When people think of New Jersey, rolling hills, horse pastures, and 18th-century colonial homes are not the first things that come to mind. However, these places — one of our state’s best-kept secrets — do exist. Preservationists have worked for decades to keep these iconic sites intact for future generations. These unique resources, which have state and federal protection, deserve to be safe from development and damage. By threatening to destroy over 4,000 acres of previously preserved lands (including private property, taxpayer-funded lands, and historic sites), the PennEast pipeline puts this open country at risk. EELC’s clients the New Jersey Conservation Foundation and the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Alliance are opposing the PennEast pipeline Read More
New Jersey is a state of many “firsts”: the first boardwalk, first copper mine, and first drive-in movie theater. Ironically, our state is the birthplace of modern electricity, but as one of only eighteen states without advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), we are lagging far behind in new utility technology. EELC is collaborating with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to advocate for AMI and smart meters for state residents, which can improve efficiency, reduce electric costs, clean our airways, and even bring in revenue. In 2015, Business Insider forecasted a whopping savings exceeding $150 billion for customers switching to smart meters. By improving efficiency and purchasing electricity when prices are lowest, customers slash dollars off their electric bills. Customers can also sell surplus electricity back to their utility companies and enjoy faster repairs during power outages.
Seeking positive change for state residents, EELC is taking action to bring utility customers maximum benefits at a minimal cost via smart grid technology. In April 2016, Rockland Electric Company (RECO) filed a petition Read More
Eight years after the NJ Department of Environmental Protection revoked a sewage permit for a wild trout stream in the Highlands region, the agency suddenly reissued the discharge permit to the surprise of environmental organizations. The Highlands is an area stretching across northern New Jersey that is protected by the NJ Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, state legislation passed in 2004. The permit allows the discharge of 100,000 gallons of treated sewer water daily into the Northern branch of the Rockaway Creek, which is a designated wild trout stream and home to 20 other fish species. NJDEP first issued the permit in the 1990s, but revoked it in 2006 after the stream gained new protections. On April 7, 2015, EELC appealed this right to discharge sewage into a protected stream on behalf of the New Jersey Highlands Coalition, the Raritan Headwaters Association, the Township of Readington, and the Sierra Club. Read More
This summer, EELC was busy making the case to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that the PennEast pipeline does not fulfill a public need, and that critical scientific evidence is missing from FERC’s consideration of environmental impacts. EELC recently submitted expert reports to FERC, documenting some of the true costs of construction, including water supply degradation and harm to the surrounding environment.
FERC controls interstate transmission of electricity and natural gas, and must decide which new natural gas pipeline projects it will approve. EELC’s advocacy in front of this regulatory body is on behalf of the groups participating in the Rethink Energy campaign. The campaign advocates for greater energy efficiency, renewable energy, and overall infrastructure planning before any new pipelines are built in New Jersey. Read More
From major spills to small leaks, emergency response plans provide the public with a roadmap to safety. You wouldn’t board a plane without oxygen masks or a cruise ship without life jackets. But what happens when danger lurks and there are no emergency procedures in place? That’s the issue facing Newark’s Ironbound residents because the Newark Energy Center (NEC), a massive gas-powered energy plant, lacks a publicly available chemical response plan.
In 2010, a 620-megawatt power plant in Middletown, CT exploded with earthquake-like force. The tragedy killed at least five, injured dozens more, and caused considerable structural and economic damage. The NEC, with a 655-megawatt generating capacity, could cause catastrophic damage to the Ironbound neighborhood in Newark in the event of a spill, leak, or explosion. Alarmingly, Newark’s residents have no plan on what to do if something goes wrong, but EELC is working to change that. Read More
The New Jersey Appellate Court recently reversed a controversial parking lot variance approval by the Newark Zoning Board. For nearly five years, community members and organizations have argued that the proposed variance for the parking lot, constructed in the Ironbound neighborhood in 2012, would have a devastating impact on the fabric of the mixed use nature of the community. EELC filed a friend of the court “amici” brief on behalf of the Ironbound Community Corporation, the Greater Newark Conservancy, and several urban planning and architectural academics contending that surface parking lots, such as this one on McWhorter Street, “inhibit walkability, facilitate street crime, have detrimental environmental impacts, and decrease land value.”
The win, says Aaron Kleinbaum, Executive Director of EELC, “is a victory for the Ironbound neighborhood and all of Newark.”
On September 6, EELC hosted a meeting with the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance (NJEJA) that featured Dr. Nicky Sheats, director of the Center for Urban Development at Thomas Edison University and well-known authority on environmental justice. Dr. Sheats spoke about the federal Clean Power Plan and its impact on minority and low-income communities.
Dr. Nicky Sheats gave a powerful presentation on the lack of environmental justice provisions in the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Dr. Sheats pointed out that high cumulative impacts from environmental hazards positively correlate with the percentage of minority residents and poverty levels. Since carbon trading could actually increase emissions in environmental justice communities, Dr. Sheats advocated against a pure carbon-trading approach and in favor of mandatory reductions at all power plants in environmental justice communities. Read More
The proposed PennEast natural gas pipeline, if approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), will stretch 118 miles between New Jersey and Pennsylvania. By their own admission, PennEast’s construction will disturb over 1,600 acres of preserved open space, farms, forests and other land. U.S. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, an outspoken critic of the pipeline, has expressed concern that it “will adversely and permanently affect critical forest and water resources.” Fellow U.S. Representative Leonard Lance claims construction of the pipeline would be an “irresponsible” use of taxpayer-funded open space.
In addition to causing environmental harm, the pipeline is also unnecessary, according to a recent study funded by New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF). The study concluded that, not only is there no demand for the natural gas, but the $1.2 billion project could actually increase customers’ gas bills. Read More
Recently, EELC bid a sad farewell to Hilary Semel, its Executive Director for over five years. Taking her place is Aaron Kleinbaum who previously served as EELC’s Legal Director. Aaron has worked in the private and public sectors. His background in environmental law, environmental health, safety and sustainability programs will help EELC continue its mission for environmental justice and clean energy. “I am excited to help EELC grow,” he says, noting that EELC is as strong as vibrant as ever.
Aaron’s extensive experience in the environmental field began as an environmental engineer for the U.S EPA. He then spent nine years practicing environmental law for private law firms in NY and NJ before assuming the role of Deputy General Counsel at Ingersoll Rand Company. In his 13 years there, he initiated the company’s sustainability program and managed environmental compliance and Superfund cleanups. Aaron came to the only non-profit environmental public interest law center in New Jersey, EELC, to work for citizens groups and established environmental organizations to protect open space, ensure environmental justice, and promote a clean energy future.
The raising of the Bayonne Bridge is causing environmental health impacts in NJ and NY port communities. As a result from the $1.3 Billion bridge project by the Port Authority of NY & NJ, more diesel trucks will be driving through these neighborhoods causing more air pollution. Check out what EELC and its partners are doing about it in this MSNBC segment.