SPACE HOGS FACE EXTINCTION

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Back in June 2006, on the very first day of redbankgreen‘s humble existence, we couldn’t resist taking a dig at the prevalence of Hummers on the streets of the borough that gives this hyperlocal news site its name.

Everywhere, it seemed, were ginormous H2s sticking out of parking spots like blivits.

Well, that was before the recession hit. And today comes word that the whole Hummer line is now facing extinction.

From the Los Angeles Times:

General Motors Co. said Wednesday that it was unable to complete a deal to sell its Hummer line to Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co., a Chinese industrial company.

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IN PURSUIT OF SUSTAINABILITY

rb-green-teamAlan Placer, left, and Andres Simonson are two of the faces behind Red Bank’s effort to reduce adverse impacts on the natural environment.

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Before it even meets for the first time, Red Bank’s newest subcommittee has already chipped away at its goal.

Made up of volunteer residents, business owners and local officials, the Environmental Commission‘s Green Team was formed a couple months ago in a quest to have Red Bank join dozens of other towns in the state working toward the environmentally friendly, incentive-based municipal certification program Sustainable Jersey.

When it holds its first meeting next month, the Green Team plans to set the wheels in motion to earn the certification by June, said member Andres Simonson, who is also the Environmental Commission chairman.

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A RUNNING START FOR BIKE/PED PROPONENTS

img_4370102109Jenny Rossano of Worthley Street and her map, below, with half-mile radii drawn around each of Red Bank’s five schools and suggested bike routes in red. (Click to enlarge)

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[See editor’s note at the bottom of this post]

A grassroots push for safer ways to get Red Bank kids to school on foot or bicycle kicked off with a well-attended town hall-style meeting at the borough middle school Wednesday night.

A borough resident who makes her living as a civil engineer unveiled a map showing proposed new safe routes to each of the five schools in town. A state Department of Transportation official pledged to help the borough snag as much public money as possible for everything from driver awareness efforts to reconfigured intersections, if necessary. A police traffic safety expert gave a thumbs-up to the initiative as a complement to accident-reduction efforts. And the borough engineer spoke about how it could dovetail with existing efforts to improve walkability in the 1.8-square-mile town.

“We have a lot of momentum already,” said Jim Willis of Harrison Avenue, the principal organizer of Red Bank Safe Routes, at the conclusion of the 90-minute event, which drew several dozen residents and local officials.

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RED BANK HOUSE, LINCROFT CHURCH ON TOUR

solar-houseReady for its moment in the sun: the Ptak house on West Westside Avenue. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It’s not uncommon for Peter Ptak to have complete strangers knocking on his door, poking around his yard and asking him a list of questions about that funny-looking roof of his. So when a steady flow of strangers show up this Saturday, it won’t be such a big deal.

But in a sense it is.

Saturday is the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association‘s annual Green Buildings Open House, which showcases local projects like Ptak’s solar-powered home, to interested locals.

Its purpose is to show the public that living in a more sustainable and energy efficient home is somewhat simple, even if it extends beyond screwing in a couple compact fluorescent light bulbs.

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BOROUGH HALL TO UNDERGO ENERGY AUDIT

rb-borough-hallThe borough acquired and renovated the onetime auto showroom and office building in 1997. (Click to enlarge)

The home of Red Bank’s government is about to get a going-over by a team of energy experts looking for drafts and lights left burning when no one’s around.

Under a $7,947 contract with Steven Winter Associates of East Brunswick, the audit also calls for an evaluation of the Senior Citizens Center on Shrewsbury Avenue.

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COUPLE PLAGUED BY OIL LEAK

Ever wondered what would happen if the soil under your home or yard suddenly became contaminated with heating oil?

And how much worse it would be if it wasn’t even your oil?Hot Topic

Today’s Asbury Park Press has a story about the travails of John & Pam Ross of Red Bank, who are “prisoners of their own house,” writes reporter Larry Higgs.

The Leighton Avenue couple have been stuck for two years, since oil from two homes away from theirs seeped onto their property, the Press reports.

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LNG ISLAND IN THE SPOTLIGHT

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By JoANN PILEGGI

A proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) transfer facility that backers see as a fix to energy woes and opponents call “Insanity Island” gets its first public airing tonight.

The showdown pits dozens of environmental groups against Atlantic Sea Island Group, a company that bills its project as a “safe energy harbor” to be built in the Atlantic about 19 miles due east of Sea Bright, in 65 feet of water.

The venue for the showdown: a hearing on the proposed deepwater port held jointly by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration at the Sheraton of Eatontown. An open house starting at 4:30p is to be followed by the hearing, from 6 to 8p.

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PLASTIC BAG BAN BLOWS BACK INTO TOWN

BagA stray bag flutters along Monmouth Street in September.

Six weeks after it was tabled amid concerns about its financial impacts on stores, a proposed ban on plastic shopping bags is back before the Red Bank Council tonight.

The law, the wording of which appears unchanged since it was derailed in September, would ban store distribution of plastic checkout bags starting July 1, 2009, and carry fines of up to $500 for multiple violations. Here’s the text: Download 200820_111008.pdf

Councilman Mike DuPont, the law’s sponsor, says the ban is accommodating to business owners in that “it gives them until next July” to restructure their systems to encourage greater use of sturdier reusable bags.

But Phil Scaduto, vice president of Food Circus, owner of the SuperFoodtown store on Broad Street, is feeling sandbagged.

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SKY-HIGH ON SOLAR

HobbymasterssolarAlan Placer on what used be called the roof but he now calls the “third floor” of Hobbymasters — the floor that makes money from the sun.

The solar panels are all in, and by this time next week, Arlene Placer of Hobbymasters on White Street can send JCP&L a condolence card instead of a hefty check each month.

The toy-and-gadget store’s rooftop solar array that redbankgreen broke the story on this summer is just about ready to fire up, says Arlene’s son, Alan. He oversaw the recent installation of what he believes is the biggest solar-power system in Monmouth County: 106 panels generating enough juice to power the equivalent of 10 average-sized homes.

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GOOD NEWS FOR MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE

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Ferry commuters to Wall Street, besieged by blowback over the spreading-around-the-globe credit meltdown they helped create, will see a slight dip in the monthly fare charged by SeaStreak beginning tomorrow.

Assuming, of course, that there still is a Wall Street tomorrow.

A 40-trip book of tickets for rides between either Atlantic Highlands or Highlands and Pier 11 at the foot of Wall Street will cost $695 starting tomorrow, SeaStreak announced Friday. That’s down from the current $700, according to an email from company president James Barker.

Off-peak buyers of 40-trippers will also get the $5 drop, to $560. Both reductions are tied to the price of diesel fuel.

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GLOBAL WARMING OUTLOOK: WET & COSTLY

Img_1867Sea Bright and other coastal areas could expect more scenes like this one, from tropical storm Ernesto in 2006, according to a report that also examines the economic wallop of rising seas.

The economic impacts of global warming on New Jersey could run to the tens of billions in coming decades, says a new report highlighted in today’s Star-Ledger.

From the Sledger:

A rapid rise in sea level, increased flooding and more frequent and more intense storms will damage the state’s coastal communities, including businesses, infrastructure and freshwater supplies, the Center for Integrative Environmental Research at the University of Maryland said.

The rising sea level also poses risks to coastal shipping, commercial fishing and tourism. New Jersey’s coastal communities generate 70 percent of the state’s total annual tourism dollars, according to the researchers, who also issued reports for seven other states.

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STORE GOES SOLAR, BATTERIES INCLUDED

Solar_hobbymasters_red_bankThe view north from Hobbymasters’ roof, which gets unimpeded exposure to the sun.

In what’s being billed as the largest installation of its kind in the Red Bank area, game & toy retailer Hobbymasters plans to cover the roof of its White Street building in electricity-generating solar panels next month.

Alan Placer, whose family owns Hobbymasters and the two-story building that houses it, calls its 9,600-square-foot roof “a perfect platform” for the project because it’s flat and gets full sun exposure.

When completed, the $180,000 system is expected to throw off 23 kilowatts of power, saving the store an estimated $500 a month in electricity costs, says Placer.

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LNG OPPONENTS SWIM WITH DOLPHINS

Coast_tshirt_frontCoast_tshirt_backClean Ocean Action’s Casey Shanley models the latest in environmental beachwear.

By SUE MORGAN

Piggybacking on the popularity of the dolphin pod that’s been in the Shrewsbury River since mid-June, Clean Ocean Action last week took aim at three proposals to create liquefied natural gas terminals off the Monmouth County coast.

With a private plane towing a “Help! Save the dolphins!” banner overhead, COA Executive Director Cindy Zipf and other speakers at the July 3 press conference on the Sea Bright boardwalk appealed to the public’s love of the frolicking marine mammals in an effort to sink the plans.

One proposal, by the Atlantic Sea Island Group, calls for a manmade island terminal to be built in the Atlantic Ocean 19 miles off east of Sea Bright for the ‘regasification’ of liquified natural gas. Two other companies have proposed similar operations off Asbury Park and Manasquan.

The proposals, as well as the unusual presence of some 15 to 20 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins swimming nearby, served as ammunition for Zipf and other speakers. COA, a consortium of about 125 organizations, claims construction of the island will “harass” some 1,000 dolphins and whales, and disrupt the lives of 700 such animals each year of operation.

Yes, the ocean and other waterways are cleaner than they were more than 25 years ago, when COA began its mission to end ocean dumping, Zipf acknowledged. However, until federal laws prohibiting the creation of LNG terminals and offshore drilling are on the books, some individual or corporation will always entertain the notion of industrializing the ocean for profits, she noted.

“People will always continue to find destructive things to do to the ocean,” she said.

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POWER FAILS DURING OUTAGE DISCUSSION

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By SUE MORGAN

An official of Jersey Central Power & Light came to Fair Haven’s borough council meeting last night to explain why the power keeps going off when — you guessed it — the power went off. Twice.

Then, about halfway through a grilling of JCP&L area manager Jim Markey by Fair Haven officials came word that a thunderstorm had also knocked out power at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School, leaving about 600 people attending an awards ceremony in the auditorium in darkness.

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YEAH, BUT WILL THE LIGHTS BE ON?

From Fair Haven Mayor Mike Halfacre’s blog, re tonight’s borough council meeting:

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JCP&L will be at our meeting Monday.

They are going to attempt a dog and pony show about heat waves and trees hanging over wires. It ought to be pretty entertaining.

Please come out to comment and express your feelings abouyt the reliability of their service.

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BUSY NIGHT FOR FH EMERGENCY WORKERS

Img_9666Firefighters and other rescue personnel on the scene of a fire at Rumson Road and Buena Vista Place in Rumson last night.

Wow, who needs reporters when there’s blogging Mayor Mike Halfacre?

In a post on his site today, Halfacre gives the rundown on a busy night for his town’s police, fire and rescue squads. They had a hand in dealing yet more power outages (for the third day in a row) as well as a house fire in Rumson and a possible DWI in which a two people were nearly hit by a car.

The post is headlined “Oh, What a Night,” and begins:

Last night at about 8:00 p.m. the Fair Haven Fire Department, First Aid and Fire Police responded to a “mutual aid” request from Rumson due to a house fire in that town. Immediately after clearing from that fire at approximately 9:40 p.m., another call came in, for a fire on a telephone pole at the corner of Hance and River Road. The electric wires had separated, causing the power outage that most of town suffered from.

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FAIR HAVENITES DEMAND POWER FIX

Img_7604Mayor Mike Halfacre

The power’s back on in Fair Haven today after two consecutive days of sporadic outages in the midst of record temperatures.

And while Mayor Mike Halfacre and some residents say they can understand the effect of unusually hot or cold weather on a utility company’s ability to deliver electricity, well, they’ve had just about enough, thanks.

In a posting on his blog today, Halfacre says he and borough administrator Mary Howell met yesterday with the local representative for Jersey Central Power & Light, and spoke with him

about not only the immediate need to get power back on, but the longer-term issue of reliability. It seems that there is no season when Fair Haven has reliable power: Hot, Cold, Windy, we lose power.

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SPORADIC POWER OUTAGES CONTINUE

Some homes and businesses served by the Jersey Central Power & Light substation on Ridge Road in Fair Haven are again without power after enduring a more than five hours without juice yesterday.

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We don’t know the number affected, or the geographic extent of the outages. But Mayor Mike Halfacre tells redbankgreen:

There are sporadic power outages. Not the whole town, there are also wires down at Hance and River, JCP&L is investigating.

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TALKING TRASH ON EARTH DAY

Earth1redbankgreen chanced up this scrap of paper lying in the grass at Meadow Ridge Park in Rumson over the weekend. Maybe the planet was trying to tell us something?

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Well, many people are listening, of course. Tonight, at the Red Bank Primary School, the PTA is putting on an Earth Day Expo to demonstrate ways in which consumers can reduce adverse impacts on the planet.

The event runs from 6 to 8:30p. Admission is free.

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SEASTREAK WILL STILL SAIL AFTER SALE

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SeaStreak, the ferry line that zips commuters to Wall Street and midtown Manhattan from docks in Highlands and Atlantic Highlands, appears to have found a white knight.

The four-catamaran line’s parent company, Sea Containers America Inc., confirmed today that it has agreed to sell SeaStreak to a sub of New England Fast Ferry, which carries passengers from Rhode Island and Massachusetts and Rhode Island to Martha’s Vineyard.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Two River Times broke the story on the sale a week ago.

In a press release, Bermuda-registered Sea Containers Ltd., which has been in chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code since October, 2006, said the court overseeing the insolvency must approve the sale terms.

The service’s routes are expected to continue unchanged, according to the Asbury Park Press. At one point last year, Sea Containers came close to a deal to sell the boats to the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.

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PLASTIC-BAG LAW RECYCLED, UP FOR VOTE

Img_9701_2A plastic shopping bag flutters in a tree on Monmouth Street recently.

It’s not quite the far-reaching approach that its sponsor, Councilman Mike DuPont, first proposed late last year.

But an ordinance that DuPont thinks will enable Red Bank to begin to get control over the scourge of flyaway plastic grocery bags appears headed for approval by the governing body.

A public hearing and vote on the ordinance is scheduled for tonight’s 5:30p meeting. Here’s the full text: Download plast_bag_ordinance.pdf

“We have a number of environmental assets here in Red Bank, including the river and open space, and plastic bags are certainly a bane to those assets,” DuPont said when he introduced the revised ordinance Feb. 27.

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RISING TIDE OF FERRY CANCELLATIONS

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What’s going on with SeaStreak, the ferry that runs between Manhattan and piers in Atlantic Highlands and Highlands?

Yesterday, a handful of runs were canceled. The ferry company attributed the moves to delays in obtaining “certification of documentation for the SeaStreak Wall Street,” meaning one of its catamarans.

Today and tomorrow, more cancelations have been announced.

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EXXON PLANS FLOATING GAS DOCK IN OCEAN

Carbon fuels giant Exxon Corp. is proposing the creation of a docking station for the transfer of liquefied natural gas 20 miles off the Monmouth County coast, according to various reports today.

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From today’s Star-Ledger:

The project, involving a floating natural gas terminal more than 1,100 feet long and 100 feet high, would be anchored to the ocean floor in about 150 feet of water. It would not be visible from shore and would be located away from shipping and fishing lanes as well as recreational areas, the giant energy company said.

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UTILITY WANTS MORE TO GIVE USERS GAS

New Jersey Natural Gas is asking state utilities regulators to approve a 7.5-percent increase in distribution charges, which would boost the average customer’s monthly bill by $11.35 a month, the Asbury Park Press is reporting.

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It’s the first time the Wall Township-based company has asked for an increase in delivery fees in 14 years, the paper’s David Willis reports.

From the story:

The rate proposal, filed today with the state Board of Public Utilities, could take as long as a year to wind through the regulatory process, so any increase would not affect this winter’s heating season.

Now, the good news: In a separate filing, the utility notified regulators that it would
dole out a one-time refund next month, which for a typical residential customer will amount to about $70, because it spent less on natural gas costs.

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CRASH CAUSED SHORT POWER OUTAGE

An accident involving a drunk driver resulted in a brief power outage to homes in the area of East Front Street and Spring Street early Sunday morning, Red Bank police reported today.

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According to Lt. Darren McConnell, a pickup truck heading westbound on River Road/East Front Street failed to negotiate the curve just past Hubbard Park at 3:02a. The truck left the roadway and hit a guardrail and a utility pole, he said.

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