Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sandy Hook Channel and the Sea Bright Borrow Area




The US Army Corps of Engineers New York District just announced the details of a navigational dredging project for the Sandy Hook Channel – a major artery for shipping and recreational boating. What makes this project so unique is that the sand and gravel excavated from the channel will be placed at the Sea Bright Borrow Area – the main source of beach nourishment sand for Northern coastal New Jersey. 


COA has been advocating for many years for the placement of material from these types of locations back to the borrow area to spare other natural sand formations from harvest, and beneficially use the dredge material from the channel. This is an example of a win-win – for navigation, for coastal communities, and for marine life that live on these natural lumps. The goal is that the replenishment of these borrow areas will alleviate some of the need for harvesting from untouched areas. There are other areas in New Jersey that can make this work, including major inlets and other areas of sand accretion.



See https://njbeaches.org/njdep_public_files/pdfs/sandresourcemap2012.pdf for a map of sand resources identified for current or potential future use.


We are working to identify these locations, and the borrow areas close to them that have been used in the past so that the USACE can then dredge them for navigation and place that material in the borrow area for storage. While not a blanket solution, this type of project can at least minimize the impact of nourishment activities by alleviating the need for borrowing from new areas while providing for navigation and coastal protection.

A final note: we recognize that this material is not going out to the HARS site for remediation (for capping the contaminated area) as it has been placed there in the past, however COA believes that at this point in time, that material can be used to greater effect by being “stored” at the Sea Bright borrow area for further beach nourishment placement. This does not mean HARS is remediated and no longer needs clean sand, it does and we keep a close and watchful eye on any placement out there.


New York State Blocks NYC's Plastic Bag Fee

The problem of single use plastics and their harmful impact on our waterways and oceans is well known.  Many diverse environmental and governmental entities, including COA, are working on different strategies to reduce or eliminate single use plastics from our everyday lives.  New York City lawmakers investigated the issue of plastics pollution management for two years, and introduced a plastic bag fee legislation in 2016.  This NYC plastic bag fee law required retailers to charge an additional 5 cents for every plastic bag, and was to go into effect on Feb 15, 2017.  Critically, the fee would have gone back to the merchants – this is a very important point that we will get back to.

In a significant setback, NY state Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday signed a bill into law which postpones all city led bag fees until at least 2018.  Read these news story for details:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/nyregion/cuomo-blocks-new-york-city-plastic-bag-law.html?_r=0

and

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/n-y-lawmakers-urge-cuomo-compromise-disposable-bag-fee-article-1.2972351

and

http://www.northjersey.com/story/news/environment/2017/02/15/plastic-bag-fee-blocked-new-york-city/97935798/


COA advocates for the reduction and elimination of single use plastics through well-designed policies and programs, wherein any fee collected would go towards the management of these wastes, and not back to the merchants. This approach has worked extremely well in many cities, such as Washington D.C. Regardless of the structure of the fee,  it is disappointing that regulations to reduce the use of single use plastic bags in New York city have been delayed once again. Hopefully Governor Cuomo’s promised “statewide task force to develop a uniform state plan for addressing the plastic bag problem” will result in rapid and concrete action on this issue. Note that in New Jersey, bills to impose a nickel-fee on single use plastic bags have stalled in Trenton after being introduced last spring. Call your Governor and State elected officials and tell them you support laws that will discourage the use of single use plastic!

§  Contact your Governor: https://www.usa.gov/state-governor
§  For NJ residents, contact your State Senate and Assembly Representatives: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/districts/njmap210.html

§  For NY residents, contact your State Senate and Assembly Representatives: http://www.elections.ny.gov/district-map/district-map.html

Monday, February 13, 2017

Ocean Watch - Week 3



Welcome to Ocean Watch; a weekly recap of federal and regional actions that impact the coastal and marine water quality and ecosystems of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean. Clean Ocean Action will aggregate and analyze these actions, and signify the impact and threat level to the Mid-Atlantic using color coding – Red is a high level threat, orange is intermediate, yellow is a caution, and green would be a positive action. While many of these actions have taken place in Washington DC, and don’t affect the mid-Atlantic directly, the direction of national energy, climate, and regulatory policy will have implications and impacts for the mid-Atlantic region.

Mid-Atlantic Ocean Watch – Week 3

Public Health and Safety
·     Under the Trump Administration to date, the EPA has blocked about 30 pending regulations, not unusual for a new administration. But a review of those rules shows many of them were designed to protect the public from environmental hazards, including air pollution, contaminated water, and hazardous chemicals. Furthermore, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General known for climate denialism, fossil fuel friendliness, and general opposition to basic environmental regulations, and President Trump’s EPA Administrator nominee, could not be brought to articulate support for regulations on the most basic of environmental contaminates such as lead and asbestos (During a confirmation hearing, asked about harmful levels of lead in the human body, he said, “that’s something I have not reviewed nor know about.” And he said that the EPA would have to consider the science about asbestos before taking further action, although it is a known carcinogen.)

·    Moving forward, the big question will be how the new EPA will implement the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The law was championed by New Jersey’s Senator Lautenberg with bipartisan support, and signed by President Obama in June. The law imposed deadlines for the EPA to select and review suspect chemicals used in common household goods and found in the environment. Last fall, the EPA released its first list of 10, which the agency is now reviewing. But the next step is more contentious: The EPA must agree on the science, to decide which substances to ban. However, with all indications up to this point that the new administration favors industry over science, the future of how EPA will protect public health, and the health of our environment from dangerous chemicals is going to be a major question mark moving forward…

Nominations Continue Forward
This week, the Trump Administration and supporters in the Senate continued their work to push through key agency nominees. In the environmental realm, Department of Energy and Interior Department nominees Rick Perry and Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) have been delayed as opposition to their nominations continues.

·     Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) came out with statements against Perry and Zinke, stating "Governor Rick Perry is disturbingly unqualified to handle our country's nuclear arsenal, and his close ties to Big Oil and consistent denial of the science of climate change should deeply concern every American," Schumer said. "Congressman Zinke would head an agency responsible for conservation of our public lands and natural resources, but his willingness to do the bidding of fossil fuel industry and support of expanding drilling and extraction on public lands is deeply troubling and puts that mission in jeopardy."

·    On the same day that Former Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson was voted through the Senate for his nomination as Secretary of State, the House of Representatives was busy removing the requirement for oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments; a pretty straightforward anti-bribery measure designed to rein in an industry particularly susceptible to corruption.


Congressional Actions
·     Not to be outdone by the Freshman Congressman who last week introduced legislation to terminate the entire EPA, this week Rep. Sam Johnson from Texas introduced “The Wasteful EPA Programs Elimination Act of 2017”, which Johnson described as a "commonsense bill does right by the hardworking Americans." According to a press statement from Johnson, the legislation "would terminate or eliminate federal funding for 13 wasteful EPA programs, would close all EPA field offices, and require the EPA to lease or sell all underutilized properties." Among the programs it would kill are environmental justice programs and all EPA grant programs. It would strip funding for the greenhouse gas reporting program, regulating greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, regulating greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants; and climate research at the EPA's Office of Research and Development.

·    House Joint Resolution 36 – a resolution that would use the Congressional Review Act to rescind the Obama Administration’s BLM Methane venting rules, passed the House and now moves into the Senate for a vote. The rules would reduce waste of natural gas (methane) from oil and natural gas production activities on federal and tribal land. The rule includes new requirements for flaring, capture, leak detection, and venting. According to BLM, the rule could eliminate 175,000-180,000 tons of methane emissions annually (equivalent to 4.4-4.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide); a boon to both tax payers and the environment.

·     Last week we wrote about the passage of a Congressional Review Act resolution that killed the Obama administration’s Stream Protection Rules, designed to protect streams and drinking water supplies (which all flow to the ocean) from coal mining impacts. In a bit of good news, we wanted to highlight Reps. Frank LoBiondo (R-2nd Dist.) and Chris Smith (R-4th Dist.) of New Jersey, who were two of only nine House Republicans to vote no on repealing these regulations. Their vote to safeguard and protect clean water is recognized and applauded. The votes from NJ on this environment protection killing resolution:
o   Democrats — Gottheimer, N; Norcross, N; Pallone, N; Pascrell, N; Payne, N; Sires, N; Watson Coleman, N.
o   Republicans — Frelinghuysen, Y; Lance, Y; LoBiondo, N; MacArthur, Y; Smith, N.
o   In New York State, all Republican representatives of the Congressional Delegation voted in favor of the resolution, while the Democratic members voted against.



Dakota Access Moving Forward
    On Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would grant an easement allowing the pipeline to cross under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota, drawing quick praise from project and congressional backers. Late Tuesday, five Democratic senators and four House members said the decision blatantly violated federal law and urged its immediate reversal. "Granting this easement without meaningful tribal consultation, nor proper review of environmental impacts, is unlawful and morally unacceptable," they wrote in a letter to Trump. "In addition, it has been the policy of the Corps to wait at least 14 days between notifying Congress of its intent to grant an easement of this nature, and actually doing so. This decision violates that policy and circumvents appropriate congressional review."

Climate Action from the GOP?
In a somewhat surprising development, some high profile Republicans and business leaders met this week with senior officials at the White House to offer a carbon tax based approach to address climate change. Their approach calls for replacing the Clean Power Plan and most Obama-era climate change regulations with a gradually increasing carbon tax that returns dividends to citizens. Co-authors of the plan include former Secretary of State James A. Baker, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Walmart Chairman Rob Walton, among others. We will continue to monitor this plan as it develops.


Look Out for Next Week's Ocean Watch

Senators are apparently in discussions to lock in votes on the majority of President Donald Trump's Cabinet by the time Congress goes on recess on Feb. 17, but GOP lawmakers are still pushing to confirm picks for EPA, Energy and Interior next week. These agency administrator nominations include Scott Pruitt (anti-environmental Oklahoma Attorney General in the pocket of oil and gas companies) for EPA, Rick Perry (former Texas Governor with clear oil and gas affiliations and no real idea about what the DEO does) for DOE, and Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana who has defended public access to federal lands even though he frequently voted against environmentalists on issues ranging from coal extraction to oil and gas drilling) for DOI. 

YOUR VOICE IS NEEDED!
·    The executive orders and congressional actions of the last week have reinforced how vital it is that every citizen engage with their elected officials. In this day and age of instant communication, there is no excuse for not contacting your elected officials. Use the links below to find your representatives and let them know how important clean water and strong environmental protections are.
o   Federal:
§  Call your US House of Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/
o   State Level:
§  Contact your Governor: https://www.usa.gov/state-governor
§  For NJ residents, contact your State Senate and Assembly Representatives: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/districts/njmap210.html

§  For NY residents, contact your State Senate and Assembly Representatives: http://www.elections.ny.gov/district-map/district-map.html

Friday, February 10, 2017

Over $60,000 raised at COA's Fire & Ice!



Over $60,000 raised for ocean protection while
celebrating the sea!


Clean Ocean Action kicked-off the holiday SEAson with its “Fire & Ice” fundraiser  on Saturday, December 10th, at Windows on the Water (Surfrider Beach Club) in Sea Bright, NJ. Over three hundred friends of the ocean attended to  celebrate the joys of the ocean and to support COA’s year-round effort to keep the ocean clean and safe for all to enjoy. Over $60,000 was raised from the event to help support COA’s on-going work to protect the ocean, surrounding waterways, and their resources.

The night began with a fire-inspired cocktail hour with music by the Taylor Tote Band. Throughout the evening guests
enjoyed libations sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka and wine and beer by Shore Point Distributors as they feasted on the bounty from the sea at the gourmet raw bar provided by The Lusty Lobster, as well as delicious dinner selections by Chef Pete Cruz of Windows on the Water. The merriment continued as the evening transitioned from fire to an ice theme with live music from the Jersey Shore-based contemporary band, The Haven, featuring special guest Thom White.  Windows on the Water and Surfrider Beach Club provided the perfect venue for this festive event and we appreciate the support from the LoBiondo Family, Larry Meluso, and the staff. 
It was a fun evening celebrating the sea with old friends and new!

Waves of thanks to all who joined COA at Fire & Ice, supported the event,
donated to the silent auction, and so much more!

 




Special thanks to the fiery volunteer
committee who helped make this event a huge success!  Fire & Ice would not have been
possible without the hard work and leadership from co-chairs Lisa and Ken Wilson. 
Thank you, All!






Vodka, Spirits, and a Paddleboard Help Save the Ocean!

With only 16 custom made Tito’s Vodka Stand Up Paddleboards in the world, the board in the silent auction was in high demand and the Mulheren Family rang in the winning Bid. Bonnie Torcivia, a paddleboard enthusiast on the Navesink River, hoped to find another board and match the donation to COA. John Watts, General Manager of Spirits Unlimited in Red Bank generously donated his store’s custom made board so Bonnie could bring it home for the holidays.

“It’s a pleasure to donate the Tito’s Handmade Vodka board to Clean Ocean Action.  
The shore means so much to us all,” said Mr. Watts. “Tito’s Handmade Vodka loves to give back to the community in any possible way, and giving to the Jersey Shore was big this summer,” said Elliot Kaplan of Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

Thank you Spirits Unlimited, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, the Mulheren Family and Bonnie Torcivia!