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Sunday, May 19, 2024

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The Wrap: DEP Again, Green Investing for NJ Pensions, Tripledemic

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By Herald Staff

Get ‘The Wrap,’ our take on the news of the week, in your inbox every Tuesday. Sign up at https://bit.ly/3goVpVr.
December 5 to 11:
DEP Again
In October, the Wrap spoke of the deteriorating relationship between some county municipalities and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). In at least one of the those communities, things have gotten much worse. This week, the DEP asked a Superior Court judge to put an end to plans for beach construction not approved by the agency, and for which the municipality does not have appropriate permits. The court chose not to issue an order preventing the work and set a hearing for all parties for January 17.
Meanwhile, Mayor Patrick Rosenello says that the city has no choice but to build a protective bulkhead to safeguard residents as well as municipal property. He accuses the DEP of failing in its mission to protect the community. Rosenello sees the court’s reluctance to issue an order that would prevent the city from moving ahead as a big win. Key will be what happens in January.
All sides reference a long-standing plan to have the Army Corps of Engineers and the DEP construct a dune and berm shore protection system along Five Mile island. The project has been stuck in the design phase awaiting state agreements that need approval from the City of Wildwood and Lower Township. It is unclear what specifically has held up the agreements, which have been signed off on by North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest.
To the south, Cape May City is engaged in negotiations concerning a potential land swap with the DEP and the Green Acres program, in order to secure a parcel of land on Lafayette Street for a police station. The city would place in the Green Acres program significantly more land adjacent to the Sewell Tract. The most recent report from city officials is that the negotiations and the paperwork will proceed, with a likely eventual approval of the swap by the DEP. 
Green Investing for NJ Pensions
A push to have New Jersey divest its $93 billion pension fund from fossil fuel companies has languished in Trenton for several years. It now has new life, which has animated a coalition of environmental and clean energy groups to get the bill to the finish line and to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk. A number of business groups, like the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, have opposed the bill
Those in favor of the bill say that the state should not be profiting from companies that are accelerating climate change. They want to send a message about the state’s commitment to a green energy future. Individuals connected to a non-profit coalition, Divest New Jersey, have been active in the bill’s development.
Those who oppose the measure argue that fossil fuel companies are already making headway in green energy and renewables. They point to the many jobs and investments these companies have in the state. They also argue that the primary responsibility in management of the pension funds is fiscal health of the funds, not their social purpose.
State statistics show that fossil fuel company investments have performed well in the state’s portfolio since the rise in oil prices accompanied the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 
In March, Rutgers University, the state’s major public institution of higher education, announced that it would divest its $1.6 billion endowment from fossil fuels in the next decade. 
Tripledemic
Health officials continue to worry about a potential surge in respiratory illness as winter sets in. They argue that the country is dealing with threats that are emerging simultaneously – influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and a rise in COVID-19 infections. 
RSV and influenza have already put a strain on pediatric hospitals. Now COVID cases are again on the rise. The CDC says that as of Dec. 7, the average weekly number of new COVID cases has risen by 49% over previous seven-day averages. A Dec. 3 New Jersey report shows high levels of influenza and respiratory illness at rates higher that the state experienced in the last five years. Outbreaks of influenza and RSV have predominantly hit in school and childcare settings across the state. Meanwhile, fears of a new surge in COVID cases are centered on the elderly. 
Both the number of emergency room visits associated with influenza-like illness (ILI) are rising along with the percentage of those visits that result in admissions. 
The word Tripledemic has no scientific definition. It refers to what a Yale Medicine website calls the “collision” of RSV, flu and COVID with the potential to seriously impact the health system. Yale’s Dr. Thomas Murry said the immediate problem is “the volume of sick children,” but he quickly adds, “we know how to help them.” 
Is a tripledemic more fear than reality? It may be too early to tell. 
Happenings
Stone Harbor has introduced an ordinance that will significantly raise water and sewer rates on the heaviest users. The new tiered rate system would also actually lower the bills for more than half of the borough’s households.
juvenile in North Cape May avoided charges in a case of an attack on a senior citizen, if the juvenile complies with the terms of a stationhouse adjustment by Lower Township Police.
Atlantic Electric says that the safety of the electrical grid is a constant priority. The utility was responding to concerns raised by the attack on two electrical substations in North Carolina.
A homeowner who reported an intruder hiding in a closet led to the arrest of a 31-year-old male who had been arrested weeks before in a similar incident.
The drought is over. After several months in which the county experienced drought conditions, the U. S. Drought Monitor now classifies the county as ‘abnormally dry,’ a pre-drought condition. That represents a lot of improvement from an early September designation of ‘severe drought.’
Upper Township School Superintendent Vincent Palmieri has resigned. His resignation comes as school board elections in the county resulted in several incumbents failing in reelection bids amid controversy over new state sex education guidelines.
Ocean City has unveiled a $150 million capital spending plan for the five years from 2023 to 2027. The plan will come up for council approval later this month.
 Stone Harbor is considering establishing a pier concession at its municipal marina at 80th Street. The concept involves the creation of a new pier owned by the borough and used by approved vendors who might offer a variety of amenities from sunset cruses to small fishing charters. 
Ocean City resident Cris Pannullo’s win streak on Jeopardy ended with 21 consecutive victories and $748,286 in winnings. He also qualified for the show’s Tournament of Champions in 2023. 
Spout Off of the Week
WILDWOOD CREST – A bus driver helped a child read. Now he tutors kids for free between routes. He is Herman Cruse, 55, who drives students of all ages for Middle Township Public Schools, in Cape May Court House, N.J.

Read more or submit your own at spoutoff.cmcherald.com

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