Daily Archives: July 8, 2011

Is New Jersey Playing Games with Fracking Ban?

The following commentary from Dennis Anderson, Chair of the Jersey Shore (Monmouth) Group of the Sierra Club and Joellen Lundy, President of N.J. Friends of Clearwater appears on the website Newjerseynewsroom.com as well as a few other sites.

I post it here because the subject of hydraulic fracturing(fracking) shale in order to release natural gas deposits that were unattainable before the process was developed, has become a very big issue. The chemicals that are used in the process have polluted ground water and surrounding lands with hazardous and carcinogenic residues, guest blogger Linda Baum posted a column about fracking and it’s dangers here back in April.

Since then a number of articles on the subject, both Pro and Con, have been making there way into the media.
Legislation banning Fracking in NJ, is sitting on Governor Christie’s desk waiting for his signature. Why he hasn’t signed it yet is anyone’s guess.
NJ is the most densely populated state in the nation and our natural resources will be placed at risk if franking is allowed to continue without the proper safety constraints in place to ensure that drinking water, wildlife and the general population are not placed risk:

Opponents of the environmentally damaging practice now sweeping the country of hydrofracking shale deposits for natural gas were delighted last week when the N.J. Legislature voted to ban the practice. The vote, 33 to 1 in the Senate and 51 to 11 in the Assembly, showed such a rare bi-partisan agreement so absent in today’s political discourse that many environmentalists hoped New Jersey’s politicians finally recognized that solving the state’s pollution problems transcends partisan bickering.

We hope this is the case, but we’re not sure. Gov. Christie, who has become increasingly hostile to the state’s environmental problems, has yet to sign the bill. If he does, it will be a watershed event. But will he? Sen. Joseph M. Kyrollis Jr. did not vote on the bill but offered an amendment — rejected by the Senate — to ban hydrofracking for five years. But why would Kyrollis delay hydrofracking?

There is growing public anger over hydrofracking, which requires enormous amounts of water and a number of toxic chemicals that the frackers are not required by law to report. Vice President Dick Cheney accomplished this dodge while in office. These undisclosed chemicals pollute both underground and surface water supplies. This debacle is very hard for politicians to support, so we may be seeing a “pretend” vote where pro-development politicians duck citizens’ ire by voting against hydrofracking, knowing that the governor will use his veto power to avoid an out-right ban and force environmentally responsible politicians to accept Kyrollis’ “compromise” that opens the door in five years.

The state of New Jersey deserves better. Until hydrofracking is absolutely safe, it must be banned. The first step would be to require complete disclosure of the chemicals they plan on indirectly pumping into our water supply.

Leave a comment

Filed under Fracking, Gov. Chris Christie, hydrofracking, Joe Kyrillos, Linda Baum, natural gas drilling, New Jersey Newsroom, NJ Friends of Clearwater, Sierra club

Savings From Middletown Solar Project Questioned

By guest blogger Linda Baum

Anyone who attended the Middletown Town Committee meeting on June 20th got to see Birdsall Engineering’s presentation of its solar feasibility study. A pdf version of that presentation is now on the town’s website. The Birdsall representative, Jessica Vogel, repeatedly emphasized the 9 cent solar electric rate assumed in Birdsall’s savings analysis, and the Town Committee joined her in repeating the $6.6 million savings achieved over 15 years.

Interestingly, the analysis doesn’t list what assumptions were made in arriving at that savings figure (labeled “cost avoidance” in the study). To know what you’d save, you have to know what you’d otherwise pay, right? So Birdsall would have to have known what the town pays its supplier for the electricity.

I brought up this issue at the town workshop meeting on July 6th. I learned that currently the town pays around 11 cents per kilowatt hour. I played with the Birdsall numbers — they assume a utility rate of more than 17.5 cents, and rising. I asked about the other assumptions used in the study. Committeeman Settembrino said that the panels are expected to produce 0.5% less electricity each year, but the Birdsall numbers assume that production will drop by only 0.25% each year.

The effect of those inaccuracies is to make it appear that the town will achieve much bigger savings than they actually will. Per Birdsall, a 9 cent per kilowatt hour rate for solar electricity (escalating by 3% each year) will produce savings over 15 years of $6.6 million. Had they used accurate inputs, the savings figure would be closer to $1 million. But if the town is able to get a utility rate closer to the county’s current rate of around 9 or 9.5 cents, there will be no savings at all.

The Town Committee said that they hadn’t checked the numbers in the study and pointed out that Birdsall is a reputable firm. So who am I to question them, right?? They asked what I was getting at. They said, “If the savings are lower, should we not do this? Are you saying we shouldn’t provide tax relief to residents?”

Whoa!!! No, that is not what I’m saying at all. I’m all for solar. Always have been. But I’m also for truth and accuracy. If the assumptions underlying Birdsall’s analysis are inaccurate, then the study does a poor job of assessing feasibility. And wasn‘t that the point? Does that mean we shouldn’t pursue solar? No. It means we should be looking for a much better deal than 9 cents per kwh.

I have to wonder why no one on the Town Committee seemed more concerned that Birdsall’s numbers are wrong. If the town is using the study as a guide to assess offers from developers, then they will be ill-equipped to do so.

Leave a comment

Filed under Birdsall Service Group, cost analysis, kilowatt hour, Middletown Township Committee, solar energy, solar panels, solar project, tax relief, utility rates