July 3: Christie shuts down NJ | Bones, cont’d | Foul odor app

Governor Chris Christie has shut down the state government after he and the Democrat-led Legislature failed to reach an agreement on a new budget, WHYY reports. The shutdown, which began July 1st, applies to state parks, beaches, and “nonessential services like the Motor Vehicle Commission,” while prisons, the state police, casinos, and the lottery will remain open. Despite the state park shutdown, Christie was photographed with his family on an otherwise deserted Island Beach State Park on Sunday.

Governor Tom Wolf on Friday vetoed a bill that would have prevented municipalities from regulating the use of plastic shopping bags, citing a violation of the Environmental Rights Amendment of the state constitution, StateImpact PA’s Jon Hurdle reports. Wolf’s use of the “[a]mendment as justification for the veto follows a landmark ruling by the state Supreme Court last week saying that the measure must be the guiding principle of state policy on the preservation of natural resources.” Philadelphia had “opposed the bill on the grounds that it would have limited their ability to set policy on matters of legitimate municipal concern.”

At the request of the city, PMC Properties will hire an archaeologist to monitor the construction site of the former First Baptist Church burial ground, the Inquirer’s Stephan Salisbury reports. The Philadelphia Historical Commission, License and Inspections, and the state Historical and Museum Commission have all said, “they lacked jurisdiction to protect and direct proper treatment of the remains.” In response to “the persistent reports of unearthed graves,” PMC rep says “the archaeologist will be tasked with monitoring construction and will have the authority to stop work if something of archaeological significance should appear.”

River ward residents are demanding help from public officials to ensure that their children are protected from contaminated soil and toxic dust in their neighborhoods, according to the Inquirer’s Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman. A city spokesperson said Friday that “there is just no credible evidence that the kids living in this area, either because of construction (which again is separate from demo[lition]) or the former smelter sites, are at unique risk.” The PA DEP says the agency “would support legislation requiring developers to test all sites ‘where there could be unidentified contamination,’ [as well as] a law mandating soil testing and disclosure by the seller as part of real estate transactions.” A developer of a nearby construction site says an environmental study of the soil “showed no contaminants;” a DEP spokesperson says that the agency doesn’t “have any files” related to the site.

In more particulate matter news, 1,300 users have reported foul smells more than 4,300 times using Carnegie Mellon’s ‘Smell PGH’ app, the Post-Gazette reports. The ‘citizen science initiative,’ which allows users to send a ‘smell report’ to the Allegheny County Health Department, aims to “to improve communication between the public and governmental regulation agencies.” The app also features a real-time map of all smell reports in and around the city.

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