September 16, 2009, Press Connects: Marcellus regulations delayed DEC plans release for end of month

Marcellus regulations delayed

DEC plans release for end of month

By Tom Wilber • [email protected] • Staff Writer • September 16, 2009

A much-anticipated draft of new regulations for drilling into the Marcellus Shale will not be released by Tuesday as expected, but DEC officials said it will come before the end of the month...

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September 16, 2009, Adirondack Daily Enterprise: Yellow-lettered signs could go by the wayside

Yellow-lettered signs could go by the wayside

link to complete article here: http://adirondackdailyenterprise.com/page/content.detail/id/508649.html?nav=5008
By CHRIS KNIGHT, Enterprise Senior Staff Writer
POSTED: September 16, 2009

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The Federal Highway Administration is asking the state Department of Transportation to consider replacing the yellow and brown signs in the Adirondacks with white and brown signs like those found in other parks around the country.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
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They've been a fixture along the highways and byways of the Adirondack Park for years - yellow and brown signs that identify the town of village you're entering, the lake you're driving by and where to find nearby shops, lodging, food and attractions.

But the days of yellow lettering may be numbered.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is asking the state Department of Transportation to consider replacing the yellow-on-brown signs, which are only found in the Adirondack and Catskill parks, with white-on-brown signs like those found in national parks.

The potential change has some people upset that the Adirondacks could lose what's considered its trademark colors.

"The Adirondack Park has been protected for over a century, and part of that identity has been the commitment from the state to brand the park in a unique fashion," said Dan Plumley of the environmental group Protect the Adirondacks! "Part of that branding has been the brown and yellow signs that are omnipresent throughout the Adirondacks. We intend to urge that no changes take place to that standard."

The proposal will be discussed by officials from the FHWA, state DOT, state Adirondack Park Agency, environmentalists, local government officials and other stakeholders at an Oct. 1 meeting in Albany.

While no decisions have been made yet, FHWA spokesman Doug Hecox said there are safety issues associated with yellow-on-brown signs. He said tests have shown that white-on-brown signs, like those found in national parks, can be more easily seen at night or in low-light situations when compared to signs with yellow lettering.

"Safety is our top priority, and we want to make sure that New York motorists are as safe in the parks as they are on any other road," Hecox said.

Matching signs in the Adirondacks to those in other parks across the country would also create consistency, Hecox said.

The standards for road signs across the country are spelled out in a document called the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which is published by the FHWA. It includes a provision that requires informational or guidance signs in parks or recreation areas to use a white font and border on a brown background.

But since the 1970s, the Adirondacks and Catskills have received a waiver from those standards to use yellow and brown signs, according to Michael Shamma, director of Utica-based DOT Region 2.

"The Adirondack Park predates any of the national parks, and that's why FHWA granted the exception at the time," he said. "But every few years the manual gets updated and there's a dialogue about consistency and conformance."

While federal officials cited safety issues as one reason for changing the color scheme of the signs in the Adirondacks, Shamma said the state DOT doesn't have those concerns.

"We don't see a safety issue with yellow on brown versus white on brown," he said.

If a change is made, Shamma said the Park's signs wouldn't all be replaced at once.

"We have a normal replacement cycle," he said. "If a decision is reached with all parties involved that the color scheme will change, as you replace these signs over 10 to 12 years, you'd replace them with the agreed-upon solution."

But some people are hoping it doesn't get that far.

"The Adirondacks are not a national park," Plumley said. "It's a state park that's very unique. And we should identify our park uniquely and distinctly from our national parks."

Plumley noted the Adirondacks recently lost another "branding attribute" when the state decided to use federal stimulus funds this summer to remove the rusted, brown, "rustic" guiderails in the Adirondacks and replace them with silver, galvanized-steel guiderails.

"This is just another hit," Plumley said.

State officials have said the rustic guiderails were treated with an alloy that caused them to rust much quicker, creating safety concerns.

"Once the department determined the rustic guiderails were deteriorating, we couldn't really tell whether they were going to hold back a vehicle on the road," Shamma said. "The signs is really not a safety issue; it's strictly a conformance and consistency issue."

Brian Towers, president of the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages, said he understands the concern that a change in signage could affect the "branding" of the Adirondacks, but he doesn't think it's worth fighting over.

"If the biggest problem we've got in the Adirondacks is whether the letters on the signs or white or yellow, some people have a real problem," he said. "We've got much bigger problems."

The Oct. 1 meeting is designed to open up a dialogue among the various agencies and groups who have an interest in the Park's signage.

"We all have an interest in conformance, highway safety and preserving the culture and heritage of the Adirondacks," Shamma said. "I'm pretty confident we can reach a solution that's acceptable to everybody."

---

Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or [email protected].

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September 16, 2009, Oneonta Daily Star: 'Buy Local' initiative seeks to aid farmers

'Buy Local' initiative seeks to aid farmers

By Mark Boshnack
Staff Writer
link to article is here: http://www.thedailystar.com/local/local_story_259040021.html

Helping area farmers can be as easy as making a trip to the right food retailer, two people involved with a local initiative said. Two organizations have declared September "Buy Local Month in the Catskills," to help make an impact.

The event is sponsored by Pure Catskills, an economic initiative of the Watershed Agricultural Council, and Farm Catskills, a grass-roots organization based in Delaware County that is dedicated to strengthening sustainable communities in a working landscape, officials said.

The month is intended to raise the community's awareness of the importance of buying local, Farm Catskills board member Amy Kenyon said.

"We are not asking people to spend more money (for the cause)," said Tara Collins, communications director of WAC. But the groups are asking residents to make a pledge that they will spend a certain amount on local-grown food for a definite amount of time. If 1,000 people spend $10 a week on local produce for a year, that would infuse the local economy with $500,000, Collins said. Studies have shown this money will circulate three to seven times in the area, she said.

"That is really the key to bolstering the local economy while benefiting farm families," she said. It may be easy at this time of year, but some wonder how to keep the trend going in the winter months, she said. This can include purchases of honey, maple syrup, eggs and cheese from local producers.

More information on where to buy local products is available at www.buypurecatskills.com.

Collins said some of the larger grocery stores, such as Hannaford, are making it easier to buy local products by identifying them in the store.

More then 150 people have signed up at previous events, said Kenyon.

Pledge cards are available online at www.buypurecatskills.com or at several local food retailers, including Good Cheap Foods in Delhi, Green Earth in Oneonta, Lucky Dog Farm Store in Hamden, Masonville General Store and Pepacton Natural Foods in Downsville.

Information is also available about the month at several area events including: 9/20 _ Susquehanna Garlic Festival, Wood Bull Antiques, Milford; 9/26 _ Cauliflower Festival, Margaretville; 9/27 _ Scarecrow Festival, Stamford; and the Franklin Farmers' Market on Sundays through October.

Tickets are also available at participating food stores for two showings of the film "Food Inc.," also being sponsored by the initiative as part of the "buy local" month.

The movie lifts the veil on the results of corporate control of the nation's food industry, according to a release from Farm Catskills.

It will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Southside Cinema in Oneonta, and Sunday at the Walton Theater.

Tickets are available at participating retailers or by calling Liz Searles at 278-5427.

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September 12, 2009, Albany Times Union: Who Is George Bristow?

Project 1: Bristow

If you are still with me in this music geeky blog — we left the other day at “Who is George Bristow?”...

 

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September 11, 2009, Durango Herald: FRAC Act a necessary step


http://durangoherald.com/sections/Opinion/2009/09/11/FRAC_Act_a_necessary_step/

FRAC Act a necessary step
by Bruce Baizel

Article Last Updated; Friday, September 11, 2009

Why the fuss about fracing and the Safe Drinking Water Act?
In a recent column (Herald, Aug. 21), Christi Zeller, executive director of the La Plata County Energy Council, argued that state rules governing gas and oil ensure that hydraulic fracturing - fracing - of gas wells won't harm groundwater. In the political realm, fracing was the subject of a 26-minute speech by U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. Closer to home, this high-pressure production technique has been the subject of three resolutions by our county commissioners.

The catalyst for all this attention is HR 2766, introduced by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, and the bill's Senate counterpart, S 1215. This five-paragraph bill does two things: It requires public disclosure of chemical constituents used in fracing and brings fracing back under the Safe Drinking Water Act, our primary federal statute for protecting public drinking-water supplies.

Three main issues have caused this bill to resonate widely. First, as we become more aware of water's finiteness, we become more protective. Without clean water, we have no future here in Colorado. The Safe Drinking Water Act, which used to require regulation of fracing, reflected that need for protection.

In recent state hearings, it became clear that the gas and oil industry has caused more than 300 instances of contaminated water in Colorado since 2003 - 19 in La Plata County - and more than 700 instances in New Mexico. As the Texas Supreme Court recently noted, estimates of the distance hydraulic fractures travel are "imprecise at best," and "virtually nothing can be done to control" the direction in which fractures run. Given this history and lack of control, people fear they might be the next person whose water well gets contaminated.

Second, we are being asked to trust one of the most profitable and powerful industries in the country - so powerful that it got White House assistance in obtaining the Safe Drinking Water Act exemption. Many times we have heard gas and oil development is "safe," until
bitter experience has shown otherwise.

In the case of Laura Amos, the company denied that 2-BE, a fracing chemical linked with a rare type of cancer, was used in a nearby well. Amos later developed that cancer. In Pavillion, Wyo., it took eight years and the Environmental Protection Agency's involvement to finally get water tested. Now, sampling shows contaminants in water wells, including 2-BE. In New Mexico, the industry claimed drilling and waste pits did not leak. It took testing by the state to document levels of contaminants that violated health standards. So when we hear assurances of how "safe" fracing is, when there are no scientific studies documenting that safety, our experience tells us to beware.

Third, we see signs of the pervasiveness of chemicals all around us, and this industry is no different. Public data show that more than 340 chemicals are used in fracing, with at least 200 known to have adverse health impacts. A representative of a large fracing company estimates that, of more than 2,500 chemicals used in gas and oil fields, at least 60 to 65 percent are nontoxic. He believes it would be "simple" to raise this figure to 90 percent, as the technology "already exists," although the United States was "still behind the curve" in this area, compared to other countries.

Locally, according to EPA figures, between 12 million and 122 million gallons of fracing fluids may have been left in the Fruitland formation. In its 2002 draft report on fracing, the EPA said the Fruitland formation showed possible residual contamination from fracing.

Is it any wonder, then, that New York City does not want any drilling in its watershed? Or that Rep. DeGette wants to require disclosure of fracing chemicals?
Colorado has shown leadership in revising its gas and oil rules, and is the first state to require chemical inventories. However, even Colorado's disclosure rule will not help landowners identify chemicals to be used in the gas well next door. Nor would the rule help a nurse who needed immediate access to which chemicals were in the fluids that drenched a worker. Absent that information, medical responders could end up, as Durango's Cathy Behr did, in the emergency room not knowing the long-term effects of the contamination.

We have decades of experience with Zeller's claim that state rules work best. With our water at risk and without a full commitment to preventing contamination, we need to look at other approaches. That is why so many have been disappointed by the refusal of local leaders to support Rep. DeGette's bill. In the long run, the costs will be far less if industry commits to the use of less toxic fluids. Until then, we need to take this relatively small, yet significant, step forward by passing the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals or FRAC Act.

Bruce Baizel is senior staff attorney at the Oil & Gas Accountability Project,
a program of Earthworks, in Durango. Reports and sources are available at www.ogap.org.


Contents copyright ©, the Durango Herald. All rights reserved.
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August 29, 2009, Albany Times Union: Op-Ed - Casinos too risky in Catskills by Mark Izeman and Ramsay Adams

Casinos too risky in Catskills
 link is here: http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=836275&category=OPINION
By MARK A. IZEMAN AND RAMSAY ADAMS
First published: Saturday, August 29, 2009
The nation's top Indian Affairs official, Larry Echo Hawk, visited one of New York's most scenic and ecologically distinctive regions -- the Catskill Mountains -- on Wednesday. He is being asked to consider two widely contrasting visions for securing economic vitality today and into the future...

 

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August 26, 2009, Times Herald Record: Head of BIA meeting with opponents of Sullivan casino

Head of BIA meeting with opponents of Sullivan casino

Richard Schrader the New York Legislative Director of the NRDC, center, chats with Mike Edelstin of Orange Enviorment Inc., right, as NRDC Senior Attorney, Mark Izeman lstens before the start of the hearings.THR/Michele Haskell
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MONTICELLO - Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and other casino opponents spoke against Catskill casinos at a closed-door meeting this morning before the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Larry EchoHawk, the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, heard comments from 14 people representing environmental groups and anti-gaming organizations.

Kennedy, who was representing the Riverkeeper and The Waterkeeper Alliance, made a conference call expressing concerns about the impact on the reservoirs, which provide drinking water to millions of residents in New York City.

“He was concerned that casino development would trigger sprawl and impact the water shed,” said Mark Izeman, a senior staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

EchoHawk arrived in the lobby shortly after 10:30 a.m. and went directly into the meeting room, while casino opponents gathered outside the Government Center.

The meeting was closed to the public and EchoHawk plans this afternoon to hear from three Indian tribes and casino supporters in another closed-door meeting.

Sen. John Bonacic, R-C-Mount Hope, and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-C-Forestburgh, are scheduled to speak in favor.

EchoHawk was invited by Congressman Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, who will attend all the meetings. Sen. Chuck Schumer is also expected to attend the meeting with casino supporters and will appear with EchoHawk and Hinchey at a news conference this afternoon. He took notes and made few comments, attendees said.

“The primary message is that there are two competing economic visions for Sullivan County,” Izeman said.

“One is the old giant casino model that will bring traffic spikes, degrade air quality and unplanned sprawl. The other vision is a sustainable economic development that will bring green jobs, clean tech, new universities and allow the Catskills to preserve its unique character.”

During the morning meeting, one casino opponent, Art Siegel, attempted to enter and was rebuffed by an aide to Hinchey. Siegel says he is recording a documentary on the gaming issue and was appalled at being shut out.

“I think it stinks,” Siegel said. “What do our elected officials have to hide from the public with respect to issues that are a concern to the general public and which are not a matter of National Security?”

Not all those in the anti-casino meeting were against a casino. Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini, as the supervisor in the town where the casinos are proposed, was also invited to sit in on the first meeting. Cellini has been one of the biggest supporters over the years.

“I think they have had the opportunity to plead their case,” Cellini said. “The environmental studies have been completed.”

Both sides say EchoHawk's visit is significant and believe that the Obama Administration will review the policies of the Bush Administration that made it almost impossible to open an off-reservation casino. EchoHawk's staff would do most of the review in a casino proposal.

Asked whether he thought this would speed up the process, Cellini said, “Hopefully. It can't slow it down more than it already has.”

[email protected]

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August 24, 2009, Oneonta Daily Star: Rt. 28 Scenic Byway moving forward

Rt. 28 Scenic Byway moving forward

Delhi News Bureau
link to complete article is here:
http://www.thedailystar.com/local/local_story_236040050.html

The Central Catskills Collaborative will meet from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday to begin the development of the Corridor Management Plan for the nomination of a 50-mile stretch of state Route 28 as a Scenic Byway.

The meeting will be held at the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development on Route 28 in Arkville and is open to the public. Refreshments will be provided.

An overview of the Scenic Byway nomination process, the steps in completing the plan and the opportunities for community involvement will be highlighted with an open discussion will follow, presenters said.

Ben Murdock, Catskill Center Educator, will open the session with a discussion on the threats of invasive species and the relationships with travel corridors.

A scenic-highway designation would stimulate local economies through tourism and recreation and open the door to federal and state monies, according to proponents.

The Central Catskills Collaborative, a group of seven communities along the Route 28 Corridor, recently contracted with the Catskill Center to guide the development of a Corridor Management Plan, a requirement in the Scenic Byway nomination process.

The 50-mile section of Route 28 wends its way from West Hurley in Ulster County to the hamlet of Andes in Delaware County. The project is supported by a grant from the Catskill Watershed Corp.

Catskill Center Executive Director Lisa Rainwater said the Catskill Center was thrilled to partner with the Collaborative and formally begin the nomination process.

According to Scenic Byway program officials, a scenic byway is a road that has a story to tell through the preservation and promotion of a series of unique scenic, recreational, cultural and historical qualities. Successful nomination requires the preparation of a Corridor Management Plan, which is created through collective grass-roots efforts of the involved communities.

The Central Catskills Collaborative includes representatives from the towns of Andes, Hurley, Olive, Middletown, Shandaken and the villages of Fleischmanns and Margaretville. Earlier this year, the town of Olive, in conjunction with the Collaborative, secured a $50,000 award from the Catskill Watershed Corp.'s Local Technical Assistance Program.

As part of the project, The Catskill Center and the Central Catskills Collaborative will host a series of community meetings to define the project, gather information and identify volunteers.

For more information, call Peter Manning at (845) 586-2611 ext. 104, or e-mail him at p[email protected]

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August 13, 2009: Phoenicia Times: Is Crossroads Gambling? Spitzer-Gitter Deal On The Ropes Over Forest Land Appraisal Issue


Is Crossroads Gambling?
Link to complete article is here:
http://www.phoeniciatimes.com/phoenicia/followup.html#2

Counsel for developer Crossroads Ventures effectively told Ulster County legislators that the company is prepared to scrap its proposed project now 10 years into its review, and instead develop 1,215 acres on Belleayre Mountain… unless the legislature helps them get the price they want from the State to buy that acreage for the Forest Preserve.
“It’s not a threat,” said attorney Anthony Bucca, speaking before a well-attended special meeting of the county’s Public Works and Capital Projects Committee in the legislative chamber on August 7. “But you have to realize this is a business… If we don’t get the appraised value we want, then we’re going to build.”The land in question had been slated for “forever wild” preservation as a key component of a 2007 Agreement In Principal (AIP) to concentrate proposed resort development on about 750 acres of other company landholdings further to the west in Highmount. Current plans for two sites there call for a $400 million, 928-room hotel & lodging development with at least 5 times the square footage of Kingston’s Walmart complex, all contiguous with the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center. A state-required review of the conjoined facilities and proposed projects is ongoing.
At issue currently is a new agreement proposed by Crossroads to create licenses for two, 100-foot wide right-of-ways over the County-owned Ulster & Delaware railroad tracks separating the eastern section of its landholdings from Route 28 between Big Indian and Pine Hill. One of the two right-of-ways appears to abut an 11-acre property owned by former county legislative chairman Ward Todd which is shown on company maps as part of the Crossroads landholdings, although Bucca said the property was unaffected. The other connects the Rosenthal wells, one of two primary water sources for the proposed resort, with the main company landholdings.
As for why the licenses are now being sought, according to a July 10 letter to legislative counsel Dan Heppner from David Lenefsky, another Crossroads attorney, “Crossroads and the state have agreed on a purchase price but the state can only purchase at fair market value as attested by real estate appraisers. The enhanced access provided by the licenses may result in an increase in the appraisal estimates.”
Valuation of the property has long been contested. When the state’s intention to acquire it was announced nearly two years ago, its acquisition cost was placed at about $13 million or almost $11,000 per acre, based largely on a single “comparable” for a private parcel adjacent to Windham Mountain. When announced, the figure immediately drew public criticism as being two to three times higher than any other comparable land valuations in Shandaken or the Catskill Park. State Environmental Advisor Judith Enck who brokered the deal with Crossroads, quickly backed off the original dollar figure, saying more appraisals were needed. Multiple sources report such numbers are reflecting about half the dollar value initially agreed to by the state.
Bucca was forthright in explaining that the sole reason the company was seeking the new licenses was to increase the land value for these appraisal purposes. “There’s no hidden agenda,” he added, saying the purpose of the licenses is to “enhance the opportunity for the appraisal to match our asking price.”
Things were hot from the meeting’s outset, as committee member and District 2 legislator Brian Shapiro accused chairman Peter Loughran of Kingston of “trying to keep the issue secret”. Loughran shot back that the committee had been apprised of the matter for months. Majority leader David Donaldson gave some background, saying “Crossroads came to the legislature six years ago asking for an easement, we said no. It’s gone back and forth, the committee said no again. Then in the last six months the idea of these “licenses” came up.”
Shapiro and Don Gregorius who together represent the impacted communities in the county legislature, both expressed deep concerns as to the sobriety of the committee’s consideration of the request. “What are we, crazy,” said Shapiro, “to even consider something that would inflate the purchase price to DEC and to all the state’s taxpayers?.. I want to make sure I understand this, “ he continued. “With the license in place, it increases the worth of the property, right?
“Yes”, said Bucca.
“So (the license) is money?” said Shapiro.
“Yes,” replied Bucca. “So it’s money. If the state doesn’t buy this land, then we’ll have to develop it.”
Asked next by legislator Hector Rodriguez if not granting the license was an impediment to the land sale, Bucca said “No,” adding that “ we’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.” Why it might be needed apart from increasing the purchase price from the state remained unclear, as several parties present confirmed that DEC staff have indicated the agency has no interest in acquiring such a license.
“It’s not the state but the developer that’s asked for this,” said Gregorius, who also said he thought it would constitute a gift to the developer “with potentially unintended consequences,” and set a precedent “for anybody who has property adjacent to county land.” Others in the audience also questioned both the legality and the ethics of the county granting such a gift to a private corporation, and both Gregorius and Shapiro expressed concern about the tax implications for local residents of establishing artificially high valuations which could eventually impact all local landowners with higher tax burdens.
Legislator Susan Zimmet proposed as an alternative that if and when the land was sold to the state, and the state actually wanted licenses, the legislature could simply pass a resolution when it was needed.
“If you carry through on your threat,” asked Julie McQuain of the Hardenburgh Association of Residents & Taxpayers, “ what happens to the AIP? The whole thing will be vitiated.” Bucca responded by saying he couldn’t answer that question.
“The protection of these 1,200 acres as "forever wild" was a critical element for the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development in signing the AIP," said Lisa Rainwater, its Executive Director, when contacted the next day. “If Crossroads chooses to retain ownership instead of selling to the state, then a cornerstone principle under which we signed the AIP will be null and void. Under those circumstances, the Catskill Center would seriously reconsider its position. We would hope the company is not seriously considering such plans, but simply posturing to pressure the County for its financial advantage. We do not support any strategies used now or in the future that would inflate land values in order for a purchase price to be reached. The concept of the Belleayre Resort was to improve the economic conditions of residents in the Catskills – not saddle them with higher property taxes.”
Carolyn Zolas, speaking for the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter which didn’t sign on to the AIP, was perhaps even more blunt:, saying “If the land isn't acquired for the forest preserve, then the AIP is dead and Crossroads is back to square one for any development scenario. Development obstacles such as its steep slopes, access problems, and lack of potable water make this land extremely problematic, and therefore expensive and unlikely to be developed. So I think in the end it's a hollow threat and a baldfaced attempt to pressure Ulster County officials into artificially inflating the cost of the property to New York State taxpayers. “
Given the intensity of the debate and the apparent need to better understand any potential impacts of granting Crossroads’ request, the committee postponed any official action and withdrew the resolution from consideration by the full legislature at its August 11 meeting. It is now a question whether the matter will ever move out of committee, where any reworked resolution would need to be passed by the full legislature.
In related news, Department of Environmental Conservation spoksman Yancy Roy told The Phoenicia Times on Monday that with respect to the developers long-awaited Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement based on the 2007 AIP, " we have not received anything from Crossroads for our review." Whether such submissions will be forthcoming in light of the unresolved land purchase issue is unknown.
We'll keep you posted.
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August 18, 2009, Oneonta Daily Star: DEP poised to start hydro work

DEP poised to start hydro work

By Patricia Breakey
Delhi News Bureau
Link to complete article is here:
http://www.thedailystar.com/local/local_story_230040037.html

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection placed legal advertisements announcing the initiation of the licensing process to install hydroelectric projects at four of the city's dams, but the Delaware County Electric Cooperative is not mentioned as a partner.

The proposed Western Catskills Hydro Project was introduced in May 2008 by the DCEC in its application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a permit. DCEC proposed building projects at the Cannonsville, Pepacton, Schoharie and Neversink reservoirs.

The DEP submitted a competing application in November. The DEP is the New York City agency that oversees city-owned reservoirs.

FERC awarded the city the permit in March while denying the DCEC's application, citing preference to municipal applicants. The DEP has since said it has no interest in developing hydroelectric capacity at the sites. It now says it wants to work with DCEC on a project.

Greg Starheim, chief executive officer of the co-op, said Friday that it appeared that the city "is continuing to head down a path to develop the project and that its actions are inconsistent with trying to develop a project with DCEC.

"It's frustrating," Starheim continued. "It they were serious about working with us we could have expedited the process. We are disappointed but it's not unexpected and it does raise questions."

DCEC is a nonprofit electricity cooperative that serves 5,100 members in 21 towns in Delaware, Otsego, Schoharie and Chenango counties.

Mercedes Padilla, DEP spokesman, said in a written statement, "DEP continues to work closely with DCEC. We have drafted a comprehensive Agreement in Principle between DEP and DCEC and are exchanging comments to come up with a final document.

"The agency remains hopeful that a mechanism will be found to work closely with DCEC on the development of this important project while ensuring the integrity and safety of the water supply system," Padilla continued.

"The DEP submitted the pre-application document for license to FERC as required by the terms of the permit. This provides an overview of the proposed project, the environmental setting, the plant and animal species in the areas and provides the basis for developing the scopes of any additional studies FERC may require," she wrote.

"In order to ensure that the public has an opportunity to comment on this submission, DEP advertised in the Binghamton Press Sun, Kingston Daily Freeman, Middletown Times Herald, Mountain Eagle and the Oneonta Daily Star."

Starheim said the DCEC has done everything they could in their proposed plan to protect the city's water. He added that DCEC officials have not been contacted by DEP officials.

"The city has credibility issues," Starheim said. "They are doing one thing and saying another." In July, Sen. Charles E. Schumer stepped in and urged the DEP to stop dragging its feet on generating hydropower at four city-owned Catskill reservoirs.

Schumer wrote a letter to the DEP urging it to speed negotiations with the co-op regarding DCEC's efforts to build hydroelectric plants and harness overflow at four reservoirs.

The DCEC's proposed Western Catskills Hydro Project involves installing modular-design independent-intake structures on the reservoirs' dams, Starheim said. The group plans to use water spilling from the reservoirs to generate enough electricity to power about 15,000 homes.

DCEC officials said they hoped to get final approval in 2011 and have the hydro plants open within a year or two after that.

The project, as proposed, Starheim said, would create 100 construction jobs and generate between $400,000 and $800,000 a year in revenue for watershed municipalities and co-op member school districts.

Calls to Schumer's office on Friday and Monday for comments on the city's initiation of the licensing process were not returned.

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Patricia Breakey can be reached at 746-2894 or at [email protected]

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