Banning Fracking: New Jersey Should Follow Vermont

At a time when the economy of New Jersey seems to be heading south, it is very important that we do not succumb to the temptation of dismantling environmental protections in a futile attempt to reverse the tide of economic bad news. Trampling on our own natural habitat is not good economic policy.

While the conservative (?) government of Canada is revising (see diluting) all environmental laws to favor the oil and gas industries in Canada, the State of Vermont has given us an example of what is essentially the right course of action: Sustainable growth.

Vermont first state to ban fracking – CNN.com.

I can not imagine a government that calls itself conservative (Ottawa) failing to conserve the pristine quality of the Canadian land. I presume conservative means different things to different people.

Hydraulic fracturing – I have written about this before – is the threat of our time against underground water sources. Water – potable water that is – will be among the priciest commodities in one or two decades. We already buy huge amounts of bottled water because we do not trust our tap water.

If elected governor of New Jersey in 2013, I will not rest until hydraulic fracturing and offshore drilling are banned from New Jersey.

Advertisements

Greek Debt Deal Passes: Europe Must Focus on Growth – U.S. Adds 227,000 Jobs – Governor Christie Throws Environment Under the Bus

BBC News – Greek debt swap ‘success’ welcomed by European leaders.

Probably not many Americans realise how much was at stake here and although the respite gained by Greece is temporary and comes at a cost, it provides time for Europe to energize the euro zone economies.

The first step toward that goal, in my opinion, is to devaluate the common currency, probably to reach parity with the US dollar. This would make imports more expensive and euro-zone exports cheaper abroad. Tourism, one of the industries where Greece can show rapid growth, would greatly benefit from a cheaper €. The Greek economy contracted 7.5% in the last 3 months of 2011 under the weight of austerity measures.

One other factor is to control the price of oil and Europe must make an effort in muffling the war drums in the Middle East. The E.U must take the high ground of reason and diplomacy. High oil prices will make growth more difficult for everyone but the weaker economies will suffer the most.

The prudence in foreign policy that I advocate above applies to the United States as well. We should not be playing firemen elsewhere when our house is smoldering.

The Greek swap deal was welcomed by numerous private sector lenders to Greece, who said it paved the way for agreement on the EU bailout.

“The very strong and positive result provides a major opportunity now for Greece to move ahead with its economic reform program, while strengthening the  €  area’s ability to create an economic environment of stability and growth,” said Josef Ackermann, chairman of the International Institute of Finance, which represents private lenders.

U.S. Extends Its Run of Strong Job Growth Another Month – NYTimes.com.

It is the third consecutive month above 200,000 nationally. Unemployment however remains at 8.3. Nonetheless, the absence of bad news is good news. If this continues, it will help President Obama in November.

Christie administration adopts rule allowing businesses to bypass N.J. environmental regulations | NJ.com.

This was expected because the governor had proposed it in 2011. New Jersey is the most polluted state in the nation, with the possible exception of Louisiana. It is an act of desperation of an administration bent on creating some economic growth on faulty foundations. Growth that comes at the expense of the environment is not sustainable but what does he care? The governor is constantly flirting with higher offices which would involve moving to Maryland or Virginia. It really does not matter (to him) if he leaves a mess behind.

If elected governor in 2013, my policies will aim at sustainable growth with most consideration for maintaining the environmental integrity of New Jersey. Will I be an environmental zealot? Certainly not. But I will not exchange public health and quality of life for the mighty dollar either.

Christie Opposes Bill to Ban Hydraulic Fracturing for the Second Time

Lawmakers try again on fracking ban in N.J. | The Asbury Park Press NJ | APP.com.

The bill passed last year and governor Christie applied a conditional veto, establishing a moratorium  of one year instead. That moratorium is about to expire. Christie argues that there has been no interest in doing hydraulic fracturing (HF) – also known as fracking – in New Jersey.

President Obama opened the doors to HF in his last State of the Union Address. Pennsylvania allows HF and New York is said to be about to lift the ban on the procedure to recover methane gas from shale rock formations. These two developments increase the chances that Christie will approve fracking in New Jersey if any gas company applies for permits.

http://geology.com/rocks/shale.shtml

Hydraulic fracturing involves drilling wells and then injecting huge amounts of aqueous solutions containing acids and other chemicals at high pressure to break up the shale layers and liberate the natural gas trapped in them. The solutions are about 98% water. But the remaining 2%, although due to the huge volume of solution used represents an aggregate threat to underground water resources, should not ever be considered the major threat:

The major threat is what exists down there naturally, in solid state, and that those injections will disturb, dissolve, and spread throughout the same strata where our aquifers lie and are replenished. What is worse: That danger is not measurable. There is a huge uncertainty element in hydraulic fracturing.

Furthermore, because the injections are at high pressure, they also tend to increase the temperature underground, not only because of the high pressure itself but because of friction. The increase in temperature underground also increases the degree of solvation of naturally occurring chemical salts and oxides. After entering the liquid state, those chemicals will flow everywhere.

I am not writing here as a candidate. I am writing as a chemist (retired). Governor Christie said yesterday that we should not bother passing a bill when nobody seems interested in fracking in New Jersey. But perhaps nobody has proposed fracking in New Jersey precisely because of the degree of opposition to the procedure in the state. Perhaps the moment we lower our guard and forget about it they may attempt to set foot on this side of the Delaware River.

It would be an unmitigated disaster for New Jersey. The consequences in terms of health and property values can not be pre-measured precisely because of that uncertainty factor I mentioned above. But what is certain is that once an aquifer is contaminated, its water will not be potable for decades. From the underground water, the contamination will flow through springs and wetlands, reaching surface waters as well.

Christie should sign the bill but I fear he is catering to the gas industry. After all, if no one wants to  do hydraulic fracturing in New Jersey, the ban would affect no one either. It would not hurt and would give us peace of mind.

I urge everyone to speak out in favor of the permanent ban. Please attend your town council meetings and ask your local government to pass a resolution opposing hydraulic fracturing and also ask to have a copy of such resolution faxed to the governor’s office.

Remember, once the gas industry put a foot in the door, it will be too late.

Natural Gas and Water: Shaken, not Stirred

Natural Gas News – The New York Times.

The challenge of extracting natural gas (methane) profitably from shale rock was solved approximately 10 or 15 years ago but the problems with nuclear power at Fukushima, Japan, after the tsunami and the the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, both in 2011,  have increased the pressure to exploit that resource regardless of the consequences that hydraulic fracturing will have on the finite supplies of drinking water in the U.S. The current economic malaise is also pushing political leaders into making rash decisions.

The situation is New Jersey is as follows: The legislature introduced a bill banning hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – altogether. Governor Christie refused to sign the bill although apparently he did not veto it. He instead ordered a one-year moratorium . But since president Obama embraced fracking in his last State of the Union Address – after throwing the bone of the disclosure of chemicals used to the environmental groups – I believe it is a matter of time before governor Christie approves fracking in New Jersey as well.

The chemicals used are 10% of the problem. The other 90% are the chemicals that occur naturally in the rock strata. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of chemicals, most of them inorganic salts which will be ‘fracked” at the same time as methane, dissolve in the acidic torrent, and enter our waterways and aquifers. We are talking about millions of gallons of fracking fluids.

The negative consequences for New Jersey could be devastating. We can change our energy producing methods, fuels, accept higher prices, etc. But could can not live without water; it is biologically impossible. Property values will dive and entire areas of the state could become uninhabitable, same as the most arid desert is except that everything will still be green; just the water will be poison.

If elected governor of New Jersey in 2013, I will ban fracking in the entire state. But my election is certainly not a done deal and even if I become the next governor, there is a window of two years when governor Christie may take the fateful step of allowing hydraulic fracturing in New Jersey.

To send a message to governor Christie opposing hydraulic  fracturing in New Jersey, please use this link:

http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/

20, 30 years from now, the great challenge will be to provide water for the ever increasing needs. If we lose our focus on the future, we may not have one.

Power Grid Development is Vital for Renewable Energy Industry

NJ Spotlight | Utilities Argue They Don’t Have to Honor No-Build Option.

In this argument, I do side with the public utilities. This issue at dispute here is the addition of a high voltage power line to the right-of-way trail which runs through a number of State and National Park forests in New Jersey and environs. The National Park Service just closed the public comment period and will now decide whether to allow the installation of the cable in the existing corridor. If the permit is denied, the power companies will still have to upgrade all the towers within 10 years to bring them up to stricter safety standards.

Environmental groups oppose  the idea. Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club suggested that if the utility companies need to upgrade the line or replace it, they should move it out of the National Park area.

Where to? Unless the lines can be buried, which I honestly don’t know if it is feasible, it is undesirable to move high voltage lines to populated areas and that leaves the forests as alternative. I hate the view of the power trails in an otherwise beautiful forest which look like the work of some deranged giant armed with a monstrous clipper. But the environmental groups must focus on the big picture if they want to weigh on the future energy needs of New Jersey.

To have Renewable Energy, we need a grid – a larger and denser one. If we build wind power fields offshore, guess what, the cables have to come ashore somewhere. And since it is not a good idea to pass them through the middle of a township, that leaves relatively uninhabited State property along the shore. There may be other options that I can not foresee at this moment but that the cables have to come ashore I am as sure as that my name is Andrea.

And then, to finish this, I must introduce the $ sign: RE – which is not an option – will cost big bucks and anything reasonable that we can do to cut costs to both utilities and the public must be done. We will need RE and we must develop it as economically as possible.

I would like at this point to thank NJ Spotlight. They are an example of excellent journalism.

Response to Christie’s State of the State Address-2012 and to the Democrats

RESPONSE TO GOVERNOR CHRISTIE:

The entire address was more about building Christie-the-candidate a national stature as a consensus-builder than about a vision for New Jersey. His vision is the White House in 2016.

It is not my intent to deny governor Christie partial credit for his incomplete achievements of 2011. The Public Pension and Health Benefits Reform was a painful necessity but its fiscal benefits are now outweighed by the state’s failure to  make its required contributions to the system. The administration has continued on the irresponsible fiscal path of its predecessors and as a consequence, New Jersey finances may slide back to the situation where they were prior to the reform. What the governor has done is to gain some time on the back of the public workers.

The property tax cap similarly slows down the growth of property taxes in New Jersey. However, property taxes are still projected to increase around 24% within the next decade. Since this will occur against a backdrop of dismal growth and stagnant wages, the pernicious effects of this increase will be felt throughout the state, squeezing the lower and middle classes, pushing seniors out of their homes, and reducing even more the disposable income that citizens can put into the economy.  Property taxes are regressive, toxic, and for New Jersey residents they have got to be abolished .

The governor has called 2012 the Year of Education Reform but it should be called the Year of Privatization of Education. The governor has demonized public teachers for two years. The emphasis on destroying teacher tenure has sordid implications for education in New Jersey. Without tenure, the teaching profession will become a playground for the politically connected. Teachers’ merit pay, as proposed, will destroy the cohesion of teaching staffs and will also lead to abuses and favoritism. The governor recently borrowed – from my K-12  program – the concept of lengthening school time but he is contradicting himself when he is simultaneously pulling funding away from public education to support private schools. Charter schools are even being imposed on the successful school districts of New Jersey.

The governor has failed to reduce in a meaningful way the number of independent subdivisions of government. He staged a mocked reduction in the Spring of 2011, eliminating several ghost agencies. But overall, the shadow government of New Jersey remains intact, as expensive as ever, and the governor has appointed a number of his cronies to important positions in several agencies, notably the Port Authority of NY and NJ. The governor will not strengthen Civil Service Law. That is a vital step to reduce political patronage and nepotism in public employment. Instead, he actually has proposed to do exactly the opposite in one his tool-kit proposals.

New Jersey lags in all the economic indicators with respect to the nation. This is not so much a consequence of what the state government is doing but rather what it is not doing. Indeed, indifference to the plight of the lower and middle classes has been one of the most remarkable features of this administration. The government has been equally incapable of genuinely supporting the renewable energy industry; one of the sectors which promises significant growth, good paying jobs, and which will be fundamental in meeting the energy needs of the future.

The proposal of a 10% tax cut is fiscally irresponsible unless government is drastically contracted and our tax and political systems are transformed. This across-the-board cut is another act of demagoguery, such as the democrats raising the minimum wage is. Both parties are competing in non-sense. They are again kicking the can down the road for another bigger crisis ten years away.

In the environmental protection field, the governor has abandoned the multi-state effort to reduce regional pollution and more recently opened the remaining rural areas of New Jersey to unlimited development without any regard to the ability of sewage treatment facilities to process the excess of inffluent sewage or the capacity of our waterways to handle more half-treated effluent. This latter decision, in a vain attempt to spur the economy, may have the deepest and most negative consequences for New Jersey. At stake is nothing less than the quality and safety of the bulk of our underground drinking water.

Finally, the governor is operating with one foot here and another on the national arena. He is often subordinating the interests of New Jersey to his personal ambitions in the presidential stage. New Jersey needs a committed governor; not one who runs around the nation like a prima dona vying for attention.

RESPONSE TO THE DEMOCRATS:

The democrats, with some notable exceptions, have been in docile tow of the governor’s policies up to the last minute, when they helped him gut the environmental state plan. They have tried to do damage control with two demagogic proposals: Support for same sex marriage and a minimum wage increase. Both measures were opposed by the democrats until the end of 2011, are copied from my agenda, and in one case – the minimum wage increase – it is woefully inadequate and may even have some negative effects if passed without reducing the government footprint.

The so-called millionaires tax is just another piece of demagoguery. Taxing a small group of people another 1% does nothing to solve the financial difficulties of New Jersey. To really tackle our fiscal problems and energize our economy at the same time, we need very drastic taxation and political reforms. We have serious structural problems in out huge government apparatus. A millionaires’ tax is just political opium for the masses.

The democratic party in New Jersey has lost all credibility for it was the main architect of the under-funding of the public pension systems for over a decade. That in turn has placed New Jersey in a very unsound fiscal footing and led to the downgrading of the state bonds by rating agencies in 2011. The democratic party is also behind some of the most blatant patronage in governmental institutions.

Democrats are on board with Governor Christie (and now the NJEA) on the attacks against public education. Elements of the democratic party are actively involved  in privatization projects. Never have so many gone so low. Democrats are not a viable option to Christie.

Solar, Wind Energy Vital for New Jersey

NJ Spotlight | Solar Sector Likely to Look for Stabilization by Regulation.

After the disdainful lame-duck session of our legislature ignored solar energy, other measures may be needed to sustain one of the very few industries growing in New Jersey.

It is in the interest of New Jersey to develop renewable energy,  not only for our environment’ and lungs but for the following:

Before the new year is over, we may be at war with Iran and oil supplies from the Persian Gulf may be disrupted. Venezuela could also boycott the U.S. if we attack Iran. Brent crude is more expensive. Nigeria, one of our suppliers, is convulsed by civil unrest between christians ans muslims. There could be a change of government in Canada, another of our suppliers, and Canadians may take a closer look at the devastating effects of hydraulic fracturing in Alberta.

Emerging economies will continue to increase their use of fossil fuels, driving up prices.

Furthermore, with start-up, help, both solar and wind can become as efficient as conventional forms of energy generation. As I have stated before in this forum and others, it all depends on the cost of capitalization. We are not going to to be here just today. It is about time we start thinking about tomorrow.

Both industries are labor intensive and that means good paying jobs for New Jersians.