Annual Conference Provides Opportunity To Ask Hard Questions to NJ Farm Bureau

November 17th, 2014 No comments

farm

The NJ Farm Bureau held its annual meeting today in Princeton. Tomorrow is the Directors meeting.

I had planned to crash the event, as I did last year, but got diverted. Maybe tomorrow.

Last year, there was a floor debate on GMO and Monsanto’s  role in sponsoring the event, see

At any rate, if I were a real journalist, I’d give our new Farm Bureau head a call and ask him a few tough questions, like:

1) what’s your take on the NJFB GMO debate and pending legislation?

2) the Alstede Farm accident – will it prompt amendments to the NJ Right To Farm Act?

3) Highlands septic density model legal challenge - what is the status of the NJFB legal challenge of DEP regulations?

4) NJ Food deserts – Can the NJ Fresh and Farmland Preservation programs support food access reforms?

5)  What are NJFB member Plans for renewal of Farmland preservation program funding?

6) Are NJ’s farmers willing to play a role in reducing chemical inputs and nutrient runoff that causes serious water pollution problems throughout the state?

7) Did you read the recent Washington Post Op-Ed on the need for a national food policy? What’s your response? see:

Come on real journo’s – jump in, ask a few tough questions!!

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Chart of the Day – US Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory

November 17th, 2014 No comments
(Source:

(Source: US EPA)

A few thoughts and some data as context for President Obama’s much touted “historic” agreement with China on greenhouse gas emissions.

Keep in mind that the agreement is voluntary, bi-lateral, and prospective.

China did not commit to any reductions, just to slow the growth and cap emissions sometime around 2030.

China also promised to meet a 20% renewable energy goal, but keep in mind that China’s largest source of renewable energy is giant destructive hydropower dam projects.

The agreement comes at a critical point in the run-up to the Paris negotiations. As such, the Obama deal takes the focus off and actually undermines efforts to secure a mandatory, binding, multi-lateral global treaty with real and deep reductions.

According to Obama, the US “commitments” are alleged to be from 26 – 28% by 2025, based on 2005 base year emissions.

Due to the economic recession, fuel switching from coal to natural gas, and structural changes in the US economy from manufacturing to services, the US is more than half way to that goal, so the “commitment” is far less than advertised. (we exported those emissions to China as the USA de-industrialized. In fact, about 1/3 of China’s emissions are the result of manufacturing goods for export to the US! )

The rest of the world uses a 1990 emissions base year. Emissions have grown considerably since 1990.

When the 1990 base year is used, the US commitment is tiny, around 6 -8%.

To put the US “commitments” in context, consider the fact that scientists tell us we need to make deep (80%) reductions in the next few decades, on the order of 8% PER YEAR, to avoid irreversible and potentially catastrophic runaway climate change.

After this pittance, why would any country agree to do more than the US, the world’s richest country and by far the world’s largest historical emission source?

The Obama deal virtually guarantees that we exceed 2 degrees warming and blow through critical tipping points.

That sheds a whole new light on “historic”, eh?

Here is the US emissions inventory – oh, and it doesn’t include emissions from the huge US military sector or from huge US imports.

Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990–2012    

Using this categorization, emissions from electricity generation accounted for the largest portion (32 percent) of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012. Transportation activities, in aggregate, accounted for the second largest portion (28 percent), while emissions from industry accounted for the third largest portion (20 percent) of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012. In contrast to electricity generation and transportation, emissions from industry have in general declined over the past decade. The long-term decline in these emissions has been due to structural changes in the U.S. economy (i.e., shifts from a manufacturing-based to a service-based economy), fuel switching, and energy efficiency improvements. The remaining 21 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions were contributed by, in order of importance, the agriculture, commercial, and residential sectors, plus emissions from U.S. Territories. Activities related to agriculture accounted for 9 percent of U.S. emissions; unlike other economic sectors, agricultural sector emissions were dominated by N2O emissions from agricultural soil management and CH4 emissions from enteric fermentation. The commercial and residential sectors each accounted for 5 percent of emissions and U.S. Territories accounted for 1 percent of emissions; emissions from these sectors primarily consisted of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion. CO2 was also emitted and sequestered by a variety of activities related to forest management practices, tree planting in urban areas, the management of agricultural soils, and landfilling of yard trimmings.

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Dupont Kills 4 Workers At Texas Plant

November 16th, 2014 No comments

Deadly Gas Leak of “Extraordinarily Hazardous Substance” Shows NJ Hazards

NJ Lawmakers Must Abandon Bill That Would Weaken NJ’s Chemical Safety Program

“Industry (e.g., CIC and NJBIA) would obviously prefer backing off to the EPA thresholds. .However, the increases made by EPA on adoption were so large (averaging some 18 times the TCPA values with 33 of the 60 substances common to both lists assigned from 5 to 167 times corresponding TCPA values) that they are not technically justifiable in an area as densely populated as New Jersey where substances are generally handled on small sites, and would correlate with a significant increase in the number of potential fatalities”.  ~~~ DEP Assistant Commissioner Lew Nagy memo (see page 126)

[Update: 11/21/14 – Like I said, Dupont killed 4 workers – from the NY Times we learn:

The company took hours to confirm the deaths and notify relatives. DuPont officials said no qualified medical personnel could enter the contaminated unit because they were not trained to use protective equipment. The first workers who responded with the proper equipment were not medically trained and reported the employees as nonresponsive and most likely dead.

“It was on that basis that the unit was barricaded for investigation just before 8 a.m.,” a company statement said. “The incident scene was deemed safe to enter just before noon and the fatalities were confirmed by the medical examiner around 1:30 p.m., and we immediately began to inform families thereafter.”

Asked if any of the four workers were alive but nonresponsive before the unit was barricaded, Mr. Schmidt said, “We can’t answer that definitively until the investigation is completed.” - end update

A leak of the deadly chemical methyl mercaptan killed four workers and hospitalized a fifth at a Dupont chemical plant in La Porte Texas yesterday, see:

I am sure investigations will show the now familiar pattern: a lax approach to safety by Dupont; repeat violations of health and safety regulations set by EPA and OSHA; and lax oversight and enforcement by government regulators.

[Update: 11/17/14 NBC News coverage asks those questions.]

I would not be surprised if we see the kind of criminal conduct that resulted in the recent indictment of Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship.

But until those investigations are complete, I want to make a few observations about the implications here in NJ.

The event is further proof that chemical risks are real and require far more aggressive regulatory oversight, see:

The chemical involved, methyl mercaptan, is regulated under NJ’s Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act (TCPA) program as an “extraordinarily hazardous substance” (EHS) - see NJ Group II & Appendix A

[Note: the NJ TCPA regulatory threshold for methyl mercaptan is 2,400 pounds, versus 10,000 pounds under the federal program, another example of NJ’s more stringent requirements.]

NJ has unique risks from catastrophic chemical accidents due to our high population density and close proximity of many people and homes and schools to many chemical plants distributed across the state.

The deadly accident is another example of continuing chemical risks in NJ, most recently illustrated by the toxic train derailment in Paulsboro, which released vinyl chloride gas that hospitalized scores of people and forced evacuation of the community.

The Dupont Texas accident also shows that Gov. Christie’s efforts (see Executive Order #2) to provide “regulatory relief”; to roll back NJ’s stricter chemical safety standard to federal minimums; and to inject compliance cost considerations in regulation are reckless and irresponsible.

Even worse, just weeks ago, on October 27, 2014, I testified in opposition to a bill, S2511 (Madden, D -Camden & Gloucester) that would weaken NJ’s TCPA chemical safety program. Assemblywoman Spencer (D – Essex) has sponsored the companion bill in the Assembly (A3881) - we believe at the request of Anheuser Busch to provide relief to the Budweiser plant in Newark.

I must note that I was the only one to testify in opposition to this very bad bill, sponsored by Democrats. Where were the groups they get funded to do this work?

I will also note that, in a highly unusual move, Assemblywoman Spencer, Chair of the Assembly Environment Committee and sponsor of the Assembly version, attended the Senate hearing. Chairman Smith noted her presence and asked why she was there, Spencer replied that she wanted to listen to the testimony on bills that might come before her Committee. So, let’s hope she listened closely.

We call on those legislators to withdraw those bills immediately.

Here is our letter to the sponsors regarding our October 27, 2014 testimony which has some valuable information (Assemblywoman Spencer was copied on this letter):

October 28, 1014

Dear Chairman Smith and Senator Madden:

Below please find information requested by Chairman Smith to support my testimony on S2511 before the Senate Environment Committee on October 27, 2014.

1. Status of TCPA regulations

Contrary to the industry testimony that suggested that the NJ TCPA regulations (NJAC 7:31 et seq.) were outdated and not informed by more recent improvements to the federal program, please be advised that the current NJ DEP TCPA regulations were re-adopted with amendments on March 16, 2009. See:

http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/adoptions/adopt_090316a.pdf

The TCPA rules were scheduled to expire in 2014, but were extend by 2 years as a result of recent legislation that extended the sunset date for rules from 5 to 7 years.

It is my understanding that the anhydrous ammonia refrigeration issues were specifically considered by DEP in the 2009 re-adoption process and that DEP expressly reviewed and rejected the industry’s request to weaken NJ’s requirements.

2. Scientific and legal basis for TCPA regulation of anhydrous ammonia

According to DEP TCPA regulations, the basis for regulating anhydrous ammonia is twofold. Listing was: a) Mandated for listing by Congress, and b) anhydrous ammonia is on the extraordinary Hazardous Substances (EHS) EHS list, vapor pressure 10 mmHg or greater.

According to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), risks from anhydrous ammonia include death from inhalation (see page 25:

http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp126-c3.pdf

3. NJ TCPA standards versus federal Clean Air Act Section 112(r) risk management program

As I testified, NJ is not like the rest of the country. Our land use and risk factors justify more stringent State regulation. More stringent state regulation is authorized by most if not virtually all federal environmental laws, and NJ has led the country in that regard.

In fact, NJ’s TCPA program was the model for the federal program established under section 112(r) of the Clean Air Act.

My testimony cited and included excerpts from a NJ DEP analysis that compared the NJ State TCPA program to the federal 112(r) program. specifically this critical conclusion:

“Industry (e.g., CIC and NJBIA) would obviously prefer backing off to the EPA thresholds. .However, the increases made by EPA on adoption were so large (averaging some 18 times the TCPA values with 33 of the 60 substances common to both lists assigned from 5 to 167 times corresponding TCPA values) that they are not technically justifiable in an area as densely populated as New Jersey where substances are generally handled on small sites, and would correlate with a significant increase in the number of potential fatalities”.

Chairman Smith requested a copy of this memorandum.

Accordingly, please be advised that the complete DEP memo can be found on page 126 of Whitman EPA US Senate confirmation hearing transcript - to access the complete document, hit that embedded link or this:

https://bulk.resource.org/gpo.gov/hearings/107s/69822.pdf

4. NJ TCPA “threshold quantity” versus federal threshold quantity.

The NJ TCPA regulations are more stringent that the federal rules. One of the key NJ standards is the “threshold quantity” of an EHS that triggers regulation.

The NJ TCPA “threshold quantity” for anhydrous ammonia is 5,200 pounds. This lower threshold is justified by risk, as a function of  NJ’s population density and proximity to chemical use, see:

http://www.nj.gov/dep/rpp/brp/tcpa/downloads/TCPA_Consolidated_Rule_2009r1.pdf

In contrast, the federal threshold quantity is almost twice NJ’s, at 10,000 lbs – see 40 CFR 68.130 Table 1

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2011-title40-vol15/pdf/CFR-2011-title40-vol15-sec68-130.pdf

That means more facilities are regulated under the NJ program and the more people are protected from catastrophic release of a highly toxic chemical.

In addition to  a lower threshold of regulation under the NJ TCPA program, the NJ program provides additional regulatory and oversight safeguards and far more compliance monitoring and enforcement resources per facility than the federal program, which include but are not limited to mandatory annual inspections (versus discretionary 3 year federal inspection).

5. Risk considerations

The industry testimony failed to mention the most critical issue, i.e. the risks to workers and nearby communities that could be exposed to a catastrophic release or accident.

TCPA and federal regulations require a facility to model the risks of such an event:

“Consequence analysis” means the determination of the potential consequence of an EHS release on the surrounding population, using dispersion, thermal or overpressure analysis and, at a minimum, identifying potential populations exposed to the toxic, thermal or overpressure endpoint for each EHS. 

To understand the nature and magnitude of these risks, legislators need to ask industry to present their “consequence analysis” under NJ TCPA regulations.

6. Paulsboro toxic train derailment 

I urge you to read the NationalTransportation Safety Board’s Report on the Paulsboro NJ train derailment that hospitalized scores of people and forced evacuation of portions of the community.

The NTSB Report provides a scathing critique of NJ’s State, local, and private sector planning, preparation, regulatory oversight, and response to chemical accidents, see:

http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2014/RAR1401.pdf

Given these major weaknesses, we need to beef up regulation of chemical risks. It is not sound public policy to be weakening NJ State regulations.

7. NJ Work Environment Council (WEC) Reports on TCPA

I’ve reached out to Rick Engler at WEC – he will be in touch with you and has concerns and expertise to offer.

Here are relevant links to WEC Reports

I reiterate my testimony in opposition to this bill and will be submitting additional testimony. I strongly urge you to table it now.

Sincerely,

Bill Wolfe, Director NJ PEER

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A Strategy to Begin To Heal The Wounds Created By The Open Space Diversion Disaster

November 16th, 2014 No comments

DEP and State Parks Cuts Must Be Restored

Urban and Environmental Justice Issues Must Be Addressed

Before Any Funds Are Appropriated

The Open Space debate was not only misleading, nasty and divisive, but the diversion of DEP funds created huge holes in DEP’s budget.

If unfilled, those holes will force environmental program cuts, professional staff layoffs, and an increase in the taxpayers’ burden of funding environmental programs – in addition to further decline of State Parks facilities, increases in risks, less inspection and enforcement, and even less oversight of polluters and land developers.

Several people have reached out to ask me: what’s next? How can we fix this?

So, to begin to heal the political, organizational, programmatic, and personal wounds,  I thought I’d lay out some ideas that could form the contours of a positive path forward, in terms of a set of demands to organize around and make to legislators.

In terms of the next step, the new Open Space funds authorized by voters require individual appropriations bills before any of the money approved by the voters can be spent on open space, farmland preservation, historic preservation, and blue acres programs.

Expectations will be formed, political commitments made, and bills are likely to be drafted between now and next spring.

So before then, Legislators need to hear from those who were disturbed by the misleading nature of the ballot question and the lack of any real debate about the diversion of DEP environmental program funds, including taking the entire $32 million parks capital budget.

Here are some of the things they should hear:

1. There should be no legislative appropriations for any purpose authorized by the voters until all $71 – $117 million that was diverted is fully restored.

Specifically, that means:

  • $32 million to parks capital budget
  • $10 million to water resource programs
  • $25 million to brownfields
  • $23 million to publicly funded cleanups

2. The diversion of funds from DEP programs would defund, and possibly force the layoff of at least 266 DEP professionals in the following environmental programs

  • Site Remediation- 107 positions
  • Compliance & Enforcement/UST Inspections- 10 positions
  • Water Monitoring & Planning- 123 positions
  • Air Quality- 8 positions
  • Parks Management- 18 positions 

Given these potential cuts to environmental programs and layoffs of public employees, no new open space funds should be appropriated to any non-profit group.

3. To justify these diversions, the Keep It Green Coalition and Senator Smith both falsely accused DEP of abusing dedicated CBT funds by using them for salaries.

Senator Smith even inserted a new (punitive) provision in the new Open Space Resolution that expressly prohibits the DEP site remediation program from using funds for staff salaries.

Accordingly, if DEP can’t use CBT funds for salaries, then NO KIG member group shall be eligible for any “stewardship” or administrative overhead or salaries in any appropriation bill.

4.  Democrats, who control the Legislature, should not appropriate $1 of new Open Space Fund moneys until the following programs are funded by at least 50% of available funds:

  • urban parks
  • urban forestry (which is also a climate change adaptation strategy to address the heat island effect and an emissions mitigation strategy via carbon sequestration)
  • community and neighborhood gardens
  • Food access – urban farmers markets – linked to preserved farms

This outline is the just that, an outline of tentative ideas and demands for your consideration.

In future posts, I will flesh out the urban and environmental justice programs that must be funded, and show how they are inter-related to the programs authorized by the voters in approving Ballot question #2 -

The interrelationships I will emphasize are examined comprehensively in this recent Report on Trenton’s Community Health Needs Assessment
OVERVIEW OF EMERGING PRIORITIES IN THT’S CHNA

From a longer list of needs generated by quantitative data, residents identified these needs as the top health concerns in Trenton, which will drive the development of the CHIP:

  • Obesity/healthy lifestyles – Nearly half of the city’s children – even those as young as three to five years old – are obese. Trenton has been identified as a food desert, due to lack of access to healthy foods. Poor food options and limited places to play have taken a toll on Trenton’s children. Hunger is also an issue, with 17 percent of Trenton households regularly lacking enough food to eat.

NJ’s farmland preservation, parks, toxic site cleanup, and open space funds can be part of the solution to these challenges – it’s time that they begin doing so.

If the KIG groups can get a new use for “stewardship” funded, then certainly pressing urban needs – where the majority of people in NJ live,  already bear disproportionate burden of pollution, and historically have been shortchanged by open space and agricultural preservation funding – can be addressed as well.

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(Their) Words – (My) Pictures

November 15th, 2014 No comments

A Day Along the Lower Delaware

I was out rambling around the lower Delaware waterfront on this brisk winter like fall day, just north of Petty’s Island, and came across this cool looking historic building, called Vennell Tavern – would make a great old Road House, No?

Vennell Tavern (1795) - Pennsauken, NJ (11/15/14)

Vennell Tavern (1795) – Pennsauken, NJ (11/15/14)

Got home and did the Google – Here’s what they say about Vennell Tavern

An 18th Century Tavern House…
A Modern Day Treasure

At Vennell Tavern, our 18th century lodge stands as a timeless symbol of Pennsauken’s rich history and culture. Nestled within the beautiful wildlife sanctuaries of Fish House Cove and Tippin’s Pond, the newly restored tavern embraces an abundant landscape of old New Jersey. Come discover the serene beauty of a bygone era and the replenishing power of nature.

Out past the old  tavern, across the railroad tracks towards the river, there are old (former Texaco) tank farms:

fish house cove

Situated in this toxic decay was a park called Fish House Cove – here are some scenes:

fish cove5

fish cove1

fish cove2

fish cove3

fish cove 4

Here’s what they say about Fish House Cove: (and there is some apparently credible basis for this, so I guess everything is relative)

FISH HOUSE TODAY: A HAVEN
by Kevin W. Frost

In the mid 1980s, Pennsauken Township purchased and transformed Tippin’s Pond and the Fish House Cove into a wildlife sanctuary and park. This was a prophetic move. Over a decade later, Fish House Cove was designated a Natural Heritage Priority Site. Natural Heritage Priority Sites indicate areas that contain some of the best and most viable occurrences of endangered and threatened species and natural communities. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Office of Natural Lands Management, which identifies these critically important natural areas in the interest of conserving New Jersey’s biological diversity, selects these priority sites.

Fish House Cove is one of the largest and most diverse freshwater tidal marshes remaining in New Jersey. A total of 261 different species of birds have been identified at the cove including several endangered species. In addition to birds, numerous animals including Red Fox and White Tail Deer inhabit the cove and the surrounding uplands. The Cove is the home of the last stand of wild rice in Camden County as well as rare forms of River Bulrush and Arrowhead.

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