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.
In 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.
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.
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.
I spent about an hour on Friday with a NJDEP official from the Bureau of Tidelands Management. There are vague stories that the prior owners of Money Island Marina did not pay the tidelands lease fees since the 1970s. What I do know is that when the prior owner emerged from the most recent bankruptcy, the NJDEP placed a lien on the properties. The language of the property lien makes it clear that it s due to actions (or inactions) of prior owners and not the current owner. We have been so busy with emergency Sandy repairs for the last four years (that are being worked out still), that I have had no time to work on it until now.
We understand that there are three types of NJDEP violations and one open investigation on these properties. At this point, I have to start with just one of them. The immediate first goal is to quantify and begin the process of paying off the old tidelands lease fees.
So I’ve spent a few hours this week beginning work on this project. The next step may involve a trip to Trenton for some in-person discussion. I will post again as BaySave makes progress.
In yesterday’s mail I received a certified mail letter from FEMA, the Federal Management Emergency Administration, admitting that the agency found previously unconsidered documents related to my Sandy flood insurance claim made almost four years ago. The letter comes in response to my attorney’s request for information under the Freedom of Information Act made more than a year ago in August 2015.
FEMA had previously denied almost all of my flood insurance claim based on information that appeared to me to be either entirely fictitious or perhaps someone else’s property. The case information that I saw bore no resemblance to my property and the photographs and notes that I saw the claim examiners make on site in my presence in late 2012 and early 2013.
The letter dated September 30, 2016, received October 8, 2016, says: “This letter is to inform you that the National Flood Insurance Program has located additional documents regarding your NFIP claim file”. FEMA now admits they have 381 pages about my claim in their case file but will only release 347 pages. FEMA is apparently refusing to release 34 pages apparently based on “Exemption 6 to the Freedom of Information Act on the basis that these pages would create an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy. I presume this might include personnel issues within FEMA and their contractors involved in the screw-up but this is only my speculation. I don’t know enough about this topic to comment further.
After all insurance and aid requests were denied, I began slowly repairing the cabin as time and money allow. The cabin was low priority because I made the aquaculture facility and infrastructure repairs my my primary focus. We had to rebuild basic support like the marina community’s water system and electric service. I have only repaired about 1/2 of the damaged items and the most expensive issues remain unresolved. The external walls look OK now, but the roof, underside and waste water system still need repair or replacement. Even it the claim were settled in full today, my legal expenses would consume at least half of that amount.