New Jersey Environmental Lobby Newsletter - Winter 2019

New Jersey Environmental Lobby Newsletter

What’s New for Offshore Wind Development in New Jersey? -
Offshore wind has made great strides in the State since January 2018. The Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (OWEDA) was designed to advance offshore wind development in the state and was signed into law in 2010.
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Status of Legislative Initiatives -
The Congressional Democrats’ “Green New Deal” is a focus of national news, but as far back as 2017, a resolution was introduced in the NJ Assembly to make a clean environment a constitutional right in New Jersey.
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Space Invaders: How Invasive Species Are Taking Over Our Natural Habitats -
You first meet your pet snake at two feet long. It’s one of the most popular pets in Florida. At first, it’s easy to care for, feeding it little frozen mice. But your cute little mouse-nibbling snake quickly becomes a seventeen foot-long monster that can swallow you whole.
Read More ...

Remembering Gene Fox -
We are sad to announce that our long-time Board member Eugene Ray Fox (Gene) passed away in July.
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What’s New for Offshore Wind Development in New Jersey? -

Offshore wind has made great strides in the State since January 2018. The Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (OWEDA) was designed to advance offshore wind development in the state and was signed into law in 2010. However, there was little-to-no progress until Governor Murphy took office, with his bullish approach to jump starting this new industry in New Jersey.

Governor Murphy started by signing Executive Order 8, which directed the Board of Public Utilities (BPU), the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and other relevant state agencies to “take all necessary actions to implement OWEDA in order to promote and realize the development of wind energy off the coast of New Jersey to meet a goal of 3,500 MW of offshore wind by 2030”. This target is the largest in the nation, catapulting New Jersey to the forefront of this exciting new industrial sector. It is, indeed, a sector because it is more than electricity generation. It is an entire supply chain of scientific surveys, engineering, materials, construction, transportation, transmission, and ongoing management that will create jobs and commerce.

A key part of OWEDA was intended to be Offshore Renewable Energy Credits (ORECs), to facilitate financing and investment. (See the April-July newsletter for an explanation of ORECs) Years passed without the implementation of ORECs and offshore wind power development.

In September 2018, the BPU took the important step of opening the window for Offshore Renewable Energy Certifications (OREC) applications, with a deadline of December 28, 2018.

Three entities submitted applications:

- Ørsted, the Danish offshore wind developer
- Atlantic Shores, a JV between EDF Renewables and Shell; yes, that Shell, specifically its unit Shell New Energies US LLC
- Equinor, formerly known as the Norwegian company Statoil

Later this year, the BPU plans to announce which developer or developers will be awarded ORECs, which will provide the necessary funding to build the offshore wind farms that will inject clean energy into the state. Based on that schedule, New Jersey could enjoy the benefits of turbines spinning offshore by the mid-2020s.

In another decision, approval for a fourth wind farm was denied. The Nautilus project was one of the first proposed for New Jersey. It was presented as a demonstration project of 25 MW. After two revisions, it was rejected as having no net benefit to ratepayers because of its costs. There was also opposition to the site because of its proximity to the coastal bird flyways. The farm would be about 2.8 miles off Atlantic City. Reportedly, there are studies which show that the closer turbines are to shore, the higher the risk to birds that inhabit or travel the coast. The sites for the other farms are 10 to 20 miles off shore.

Status of Legislative Initiatives -
By Noemi de la Puente

The “Green Amendment” - The Congressional Democrats’ “Green New Deal” is a focus of national news, but as far back as 2017, a resolution was introduced in the NJ Assembly to make a clean environment a constitutional right in New Jersey. A Senate resolution followed in 2018. It is not surprising that the resolutions have been examined for over a year by the committees with jurisdiction over natural resource measures. Establishing a framework for applying, and invoking those rights is complicated and costs and benefits are factors. Management of public lands, development permitting, and energy policy must not infringe on the integrity of theenvironment.

The resolutions, SCR134 and ACR85, propose adding the following language to the State Constitution’s Declaration of Rights:
“ - every person has a right to a clean and healthy environment, including pure water, clean air, and ecologically healthy habitats, and to the preservation of the natural, historic, and esthetic qualities of the environment. The State shall not infringe upon these rights, by action or inaction;
- the State’s public natural resources, among them its waters, air, flora, fauna, climate, and public lands, are the common property of all the people, including both present and future generations. The State shall serve as trustee of these resources, and shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all people.” As with all changes to the NJ constitution, the proposal must be submitted to the voters as a ballot question in a general election. To appear on the ballot, the resolutions must be approved by both legislative chambers.

In spite of a history of leadership in environmental protection stretching back to the 1970s, New Jersey is one of only a few states without environmental rights established by either constitution or legislation. There have been varying degrees of effectiveness of measures adopted in other states. Although New Jersey is late to the movement, we are hopeful that the current administration will get it right.

Environmental advocates are now engaged in raising public awareness of the importance of an environmental rights amendment and urging legislators to pass the resolutions in time to place the question on the November ballot.

Protecting Our Ecosystem from Invasive Plants - The general public may not consider invasive plants to be much of a problem, but that is a MISTAKE. They are a serious threat to New Jersey’s native plants, agriculture, water resources, and the general health of the ecosystem. There is more to native plants than the quality of life elements of nostalgia and aesthetics. Native plants are adapted to the climate and soil of their habitats. They do not require chemical additives. They provide food, shelter, and nesting sites for birds, pollinators, fish, and other wildlife. In her popular newsletter “Garden Gang” noted Bayshore gardener and Maurice River advocate Pat Sutton points out that invasive vines and trees have damaged more than the natural environment. They have undermined historic sites and increased the costs of maintaining public and residential buildings.

Bills were introduced in the NJ Legislature to combat the threat. A4460 and S3086 would prohibit he sale, distribution, or propagation of invasive plant species that are named in the bills. This bill is very important because homeowners are unwittingly buying plants that will become problems for them and neighboring properties. Even landscapers are frequently uninformed about the plants and trees that they recommend and install. The bills were referred to the Senate Economic Growth Committee (S3086) and the Assembly Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources (A4460). To move these bills toward passage, the Committee Chairpersons must schedule hearings and committee votes. NJEL’s Executive Director communicated our appreciation to the sponsors of the bills and wrote to the Chairpersons and Committee members to urge them to schedule hearings.

Thanks go to our friends at the land and water conservation group CU Maurice River in Millville for alerting NJEL to the proposed legislation. CU has asked its members to email, call, or surface mail their state representatives to ask for support of S3086 and A4460. We encourage NJEL members to do the same. Contact Committee Chairs Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling and Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez and ask them to schedule hearings.

Emails or letters of thanks to the sponsors would also be helpful, to let them know that the public cares about the issue. The sponsors of S3086 are Senators Linda Greenstein, Nia Gill, Shirley Turner, and Christopher Bateman. The sponsors of A4460 are Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Jr. and Assemblywomen Patricia Egan Jones and Verlina Reynolds-Jackson. Although at this time there is no opportunity for votes by the full Legislature, it would be helpful to write to your district’s state representatives to request that they ask their leadership to advance the bills. You can find the contact information for these legislators and email directly to them with the link on the NJEL web site, If you don’t know the senator and assemblypersons for your district, you can find the municipalities included in each State district with the same link.

Controlling Plastic Pollution - After strong opposition by environmental organizations, an industry-written bill misrepresented as curbing single-use plastic bags was vetoed by Governor Murphy. A stronger bill, to ban plastic straws and polystyrene containers was introduced and approved by the Senate Environment Committee fairly quickly. A similar bill was introduced in the Assembly but has not advanced. Because support for these measures is growing among the public, we were cautiously optimistic that a bill would be enacted by the end of 2018. Granted, there is well-funded industry opposition to a truly effective measure, and there has been a full legislative agenda in the past year. It included measures that have needed attention for years, ranging from storm water controls, to stalled recovery funds for Super Storm Sandy victims, to education funding. Environmental organizations have stepped up their contacts with legislators, both individually and as coalitions, in an effort to move the plastic pollution bills forward. We are hopeful that the growing list of local governments that have adopted bag bans will pull the Legislature toward action. Jersey City is the latest, and the largest, city to ban single use bags. The measure, which includes virtually all retail establishments, takes effect on June 28, 2019.

Clean Stormwater & Flood Reduction Act - After years of lobbying by clean water advocates, a bill to allow local governments to establish “stormwater utilities” was enacted. The authorities would collect revenue for building and improving the infrastructure that moves the increasing volume of stormwater that is occurring across New Jersey. Contrary to what many think, a sewer authority is not the same thing. Besides the street runoff that carries petrochemicals, pet waste, and other pollutants into waterways, “combined sewers” In 21 localities, cause serious pollution of rivers and bays. Many our largest, oldest cities have aged infrastructure that funnels stormwater to sanitary sewer systems. When systems cannot handle the volume during rainfall, the “combined” flows carry sewage into waterways. Special interests who don’t want to pay for their contribution to the stormwater problem mischaracterized and derided the bill. Fortunately, the Legislature and the Governor acted on the side of the health of the water we drink, swim, and fish in. A particularly positive element of the bill is that property owners can reduce their fees by using green infrastructure and other best practices for reducing runoff.

Space Invaders: How Invasive Species Are Taking Over Our Natural Habitats -
By Carlos Lobo
This issue, we welcome Carlos Lobo as a contributor. Carlos is a 10 year old student at the Newark (Delaware) Center for Creative Learning. He became the youngest member of the Delaware Invasive Species Council after donating $53 of his own money. Carlos was honored by the Delaware State Senate for his efforts to educate others about the damage caused by invasive species.

You first meet your pet snake at two feet long. It’s one of the most popular pets in Florida. At first, it’s easy to care for, feeding it little frozen mice. But your cute little mouse-nibbling snake quickly becomes a seventeen foot-long monster that can swallow you whole. Wait a minute! Where is the cat?? Now your ‘little’ snake needs large, custom cages and a massive amount of food. You can’t chase a cute little rabbit into its cage every few weeks! And you can’t go through your days worrying about it swallowing something it shouldn’t. Mr. Slither’s diet is making you poor and a nervous wreck! So you let your beloved Titanoboa go to the great outdoors.

This is how the Burmese python is invading Florida. The pythons in Florida have made the mammal sightings in the Everglades drop by nearly 99 percent. Burmese pythons are very hard to detect so it’s hard to estimate their numbers. But researchers suggest there are up to 300,000 pythons in the Everglades and they have cost the US $500,000 to keep the habitat from dying. People are hiring snake hunters but they can’t work faster than the python’s speedy reproduction.

This kind of destruction from invasive species is happening all over the world. The money spent on invasive species in the US alone is an estimated $120 billion but even that is not enough to get rid of most invasive species! In this article, we will look at four of the most invasive species on the planet: the Burmese python, the zebra mussel, the emerald ash borer and Phragmites.

Invasive species are plants or animals brought to a place where they have no natural predators and can thrive in that environment. They always hurt the native species. Each invasive has an uncontrollable way to spread, aided by the fact they have little or no predators. Burmese pythons are almost impossible to detect and have proven quite good at lowering the population of mammals quickly. The Burmese pythons in Florida have eaten so many mammals that 77 percent of a certain type of mosquito’s diet was coming from rats since other mammals have grown scarce. As if that wasn’t enough, the rats carry Everglades virus. Everglades virus can cause fevers, headaches and inflammation of the brain. The Burmese python has made once common mammals become exceedingly rare. If we don’t start acting now, Burmese pythons might metaphorically and literally swallow the Everglades’ mammals whole!

There is also a notoriously sharp mollusk invading the Great Lakes. Zebra mussels mostly do economic damage, including 500 million dollars spent a year by water companies, like Dasani, in the Great Lakes. However, zebra mussels also do a lot of environmental damage. They eat algae which would normally feed fish and if that happens in massive amounts, it could lead to significantly less oxygen and fish. Zebra mussels have also increased the water clarity six times since they first came to the U.S. in 1988! Zebra mussels are filter feeders and they filter out and accumulate pollutants. That may sound good, but it means when birds eat them, the pollutants get into their systems and kills the birds from the inside.

Another invasive species that kills from the inside is the emerald ash borer. Now, think of one of your favorite foods. Now imagine that is one of the only things in your diet. What if that food source was threatened? This is the case for the wood duck. This is happening in Delaware and places in the northeast to animals that eat parts of the ash tree – all because of insects called emerald ash borers. The emerald ash borer’s name tells you what it does. It bores a hole through ash trees. All it takes is one larva smaller than a dime to kill a thriving ash tree. How does it do it? It creates an ugly trail of death that stops moisture and nutrients from making its way to leaves and bark. Emerald ash borers have killed over 30 million ash trees. That has decimated what has once been a healthy ecosystem. It has gotten to the point where you just don’t see ash trees anymore.

Last but not least is Phragmites, a thick grass that crowds out and kills the local plants. It spreads by seeds and roots that starve native vegetation from nutrients, sun and water. In salt marshes, it can starve native plants of much-needed salt. Phragmites isn’t a food source for native species. It is taking away good habitats for many animals but creating new ones for a very specific choice of others. It is destroying homes and food for animals. When a stalk of Phragmites falls off, it decomposes and creates soil that will harm native plants. “It raises the marsh up because it has a deep, big root mat and that makes itdrier so a lot of the aquatic species that would have lived there cannot live there anymore,” says David Carter*, who was part of a marsh restoration act. “. . . it has seriously degraded tens of thousands of acres of our tidal marshes and our wetlands.”

Each invasive species got here somehow. Burmese pythons came as popular pets. Zebra mussels attached to the bottoms of ships and then released themselves in a new land. Emerald ash borers decided they were happy with a permanent vacation made possible by importing firewood from Asia and the Port of Detroit. Phragmites? Nobody knows. The most popular means of travel is ballast water. Many invasive species have come from unfiltered ballast water. Invasive species don’t and can’t travel on their own. That means we have to be the ones to help them on their journey. Many invasive species were brought on ships by accident. At the time, we probably didn’t know or care because we had no idea what invasive species were. Some like the cane toad were brought to new countries like Australia on purpose.

Methods used to control invasive species depend on their habits and the form of environmental damage. Burmese pythons are one of the rare ones where there are few ways to control them. One is hunting. The other is using massive snake traps that close their doors when something big enough goes in. Although the methods might seem futile, they may be the difference between a not-so-healthy Everglades and a dead Everglades.

Concerning zebra mussels, it is impossible to keep up with their population. Basically, water companies remove them from their clogged pipes but they can’t be removed in the wild because using chemicals would affect native species too. In the emerald ash borer’s case, controlling them doesn’t go too far other than traps, canopy sprays to prevent females from laying eggs, and soil and trunk injections. For Phragmites, manipulating the water level has proven pretty resourceful. Repeated mowing is good for some cases, whereas fire and chemicals have proven very good together. First, you spray it and then kick out the blowtorch. Repeat two times. It may still grow back, and in that case. . . kick out the blowtorch and herbicide once again.

Now, peer into the future. The year after you let Mr. Slither go, you move to a house near the Everglades where almost everything is flourishing. The state has tried to restore the Everglades, plant life thrives, but the water is patrolled by endangered alligators only rarely. Now snakes are what the Everglades are known for. The Everglades were made a national park in 1947 because the wildlife diversity was viewed as some of the most spectacular in the world. Now, the reason is gone, along with the mammals. This is what could happen – all because of carelessness.

* David Carter worked for Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control for over 25 years.

Remembering Gene Fox -

We are sad to announce that our long-time Board member Eugene Ray Fox (Gene) passed away in July. Gene and his lovely wife Kathryn (Kathy) were great friends to NJEL and EEF for many years. Gene was a Board member of both organizations. He developed presentations for our watershed and drinking water/waste water tabletop landscape models and then provided hands-on demonstrations to elementary and middle schools as well as at public events. Gene had a carefully packaged array of colored water illustrating the different types of water runoff and he warned teachers that the sessions could be “messy.” Of course the students loved that. After some effort convincing schools to find time during the school day, Gene became so popular that teachers began calling him to schedule presentations for the next year’s classes. Gene also contributed to the NJEL newsletter. His teaching skill was evident in his articles, where he conveyed scientific information in terms all readers could understand and even enjoy.

A lifelong resident of New Jersey, Gene was born in Hillsdale and later moved to Middletown, where he graduated from Middletown High School. He held degrees from Montclair State University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and Rutgers. Gene spent most of his career at Governor Livingston Regional High School, where he taught biology, chemistry, physics, and the history of technology. He was also a National Forensics League speech and debate coach. Gene participated in many research expeditions as a volunteer with Earthwatch. He traveled as far as Panama and Norway and as close to home as Barnegat Bay, where he contributed to research on terrapins.

Gene was a founding member of the Summit Resource Recovery Corporation, Summit’s first recycling group. He served on the Board of the Summit Area Public Foundation. He volunteered with the Great Swamp Watershed Association, the Museum of Early Trades and Crafts in Madison, and the Reeves-Reed Arboretum.

Gene was an avid cyclist, often bicycling 40 to 50 miles. With Kathy, Gene enjoyed the theater and traveling. Of more than 50 cruises (on which the outdoor enthusiast enjoyed donning a tux for dinner) and many land trips, his favorite was a trip to Iceland, where he drove all the way around Iceland’s Route 1 and got to fulfill a bucket list item of standing on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Gene never stopped expanding his own knowledge base. He left the world and our state better places by helping organizations and individuals expand theirs and imparting knowledge to others in a kind and generous way. We are grateful to him, and to Kathy.
We miss him.


The New Jersey Environmental Lobby is your voice in Trenton. We are an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization focused on the preservation and protection of a healthy environment for all our citizens. We need your support! JOIN NJEL and help us change the laws!

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