New Jersey


TAURO: Reverse Christie veto of fracking waste ban


Janet Tauro

If Gov. Chris Christie won’t stand up and fight to keep toxic waste from hydraulic fracturing out of New Jersey’s drinking water and off our roadways, the New Jersey Legislature will have to step up to the plate.

The bipartisan majority of state senators and Assembly members who voted to ban fracking waste from New Jersey must stand by their vote, and place the protection of New Jersey’s water and residents first. They need to stick together and override Christie’s veto of a bill (S-1041/A-2108) that would have prohibited the discharge, processing or storage of fracking waste in the state.

Fracking is a process increasingly used by the fossil-fuel extraction industry to release underground natural gas. It requires mixing millions of gallons of water consisting of a chemical cocktail of up to 700 ingredients such as benzene, methyl-benzene, and formaldehyde. Many of the chemicals employed in the process are poison to our bodies. They can disrupt the endocrine system and are linked to cancer and other known health problems.

This purposely chemically contaminated water is blasted into the ground, fracturing the earth to release underground gas. Gas is not the only substance that comes to the surface — millions of gallons of fracking wastewater, carcinogenic heavy metals and radioactive isotopes are brought to the surface, too. New Jersey’s treatment plants are not set up to handle wastewater and sludge from hydraulic fracturing.

These harmful substances also can seep into groundwater. While not being done in New Jersey today, some states use fracking waste as a deicer for roadways in winter and to stabilize road dust. This creates another easy pathway for contaminating waterways.

It’s a safe bet that New Jerseyans do not want fracking waste in their drinking water, rivers and bays, and no parent would want to unwittingly serve it to their child.

Christie would have us believe that we don’t have to worry about fracking waste because New Jersey doesn’t produce any. That’s a thin excuse not to pass the ban. Fracking waste from Pennsylvania has been dumped here in the past, and even though the state Department of Environmental Protection contacted those companies and advised them not to do it again, there is mounting pressure for more to come this way if neighboring states say no.

And the pressure will only increase. Pennsylvania fracking is expanding. Moratoriums on fracking in New York and the Delaware River watershed are tenuous at best. The federal government has found significant shale gas deposits in a rock formation that cuts across New Jersey from Trenton and Lambertville all the way to northern Bergen and Passaic counties.

Without a New Jersey law banning the acceptance of waste from fracking, there is nothing to prevent companies from attempting to, and successfully, dumping it here in the future.

Christie claims the bill violates the interstate commerce clause, which forbids New Jersey from setting different disposal regulations for out-of-state companies. He is wrong. The bill was specifically written to ban the processing of any fracking waste in New Jersey now or in the future, regardless of its origin. Also, the commerce clause has a public health exemption.

That’s why the bill has passed constitutional muster with the Legislature’s nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services, and our state senators and Assembly members deemed it legally, and morally, worthy of their votes not just once, but twice. However, they now need to take immediate action for a third time to reverse the governor’s ill-advised veto.

This isn’t the first time other states and industries dumped on New Jersey. During the 1980s, Gov. Tom Kean signed legislation banning the dumping of sewage waste off the Jersey Shore. He understood that doing the right thing trumps all when he said, “Our children and grandchildren deserve the right to live and work in this state free from the fears of poisons in their air, water, and earth.”

And those are words to govern by.

Janet Tauro is New Jersey board chair of Clean Water Action and founding member of GRAMMES (Grandmothers, Mothers, and More for Energy Safety).





After Sandy slammed into New Jersey’s coast in October, 2012, the state was left with the gargantuan task of collecting and disposing of nearly nine million cubic yards of debris, enough to fill a football stadium almost a mile high, according to FEMA. As soggy carpets and damaged appliances piled up on people’s curbs, landfills and incinerators around the state were granted special, emergency permits to operate longer hours and more days a week to process all the waste.

In addition to all the regular sites, the Fenimore landfill in Roxbury was very likely the final destination of some of that trash, although state officials say there’s no evidence to link the massive increase in debris at the site to Sandy. Since that time, people living near the landfill have gotten sick, the site has become entangled in a myriad of lawsuits, and some town residents feel they’ve indirectly become victims of the storm, even though they live nowhere near the Shore.

Environmentalists say Fenimore is an extreme example of what can happen when regulations aren’t strict enough. They say the landfill presents valuable lessons for how New Jersey should handle its waste, particularly in the aftermath of future disasters. They also criticize the state for not yet learning from its mistakes and are recommending a variety of changes to regulations.

For its part, the state says Fenimore was an isolated case that had “gone wrong”and points the finger at the landfill owner.

The Fenimore Backstory

Fenimore operated as a private landfill from the 1950s to the late ‘70s, accepting municipal waste from half a dozen towns in Morris County. The state shut it down in 1979, in part because it failed to meet newer environmental requirements to keep contaminants from spreading off the property.

Over the next several decades, ownership of the site changed hands several times, but it remained unused. Trees and reed grasses began to regrow on the landfill, and residential neighborhoods sprang up around the perimeter. While noting some problems, a study commissioned by the NJDEP in 2005 basically gave Fenimore a clean bill of health.

“Based on the results of the analyses of the portable well, soil, surface water, sediment, leachate, and soil gas samples collected, no conditions were found to exist at the site that pose an acute, immediate direct threat to human health. Accordingly, this site does not pose an Immediate Environmental Concern as defined by NJDEP,” the report said. Like many older landfills, Fenimore was never properly closed, though. In accordance with state requirements, closing a landfill entails covering it with a thick, Polyethylene-like liner or a layer of clay densely packed several feet thick to “minimize long term infiltration and percolation of liquid.” Gravel, cement or demolition material is sometimes mixed in to stabilize the cap, and then it’s covered with topsoil and planted with vegetation to keep it from eroding.

Fenimore is hardly unique. According to a state database, out of 814 known or suspected landfills in New Jersey that are no longer in operation, just 88 have been properly closed, while 725 – or nearly 90 percent — were never correctly capped. The state has a sanitary landfill closure fund — supported by taxes imposed on landfill operators — that’s supposed to help cover the costs of properly closing some of these older landfills, but lawmakers have routinely raided this fund, diverting more than $100 million to other uses over the past decade, said New Jersey Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel.

Relying on the Private Sector

Given the reality that it could cost billions of dollars to go back and close all these landfills, the state has increasingly turned to the private sector in recent years to pick up some of the slack. New Jersey’s most recent Energy Master Plan advocates turning landfills and brownfield sites into solar farms to help with their cleanup.

“Some of these properties cannot be developed for general commercial or residential purposes and may not provide adequate revenue to the towns and counties where they are situated,” the plan says. “However, solar development can offset the costs to cap and or remediate these sites and should be encouraged where local government has determined it to be the best use of the property.”

But while solar farms may sound like a great idea, they’re costly to build, and the return on investment could take years. In the meantime, site owners need funding to kick-start the process and prepare the land. That’s where things get complicated.

Environmentalists say the most ecologically sound method of capping a site to seal in contaminants, level it out, and provide a stable base for installation of solar panels is to simply add “clean fill” — soil that’s free of extraneous debris, solid waste or other contaminants.

“Under no circumstances does it make environmental or economic sense to bring in dirty fill, except perhaps to the landfill owner,” says Eric Goldstein, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s a major public risk, and I think you could find municipal landfill operators around the country who would say that that’s a real no-no.”

But what Goldstein proposes is much easier said than done, argues Matthew Fredericks, the attorney representing Strategic Environmental Partners (SEP), which now owns the Fenimore Landfill. SEP purchased the site in January, 2011 and signed an agreement with the Department of Environmental Protection in October of that year to close Fenimore and build a solar farm.

“If the state had all the money in the world, it would be easy. Just go around and put clean material that’s very expensive to obtain and clean these places up,” Fredericks said. “The state doesn’t have that money, and so you need an economic model that allows these sites to be capped.”

That economic model involves allowing landfill operators to accept truckloads of new debris to produce income in the form of tipping fees from contractors disposing of their waste.

“People aren’t out there just looking to spend millions and tens of millions of dollars to cap these sites,” Fredericks explained. “You need to generate funds and operating capital at the beginning before you can then start spending all the money on the stuff that eventually caps the landfill. Otherwise, financially it wouldn’t be possible.”

Practicalities aside, the practice raises concerns among some environmentalists, who say it defies logic.

“We have opposed this concept that the DEP has put in place about ‘re-opening’ landfills in order to close them,” says the Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel. “It’s sort of like fighting for peace or drinking for sobriety.”

The new debris that’s allowed to be dumped at such sites can include things like construction materials, tires, and scraps of masonry bricks and glass. Under other circumstances, that debris would be considered “solid waste” and could only be accepted at modern-day sanitary landfills, built to current environmental standards.According to state requirements, those standards include having a liner underneath the landfill’s footprint to prevent contamination from seeping into the ground and a leachate collection system to isolate and treat any contaminant runoff from the site.

Most so-called legacy landfills like Fenimore, which ceased operations prior to 1982, were not built to these standards. But these sites are permitted to accept this debris as part of their closing processes. In these cases, the debris is regulated not as “solid waste” but as “beneficial reuse materials.”

That’s not necessarily problematic, argue some waste-industry insiders, who say the use of beneficial reuse materials is a widespread practice that rarely causes any problems. State officials need to sign off on a list of acceptable materials on a case-by-case basis for each site, and — at least in theory — the approved types of debris are not supposed to create any issues.

The Source of Fenimore’s Problems

But in the case of the Fenimore Landfill, there’s one particular type of beneficial reuse material that’s drawn more attention than the rest. Along with construction site fill and water treatment plant residue, the state gave approval for the site’s owner to accept C&D screenings, a byproduct of construction and demolition debris recycling that consists of small pieces of material less than two inches in diameter and often includes scraps of gypsum wallboard. Problems can arise when the gypsum decomposes under certain environmental conditions, releasing hydrogen sulfide, a toxic and flammable gas. In high enough volumes, that gas can cause a variety of health concerns including respiratory issues, fatigue, dizziness, memory loss, or even death.

It was in November of 2012 — nearly a year after SEP began accepting truckloads of beneficial reuse materials at Fenimore — when residents of Roxbury began having problems.

“We had family here for Thanksgiving, and the smell of rotten eggs — which we later learned was hydrogen sulfide — was so bad that our eyes were burning. People were tearing. My guests had to leave. We were choking. It was terrible,” recalled Shannon Caccavella, who’s been told her home is ground zero for the worst of the fumes. “Then my daughter started in December with massive headaches. And we went to every doctor, every test imaginable: MRIs, CAT scans, pediatric neurologists . . . And it was concluded that it was from the environment, which is the Fenimore landfill.”

Elsewhere in town, kids began vomiting and getting nosebleeds as their school bus made its way along the mountainous roads circling the landfill. Residents had to cancel soccer games and barbecues. Even some dogs got sick and died, people believe, from the fumes.

And it wasn’t just the air quality. Residents say the contamination also seeped into their private wells, forcing them to purchase expensive filters to drink their own tap water or wash their clothes.

Caccavella had lived near the edge of the landfill for a decade, including the year beginning in late 2011 when new debris was being trucked in. All that time, she says she rarely if ever had any health complaints. She’s pretty sure the problems she and her neighbors now face are the result of storm debris that ended up in the landfill.

“It’s amazing how all of a sudden, Hurricane Sandy — the tragedy that happened there — was brought up to Roxbury. We just have to connect the dots,” she said.

Though it’s hard to find absolute proof of a connection, Jeff Tittel agrees the timing was no small coincidence.

“All of a sudden, all that wallboard started coming in a month or so after Sandy,” he said. “And you have to kind of wonder where it came from because it was also all wet. And that’s where the real problem started. It’s one of those things where it looks like a duck, it quacks like a duck. You know, I don’t think it’s a horse.”

Roxbury Township officials also think the two are related. Last October they passed a resolution calling on the state to provide $53 million of Sandy recovery funds to address the situation. And internal emails show the possibility of a Sandy connection was seriously considered by officials at the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Even Fenimore’s owner – Richard Bernardi – notes in legal documents that storm debris is most likely the biggest culprit.

“Every truckload that was delivered to Fenimore is documented, so we know where it came from,” explained attorney Matthew Fredericks, who represents Bernardi and SEP. “Not specifically the exact town where it originated, but we know the carriers, and we know the transfer stations that it came from. We also know that the same transfer stations and the same companies that were taking Sandy material were also simultaneously delivering to Fenimore.”

DEP Denies Sandy Connection

State officials are downplaying any links, however.

“What happened at Fenimore was not connected to Sandy,” DEP spokesman Larry Ragonese said in an email. “The contentions by some Roxbury residents about an ‘exponential increase’ in material [being trucked in] after Sandy is a false attempt to link the two.”

He acknowledged that debris accepted at Fenimore might “have contained some material that might have come from Sandy. But there was no such directive and no knowledge that Sandy materials came there in any substantive amount.”

Regardless of the source, environmentalists say it was a bad decision for the state to allow Fenimore to accept C&D screenings in the first place.

“Were they smoking crack when they thought you could bring in wallboard?” Tittel asked. “I mean, everybody knows that wallboard gives off hydrogen sulfide when it gets wet. And landfills – until they’re finally closed – will get wet. So why would you even allow that, knowing the impact that stuff would have potentially?”

Not Recyclable

To be clear, not everything can be recycled, and some scraps of gypsum wallboard that remain after building demolitions and natural disasters like Sandy do need to be disposed of somewhere. But Tittel says New Jersey should follow the lead of other states like New York in segregating construction and demolition debris from the waste stream and sending it only to landfills specially designed to accept it. After some odor complaints in 2004, New Hampshire similarly instituted a ban on the use of C&D screenings in municipal landfills. And Massachusetts now requires that recyclers remove as much gypsum as possible if C&D screenings are to be used to help close a landfill.

In New Jersey — on the other hand – all thirteen, currently operating, state-approved commercial sanitary landfills commingle construction and demolition waste with all the various other types of debris they accept.

“There’s plenty of gypsum board in New Jersey that’s landfilled every day,” said Ragonese, from the DEP. “If you do it in a proper fashion and you properly deal with your landfill and you properly put in the fill you’re supposed to every day, and deal with it as every legitimate landfill does, you don’t run into these problems.”

But Fenimore has had more than its share of problems, with critics charging the plan was flawed from the outset. In addition to the site lacking modern-day environmental safeguards, it’s also ringed by residential neighborhoods that were built much closer than they are at most other landfills. And the mountainous topography of the area may have worsened the situation, funneling fumes and runoff that might more easily dissipate in flatter terrains.

What’s more, an engineer hired by SEP testified that the C&D screenings were wet when they arrived at the site, so they were already starting to decompose, and Bernardi’s attorney claims state officials exacerbated the problems by refusing to allow SEP to spread the debris over a wider area and take other measures to eliminate the odor. He said he believes the DEP’s refusal to connect the Fenimore problems to Sandy is a politically motivated attempt to avoid taking any responsibility, and he framed SEP and Richard Bernardi as scapegoats.

Others say it’s hard to point the finger in any one direction.

“This is one of those situations where nobody comes out smelling like roses,” said the NRDC’s Eric Goldstein. “The way in which the facility was opened, the lack of environmental protections onsite, the failure to engage the public in key decision-making points . . . It’s really a case study of how to bungle a landfill closure, and unfortunately there’s enough blame to go around to both government agencies and the landfill operators.”

“Everybody blames the owner, SEP: Richard and Marilyn Bernardi,” said resident Shannon Caccavella. “But somebody had to allow them to get here. So do you start with the Highlands Council? Do you start with the NJDEP that allowed him to start dumping? Do you blame the township for allowing this to happen and not fighting harder? It’s really a viscous circle that you can go around, because the more you dig, the deeper that we start looking into it, the more names that keep popping up.” In response to health concerns and persistent odor complaints from residents, state lawmakers passed a bill in June of last year to seize control of the site and allow the DEP to begin remediation. Since that time, officials have installed a number of wells around the landfill to pump out the hydrogen sulfide gas, burn it off and filter it, and they’ve also put air monitors around the perimeter of the site. Later this month, the state plans to award a contract to a company to cap the 19 acre portion of the 65 acre site where the new debris was brought, with hopes to complete the project by the end of the year.

“We were going to have a solar project on an old landfill, clean up the landfill to proper, current standards and add a green component. And that was the plan for Fenimore,” said Ragonese. “That plan went wrong, and we all know that. We wish we didn’t go into business with Mr. Bernardi, and we wouldn’t do it today, but it happened, and it’s done. The goal was to do something good. In this case it didn’t work, but we’re making it better now.”

Indeed, residents say the air quality has improved and that the fumes aren’t as persistent or severe as they once were. But the issue remains contentious, with various lawsuits winding their way through the courts and a vocal citizens’ activist group continuing to call for the state to dig up the contaminated debris and truck it out of town.

Meanwhile, environmentalists think New Jersey would do well to heed what they see as the many lessons of this whole experience.

“We turned what could have been something positive — solar on a landfill — And we turned it into a toxic nightmare for a community. And the problem that I see is that DEP has not learned from their mistakes,” said Jeff Tittel.

Assuming there’s a Sandy connection as most people think there is, Eric Goldstein’s biggest takeaway is that New Jersey needs to engage in more leadership from the top and move beyond its home rule traditions, which delegate emergency debris removal plans and procedures primarily to counties and municipalities. He’s calling for the creation of a statewide disaster debris management plan as other places likeConnecticut have done.

“The objective ought to be to put in place a comprehensive road map so that officials know exactly where our wastes will go following the next disaster,” he said. “To line up the contractors, to identify the haulers, to identify the markets for materials so that the government agencies and towns and municipalities are not forced to scramble in the immediate, chaotic aftermath of the next giant storm that comes down the pike. That’s what wasn’t done before Sandy and it still is not really being done to a large degree, even as we speak.”

Back in Roxbury, residents continue to go about their daily lives, constantly aware of the potential dangers lurking in their community. Town officials are developing a mobile app so people can more easily check up-to-the minute air quality results from monitors around the landfill. The local elementary school also keeps a close eye on the readings to determine whether to let the kids out for recess.

“This is a very difficult situation for a fantastic township,” said Township Manager Christopher Raths. “We’re going to properly address this situation within the means that we have, and we will continue to push whatever agency it is to give us the proper reports and take the proper action to make sure that this facility is abated in the best interests of the health of our residents.”

In the meantime, until the problems at Fenimore are resolved, Shannon Caccavella says she feels trapped, with no way to escape.

“How do you walk away from your house?” she asked. “Nobody’s going to buy your house. People can’t sell their houses. The house is contaminated. So where do you go? What do you do? It’s a very sad situation.”

Photo by Rae Lynn Stevenson

Securing chemicals to prevent another Paulsboro accident


One month ago, more than 200 homes in South Jersey were evacuated after a train carrying highly toxic and flammable chemicals derailed from a bridge into a creek near Paulsboro. Four rail cars that ended up in Mantua Creek contained vinyl chloride. One released 23,000 gallons of vinyl chloride, which formed a cloud of toxic gas that drifted into the community.

Photo by Rae Lynn Stevenson

The incident may seem isolated, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. What happened there could happen with devastating consequences across New Jersey — and across the United States.

There are 473 chemical facilities in America today that pose a danger to populations of 100,000 or more, and 89 plants that place a million or more people at risk of immediate injury or death from toxic chemical exposure.

The Paulsboro Refining Co.’s refinery uses hydrogen fluoride that puts up to
3.1 million people at risk. In South Kearny, the Kuehne chemical facility processes chlorine gas that risks the lives of nearly 12 million people, according to company reports to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Paulsboro was bad, but the true impacts may not be known for years or even generations. Vinyl chloride is a dangerous, highly flammable chemical that, according to the EPA, causes liver damage and is known to cause cancer in humans. It took more than two weeks to remove the railcars from the creek, a tributary of the Delaware River, which provides drinking water for 15 million people.

More than 70 people were hospitalized after the vinyl chloride release. Monitoring found very high levels in the community. Hundreds were eventually evacuated and others were told to shelter-in-place. Fortunately, no one was killed.

This accident was far from the first in 2012. In October, a freight train carrying butadiene derailed just outside of Louisville, Ky. The collision resulted in an explosion and fire that hurt five workers and forced evacuations. How much worse would this have been if the train were passing through densely populated Louisville?

There’s more. In June and July, two derailments in the Midwest led to explosions and evacuations. In January, three trains collided in Indiana. And in one of the worst rail accidents in recent history, nine people died and 250 more were treated for chlorine exposure after 60 tons of the toxic gas were released in a 2005 train accident in Graniteville, S.C.

In the wake of the Paulsboro accident, some are calling for stricter train safety standards, though new standards won’t solve the underlying problem. What we need is to do something about the massive amounts of hazardous chemicals we transport by rail and store in facilities that put the health of thousands of workers and communities at risk. We know safer chemicals and options exist; the industry should use them rather than ship thousands of pounds of toxic chemicals across the country.

Aware of the dangers posed by these plants since 9/11, Congress drafted bills to secure chemical facilities and limit the storage and use of deadly toxins at the plants. After the attacks in New York, it became clear that the vulnerability of chemical facilities posed grave threats to national security. In Washington, officials ended the storage of potentially deadly toxins at the largest wastewater plant in the region just 90 days after 9/11, fearing the plant was a security risk. This move eliminated risks to more than a million people, including anyone on Capitol Hill.

And then a curious thing happened: As the chemical industry pressured representatives to delay the safeguards, President George W. Bush blocked promising rules by the EPA to prevent such a disaster at our highest-risk chemical plants. And now, a decade later, these plants still pose a threat.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The EPA has the power to use its existing authority under the Clean Air Act to safeguard chemical plants and reduce the use of deadly chemicals, including vinyl chloride, at these sites. It won’t be easy, but action to begin securing dangerous chemicals would protect the health and lives of millions, including at-risk New Jerseyans.

Republicans and Democrats were united in their desire to protect families from accidents and acts of terror targeting chemical plants post-9/11. It’s time to unite again, for Paulsboro and the many other communities affected by toxic chemicals.

We have known about this danger for too long. We have seen too many near misses for the Obama administration, which has expressed support for these policies, to continue to delay. This action as one of outgoing EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s final acts could cement her legacy, in New Jersey and nationwide. This is not just an environmental issue. It’s an issue of worker and public safety, and national security. How many more accidents do we need before we acknowledge the risks the storage and transport of these chemicals pose?

The time to act is now, before the next toxic spill takes place in Trenton, New York City, Philadelphia or any of the other hundreds of cities and towns that are one accident or act of sabotage away from disaster. We must act now, to prevent another Paulsboro.

Mike Schade is markets campaign coordinator with the Center for Health, Environment & Justice.

** This op-ed originally appeared in the NJ Star Ledger on Sunday December 30, 2012:

Photo by Rae Lynn Stevenson

Paulsboro Train Accident Reveals Dangers Posed by Chemical Transportation and Production to Communities and Workers


Trains leaking toxic vinyl chloride into air and water. Vinyl chloride is used to manufacture PVC/vinyl plastic. Photo: Rae Lynn Stevenson/South Jersey Times

(Paulsboro, NJ) As over 200 homes continue to be evacuated due to the vinyl chloride train disaster, environmental and labor organizations called on the Obama Administration to use its power under the Clean Air Act to require chemical manufacturers to use safer available chemical processes and eliminate chemical disaster risks.   Groups also highlighted how the production and transportation of the carcinogen vinyl chloride to manufacture vinyl plastic, poses health hazards to communities and workers.

“This is the second major derailment of ultra-hazardous rail cars since the October 29th derailment near Louisville, KY,” said Rick Hind, Legislative Director of Greenpeace. “It was only a matter of luck that no one was killed in either of these accidents but people  were forced to seek medical treatment. Luck is not an acceptable policy when thousands of lives are at stake. Today there are safer available processes that should be required so that poison gases are no longer shipped through our communities. The graffiti on thousands of rail cars is proof that no one can protect them from mischief or a terrorist, and accidents are all too common. The Obama administration has championed this issue in Congress but also has the authority to require the use of safer processes. Once safer chemical processes are in use, rail car derailments will no longer pose a threat to entire cities.”

“Vinyl chloride is an extremely toxic chemical that causes cancer according to the EPA,” said Mike Schade, Campaign Coordinator for the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ). “Friday’s train accident sent a toxic plume of this dangerous plastics chemical into people’s homes, sending dozens of residents and workers to the hospital, and leading many more to shelter in place and evacuate.  This is not the first time vinyl chloride has sickened communities.  Earlier this year a vinyl plastics plant in Louisiana exploded, sending a plume of toxic pollution downwind.  Safer alternatives are available, and that’s why leading businesses such as Apple, Google, Johnson & Johnson and Nike have committed to phasing it out.  This unfortunate accident highlights how vinyl is the most toxic plastic for children’s health and the environment.”

“The final destination of the railcars has not been reported, but we do know thousands of railcars of toxic chemicals traverse the country each day,” said Denise Patel, Project Coordinator for NJ Work Environment Council. “We also know that many of these chemicals can be produced on site in smaller quantities to avoid transporting them. New Jersey requires all plants using large quantities of highly hazardous chemicals to review options for safer alternatives. Since adopting the requirement under NJ’s Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act in 2005, 41 of New Jersey’s 85 most dangerous facilities, including oil refineries and chemical plants, have taken steps to reduce inventories of toxic chemicals, installed new equipment and processes to reduce the risk of accidents, and take other measures to make plants safer for workers and communities.  The EPA should use its authority under the Clean Air Act to do the same. The idea has garnered support from over 100 labor and environmental organizations, and former NJ Governor Christie Whitman.  In light of this disaster, we urge the Obama Administration to act quickly.”

Resources for journalists:

August 2012 chemical disaster prevention op-ed by former NJ Gov. Christine Todd Whitman in The New York Times:

July 2012 chemical disaster prevention petition to the EPA from 50+ organizations:

May 2012 Coalition letter to president Obama from 100+ organizations calling for chemical disaster prevention policy:

March 2012 National Environmental Justice Advisory Council letter to

the EPA:

Interactive Google mapping program to finding a high risk chemical facility anywhere in the U.S.:

Background on the dangers of vinyl:



NJ State Passes Fracking Waste Ban


The New Jersey State Senate passed legislation to ban the processing and treatment of waste from hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. Environment New Jersey and allies built support for the Senate bill (S253) after passage in the Assembly. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Bob Gordon (D-38) and Sen. Jen Beck (R-12), passed by a bipartisan landslide margin of 30-5, and gained momentum with the disclosure that fracking waste was already being shipped to New Jersey. Read more . . .