Thursday, December 8, 2016

Sources say Christie won't be RNC chair under Trump

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in background cheering Trump at podium - Photo by EPA - Ryan Stone

Gov. Chris Christie will not be named chairman of the Republican National Committee as President-elect Donald Trump assumes the White House, two sources with knowledge of the situation confirmed to NJ Advance Media on Thursday morning.
Christie had been lobbying for the position over the last week, but he and Trump came to the decision mutually, said the sources, who requested anonymity to discuss the scenario candidly.
One source close to Christie said Trump's team is continuing to talk to the New Jersey governor, a longtime Trump friend and adviser, about various other positions in the incoming administration.But, the source noted, Christie wants to serve out his second and final term as governor -- which ends Jan. 18, 2018.
The source added that Christie is close to Trump and will "certainly remain as an informal adviser."
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Miners' health care and pension benefits are on the line

Miners march in Waynesburg, Pa. in April, 2016 - Photo by Andrew Rush, Post-Gazette
The fate of health care and pensions of thousands of coal miners is taking center stage this week as Congress struggles to pass a funding bill by Friday to keep the government open for the next four months.
In the latest development, the Republican majority in the Senate has agreed to extend health care benefits — but only for four months.  
Congress is entering the final days to pass the Miners Protection Act, which was proposed more than a year ago to direct $3 billion over the next 10 years into health care and pension funds for miners. The money would prop up United Mine Workers of America pension funds, relied on by more than 89,000 miners nationwide, including 13,000 miners in Pennsylvania.
An extension would honor a promise by the federal government dating back to the Truman administration to guarantee UMWA retirement funds. Without action, roughly 17,000 miners across the country would lose their health care benefits later this month, and an additional 4,000 would lose them early next year.

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The move to stuff an extension of health care benefits into a short-term appropriations bill was announced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday. The bill is required to fund the government beyond the end of the year and must be approved before Congress breaks for holiday.
Linking the miners’ health care to the short-term funding bill angered supporters of the bill, including Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey, who called it a “profound betrayal” of miners.
“This proposal does nothing to protect pensions and will extend health coverage for so short a time that recipients would be notified almost simultaneously that they are both eligible for benefits and that their benefits will terminate,” Mr. Casey wrote. 
Mr. Casey said he’s incredulous the full act was dropped following the election of Republican Donald J. Trump, who won support among large swaths of coal country by promising to enact miner-friendly policies. Mr. Casey wrote a letter to Mr. Trump last month that urged the president-elect to encourage his party’s leadership to back the measure. Of the bill’s 18 co-sponsors, eight are Republicans.
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PADEP appeals court hold on sections of new drilling rules

Natural gas gathering lines in the Tiadaghton State Forest. 
Jon Hurdle reports for StateImpact:
Pennsylvania is appealing a court ruling that temporarily blocked sections of new gas drilling regulations, saying they are “commonsense” rules designed to protect the public and took years to develop with the help of the industry.
The Department of Environmental Protection filed the appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday after a Commonwealth Court judge last month put a hold on some parts of the Chapter 78a regulations on unconventional natural gas development.
The DEP is urging the state’s highest court to allow implementation of regulations governing public resource protections, monitoring for orphaned and abandoned wells, well-site restoration, and standards for water storage impoundments.
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Those sections were put on hold by Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson last month following a lawsuit from the gas industry’s trade group, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which argued in its first-ever suit against the state that the rules are onerous, costly, and offer little environmental benefit.
But Brobson let stand other sections of the rules dealing with spill cleanups, onsite waste processing, and a new requirement to file monthly waste reports. The rules, which took effect in October, are the first revision of Pennsylvania’s oil and gas regulations since the shale boom began in the mid-2000s.
In a statement accompanying its appeal, the DEP’s Acting Secretary, Patrick McDonnell, said the rules are intended to protect public facilities including schools and playgrounds, and should be allowed to stand.
“These commonsense regulations were the result of five years of public participation, including dozens of meetings with natural gas industry leaders and trade groups, as well as nearly 25,000 Pennsylvanians who made their voices heard by providing public comments,” McDonnell said.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

EPA moves to ban aerosol de-greasers, spot removers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it 
is proposing to ban certain use of the chemical trichloroethylene (TCE) due to health risks when used as an aerosol de-greaser and as a spot removal agent in dry cleaning.

The proposed rule was issued under section 6(a) of the Toxic Substances Control Act, as amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.

Specifically, EPA is proposing to prohibit the manufacture (including 
import), processing, and distribution in commerce and to 
prohibit commercial use of TCE for aerosol degreasing 
and for spot cleaning in dry cleaning facilities. 

EPA is also proposing to require manufacturers, processors, 
and distributors, except for retailers, to provide downstream 
notice of these prohibitions throughout the supply chain, and
to keep limited records. Comments on the proposed rule must
be received 60 days after date of publication in the Federal 

Last week, EPA announced the inclusion of TCE on the list 
of the first ten chemicals to be evaluated for risk under TSCA. 
That action will allow EPA will evaluate the other remaining 
uses of the chemical. Today’s action only proposes to ban 
certain uses of the chemical.

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Trump picks fossil-fuel friend to lead the EPA he's suing

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt arriving at Trump Tower in Manhattan on Wednesday

Coral Davenport reports today in the New York Times:

President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general and a close ally of the fossil fuel industry, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, a transition official said, signaling Mr. Trump’s determination to dismantle President Obama’s efforts to counter climate change.

Mr. Pruitt, a Republican, has been a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies, actions that fit with the president-elect’s comments during the campaign. Mr. Trump has criticized the established science of human-caused global warming as a hoax, vowed to “cancel” the Paris accord committing nearly every nation to taking action to fight climate change, and attacked Mr. Obama’s signature global warming policy, the Clean Power Plan, as a “war on coal.”

Mr. Pruitt, 48, who has emerged as a hero to conservative activists, is also one of a number of Republican attorneys general who have formed an alliance with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda, a 2014 investigation by The New York Times revealed.

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At the heart of Mr. Obama’s efforts to tackle climate change are a collection of E.P.A. regulations aimed at forcing power plants to significantly reduce their emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution. It will not be possible for Mr. Trump to unilaterally cancel the rules, which were released under the 1970 Clean Air Act. But it would be possible for a legally experienced E.P.A. chief to substantially weaken, delay or slowly dismantle them.

As Oklahoma’s top law enforcement official, Mr. Pruitt has fought environmental regulations — particularly the climate change rules. Although Mr. Obama’s rules were not completed until 2015, Mr. Pruitt was one of a handful of attorneys general, along with Greg Abbott of Texas, who began planning as early as 2014 for a coordinated legal effort to fight them. That resulted in a 28-state lawsuit against the administration’s rules. A decision on the case is pending in a federal court, but it is widely expected to advance to the Supreme Court.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Philly's Sunoco has deep-dollar stake in Dakota pipeline

Standing Rock encampment in North Dakota

Andrew Maykuth reports for the Philadelphia Inquirer:

The Obama administration’s decision to block completion of the contentious Dakota Access Pipeline has direct impact on Sunoco Logistics Partners LP, the Newtown Square company that would operate the $3.8 billion crude-oil pipeline. 

Sunoco Logistics and its parent company, Energy Transfer Partners LP, which are on the hook for more than $2 billion in the project, denounced the decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to block the pipeline from crossing the Missouri River as a “purely political action.

“This is nothing new from this administration, since over the last four months the administration has demonstrated by its action and inaction that it intended to delay a decision in this matter until President Obama is out of office,” the companies said in a statement released late Sunday.

President-elect Donald Trump’s spokesman on Monday said the new administration will review the permit denial after it takes office. The Corps declined to grant ETP an easement to build under Lake Oahe, a dammed part of the Missouri river in North Dakota. The agency said it would begin a lengthy environmental review to determine whether to reroute the pipeline.

Trump’s spokesman Jason Miller on Monday told reporters he pipeline “is something we support construction of, and we will review the situation when we are in the White House to make the appropriate determination at that time.”
Read the full story here 

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U.S. Green Building Council of NJ Seeks Executive Director

The U.S. Green Building Council's New Jersey Chapter is seeking an executive director to fill the vacancy created by the death of Florence Block in September. 

Here's how the non-profit describes itself:

The USGBC NJ is a non-profit organization focused solely on advancing green building and sustainable communities. The mission of USGBC NJ is to transform NJ’s built environment to become ecologically sustainable, profitable, and healthy. We accomplish our mission through education, advocacy, and collaboration.
USGBC NJ is at the forefront of changing the way buildings in our state are designed, built and operated. We are a diverse group of builders and environmentalists, corporations and nonprofits, teachers and students, lawmakers and citizens that share the same vision of a sustainable built environment for all within the next generation.

As New Jersey’s green building advocate and education resource, USGBC NJ provides over 150 educational programs, events, green building tours, research studies, and advocacy initiatives each year, through its three-branch, state-wide network.
For over 14 years USGBC NJ has served as the meeting ground, catalyst, and propeller for sustainability-minded individuals in building-related professions. Through the NJ Chapter, LEED® and green building in general, have found fertile ground in New Jersey. The New Jersey Chapter’s 1,500+ members represent the entire spectrum of New Jersey’s green building community.
For information about the position, click here.
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Longtime NJ legislator and mayor Leonard Conners, 87

Len Connors, longtime NJ legislator and mayor

Patricia A. Miller of Brick Patch writes:

Many Surf City residents cannot remember a time when Leonard T. Connors was not mayor of this small town on Long Beach Island.
And many cannot remember a time when he wasn't their 9th District legislator.
Len Connors, who survived the Great Atlantic Storm of 1962 and Superstorm Sandy, died at home last night at 87, surrounded by his family, according to a statement from his son, current 9th District state Senator Christopher J. Connors Jr.
“Words cannot express adequately how profoundly saddened I am by the loss of my father, mentor and best friend," Connors said. "My father was a man of large stature, both physically, but more importantly in the minds of those who knew him, who possessed a sharp intellect, a tireless work ethic, sound judgment and an unwavering sense of obligation to those who put their trust in him." 
Connors served as mayor of Surf City for nearly 50 years, from 1966 to 2015.
“At the same time, I take comfort in the knowledge that my father led a remarkable and fulfilled life and left this world with absolutely no regrets," his son said. "He was a tremendously successful businessman and highly effective public servant who earned the respect of almost all who knew him. My father will be terribly missed by those who knew him and he will be remembered for who he was: a great man.”
Connors served two terms on the Ocean County Board of Freeholders. He was a former director of the National Association of Coastal Mayors and served as a director for the United Way Campaign.
He was first elected to the State Senate in 1981 and served until 2007.
9th District Assemblyman Brian Rumpf, who served with Senator Connors in the State Legislature, said Connors never failed to buck party lines if he had to.
“Always, Len was guided by a moral compass that put people before politics, Rumpf said. "He, therefore, never hesitated to cross party lines or disagree with his own party when it meant acting in the best interest of his constituents."
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Sunday, December 4, 2016

NJ drinking water problems: Easy to find, costly to fix

Tom Johnson reports for NJ Spotlight:

Here’s why it will cost billions of dollars to overhaul the state’s aging drinking-water infrastructure:

At least 20 percent of the system is more than 100 years old. Between 20 percent and 30 percent of treated water leaks from the system before it ever gets to the faucet. At least 137 public schools in New Jersey tested positive for lead in at least one drinking-water outlet this year.
No wonder a legislative task force yesterday began delving into what improvements are needed in the system delivering drinking water to customers. The lawmakers heard plenty about the problems, but few answers on where to get the money to solve them.
“The hardest part is where will the money come from,’’ conceded Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer), co-chair of the Joint Legislative Task Force on Drinking Water Infrastructure.
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Do not pin your hopes on the federal government, warned the other co-chair, Assemblyman John McKeon (D-Essex). The federal government has shaved funding for drinking water projects by 75 percent in recent years, he said.
All of which likely means that if investments are to be made in the future, it will translate into higher bills for customers, who now pay roughly a penny a gallon for drinking water, according to Andrew Hendry, president of the New Jersey Utilities Association. His group represents six investor-owned water companies, serving about 40 percent of the state’s population.
There may not be a consensus yet on how to pay for the needed upgrades, but there was wide agreement that the state’s economic future and much more depends upon a clean and affordable supply of water.
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Tracks-to-trails movement gains speed in North Jersey

Deena Yellin writes for The Record:

Several Northern Valley towns may be on track to join the growing crop of  municipalities converting abandoned railroad tracks into recreational trails for walkers, bikers and runners.

Similar trails, following a nationwide trend, have been created across New Jersey in places like Ramsey, Verona, Mountain Lakes, Chester and Morristown. Efforts are also under way for one in East Rutherford.

Enthusiasts are aiming for local towns to hop aboard the trend by re-purposing the unused rails of CSX's Northern Branch Line from Tenafly eight miles up to the New York state line as a pedestrian trail. A recent online petition at in favor of the project gathered  more than 1,000 signatures in only a few days.

At one time, trains were considered the most efficient way to transport large quantities of people and freight.

"At the peak of the railroad bonanza in the 1920s, there were 300,000 miles of railroad in operation –now we have half that left nationwide," said Tom Sexton, director of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy based in Camp Hill, Pa.

Read the full story here

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