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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.

 

 

Victory for the environment: Williams withdraws NESE pipeline application from NJDEP

EELC is celebrating its victory for the environment: On June 14, 2018, Williams/Transco withdrew its Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) pipeline application from the NJDEP. Franklin Township’s Mayor, ​Phil Kramer celebrated the victory too, but said, “The Fight isn’t over yet.” On behalf of its clients, Central Jersey Safe Energy Coalition, Princeton Manor Homeowners Association, Food & Water Watch & NY/NJ Baykeeper, EELC agrees that the battle against the pipeline through Raritan Bay and the new compressor station in Franklin Township will continue because the pipeline company reapplied for the pipeline work a few days later. Nevertheless, the permit withdrawal and reapplication recognizes that NJDEP would not approve the project.

https://www.mycentraljersey.com/…/transco-pipeli…/722114002/

New York State Denies NESE Water Permit

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“NYDEC”) today denied Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company’s (“Transco”) application for Water Quality Certification for its Northeast Supply Enhancement Project (“NESE”) due to incomplete information. According to the NYDEC’s statement, the application was not only incomplete, the materials submitted raised serious environmental concerns as well.

EELC is proud to represent the following clients in this matter:

Central Jersey Safe Energy Coalition

Princeton Manor Homeowners Association

Food & Water Watch

NY/NY Baykeeper

EELC Spring Letter to Supporters

Happy Spring!
First, I’d like to thank all our supporters again for helping us make 2017 a year in which we were able to bring our work on clean energy and pipelines to a national level and expand our representation of New Jersey’s environmental organizations and community groups in our other priority areas: environmental justice and open space.
With respect to open space, EELC is working with the Highlands Coalition and local residents and has filed a lawsuit to protect the Meer Tract located at Federal Hill, a historically and environmentally important property preserved as open space in the Highlands Region. The Meer Tract is one of the most valuable remaining open spaces in Passaic County. The property provides a significant quantity of clean drinking water, and also serves as critical wildlife habitat.

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NJDEP Challenges FERC Certificate for PennEast

UPDATE (February 20, 2018): In an unprecedented move NJDEP, in agreement with EELC’s position, has asked FERC to reverse its decision to issue a conditional certificate to PennEast due to “woefully insufficient data”.

On behalf of clients New Jersey Conservation Foundation  and Stony Brook–Millstone Watershed Association, EELC today filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for a rehearing and rescission of its recent order granting a conditional certificate of public convenience and necessity.  Also filed is a motion for a stay of that Certificate Order. “FERC issued this Order less than one month after it acknowledged its pipeline review process is not properly considering need, impacts to landowners, or the environment,” said Jennifer Danis, EELC Senior Staff Attorney.  “Our request asks FERC to reconsider its flawed decision to allow PennEast to plow forward, blindly relying on private contracts to justify massive land seizures.”

 

NJDEP to PennEast: Pipeline Denied

In a strongly worded letter to PennEast, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection denied a freshwater wetlands permit sought by the pipeline company.  The Conditional Certificate that FERC recently issued for PennEast clearly states that the pipeline can’t proceed without permits from NJDEP.

Tom Gilbert, campaign director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation said, “PennEast wants to put a polluting, dangerous pipeline across dozens of pure streams and rivers that are the source of our drinking water…  If PennEast reapplies to NJDEP, we are confident that their damaging pipeline won’t be able to meet the strict standards that project our water and natural resources.”
Read MyCentralJersey.com article here.
New Jersey Conservation Foundation
rethinkenergynj

Fight Against PennEast Pipeline Shifts to New Jersey

FERC approved PennEast pipeline despite lack of need & threats to water, health & safety. New Jersey doesn’t need or want this damaging pipeline, and has the power to stop it when it faces a more stringent state review.

“By issuing this Certificate, FERC failed to meet its obligations under the law. We’ll be challenging its decision, which ignored the extensive economic and scientific evidence showing that PennEast would provide no public benefit, a core requirement for a project that anticipates having to take private property for much of its route in New Jersey,” said Jennifer Danis, senior attorney, Eastern Environmental Law Center.

FERC Certificate Press Release_FINAL

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Judge Denies Ramapo Polo Club’s Injunction Against Ramapoughs

A Superior Court judge just gave a significant win to EELC and its client, the Ramapough Mountain Indians. In an Order signed on December 15, the Court denied the neighborhood Polo Club residents’ request for a restraining order preventing the Ramapoughs from using their own land for prayer and cultural assembly.

This involves the ongoing dispute between the Ramapoughs  and the Township of Mahway, NJ over teepees and other religious and indigenous practices on land near the Polo Club subdivision and the Ramapo River.  Read More

Environmental Groups Applaud FERC Announcement that Its Gas Pipeline Approval Process Must Be Revamped

Environmental and conservation groups in New Jersey that have opposed the PennEast project on the grounds that it does not serve a public need cheered the move announced today that FERC’s natural gas pipeline review process is not sufficient given current industry reality.

 

Far Hills, NJ (December 22, 2017) — Today FERC publicly acknowledged that its natural gas pipeline review process is not sufficient given current industry reality.  At a public meeting,  FERC announced that it will “review its policies on certification of gas pipeline proposals that come before it.” According to statements made by commissioners at today’s meeting, this review will include an examination of the criteria the commission uses to determine whether a pipeline is in the “public interest,” and what role precedent agreements play in that inquiry.

The Eastern Environmental Law Center (EELC) and the Columbia Environmental Law Clinic filed a lawsuit last month on behalf of New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJ Conservation) contending that FERC is acting unconstitutionally in its pipeline certificate review process by not ensuring that the lands it authorizes pipeline companies to seize are being put to a public use.

“FERC acknowledged that its outdated certificate process is flawed, has failed to protect the public interest by not looking closely enough at the public need for proposed projects beyond precedent agreements and at environmental protection, and conceded that it needs to change.  The lawsuit that Columbia Environmental Law Clinic and EELC filed on NJ Conservation’s behalf was designed to protect the public’s interest in ensuring that their lands are not seized based on this existing flawed FERC process,” said Susan Kraham, senior staff attorney, Columbia Environmental Law Clinic.

“This is a significant move by FERC, taking the first step forward toward remedying the public harms wrought by its failure to ensure that natural gas pipelines serve the public interest,” said Jennifer Danis, senior staff attorney, EELC.

During today’s FERC meeting, Commissioner Richard Glick stated that the Commission should “examine whether to more broadly consider evidence of need, including placing greater evidence on the other factors laid-out in FERC’s guiding policy document.” Glick further said that “the review should evaluate the current approach for evaluating the environmental impacts of a proposed gas pipeline, including potential greenhouse gas emissions.”  Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur expressed similar comments.  NJ Conservation’s lawsuit raises those very issues, and challenges FERC’s existing practices for issuing certificates.  Those are the same practices that FERC has now said it must review and change.

In his first meeting as the new FERC Chairman, Commissioner McIntyre said, “Much has changed in the energy world since 1999, and it is incumbent upon us to take another look at the way in which we assess the value and the viability of our pipeline applications.”

“This has enormous implications for projects like PennEast, where energy experts and the NJ Division of Rate Counsel have challenged PennEast’s assertion that the project serves a public need,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director, NJ Conservation.  “We are extremely pleased that FERC is undertaking this critically important and long-awaited review to ensure that its national pipeline approval process places a priority on protecting the public’s interest.”

Environmental and conservation groups in New Jersey that have opposed the PennEast project on the grounds that it does not serve a public need cheered the move.  “Now that it has conceded that its current process is flawed and outdated, FERC must wait to take any further action in the PennEast docket until it has developed a pipeline certificate process that actually protects the public interest,” said Jim Waltman, Executive Director, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.

Click-to-tweet: Groups cheer announcement: @FERC to revamp review process for proposed pipelines like PennEast. http://ow.ly/oARD30hnDDb @ConserveNJ @rethinkenergynj @eelc_org @theH2Oshed

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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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