Sunday, June 21, 2009

1 Dead After Freight Train Derails Northwest of Chicago

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1 Dead After Freight Train Derails Northwest of Chicago - ...
Jun 20, 2009 ... 1 Dead After Freight Train Derails Northwest of Chicago, A Tank car loaded with thousands of gallons of highly flammable ethanol exploded.

In 2006 when I ran for Congress, (before the increase in gasoline prices) my statement regarding fuel was that we must find other fuel alternatives to preserve our future. Natural gas reserves are about equal or slightly less than oil reserves. Oil production peaked in the 1970’s and has been declining since.

Thirty-five years ago, the United States produced 9.4 million bpd of crude; today, it produces only about 4.7 million, importing over 55% today. World reserves are declining also, as supplies diminish, prices will continue to rise.

I had said, "We can no longer afford to ignore the issue, this will dramatically influence the economy in the US and abroad, we are heading for a major and financial crisis if we do not act responsibly now. Oil production will remain the same but due to population growth, demand will outpace the production. This will cause prices to skyrocket and oil-dependant economies to deteriorate."

"Here it is 2007 and nothing has changed other than the price of fuel costs increasing. In my congressional debates I had said although I am for the environment, at some point we must start looking into domestic drilling if we are not to become dependent of foreign oil entities. My opponent a “rocket scientist” said that he was against drilling but offered no viable alternative, nor an immediate solution. My suggestion was that we continue to look for alternative renewable sources, but until we find that alternative, drilling would give us the time to pursue alternative research. I don’t believe ethanol is the answer."

I wrote an article on Homeland Security and Chemical Plants. I mentioned the volatility of Ethanol. I had said at that time ethanol can not be piped and must be transported by truck or rail. How many of these rail cars or trucks are going through our communities? How it effects the safety of our citizens. At the time I wrote my article the chemical industry was self regulated and they are heavy lobbyists and government did not enforce regulation.

The media was so enamored with my opponents views, my opinions and articles were overlooked or ignored.

Picture a scenario of a town with 30,000 residents. An EMT response team with a crew of 10, and three ambulances. In the event of a chemical leak, large scale gas leak, how many hazmat suits are available, with thousands trying to flee, how do we save everyone?

For Immediate Release:


There are approximately 140 Chemical Plants in New Jersey and 15,000 throughout the United States. All with chemicals available for terrorists to use against us as weapons of mass destruction.

A breach in a chemical plant in Chicago would affect 3 million people, another in California has the potential to kill, wound and displace 8,000,000 people.

These statistics are from the Environmental Protection Agency based on chemicals stored in those plants.

We have a plant in Spotswood that stores chlorine, where 1.1 million lives are potentially endangered within 14 miles, and is less than one mile from five schools. About 1 ¼ miles away there is a school in East Brunswick.

A single chlorine tank can lead to 17,500 deaths, 10,000 severe injuries, and 100,000 hospitalizations.

For towns near chemical plants, evacuation is not the solution. Evacuations are for floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes and work well for advance warning systems. In the event of a chemical attack, there would be no advance warning, and evacuation will not work. Prevention, containment, and remediation should be the priorities.

To illustrate the damage that can happen, I will describe in short detail of what happened in Bhopal India. It was in 1984 that Union Carbide India accidentally released 40 tons of methyl isocyanate into the air, killing 7,000 immediately. In trying to escape the gas, the transportation system in the city collapsed and many people were trampled in their attempt to distance themselves from the danger. The escaped gases injured anywhere from 150,000 to 600,000 people, 15,000 of whom died later. None of the six safety systems designed for containment were operational, and during the night while people were sleeping, they were awakened with burning eyes, noses, and throats. Coughing up blood while trying to run away and losing control of their bladders and bowels. Within hours, thousands lay dead in the street.

The Bhopal incident should have been a warning of the potential havoc that is caused without the proper checks and balances.

In 2004 a chlorine leak in south western China forced the evacuation of 150,000 people and left nine dead, and the previous December forced the evacuation of 60,000 people.

On January 6, 2005 in Graniteville South Carolina, chlorine leaking from a derailed tank car caused the evacuation of 5,000 people, killing nine people and injuring hundreds.

As recently as August 25 of 2006, 23 people in Dover Delaware were sent to the hospital, due to a styrene leak from a defective valve on a tanker rail car at a Dow site.

Police are not equipped with the proper resources to respond to a chemical emergency, nor are there sufficient emergency personnel to save any reasonable amount of lives as described in the Bhopal incident. Our first responders need training and equipment if they are to be able to do their jobs effectively. Hospitals, fireman, police, rescue squads need to be prepared for a large scale chemical attack or chemical release. Funding to provide doctors and nurses the proper course of action and facilities as to where citizens will go for treatment. I suggest appointing a State Homeland Hospital Medical Director who will oversee all medical facilities, coordinate and train personnel to handle a large scale crisis.

In just our local communities, we have chemicals such as vinyl acetate in Dayton, titanium tetrachloride in Edison, 360,000 lbs. of chlorine at a plant in Spotswood, vinyl acetate monomer in Somerset, and methyl chloride in Old Bridge. The Middlesex County Utilities Authority in Sayreville has 720,000 lbs. of chlorine on site as registered with the EPA.

I propose that all chemical plants, pesticide manufacturers, paint manufacturers, and refineries are required to do a thorough background check on employees, mandatory drug screening. Outside contracted employees must have clearances before working on or entering any chemical site, all outside vendor vehicles searched before entering a plant. All necessary agencies are to receive notification in regards to the transportation of chemicals to and from plants. There are many plants with aging systems waiting for an accident. Twice a year the containment and security of those chemicals need to be subject to required inspections, including the transportation means that are used. Standardization and guidelines need immediate legislation for the monitoring of spills, leaks, breach of security, means of transportation, safety of equipment, and the routes used. Required inspections of vessels used to hold the chemical, the safety of the railways, the valves and shutoffs used to control and contain these chemicals. Regulation of trucks and truck routes need to be looked at in the transportation of Ethanol, which is highly volatile product.

All schools must be required to submit a contingency plan for procedures, made available to the public in the event of a chemical emergency, whether it is a lockdown or evacuation.

It has been at least four years since a Senate panel unanimously passed a bill to create security standards for the nation’s chemical plants; Congress has yet to agree on mandatory safeguards.

When officials tell us, we have it under control, we must ask how. What plan of action do they have to protect the citizen’s and children of those in proximity to those plants? Getting in your car and driving across the highway is not the answer.

It is imperative that we apply for The Department of Homeland Security Funding Formula, so we have the necessary equipment and training. Funding that is based on risk, not on the parties controlling local government.

National Security funds were distributed on a partisan basis, funds not based on risk! When funds are distributed based on party affiliation over lives in our communities, we need to question the rationale behind those disbursements.

Funds are wasted when they are used for Gyms, Bowflex equipment, TV sets, monies wasted on frivolity when accountability isn’t required on how the money was spent.

For the year 2006 the applicants on the list of eligibility are Elizabeth, Jersey City and Newark with a 10 mile buffer around the area. The 12th District did not make that list.

When our assembly has time to legislate that our state dirt will be Downer soil, over the protection of lives, we have a definite problem.

There seems to be a nonchalant attitude regarding chemical plants, and we are fooling ourselves if we are lulled into thinking this could never happen in our society or our local communities. We are living in different times, the world is changing, and we must stop acting as if it will not happen here.

We as a country, scour the world looking for weapons of mass destruction. We are inviting trouble when we allow biological and chemical weapons right in our own backyard, and then ask our government not to place controls over the chemical plants that use them. There are too many lives at risk to ignore the makings of a disaster in our communities; it is only a matter of time. We should not need to wait until a catastrophe happens in our communities. Action is needed now.

We have provided the bomb; all that’s needed is a fuse.

Joseph Sinagra
18th District Assembly Candidate

Realty Transfer Fee too much for sellers

Since 2003, this tax has increased over 80 percent, and with the added municipal home sales tax, it would make it 103 percent since 2003. - Joe Sinagra

I recently read a letter to the editor pointing out that many people are unaware of the sales tax on homes.

I read it with intense interest because I'd love to sell my home and move away from New Jersey … move far away. But now the times do not favor sellers — prices have dropped because of the economy, banks are not giving mortgages because they have suffered tremendous losses from uncreditworthy borrowers, and mortgage interest rates have begun to inch higher. So, I'm stuck.

To think that there's a tax, a stealth sales tax, on top of all the other expenses in selling a home, is just too, too much to contend with.

This Realty Transfer Fee (RTF) that the letter writer, Joe Sinagra, a state Assembly candidate for the 18th District, discusses, is an insidious tax. It was supposed to help support the recording of real-estate transactions. I assume books, records and maps are all brought up to date. Well, how much money does it take in this age of the computer to record real-estate transactions? The costs should have gone down.

Sinagra points out that since 2003 when Jim McGreevey was governor, the state increased the tax more than 80 percent, and municipalities increased it 103 percent. There's no end to it. Reverse the RTF and end it. The county clerk's office, where all these transactions get recorded, did not become modern and efficient.

The state and the municipality receive more and more from the sale of the home just through normal growth and development. The population of New Jersey in 1960 was 6,066,782 — the RTF began in 1968. The population of New Jersey in 1970 was 7,171,112, an 18 percent increase. The population of New Jersey in 2008 was 8,698,879, a 21 percent increase over 1970 and a 43 percent increase over 1960. That means more homes, many more. That means an increasing revenue stream.

Even if you live out of state and own a home in New Jersey, you are still subject to a 2 percent fee. How about people who liveout of state and inherit a home in New Jersey? More revenue.

What interests this governor is more tax revenue, all at the expense of the individual sellers. Sinagra points out that 57 percent of the tax money goes to the state's general fund; 19 percent, state's Extraordinary Aid Account (EEA); 18 percent, Neighborhood PNRF; 18 percent to the counties for general use; 7 percent, Public Health Priority Fund. Not one of those funds is for the recording of real-estate transactions.

If the government is collecting money for a specific purpose and then it decides to divert the money to other areas, then it's time for us to decide to vote against the current officials in government, like the incumbents.

Cheryl Bass

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The $395,455 Train Ride

We are exporting our jobs and money away from our state. We are watching tax funds ebbing away to boost our neighbors economy. I believe our politicians are looking in the wrong direction in building a second rail tunnel to New York, with another proposal to expand a rail tunnel which would transport New Jersey residents and drop them off in Philadelphia.

These tunnels are going to be subsidized by New Jersey. The spending of our tax dollars to move people out of the state makes no sense at all. Take the $3 billion dollars and use it to benefit the people of New Jersey, not New York and Philadelphia.

A selling point to justify this project is that 22,000 cars will be eliminated from the roadways. Dividing 22,000 into the expected $8.7 billion project, it would cost $395,455.00 for each vehicle removed from the roads, so drivers can take the train to work in New York City and spend their money there. This makes no economic sense.

Should we be spending money just to make it easier for people to get to New York City and make their economy stronger? Should we help Philadelphia prosper? They should be building rail systems so their citizens would have an easier commute to New Jersey.

Use the $3 billion dollars to make New Jersey a place where businesses want to relocate to, instead of using money on a tunnel that will siphon much needed New Jersey cash.

We have industrial parks in our state begging for business.

Let’s start by eliminating the proposed 4% business tax, tell business we want them back. Ask them to build in Industrial Parks in areas such as Camden, Trenton, Newark, Edison and South Plainfield instead of building a new facility. They would receive 5 years tax free, with a 20 year option. After 5 years, taxes would go to 25%, 15 years 75% and open to renegotiation after 20. Any green energy products used such as solar power, recycling of water usage, etc. they would be subsidized. They won’t be penalized for any property improvements. Thirty per cent of their work force must come out of those districts. Any employee over 500, business would receive a tax credit or incentive. Advertise to the business community our gates are open and we want them back.

Although it may not be a perfect plan, we need to start thinking outside the box on how we are going to put our citizens back to work, and grow New Jersey’s economy.

Use the $3 billion in stimulus money to fund business, hire our unemployed, keep existing business from leaving, keep money in the State of New Jersey to stimulate our economy, rebuild our infrastructure and transportation system in our state, would generate much needed income, and would be a boon for real estate. New Jersey should be in the envious position of New York and Philadelphia business wanting to relocate here, and their people commute and spend money in New Jersey.

Using New Jersey cash to create a better economy for our neighbors is not advantageous to improving our sorry state of affairs.

Used wisely, stimulus funds would benefit our economy for years to come.

Joe Sinagra
18th District Assembly Candidate

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Many are unaware of sales taxes on homes

Another form of taxation to the homeowners of New Jersey is the Realty Transfer Fee (RTF), pursued aggressively under Jim McGreevey and continued by Jon Corzine as an additional source of revenue.

Many of you who count on the profit of your home to move into another or out of state, are hit with this regressive tax, also known as New Jersey's exit tax.

The homeowner is penalized on all their years of hard work and investment that was put into that home, money taken from the equity that was built into the sale of that home.

You as a homeowner have to pay a tax for the privilege of selling your home.

Also, on a foreclosure, a realty transfer fee must be paid on the remaining balance of the mortgage, by the purchaser.

The home sales tax due on a home that sells for $356,700 is $2,800; a $600,000 home would have to pay $5,185. The New Jersey State Legislature is considering further increases to the home sales tax by permitting individual municipalities to establish their own fees in addition to those charged by the state. With the extra tax, the home sales tax bill would increase 13 percent. Many who sell their home are not informed of this tax, and are surprised when hit with the additional fees taken from the profit at the time of closing.

Since 2003, this tax has increased over 80 percent, and with the added municipal home sales tax, it would make it 103 percent since 2003.

With the higher realty transfer fee increase imposed in 2004, there was an 81 percent increase, with the state general fund receiving 57 percent of the total realty transfer fee, 19 percent for the state's Extraordinary Aid Account (EEA), 18 percent to the Neighborhood PNRF, 18 percent to the counties for general use, and 7 percent for the counties' Public Health Priority Fund, with a portion dedicated to affordable housing.

The 1968 fee in the beginning was revenue collected to cover the costs of recording real estate transactions. Having risen four times since then, increasing substantially each time, it is now used to fund general state expenditures, neighborhood preservation, public health, and shore protection.

Is Gov. Corzine telling us that state government will now keep all of what they receive from the realty transfer tax, with the municipalities now able to charge a tax to make up for what they won't be getting back from the state? Would this be considered double taxation?

This is a huge sum of revenue to the state. Was anyone keeping tabs on how it was spent? Or were the funds escalating year after year, just because there was an eternal, never-ending flow of tax revenue?

Has the state decided to keep all of the money as another alternative to be used toward balancing the budget?

This is one more tax burden that needs to be brought under control, and the monies collected must be accounted for.

Joe Sinagra
N.J. 18th District State Assembly Helmetta