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EELC Brings Constitutional Challenge Against FERC’s Use of Eminent Domain

According to the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, “private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Unfortunately for hundreds of homeowners and organizations, FERC is allowing pipeline companies to seize land unlawfully. 

 In a precedent-setting challenge, on behalf of NJ Conservation Foundation, EELC and Columbia Environmental Law Clinic filed a complaint charging FERC with permitting companies to seize private property without demonstrating public purpose.  “The law is clear,” said EELC Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Danis, “and it is not being followed. FERC’s practice flies in the face of constitutional protections against the illegal seizing of private property.” Read more here.

Coalition Forms to Oppose Transco’s Fracked Gas Pipeline Enhancement

Transco pipeline’s Compressor Station 206 is proposed near almost a thousand homes in the Franklin Township/South Brunswick area. Image courtesy of Central New Jersey Safe Energy Coalition.

“If we don’t stop this project, the floodgates will be open to future projects,” says Barry Kutch, the leader of Central New Jersey Safe Energy Coalition, a new client of EELC.  Mr. Kutch is talking about NESE, a proposed Transco pipeline project by S&P 500 company Williams that would transport fracked natural gas through New Jersey from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania to energy markets in New York City.   The project is designed to add 400,000 million cubic feet per day of additional natural gas transmission to New York City and is targeted to be in service for the winter heating season of 2019.

The bigger picture he says is the profit to be made off fracking gas in the Marcellus Shale — a “gold mine” — that runs through Pennsylvania and up into New York State and down to West Virginia along the back of the Appalachians.  He believes, unless the NESE project is stopped, it will be followed by more and more pipelines that transverse New Jersey and transport gas from the Marcellus Shale to energy markets around the world.   The pipeline proliferation would lead to increasing reliance on and use of fossil fuels.

The Safe Energy Coalition is one of several citizens groups that is opposing the project, both for its effect on communities — noise, pollution, and the danger of explosion and fires from the compressor stations along the route— and because the pipeline expansion does not make sense as energy policy.  NESE would not provide any fuel or long-term economic benefit to New Jersey, as the natural gas would not be used or sold in New Jersey, and the fracked gas pipeline project would put in place long-term infrastructure to promote fossil fuel use rather than clean energy.   Read More

EELC Board of Directors welcomes Lydia Chambers

We are pleased to introduce you to our new Board member, Lydia Chambers.  Lydia has been working as an environmental organizer in the Chatham area for the last 15 years.   She served for over a decade on the Planning Board and Open Space Committee in Chatham Township.  In conjunction with the Environmental Commission, she led several environmental campaigns in her community that were later used as models for communities around NJ: pesticide-free lawns and parks, anti-idling, and anti-bottled water.   Lydia co-founded a social business called Back2Tap that worked with schools, non-profits, and corporations nation-wide to raise awareness about the wastefulness of bottled water and to encourage the use of re-useable bottles.   With a BA in Earth Science from Dartmouth College and an MS in Geological Sciences from the University of Colorado, Lydia worked in the oil industry for 9 years as a geological engineer and hydrogeologist.

 

Food, Facts and Fly Fishing

Robin Love, Cinny Macgonagle, Alexi Assmus & George Cassa

Over 20 guests from across the Highlands Region joined EELC at the beautifully restored, historic Raritan Inn on Friday, November 3rd for a day of scintillating conversation and fun.  George Cassa (Alliance for Historic Hamlets), Basil Hone (Citizens to Save Tewksbury), and Robin Love (Residents Alliance for Neighborhood Preservation) co-hosted the event.

We were joined by Bill Kibler, Director of Policy at Raritan Headwaters Association, and Elliot Ruga, Policy Director at the NJ Highlands Coalition, who spoke about the importance of EELC’s continued presence in the Highlands, and how we can work together, under the Highlands Regional Master Plan, to preserve and protect this essential area.

EELC’s Executive Director, Aaron Kleinbaum, provided the group with a short update of EELC’s recent legal success overturning a pollution discharge permit into the Upper Branch of the Rockaway Creek, home to thousands of trout and the source of drinking water for millions of New Jersey residents.  He discussed other work in the Highlands as well and gave a sneak peek about what might be coming up in the area.  EELC Board Trustee, Alexi Assmus, shared a heartfelt story about how she first got involved with EELC and why we are such a vital piece of the environmental landscape.

After the program, guests were welcomed to join in on fly-fishing with guides from Shannon’s Fly & Tackle Shop or join Raritan Inn owner, Bill Asdale, on a tour of grounds.  It was a beautiful day!

 

 

 

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Policy Recommendations to Improve State Review of Proposed Pipelines

NJ Conservation Foundation
NJ Highlands Coalition
Pinelands Preservation Alliance
Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association
Rethink Energy NJ

Policy Recommendations to Improve State Review of Proposed Pipelines

Background
Multiple infrastructure proposals for new non-renewable energy sources, including oil and natural gas pipelines and transmission lines, have been permitted and constructed in recent years or are pending throughout New Jersey. Pending project proposals include the PennEast, Northeast Supply Enhancement, South Jersey Gas and Southern Reliability Link gas pipelines, and the Pilgrim Oil pipeline. These massive linear developments pose serious risks to natural resources as well as the health and safety of communities in their path. Such projects would also increase the state’s reliance on fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.

The PennEast pipeline alone threatens over 4,300 acres of taxpayer-supported open space, and more than 40 Category 1 streams. The Southern Reliability Link and South Jersey Gas pipelines threaten the Pinelands National Reserve’s delicate ecosystem and the integrity of the Pinelands Act, which was designed to protect the area’s unique ecology. The Northeast Supply Enhancement Project threatens air quality, streams and the Raritan Bay. Pilgrim Oil could jeopardize the Highlands region, source of drinking water for over half the state’s population.

The projects listed above are sponsored by New Jersey regulated utilities or their affiliates, and will be paid for directly by ratepayers even though they do not serve any demonstrated public need and are driven by outdated economic incentives. This would compound economic harm with environmental harm if New Jersey allows them to proceed.  Read More

Lunch and Flyfishing at the Raritan Inn, November 3 2017 at 11 am


 Please join us for lunch and a brief update on legal environmental challenges facing the Highlands area.
November 3, 2017 11:00 am
Raritan Inn
Califon, NJ
A buffet lunch will be served followed by a tour of the beautifully restored  Inn and its grounds (weather permitting).

Interested in fly fishing?  Join us after the tour for guided fishing on the Inn’s privately managed stretch of the South Branch Raritan River.

*Anglers must have a valid fishing license, available online: www.njfishandwildlife.com/als/websalesintro.htm.

Please RSVP by October 10th to Rachel Perten, Development Manager, at (973) 424-1166 or rperten@easternenvironmental.org
Event Committee:
George Cassa, Alliance for Historic Hamlets
Basil & Rilda Hone, Citizens to Save Tewksbury
Robin Love, Residents Alliance for Neighborhood Preservation
 

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Appellate Court sends Highlands permit for sewage discharge back to the DEP

The NJ region’s Highland reservoirs provide drinking water for more than half of New Jersey’s residents. Reservoir flyover, November 1, 2016.

In a long-running story for EELC and friends of Rockaway Creek, EELC Executive Director and attorney Aaron Kleinbaum won a major victory in court in the effort to prevent a sewage disposal plant from discharging into a wild trout stream in the Highlands.   

“This is a significant victory for water quality in the Highlands Region, which is source of pristine drinking water for millions of New Jersey residents,” said attorney Aaron Kleinbaum, Executive Director of the Eastern Environmental Law Center, “NJDEP should have rejected Bellemead’s application for a wastewater discharge permit outright. It fails to meet the basic wastewater planning requirements of the Highlands Regional Master Plan — furthermore NJDEP failed to consult with the Highlands Council, as required by law.”

Believe it or not, it took nearly three years of legal wrangling to get the DEP to do what it is supposed to do under the NJ Highlands Act — to consult the state’s own agency, the Highlands Council, before making decisions on development projects. Read More

Smart meters and AMI unanimously approved by NJ Board of Public Utilities

A long time in coming, smart meters are almost here. Smart meters will give New Jersey residents real time data on their electricity usage, and consumers will be able to make choices that will conserve energy. For the first time, the NJ Board of Public Utilities approved a proposal for smart meters and Advanced Metering Infrastructure.

Calling Rockland Electric’s proposal for smart meters and Advanced Metering Infrastructure “revolutionary” and “a future we have to embrace,” Commissioner Fiordaliso joined his fellow Board of Public Utilities members in unanimously approving the utility’s plan to provide 74,000 customers near-real-time data on their electrical usage.  EELC represented the Environmental Defense Fund and worked with the utility in making the case to the Board that advanced metering technology should come to New Jersey.  Giving users information on how much energy they are consuming at 15-minute intervals makes it easier for them to conserve energy and gives them a choice not to use energy at certain times of day when demand is high.  

Grid planners use the same data to lower peak demand and integrate more alternative energy sources into the system. AMI also helps utilities get power back on faster and plan for recovery from large storms.

Smart meters and the associated infrastructure have been available in other states for many years.  New Jersey’s lag in adopting them drew the interest of our client, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a national “Big Green.”   Rockland Electric’s petition to the BPU for approval for smart metering infrastructure in New Jersey provided the perfect opportunity for EDF to work on narrowing the growing gap between New Jersey and other states that have deployed AMI.  Today, more than half U.S. households in other states have access to granular data on their electrical usage.   Read More

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Client Feature: NJCF scientist Emile DeVito stewards the Pine Barrens

Dr. Emile DeVito showing a reporter, biologists and conservationists a site with the endangered Pickering’s Morning Glory. The population at this location has been reduced from over 300 plants to just one due to damage to the habitat from illegal off-road vehicles. Courtesy: Jason Howell, Pinelands Preservation Alliance

 

“I’ll have to call you back. I’m rushing an injured snake to the lab.”

Emile DeVito, Manager of Science and Stewardship at the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF), had just finished cleaning up yet another pile of garbage illegally dumped in the New Jersey Pine Barrens when I called.  Hiding among the debris was the injured Eastern Kingsnake which DeVito retrieved and was transporting to Herpetological Associates, Inc., otherwise known as “the lab,” where the snake could be examined by an expert and, if needed, operated on.   The Eastern Kingsnake, DeVito points out, is an “amazing creature” that is immune to rattlesnake venom and preys upon all three of the threatened and endangered snake species in the Pine Barrens, including the Northern Pine Snake.  Read More

State Judge bars Mahwah Hunt & Polo Club from participating in Township’s complaint against Ramapoughs

 

UPDATE: EELC attorneys Aaron Kleinbaum and Raghu Murthy are in court defending the Ramapough against municipal summonses alleging that they have violated the zoning code by constructing teepees on their property.  Teepee summonses amount to harassment, Ramapough attorney argues.

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The Ramapough Lenape Nation – a State-recognized Tribe that owns land in Mahwah, NJ – won an important victory in Court when Judge McGeady announced a September 7, 2017 decision preventing the Hunt & Polo Club from participating along with the Township of Mahwah to prevent the ceremonial use of the Tribe’s property.

Next Thursday, September 15, Judge McGeady will consider the Tribe’s motion to dismiss the Township’s Complaints. The Tribe will argue, among other things, that the Mahwah’s zoning ordinance and prior municipal approvals allow prayer and community cultural assembly at Sweet Water; that the Complaints are impermissibly vague; and that the Township’s harassment violates the Tribe’s sovereignty and the Tribe’s Constitutional right to free religious exercise on its own property. Read More

EELC attorney Danis comments on the need for evidentiary hearing on Penn East pipeline

PennEast urges new FERC quorum to quickly approve pipeline,  State Impact, project of NPR stations, Jon Hurdle, August 11, 2017

From article, “The foundation first asked FERC to hold a hearing on the pipeline last summer, but the regulator never ruled on that request, said Jennifer Danis, an attorney with the Eastern Environmental Law Center, which represents the Foundation.

The motion for a hearing was based on arguments that the pipeline was ‘self-dealing’ in that it would be selling most of the gas to its affiliates, and that there was no demonstrated public need for the pipeline, Danis said.

‘As FERC now has a quorum re-instituted, we’re asking that, rather than just pull the trigger on a certificate with such a shoddy record, they grant our motion for an evidentiary hearing and take a really hard look at whether there’s any public benefit for the project,’ she said.”

 

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nj.com on PennEast’s attempt to fast track PennEast

3 years in, PennEast ask feds to ‘promptly’ approve the pipeline, Kevin O’Shea, nj.com, August 12, 2017.

From article, “Both the letter and its timing with FERC now having a quorum drew swift rebuke from opponents.

‘PennEast asking for an accelerated approval is outrageous and shameful,’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. ‘Their applications and EIS (environmental impact statement) are incredibly incomplete and full of misleading and missing information.’

Tittel said PennEast doesn’t have approval from any major governmental agency.

Said Tittel, of the timing, ‘This is happening because the fossil fool in the White House appointed a quorum at FERC and PennEast is trying to cash in. This is still a seriously flawed proposal.’

Read More

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NJ Spotlight article on Penn East pipeline

The Eastern Environmental Law Center is lead legal council for the pipeline coalition which opposes the multiple unneeded pipelines that are planned to cross New Jersey and the Delaware River.   EELC was instrumental in getting the DEP to require that the Penn East pipeline developer’s application be complete.

 PENNEAST WANTS FAST-TRACK APPROVAL FROM FERC FOR $1B PIPELINE, by Tom Johnson, August 14, 2017.  NJ Spotlight.

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EELC requests FERC hold evidentiary hearing on PennEast project

On Friday, in response to PennEast’s request for FERC to expedite project review, EELC renewed its own request to FERC for a hearing on the proposed Project.  EELC represents New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, who oppose the controversial PennEast Pipeline because it has not demonstrated any public benefits. Many others agree – including the New Jersey Division of the Rate Counsel.

EELC Senior Staff Attorney Jennifer Danis: “As FERC now has a quorum re-instituted, we’re asking that, rather than just pull the trigger on a certificate with such a shoddy record, they grant our motion for an evidentiary hearing and take a really hard look at whether there’s any public benefit for the project.”

State Impact/NPR: PennEast urges new FERC quorum to quickly approve pipeline

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Yahoo News: Does New Jersey need the PennEast pipeline?

EELC is representing New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association to oppose the PennEast pipeline. Many legal hurdles to the pipeline remain even though FERC is now likely to approve the project. As Tom Gilbert explains in this Yahoo News article: “There’s a lot of compelling evidence from credible sources that there’s no need for [PennEast],” Gilbert said. “It’s one thing to have all these impacts if the project is truly in the public’s interest and there’s some legitimate public need for the gas. But several experts have concluded that’s just not the case on this project.”