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N.J. environment's defenders uneasy; List of threats keeps growing

The industrialization of the ocean, coastal overdevelopment, contaminated sites and global warming will be among the top environmental issues in the Garden State next year, observers said. "What we're seeing is a gold rush toward energy development in the ocean," said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, a Sandy Hook-based coastal conservation coalition. "We gotta take better care of the coast," he said.

The industrialization of the ocean, coastal overdevelopment, contaminated sites and global warming will be among the top environmental issues in the Garden State next year, observers said.

"What we're seeing is a gold rush toward energy development in the ocean," said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, a Sandy Hook-based coastal conservation coalition.

"We gotta take better care of the coast," he said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission may decide next year whether to approve a 20-year license renewal for the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey. A coalition of six national, state and local groups has been fighting the idea since 2005.

The 39-year-old plant's operating license will expire in April, but Oyster Creek can keep running if the NRC hasn't made a decision by then.

New Jersey has an enormous list of environmental issues on its plate, including more than 20,000 contaminated sites, water pollution, sprawling development and a growing thirst for energy.

Coastal and ocean issues, including potential wind turbine projects, liquefied natural gas facilities and oil and gas drilling, heated up in 2008 and are likely to remain on the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The industrialization of the ocean, coastal overdevelopment, contaminated sites and global warming will be among the top environmental issues in the Garden State next year, observers said.

"What we're seeing is a gold rush toward energy development in the ocean," said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, a Sandy Hook-based coastal conservation coalition.

"We gotta take better care of the coast," he said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission may decide next year whether to approve a 20-year license renewal for the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in Lacey. A coalition of six national, state and local groups has been fighting the idea since 2005.

The 39-year-old plant's operating license will expire in April, but Oyster Creek can keep running if the NRC hasn't made a decision by then.

New Jersey has an enormous list of environmental issues on its plate, including more than 20,000 contaminated sites, water pollution, sprawling development and a growing thirst for energy.

Coastal and ocean issues, including potential wind turbine projects, liquefied natural gas facilities and oil and gas drilling, heated up in 2008 and are likely to remain on the front-burner next year.

Activists will work to ensure that "marine water quality protection has the high priority that it deserves" within President-elect Barack Obama's administration, said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Sandy Hook-based Clean Ocean Action, a coalition of 125 groups.

A potential federal stimulus package could provide funding for wastewater, water supply, transportation and other projects, said Mark N. Mauriello, acting commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection. He called it "the silver economic lining" in a dark cloud.

He's also optimistic that legislation to reform the DEP's Site Remediation Program will be approved next year.

Until tainted sites are cleaned up and become productive again, "we're not going to make the progress we need to," Mauriello said.

David Pringle, campaign director for the New Jersey Environmental Federation, said he thinks global warming and overdevelopment are the top two issues facing the coast.

"If we don't get our act together in the next 15 years, Long Beach Island is ultimately going to be a sandbar" due to sea-level rise, Pringle said.

Plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change are outlined in a draft state global warming report.

As for overdevelopment, "Barnegat Bay is fast approaching being a glorified sewer detention basin because we aren't managing our land and waters that drain into that bay appropriately," Pringle said.

The DEP and other groups are working on plans to limit the flow of nutrients into the threatened bay, which is suffering from algae blooms, loss of sea grass and shellfish, and an influx of sea nettles - jellyfish that sting.

"We need to get a better handle on the state of the bay," Mauriello said.

New state rules on water quality management planning provide a road map for sustainable future growth in New Jersey, he said. The rules account for the ability to handle wastewater, water supplies, endangered species habitat, wetlands and flood plains.

"There's plenty of room to develop," Mauriello said. "It's just we have to make sure we're doing it in the right places and that's a key."

Meanwhile, next year, three companies plan to install meteorological towers for collecting wind and ecological data in advance of potential wind turbine projects off the Jersey Shore in several years. The wind farms would be off Atlantic or Cape May counties.

New Jersey's energy master plan calls for potentially hundreds of offshore wind turbines for generating clean, renewable energy by 2020. But some activists oppose or question that idea, citing concerns about environmental protections will be adequate.

In addition, three companies have proposed liquefied natural gas facilities in the Atlantic more than 15 miles off Monmouth County.

The state's energy master plan welcomes LNG facilities that meet strict environmental standards, but Clean Ocean Action vehemently opposes the proposed projects.

On a related front, the federal Minerals Management Service may decide to lease ocean bottom at least 50 miles off Virginia in 2011 for drilling for oil and natural gas.

In a Monmouth University/Gannett New Jersey poll conducted in July, most New Jersey residents said they would support drilling off New Jersey. But activists are concerned that any spills could affect New Jersey's coast and waters.

"I think there's going to be a lot of pressure to open the ocean up for oil and gas drilling, either off Virginia or even off New Jersey," said Dillingham, of the American Littoral Society.

With a gubernatorial election in November 2009, New Jersey residents can expect political hopefuls to discuss a range of the state's challenges and issues. To prepare readers, the Press has launched a nine-part series of stories, 9 in '09, on issues facing the state. Today's installment focuses on the environment.

This story includes material from previous Press stories and Gannett News Service.


Source: http://www.app.com/article/...

DEC 29 2008
http://www.windaction.org/posts/18420-n-j-environment-s-defenders-uneasy-list-of-threats-keeps-growing
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