Press Release: Mountainkeeper Supports Lawsuit Challenging Pro Gambling Language of Referendum

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Catskill Mountainkeeper Supports Lawsuit that Challenges Wording in N.Y. Casino Referendum

Says ballot is not objective
October 2, 2013

“We support Eric Snyder’s lawsuit challenging the state’s irresponsible referendum language – and urge New Yorkers to get the real facts about casinos,” said Ramsay Adams, Executive Director of Catskill Mountainkeeper.
Snyder, a Brooklyn attorney, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in state Supreme Court in Albany, saying a proposed amendment to allow casinos “constitutes the use of public money to advocate the position of a public institution, in violation of the New York State Constitution.”  The language, which the State Board of Elections approved in July, mentions only positive “legislative purposes” of the casino proposal, including “promoting job growth, increasing aid to schools and permitting local governments to lower property taxes.” Referendum language is typically neutral.

“Study after study shows that casinos do more harm than good, especially in rural areas. We oppose casinos in the Catskills because of the pervasive and compelling environmental, social and economic problems that will accompany casino development and ultimately would harm the very people they’re supposed to help.”

For more information on Catskill Mountainkeeper’s position on casinos in the Catskills please visit: http://www.catskillmountainkeeper.org/our-programs/casinos/.  For a copy of the lawsuit,please contact us.

Read the New York Times story on the lawsuit here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/02/nyregion/lawyer-contests-casino-referendums-wording.html

Why Casinos are the Wrong Bet for the Catskills

Catskill Mountainkeeper strongly opposes bringing casinos to the Catskills because of the pervasive and compelling environmental, social and economic problems that will accompany casino development.

We continue to work on our long-running campaign to block the construction of multiple Las Vegas-style casinos in the Catskills.  In 2008, Catskill Mountainkeeper, working with NRDC and other environmental allies, played an instrumental role in the rejection by federal officials of several so-called “off-reservation” Indian casino proposals, including one to be built directly on the banks of the famed Neversink River.  Unfortunately, the casino interests have succeeded in getting a referendum on the November 2013 ballot to legalize gambling in New York State and multiple casinos are proposed for the Catskill region.

The threat of multiple casinos along Route 17 near Monticello could not only bring a dramatic spike in traffic and pollution problems to the region, but could also forever change the unique rural character of the Western Catskills and bring serious infrastructure and social problems. We continue to vigilantly track these ever changing casino proposals and varying receptions to them at different governmental levels. We are ready to resume the active phase of our fight, including in court, against the building of numerous large-scale Catskill casinos as conditions on the ground warrant.

Environmental Problems
The threat of environmental problems from proposed casinos in especially sensitive ecological areas, such as along the Neversink River will:

  • Destroy broad swathes of thriving habitat, plant and animal life
  • Compromise water resources through deforestation, erosion, and             construction blasting
  • Increase the risk of toxic substances entering surface and groundwater
  • Exacerbate the danger of flooding – threatening homes and property.

Currently 1,000,000 visitors travel up Route 17 to visit the Catskills each year.  The combined visitors estimated for only one casino is more than 6 million!  Building more than one casino could add millions more cars to the road. This 24-hour a day influx could overwhelm our roadways, making it extremely difficult for full and part time residents to move around the area for business or pleasure. It would discourage the existing tourist base from continuing to come to enjoy our natural beauty.  Emissions from so many autos would contaminate our air and noticeably foul the quality of what we breathe.

While it is clear that these environmental dangers exist, no comprehensive environmental review has been completed to quantify the overall impact of bringing the casinos here.  In fact, during the Bush Administration, the Federal  Bureau of Indian Affairs determined that one of these mega casino projects would have no significant impact on the environment and thus no full environmental review was necessary.

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Colorado Flooding – Could it Happen in NY?

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 Colorado Flooding – Environmental Catastrophe

If fracking is permitted in NY, it could happen here

The scope of the environmental disaster in Colorado from the epic flooding is still unfolding.  The latest from Colorado’s regulatory agency is that they are working feverishly to access the damage and potential leaks to its 50,000 oil wells.  So far they have calculated that 34,500 gallons of crude have spilled and that dozens of condensation tanks that hold the chemically laden wastes from fracking have overturned and have potentially leaked into the floodwaters. At least one pipeline has been confirmed broken and leaking.
This has created a short and long term health crisis of yet undetermined proportions.
Colorado’s lax regulations don’t require that drillers release the names of chemicals used in
WELD COUNTY, CO. – SEPTEMBER 16: A drilling derrick near Greeley stands in land flooded by the South Platte River. (Photo By Tim Rasmussen/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
fracking fluid but it is known that they are linked to diseases and medical conditions that include cancers, infertility, autism, diabetes and thyroid disorders and that chronic illnesses from exposure to these chemicals can take many years to manifest.
Catskill Mountainkeeper has been warning for years that future floods in New York could lead to catastrophe if fracking is approved because of the probability of toxins from fracking waste getting into our water supply.
Wes Gillingham, Catskill Mountainkeeper Program Director, was quoted by CBS News last week as saying, “This is a real concern. We were talking about it two years ago.  People need to understand what kind of contamination has happened on the local level in Colorado and what health impact it has. To see this come to life on such a large scale in Colorado is both terrifying and humbling.”A tragedy of the magnitude of the Colorado flooding eviscerates the theory that if New York allowed fracking we could protect ourselves from this kind of devastation by being smarter or having better regulations.  While the proposed regulations for New York – the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) – appear to be better than the regulations that govern in Colorado, there is no way they could address a calamity like the Colorado flooding.

The most recent version of the SGEIS even allows open waste pits, contrary to what the public was originally led to believe, although they call them centralized facilities.  The Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) only nod to public concern about open waste pits is a note in the document that says that they believe that the gas industry will not use them.
Widespread flooding covered the Catskills after hurricane Irene in 2011. Schoharie County, above.
The  SGEIS seeks to protect from flooding in 100 year flood plains, but as we’ve seen from the recent storm in Colorado, climate change is making storms that were previously categorized as 500 or even 1,000-year storms the “new normal”.Even if the proposed regulations were stringent, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has major manpower shortages, and in multiple cases over the last year the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shown an unwillingness to deal with fracking pollution.

We are seeing that the gas industry is not immune from the destruction that its activities have helped to create.  We are in a vicious cycle – we are burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon into the air, which is accelerating climate change and increasing the intensity of storms like the one that caused the flooding in Colorado.  But there is a better way – we don’t have to put our planet at risk to get our energy. We can change our paradigm to renewable energy choices such as solar, wind and geothermal that are rapidly becoming cost competitive and practical.

Please join us in sending messages to President Obama (click here for sample message) andGovernor Cuomo that fracking is the wrong choice for New York and our country and implore them to take whatever political risks are necessary to develop clean energy solutions.


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Flooding in CO

Dear President Obama,

I am heartbroken over the pictures I’ve seen of the flooding destruction in Colorado and terrified of a similar catastrophe happening here in New York if fracking is approved. The thought of waste from fracking overrunning centralized facilities (the new name for open waste pits) in our flood prone state is a likely scenario that is just too great a risk.

I know that the Department of Environmental Conservation has worked hard on creating regulations to protect the public from the downsides of fracking but a
tragedy of the magnitude of the Colorado flooding eviscerates the theory that these regulations could protect us.

I don’t want the kind of contamination that has happened on the local level in Colorado to happen in New York and I don’t want to have to worry that the toxic waste from fracking that could spread into our waters and poison my family.

I implore you to take whatever political risks are necessary to support clean energy solutions that can meet our energy needs without sacrificing our planet.

Thank you for your consideration.

PA county shows possible dangers of fracking

Pressconnects

Sep 6, 2013   

Written by
Sandra Steingraber and Dr. Kathleen Nolan

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo sends Health Commissioner Nirav Shah around the country to look at the health impacts of fracking, we hope he is looking at Washington County, Pa. Early results from an on-the-ground public health assessment indicate that environmental contamination is occurring near natural gas drilling sites and is the likely cause of associated illnesses.

This is alarming. According to this assessment, in one small county of about 200,000 people, 27 people thought they were getting sick and went to a single rural health clinic and fracking was determined to be a plausible cause.

Since drilling has only been going on for six years, it does not include chronic illnesses that can take years to manifest.

While the industry points to these numbers and says it’s “only” 27 people, the presence of any people gives a lie to industry claims that fracking is “safe.”

The 27 cases documented by the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project team are not a surveyed sample of the region’s population, nor were they recruited to be part of a study. They are patients from a single rural clinic who came in seeking help. As such, these early figures could easily be the leading edge of a rising wave of human injury.

Mesothelioma from asbestos, thyroid cancer from radiation, mental retardation from lead poisoning, birth defects from the rubella virus — all these now-proven connections began with a handful of case studies that, looking back, were just the tip of an iceberg. We know that many of the chemicals released during drilling and fracking operations — including benzene — are likewise slow to exert their toxic effects. Detection of illness can lag by years or decades, as did the appearance of illnesses in construction workers and first responders from exposure to pollution in the 9/11 World Trade Center response and cleanup.

The early results from the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project study implicate air contamination as the likely cause of three-quarters of the associated illnesses so documented. In some cases, starkly elevated levels of fracking-related air pollutants were found in the air inside of people’s homes. This is an unacceptable problem: breathing is mandatory and, while a drinking water source might be replaced, air cannot.

A minority of cases suffered from likely exposures to tainted water, but these low numbers are not reassuring. Water contamination often takes a while to appear. Well casings continue to fail as they age — up to 60 percent over 30 years — and, as they do, we expect health effects from waterborne contaminants to rise and spread to more communities.

Given that exposures and illness increase over time and given that many instances of contamination and illness related to fracking never come to light due to non-disclosure agreements with the industry, we cannot accurately quantify the extent of our problems with gas drilling. But Washington County shows that they are here, and we have every reason to expect that they are not yet fully visible and they are growing.

We hope Cuomo and Shah are watching.

Steingraber is a distinguished scholar in residence at Ithaca College, and Nolan is a physician and bioethicist working with Catskill Mountainkeeper.

Farmers’ Market of the Week: Monticello Farmers Market

By Tara Collins, The Watershed Post

9/24/13 – 9:33 am
In an effort to increase access to fresh, locally-grown foods, Catskill Mountainkeeper is managing a new farmers’ market that is going through its’ first full season this summer. Beginning in July, the market is Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) approved, which means that all of the farmers and producers are eligible to accept vouchers – both WIC and Senior – from recipients and redeem them for cash.

The market is located across from the Government Center in Monticello in the Ted Stroebele Recreation Center lawn, and coincides with the issue times for the FMNP vouchers, which are picked up by recipients just across the street in the Government offices.

When: Every other Monday 11:00 am – 2:00 pm (July 1- Oct. 21) – remaining markets on 9/23; 10/7; 10/21
Where: Ted Stroebele Parking Lot (across from Government Center) – 2 Jefferson St., Monticello, Ny
What: fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, coffee, pickles, preserves, maple syrup, honey, and other locally produced value-added products
Participating Farms:
 - Root ‘N Roost Farm (White Sulphur Springs)
 - Trapani Farms ( Milton)
 - Big Eddy Farmstand (Narrowsburg)
Additional Info: This market is FMNP (Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program) approved. All participating vendors are approved to accept FMNP vouchers (WIC Fruit and Vegetable and Senior)