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Gov. Releases Barnegat Bay Plan – Some Good Things, Lots of Unanswered Questions

Friday, December 17th, 2010
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by Carleton Montgomery, Executive Director

Governor Christie has released his long-awaited plan to restore Barnegat Bay.  Click here for the Plan and here for the press release.

The key things causing Barnegat Bay’s ecological decline are (a) excessive nutrients (particularly nitrogen) flowing into the Bay from human activities in the watershed and beyond, and (b) the cooling system of the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station, which sucks in many billions of gallons of water, heats it, treats it with deadly chemicals, then releases it back into the Bay.  The Governor’s Plan speaks to both these issues.  It represents a start in the right direction, but leaves the key issues for future decisions and actions that may never come about. (more…)

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Another Bad Deal for the Environment

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010
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by Carleton Montgomery, Executive Director

You may have heard about the controversy over building a solar power facility on the former Stafford Township landfill.  Over the past week, the Commissioner of Environmental Protection, the Pinelands Commission, and finally a body called the State House Commission have all signed off on a no-bid deal the township made with Walters Group, the developer of the Stafford Park and many other developments in the Stafford area.  Walters gets a 30-year lease on the land to build and operate the solar facility – for a profit – in exchange for paying the township an amount of money which the township says should amount to something like $75-150,000 a year in lease payments.

All along, the township advocated for diversion without compensation.  It did not want to provide a single acre of replacement parkland.  It got its way.

Solar power is good, right?  It is, of course.  The problem is that this land had been lawfully deed-restricted “in perpetuity” as conservation open space.  Just as with homes – which are even more essential to us than solar energy facilities – we need them, but not everywhere. (more…)

Our Annual State of the Pinelands Report

Thursday, July 1st, 2010
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by Carleton Montgomery, Executive Director

The economy and public finance dominated public policy discussions and politics this year, and the environment usually got into the debate only because certain special interests are using the economic crisis to try tearing down environmental protections. This year’s State of the Pinelands Report provides grounds for satisfaction and disappointment, optimism and worry for the future. On the positive side of the ledger, the public’s vote for more open space funding stands out, especially in the midst of a severe financial and economic crisis and an election in which two of the three main party candidates for governor opposed the measure. On the negative side, we see a raft of legislation coming from both parties aimed at weakening environmental protection in the name of economic necessity – an argument that finally only serves those specific industries, like house builders, who benefit at the expense of other industries, like tourism, and the public at large. (more…)

Conservation, Regulation…and Uncertainty PART TWO

Monday, April 5th, 2010
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by Russell Juelg, Director for Outreach

The Pinelands Commission implements its threatened and endangered (T&E) plant protection rule as if it were written,

“No development shall be carried out by any person unless, in the judgment of the staff, there is a low probability of T&E plant populations occurring on the proposed development site, and, with respect to any T&E plant populations that do happen to be discovered, it is designed to avoid irreversible adverse impacts on their survival.”

There is probably no feasible alternative to this approach, but it does direct our attention to the vague concept of “low probability.” How low does the probability have to be, in order for the Commission staff to be satisfied that it is indeed low enough to allow the development to go forward? (more…)

Conservation, Regulation…and Uncertainty – PART ONE

Thursday, March 4th, 2010
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by Russell Juelg, Director for Outreach

Whenever land is slated for development in the Pinelands, one of the most significant and contentious issues is liable to be the protection of officially listed threatened and endangered (T&E) species. In the course of trying to achieve this, determining the presence or absence of T&E species is one of the first—and only one of many—questions to be addressed.

Normally, on a piece of vegetated land, it is only possible for a person to be certain that specific populations of T&E plants are present. It is virtually impossible to be certain that any and all potential T&E plant populations are absent. This situation generates a problem for the Pinelands Commission, and the Commission has yet to address this problem in a consistent fashion. (more…)

Lame duck legislative session ends with many victories!

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010
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by Jaclyn Rhoads, Director for Conservation Policy

Lame duck is the last session of the legislature before the new year begins, and, this year, the newly elected Governor Christie takes over.  Although lame duck implies an unproductive time of year, the end of the 2009 legislative session produced many victories including the Forest Stewardship Act, Pinelands Commission nominations, and the long-awaited Off-Road Vehicle Registration and Tagging provisions.

After ten years in the making by PPA and other partners, the off-road vehicle bill finally passed.  The bill’s provisions do not take effect until one off-road vehicle park is “designated” by DEP.  Once implemented, all off-road vehicle owners, new and existing, including dirt bike owners, will be required to register, tag and insure their vehicle.  The bill also allocates a portion of the registration fees to an off-road vehicle fund that will be used by New Jersey for maintaining and creating parks for riding. (more…)

Gov-Elect Chris Christie’s Environmental Platform

Monday, November 23rd, 2009
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by Carleton Montgomery, Executive Director

Is he for the environment or against it? Or will he try to split the baby – doing something here to please industry, something there to please conservationists?  Or will he just muddle along doing neither much harm nor much good for the environment? It’s impossible to say right now, but there are early grounds to be optimistic – and also grounds to be cautious.

Mr. Christie’ s environmental platform posted on his campaign web site is our principal grounds for optimism.  You can read the platform in Acrobat format by clicking here. Here are some highlights from the Christie election platform on the environment:

  • “Establish long-term funding source of open space.” In his platform, Mr. Christie says he will seek a constitutional amendment to dedicate a portion of the sale tax to open space preservation – though he does not say how much.
  • “Increase the number of acres annually preserved … especially in the Highlands and Pinelands.” The specific reference to the Pinelands may mean he sees the Pinelands as a region in which environmental protection should be the paramount public policy goal.
  • “Restor[e]… Barnegat Bay” by finding “a better way to control the nitrogen and phosphorous poisoning of the Barnegat Bay.” This statement suggests he understands that Barnegat Bay is in trouble, and new approaches are needed to stem the flow of nutrients into the Bay. We need to be cautious, though, because the platform does not suggest the new governor will support the kinds of dramatic new approaches that are really needed. So long as the Bay’s watershed continues to be covered with haphazard, sprawling residential subdivisions, then good measures like fertilizer order phentermine control rules will be overwhelmed by the added contaminants that come with more lawns, roofs and roads.
  • “Implement strategies for better cooling systems at Oyster Creek and Salem” nuclear power plants. The current system kills billions of aquatic organisms and heats the water, and it seems pretty clear that the only way to improve the system is to move to cooling towers. But the platform doesn’t say he will try to require towers, so we don’t know what it really means.
  • “Empower the rank and file” staff at DEP, “remove political considerations” from DEP permitting and regulatory actions, and “improve the scientific basis of regulatory decisions.” We can certainly point to cases where political pressures led state agencies to make bad decisions for the environment, so providing this kind of leadership for DEP and other agencies could be very positive. The problem is that it’s hard to see how the stated view squares with other things he has said attacking DEP for harming business with excessive rules.

And our grounds for worry?  Mr. Christie says he will remove regulatory burdens from business, reform DEP, drastically cut the state budget, and place a temporary moratorium on new environmental regulations. In the past, this kind of language from politicians usually meant removing environmental rules on construction and disabling state environmental agencies from doing their jobs – favoring one industry at the expense of other social goals and economic sectors that depend on a healthy environment.

But Chris Christie says he is going to be a different kind of politician. We’re here to help him do well by the Pinelands – and let you know if he doesn’t.

Voters Support Open Space Funding – Sending a Pro-Environment Message to the Next Governor and Legislature

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009
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by Carleton Montgomery, Executive Director

New Jersey voters once again sent the message in yesterday’s election that they want more open space – and are willing to put their money where their mouth is even in such dire economic conditions as we have now.  The Keep It Green campaign, in which PPA was a very active member, led the fight for open space funding.

Prevailing by a vote of 52% to 48% in favor of Question #1, supporters of the open space measure overcame some incredibly unpromising facts:

  • The only candidate for governor who supported Question #1 was Jon Corzine, the deeply unpopular incumbent Democrat who lost his post to Chris Christie, the Republican challenger.   Christie opposed Ballot Question #1.
  • The economy is still bad, unemployment is still high, and most people are worried about the economy, their jobs and taxes.
  • The state budget is still in terrible shape, with tax revenues continuing to fall behind the costs of state and local government programs, public pensions and benefits, and the public debt.
  • The Keep It Green campaign was hampered first by the opposition, then by the tepid-at-best support of two of the state’s largest environmental advocacy groups – the Sierra Club and the New Jersey Environmental Federation.  These groups aggressively fought against putting Question #1 on the ballot at all, then did little or nothing to get out their nexium 40mg members and supporters to vote for open space.

To me, the fact that Question #1 prevailed in these very difficult circumstances means the voters of New Jersey do care a great deal about the environment and do not want to see open space funding – or other key environmental programs – taken apart in the name of “economic necessity.”  And they did not elect Chris Christie to gut environmental laws and initiatives.

One of those key environmental initiatives is the Pinelands Protection Act and Comprehensive Management Plan.  In the coming years, the Pinelands Plan will probably become a target once again of development interests frustrated by its severe restrictions on development of Pinelands forests and critical habitats.  Some development interests will use the economy as a reason to press the new governor and the legislature to weaken the Pinelands Commission – and to make economic growth a driving goal of the Plan.  Some have already started that effort, as we see in the builders’ petition to remove the Northern Pine Snake from the list of threatened species whose habitats are supposed to be protected by the Pinelands Plan.

So all those who care about the environment and the Pinelands need to remind governor-elect Christie and their legislators that Tuesday’s vote was a mandate for the environment.

– Carleton Montgomery

PPA’s Russell Juelg Hunts for the Jersey Devil

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009
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A great article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. There are still a few spots left for the Dec. 4 JD Hunt…and check back for more in the Spring. Sign up for our Email phentermine 37.5 News to receive the Pinelands Adventures schedules and news about other PPA programs.

Reform Agenda for the Next Governor

Friday, October 23rd, 2009
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by Carleton Montgomery, Executive Director

With the governor’s race imminent (can you wait for it to end?), a big group of environmental, housing and land use planning nonprofits, including PPA, got together to tell the candidates what they need to do to save the state’s land and water.  We created a policy agenda of high-priority reforms to:

  • Enact clean energy policies
  • Provide more transportation options
  • Support compact development and housing that is affordable
  • Protect our natural resources
  • Focus the State’s Administration on unified goals for New Jersey’s future

The policy platform includes 12 specific reforms.

For protecting natural resources, we call on the next governor to:

  • Pass the short-term open space funding measure and establish a stable, long-term funding mechanism for open space including acquisition, capital improvements and operations.
  • Complete and implement the statewide water buy tramadol supply master plan, and repair old water infrastructure systems.
  • Reduce pollution from over-use of fertilizer, from storm water run-off, and from outdated construction standards.

And we make specific proposals in each of the other areas as well.  Here is the document we sent the three major candidates – John Corzine, Chris Daggett and Chris Christie.

One of our main themes is that you can’t save the environment without addressing the need for affordable housing, other ways to get around than the car, and getting government agencies to work in concert rather than at cross-purposes.

When we know who the next governor will be, I’ll be asking PPA’s members and supporters to help us push him to take immediate action on these reforms.

Let me know what you think!

 

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