New Jersey Affordable, Clean, Reliable Energy Coalition

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The New Jersey Affordable, Clean, Reliable Energy Coalition (NJ ACRE) was launched in August 2007, to "educate the public about the need for energy policies that protect the environment, and to focus on generating public support for the renewal of the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant's operating license." Exelon, which owns the Oyster Creek plant, provided the group's start-up funds. [1]

NJ ACRE "launched the same month as preliminary discussions are being held surrounding New Jersey's Energy Master Plan, which outlines Governor Jon Corzine's program for New Jersey's energy future," noted a press release from the group. [2]

Exelon and Burson-Marsteller

Start up funds for NJ ACRE were supplied by Exelon Corp, the owner of Oyster Creek operator AmerGen Energy. NJ ACRE is reportedly "keen to assert its independence from Exelon." [3]

Exelon spokeswoman April Schilpp said the company's funding is "intended to be just a start up. ... There's a lot of support for nuclear energy but it gets drowned out by a small but vocal group of anti-nuclear people," she added. "This is just a voice for those who support nuclear." [4]

The email address for NJ ACRE's media contact, Maury Donahue, includes the bm.com domain used by the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller. [5] B-M lists Exelon among its past and present energy clients. [6] B-M also counts among its clients the nuclear power company Entergy, which established groups similar to NJ ACRE in states where it operates nuclear power plants: New York, Massachusetts and Vermont. [7]

A WHOIS domain search for njacre.com showed that the website URL had been registered on June 12, 2007. [8] The technical / administrative contact for the website is Rome Sheehan, whose email address (rome_sheehanATmarsteller.com) is from the firm Marsteller, "Burson-Marsteller’s global advertising, design, interactive and production agency that specializes in telling the stories that need to be told." [9]

In February 2008, Exelon paid Burson-Marsteller $230,627.05, coded as "public affairs." Exelon said the work involved NJ ACRE and strengthening local support for "the renewal of the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant's operating license." The payments covered Burson-Marsteller's work between June and November 2007, which included carrying out a poll and setting up "speaking engagements and events for Patrick Moore" (see below). [1]

Lack of disclosure

"Two lobbyists with lengthy resumes in New Jersey government set up a conference call with the media last week to announce the formation of a coalition to advocate for nuclear energy and, more specifically, a 20-year license extension for the aging Oyster Creek plant," stated an August 23, 2007 Asbury Park Press (N.J.) editorial. [10]

"The lobbyists neglected to point out they are being paid by Exelon Corp., Oyster Creek's owner. There also was no mention of that fact on the coalition's Web site until a news story about their being front men for Exelon appeared in Friday's Asbury Park Press." [11]

Patrick Moore

Nuclear Energy Institute consultant Patrick Moore spoke at a November 2007 luncheon on energy issues in Vineland, New Jersey, sponsored by the Southern New Jersey Development Council and NJ ACRE. [2] The Atlantic City Press reported that one attendee, a Cumberland County freeholder challenged Moore, saying: "I'm opposed to the Oyster Creek nuclear station. ... I worry about evacuation in case of an accident, and the fish killed when they're pulled into the screens." Moore "didn't directly address evacuation issues," but claimed: "No one has ever been hurt by a nuclear plant. ... It's a speculation of fear." [3]

Opposition

The New Jersey Sierra Club, which opposes the relicensing of the Oyster Creek facility, is also critical of NJ ACRE. "Instead of New Jersey ACRE, they should be calling themselves New Jersey Faker. This is a front group," remarked state Sierra Club head Jeff Tittel. Tittel added that the Oyster Creek plant is "the oldest operating nuclear plant in the country and has numerous safety problems." [12]

On August 28, 2007, the Asbury Park Press published an op/ed by Peggi Sturmfels sharply critical of NJ ACRE and Edward H. Salmon. Sturmfels identifies him as a "former state Board of Public Utilities president, a former legislator and as a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners." In addition to NJ ACRE's lack of disclosure, Sturmfels criticized the group's failure to address: [13]

  • "Exelon's refusal to erect cooling towers, thus violating the Clean Water Act for nine years and continuing to degrade the Barnegat Bay";
  • "[T]estimony presented by Exelon, Sandia Laboratories and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the last two Atomic Committee on Reactor Safety hearings with regards to the corrosion of the drywell liner of the reactor"; and
  • "[T]he beliefs of the Ocean County freeholders and 20 surrounding towns that emergency evacuation is impossible, and the risk of terrorist threat is real."

In a September 9, 2007, op/ed, Janet Tauro of the "Stop The Relicensing of Oyster Creek" coalition wrote, referring to NJ ACRE, "Exelon could have decided to spend its quite considerable bank account in a variety of ways to improve safety and environmental impact. ... Instead, Exelon is putting its money into creating a bogus environmental group designed to lure the public's attention away from safety issues and scare us into believing that Oyster Creek's closure would hurt the region economically." [14]

In a February 19, 2008, op/ed, Paula Gotsch of the group Grandmothers, Mothers and More for Energy Safety stressed the safety issues around the Oyster Creek plant's relicensing, and criticized NJ ACRE for not engaging with critics publicly. "There is no debate about the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions," she wrote. "The issue is whether Oyster Creek can meet safety and environmental standards. In a reply to a request for a public debate last December, a NJACRE spokesman stated that 'NJACRE need not debate the specific issues raised by the Oyster Creek relicensing.' We had expected that NJACRE and its high-powered members would have a carefully researched rationale for cheerleading the relicensing of Oyster Creek and therefore would have welcomed an open discussion." [4]

Response to opposition

In a September 2007 op/ed, NJ ACRE chair Edward H. Salmon responded to criticism of his group by writing, "Framing the [energy] issue as a struggle between those who favor the environment vs. the forces of 'big business' is not only a bogus cliche. It's a dangerous trivialization of a serious problem." He added that NJ ACRE "was formed to help build the kind of consensus that leads to workable, common-ground solutions. A key goal is to help achieve the greenhouse-gas reduction goals put forth by Gov. Corzine and approved by the Legislature. And we have made it clear from the outset that we see the license extension of the Oyster Creek nuclear energy plant in Lacey as critical to the success of that goal." [15]

Leadership

From the group's website: [16]

  • Dr. Edward H. Salmon, chairman - He also founded Salmon Ventures, "a strategic consulting firm based in New Jersey."
  • Richard S. Mroz, senior advisor - He "served as Chief Counsel to Governor Christie Todd-Whitman and was responsible for legislative affairs, negotiating the state budget, and advising the Governor and legal and policy matters. He also served as the Governor’s counsel and liaison for the state’s largest independent authorities including the Turnpike Authority, Water Supply Authority and New Jersey and the Environmental Infrastructure Trust."

Membership

From the group's website and other sources, as referenced: [17]

  • African American Environmentalist Association
  • Chemistry Council of NJ
  • Commerce & Industry Association of NJ
  • Exelon Corporation
  • Fish Hawks (Lacey Township-based organization)
  • International Union of Painters & Allied Trades
  • New Jersey Chamber of Commerce
  • New Jersey Society for Environmental, Economic Development (NJ SEED)
  • NJ Alliance for Action
  • NJ Business & Industry Association
  • New Jersey International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (NJ IBEW and LU 1289) [18]
  • New Jersey State AFL-CIO [19]
  • New Jersey International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (NJ IBEW and LU 1289)
  • Pasteris Energy, Inc.
  • Plumbers and Pipefitters (Union Local 322 and Local 9)
  • Southern NJ Developmental Council

Individual members include: [20]

  • Jeremiah O'Connor - former State Senator and former New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) Commissioner
  • Connie Hughes - former New Jersey BPU Commissioner
  • Carol Murphy - former New Jersey State Legislator & former New Jersey BPU Commissioner
  • William Young - Former Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy in the U.S. Department of Energy
  • Brian A. Reid - Mayor of Lacey Township

Contact information

Website: http://www.njenergycoalition.org/

Media Contact
Maury Donahue
7 Easterwood Street, Suite D
Millville, NJ, 08332
Maury.DonahueATbm.com (Note: This is an email address associated with the Burson-Marsteller PR firm)
Phone: +1 (212) 614 4966

SourceWatch resources

External links

References

  1. Sam Stein, "Mark Penn Tied To Controversial Nuclear Firm," The Huffington Post, February 14, 2008.
  2. Joseph P. Smith, "Ecologist promotes nuclear energy in N.J.," The Daily Journal (Vineland, New Jersey), November 17, 2007.
  3. David Benson, "Ex-Greenpeace member says N.J. needs more nuclear plants," Atlantic City Press (New Jersey), November 17, 2007.
  4. Paula Gotsch, op/ed: "Plant safety divides Oyster Creek critics from proponents," Asbury Park Press (New Jersey), February 19, 2008.

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