effective August 1, 2015).

The latest BPU Order does superficially address public comments as well as breaks new ground and thereby raises a host of issues that are actually quite revealing of how the BPU makes regulatory decisions.

Frankly, I could see no daylight between the BPU’s analysis and findings and those of the lawyers and lobbyists for SJG and BL England. The Order reads as if SJG lawyers drafted it. That is not outside the realm of  possibility, given how the trove of emails between Executive Director Wittenberg and SJG lawyers revealed that SJG lawyers drafted critical regulatory documents at the Pinelands Commission, including the MOA with BPU, the Executive Director’s Report and recommendations to the Commission, and the response to public comments document.

So. let’s take an initial look at some of the issues raised by that Board Order.

1. Order ignores the Pinelands Commission
We urged BPU not to repeat mistakes of the past in prior Orders and get out in front of the Pinelands Commission – we asked that BPU table the SJG application until the Pinelands Commission decided the fate of the project, see:
Instead, BPU doubled down and reiterated an erroneous  June 2013 finding that the South Jersey Gas pipeline was in compliance with all federal and state laws.
That was not correct when the initial finding was made in the June 21, 2013 Order and it is not true now.
Legally, the pipeline must be approved by the Pinelands Commission and it has not approved by the Pinelands Commission. Therefore, contrary to what BPU says in the Order, the pipeline is NOT in compliance with all federal and state requirements.
The BPU has total disregard for the Pinelands Commission’s role and is obviously doing the Governor’s Office and South Jersey Gas’s bidding and pressuring the Pinelands Commission to approve this project.
2. Did EPA sign off on the extension of the Clean Air Act compliance date to 2017?
Back in 2006, the DEP originally issued an enforcement order for violations of the federal Clean Air Act that required the BL England plant to upgrade to meet federal Clean Air Act standards or shut down.
Flouting a federal Clean Air Act based enforcement deadline, that Order was amended by the Christie Administration to promote re-powering and to extend the compliance deadline – most recently on July 11, 2104 after the Pinelands Commission refused to approved the SJG pipeline on january 10, 2014.
According to BPU, there was “consultation” with EPA on the amendment of the DEP ACO to extend the initial Clean Air Act compliance deadline to 2017.
It is really bad that EPA apparently signed off on that.
3. Inappropriately narrow scope of review by BPU
Because SJG claims that this is a “new project” based on significant new information and changes to the route to reduce impacts on the Pinelands, we have argued for an expanded review of the original project and reconsideration of the prior BPU Orders, which were done without adequate public involvement and contained critical technical flaws related to the need for the project, impact on renewable energy, and climate change impacts based on lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions.
Instead, the scope of the BPU staff review was actually narrower that the initial review.
It is limited to just two items in  SJG’s request (i.e. a) the new interconnect location and b) restriction on hookups in Pinelands Forest Area along the route.
But even within that narrow scope of review, the review was further reduced in scope and limited to “safety” issues related to the new interconnect station.
4. The initial route review and route modifications were limited to safety
According to the new BPU Order, prior to issuing the June 2013 Order, BPU worked with SJG to modify the original route proposed by SJG.
But the ONLY thing they considered during this route modification process was location with respect to 100 feet from occupied buildings (safety concerns). There is no indication that environmental resources and avoidance, minimization or mitigation of impacts were considered by BPU.
5. The Energy Master Plan consistency review process is a sham
According to BPU, the Christie Energy Master Plan:

The 2011 EMP contains five overarching goals:

  • Drive down the cost of energy for all customers;
  • Promote a diverse portfolio of new, clean, in-state generation;
  • Reward energy efficiency and energy conservation and reduce peak demand;
  • Capitalize on emerging technologies for transportation and power production;
  • Maintain support for the renewable energy portfolio standard of 22.5% of energy from renewable sources by 2021.In addition to the overarching goals, the 2011 Energy Master Plan contains 31 policy recommendations in the four general sections of:
  • Expand In-State Electricity Resources;
  • Cost Effective Renewable Resources;
  • Promote Cost Effective Conservation and Energy Efficiency;
  • Support the Development of Innovative Energy Technologies.
I obviously don’t agree with all of these EMP goals and policies. But I do realize that they exist.
But instead of fully evaluating the proposed SJG pipeline and BL England plant for consistency with these EMP goals and policies, BPU cherry picked just ONE (seriously flawed) goal from the Energy Master Plan – “instate clean generation” – and ignored the effect of the project on other goals (e.g. efficiency and renewables et al).
Can’t do that.
But, they say we learn something new every day.
I didn’t know that there was a statute that required “maximum extent feasible” consistency with EMP – we should look into litigation on this.
6. BPU ignored consideration of Climate Change or the Global Warming Response Act goals 
A significant new $500 million investment in fossil fuel based energy infrastructure is insane given what we now know about the rate of climate change and excellence of tipping points that will trigger irreversible runaway climate chaos.
Even the Pope weighed in.
New science on lifecycle emissions and global warming intensity from natural gas show that it is as bad or worse than coal.
Obviously, this kind of fossil infrastructure investment will undermine GWRA and renewable energy goals.
7. The assertion that NJ needs the capacity is not justified by any analysis or data
The BPU Order claims, without any supporting evidence, that the failure to build instate generation capacity will result in importation of dirty coal power – but that simply is not true. It also ignores the fact that capacity resources include efficiency, demand management, and renewable energy.
Instate efficiency and renewables can provide capacity – as well as imports of renewable power.
It is questionable that BL England closing will be replaced one for one by imports of coal power – instate efficiency and renewables would provide a portion of all of the power demand.
8. BPU comparison of coal versus gas GHG emissions is seriously flawed
BPU claims that natural gas plants are less greenhouse gas intensive than coal plants. This is a straw man and completely misleading claim. The issue is lifecycle impacts. The larger issue is efficiency and renewable alternatives.
Regardless that the most critical issue which is how best to rapidly transition away from fossil fuels, the assertion that natural gas as a fuel is less GHG intensive than coal is demonstrable false.
On top of the misleading nature of this claim, there is no evidence cited to support this assertion.
And the coal unit at BL England is closed anyway (May 2014) – they are using oil/diesel.
And the BPU relies on the Clean Air Council, which is a political body and is not a credible scientific or technical source to back any conclusions.
9. BPU considered acid rain impacts on Pinelands forest, but not climate impacts
In another illustration of misleading cherry picking of the evidence, BPU claims, again with no evidence or expertise, that conversion from coal to gas will reduce SOx & NOx emissions and acid rain impacts on Pinelands forests from coal plants in Pennsylvania!
It is simply remarkable that the BPU bases a decision on criteria pollution emissions from coal plants in Pennsylvania, but completely ignores VOC ozone procurers and greenhouse gas emissions from the thousands of fracking wells there!
They also ignore climate impacts to Pinelands forest and human health impacts from BL England emissions.
10. “Primarily Serve the Pinelands” – How The Grid Works
A key issue is wether the pipeline and the BL England plant can be shown to “primarily serve the Pinelands”.
BPU attempts to support SJG’s argument in two ways: first by stating that 39 of 53 towns in the Pinelands get power from Atlantic City Electric and that electricity is distributed on the grid much like water flows through a stream or river. In making this argument, BPU again relies on the false assumption that if BL England shuts down that replacement power 1-1 – will be imported from coal plants in Pennsylvania.
The analogy to a flow of water is misleading – the electron field in the grid moves at virtually the speed of light. The grid is not dedicated from local power producer to local power consumer.
11. Distortion of PJM Report on Reliability upgrades
Some claim that if BL England is shut down, that environmentally destructive and costly new power lines will be built in order to address “reliability. Both claims are false.
Jus the opposite is true: PJM evaluated the grid reliability issue under the assumption that BL ENgland would shut down, that reliability upgrades would be to existing infrastructure, not new green fields projects, and they specifically noted that the grid was over 40 years old and in need of upgrades independent of BL England open or closed.
The PJM reliability upgrades are not all related to closure of BL England – the transmission infrastructure is over 40 years old and some of these upgrades would b e required with or without BL Ebngland – again, misleading statements.

 12. No evidence or economic analysis to support claims about “price stability”

BPU makes several other unsubstantiated and questionable claims, including the the project will provide energy price stability and lower energy costs.

Costs and energy prices are not stated and do not consider benefits or social costs of carbon.

Lots to consider in this BPU Order – lots of very revealing statements made – I’ll try to get a link and be glad to provide it via email – thanks to Theresa at PPA for providing it _ Will provide links to other documents like PJM when I can.

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BPU Approves South Jersey Gas Pinelands Pipeline, With No Discussion

July 22nd, 2015 No comments

Board Allows SJG To Rely On Prior Stealth BPU Approvals

Board and Staff Completely Ignore Public Comments

Game By SJG To Justify Pinelands Reconsideration

You’re a hypocrite Mr. Fiordaliso,” shouted Georgina Shanley, of Ocean City and Citizens United for Renewable Energy, as she left the room with several others. “This is a terrible day for justice. Shame on you!” ~~~ Press of Atlantic City [updates below]

Today the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) met to consider, among many other things, a revised application submitted by the South Jersey Gas Co. for their proposed Pinelands pipeline (we say its the same project and that this is all a game).

BPU President Richard Mroz, appointed by Gov. Christie, introduced the application by thanking Commissioner Joe Fiordaliso for serving as the hearing officer at the June 17, 2015 public hearing.

Recall that at the public hearing, Commissioner Fiodaliso was punked by South Jersey Gas who tried to hijack the hearing. In response to strong public criticism, he promised that he was there to listen and seriously consider public comments (in addition to testimony at the hearing, here are the comments we submitted). He betrayed that promise today (but I’m getting ahead of myself here, so let’s get back to what went on today).

President Mroz then said that he was aware of significant public concerns and the involvement of many people at the public hearing, but that the Board was considering the application as one part of the larger project.

These were incredibly vague and meaningless remarks for a trained lawyer and BPU President to make, so I knew the deal was in.

Staff then began by noting that the SJG pipeline route had previously been approved by a June 21, 2013 BPU Order and that the applicant (SJG) submitted a request to amend that Order in October 2014.

What this amounts to is an attempt by SJG and the Board to severely limit the scope of the issues that currently are under consideration to just the amendments SJG requested: 1) relocation of the interconnection station in Upper Township;  2) to continue to seek approval by the Pinelands Commission that “may or may not be a MOA”; and 3) an agreement not to connect to any new customers along the portion of the pipeline in the Pinelands forest area.

That means that the prior sham BPU Orders – adopted with virtually no public input at a time when there was little public awareness of the pipeline project – still stand and will not be reconsidered.

This is exactly the OPPOSITE of what SJG is a arguing before the Pinelands Commission, where they claim that “new information” and modifications of the pipeline route to reduce impacts justify a reversal of the prior Pinelands Commission finding that the project was “inconsistent with the Pinelands CMP”.

My guess is that this is part of a SJG legal and PR strategy to create the appearance of significant “new” information to justify reconsideration by the Pinelands Commission, while in fact keeping BPU review very narrow in scope.

Regardless of that, what BPU did today makes no sense at all from the BPU perspective, because at the public hearing, SJG was allowed to present sworn expert witness testimony that was extremely broad in scope, dealing with the environmental impacts of the pipeline, the pipeline route, alternatives, various energy policy issues (energy demand, need for the project, reliability, resilience, Energy Master Plan, air quality, etc), and the Pinelands issues.

Public testimony was presented for over 5 hours on an even broader range of issues.

But today, after an extremely brief and narrow summary staff recommendation to approve just 3 technical aspects of the “new” South Jersey Gas Co. Pinelands pipeline, the BPU Commissioners unanimously approved certain aspects of the pipeline with absolutely no discussion.

President Mroz repeated his prior comments about the narrow scope of issues before the Board.

A group of activists who attended the hearing then stood and left the room shouting “scam” and “shame on you”.

It was all done is about 2 minutes – 10 times less than the time staff and Commissioners spent on discussing such earth shaking issues as the fact that water tank paint dries morel slowly in cold temperatures and “vegetative management”: the difference between a “hazard tree” located in a right-of-way or on private property.

I wouldn’t even call this a ‘rubber stamp” – there must be some harsher term I can use that just doesn’t seem to come to mind right now.

We’ll go with: fucking corrupt bullshit.

[Update – I got a charge out of this BPU quote from the Press of Atlantic City story:

“We review for security and reliability,” said BPU spokesman J. Gregory Reinert. He said the board’s staff found no safety problems with the changes, and the approval was based on that finding.

Several people testified and offered data on pipeline safety issues – there is not even a hint that BPU staff considered that testimony – it was not even mentioned, never mind considered properly.

The so called “reliability” issue is key – and totally asserted with no factual basis. We asked the BPU to quantify and map these alleged reliability benefits of the pipeline spatially. IF net reliability benefits in fact exist – and that’s a big if, considering the vulnerable coastal location of the BL England plant and risks from climate change and sea level rise – they do not benefit people who live in the Pinelands, as required by Pinelands regulations.

The fact that BPU neglected to even document the so called “reliability” benefits suggests corruption. At a minimum, those benefits MUST be allocated in order to allocate costs to ratepayers. ~~ end update

[Update #2 – 7/23/15 – Today’s NJ Spotlight story gets it right.

This is all a very cynical legal and PR ploy by South Jersey Gas.

They are trying to create the false appearance that this is a “new and improved” project as a pretext to force the Pinelands Commission to reconsider it after the Commission refused to approve the pipeline in January 2014.

SJG has made minor technical changes to the same pipeline, and perverted Pinelands rules to recast it as a “private” development project that does not require Commission vote or any public hearings or participation.

It is an outrageous move by SJG that must be blocked,

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