EPA proposed budget cuts affecting the Delaware Bay

As far as I know, the EPA has apparently not commented on the authenticity of this budget proposal published in several newspapers. Senator Booker communicated some degree of doubt in a tweet yesterday. The line items most likely to affect us in the Delaware Bay region of New Jersey are highlighted. In most cases that are relevant to us, the EPA funds programs administered by the State of New Jersey so it is difficult to forecast exactly what the impact will be.

The program administrators I communicated with this week, mostly through social media, are seriously concerned.

Program 2016 2018 Change
SF Bay (EPA) 4.8 0 -100%
Great Lakes restoration (EPA) 300 10 -97%
Endocrine disruptors (EPA) 7.5 0.445 -94%
Enviro education (EPA) 8.7 0.555 -94%
Chesapeake Bay (EPA) 73 5 -93%
Puget Sound (EPA) 28 2 -93%
US Mexico border (EPA) 3 0.275 -91%
Radon (EPA) 2.9 0.505 -83%
Gulf of Mexico (EPA) 4.5 1 -78%
Environmental justice (EPA) 6.7 1.5 -78%
Small minority business assistance (EPA) 1.7 0.4 -76%
Climate protection (EPA) 95 29 -69%
Research – air climate energy (EPA) 92 46 -50%
Sustainable and Healthy Communities (EPA) 140 76 -46%
Brownfields (EPA) 25 14 -44%
Safe & sustainable water resources (EPA) 107 70 -35%
Research – chem safety & sustainability (EPA) 89 62 -30%
Lead RRP (EPA) 13.3 9.4 -29%
Leaking underground storage tanks (EPA) 11.3 8 -29%
Right to Know (TRI) (EPA) 13.9 10.7 -23%
Tribal capacity building (EPA) 14.4 11.8 -18%
Marine Pollution (EPA) 10.1 8.6 -15%
Compliance monitoring (EPA) 101 88 -13%
Civil Enforcement (EPA) 171 153 -11%
Diesel emissions reduction act (state grants) 50 0 -100%
Multipurpose grants (state grants) 21 0 -100%
Targeted airsheds (state grants) 20 0 -100%
US-Mexico border targeted watershed (state grants) 10 0 -100%
Beach water quality testing (state grants) 9.5 0 -100%
Radon (state grants) 8 0 -100%
Brownfields (state grants) 48 33 -31%
Tribes – air quality management (state grants) 12.9 8.9 -31%
Pesticides implementation (state grants) 12.7 8.8 -31%
Toxic substances compliance (state grants) 4.9 3.4 -31%
Wetlands (state grants) 14.7 10.2 -31%
Underground injection (state grants) 10.5 7.3 -30%
Drinking water grants (state grants) 102 71 -30%
Nonpoint source pollution (state grants) 165 115 -30%
Air quality grants (state grants) 228 159 -30%
Water pollution control (state grants) 230 161 -30%
Lead (state grants) 14 9.8 -30%
Tribal general assistance program (state grants) 65 46 -29%
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14 Money Island projects threatened by federal budget cuts

Most of the infrastructure projects at the Money Island Marina community are developed and managed locally but funded through a combination of private and public funds. The most common funding formula is that we fund 100% of a project in advance and then the state uses federal funding to reimburse 75% of the approved costs. Since not all costs are refundable, it usually works out to something like a 50/50 split. We work with governments and other partners whenever possible to reach a level of cooperation that allows important projects to move forward.

While nothing is certain yet, this blog post is simply meant to build a list of the possible consequences of the Republican’s new budget slashing of environmental programs funded directly or indirectly through the EPA that would change Money Island New Jersey operating plan for 2017 and beyond:

  1. shoreline stabilization projects
  2. oyster reef recovery research
  3. dune building research
  4. channel dredging*
  5. roadway stabilization*
  6. waste water handling system
  7. boat pump out station
  8. boat ramp extension
  9. transient vessel dockage
  10. aquaculture education program
  11. waterfront development permits for aquaculture
  12. underground storage tank removal
  13. oyster safety monitoring program*
  14. overharvesting enforcement*

* These are 100% government controlled and funded, partially through EPA funds paid to the state.

We will continue to communicate with our partners as well as federal and state agencies to try to keep these projects on track. However, if the funding offer from federal government is withdrawn, we will likely be stalled here for an uncertain time.

Thanks LoBiondo for environmental support

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Congressman Frank LoBiondo has been a strong supporter of the Delaware Bay region, our environment and our businesses. This photo was taken on his recent visit to Money Island in August 2016 where he spoke about the difficulty in promoting our environmental interests in Washington. His efforts are largely responsible for the EPA-funded restoration projects here.

This week NJ.com recognizes LoBiondo as one of only a few Republican leaders nationwide willing to stand up to the to repeal environmental restrictions on the coal industry.

Earlier in 2016 the Congressmen met with me and a group of other concerned residents still fighting to settle Sandy insurance claims years after FEMA fraud admissions.

I am grateful for Congressman LoBiondo’s efforts and feel blessed to have him represent us in Washington DC.

First score for fishermen

News reports say that fishermen had a role in convincing Republicans in Washington to abandon HR 621 that would have led to the sale of 3.3 million acres to oil and gas drillers.

RIP Stream Protection Rule, RIP public rulemaking process

dsc_0006In May 2015 , the U.S. federal government’s Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Office introduced the Stream Protection Rule that addresses the balance of interests between clean water and the needs of the coal industry. The indication was that this was based on new scientific information about the damaging effects of coal dust in water systems. I have not reviewed the underlying science (and the science is not the focus of this article) but note that it was considered later in public comments. The intent of the rule was to limit effluents coming from runoff from coal mining.

The Delaware River watershed and the Delaware Bay region was only peripherally affected by the legislation compared to other parts of the country. As a result, the local environmental organizations that  work with were only minimally involved in the legislative process. Some local people are concerned that coal runoff has adversely affected sturgeon that were once abundant in the Delaware River and bay. The federal rule making agency found no basis for that concern and did not consider the risk in this rulemaking process.

More than 18 months of public meetings, hearing and collection of public comments followed the introduction of this rule. As expected, there was both support and opposition. In general, the coal industry wants no additional regulation while environmentalists want rules to ensure clean water. 95,000 public comments on the rule were collected during this period. The federal rule making process moved forward as expected in the usual fashion by considering all of this massive public input. The discussion over extensive public comments are listed in the federal register and can be viewed at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/12/20/2016-29958/stream-protection-rule.

After about 18 months of public vetting, the Stream Protection Rule became law in December 2016 as a modest step in preserving the quality of our water system.

Today, February 1, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.J.Res.38 – “Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior known as the Stream Protection Rule”. In a single vote, these elected officials set aside all the work that had balanced the interests of industry and the environment and simply bullied their forced agenda on the affected citizens.

I am saddened to witness yet another defeat for the democratic process and a step back for our Delaware water system.

Mid-Atlantic oil and gas drilling update

Puzzled by recent news about Mid-Atlantic oil and gas news? I am. The dramatic swings in position in the past decade have been difficult to follow. News reports say that today’s action by President Obama stabilize the situation for the foreseeable future and squelch offshore drilling here. Some reports say that today’s action may survive as the longest-lived impact of Obama’s presidency.

This article on Sierra Club’s web site does a good job explaining the progress on the issue up until March of this year. At that time it appeared that the administration supported offshore energy exploration here.

The bottom line seems to be that we won’t hear more about offshore drilling here on the mid-Atlantic coast. I am skeptical. We’ve gone to great lengths and pains to support our addiction to oil and gas. Only time will tell.

Agonizingly slow aquaculture progress

For the past eight years I have been working through nonprofit BaySave Corporation on necessary reforms to New Jersey’s outdated land use and aquaculture regulations with embarrassingly little result. During that time we’ve watched Virginia, Maryland and now Delaware soar past us in this blossoming industry that is crucial to a sustainable future here on the Delaware Bay.

In 2010 BaySave became the target of a NJDEP cease and desist order for oyster restoration research and then in 2015 and continuing into this year became the target of local township’s prosecution on Certificate of Occupancy law for our use of a bankrupt marina property as a nonprofit aquaculture co-op operation in Money Island while we are waiting for necessary government permits. This is surprising based on the strong degree of support expressed by state and federal elected officers and their staff. There is no debate about how powerful aquaculture could be in restoring our local economy. The $20 million annual seafood crop coming from Money Island could increase by tenfold with appropriate government cooperation.

At the pace we are moving, I won’t live long enough to see Money Island established as the hub of aquaculture development here in the state. Yesterday I received this email from the well-respected government relations specialist and political lobbyist for the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants:

“Tony, it sounds to me like you are doing almost everything humanly possible to move this issue forward. Very often, stupid regulations are simply never removed, despite the need for it. All I can suggest is that you stay in touch with Van Drew and that you forward your concerns about these regulations to the NJ Red Tape Review Commission. One other thing you might try is to get more people to write to the Governor on this issue. There is strength in numbers and ultimately all rules are repealed or initiated with the input of the Governor”.

I am already working with State Senator Van Drew, the Governor’s office and the Red Tape Commission (through a peer CPA who is a member of the commission) but have not tried to organize any mass public appeal directly to the governor’s office. Perhaps that is something I need to learn next.

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