Tuesday, April 25, 2017

EARTH DAY Spirits not Dampened at the 32nd Annual Beach Sweeps!



EARTH DAY Spirits not Dampened! 
Sweeping Success as Thousands Hit the Jersey Shore Beaches

Coastal New Jersey —Most of the earth is ocean, so it makes perfect sense for thousands to flock to the Jersey Shore to help improve and protect that which brings so much joy year round.   Rather than bathing suits and flip-flops, thousands of beach goers donned gloves and work shoes for Clean Ocean Action’s (COA) 32nd Annual Beach Sweeps at over 60 Jersey Shore sites from Middlesex to Cape May County. Dedicated volunteers spent the day cleaning, collecting and calculating the debris removed from each site.  More and more of the state is participating with sites along the Delaware and in Essex County joining in.  For complete list of locations click here.  For photos for use from Beach Sweeps locations statewide visit Clean Ocean Action’s Facebook page here.

The data produced from this event is publicized in an annual report that provides evidence about the type and quantity of debris found along beaches which is used to educate and motivate for solutions to marine pollution.

“The Beach Sweeps never cease to amaze me! Volunteers from the tall and the small to the young and the old, are an inspiration for us to continue to do what we do. COA’s daily work is to provide and protect our oceans, bays, waterways and beaches,” said Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action. “Volunteers from schools, churches, businesses, organizations, corporations and teams continue to get ‘down and dirty’ to rid our beaches of the litter that has accumulated all winter. This year was no different! Volunteers are even resolved to make personal changes in their daily lives in order to reduce ocean pollution. In a perfect world we wouldn’t need to come back for Beach Sweeps in the fall but until that happens, we will see you in October and remember to pick up debris on every trip to the beach.”
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Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr, (6th District) greeted the crowd of 1000 at Sandy Hook saying “What you are doing is so important.  The work you do here today has a real impact and has led to the passage of laws such as the Microbead Ban Act which goes into effect this year.”

Valerie Montecalvo, President, of Bayshore Recycling Family of Companies reminded everyone that it was 30 years ago that Governor Tom Kean signed the NJ Mandatory Recycling Act.  “NJ is the nation’s #1 recycler, but we need to do more.” Debris removed by volunteers at Sandy Hook was sorted at Bayshore Recycling Family of Companies to maximize recycling opportunities.


“Seeing the community come together in order to better the environment is truly a beautiful thing,” said Amy Arietta, Program and Administrative Coordinator. “This event is a chance for the general public to become a part of something much larger than themselves. Individuals are scientists for the day as they assist COA in collecting data that will eventually be utilized for scientific purposes. Beach Sweeps is a volunteer driven event – they are the beating heart of our program.”
  
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“I've loved seeing so many people show up to the Beach Sweeps ready to make a change. What we are doing today is so important.” – Sierra Byrne, Sandy Hook Beach Sweep Coordinator with Marine Academy of Science and Technology.

Zoe Sucato, also of the Marine Academy of Science and Technology, said, “It is so important to stop plastic pollution in the ocean.  Sea cucumbers are amazing squishy creatures and they eat bits of plastic and it is killing them.  All marine life is threatened by plastic and we need to stop this cycle.”

COA Beach Captains are the champions.  They engage with the local community and direct the hub of volunteers and individual participants at their location. These captains lead the cleanup effort at each site and are an indispensable part to which we owe the overall success of the program.

Selected totals from Sandy Hook included: Plastic Pieces- 9,675; Bottle Caps- 7,074; Straws- 3,041; Candy Wrappers- 6,854; Syringes- 51; Balloons- 180; Foam pieces- 4,621; Plastic beverage bottles- 1,406; Glass bottles- 426.

Throughout Beach Sweeps, volunteers are encouraged to note any out-of-the-ordinary finds. COA labels these finds as “The Roster of the Ridiculous”. Some of the items catalogued today included: license plate, baby car seat, scarecrow, bag of drugs, stuffed toy bunny, bird cage, charred bar stool.

With gratitude, Clean Ocean Action thanks: AVEDA, Bank of America, Comcast, KOHL’s, OceanFirst Foundation and ShopRite for their 2017 Beach Sweeps Statewide Sponsorship. The Spring Beach Sweeps are made possible by support from many generous sponsors.

“Wakefern Food Corp/ShopRite is pleased with our 15+ year partnership with Clean Ocean Action (COA). As an environmentally and community oriented business, ShopRite respects when an organization can bring about effective change by involving more and more community member volunteers each year.  The COA Beach Sweeps event brings about the improvement of an important ecological habitat, and when groups of like-minded people come together to solve a problem or improve their environment, they can make a difference and accomplish what an individual could not do alone.  We are proud to be a part of it!” Suzanne Forbes, Corporate Communications, Environmental Affairs Administrator, Wakefern Food Corporation.

“At Aveda, we care for the world we live in.  Every April we celebrate Earth Month and for the mast 8 years we have been focused on clean water projects around the world, to date we have raised $38 million. Together in partnership with Clean Ocean Action they help us educate our Salon network, Experience Centers and guests on how they can take an active for protecting our water locally,” said Eva Van Anglen with Aveda. “We’re really excited to clean up the beach, we constantly strive to live by Aveda’s mission and it’s a reminder about how important the environment is. It is Earth Day every day for us.”

For review the results from the most recent and previous Beach Sweeps, visit cleanoceanaction.org.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ocean Watch - Week 12

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 12

Mid-Atlantic Back in the Drilling Cross Hairs?

We have been reporting for several weeks now about the near imminent threat of expanding oil and gas drilling in outer continental shelf (OCS) federal waters. COA is awaiting a Trump administration executive order and related actions that would target not just a reopening of the OCS Lease Plan (and the potential reinclusion of the mid-Atlantic in this plan), but also actions aimed at shrinking or eliminating national monuments or nixing another offshore order signed by former President Obama that placed 98 percent of the U.S. Arctic under protection.

Keep an eye on our social media and webpage over the coming days and weeks, as we continue to monitor the situation. The thousands of coastal economies that depend upon a clean and healthy Atlantic Ocean are incompatible with oil and gas drilling anywhere in our region. Oil does not respect state boundaries. Seismic blasting to discover these reserves does not discriminate between a dolphin from New Jersey and a whale from Florida. Call your congressional representatives TODAY, and tell them that offshore oil and gas drilling anywhere in the Atlantic is not acceptable!



Trump EPA Takes Aim at Vehicle Emissions Standards
It is clear that the Trump Administration is taking aim at all fossil fuel related regulations, from extraction to generation, and everywhere in between. Not even vehicle emission regulations are safe from this onslaught. In an agreement struck with automakers in 2012, the Obama administration required that cars run 54.4 miles per gallon of fuel by 2025. This standard, up from 27.5 miles per gallon, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6bn tons over the lifetime of new vehicles and save 2m gallons of oil per day by 2025– a clear win for the environment, for consumers who would be free to use that gas money for other expenses, and for energy efficiency. Unfortunately, these rules are squarely in the Trump Administration’s cross hairs.
This assault starts with the federal budget, and ends with direct rollbacks to regulations. According to a White House budget document , the EPA’s vehicle testing budget would be cut by 99 percent and the staff that does that testing would be cut by more than half. The cuts would be to the department that certifies emissions are met and that fuel economy claims are accurate. The proposal, which would also cut 168 out of 304 full-time jobs, seeks to partially fund current operations by boosting fees automakers and engine manufacturers pay for testing. An EPA official confirmed the document's authenticity. This news comes as Volkswagen recently settled one of the largest vehicle emissions fraud cases in history, paying out $25 billion dollars in fines for cheating emissions tests. Along with these budget cuts, Trump has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to review fuel efficiency standards that were a key plank of Barack Obama’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, apparently seeking a regulatory rollback to go with his budget cuts.

EPA Shutting Down its Climate Adaptation Office
Reports from Washington indicate that Scott Pruitt’s EPA is closing the Climate Adaptation Office within EPA’s headquarters. The Unit, though small in size, was focused on preparing for the effects of climate change, such as sea-level rise and more extreme weather; a critical task as all those who live in coastal areas can tell you.

Key Federal Job Positions, Environmental Regulations, and Services on the Chopping Block

The Trump administration has finally lifted its federal hiring freeze, however with this news comes reports that the administration has ordered the heads of every federal agency to start significantly reducing their personnel over the next year. Although the memo did not get into specific staffing cuts, Politico reports that Trump definitely put a target on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Budget documents indicate that the White House would like to see EPA staffing reduced by as much as one-third – a devastating and catastrophic reduction in staff and funding that oversees contaminated site remediation, interstate pollution issues such as air and water discharges, and more. Moreover, the EPA has been directed to identify two regional offices for closure by June 15. Ultimately, Congress has the power to accept, reject, or alter the Trump budget— this is why our message to our Congressional delegation must be clear and powerful – Save EPA, fund environmental protection, and do not sacrifice our future for short term interests. Furthermore, the Trump administration through EPA, has opened a notice and comment period to gather information on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification. This input is intended to help inform EPA’s response to President Trump’s Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. These budget cuts, hiring freezes, regulatory rollbacks, and fossil fuel energy expansion policies are clearly designed to create more profit for fossil fuel corporations, while the public pays the price, and US manufacturing and technological innovation fall further behind the rest of the world.


Whitehouse Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) Withdrawals Climate Change Guidance
In more regressive and fossil friendly news, the Trump Whitehouse led CEQ has announced in a federal register notice that they are withdrawing their ‘‘Final Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in National Environmental Policy Act Reviews”.

Climate Change Godfather Endorses a Republican Climate Plan
Back in February, we wrote on the proposal put forward by several leading Republicans, including three former Cabinet secretaries, supporting a Carbon Fee in an effort to reduce emissions and address the worst impacts of climate change. See that story here.  This week, the leading scientific voice on climate change, Dr. James Hansen, endorsed a Carbon market based proposal such as a carbon fee. The backing of Dr. Hansen of a republican proposal to address carbon emissions should be seen a positive movement toward building a consensus market based approach for carbon emissions. Tell your elected officials that this is the path forward to heading off the worst of climate change impacts.olalafkhfg
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


Monday, April 10, 2017

Ocean Watch - Week 11


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 11

More Indications that Offshore Oil and Gas is Back on the table

Prior to leaving office, the Obama administration removed the mid-Atlantic outer continental shelf (OCS) region from the 2017-2022 5 year lease plan for offshore drilling due to conflicts with military activities and widespread organized opposition to drilling in the Atlantic. Obama also used his executive authority under the National Antiquities Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to protect deepwater canyon areas in the Mid-Atlantic, much of the Arctic offshore region, and other areas in the Pacific from oil and gas development. 

Unfortunately, it appears that these actions are going to be revisited or challenged by the Trump Administration. In conjunction with President Trump's executive order on climate and energy (signed last week), Secretary of Interior Zinke announcing that he will be reviewing all Interior Department regulations, including the 5 year offshore drilling plan.

Furthermore, numerous reports coming out of Washington D.C. indicate that the Trump Administration is setting its sights on more executive orders and other actions that target not just a reopening of the OCS Lease Plan (and the potential reinclusion of the mid-Atlantic in this plan), but also actions aimed at shrinking or eliminating national monuments or nixing another offshore order signed by former President Obama that placed 98 percent of the U.S. Arctic under protection.

This should set of the alarms of all those who depend upon a clean ocean in the Atlantic and abroad. Oil does not respect state boundaries. Seismic blasting to discover these reserves does not discriminate between a dolphin from New Jersey and a whale from Florida. Call your congressional representatives TODAY, and tell them that offshore oil and gas drilling anywhere in the Atlantic is not acceptable!

Montreal Protocol On the Chopping Block Too?!

Remember that pesky hole in the ozone layer? The U.S. contributes around $30 million to the fund responsible for aiding countries in adapting to technologies and regulations that have helped close the hole in the, however with budget cuts aimed at all manner of programs, that money is at risk of getting axed. As an international meeting of countries met last week, the budget was a serious matter of concern, and according to several representatives, killing the funding would send a worrisome signal to the world not just on the current status of the agreement, but also for ratification of an amendment to the protocol agreed to in Kigali, Rwanda, that would cut down emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, a coolant with high global warming potential.


A Pipeline Through the Raritan Bay

Williams Transco has proposed a 23.4-mile pipeline project to expand its existing Transco transmission system to transport natural gas from the Marcellus Shale region through Raritan Bay to New York by running a new pipeline parallel to the existing NY Bay Lower Lateral pipe that was installed under the Raritan Bay in the 1960s. Williams just recently submitted its formal 7(c) Natural Gas Certificate Application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC); a copy of the filing can be found on the FERC website here. With this filing, Williams now begins the formal application review process; public scoping meetings and a comment period will be opened for the project in the coming months. COA is working with a coalition of groups on this including NY/NJ Baykeeper and Bayshore Regional Watershed Council. 




Another CRA Action

President Trump signed another Congressional Review Act resolution (H.J. Res. 69) last week nullifying a Fish & Wildlife Service regulation that barred certain hunting practices such as baiting, trapping and denning animals like wolves and bears in Alaskan national wildlife refuges. It's the fourth successful energy- or environment-related CRA challenge to Obama-era regulations.




Clean Water Champions ask Pruitt to Clarify Stance

Eleven Senate Democrats, led by Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and joined by Senator Booker (D-NJ) and Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) among others, asked Pruitt in a letter Monday to explain how the EPA would meet its mission of protecting clean water if it implements Trump's executive order rolling back Waters of the U.S. The letter lays out concerns that “that revising or revoking this rule will only increase uncertainty amongst farmers, developers, and other stakeholders that want clarity about what water bodies the law protects from pollution. . .”



Maryland Bans Fracking!

This week, the Maryland State Senate took a major step toward protecting the drinking water of millions of people in the Washington, DC area and western Maryland by passing a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing.  The measure, was approved by the Maryland House of Delegates, and signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan.  Without legislative action, the moratorium on fracking (passed in 2015) would have expired this year. The action is the first time that a state with natural gas reserves has enacted a ban on fracking passed by a legislature and signed by a governor.  In 2014, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo banned high-volume hydraulic fracturing by executive action.



Bipartisan Coalition Takes Steps to Protect the Arctic

Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) introduced the bipartisan Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act to designate the 1.5 million-acre Alaska Coastal Plain as wilderness, codifying into law permanent protections from damaging activities like oil and gas drilling.





Some Climate Action!


Thirty-six house democrats introduced a bill to overturn President Trump’s “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” order. The “Congressional Leadership in Mitigating Administration Threats to the Earth (CLIMATE) Act” (H.R. 1812) declares the president’s document null and void and would prohibit federal funds for implementing, administering or enforcing it.


Poll Finds Majority of Americans Disagree with Trump’s Climate Policies

President Donald Trump’s stance and policies on climate change are opposed by a majority of Americans, a poll released Wednesday indicated. More than three-quarters of Americans surveyed—76 percent—are at least somewhat concerned by climate change, according to a Quinnipiac University poll, with 59 percent saying more needs to be done to address the problem. Read the full poll results here: https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-climate-change-policy-strongly-172103164.html?soc_src=mail&soc_trk=ma

Unfortunately, it appears that these actions are going to be revisited or challenged by the Trump Administration. In conjunction with President Trump's executive order on climate and energy (signed last week), Secretary of Interior Zinke announcing that he will be reviewing all Interior Department regulations, including the 5 year offshore drilling plan.

Furthermore, numerous reports coming out of Washington D.C. indicate that the Trump Administration is setting its sights on more executive orders and other actions that target not just a reopening of the OCS Lease Plan (and the potential reinclusion of the mid-Atlantic in this plan), but also actions aimed at shrinking or eliminating national monuments or nixing another offshore order signed by former President Obama that placed 98 percent of the U.S. Arctic under protection.

This should set of the alarms of all those who depend upon a clean ocean in the Atlantic and abroad. Oil does not respect state boundaries. Seismic blasting to discover these reserves does not discriminate between a dolphin from New Jersey and a whale from Florida. Call your congressional representatives TODAY, and tell them that offshore oil and gas drilling anywhere in the Atlantic is not acceptable!



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

Monday, April 3, 2017

New Municipal Stormwater Permits in New Jersey


Municipal Stormwater Permits



Stormwater pollution, also called toxic stormwater runoff, or nonpoint source pollution, is one of the leading causes of water quality impairment in New Jersey. This form of pollution is insidious; the source is each and every one of us, and the footprints we create through development, construction of roads, and alteration of the natural water cycle. As stormwater flows over pavement, rooves, and compacted ground, it picks up pollutants, including animal waste and other pathogens, excess fertilizers, pesticides, and other toxic substances.

One example of this pollution problem is the Navesink River Watershed, where high bacteria levels triggered and exacerbated by stormwater runoff have recently closed shellfish beds and impacted recreational enjoyment on the river. While COA has worked at the local and watershed level in the Navesink, and found great success engaging communities to take action, statewide management and regulatory strategies are essential in the fight against toxic stormwater runoff. Unfortunately, we have made little progress since 2004, when the first municipal stormwater permits were issued. These permits were renewed in 2009, and expired in February of 2014, although the requirements continued to be in effect. However, for over 3 years, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) has been regulating stormwater using expired and outdated municipal permits (called “Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System” permits, or “MS4” permits).

These MS4 permits require each municipality to undertake specific actions related to stormwater mitigation and maintenance, and review potential development plans (like a new condo unit, or strip mall) for stormwater impacts. Yet, with the continued degradation of waterways like the Navesink River, it is clear that stronger MS4 permits are needed. Yet, when NJDEP had the chance  to redraft and issue an improved MS4 permit, they largely punted, and, except for some small improvements related to restructuring the permit, clearer language, and training requirements, the new MS4 permits are nearly the same exact permits that have been so ineffectual for all these years. COA is working with an alliance of organizations to review and provide comments on these permits, and will continue to work, both at the local, state, and regional level, on stormwater pollution solutions. Clearly, these new MS4 permits are the same old, and not a solution to our statewide water quality problems.