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Former EPA lead for environmental justice joins EELC Board

Lisa Garcia

On behalf of the Eastern Environmental Law Center Board of Directors, Co-Chairs of the Board  Alexi Assmus and Edward Lloyd are pleased to welcome Lisa Garcia as the newest board member. Ms. Garcia is a powerhouse in the environmental community  and her diverse experience, both state- and nation-wide, will be a great asset to EELC.

Garcia is the Director of Fix, the climate solutions lab from Grist.org, a national nonprofit media organization founded in 1999 that focuses on environmental and social justice challenges. 

Before joining Fix, Garcia was at the nonprofit public-interest law organization Earthjustice, where, as vice president, she led high-impact litigation work designed to protect communities and families from toxic pesticides, refinery and factory pollution, chemical dumping, and unsustainable industrial development. She also spearheaded an effort to build diverse partnerships and coalitions.

Last month, Garcia was appointed to the Biden-Harris Transition’s Environmental Protection Agency Review Team.  

In 2009, Garcia joined the Obama administration to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental justice work, serving as both an associate administrator and advisor to EPA administrators, Lisa P. Jackson and Gina McCarthy. Garcia helped create and implement Plan EJ 2014, a roadmap for weaving environmental justice into all of the EPA’s work, and was the principal drafter of President Obama’s 2014 proclamation on Environmental Justice. She also led the federal Environmental Justice Interagency Workgroup, collaborating with other agencies across the U.S. government to address some of the country’s most persistent environmental challenges.

Before working at the EPA, Garcia served as the chief advocate for environmental justice and equity at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Prior to that, she was an assistant attorney general in the Environmental Protection Bureau of the NYS Attorney General’s Office.

“We are delighted to welcome Lisa to the Board. She brings decades of experience in advocacy for environmental justice communities and will advance EELC’s continuing commitment to represent those who suffer from the cumulative environmental impacts in their community.”  said Mr. Lloyd.

 “Our Board of Directors is a dedicated team committed to supporting EELC’s legal work on behalf of the environment,” said Dr. Assmus.  “We are excited to channel Lisa’s expertise and energy into furthering our mission.” 

The Eastern Environmental Law Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public interest environmental law firm, located in Newark, New Jersey, working on behalf of environmental and conservation organizations to protect communities, open space, wildlife, and the natural heritage and public health of the eastern United States for generations to come.

EELC advocates on behalf of organizations and community groups to resolve environmental problems that threaten people, natural resources, and communities throughout New Jersey and the surrounding region.  EELC represents national, state, and local citizen groups that generally cannot otherwise afford such assistance.  EELC’s representation includes general client counseling to our 35+ clients and advocacy to promote effective environmental and land use regulations, to restore, maintain, and enhance the quality of water bodies, to protect communities from disparate impacts, and to promote sustainable development and clean energy.

Please join EELC’s Executive Director Chris Miller at Northwest NJ Rivers Conference

Would you like to know more about the power municipalities have to support sustainable projects and to oppose those that are not?

Chris Miller, EELC’s Executive Director, is speaking on how towns can use their municipal land use powers to protect the environment at this year’s online Northwest New Jersey Rivers Conference coordinated by the New Jersey Highlands Coalition.

The workshop sessions at the two-day conference will give you up-to-date knowledge on how professionals protect water quality in our rivers, conserve land using the NJ MAP platform, use forests for carbon storage, remove dams, and create stormwater utilities. You are welcome to enjoy the speakers, workshops, and community and bring back to your local area what you learn.

Registration is now open. 

Day 1 Schedule: November 12th – 2PM – 5PM
Day 2 Schedule: November 13th – 9AM – 12:30PM

The conference is part of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative’s work to protect the river and its tributaries and to ensure that they continue to provide clean drinking water. Chris’ workshop with Elliott Ruga of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition and Alex Ambrose of ANJEC will be on Thursday, November 13th at 9:10AM:

Advocacy at the Municipal Level: Understanding Municipal Land Use Law. Alex Ambrose, Elliott Ruga & Chris Miller. The successful support or opposition of a proposed project at the municipal level requires an understanding of the protocols, language and jurisdictions set forth under New Jersey’s Municipal Land Use Law, which delegates certain land use control powers of the State to municipalities. Find out how to be an effective advocate within the jurisdictional authority of a municipality’s governing body and land use board.

For more information and to register: https://www.northwestnewjerseyrivers.org/

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NJ home condemned due to SRL pipeline blowout

“They gave me two minutes to grab what I could while they stood in the door in case it collapsed while I was in there…” Barbara Fox-Cooper, 77, whose Upper Freehold home was condemned Friday due to damages from the accidental release of mud and water from an SRL drilling site. From nj.com June 23, 2020

____________________________________________________________

*UPDATE: On July 8th, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection granted EELC’s request and suspended NJNG permits for the SRL pipeline. Read NJDEP’s letter here.

The Eastern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Sierra Club formally requested on Friday stays of approval issued by the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and the Pinelands Commission, and a suspension of permits issued by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), for the Southern Reliability Link (SRL) pipeline.

It is incumbent upon the agencies to immediately halt all drilling activity until this tragic accident is fully explained.

EELC, on behalf of Sierra Club, has been in litigation since 2015 challenging the SRL pipeline project on the basis of the potential environmental damages it can cause along its route. Sadly, this has become a reality. While our case against SRL is pending in New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division, it is incumbent upon the agencies to immediately halt all drilling activity until this tragic accident is fully explained.

Read EELC’s June 26th Request for a Suspension here and Request for a Stay here.

Read Pinelands Preservation Alliance’s June 29th letter to BPU here.

Photo of sedimentation in local stream in Upper Freehold Township courtesy: Pinelands Preservation Alliance

EELC Statement in Support of Racial Justice

The Eastern Environmental Law Center stands with those taking action to promote racial justice in response to the outrageous killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others. These killings are painful examples of the disproportionate and unjust harms wrought upon Black communities by systemic racism.  These harms are myriad, and pervasive.  EELC remains steadfastly committed to the fight for justice, and firmly believes that all people – regardless of race or income – have equal rights to a clean, healthy and safe environment.  Words matter, but action is necessary.  EELC is committed to the following actions:

– continuing to pursue environmental justice in court;

– broadening and deepening our connections to communities of color in order to better understand the best way for EELC to serve them and provide necessary legal support;

– expanding and diversifying our team;

– enhancing opportunities for underrepresented minority law students who are interested in gaining experience in environmental law

– educating ourselves on how to be anti-racist as human beings, in our homes and neighborhoods, in the workplace, and in the communities we serve.

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Synapse Energy Economics report finds NESE likely not needed to meet long-term energy demand. Read the Synapse report here.

EELC represents a coalition of environmental and citizen groups in opposition to NESE – a proposed pipeline that would run under Raritan Bay and deliver fracked-gas to the New York City area.

Synapse Energy Economics provides research, analysis, expert testimony, reports, regulatory support, and other consulting services related to energy, economics, and the environment. https://www.synapse-energy.com/

Eastern Environmental Law Center names Executive Director

Chris Miller, attorney who worked on Newark’s environmental justice ordinance, will head EELC

The Eastern Environmental Law Center’s Board of Trustees is excited to announce that Chris Miller has been named as executive director.  Chris is a seasoned environmental and land use attorney and joins EELC after twelve years of practice at one of New Jersey’s pre-eminent private environmental law firms, Maraziti Falcon, LLP, where he was partner.   He will start at EELC on January 13th.  

Chris is enthusiastic about heading the state’s only non-profit environmental law center and using his skills and experience as an environmental litigator in the public interest.   “I’m thrilled to help lead the fight for clean energy, environmental justice and open space preservation in New Jersey and the region. Given the dire projections of climate change and the ongoing rollback of environmental regulations, our work is now more imperative than ever.”

Taking leadership of a public interest law center is a return to work he has long known he is meant to do.  Chris gained experience with public interest law at the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Vermont Law School, where he received his JD and Master of Studies in Environmental Law, cum laude.   While at Vermont Law his passion for environmental law deepened and broadened to include an interest in social justice and civil rights work. 

At Maraziti Falcon, LLP, Chris counseled and litigated on behalf of local governments throughout New Jersey in environmental and land use matters, including climate change resilience, open space preservation, and environmental justice.  Chris has also worked with numerous municipalities to craft development regulations and redevelopment plans that incorporate principles of smart growth and equitable development, and he brings a deep knowledge of New Jersey land use law to EELC. 

Chris worked with the City of Newark and environmental organizations in drafting the City’s Environmental Justice and Cumulative Impacts Ordinance in 2016.  The ordinance aims to empower the community, which suffers under a high concentration of polluting land uses, by requiring developers of heavy manufacturing and other industrial uses to disclose adverse environmental impacts. 

Chris is an experienced litigator, with over a decade of experience standing up to powerful development interests in court.  This year, Chris obtained a judgment preventing the development of a diesel fuel depot next to a public park and a popular community kayaking facility on the Hudson River.  On behalf of a low-income community, Chris convinced a federal court to throw out a countersuit to challenge a longstanding community benefits agreement which had been filed by the corporate owner of a coal-fired power plant in Carneys Point at the foot of the Delaware Memorial Bridge.   Through his extensive experience including brownfield redevelopment, zoning and land use planning, open space acquisition and protection, and clean energy and climate resilience, Chris has developed a keen ability to use the power of law to protect the public interest and promote a clean and safe environment.   

“I am delighted to welcome Chris on behalf of the EELC Board of Trustees as our new Executive Director”, said EELC Co-Chair of the Board, Ed Lloyd.    “We look forward to working with Chris to lead EELC forward to continue its advocacy on behalf of New Jersey’s environment.”

Chris Miller assumes leadership at a time when EELC’s clean energy work has grown significantly as the focus has turned to states to combat climate change.  EELC is expanding its environmental justice practice and remains committed to the widespread open space and sustainable development work we do throughout the state. 

“I am excited about taking on powerful interests and fostering positive social change,” Chris said.  I believe I have a duty as a parent and an environmental lawyer to help ensure that current and future generations inherit a clean and healthy environment.” 

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Our work this year: Climate change, pipelines, establishing a framework for NJ’s clean energy mandate, contamination in Newark, and open space

The Eastern Environmental Law Center’s Board and staff sends best wishes for a happy holiday season and thanks you for supporting our mission: clean energy, open space, sustainable development, and environmental justice.

Climate change is an existential threat to the planet, yet numerous fossil fuel projects have been proposed for New Jersey, with gas pipelines planned to cut through the state to bring fracked gas from the Appalachians to the coast.  Recently developed fracking techniques have made new natural gas supplies available, and according to Credit Suisse, companies are racing to profit from this new fossil fuel supply, creating a boom where much of the market is overseas: “We see the strongest growth coming from those with exposure to the export market, as we believe marginal production will clear through exports.”  (Credit Suisse, initiating coverage, U.S. Midstream and Master Limited Partnerships, slide 4, Oct 10, 2018.).   EELC represents the NY/NJ Baykeeper, Food & Water Watch, the Surfrider Foundation, Sierra Club, and local communities, and contributes to an even broader coalition, that oppose pipeline projects and work to achieve NJ’s 2050 clean energy goals.  

Proposed site of NESE Compressor Station 206
Proposed site of NESE Compressor Station 206. Home of spring peepers and habitat for threatened barred owls. Seasonal vernal pools provide breeding habitat for amphibians. Williams/Transco is proposing a 32,000 horsepower compressor station adjacent to the Buddhist Vihara Center and near schools and thousands of homes in the Franklin/South Brunswick area. Station 206 would increase pressure and the danger of explosion in an aging 50-year old pipeline and allow fracked natural gas to be transported across the Raritan Bay to Long Island in a new pipeline whose construction would damage the Bay and its marine wildlife.

EELC achieved a major victory this year when the NJ Department of Environmental Protection denied permits for the $926 million Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) pipeline project which would threaten the safety of many people’s homes and damage the Raritan Bay and its marine inhabitants.   There is no need for the fracked gas that is proposed to be transported by this project. 

In tandem with our pipeline work, EELC has broadened its efforts on implementing New Jersey’s clean energy mandate.  The Board of Public Utilities (BPU) is holding stakeholder meetings and establishing rulemaking for the state’s Clean Energy Master Plan, and EELC has developed partnerships with multiple state and national environmental organizations as we assist in their efforts to influence important initiatives in Energy Efficiency, Electric Vehicles, Electric Storage, and the Energy Cloud.  We are representing the NRDC, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, NJ League of Conservation Voters, and Environment New Jersey as they respond to PSE&G’s $4 Billion Clean Energy Future proposal.

Over 25 cases are active on our legal docket.  EELC has expanded its efforts to address contamination in housing on a former industrial site at Manufacturers Place in Newark.  This year, we intervened on behalf of the Ironbound Community Corporation in a lawsuit against former owners of the site, where volatile organic compounds left in the groundwater are contaminating people’s homes which were illegally built in the Ironbound.  EELC has a new client, the Skylands Alliance, a member of the Highlands Coalition, that is working to protect a tributary to the Musconetcong River, and we are engaged with Hackensack Riverkeeper and Bergen SWAN to protect the watershed of northern Bergen County.

Our attorneys provide legal representation to community groups and environmental organizations who need EELC’s resources to pursue these critical environmental issues.  We receive funding from major foundations and public interest fees from clients, and we also rely on individual donors like you to support important environmental work.   We are able to provide pro-bono legal representation to environmental justice communities affected by contamination and air pollution because of your generous donations.  Our growing clean energy practice also needs your support.

EELC has been recognized for decades as the go-to public interest law center in New Jersey for environmental issues, and clients throughout the state turn to us when they are in need.   This is why we turn to you.  Our environment is under intense pressure, and we must rely now, more than ever, on citizens and public interest organizations to combat climate change, protect open space, and clean up our air, water and land.

Please donate as generously as you can this year, and please contact us if you wish to learn more about our work or need us. 

Best wishes for wonderful holidays,

Sincerely,

Alexi Assmus, PhD      Edward Lloyd, Esq.                      

Co-Chairs, Board of Trustees

Eastern Environmental Law Center

Aaron Kleinbaum, Executive Director of EELC, will step down to become NJ Assistant Attorney General

Kleinbaum leaves behind his record as a legal advocate for a clean energy future, for preserved open space, and for environmental justice in disadvantaged communities. Under his leadership, EELC has had victories in combating climate change, including a recent denial of state permits for the NESE fracked gas pipeline project.  Kleinbaum has opened up a new area of practice at EELC, Energy Efficiency, through EELC’s representation of local and national greens in front of the Board of Public Utilities.  He has led EELC in representing Environmental Justice communities, like Newark’s Ironbound in land use and contamination issues, as well as the Ramapo Mountain Indians in their fight to maintain the right to conduct ceremonial practices on their land.   He has worked tirelessly to safeguard the state’s water supply in the New Jersey Highlands and secured the legal right for the Highlands Council to be consulted on development issues. Kleinbaum leaves EELC stronger.  Under his leadership, he has superbly marshalled people and resources to fight for the environment. 

(Newark, New Jersey, July 19, 2019) It is with both pride and sadness that the EELC Board of Directors announces that Executive Director Aaron Kleinbaum is leaving EELC to take the position as Assistant Attorney General for Environmental Enforcement and Environmental Justice at the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.  Our loss is New Jersey’s gain, and Kleinbaum’s new position is good news for the environment in our region.

Pursuant to EELC’s succession plan, Ed Lloyd, Co-chair of the EELC Board will lead the Board’s national search for an Executive Director, and Alexi Assmus, PhD, Co-chair of the Board, will assume the role of Interim Executive Director.  Lloyd founded EELC in 1993, has represented environmental groups for 45 years, and is an endowed professor at Columbia University where he heads the law school’s environmental law clinic.  Assmus, a graduate of Harvard University and Stanford University has spent fifteen years doing research and teaching history of science at Harvard University, Polytechnic University, Princeton University, and the University of California at Berkeley.   She has led community groups working on environmental and land use issues, and she is currently a strategic communications professional.

Dan Greenhouse will be the Supervisory Attorney while the Executive Director search is conducted and will have primary EELC staff responsibility for legal decisions.  Prior to joining EELC as a Senior Staff Attorney, Greenhouse was an environmental litigator representing public and private clients, including eleven years of experience as Deputy Attorney General at the NJ Division of Law.

We cannot thank Kleinbaum enough for the unwavering commitment, passion, enthusiasm and motivation he has given to EELC over the past seven years. He will be greatly missed by the Board, staff, clients and donors alike. We look forward to following the success of his career and are hopeful and excited for the next chapter of EELC as we continue to thoughtfully and passionately represent our public interest clients.

Ed Lloyd, Esq., Co-Chair of Board

Alexi Assmus, PhD, Co-Chair of Board

# # #

Victory in New Jersey!

Newark, NJ (June 6, 2019) – Environmental groups and impacted homeowners declare victory and applaud the Murphy administration’s New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) for the June 5, 2019 denial of Williams/Transco’s proposed Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) pipeline project, which would transport fracked natural gas through New Jersey from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania to energy markets in New York City. The specific elements of the project primarily would have consisted of a new compressor station in Somerset County, NJ; increased pipeline pressure and capacity throughout existing Pennsylvania and New Jersey pipelines; and almost twenty-seven miles of new pipeline from Sayreville, New Jersey across the Raritan Bay to gas terminals in Rockaway Queens, New York. The NJDEP’s denial effectively means that the project cannot move forward unless Transco re-applies and is granted the permits.

The Eastern Environmental Law Center (EELC) represents NY/NJ Baykeeper, Food & Water Watch – New Jersey, Central Jersey Safe Energy Coalition, and the Princeton Manor Homeowners Association, who have numerous concerns regarding the NESE Project. Many of the individual members of these clients live close by the proposed new compressor station and pipelines included in the Project.

“NJDEP’s denial of the NESE project permits is the correct application of law and science – something that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) failed to do in its certification.” said Michele Langa, Staff Attorney at NY/NJ Baykeeper. “New York and now New Jersey have both rejected NESE as a project that damages the environment and is not in the public interest.”

The NJDEP agrees with the above environmental groups and impacted homeowners, and deemed that the project would cause significant adverse environmental impacts. The state of New Jersey recognizes the significant impacts to water, wildlife, and the safety and health of communities that were raised by elected officials, federal and state agencies, scientists, and citizens in comments to the NJDEP.

Langa of NY/NJ Baykeeper stressed that “if built, this pipeline would have disrupted commercial and recreational fishing and boating, having an adverse impact on marinas and boaters in Cheesequake Creek, Sandy Hook, and the rest of the Raritan Bay area. Construction of the pipeline would also have dredged up toxic sediments in the Bay and disturb 14,000 acres of habitat for shellfish, horseshoe crabs, and marine mammals. If Transco re-applies for the needed permits, NY/NJ Baykeeper will continue to fight the damaging NESE pipeline with sound science and the law to keep it from harming our beautiful bay, our air, our water, our health, our safety, and our planet.”

Barry Kutch, the leader of Central New Jersey Safe Energy Coalition, stated that “we applaud the NJDEP and the Murphy administration for denying this pipeline that would have increased our reliance on fossil fuels. It is good to see that citizens’ voices matter, and that the thousands of citizens opposing NESE were heard and the law was correctly applied. If Transco re-applies, we vow to keep fighting to protect our communities and our state from this project that threatens our health, safety, and environment.”

Eileen Balaban Eisenberg and Pradip Chakravarti, the leaders of the Princeton Manor Homeowners Association, a senior community that is in the shadow of the proposed compressor station, praised the NJDEP’s decision, saying “We feel vindicated that our concerns were heard and the NJDEP stood up for the people of NJ. This project brings nothing but harm to our Township and NJ with no benefits.”

Junior Romero, NJ Regional Organizer for Food & Water Watch, emphasized that NJDEP’s denial means that Transco cannot proceed with its pipeline. If Transco chooses to re-apply, Romero said that “we ask that the NJDEP and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) again deny the permits under their strict application standards. It’s gratifying in light of Trump’s pro-fossil fuel policies and FERC’s record that the states have stepped up to stop projects, like NESE, that take us in the wrong direction.”

The permit denial can be downloaded here.

About Eastern Environmental Law Center

About NY/NJ Baykeeper

About Food & Water Watch – New Jersey

About Central Jersey Safe Energy Coalition

About Princeton Manor

nj.com: Environmentalists beg for a halt as work on $180M Pinelands pipeline begins

photo: nj.com

As seasoned environmental and energy lawyers, EELC’S attorneys sued on behalf of New Jersey Sierra Club to stop the so-called Southern Reliability Link (SRL) pipeline in the #Pinelands. SRL poses a safety threat and would disrupt Pinelands communities. Also, it threatens wildlife and habitat in the environmentally-sensitive Pinelands region, and would risk contaminating groundwater in the event of construction mishaps or pipeline breaks. EELC appealed SRL’s permits and now sued to stop the construction while the appeal is pending. Pinelands Preservation Alliance also seeks to stop construction. Read more here: nj.com

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Year End letter from our Executive Director

Greetings to all of our friends and supporters.
Much has happened since I wrote you last. I have been heartened to see New Jersey pass the Clean Energy Act of 2018 and commit to a 2019 Energy Master Plan that would lay out a pathway to 100% clean energy for New Jersey by 2050.   We have also seen the Attorney General’s office move on recovering damages from six toxic chemical spills, including one we have been working on in Newark for several years.
EELC has recently taken on energy conservation work, on behalf of the National Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund that supports the “decoupling” of utility sales from revenues. Utilities have been disincentivized from aggressively pursuing energy conservation programs because their profits drop as they sell less energy.   Called GEM by PSE&G, or the Green Enabling Mechanism, decoupling would allow PSE&G to charge slightly higher rates as utility sales fall, while at the same time protecting customers from seeing higher bills.
The NRDC and EDF intervened in PSE&G’s petition to New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities to allow the electric utility to recover fixed costs even as their customers become more energy efficient, or even produce their own energy. In New Jersey, for example, 93,000 customers are now providing energy to the grid, mainly through rooftop solar, and these small-scale solar facilities produced about 2.3% of the state’s retail sales in 2017.   Decoupling prevents the utility from having to accept a significant financial penalty for allowing such distributed generation of electricity.   Decoupling is currently used in sixteen states that are serving 43 million electric customers. Nationwide, 105 electric and gas utilities are decoupled.
We continue our clean energy work in front of the BPU, work that in the past has led to the introduction of smart metering technology in New Jersey and to funds set aside for energy efficiency improvements after Superstorm Sandy.
Pipelines
 
        Photo courtesy of The Watershed Institute
Our client Food and Water Watch likes to say that New Jersey is a spaghetti bowl of pipelines with 1500 miles of already existing pipelines crisscrossing the state. In spite of this large existing network, six pipelines are currently being proposed to pass through the state. Energy companies are racing to profit from fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale in the Appalachians.
These proposed pipelines raise Fifth Amendment private property rights questions. “Public purpose” must be proven before private land can be seized through eminent domain for the construction of a privately-owned pipeline. In July, EELC submitted comments to FERC on its gas pipeline certificate policy which was last updated in 1999. We urged FERC to revamp its processes for determining whether a pipeline is truly needed, to reject contracts with a pipeline company’s own affiliates as proof of market demand, and to only grant pipelines the authority to seize land through eminent domain after a pipeline has received all of its required permits. FERC agreed that its permitting process is flawed and has undertaken a review.
In August, in contradiction to its own recognized need to review the process that determines public need for a project, FERC voted 3-2 to reject requests by our clients the New Jersey Conservation Foundationand Stony Brook Millstone Watershed for a rehearing of the PennEast pipeline and motions to stay the project. FERC Commissioner Richard Glick’s dissent made clear that the need for PennEast had not been established, “Today’s order simply is not the product of reasoned decision-making … It does not take much imagination to understand why an affiliate shipper might be interested in contracting with a related pipeline developer for capacity that may not be needed, such as the parent company’s prospect of earning a 14 percent return on equity.”
On other NJ pipeline news, EELC is representing NY/NJ BaykeeperFood and Water Watchand local homeowner associations to oppose the NESE pipeline which would convey an additional 400 million cubic feet/day of fracked gas from Pennsylvania to Sayreville, New Jersey, and across the Raritan Bay to the Rockaways in Queens.   EELC is working closely with residents of Franklin and South Brunswick Townships which oppose NESE because of a nearby proposed compressor station.
In April, New York State denied permits for the NESE pipeline, and in September the NJDEP cited deficiencies in the NESE application. The company continues to provide revised plans to the NJDEP to try to overcome these deficiencies. Barbara Cuthbert, a member of the Franklin Township Taskforce on Compressor Station 206 and NESE, pointed out that “Transco/Williams is a very competent company … When they’re going up against all of these state and federal regulations, they know all of these ways to maneuver out of what we know to be damaging to the environment.”
The next major step on NESE is the Final Environmental Impact Statement which, if issued, will be drafted by the Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC). Its possible release has been pushed back from this fall to early next year. EELC commissioned an expert to study water quality issues. The expert identified major failures in Transco/Williams’ plans. For example, NESE will impermissibly destroy valuable wetlands, create flooding hazards, and damage the habitat of Raritan Bay.
Environmental Justice
 
NJ Attorney General Grewal addresses contamination in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood
 
In early August, EELC joined Newark’s Ironbound community as NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, NJDEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe and NJ Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver
announced the filing of six lawsuits for cost recovery and natural resources damages resulting from toxic chemical spills throughout the state. One of those sites is the Ironbound’s Manufacturers Place neighborhood whose residents have been exposed to contaminated groundwater and toxic vapors from the former Ronson Metals Corporation.
This is a shocking situation which began after the DEP required Ronson Metal Corps, a manufacturer of cigarette lighters, to remediate their closed facility to industrial clean-up standards and place a deed restriction on the property. Tragically, the property was sold to a developer who built nineteen homes in 2002 and promptly disappeared.
In 2012, when the DEP returned for a routine check on the property, which should have been repurposed as a parking lot or some other industrial use, they found the homes built on the contaminated site. Indoor air quality testing revealed unacceptable levels of tri-chloroethane (TCE) a volatile industrial solvent within the living spaces of fifteen homes.
Many residents are at risk for health impacts related to their exposure. TCE is a likely carcinogen and can cause harmful effects on the nervous system, liver, respiratory system, kidneys, blood, immune system and heart as well as reproductive effects. Soil vapor extraction units were installed to remove the toxic air from beneath the affected homes and to vent it into the atmosphere, much like radon systems.
EELC represents the Ironbound Community Corporation in this important environmental justice matter and is seeking justice for the impacted residents.
Open Space
 
Green Acres preserved beachfront lost to private amusement park
This summer EELC fought on behalf the American Littoral Society and the New Jersey Conservation Foundationto defend against an unprecedented transfer of 1.37 acres of public beachfront property in Seaside Heights worth $2 million to a private developer. This property had been preserved through the state’s Green Acres program, but a private developer received approval to build an amusement park on the land.
Green Acres publicly acquired lands can only be developed if the land is swapped for another parcel of equal usefulness and recreational or economic value. In this case, the town accepted in trade an antique merry-go-round, a small parking lot, and nearby undevelopable wetlands worth less than $300k in trade. This sets a terrible precedent and was important to challenge in the Appellate Division. The Court agreed with EELC that the agencies had failed to set forth findings on the adverse consequences of the trade, as required by the Green Acres regulations.
The Appellate Court stated that it would usually require a remand to correct this error. However, citing “unique circumstances”, the Court concluded that a remand was not warranted in this instance.
While 1.37 acres of public beach parkland has been lost, the Appellate Division opinion serves as an important notice that Green Acres parkland cannot be traded into private ownership for historic objects.
Our Summer Interns
We were fortunate to have two fantastic law students intern with EELC over the summer. Ollia Pappas is a joint degree student focusing on environmental law at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. Ollia assisted tremendously with EELC’s clean energy caseload. Ruth Sheridan is combining her artistic background from The Cooper Union with environmental law from EELC and spent most of her summer focusing on pipeline litigation work. Both were a joy to have at the office and we wish them a successful year in law school.
Ruth Sheridan and Ollia Pappas
For more information on all of our legal efforts on behalf of the environmental community, please visit us at our website, and on Facebook and Twitter.
 With best wishes,
Aaron Kleinbaum
Executive Director
Eastern Environmental Law Center

 

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Newsletter: Fall Greetings from EELC

Greetings to all of our friends and supporters.
Much has happened since I wrote you last. I have been heartened to see New Jersey pass the Clean Energy Act of 2018 and commit to a 2019 Energy Master Plan that would lay out a pathway to 100% clean energy for New Jersey by 2050.   We have also seen the Attorney General’s office move on recovering damages from six toxic chemical spills, including one we have been working on in Newark for several years.
EELC has recently taken on energy conservation work, on behalf of the National Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund that supports the “decoupling” of utility sales from revenues. Utilities have been disincentivized from aggressively pursuing energy conservation programs because their profits drop as they sell less energy.   Called GEM by PSE&G, or the Green Enabling Mechanism, decoupling would allow PSE&G to charge slightly higher rates as utility sales fall, while at the same time protecting customers from seeing higher bills.
The NRDC and EDF intervened in PSE&G’s petition to New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities to allow the electric utility to recover fixed costs even as their customers become more energy efficient, or even produce their own energy. In New Jersey, for example, 93,000 customers are now providing energy to the grid, mainly through rooftop solar, and these small-scale solar facilities produced about 2.3% of the state’s retail sales in 2017.   Decoupling prevents the utility from having to accept a significant financial penalty for allowing such distributed generation of electricity.   Decoupling is currently used in sixteen states that are serving 43 million electric customers. Nationwide, 105 electric and gas utilities are decoupled.
We continue our clean energy work in front of the BPU, work that in the past has led to the introduction of smart metering technology in New Jersey and to funds set aside for energy efficiency improvements after Superstorm Sandy.

Pipelines

Photo Courtesy The Watershed Institute                                                                                                                         

Our client Food and Water Watch likes to say that New Jersey is a spaghetti bowl of pipelines with 1500 miles of already existing pipelines crisscrossing the state. In spite of this large existing network, six pipelines are currently being proposed to pass through the state. Energy companies are racing to profit from fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale in the Appalachians.
These proposed pipelines raise Fifth Amendment private property rights questions. “Public purpose” must be proven before private land can be seized through eminent domain for the construction of a privately-owned pipeline. In July, EELC submitted comments to FERC on its gas pipeline certificate policy which was last updated in 1999. We urged FERC to revamp its processes for determining whether a pipeline is truly needed, to reject contracts with a pipeline company’s own affiliates as proof of market demand, and to only grant pipelines the authority to seize land through eminent domain after a pipeline has received all of its required permits. FERC agreed that its permitting process is flawed and has undertaken a review.
In August, in contradiction to its own recognized need to review the process that determines public need for a project, FERC voted 3-2 to reject requests by our clients the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Stony Brook Millstone Watershed for a rehearing of the PennEast pipeline and motions to stay the project. FERC Commissioner Richard Glick’s dissent made clear that the need for PennEast had not been established, “Today’s order simply is not the product of reasoned decision-making … It does not take much imagination to understand why an affiliate shipper might be interested in contracting with a related pipeline developer for capacity that may not be needed, such as the parent company’s prospect of earning a 14 percent return on equity.”
On other NJ pipeline news, EELC is representing NY/NJ BaykeeperFood and Water Watchand local homeowner associations to oppose the NESE pipeline which would convey an additional 400 million cubic feet/day of fracked gas from Pennsylvania to Sayreville, New Jersey, and across the Raritan Bay to the Rockaways in Queens.   EELC is working closely with residents of Franklin and South Brunswick Townships which oppose NESE because of a nearby proposed compressor station.
In April, New York State denied permits for the NESE pipeline, and in September the NJDEP cited deficiencies in the NESE application. The company continues to provide revised plans to the NJDEP to try to overcome these deficiencies. Barbara Cuthbert, a member of the Franklin Township Taskforce on Compressor Station 206 and NESE, pointed out that “Transco/Williams is a very competent company … When they’re going up against all of these state and federal regulations, they know all of these ways to maneuver out of what we know to be damaging to the environment.”
The next major step on NESE is the Final Environmental Impact Statement which, if issued, will be drafted by the Federal Regulatory Commission (FERC). Its possible release has been pushed back from this fall to early next year. EELC commissioned an expert to study water quality issues. The expert identified major failures in Transco/Williams’ plans. For example, NESE will impermissibly destroy valuable wetlands, create flooding hazards, and damage the habitat of Raritan Bay.

Environmental Justice

NJ Attorney General Grewal addresses contamination in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood

In early August, EELC joined Newark’s Ironbound community as NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, NJDEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe and NJ Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver
announced the filing of six lawsuits for cost recovery and natural resources damages resulting from toxic chemical spills throughout the state. One of those sites is the Ironbound’s Manufacturers Place neighborhood whose residents have been exposed to contaminated groundwater and toxic vapors from the former Ronson Metals Corporation.
This is a shocking situation which began after the DEP required Ronson Metal Corps, a manufacturer of cigarette lighters, to remediate their closed facility to industrial clean-up standards and place a deed restriction on the property. Tragically, the property was sold to a developer who built nineteen homes in 2002 and promptly disappeared.
In 2012, when the DEP returned for a routine check on the property, which should have been repurposed as a parking lot or some other industrial use, they found the homes built on the contaminated site. Indoor air quality testing revealed unacceptable levels of tri-chloroethane (TCE) a volatile industrial solvent within the living spaces of fifteen homes.
Many residents are at risk for health impacts related to their exposure. TCE is a likely carcinogen and can cause harmful effects on the nervous system, liver, respiratory system, kidneys, blood, immune system and heart as well as reproductive effects. Soil vapor extraction units were installed to remove the toxic air from beneath the affected homes and to vent it into the atmosphere, much like radon systems.
EELC represents the Ironbound Community Corporation in this important environmental justice matter and is seeking justice for the impacted residents.

Open Space

Green Acres preserved beachfront lost to private amusement park

This summer EELC fought on behalf the American Littoral Society and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation to defend against an unprecedented transfer of 1.37 acres of public beachfront property in Seaside Heights worth $2 million to a private developer. This property had been preserved through the state’s Green Acres program, but a private developer received approval to build an amusement park on the land.
Green Acres publicly acquired lands can only be developed if the land is swapped for another parcel of equal usefulness and recreational or economic value. In this case, the town accepted in trade an antique merry-go-round, a small parking lot, and nearby undevelopable wetlands worth less than $300k in trade. This sets a terrible precedent and was important to challenge in the Appellate Division. The Court agreed with EELC that the agencies had failed to set forth findings on the adverse consequences of the trade, as required by the Green Acres regulations.
The Appellate Court stated that it would usually require a remand to correct this error. However, citing “unique circumstances”, the Court concluded that a remand was not warranted in this instance.
While 1.37 acres of public beach parkland has been lost, the Appellate Division opinion serves as an important notice that Green Acres parkland cannot be traded into private ownership for historic objects.

Our Summer Interns

Ruth Sheridan and Ollia Pappas

We were fortunate to have two fantastic law students intern with EELC over the summer. Ollia Pappas is a joint degree student focusing on environmental law at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. Ollia assisted tremendously with EELC’s clean energy caseload. Ruth Sheridan is combining her artistic background from The Cooper Union with environmental law from EELC and spent most of her summer focusing on pipeline litigation work. Both were a joy to have at the office and we wish them a successful year in law school.

For more information on all of our legal efforts on behalf of the environmental community, please visit us at our website, and on Facebook and Twitter.
 With best wishes,
Aaron Kleinbaum
Executive Director
Eastern Environmental Law Center

Green Acres Land Cannot be Traded Into Private Ownership for Historic Objects

The New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed, with modification, the approval of a Green Acres land swap in I/M/O Seaside Heights Borough Public Beach, July 30, 2018.  Litwin & Provence LLC and Eastern Environmental Law Center represented the American Littoral Society (ALS) and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF), who appealed the June 2016 New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and NJ State House Commission (SHC) Green Acres disposal approval.  The approval allowed for the unprecedented transfer of 1.37 acres of municipally-owned beach to a private developer in exchange for a wooden carousel built in the 1890s, a smaller “boardwalk facing” land (but not beach front), and a 67-acre wetland parcel in Toms River. Following the swap, the private developer built a private amusement pier on the beachfront parcel. Monday’s decision modified the challenged approval, but ultimately affirmed the disposal of the public beach.

ALS and NJCF appealed the approval of the swap, which threatened to open the gates to more transfers of public beach to private owners in exchange for historic objects and rather than replacement parkland.  Though the Appellate Division decision allows the swap to stand, the Court modified the conditions of the approval to make clear that parkland must be swapped for replacement parkland, not historic objects.  The Court agreed with the argument by ALS and NJCF, ruling that the Green Acres law allows “the exchange of lands together with historic properties, not the exchange of land for historic properties independent of any replacement land”, and that the Green Acres regulations “contemplate that any major disposal must involve replacement land, not solely personal property….”  By requiring the carousel to be placed upon the boardwalk-facing parcel, the Court modified the challenged approval to make it comport with the law.

The Court further agreed with ALS and NJCF that the agencies had failed to set forth findings on the adverse consequences of the conveyance, as required by the Green Acres regulations. The Appellate Division agreed with ALS and NJCF that the agencies were required to complete this analysis because “…under the plan language of the regulation, DEP and the SHC must consider whether a proposed disposal will ‘substantially’ result in any of the adverse consequences . . .” The Court stated that it would usually require a remand to correct this error. However, citing “unique circumstances”, the Court concluded that a remand was not warranted in this instance.

While 1.37 of public beach parkland has been lost, the Appellate Division opinion serves as important notice that Green Acres parkland cannot be traded into private ownership for historic objects.

 

 

Environmental Groups & Legislators Warn of Kavanaugh’s Environmental Record

EELC Senior Staff Attorney Jenn Danis (far right) with NJ Senator Cory Booker in Brick, NJ, August 6, 2018.

 

EELC senior staff attorney Jenn Danis joined NJ Senators Booker & Menendez and others to discuss the detrimental effects a Judge Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination could have on the environment. In Brick, NJ, an area hard hit by Hurricane Sandy, Danis spoke on behalf of The Watershed Institute and NJ Conservation Foundation about Kavanaugh’s environmental record on the US Court of Appeals DC Circuit: “Judge Kavanaugh routinely ruled to limit the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect our country against what many have called the largest threat to our national security – climate change.” Despite what Kavanaugh’s beliefs are regarding climate change, Danis said he “narrowly interprets EPA’s authority to reach any issues that are not explicitly spelled out by Congress. This will have very bad consequences for EPA’s ability to make regulations regarding GHG emissions and protect against climate change…”

https://www.app.com/story/news/politics/2018/08/06/democrats-shore-risk-under-trumps-supreme-court-pick/913085002/

 

 

EELC submits legal comments to FERC detailing flaws in pipeline approval policies

EELC submitted legal comments yesterday on behalf of clients New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJ Conservation), The Watershed Institute and Sierra Club to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in response to the federal agency’s request for comments on its gas pipeline certificate policy, which was last updated in 1999. The purpose of the comments was to urge FERC to revamp its processes for determining whether a pipeline is truly needed, not accept contracts with a pipeline company’s own affiliates as proof of market demand, and not grant pipelines the authority to seize land through eminent domain before a pipeline has received all of its required permits. EELC’s comments were submitted with the Columbia Environmental Law Clinic.

Read the comments here.