New Jersey Environmental Lobby Newsletter - Winter 2018

New Jersey Environmental Lobby Newsletter

Offshore Oil Drilling Revived by The Trump Administration -
The Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is fulfilling President Trump's campaign promise to promote fossil fuels.In 2016 marine, clean air, and climate advocates celebrated the Obama administration’s cancellation of new oil drilling lease sales in the Arctic and along the Atlantic Coast.
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First Installment - What's New Since NJ's Election? -
Ballot question 2 - No diversion of natural resource damage funds.
New Commissioner for the Department of Environmental Protection.
NY/NJ Baykeeper Debbie Mans Appointed Second-in-Command at NJDEP.
Action to Rejoin Multi-State Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
Executive Order 8 (EO-8) Supports Offshore Wind Power.
Finally, Attention to New Jersey Transit.
Read More ...

Underway—A Serious Attempt to Address New Jersey ‘s Water Infrastructure Needs -
With media attention focused on the 2017 gubernatorial election, most of the public may be unaware that members of the Legislature were seeking a solution for the our aged water infrastructure. Water main breaks, leaks (conservative estimates are that New Jersey systems lose 20% of their water to leaks), and increases in lead levels.
Read More ...

Offshore Oil Drilling Revived by The Trump Administration -
The Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is fulfilling President Trump's campaign promise to promote fossil fuels. In 2016 marine, clean air, and climate advocates celebrated the Obama administration’s cancellation of new oil drilling lease sales in the Arctic and along the Atlantic Coast. Now, we are battling a shocking new proposal for exploration and drilling on the outer continental shelf.

In January, BOEM published its draft National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024 (Draft Plan). The plan would expand eligible lease acreage in the lower 48 states from the existing Gulf Coast areas to 90% of the acreage of the outer continental shelf, including most of California and Florida.

In crafting the Plan, BOEM ignored a year of opposition from diverse sources. Demonstrations such as the 2017 and 2018 People’s Climate Marches (in which NJEL’s Executive Director participated) were highly visible, but throughout the year there was significant, though less dramatic, resistance to marine oil & gas extraction. In April 2017, Republican Representatives Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey introduced H.R. 2252, the “Coastal Economies Protection Act,” to ban not only oil & gas drilling, but also seismic testing off the East Coast for 10 years.

Messrs. Sanford and LoBiondo have been in the forefront of opposition to east coast drilling for years. The election of a pro-drilling President their own party did not alter their positions. Mr. LoBiondo previously introduced H.R. 728, which would specifically prohibit oil and gas drilling off the New Jersey Coast. Both H.R. 2252 and 728 were referred to the House Natural Resources Committee. There has been no further action on them in the Republican-controlled Committee.

On the Pacific coast, opposition organized as soon as President Trump signed an executive order to “review” President Obama’s discontinuance of the ocean leasing program. Similar to local actions on the east coast when seismic air gun testing was proposed in 2014, local governments began passing resolutions against expanded drilling.

Opposition intensified when the Draft Plan was released and its extent became apparent. There was a joint statement of condemnation from the governors of Washington, Oregon, and California, criticism from fishing interests, and plans for demonstrations.

As it had done since oil exploration and extraction were first proposed for the Atlantic Coast, the national organization OCEANA led a coalition of governmental, environmental, and commercial entities to oppose the Draft Plan. When the Plan was released, OCEANA asked that the 60 day comment period be extended, on the grounds that 60 days was insufficient for public review and comment on a plan that covers thousands of miles of vastly different coastal environments. Oceana also took issue with the relatively small number of planned hearings and a seemingly deliberate attempt to avoid hearings in coastal communities that would be impacted by drilling activities. Predictably, the requests were ignored.

The letter, which NJEL and other NJ environmental organizations signed, urges BOEM to abandon the OCS Plan. The letter will be posted on our website,

Aside from the risk of oil spills to coastal resources, there is now world-wide recognition that burning fossil fuel is a cause of sea level rise as well as larger and more intense storms across the globe. Aside from extraction activities and use, exploration alone poses threats to marine life. As explained in prior NJEL newsletters, the seismic air guns used to identify oil deposits produce blasts that damage the hearing of marine mammals. For whales and dolphins, this is not simply disturbing their hearing, but is disrupting the “sound systems” that guide their migration, feeding, reproduction, and even detection of predators. Disruptions can be fatal to them. There is now experimental and anecdotal evidence, the latter from fishermen, that fin fish and invertebrates like crabs and scallops are also adversely affected by repetitive, cannon-like air gun blasts.

Particularly troubling relative to the Draft Plan is confusion over whether or not marine sanctuaries and monuments along the continental U.S. are included in the Plan. Plan language and interpretive statements by Federal officials are confusing and contradictory. As we know from President Trump’s 2 million-acre reduction of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, Federal protection is subject to political pressures and whims. The Executive Order that ultimately resulted in the Draft Plan revoked the 112,000 square mile Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area, which was preserved from petroleum exploitation by President Obama. The same order directed a review of the energy production potential of all National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments designated or expanded since 2007. Although there would be legal obstacles to exploitation of marine protected areas, including state barriers to moving equipment or product through state waters, no one can promise that marine protected areas are not at risk.

In March, the Attorneys General of 12 states, including New Jersey, sent a lengthy joint letter to BOEM, detailing the economic and environmental reasons that the Draft Plan should be withdrawn. The letter included specific impacts and analyses that should be included in any future environmental impact statement, should BOEM move ahead with all or part of the Draft Plan in spite of advice to the contrary.

As of this newsletter printing, BOEM had not reported on its review of comments.* The Trump administration appears determined to fulfill its promises to the oil and gas industry. NJEL will remain a member of the coalition led by OCEANA and will support its battle against ocean drilling and seismic air gun testing. NJEL will keep its members informed of developments.

*View comments on the BOEM website. Comments range from statements of individual citizens to copies of municipal resolutions opposing ocean drilling. The easiest way to access the comments is to visit: and click on, to link directly to comments on this subject.

First Installment - What's New Since NJ's Election? -
Some HOPEFUL SIGNS for our Environment.

Hopeful Signs— Ballot question 2 - No diversion of natural resource damage funds.
In November almost 70% of New Jersey voters approved amending the State constitution to require that reparations received are used for restoring damaged natural resources. Until now, funds in excess of $50 million could be diverted to other uses, regardless of the needs of communities that suffered. The constitutional amendment will prevent a future Governor or Legislature from “raiding” those funds. This is a measure that environmental and taxpayer advocates wanted for some time. Last year, both chambers of the Legislature passed the necessary resolutions in a timely manner to place the measure on the ballot. Public interest groups acted quickly to publicize and explain the measure to voters and finally, success! Damage settlements will be used for their intended purposes.

Hopeful Signs— New Commissioner for the Department of Environmental Protection.
In nominating Catherine McCabe as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, Governor Murphy followed through on a promise to make appointments that would serve New Jersey rather than politics. Ms. McCabe, a lawyer, has extensive knowledge of New Jersey’s environmental challenges and has years of experience in enforcement. She spent over 12 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, including as Deputy Regional Administrator of Region 2, which includes New York and New Jersey.

Before joining the EPA, McCabe spent 22 years at the Justice Department, including as Deputy Chief of the Environmental Enforcement Section. Prior to her Federal service, she was an assistant attorney general for the State of New York, and was associated with a private law firm.

In his announcement of her appointment, which at the time of this writing, was awaiting confirmation by the State Senate, Governor Murphy cited a list of issues that must be addressed: climate change, a green energy economy of solar and offshore wind, clean air and water as components of environmental justice, and pipeline proposals. As he did during his campaign, Murphy called for “solutions rooted in science and fact-based analysis.”.

Hopeful Signs— NY/NJ Baykeeper Debbie Mans Appointed Second-in-Command at NJDEP.
The Acting Commissioner lost no time in demonstrating her commitment to science-based policies. Shortly after her own appointment, Ms. McCabe tapped long-time environmental advocate Debbie Mans for Deputy Director of NJDEP, an appointment roundly applauded by environmental advocates across the State.

At the time of her appointment, Ms. Mans was the Executive Director of the New York/New Jersey Baykeeper. The mission of the non-profit NY/NJ Baykeeper is to protect and restore the environmental health of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary, the extensive network of waterways that spans New York and New Jersey.

Prior to leading the Baykeeper, Ms. Mans was its policy director, with an intervening stint as Environmental and Energy Policy advisor to Governor Jon Corzine. Prior to her positions with the NY/NJ Baykeeper, she was a Policy and Outreach Specialist at Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association in Pennington. She is an expert in land use policies that impact the state’s water resources, with extensive experience with municipal land use ordinances and master plans.

While Ms. Mans was Executive Director, the Baykeeper joined with Friends of Liberty State Park and the City of Jersey City to oppose State measures that would have facilitated new private development (and accompanying restrictions on public access) on that public land. Led by Ms. Mans, the Baykeeper was one of the sponsors of a multi-year, multi-site research project to determine if healthy oyster populations could be reintroduced and sustained in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary. This ambitious project was supported by the Army Corps of Engineers, the States of New York and New Jersey, and a number of non-governmental organizations. Its immediate goal was not to restore commercial oystering, but to determine if re-introduced oysters would survive in waters that have in fact improved since rules were put in place under the Clean Water Act and if oyster reefs would perform the normal filtering and shore resiliency functions of reefs. Similar projects took place in Maryland and Florida.

Environmental advocates applauded Ms. Mans’s appointment because of her dedication to science and New Jersey’s natural resources. The Baykeeper’s role in the oyster restoration project is one example of that dedication. In 2010, after seed oysters on the initial (artificial) reef survived and grew to market size, NJDEP ordered them removed because of fears that they could be poached and might enter the food supply. NJDEP answered criticism of the destruction of the research of dozens of scientists, students, and volunteers by blaming the US Food & Drug Administration. The FDA threatened to bar shipments of New Jersey shellfish to other states unless the State patrolled the site to guard against poaching. Indicative of the Christie administration’s attitude toward natural resources, the DEP Commissioner at the time said his department had “stretched as far as we possibly can” to monitor beds where harvesting is allowed and could not monitor areas that are closed to harvesting. Rather than police the area, DEP ordered the oysters removed and destroyed. Sites under New York’s jurisdiction remained intact, patrolled by that State. Where another organization might have accepted that its part of the project was at an end, Baykeeper offered to install surveillance cameras and assist with patrolling. DEP rebuffed its offer. Still not deterred, Baykeeper sought a partnership with a U. S. naval station where the site was protected by naval security. NJDEP approved establishment of the oyster reef research at that site and the research project continues there. **

Under Ms. Mans’s leadership, NY/NJ Baykeeper worked to maintain public access to State waterways and for rebuilding New Jersey’s old sewer infrastructure. The Baykeeper also supports one of NJEL’s current priorities, a statewide fee on single use plastic bags. With the appointments of Catherine McCabe and Debbie Mans, we expect to spend our efforts on advocating for new initiatives on clean energy, conservation, and effective enforcement, instead of resisting roll backs of decades of progress.

Hopeful Signs— Action to Rejoin Multi-State Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
During his first week in office, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 7, directing the Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Public Utilities to jointly negotiate with current RGGI members for New Jersey’s reentry into RGGI. The Order directs the DEP to develop the rules for administering RGGI within the State. It further directs DEP to establish specific guidelines for allocating the receipts from auctions of carbon “allowances,” with an environmental justice component. The Order requires that the guidelines include “factors that will ensure that funds are allocated to projects that will serve communities that are disproportionality impacted by the effects of environmental degradation and climate change.”

During New Jersey’s participation in RGGI, revenue generated from the carbon auctions was ostensibly intended for clean energy projects, but in reality much of it was diverted to other uses. Governor Murphy indicated his intention to use RGGI revenue for energy-related purposes, but the Legislature moved to guarantee that in the future. A bill was introduced to start the process of constitutionally dedicating RGGI revenue to electric vehicle, clean energy, and greenhouse gas reduction programs. It is estimated that New Jersey could have collected as much as $270 million in the six years after its withdrawal from RGGI, a considerable sum that could have been invested in clean energy projects.

A bill was also introduced to prevent a Governor from unilaterally withdrawing from RGGI. The original enabling legislation did not prevent a Governor from making such a decision. Under the proposed bill, withdrawal from RGGI would require the approval of the Legislature.

While the gubernatorial and legislative actions to return New Jersey to RGGI were applauded, most likely it will be months before it will be completed. According to the memorandum of understanding that created RGGI, member states must agree to admit another state to the alliance. New Jersey, a founding member of the alliance, must now seek the permission of the nine current members to re-join. On February 26, Governor Murphy sent letters to the governors of RGGI states, requesting re-admission.

Hopeful Signs— Executive Order 8 (EO-8) Supports Offshore Wind Power.
Two weeks after his inauguration, Governor Murphy signed an executive order (EO) to help New Jersey achieve production of 3500 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030. The EO orders the DEP and the BPU to implement the Offshore Wind Energy Development Act (OWEDA). That enabling legislation was passed in 2010 but was largely ignored by the Christie administration. The EO orders development of an Offshore Wind Strategic Plan that includes “achieving scale to reduce costs, job growth, supply-chain data collection, and appropriate siting of facilities, and shall ensure that natural resources are protected throughout the development and operational stages” of energy production.

An encouraging element of the EO is the directive to the BPU to create the framework for Offshore Renewable Energy Certificates (OREC). OWEDA authorized the BPU to establish the rules for ORECs, which would be a funding mechanism to facilitate investment in offshore wind projects. Intended to help New Jersey achieve renewable energy goals, that provision was not implemented. That deliberate noncompliance stalled offshore wind energy development for years. In the meantime, Rhode Island became the first state in the nation with an offshore wind farm. The delays in complying with OWEDA have postponed benefits to New Jersey—not only carbon-reduction, but also construction, supply chain, and operational jobs.

Hopeful Signs— Finally, Attention to New Jersey Transit.
Transportation is easily recognized as integral to economic activity. In densely developed New Jersey, situated in the middle of a multi-state transportation corridor, transportation also affects environmental sustainability. The diesel and gas-powered engines used in transportation contribute significantly to air pollution. NJDEP estimates that transportation contributes 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the state, more than any other single source. A reliable and user-friendly mass transit system can reduce those emissions by providing an alternative to private automobiles. It can also reduce its own carbon footprint with infrastructure improvements and lower emission motive power.

While New Jersey is one of the smallest states in the Union, NJ Transit (NJT) is the third largest public transportation system in the country. Its service extends into New York and Philadelphia. In our transit-dependent state, NJT should be a priority for the Executive Branch, but that has not been the case. Funding shortfalls, equipment breakdowns, accidents, management turnover, and the appearance of political favoritism have plagued it. Ridership on both rail and bus modes declined in 2017.

Governor Murphy's fifth executive order directed the NJT Board to initiate an independent “strategic, financial and operational assessment . . . to provide insights and recommendations for defining and implementing a new target operating model to create a world-class transportation corporation.” The relatively lengthy EO specifies numerous issues to be examined, too many to be listed here, but clearly meant to be an all-encompassing “top to bottom” review. It is to include a review of the governing and executive structure, personnel hiring, technical subjects like Positive Train Control, and NJT’s relationship with AMTRAK, with which it shares tracks and facilities.

A significant and encouraging provision of the EO is that consultants must be selected competitively, must be independent of NJ Transit, and must be free of actual or apparent conflicts of interest.

Underway—A Serious Attempt to Address New Jersey ‘s Water Infrastructure Needs -
With media attention focused on the 2017 gubernatorial election, most of the public may be unaware that members of the Legislature were seeking a solution for the our aged water infrastructure. Water main breaks, leaks (conservative estimates are that New Jersey systems lose 20% of their water to leaks), and increases in lead levels.

In June 2016 the Legislature passed Concurrent Resolutions S86 and A161, establishing the Joint Legislative Task Force on Drinking Water Infrastructure. The task force was charged with studying New Jersey’s drinking water infrastructure and identifying solutions to deficiencies. The Task Force was composed of State senators and assemblymen from both parties. It held hearings and solicited information from science and engineering experts, local officials, investor- and publicly-owned utilities and members of the public. On January 8, 2018, both chambers of the Legislature approved the Task Force’s report, which called for policy changes and a $400 million bond issue to begin renovating New Jersey’s water infrastructure. The Task Force did not recommend a permanent source of funding such as a user fee or surcharge and did not address how New Jersey should fund the balance of what is estimated to be $20 billion in infrastructure needs.

In order to place a bond proposal on the ballot, both chambers of the Legislature must pass resolutions to that effect.


The New Jersey Environmental Lobby is your voice in Trenton. We are an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization focused on the preservation and protection of a healthy environment for all our citizens. We need your support! JOIN NJEL and help us change the laws!

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