Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Paterson Vetoes Hydrofracking Bill, But Issues His Own Ban

From the Rivertowns Patch.com (Read whole article here):

Gov. David Paterson has vetoed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, a controversial natural gas drilling method, but replaced it with an executive order prohibiting the practice until July at the earliest.

At the heart of the issue is a specific method known as high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or "hydrofracking," in which millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are blasted into existing wells to release gas deposits far below the surface. Industry officials are eyeing the vast Marcellus Shale, which extends from New York's Southern Tier into West Virginia, as a prime site for this type of extraction.

The moratorium bill would have banned all types of gas drilling, not just horizontal hydrofracking, until May 15. Paterson said the bill was too broad and would have resulted in job losses and decreased revenue for the cash-strapped state.

"Enacting this legislation would put people out of work - work that is permitted by the Department of Environmental Conservation and causes no demonstrated environmental harm, in order to effectuate a moratorium that is principally symbolic," Paterson said. "Symbols can have great importance, but particularly in our current terrible economic straits, I cannot agree to put individuals out of work for a symbolic act."

Paterson replaced the vetoed bill with an executive order that narrows the scope of the moratorium to include only horizontal hydrofracking, and not its vertical counterpart of other extraction methods. The ban will stay in effect until at least July 1, when the Department of Environmental Conservation is set to release the results of a study into the effects of hydrofracking on water and air quality.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Acorn Glut Signals Lyme Risks in 2012

From the Poughkeepsiejournal.com:

This fall, some of you might have noticed it's difficult to walk on sidewalks or hilly trails near oak trees. The acorns underfoot — nature's ball bearings — are so numerous that even sturdy shoes are no match. In our research sites at the Cary Institute and throughout the Hudson Valley, we are seeing acorn production of unprecedented proportions.

Oak trees, like many hardwoods, tend to drop few or no seeds in most years. Then episodically, they produce a bumper crop of acorns, known as a "mast year."

Each tree species has its own rhythm, so it's rare to see multiple species masting together. This year, though, our four most common oak species — red oak, black oak, white oak and chestnut oak —are all producing acorns at the same time. In the 20 years we've been monitoring tree seed production, this is the first time we've seen such an acorn glut.

Why do oaks behave this way? Acorns are among the biggest seeds produced by any of our eastern forest trees. Their large size allows newly germinating tap roots to penetrate thick layers of leaf litter to reach the soil below. It also provides plenty of resources to support seedling growth in the first year. So, large seed size gives oaks an advantage early in life over other species such as maples and birches.

But with these benefits come costs. Acorns are full of protein and fat and are a highly prized food for many wildlife species. You've undoubtedly seen squirrels and chipmunks scurrying around, cheeks bulging, in a frenzy to store as many seeds as possible before the weather turns cold and snowy. Other animals, including mice, deer, raccoons, turkeys, blue jays and bears also scour the forest floor eating or storing every acorn they find.

If oak trees produced a modest acorn crop each year, they'd run the risk of having every one consumed and leaving no descendants. But if they make few seeds in most years, then let loose with a bumper crop, it's likely some acorns will survive the onslaught of hungry consumers. This is called "predator satiation" and is exactly what we find in our northeastern forests. The carpet of oak seedlings we see every three or four springs is a vivid demonstration of safety in numbers.

Many acorns now covering the forest floor will wind up in the stomachs or burrows of white-footed mice. These mice are the most common mammal in our region. With big stores of acorns, mice don't need to move around very much during winter and can avoid predators such as owls, hawks and foxes.

Being so well-nourished, they can start their spring breeding season earlier than usual. Both factors lead to very large populations of white-footed mice the summer following a good acorn year. We expect the forests and fields to be teeming with mice in the summer of 2011.

Research we've conducted with Bard College biologist Felicia Keesing shows newly hatched blacklegged ticks that feed on white-footed mice are much more likely to survive than are ticks that feed on any other mammal or bird host. We've also established that about 90 percent of the larval ticks that feed on mice become infected with Lyme disease bacteria. So, we predict that in 2011 large mouse populations will lead to an increase in the survival and infection of ticks.

This is bad news for human health. Mouse-fed larval ticks from 2011 will sit quietly on the forest floor for almost a year until they emerge as nymphs — the stage responsible for transmitting the vast majority of Lyme disease cases. Our research predicts the acorn bumper crop of 2010 will cause a mouse population explosion in 2011, which in turn will result in abnormally large numbers of infected nymphal ticks in the summer of 2012.

We have been tracking acorn production by Hudson Valley oaks for 20 years and have consistently seen a spike in cases of Lyme disease in Dutchess County residents two years after large acorn mast years.

Risk of exposure to Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases is a constant part of life in the Hudson Valley. But acorns — an ecological leading indicator — provide an early warning of the years when the risk of these diseases will be particularly high.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NY Assembly Passes Hydro-Fracking Moratorium

By a wide margin, the Assembly passed a bill that will suspend the issuance of permits to hydro-frack gas wells in New York State until May 15, 2011. The State Senate passed the bill earlier this year. It is now up to Governor Paterson to sign the timeout into law.

From an eblast received today:

Today the New York State Assembly approved a moratorium on gas drilling in New York State, a huge victory for those of us who have been fighting so hard to protect our drinking water from toxic chemicals.

Protecting New York’s environment is at the top of our agenda in the Assembly Majority and we will not let anything stand in the way of making sure all New Yorkers have clean, safe water. When it comes to keeping pollution and dangerous chemicals out of our water supply, there is simply no acceptable level of risk.

That is why my colleagues and I resisted pressure from the oil and gas industry and passed this crucial moratorium, which would prohibit the controversial process known as hydrofracking while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducts a safety review.

Our most important responsibility is to keep all New Yorkers safe. By preventing hydrofracking from moving ahead, we have not only protected our water supply today, we have served notice to the industry that we will always put the health and safety of New Yorkers first.

I want to thank everyone who expressed support for this bill and I want to assure you that the Assembly is committed to leaving a safer, greener, more sustainable world for future generations.

Sincerely,
Sheldon Silver

Monday, November 29, 2010

County Stormwater / Flood Management Legislation - Public Hearing

Stormwater legislation has been approved for a public hearing on Mon., December 6 at 7:30 pm at Board of Legislators' offices in White Plains (148 Martine Avenue, 8th Floor).

The legislation is available for download here as a .pdf file. Select the link on the BOL page to the version marked "FINAL."

All interested persons are welcome to provide comment at the public hearing.

County Exec Astorino to Hold Budget Meeting Tonight

2011 Budget meeting tonight - email alert from CCE:

County Executive Rob Astorino will be holding a meeting on Monday night, November 29 at 6:30 p.m. at 6:30 p.m in the Fellowship Hall at St. Matthews. The church is located at 382 Cantitoe St. in Bedford. The talk is being hosted by the Bedford/Armonk Rotary Club.

Mr. Astorino will be there to answer questions about the 2011 Budget. The meeting is open to the public and anyone can attend. This would be a good opportunity to make your thoughts known and to dispel misconceptions about Cornell University funding CCE Westchester. Cornell only provides in-kind services of faculty and staff; it does not provide cash to the county extension offices.

In County Law 224, the state established Cornell as the “agent for the state, for the cooperative management of said work of the county extension service association and the proper supervision of the professional staff employed therefor.” County Law 224 also says that in order to qualify for state funding, a county extension office must first have an appropriation from the county treasury.


It is important to go and confront Mr. Astorino on his budget cutbacks - especially to the Cooperative Extension program.

--

From a previous email - background info on CCE as a non-profit (or not):

Cornell Cooperative Extension is a public, "subordinate governmental agency" established by state statute and as such has requirements that are the same as any village, town, county, city, etc. in New York State including record-keeping and document retention, election of governing body members, open public meetings law, public agency purchasing, and many other limitations that government agencies must follow. Non-profits are private organizations, not publicly owned. CCE is a public organization intended to be supported by taxpayer dollars via government appropriations.

Because CCE is the only entity of its type in New York State, some people mistake CCE for a non-profit. While it is true that CCE does not make any profit, neither does any county, city, town, village, or other governmental agency.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Governor Says Hydro-Fracking Will Not Go Forward At This TIme

From the Catskill Mountainkeeper group:

WE ALL HAVE SOMETHING TO BE THANKFUL FOR ON THIS THANKSGIVING DAY. GOVERNOR PATERSON HAS MADE A STUNNING ANNOUNCEMENT:

Governor Paterson
"At this point, I would say that the hydrofracking opponents have raised enough of an argument to thwart us going forward at this time." Governor David Paterson: Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yesterday on WAMC Radio, Governor Paterson admitted that he is no longer convinced that fracking is safe and that as a result of all of our hard work - fracking will not go forward at this time.

Here is the full quote:
"This is a very good example of public participation. Our DEC...originally ruled that hydrofracking would not affect thewater quality in the area but we've received additional information and have not been able to come to a conclusion as to whether or not this is a good idea. Even with the tremendous revenues that will come in at this time...we're not going to risk public safety or water quality, which will be the next emerging global problem after the energy shortage. At this point, I would say that the hydrofracking opponents have raised enough of an argument to thwart us going forward at this time."

Listen the full interview at:
http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wamc/news.newsmain/article/0/2706/1729657/WAMC.News/Governor.Paterson.Visits.WAMC

This is an amazing David vs. Goliath victory for all of the volunteer groups, environmental organizations, land owners, business owners, farmers and the many thousands of individuals who have taken action.

We still need to Speaker Sheldon Silver and the New York Assembly to pass the Moratorium Bill and the Water Withdrawal Bill on Monday during the Extraordinary Session called by Paterson. All indications are that Silver wants to move these bills but he needs to hear from you. Take action by contacting your Assemblyperson by clicking here and filling out this simple email form provided by our partner "Clean Water Not Dirty Drilling".

Thank you again from the Mountainkeeper team.
Ramsay, Wes, Aaron and Beth

Thursday, November 18, 2010

5 Things to Do to Offer Wildlife Support This Winter

1) Provide winter fuel for wildlife with native plants that offer nuts, berries and seeds or offer a feeder.

2) Anchor your old holiday tree in a secluded part of your yard for wildlife to use as shelter from harsh weather.

3) Start a compost pile of needles, pinecones and wreaths made from natural material from your holiday decorations to provide additional cover for wildlife.

4) Clean and fill your birdbath on a regular basis. If you live in an area where temperatures freeze water, use a birdbath heater as a simple way to keep water accessible.

5) Create a cozy winter home for birds. Clean out your spring nest boxes or provide a warm winter roosting box. Also, evidence shows roosting birds prefer winter homes placed up high — about 10 feet or more.

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Got what it takes? Register your yard as a Wildlife Habitat™ site via National Wildlife Foundation. http://tinyurl.com/yf7sjwh

BOL 2011 Budget Hearings - Last Night in Yonkers

Here is the statement (.pdf) I made last night at the BOL public hearing on the 2011 budget in support of environmental planning department staffing and in support of the Westchester CCE.

The auditorium was packed for most of the 3 1/2 hour session with 9 Legislators in attendance on stage and over 100 speakers scheduled to present 3 minute statements each. (Not all ended up speaking due to the lengthy wait times - but perhaps 60-70 folks did speak up.)

I am sad to report the overwhelming number of speakers describing first hand experiences with, and concerns for, the continuance of public and non-profit social, legal and health safety nets in the county. ("It's the economy, stupid.")

However, a few other topics were covered:

10 speakers in support of Hilltop Hanover (all staff and friends of).
8 speakers in support of the county forensics lab.
2 speakers in favor of the tax cuts.
2 speakers in favor of CCE.
1 speaker in favor of GNC (Greenburgh Nature Center).

I URGE YOU TO COME OUT TO THE NEXT PUBLIC HEARING IN PLEASANTVILLE (Nov 23rd) or the FINAL ONE in the BOL chambers (White Plains - Dec 9th) - see below. Without a strong show of public support, it is not clear that the Legislators will feel compelled to restore the county's budget cuts of CCE or GNC programs. The impact on outreach and educational services will be drastic.

MASTER GARDENER should make a statement at these hearings about their own activities and the benefits of their outreach to the public, the schools, etc. Local ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISTS, ARBORISTS, or those involved in the GREEN INDUSTRY should also speak up about the real world benefits and the "multiplier effects" of CCE and/or GNC programs.

One word of advice from someone who has sat thru 3 1/2 hours of speakers - be ready to edit your statement "on the fly". It comes off best if statements in support of the same organization are not overly repetitive, rather taken together present a full picture - but one without excessive repetition!

This urgent message for support needs to be sent out in as many channels as possible - feel free to repost and share with your own lists. We need to make sure anyone associated with either CCE or GNC programs or who has made use of their services will speak up in support at one of the last two public hearings:

Northern County Public Hearing
Tuesday, November 23rd
Location: Pleasantville High School, 60 Romer Avenue (corner of Romer and Clinton Street), Pleasantville

Final Public Hearing
Thursday, December 9th
Location: County Board Legislative Chambers, 148 Martine Avenue, 8th Floor (corner of Martine and Court Street), White Plains

All hearings start at 7:00pm.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Community Services Provided by Westchester CCE Staff and Master Gardeners

From the CCE:

Westchester County provides 34% of our budget, but receives 100% of our programming.

Highlights - Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester County
2010 Budget Revenue breakdown summary

Funding Source -Dollar Amount- Percentage of Funding
County $1,187,82551%
State via Cornell* $616,779 27%
Federal $337,14815%
Other $174,4447%
TOTAL BUDGET$2,316,396100%

CCE Westchester did not receive $1.3 million in 2010; the County Executive only approved and released $1,187,825. That was a 10% cut which resulted in 4 layoffs.

* The above figures do not include $1,422,466 worth of services from Cornell faculty and staff, and do not include the value of volunteer hours: $1,788,696.

If their services had to be provided by others, the cost is estimated to be over $16 million.

In the last 5 years, CCE cut their staff from 36 employees to 18, but more than doubled their productivity. They are extremely efficient. Not one penny of the county funding ever goes toward fringe benefits (pensions, healthcare, etc.) at CCE.

  • We have 130 active Master Gardener Volunteers in Westchester County.
  • Master Gardeners have volunteered over 7000 hours so far in 2010. This is worth over $2,000,000.
  • CCE has trained nearly 200 teachers in school gardening.
  • Master Gardener Volunteers mentor 35 school gardens in Westchester County which makes school gardening more accessible to over 12,000 youth.
  • We responded to 1,636 requests for service (Hort Hotline, Diagnostics etc) last year.
  • Our nutrition department provided nutrition education to 721 adults representing 2382 family members in 2009. This service is bilingual.
  • Our incubation and embryology program (egg hatching) reaches over 11,000 youth.

Background info:

CCE has a $2.3 million dollar program, but it only costs Westchester government about $1.2 million a year. That comes to about $1.00 a year per resident.

CCE is a governmental agency, not a private non-profit. It must, by law, receive its core funding from county government appropriations. CCE was created by the NYS Legislature, not by Cornell University. It was created for the benefit of the respective counties and their residents and businesses. Cornell only administers the program. Cornell University funds do not directly support CCE. Cornell pays faculty and staff who provide in-kind services to county extension offices and the people we serve. Cornell University’s endowment is for Cornell students and cannot be spent on New York State’s cooperative extension system.

CCE provides training, technical expertise and economic development support to the “Billion Dollar Green Industry” in Westchester County. That includes the turf & landscape industry, the private and public golf course industry, the nurseries and greenhouses and the farms. CCE's education teaches them to use the most environmentally safe products and procedures. CCE also provide training, advice and assistance to municipalities in caring for their green spaces (parks, street trees, planting strips, etc.) and provide integrated pest management education so that people don’t use environmentally-unfriendly or dangerous methods of dealing with pests (insects, rodents, bedbugs, wild animals, etc.). CCE serves urban, suburban and rural parts of the county. This “green” industry employs tens of thousands of Westchester residents, so keeping these businesses viable in Westchester means keeping them employing a lot of local people and paying a lot of taxes.

CCE provides advice and guidance to homeowners about plant and pest problems. CCE's lab quickly analyzes and identifies problems brought to it by homeowners. CCE's 150 volunteer Master Gardeners provide thousands of hours of free assistance throughout the year all over the county. Without CCE, the Master Gardener program ceases to exist.

CCE's nutrition educators teach food-stamp eligible people how to stretch their food stamp dollars and make it to end of the month with nutritious and healthy foods. CCE teaches them how to buy, read labels, select, safely handle and store, and prepare food for their families. CCE reaches about 2,400 of Westchester’s poorest people each year with this program. CCE's programs are geared toward preventing youth obesity which leads to later life problems of hypertension, cardio-vascular disease and diabetes. Since this population lacks private health insurance, their healthcare becomes a taxpayer’s burden, so their work is designed to alleviate that tax dollar drain.

CCE's 4-H/Youth Development program teaches kids self-confidence, public speaking, self-discipline, good citizenship, and science. CCE provides the huge Incubation & Embryology program in the local schools that teaches 9,000 Westchester students each year about biology and the environment by having them incubate and hatch chick eggs in their classrooms. On their own, the schools could not afford to hire the expertise that CCE provides in doing these programs unless they increased their schools budgets and raised school taxes.



Call County Legislatos whom you know or who otherwise represent you to let them know how important CCE is to Westchester. Since no other entity in Westchester does what CCE does, if CCE disappears there won’t be anyone else to do this job. It just won’t get done.


You can also email your legislator: http://www.westchesterlegislators.com/legislators/index.htm
Also copy Pete Harckham, who is the majority leader.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

County Budget Hearings - speak up!

notice on hearings from Tom Abinanti's enews list:

November 10, 2010

Dear Neighbor:

I invite you to attend one of the public hearings which the Westchester County Board of Legislators will hold to take input on  the proposed 2011 County Operating Budget submitted by County Executive Robert Astorino.

The schedule for the public hearings is:

Southern County Public Hearing
Wednesday, November 17th
Location: Riverfront Library, 1 Larkin Center (corner of River and Dock Streets), Yonkers

Northern County Public Hearing
Tuesday, November 23rd
Location: Pleasantville High School, 60 Romer Avenue (corner of Romer and Clinton Street), Pleasantville

After these two hearings the Board of Legislators may amend the proposed budget. A final public hearing will be held:

Final Public Hearing
Thursday, December 9th
Location: County Board Legislative Chambers, 148 Martine Avenue, 8th Floor (corner of Martine and Court Street), White Plains

All hearings start at 7:00pm and citizens are invited and encouraged to attend and comment.

If you cannot attend but would like to comment on the proposed budget, please contact me at (914) 995-2821 or Abinanti@westchesterlegislators.com.

For information on the 2011 proposed budget click here.

Sincerely,

Thomas J. Abinanti

Westchester CCE Threatened by new County Budget!

From the Director of Westchester CCE:


You may have already read that the budget County Executive Astorino sent to the Board of Legislators cuts all county appropriations to Cornell Cooperative Extension.  The way our funding works, the law requires the county to first make an appropriation.  Then, after the county appropriates funding support to CCE, the state, federal and Cornell funds kick in as support to CCE.  If the county does not make an appropriation to CCE, none of the other funds will flow, either and CCE will cease to exist in Westchester County.

            The law was set up this way because cooperative extension is a cooperating agreement between the county, state, federal government and Cornell.  If the county wants to have a cooperative extension office, it must show good faith by making its appropriation first.  Since no appropriation is included in the County Executive’s 2011 proposed budget, CCE will cease to exist on January 1, 2011.  If CCE does not exist, the Master Gardener program in Westchester County will cease to exist, also.  All of the horticulture and pest management services, along with the nutrition education and 4-H program will also cease to exist in Westchester County. 

            The County Executive’s budget is now in the hands of the Board of Legislators.  They can modify it and include CCE.  If they are persuaded to do that and an appropriation is made to CCE, the County will continue to receive the state, federal and Cornell support .  And – the Master Gardener program will continue.


Call County Executive Astorino's office to say "no way!" 914.995.2900

Email or call you County Legislator, as well!


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Greenburgh-Based Eco Activists Go to Washington to Speak for the Trees

From 11/9/10 Rivertown Patch.com:

Greenburgh-based environmentalists participate in FERC roundtable to argue against clear-cutting practices.
By Lizzie Hedrick

The Greenburgh Environmental Forum's LORAX Working Group chairperson Mark Gilliland appeared before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington DC late last month to discuss the impact of federal regulations on state and regional electric utility companies' implementation of vegetation management plans surrounding active power lines. 

"I am very pleased that LORAX had this opportunity to present landowner and environmental concerns at the FERC technical roundtable," said Gilliland, an Irvington resident. "It is imperative that community concerns about property value loss, environmental damage and health impacts of these TVMPs are discussed in the context of both State and Federal regulations and policies."

In reaction to utility companies'—predominantly Consolidated Edison's—practices of clear-cutting trees along power transmission lines in Westchester and the Hudson Valley, a group of concerned residents and officials have banded together to push for stronger regulations preventing deforestation they believe is unnecessary and detrimental to our natural environment.

Facing FERC in the nation's capitol, LORAX representatives argued that the current vegetation management programs followed by Transmission Operators—or companies responsible for transmitting energy within a given region—in New York have lead to "severe economic, aesthetic and environmental damage along the transmission rights-of-way due to excessive removal and clear-cutting of all trees and vegetation, lack of adequate storm-water and erosion controls, over-reliance on herbicides, as well as insufficient or inadequate follow-up mitigation."

They said this "scorched earth" approach has  been extensively documented by LORAX, the Sierra Club and various municipalities in the region, as well as by both the Rockland and Westchester County Legislatures.

Appearing on the panel of the roundtable were representatives of the utility industry, state and federal regulatory agencies, utility arborists and landowner groups.

As expressed by Mark Hegerle, director of FERC's division of compliance for the Office of Electrical Reliability, the goal of the meeting was to uncover why utilities and state regulators claim "FERC made us do it" in response to public outcries about recent wide-spread tree removals. The discussion covered a wide range of topics including: Review of federal reliability standards, state approval and oversight of utility vegetation management plans, mandatory non-compliance fines, mitigation of environmental impacts and best practices for vegetation management in the rights of way.

"Viable solutions need to be found to prevent further damage—solutions ranging from revision of approved 'best practices' and reduction of non-compliance fines, to requiring detailed environmental reviews and responsible mitigation along the rights of way," Gilliland said.

Currently, utility companies are fined not only for allowing vegetation to exist within a certain spark zone of active power lines, but also for allowing plants to grow into a wider intermediate area further from the line. "We believe government agencies should reduce the penalty structure so that the utility companies don't feel the need to take such drastic measures," Gilliland said.

Though grateful for the opportunity to present his extensive research, Gilliland added that, in reality, changing the regulations will be difficult.

"Vegetation management plans for each utility company must be approved at both the state and federal levels," Gilliland said. "The second issue is oversight: Once the plans are approved, who is regulating their practices?"

According to Gilliland, nobody is.

He said the the state and government agencies responsible for overseeing the process are understaffed and have been "in reactive mode,"—spending all their time responding to community outrage over clear-cutting, rather that stopping it from happening.

"No vegetation implementation plan specifically mentions clear-cutting," Gilliland said. "But they all do it because it is cheaper to send someone in with a chainsaw than to have an arborist actively select which trees pose a real threat to power lines. It also means they have to come back less often to maintain the rights of way, which is also potentially cheaper."

Several other LORAX members, including Marvin Baum (Rockland County), Amy Kupferberg (Orange County) and Chris Crane, a member of the Westchester County Legislature, attended the FERC roundtable and lobbied strongly for changes to vegetation management regulations and policies. LORAX Working Group founding members include: Patricia Podolak (Yorktown), Susan Porcino (Ardsley), Anne Jaffe-Holmes (Irvington), David Bedell (Sleepy Hollow), and Walter Rodriquez (Yonkers).

"I certainly hope something was accomplished by attending the roundtable and presenting the home-owner and landowner's perspective so that FERC could have a more balanced picture of what's going on," Gilliland said. "What they will do with it, I'm not sure."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What To Do When You Get Noticed By Con Ed

This post covers what to do if your tree is nearby or under a distribution line along the street and you have received notice that Con Ed will be pruning in your neighborhood - or specifically on your front street.

If the tree is on your property, then UNLESS Con Ed has an easement agreement with you, they can not cut or prune the tree. They have to get you sign a release document or else they would be trespassing and illegally "taking" your tree.

Con Ed is not supposed to prune beyond their specified 10'(side) x 15'(above) x 10'(side) line clearance window. They are supposed to prune / manage only distribution lines, not "last mile" connections between the pole and your house or building. (These are your responsibility.)

Before you agree to having a (private) tree pruned by signing off on the utility's worksheet, demand an on-site consultation with the Con Ed supervisor and the tree contractor's forester so as to be shown specifically the extent of the cutting / pruning. They should be able to show you with a laser pointer every branch to be removed or pruned and be able to tell you "why". (It would be a good idea if you are discussing "high-valued" trees to supply your own consulting arborist at this review meeting who will be able to negotiate better pruning decisions and alert you to major concerns.)

If the tree is on a town/village easement (along the street), then the town/village must agree to Con Ed's actions ahead of time. This would typically be the DPW department, but may be the town/village forester, Tree Commission, or sometimes even the town/village clerk. Depends on municipality.

If tree is on town easement (thus, they own the tree) and the town agrees that the tree can be topped (bad for tree!), you are out of luck. Conversely, they may request the tree be removed and mitigated for (replant in new location or replacement with something which will not grow into the wires over time.)

Finally, in some cases, the town/village can request that Con Ed keep the tree unpruned (for aesthetic, public or historic reasons - such as along a park side), and ask that the utility's Line Engineering department consider "appliances" such as yard arms to move the wires out of the tree's crown or into a safer position vis-a-vis the tree's branches/trunk. (This "card" can be played very infrequently by the municipality, so save it for where it makes a major difference for the local community!)

In terms of topping, this is strictly in violation of ANSI A300 part 1 standards of industry "best practice" tree pruning. Con Ed is well aware of this specification and all of their contractors are supposed to conform to it. Short of topping, the only other "solution" would be to heavily prune the tree on one side. In many cases (esp. of it's an evergreen), it would be better to simply remove the tree in exchange for an acceptable replant somewhere else on your property. This would have to be negotiated with Con Ed ahead of time, of course.

As the Con Ed line supervisor or tree contractor's forester may not be able to commit to a negotiated agreement, I suggest that you contact the division head of Con Ed for distribution lines - Matt Glasser. If you must, go higher up the executive chain to top management (whose contact info can be discovered via web search.)

Please take time now to photo document your tree BEFORE Con Ed comes around, as well as after their visit.

Organize with your neighbors and form a community watch group during pruning operations in you neighborhood or along your street. Get local media involved. Make sure your local municipal officials know about this issue, as well. Make noise and be visible!

Record (take notes) concerning all conversations with utility staff, crews or higher-up corporate managers, as well as with your local municipal officials. Get any agreements with the utility concerning pruning or mitigation replanting in writing.

And MOST IMPORTANT, when the day of vegetation management comes, BE THERE ONSITE WATCHING and/or have an arborist there representing you. Keep an eye out at all times! A lot of damage can be done with a chain saw in just a few minutes...

Be sure to have an "escalation" number (7x24 cell#) to contact the in-the-field supervising Con Ed person so as to "stop work" and force an on-the-site meeting if the workers are not following agreed upon plans.

Good Luck!

Be Prepared: Distribution Line Clearing Community Action Plan




Ask your municipal officials to set up an action plan now before Con Ed pruning trucks are idling on your street. Some things you can do on your own within your local community / block. Please consider these action points (based upon our experiences in Irvington last year):
  • Have your elected reps meet with senior Con Ed management to let them know you mean business when it comes to tree conservation and urban forest protection.
  • Hold a high visibility public rally in support of tree conservation and minimal pruning. Get local media involved from the onset. Collect email addresses for community notification.
  • Get to know your crew supervisor for the Tree Contractor and project supervisor for Con Ed. Ensure the Con Ed supervisor is an experienced, certified arborist.
  • Trust but verify – meet, review & monitor every step of the way, every tree (on public easement or on private property)!
  • Have a qualified Consulting Arborist on contract and "on-call" for the duration of the project cycle. Have arborist meet and review pruning expectations with Con Ed and contractor on each new street segment (typically each morning).
  • Highlight areas of historic or specimen quality trees for special handling. Meet & review - walk the line - ahead of time, but especially on the day of actual pruning. Insist upon supervision oversight by a senior Con Ed arborist that you have met and are comfortable with.
  • Agree upon and publicly post the complaint resolution process. (Complaints should go to a specific project email address and to local officials such as DPW for tracking & forwarding "up the chain", and not to the generic 1-800-ConEd number.)
  • Have a Contact Escalation list (including Con Ed senior management) and a defined emergency “stop work” process to allow time-out for on-site consultations.
  • Keep the public informed (email, web, cable, clerk's office, police department) as to the daily work schedule, their rights as property owners, escalation contacts to use, etc.
  • Ensure that Con Ed and Tree Contractor are giving sufficient pre-notification to homeowners for all private tree pruning. There should be at least 48 hours and a contact number to set up a consultation with the Con Ed Notification Forester for the project.
  • Document your assets: take photos before and after pruning. Also get a written description from Notification Forester of what tree pruning you have agreed to.
  • Set up volunteer monitoring of line clearing operations. Establish neighborhood watches block by block. Observers should report (escalate) any unusual, unwanted, un-agreed, or excessive pruning immediately!
  • Report any rude language or behavior by pruning crews. Sure, dealing with public is difficult, especially when it comes to emotional issues such as trees. But the crews must remain civil and professional at all times.
  • Create and update daily a "Scrapbook of Shame" (using Flicker or similar photo posting site) documenting bad pruning and other problems reported.
  • Use Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to keep everyone informed and to quickly organize an action response crowd, if and when required.
Longer Term Efforts:
  • Start a program of municipal street tree maintenance (eg: annual pruning, tree replacement with appropriate tree species, GPS-based street tree survey.)
  • Plan a public “Re-Leaf” Project to re-plant areas where street trees have been removed.

Yonkers Announces Upcoming Distribution Line Clearing Cycle by Con Edison


From the Yonkers Green Policy Task Force enewsletter:

Con Edison's tree-trimming operation will soon hit in Yonkers again.

The public utilities company maintains that trimming trees along transmission (large high voltage towers) and distribution lines (street poles) minimizes storm damage to ensure reliable transmission. Opponents say Con Ed is going way overboard by cutting down far too many trees for neighborhood aesthetics. They argue that over-pruning can weaken the tree and/or create an imbalance in its distribution which causes an even greater likelihood of damage and power outages.

After its first round of cutting last spring, a group of concerned citizens formed a regional task force, with participation from the Yonkers GPTF, called the Lorax Working Group in an effort to watchdog the process. [...] After studying both sides of the issue, Yonkers responded in February 2010 by passing a moratorium on the clear cutting of trees along transmission lines until further study. The utilities company is, however, able to cut trees along its distribution lines and herein lies the rub.

They will start the process in the next few weeks on the streets listed below. Once Con Ed furnishes the GPTF with the exact times and dates, we will publish another eblast so residents can supervise the process on their properties if they so choose.

The following Yonkers streets will be affected:

Fort Hill Rd
Central Park Ave
Young Ave
Depew Ave
Morrow Ave
Brendon Hill Rd
Malverne Rd
Scardale Rd
Harney Rd
Beech Hill Rd
Old Army Rd
Weyburn Rd
Edgemont Rd
Lynwood Pl & Rd
Wyndham Rd
Overton Rd
Iverness Rd
Banbury Rd
Cotswold Way
Chalford La
E. Fort Hill Rd
Triangle
Halsey Rd
Simpson Pl
Eisenhower Pl
Crisfield St
Andover Rd
Patton Dr
Nimitz Rd
Nassau Rd
Shore View Dr
Beaumont Cir
Grange Ave
Canfield Ave
Armonk Ave
Helena Ave
Roxbury Dr E
Cleveland Pl
E. Fort Hill Rd
Bacon Pl
Eisenhower Dr
Nimitz Pl
Falmouth Rd
Deerhurst Rd
Woods Hole Dr
Dimsdale Rd
Marissa Dt
Chalford La
Wyndcliff Rd
Dorset Rd
Sulgrave Rd


Stay informed! Get on the Yonkers GPTF mailing list today!

Yonkers GPTF contact info:
email: gptf@cityofyonkers.com
phone: 914-377-6067

Friday, October 29, 2010

PRESS RELEASE: LORAX TESTIFIES IN WASHINGTON AT FERC






PRESS RELEASE  
    
              
Contact:           Mark Gilliland                                    
                        GEF LORAX Working Group
                        c/o Greenburgh Nature Center                                   
                        99 Dromore Rd
Scarsdale, NY 10583                                                
                        (914) 714-3056                                                                     
                        lorax@markg.org                   

October 26, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LORAX TESTIFIES IN WASHINGTON AT FERC TRANSMISSION LINE VEGETATION MANAGEMENT TECHNICAL ROUNDTABLE


LORAX presents Landowner and environmental concerns with right-of-way clear-cutting.

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – The GEF LORAX Working Group chairperson, Mark Gilliland, appeared before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Electrical Reliability Committee on Tuesday, October 26, 2010, to discuss the impacts of Federal regulations (FAC-003-1) on state and regional electric utilities’ implementation of Transmission Vegetation Management Plans (TVMPs).

“I am very pleased that LORAX had this opportunity to present landowner and environmental concerns at the FERC technical roundtable,” said Mark Gilliland, Chairman, GEF LORAX Working Group. “It is imperative that community concerns about property value loss, environmental damage and health impacts of these TVMPs are discussed in the context of both State and Federal regulations and policies.”

As reported to the FERC panel by LORAX, the current vegetation management programs defined by the various Transmission Operators (TOs) in New York have lead to severe economic, aesthetic and environmental damage along the transmission rights-of-way (ROWs) due to excessive removal and clear-cutting of all trees and vegetation, lack of adequate stormwater and erosion controls, over-reliance on herbicides, as well as insufficient or inadequate follow-up mitigation. This “scorched earth” approach has been extensively documented by LORAX, the Sierra Club and various municipalities in the region, as well as by both the Rockland and Westchester County Legislatures.

Appearing on the panel of the roundtable were representatives of the utility industry, state and federal regulatory agencies, utility arborists and landowner groups. As stated by Mark Hegerle, FERC’s Director, Division of Compliance, Office of Electrical Reliability, the goal of the meeting was to uncover why utilities and state regulators claim “FERC made us do it” in response to public outcries about recent wide-spread tree removals. The roundtable discussion covered a wide range of topics including: review of Federal reliability standards (FAC-003-1), state approval and oversight of utility TVMPs, mandatory non-compliance fines, mitigation of environmental impacts, utility ROW easement agreements, “best practices” vegetation management of the ROW.

A complete video archive of the roundtable as well as the meeting agenda can be viewed online at:

“Viable solutions need to be found to prevent further damage – solutions ranging from revision of approved ‘best practices’ and reduction of non-compliance fines, to requiring detailed environmental reviews and responsible mitigation along the ROWs,” Gilliland noted.

Several other LORAX members, including Marvin Baum (Rockland County), Amy Kupferberg (Orange County) and Chris Crane (Westchester County Legislature), attended the FERC roundtable and lobbied strongly for needed changes to TVMP regulations and policies.

GEF LORAX Working Group founding members also include: Patricia Podolak (Yorktown), Susan Porcino (Ardsley), Anne Jaffe-Holmes (Greenburgh Environmental Center), David Bedell (Sleepy Hollow), and Walter Rodriquez (Yonkers).

For more information including LORAX submittals to recent NYSPSC proceedings on vegetation management, please visit the LORAX Working Group blog at: http://loraxwg.blogspot.com.

“Trees lost to date along the ROWs in Westchester Country provided an estimated $6 million dollars annually in clean air and stormwater benefits for our communities. To avoid similar financial and health impacts in the future, we must better balance electric reliability with the urgent need to protect our local environment,” Gilliland observed.

#  #  #




Photo attached by LORAX. Caption: “Members of GEF LORAX Working Group outside of the FERC building after the Technical Roundtable, October 26, 2010. From left to right: Mark Gilliland, Amy Kupferberg, Chris Crane, Marvin Baum.”



---

Download .pdf version of Press Release here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

LORAX Submissions for FERC Roundtable

Here are our LORAX submissions for the FERC Roundtable:

Westchester BOL Moratorium Resolution 26-2010 passed 3/1/10 (Download as .pdf)

Observations and Recommendations concerning TVMPs in Westchester and Rockland (Download as .pdf)

Short statement by LORAX chairperson to the Roundtable (Download as .pdf)

Follow-up statement of 10/28/10 by LORAX chairperson to FERC committee for inclusion in Docket No. AD11-2-000. (Download as .pdf)

---

Watch the Roundtable via web video streaming here (event page).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Irvington GPTF's "Your Leaves: Love 'Em and Leave 'Em" Environmentally-Friendly Cost-Saving Initiative



PRESS RELEASE

Irvington GPTF's "Your Leaves: Love 'Em and Leave 'Em" Environmentally-Friendly Cost-Saving Initiative

On Wed., October 27 at 7:30 p.m., the Irvington Green Policy Task Force will be presenting "Your Leaves: Love 'Em and Leave 'Em", an environmentally-friendly cost-saving initiative to the Greenburgh Town Council during the Council meeting at Greenburgh Town Hall.

Fall leaves are a valuable resource that most homeowners let go to waste by having them blown into piles on the street, or raked into brown landscaping bags stacked curb-side, left for eventual town pickup. Leaf collection, hauling, and disposal is a huge annual cost to every municipality in our tree-lovely county!  Too often these curbside leaf piles spread out, or the bags tip over, washing leaves into the street, clogging storm drains and making roads dangerous for driving.  Additional cost is thus incurred because these storm drains must be cleared to avoid flooding.

As a homeowner, are there options?  Is there a better way?

Whether you pay a lawn care service or do it yourself, the easy and cost-saving answer is: Leave 'em in place!  Shredding your leaves where they are on the lawn, using shredded leaves as a winter mulch on landscape beds, collecting shredded leaves into compost piles, or simply leaving your leaves under the trees in wooded areas are all examples of using nature's own method of turning old leaves into new soil.  In these stressful economic times, the "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em" Initiative is not only "green", it just makes Cents!

The public are welcome to come to the Town Hall for the presentation, or for more information and/or questions about mulching-in-place and composting of leaves, visit the Irvington Green Policy Task Force web-pages or write them at green@irvingtonny.gov.

Also contact:

Anne Jaffe Holmes
Coordinator of School Programs & Environmental Projects
Greenburgh Nature Center
99 Dromore Road
Scarsdale, NY 10583
P: 914-813-1812
F: 914-725-6599

LORAX to Attend FERC Meeting on Transmission Line Vegetative Management Issues - Docket No. AD11-2-000 - Tuesday, Oct 26th, Washington, DC.

Overview of meeting (from invitation emails):

Staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is organizing a conference to discuss vegetation management practices and related topics. [...] We’d like to highlight the importance of good vegetation management, noting that we’ve generally seen good results with FAC-003 (reduced to zero vegetation contacts over a couple of quarters, but 3 recent touches are indicators of ongoing concern, as shown by a recently issued NERC Industry Advisory. We want to acknowledge landowner concerns over certain methods (e.g., clear cutting), address how such methods are established and approved, and discuss possible ways to mitigate the impact while ensuring reliability.

We propose to structure a panel discussion more like a guided discussion than a series of prepared statements read into the record. So we plan to invite NERC staff to discuss Reliability Standard FAC-003; a couple of utility representatives to discuss current practices, the TVMP, and ROW agreements; a landowner representative to discuss common complaints and concerns; one or two state commission/government representatives to discuss jurisdictional issues; and an arborist to speak to vegetation management issues and solutions from an arborists point of view.

[The conference will be held October 26 at the Commission’s offices from 1pm-5pm.]

Attached is the supplemental notice of the conference containing the list of panelists and the order in which we will address issues. As requested by some of you, following my opening remarks, each of you will have five minutes for introductory remarks. We will then move directly into a collegial discussion of the issues as outlined on the supplemental notice.

The conference will be Webcast. Anyone with Internet access who desires to listen to this event can do so by navigating to www.ferc.gov’s Calendar of Events and locating this event in the Calendar.

Westchester BOL: Flooding/Stormwater Management Legislation

The Environment & Energy Committee will meet on Monday, October 25th at 3:00 PM, in the 8th floor McPoland Conference room. The committee will meet jointly with the Legislation Committee.

Flooding/Stormwater Management Legislation
The joint committees will continue review of proposed legislation on flooding/stormwater management. The proposed legislation would authorize the development of a stormwater management plan, the implementation of a county program to match funds for municipal stormwater projects, and the creation of watershed advisory boards.

The legislation is available here. [click on DRAFT #3]

Head of NYS DEC Fired By Governor

The firing of the head of the DEC as he indicates the probably negative results of the continuing DEC staff cuts is a big blow to NYS's environmental protection and oversight. There are lots of news reports if you google, but here's one summary.

And another from the Eco Poliics Weekly eblast newsletter:


BREAKING NEWS: DEC Commish Fired




- UPDATE -


Acting head of DEC appointed (Nov 4, 2010)


Within the past week, Governor David Paterson named Peter Iwanowicz acting commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Read more from NYLCV's Eco Politics Daily.\

PSC Announces Public Hearing on the Proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express Transmission Line - Yonkers Riverfront Library, Monday Oct 25, 6pm

Subject: Champlain Hudson Power Express Public Hearing; Mon. Oct. 25, 6pm Riverfront Library Yonkers

Everyone: Enclosed find notice of a Yonkers public hearing this Monday evening regarding the proposed Champlain Transmission line down the Hudson River. Please read attached documents. This is an extremely important matter for Yonkers as the project would mandate the use of a large area of open space behind the library for the 4 acre conversion plant that is necessary for convert the line from DC to AC current. And in terms of the Hudson Rver, there are environmental and ecological questions to be addressed, as the line would have to be submerged down the length of the riverbed until it reached the terminus point in Yonkers.

Those of you who do not live in Yonkers, but are concerned with the Hudson River and/or live in adjacent towns may want to attend this hearing as it may be the closest to you. Check the attachment for locations.

From PSC:
A public hearing on the proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line and converter station will be at the Yonkers Riverfront Library on Monday, October 25 at 6 pm. A notice is attached with further information. The converter station is proposed to be located at the parking lot on Wells Avenue, due north of the library. The transmission line cable would be mostly submerged in the Hudson River (in the downstate region). Further information on the proposed facilities is available at www.chpexpresseis.org. The NYSPSC proceeding associated with this project can be accessed here.

PSC Public Hearing announcement with hearings schedule can be downloaded as pdf file here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hydro-fracking: the Social, Moral and Political Imperatives.

Followers of this blog may be wondering why it has recently been focusing on Hydro-fracking in addition to the core issues that originally formed the gestation of this blog: tree preservation, urban canopy renewal/restoration and lobbying for changes to vegetation management policies in our communities by our electric utilities & the NYSPSC.

It's simple, really. The concern for trees emerges from the recognition that they serve as our lungs in purifying air, provide needed cooling in the summer and wind protection in the winter, and are primary processors of stormwater - protecting and enhancing streams, habitats and watersheds thereby ensuring safe, clean drinking water.

And when it comes to our drinking water, protection of upstate watersheds and aquifers must be of immediate and on-going concern for everyone: without this source of fresh potable water, the greater NYC-Philadelphia metropolitan region of over 15 million souls can not be sustained.

But our very life-blood - the water we drink from unpolluted reservoirs and streams upstate is in imminent danger today! The search for oil has come to our (upstate) backdoor in the form of Hydro-fracking. Energy companies are engaged in a gold rush mentality to sign leases for drilling access throughout the upstate Marcellus Shale region (view map).

Recently, at Woodlands Community Temple in Greenburgh, the Cantor presented a Rosh Hashanah sermon about hydro-fracking, including the risks and apparent benefits (lease $) of the practice. This serves as a good introductory white paper on the issue, but also serves to more deeply delve into the social, moral and political imperatives which each concerned citizen needs to address. After reading this, please take action to let your voice be heard!

Read the full text of Saving the Delaware, the Rosh Hashanah 2010 sermon (pdf file).

--

For additional information, see this link or simply google "hydro-fracking Marcellus Shale".

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

On Requiring Carbon and Oxygen Impact Analysis for TVMPs

Marvin Baum, a LORAX Utility Analyst had mentioned in his presentation at Ramapo Town Hall on August 23, 2010, that the PSC should consider mandating carbon and oxygen impact statements for its own proposed actions, such as in Case 04-E-0822, as well as for all proposed actions by utility companies.

Read the Proposal (as a pdf file).

Regarding Con Edison's Manipulation of Public Opinion Thru Misinformation

Attached is a file that consolidates LORAX comments of September 20, 2010, with Con Edison’s Press Release of March 4, 2009, regarding its 2009 “tree trimming” plans for Westchester, into a single document. This file has been posted to PSC Case 10-E-0155 and distributed to the Commissioners and staff.

Read the analysis: Regarding Con Ed and O&R in Case 10-E-0155.pdf

Monday, September 20, 2010

Herbicide Use Kills Bees - Illegal Application During Clear Cut TVM?

A recent email from a homeowner in Chester, N.Y. where the O&R subcontractor, Lewis Tree Service, has destroyed over 300 trees and killed off his honey bees:

I also have [at least] three of my honey bee hives that are dead, possibly from the spraying of herbicides. One of the men gave me a copy of the Herbicide pamphlet warnings. It is called Accord Concentrate made by Dow AgroSciences. It is labeled Hazardous to Humans & Animals ! It probably killed my bees. But I have no way of proving it. Other than the pamphlet and the pictures of the Herbicide spraying truck on my land! The pamphlet is pretty scary. The Inherent Risks of Use page is a statement that says "unintended consequences" may result because of unfavorable temperatures, humidity, wind direction and speed, over- application, etc...etc...
I can go on, but it boils down to Herbicides are poison and should not be used on this planet!

The LORAX response:

The issue about the herbicide application that killed your honeybees is potentially VERY SIGNIFICANT. First of all, does the deed granting the ROW even allow use of herbicides. (We are assuming for this discussion that the honeybees were on your property and you own the ROW. Is this correct?)

O&R does not use herbicides in Rockland and if your ROW agreement does not spell it out specifically, then they should have gotten your permission to use the herbicides before making the application. How did they apply the herbicides?

You must submit your story and evidence ASAP to the Secretary of the PSC (send to: secretary@dps.state.ny.us and jaclyn_brilling@dps.state.ny.us), as the related case 10-E-0155 will be closing next week (Sept 28). Indicate "CASE 10-E-0155" somewhere in the Subject line of the email.

FRACKTIVISTS KEEP THEIR COOL AT EPA HEARINGS

From the The [Green] Capitol Insider - 9.20.2010 e-newsletter by Environmental Activists of NY (EANY.org):

After weeks of chatter, negotiations, venue changes, air conditioning challenges, and one much-discussed postponement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearing on natural gas drilling by means of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” went off without any problems.

Over two days and 16 hours, hundreds of speakers voiced concerns about the controversial fracking process to EPA researchers. Some folks just welcomed the opportunity to have their say or recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Hundreds showed up to listen.

The hearing is the public comment portion of an EPA investigation into fracking. Hydraulic fracturing injects thousands of gallons of chemical-laced water and sand into gas wells, cracking the shale rock and releasing the natural gas. The oil and gas industry is eager to drill for gas trapped under the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations in New York State.

Environmental advocates, concerned citizens and public health groups from across the state and the country are calling for the highest standards and best protections for our natural resources, particularly dinking water. In New York, groups are calling on the State Legislature to enact strong laws and that regulations are on the books before any drilling is allowed. Just last month, the State Senate passed a “timeout” on fracking for gas that would give state leaders more time to study the process. The Assembly has yet to take up identical legislation but is expected to upon returning to Albany.

The EPA is holding the hearings, the last of four nationwide, to get public input on its study on the potential effect that fracking may have on groundwater. The agency is looking for insight on what the highest priority of the study should be, as well as where the gaps in public knowledge are, and suggested locations for a case study.

The 400 speakers, 300 of whom were held over from the original list of registrants for the Aug. 12 meeting at Binghamton University, include a variety of stakeholders, including Congressmen Maurice Hinchey and Binghamton Mayor Matthew T. Ryan.


Click here to check out Environmental Advocates of New York’s fracking primer.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Post O&R Clear Cut Video - Incursion into Delineated Wetlands

View the following video documenting O&R's activity in Orange County:



See all O&R TVMP movie postings by kathr754 on YouTube.

Kathy, the homeowner emailed:

Nearly all the cutting was done within the delineated area. In fact, when I confronted the Lewis crew about the wetland flags, they said that if they had known before hand, they would have come through and done any tree trimming and cutting by hand. They only realized it was delineated wetland after they found one flag crumpled under some of the aftermath of the clearing. Even so, they made little effort to minimize further damage and kept right on using their big "chipper or mower". I called " Eric", the O&R rep, and he asked me what I would like done. I told him some sort of restoration but never heard back. Shortly after they sent a survey team out to survey all the properties. My neighbor , Mr. Bob Mason, had complained that they were reading the survey maps wrong and actually cutting more than was called for along the ROW.

--

Read her complete submission to the PSC Case 10-E-0155 filings here (pdf).

Actions to Take If Utility TVMP ROW Clear Cutting Hits Your Property or Neighborhood

The most effective actions in "self-defense" you can take are as follows:
  • Document the name of the utility contractor at work. Try to speak with and get names of supervisors, if any, on-site. 
  • Insist upon seeing the project work order documentation and ensure there are properly flagged survey markings.
  • Look at your easement agreement to ensure that the requirements were followed "to the letter" by the utility.
  • Create a concise narrative documentation (WORD .doc) with before, during & after photos of your property.
  • Make sure you local, county and state politicians know what is occurring/has occurred.
  • Insist upon on-site meetings with utility to discuss mitigation -- and include politicians, PSC, LORAX reps, if possible.
  • Report complaints to Public Service Commission (PSC) via consumer complaint web page or posted 1-800 complaint phone number.
  • File materials to PSC CASE 10-E-0155 (due before Sept 28?) regarding your situation including photos. This can be done via the PSC website or via email to secretary@dps.state.ny.us with doc, photos, etc.
  • Contact local newspapers, TV reporters, local or regional environmental groups, etc. 
  • Start a letter writing campaign to media, environmental groups and to local and regional politicians.
  • Contact the NYSDEC is you believe environmental infractions occurred on state-monitored land (eg: wetlands and water courses). This includes lack of proper erosion and sediment controls.
  • Meet and consult with neighbors. Share stories, facts and ideas. Act together. Don't be isolated!
All of this helps to increase visibility of the events as well as to apply broader pressure on the utility and its contractor to come to some sort of mitigation agreement that makes sense.

Report: Fracking Chemicals In NE Pa. Water Wells

It's started in our region! Solvents used in hydro-fracking operations such as toluene and ethylbenzene were found in "virtually every sample" taken from water wells in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County.

From NPR web posting of AP news article:

"It doesn't take me or any scientist to see some of the impacts on the drinking water," he said. "Your drinking water goes from clear and fine, to a week later being yellow-colored, sediment on the bottom, foam on the top and an oily smell to it. It's not a figment of anybody's imagination."

Read the whole disturbing article here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

UPDATED: Disposal of Unwanted Medicines - Sept. 25th

-- more info on Sept 25 local collection --

Westchester location: County recycling center at the Material Recovery Facility on Stew Leonard Drive (exit 6A off Interstate 87) from 9am-3pm.

Keep in bottles with labels. no questions asked.

Don't flush it! Keep the estrogenic analogs out of the waste water stream.

Don't trash it! Keep the estrogenic analogs out of landfills and aquifers.


Keep our children and our frogs, amphibians & fish single-sexed and properly formed!

--

For a complete and detailed list of what to bring and what’s not accepted, visit www.westchestergov.com/HRD or call 813-5425.

From the webpage:

Any prescription or over-the-counter pills, liquids, ointments and lotions can be brought in for proper disposal. Pet medications will be accepted too. Keep them in the original container or, if it's not available, put them in a sealable plastic bag. Liquid medications should be in their containers and inside sealable plastic bags. County staff will be on hand to accept expired and unused medications for disposal.

Monday, September 13, 2010

RiverKeeper Posts Its Submission to Case 10-E-0155

Clear-cutting detrimental to watershed and property values

Last month, Riverkeeper testified at the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) hearing about comments we submitted concerning Con Edison’s right-of-way vegetation management plan. Riverkeeper viewed problematic maintenance work in Yorktown, New York, where the company clear-cut excessive trees and other vegetation, and we received reports of Con Ed’s failure to notify property owners of the extent of its proposed vegetation management activities.


See full details at RiverKeeper site:

http://www.riverkeeper.org/news-events/news/safeguard-drinking-water/rvk-testifies-at-ny-state-psc-hearing-on-con-edison’s-right-of-way-practices/

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Letter from LORAX to the PSC

An email sent earlier this week to the PSC:

Dear Secretary Brilling,

I know that you have been receiving a lot of letters and complaints concerning recent activity by O&R (Orange and Rockland) in the Chester, NY area of Orange County. I won't take time to go into details of the various specific concerns and impacts caused by the work (seemingly targeted at lines in the 69kV to 138kV range).

But what does concern me and the members of LORAX is that such activity can continue in light of the history over the last 3 or 4 years of O&R's (and its contractor's) pattern of behavior executing its TVMP in Rockland and Orange Counties.

It is sad and totally unnecessary that this destruction continues unabated even as the PSC has an open review case 10-E-0155 on the matter.

The pattern of misinformation, lack of training and oversight, disregard for state environmental regulations, and the over-zealous and wanton destruction of our valuable natural resources has been commented upon in public meetings and by municipal and county resolutions since at least 2008 (for O&R) and 2009 (for Con Edison).

The fact that Federal regulations do not require the level of destruction (wide-swath clear cutting) being undertaken has been discussed and agreed upon - even by your own DPS staff who oversee the transmission utilities.

The fact is that there is no statistical or scientific proof that such over-clearing of transmission line "air gap" safety zones is actually required based upon the outage history (or lack thereof) in our lower NY state region.

The fact is that in our densely populated counties many property owners now face major environmental problems which they must mitigate at great expense to themselves, often ranging into the thousands of dollars.

The impacts and costs of mitigation continue to grow as these TVMPs continue unchecked and under-supervised by PSC DPS staff. As Legislator Abinanti remarked at the recent PSC Case meeting in Greenburgh, [I paraphrase roughly:] "The clear cut destruction along the transmission ROWS in Westchester alone has done more to undermine all of the county's hard-fought environmental regulations and progress. The negative impact literally swamps any benefits from any of these green / sustainability initiatives."

It is not enough to merely listen -- having heard all of the reports and seen the documentation, action must be taken to minimize further impacts!

It is time that the PSC step forward and explain to the public exactly what reasoning prevents a moratorium from being implemented NOW.

Why won't the PSC simply stop the on-going activity via an immediate stop-work moratorium (excluding "emergency actions") while the case review continues??

The fact that the PSC will not take such action in the face of wide-spread public and governmental outrage is why our state legislators need to take action in the next session to force the PSC into being a public oversight commission, not just a "shill" for the utility companies.

Remember: it only takes 10 minutes to fell a mature Oak, but it takes 100 years to grow one back. Its time for the PSC to do the right thing for the residents of NYS and for our shared environment.

Regards,

-mg-

---

Mark Gilliland
GEF LORAX Working Group, Chairperson


cc: PSC Members

PSC CASE 10-E-0155 Hearing Tomorrow in Albany

PSC Hearing tomorrow:

5:30 pm – 7:30 pm
September 13, 2010
Albany Public Library
Main Library
161 Washington Avenue, 2nd Floor
Albany, NY 12210


Image of Ridge Road / Sprain Parkway clear cut area from Google Earth - shows attempted remediation along Parkway.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Warwick Passes LORAX's TVMP Cessation Resolution

The Town of Warwick rapidly followed the lead of the Chester Town Board who passed a Cessation Moratorium resolution last night.

From Amy K., who attended tonight's Warwick town council meeting:

They drafted the Resolution and passed it tonight.

I actually stood up and thanked them. Supervisor Sweeten thanked us [LORAX] for making him aware of the situation and supplying the Resolution.


---

Read more in the article from the 9/10/10 issue of the Warkwick Advertiser (local paper).

---

Read the Warwick resolution (pdf file).

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Eyewitness Account: Letter from Chester Homeowner to PSC

Dear Secretary Brilling,

My name is John DeRosso, my family and I reside in Chester, N.Y. In the last two and one half weeks my family  has been put through a nightmare I wouldn't wish on anyone. Lewis tree company which I understand is contracted by Orange and Rockland literally clear cut a swath of land in front of my house 135' wide by 600' long.

There was not a tree left standing.

What took us 17 years to build and nurture was literally destroyed in two days, and now resembles a dirt parking lot. Trees that were 90' away were left standing but their branches which hung into the easment were cut off. I still have 30' and 40' tree trunks standing in parts of the ROW.

We were told over and over if they failed to comply they (Orange and Rockland) could be fined anywhere from $1,000 to $1,000,000 per day. That seems very hard to argue with.

Originally when my wife was given notice by a representitive from Lewis tree company that they would be coming in to do "trimming and clearing", she asked if "anything would change." She was told "no". She told me that evening, and given that we were told the same thing in previous years, we assumed they would be doing the same maintanance they had done before. We were totally unaware, nor were we informed of the changes we were later told came about in 2005...

I later found out that many of my neighbors that were having far less done on thier property were given literature as well as contact numbers. We received neither. Three days after the clear cutting when I asked the Lewis representitive who spoke to my wife why we didn't get any of the paper work, I was told he "didn't have anything on him at the time."

To add insult to injury I found out last week that the night before they clear cut my property there was a meeting scheduled in Montgomery in Orange county to open this issue to public comment. At a meeting today with Orange and Rockland representitives I asked why noone was informed of this meeting and I was told it was in the paper.

Today's meeting which was held at our house included concerned neighbors, representitives of Orange and Rockland (which included Mike Grant, Mark Beamish, and Keith Still), Senator Larkin, Assemblywoman Calhoun, Legislator Dan Casticone, and town supervisor Steve Neuhaus. Two members of LORAX were also there as observers. I have to say without the guidance, help, and support form the members of LORAX, I don't know what we would have done.

Most of the people attending  the meeting were very taken back by what they had seen and had a hard time comprehending why it was done. The Orange and Rockland representatives characterized what happened as a "miscommunication". Unfortunately that answer doesn't give us our property or our lives back. After the meeting I have to say I was probably more confused and angry then I was before.

There will be a town meeting tomorrow evening in Chester, N.Y. to adress the issue of passing a resolution similar to those passed in both Rockland and Westchester counties to have Orange and Rockland cease it's clear cutting activities. I also spoke to the town supervisor in Warwick today and will be forwarding him information I have accumulated over the past week.

I've spent the last few days speaking to people in the area and informing them of what happened to us and may happen to them. I have also brought this to the attention of local and county newspapers and will also be talking to any other available media outlets. I personally feel that Orange and Rockland needs to greatly improve thier interaction with the public as well as take a hard look at their policies and practices when it comes to dealing with these type of issues which can have such a drastic effect on people's lives. As I understand it Marvin Baum has already sent you pictures of our property, so I won't bother to do the same. I would like to thank you for your attention to this matter.

Regards,
John DeRosso
Chester,N.Y.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More Lame-o Excuses - O&R Tries to Duck and Cover

As reported by LORAX member and utility activist Amy K. who attended the on-site meeting this morning (Wednesday 9/8/10):

They [O&R Reps] started with the blackout of 2003.

We negated that....I told [O&R] that there is a published time line [from the federal incident analysis study of what occurred] that [they] should read [to get the full facts of the chain of events leading up to the blackout. This has been discussed extensively elsewhere in PSC submissions by LORAX.]

Then they [O&R] shifted to the 2005 mandate from the PSC. I reminded them that at the Yonkers meeting in March, Dave Morrell [of the PSC staff] stated that the Utilities were not mandated to clear cut. When Nancy Calhoun [elected official] asked again why they would cut so much, I said "because they could" and everyone repeated it.

They did not look good, and of course they are blaming Lewis [tree service contractors who also did the work in Westchester] for everything.

There is a town hall meeting in Chester [tonight (Wednesday)], and Warwick on Thursday.

It was fun... the local elected officials were good.

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Amy added more unbelievably lame-o O&R interchange in a later message:

Michael Grant the PR guy [O&R] mentioned the 2005 Order, and I said that I was glad he brought it up because although it is very aggressive, it does make mention of property owners and [inventorying] buffers. Michael first replied by saying that he wasn't a lawyer and really couldn't discuss specifics. I answered him by saying that he didn't have to be a lawyer, he just needed to know how to read. I had read it, it is just 32 pages. He than said that this property would not qualify as a buffer. I asked him why not?? - no answer. He was not very pleased with me.

Marvin brought up the O&R modified TVMP for residential areas and Mark Beamish [O&R] said this area wasn't really considered residential. I asked the town Supervisor if the area was zoned for residential and he said yes. Then Beamish said it wasn't really a front yard because there wasn't a swing set.

I plan to discuss this episode in Albany.


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Follow-on report by Amy K. from the Chester Town board meeting:

We swooped in and took O&R out.

The Town of Chester passed their resolution tonight.

At the town hall meeting residents were also given an opportunity to speak. I also spoke.
I encouraged participation in case #10-E-0155.

Channel 12 was there.

Supervisor Neuhaus also stated that O&R has agreed to stop the cuttings. Neuhaus and Warwick Supervisor are meeting tomorrow and they are also reaching out to other neighboring [towns].

Supervisor Neuhaus was definitely impressed by the LORAX work!!