Monday, August 31, 2015

New Jersey's Energy Future

NJ Energy Master Plan

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has requested comments on updates to New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan, which lays out a strategic vision for the State’s energy future. COA urged a wide scale implementation of conservation and efficiency measures as NJ’s first energy choice. They are the most cost effective, environmentally friendly choice, and studies have shown can dramatically reduce energy usage. NJ has fallen behind in the transition to clean energy, and a revised Energy Master Plan is a first step in making our state a leader in this field once again. More should be done to implement renewable energy technologies to replace outdated power plants, especially the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant, scheduled to close in 2019, and BL England, a part-time coal plant that is seeking to retrofit to full-time natural gas with a once through cooling system.  COA is also encouraging a renewed commitment to protecting NJ’s critical energy infrastructure from the effects of climate change and sea level rise.

Pinelands Pipeline and B.L. England

Related to New Jersey’s energy future, on Friday, August 14, the Pinelands Commission issued a “certificate of filing” for the South Jersey Gas pipeline, essentially approving the controversial project without a vote by the Pinelands Commission.  The pipeline would run through the Pinelands and its watershed habitat to the B.L. England Power Plant that is being retrofitted to switch from a part-time plant to a full-time 24/7 power plant burning natural gas.  However, studies and some analyses show that the plant is not needed and that there is more than enough energy available.  Of great concern to marine life is that the plant has a once through cooling system and will withdraw water from Great Egg Harbor Bay for energy generation and cooling purposes.  COA and others were party to litigation to halt the water withdrawals led by Super Law Group, but were ultimately unsuccessful.  COA will keep you posted on this growing threat.

Salem Nuclear Generating Station

Similarly, COA is supporting Delaware Riverkeeper’s lead efforts to stop NJDEP’s recently issued permit renewal for the Salem Nuclear Generating Station that will allow continued water withdrawal and thermal discharge to the Delaware River. Under this renewed permit, Salem Nuclear Power Plant will continue to kill billions of fish and aquatic species each year, as it withdraws over 3 billion gallons of water per day, crushing larger organisms against screens and entraining anything small enough to get through the screens. NJDEP should have required cooling towers to be built by Exelon Generation LLC., the owners of the plant, which would reduce fish kills by 95%. If you would like to speak out against the NJDEP’s decision to continue to allow this destruction of Delaware Bay, email susan.rosenwinkel@dep.nj.gov, and tell her that Salem Nuclear Power Plant should end this fish slaughter, and be required to build cooling towers.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Inaugural Blue Star Award Presented to Wall Township


On Wednesday, August 26th, Clean Ocean Action awarded the Blue Star certification to Wall Township, NJ, to recognize their effort to improve water quality. Clean Ocean Action’s Municipal Blue Star Program was established in 2014 to encourage towns in coastal regions and beyond to prioritize water quality protection measures, while achieving Sustainable Jersey Certification.

Wall Township achieved 90 of the necessary 75 points to attain the Municipal Blue Star certification. Examples of the actions completed include Community Education & Outreach, Education for Sustainability Programs, and Open Space Plans.  In addition to Sustainable Jersey projects, towns are required to choose one of COA’s additional actions. Wall Township completed the Innovative Water Quality Project action through partnering with Monmouth County in a Wreck Pond Sediment Control Project. This project works to improve water quality within the watershed in an effort to help resolve impairments that contribute to the precautionary closings of the Spring Lake beaches. Additionally, Wall Township afforded its residents with a Clean Water and Lawn Conservation Program that educates the community on promoting better conservation green practices. The development of the Program was made possible by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.    


Wall Township joins Long Beach Township as the second of two inaugural Blue Star towns. Congratulation to our Blue Star inductees!  

Friday, August 21, 2015

No Justice for the Ocean

The NJDEP withdrew their lawsuit against the National Science Foundation (NSF), Lamont-Doherty Earth Science Observatory, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The lawsuit sought to challenge the legality of the Rutgers University led seismic surveying expedition off the coast of Long Beach Island, which concluded in July. The stipulation of dismissal was filed at close of business today.


“It is very frustrating the ocean did not have her day in court with judge and jury. Strong-arm tactics by federal agencies trumped a state’s ability to protect whales, dolphins, and fish at the peak time of their biological activity; Rutgers University valued the schedule of a few above the livelihoods of hundreds of fisherman and ignored  thousands of citizens; and an extraordinary roster of federal, state, and local elected leaders. If this was the oil industry it would be a national scandal.   Clearly, we urgently need to establish a Clean Ocean Zone, strengthen our laws protecting the ocean, and warn other states about this threat.” Said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of COA.

NJDEP and NSF, NOAA, and LDEO agreed to dismiss the suit without prejudice, preserves NJDEP’s ability to challenge any future seismic surveying.

“We are disappointed that the merits of NJDEP’s complaint focusing on the many deficiencies in the environmental permitting process, and the impacts of seismic surveying on New Jersey’s coastal interests, were never adjudicated. Even more disturbing, is that the several issues related to the Coastal Zone Management Act and a State’s ability to use these federal laws to prohibit environmental harmful activities outside of their state waters were never heard. These issues are acutely relevant right now, as the Obama Administration has opened up the Mid-Atlantic to widespread seismic surveying for oil and gas exploration. What could have been a clear path for Mid-Atlantic States to oppose these harmful activities has now become decidedly murky.” Said Zachary Lees, policy attorney for COA.

BACKGROUND:

Since 2014, Rutgers University had led the NSF funded study that was staunchly opposed by the State of NJ, state and federal elected officials, thousands of citizens, commercial and recreational fishing groups, and members of the public.  All were concerned that, based upon 20 years of study, the seismic blasting would have impacts on New Jersey’s marine resources.  The 2014 and 2015 Rutgers’ study was design to emit 250 decibel blasts every 5 seconds, 24 hours a day, for 30 days in a small are of ocean off Long Beach Island during the peak migration and biological activity for marine resources including endangered species.  Throughout the two years that this expedition was reviewed, permitted, and undertaken, there have been manipulations, deficiencies, and flaws in the process including:
-          No public hearings were scheduled to educate the public or allow a meaningful opportunity to review and comment on the project.

-          In 2014, Rutgers and company failed to notify the State of New Jersey as to its blasting plans, and then successfully argued to the federal permitting agencies that New Jersey was time-barred from being able to review the project.

-          In 2015, study proponents changed the way they characterized the study (from a state agency project to a federal project) to prevent New Jersey from having veto power over the authorization process.  The structure, means, and methods of the project had not changed.

-          NSF engaged in negotiations with the State, even while preparing to carry on with this project behind the DEP’s back. NSF had no intention to modify the project, leading the DEP on while it prepared its’ final permitting documents.

-          The summer months ahead of the critically important time of year for marine life, and the livelihoods of commercial fishermen.  In 2014, Rutgers and NSF argued that boat availability was a key factor in the timing the project for the summer months.  When the study was rescheduled for the Summer of 2015, it became more apparent that the timing of the study was being driven by the schedules of its expedition members—university faculty and graduate students—rather than the schedule of the boat.

-          In 2014 and 2015, final permits and authorizations were literally issued as the boat was leaving the dock.  This compressed time frame between final approvals and the commencement of blasting left little to prepare legal challenges, particularly with respect to the thousands of pages of legal and permitting documents.

-          The number of “take” estimates was increased dramatically between the proposed and the issued permits.   For example, the allowance to harm dolphins went from over 400 to 18,000.  Notwithstanding this exponential increase, and a plea from U.S. Senator Corey Booker to the head of NOAA, the public and elected leaders were denied the opportunity to submit comments on the number of dolphins authorized to be harmed.  

-          In 2015, the final permit issued by NOAA was significantly flawed, as it vastly underestimated the number of endangered Fin Whales that the survey would encounter. NSF had to go back to NOAA in order to get a revised permit – even while the survey was ongoing—because they exceeded the “take” limit within a week of blasting.

-          COA repeatedly asked NOAA to include the endangered Atlantic Sturgeon in the analysis of impacts, and was ignored, even while COA submitted numerous studies that placed this endangered species within the survey area.

-          NSF included an abstract for the 2014 expedition which included an admission that the data they obtained would be “of relevance for hydrocarbon exploration industry.” The 2015 abstract was edited to state that the data “may help improve strategies for hydrocarbon exploration in the Gulf [of Mexico]. 


The Clean Ocean Zone (http://www.cleanoceanzone.org/) is an initiative to permanently protect the waters from Montauk to Cape May, NJ; this legislation would lock out harmful activities and lock a future for a healthy and clean ocean

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Beach Day Shouldn't Turn Into a Sick Day

So far this summer, there have been a reported 62 “beach incidents” involving beach closures and/or contamination advisories due to poor water quality of popular beach areas. In order to combat this issue, Clean Ocean Action joined Senator Menendez and Congressman Pallone in announcing the re-authorization and strengthening of the BEACH Act (Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act).  The law is now over 15 years old and needs to be updated, strengthened, and funded.  US Senator Bob Menendez and Representative Frank Pallone are introducing bi-partisan legislation that will strengthen national water quality standards, require rapid testing methods to be used, and provide states with grants to test water quality, and public notifications when conditions are not safe. Importantly, COA is urging that the law require testing after rainstorms due to the significant pollution in runoff. Whether swimming or recreating on the water, it should not be swim at your own risk. Everyone should be informed about the water quality for their own health and safety. A beach day should not have to turn into a sick day! You can find information on NJ water quality at https://njbeaches.org. Clean Ocean Action checks this site daily, sharing closures and advisories on social media.