October 16, 2008, Albany Times Union: DEC to Shield Water in Gas Boom

 

DEC to shield water in gas boom

Agency chief tells panel rules to control hydrofracking technique will be effective
 
By BRIAN NEARING, Staff writer
First published in print: Thursday, October 16, 2008

 

ALBANY — Anticipating an energy boom, the state Department of Environmental Conservation wants more authority over water to control a controversial natural gas drilling technique called hydrofracking.

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The process, which critics contend threatens clean water, is poised to sweep the Catskills, the Southern Tier and the western region of the state.

At a packed Assembly hearing Wednesday, DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis assured lawmakers his office won't allow drilling without being satisfied that the water-intensive method is environmentally safe.

The agency will seek authority to regulate the massive water withdrawals needed by drilling companies, Grannis said. For the past year, many of the companies have been buying up mineral rights in the Marcellus Shale, a formation that stretches from the Catskills to Buffalo.

The drillers intend to tap what could be the largest natural gas deposits in the Northeast through the process in which up to 3 million gallons of water are pumped into deep wells to crack underground rock formations and force trapped natural gas to the surface.

DEC wants power to control water withdrawals in parts of the state not covered by either the Delaware or Susquehanna river basin commissions, which already have power over the water needed by drillers, Grannis said.

"We will be seeking clear regulatory authority," Grannis told members of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee. It was not immediately clear how much of the state is not regulated.

A handful of well permits already received by the state will be acted upon only after DEC rewrites its rules for hydrofracking, which is expected to be done early next year, Grannis said. The rules will address how and where water is taken out, and what is done with it after the water is used during drilling, when it will contain a blend of sand and drilling chemicals.

Grannis, who testified for more than two hours, was one of 24 witnesses scheduled for a marathon hearing. Only nine witnesses had appeared by 4 p.m., at which point half of the 10-member Assembly committee had already drifted away.

A panel of representatives from the drilling industry said hydrofracking posed little environmental risk.

"These are surgical operations with a minimal environmental footprint," said Thomas Price, senior vice president for corporate development for Chesapeake Energy Corp. He called drilling an "economic surge" for the state.

Grannis said that DEC also will require that companies disclose the drilling chemicals used, something has not be required in other states.

Small-scale hydrofracking has been done since the 1940s in the state without a single documented instance of water contamination, said Rick Kessy, manager of operations and engineering for Fortuna Energy of Horseheads, Chemung County.

Several environmental groups at the hearing said more needs to be known about what will be done with the used drilling water. "I have serious doubts about the health of any stream or river that will be taking this fluid over time and slowly releasing it into the environment," said Wes Gillingham, program director of Catskill Mountainkeeper.

Brian Nearing can be reached at 454-5094 or by email at [email protected]

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October 11, 2008, Kingston Daily Freeman: Greene County mourns longtime historian

Greene County mourns longtime historian
Raymond Beecher stands outside Cedar Grove in Catskill, which he helped save.
Raymond Beecher stands outside Cedar Grove in Catskill, which he helped save.
COXSACKIE - Greene County Historian Raymond Beecher was remembered Friday as a great friend and philanthropist who was dedicated to preserving local history.

"He had an encyclopedic understanding of Greene County history," Ted Hilscher said of Beecher, who died Thursday in his Coxsackie home at age 91. Hilscher said Beecher was a giving man who shared the knowledge he collected and constantly researched primary source documents. Hilscher also said Beecher saved a lot of local history that could have been lost.

"He was an exceptional man, no doubt about it," Harvey Durham said of Beecher.

Durham, who co-authored a book with Beecher called "Around Greene County and the Catskills," said his friend was working on a seventh book at the time of his death. Durham also said Beecher received many honors and was a hard worker who never went back on his word and was generous with his money.

Beecher, who first was appointed Greene County historian in 1993, is credited with saving Cedar Grove, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, by putting up his own money to buy the property and begin its restoration.

"He was an inspiration to us all," Cedar Grove Executive Director Elizabeth Jacks said of Beecher. "We believe the Thomas Cole House probably wouldn't have been saved without his leadership."

Jacks said it was Beecher's dream to see Cedar Grove come to life, and one of his hopes was to see a building called the New Studio rebuilt on the property. The New Studio had been demolished in the 1970s, Jacks said, but money is in place to have plans drawn up for its reconstruction.

Debbie Allen, publisher of Black Dome Press in Hensonville, said Beecher was "one of those special, great men, and we were lucky he was here."

Allen said Black Dome Press published two of Beecher's books and was working with him on another. She said Greene County was lucky that Beecher chose to make the preservation of local history his life's work.

According to obituary information provided for Beecher, he graduated from Greenville Central School and earned a bachelor's degree from Hartwick College and a master's degree from Boston University. He also earned teaching and administrative certifications from the Sate University of New York at Albany. Beecher used those degrees while working at Oneonta High School and while serving as an assistant professor at Hartwick College. He later worked at the New York Vocational Institution as a guidance supervisor until his retirement.

During World War II, Beecher served in the U.S. Army, first in the Asiatic-Pacific theater, where he earned a special commendation, and then in the European theater.

Beecher was president of the Hartwick College Alumni Association, served twice as president of the Greene County Historical Society and was chairman of its Board of Trustees. He also was a trustee for Friends of Olana and served as its treasurer; was the librarian at the Vedder Research Library; served as historian for the town of Coxsackie; and served as chairman of the Greene County American Revolution Bicentennial Committee.

He also coordinated the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of the Greene County Courthouse and, in 2000, chaired the county's 200th birthday celebration.

On Aug. 29, 1996, Beecher received the honorary degree doctor of humane letters from Hartwick College. Earlier that year, he was presented with a gold medal of honor from the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, On-ti-Ora Chapter. Beecher also received the Alf Evers Award in 2007 and was given the first Greene County Treasures Award on April 6, 2002.

Greene County Legislature Chairman Wayne Speenburgh, R-Coxsackie, said Beecher was a "gentleman's gentleman" and that he did not know of a finer man who had such passion and caring for Greene County history.

Speenburgh said he ordered all the county flags to be flown at half-staff until after Beecher's burial.

Beecher was born March 8, 1917 in New York City, son of the late Valentine and Maude R. Baxter Beecher.

His wife, Catharine S. Shaffer Beecher, died in 1995.

Beecher is survived by a brother, Arthur of Coxsackie; and nieces and nephews. A sister, Gladys Lesson, died previously.

Beecher's funeral will be at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 50 Williams St., Catskill. He will be cremated at the Albany Rural Crematorium in Menands, and the interment of his ashes will take place at a later date in the family plot of the Riverside Cemetery in Coxsackie.

Arrangements are by the W.C. Brady's Sons Funeral Home, 97 Mansion St., Coxsackie.

Link to article is here

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October 10, 2008, Irish Week: Remembering Banjo, East Durham Banjo Festival, Greene County

Remembering Banjo

October 10, 2008

 

From the Hob by Paul Keating
 
WHILE no one would confuse the hamlet of East Durham with Nashville’s Music City, there is no denying that it has become a mecca for traditional music not only in the summer but now in October as it hosts two gatherings for the traditionally inclined.

Coming up this Columbus Day weekend is the second annual Joe “Banjo” Burke Festival from October 10-13 in memory of the great Kilkenny banjo player and ballad singer who succumbed to Parkinson’s disease and other ailments before his time back in 2003.

In an attempt to keep his legacy alive and provide some funding for medical research and the arts in the upstate Catskills area, this festival was launched a year ago by Joe’s widow, Bridget Burke ([email protected] or phone 607-225-9928) to also bring some business to the town as it winds down for the season.

Among the musicians scheduled to teach and/or perform are Brian Conway, Jimmy Noonan, Margie Mulvihill, Willy Kelly, Frank Claudy, Will Collins, Bill Meehan, Tom Dunne, John Reynolds, Cathy Clarke, John Nolan, John Whelan, Jimmy Crowley, Carol Thompson, Don Meade, Ged Foley, Donnie Carroll, Aine Meenaghan, Terry and Pat Kane, Ian and Erica Keane and Monsignor Charles Coen. There are music, singing, Irish language and dancing workshops on Saturday and Sunday (set dancing with Ron Bruschi and Marie Newman and ceili dancing with Pat Kane and West O’Clare).

There will be concerts on Saturday afternoon from 3-8:30 pm at the Shamrock House followed by a ceili from 9 p.m.-midnight. Sessions will take place where space and management and attendance dictate.

Registration and information will be available at Furlong’s Riverside Pub starting on Friday, or check the website www.joebanjoburke.org with a caution that it hasn’t been updated in awhile. Therefore, any details need to be confirmed with Bridget Burke. Donations can be made to Banjo Burke Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 937, Greenwood, New York 14839 to assist this cause.

Later on in the month the East Coast Irish Pipers (www.eastcoastpipers.com) assemble once again on the lovely intimate campus of Gavin’s Golden Hill Resort for the Northeast Piping Tionol for the weekend of October 24-27. Going for two decades now and in its fourth year in East Durham, its attendees are mostly all fanatical — and some fantastic pipers — who come together to support themselves and the Irish instrument that inspires so much great traditional Irish music.

The staff this year includes pipers Mick O’Brien, Cormac Cannon, Patrick D’Arcy, Ivan Goff, Debbie Quigley, Cillian Vallely, and Benedict Koehler plus special guest artist Jimmy O’Brien-Moran.

In recent years they have added fiddle tutelage over the weekend and providing that this year are Patrick Ourceau and Breda Keville visiting from Galway who garnered critical acclaim for an old-fashioned (in a good way) recording of East Galway music called The Hop Down back in 2006. While the workshops require registration, the Saturday night concert from 7:30-10 p.m. and any resultant sessions are open to the general public (admission is only $15 to help support the weekend) there at Gavins.
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Phoenicia calls


Ulster hamlet activities include tubing, antiquing

By John W. Barry • Poughkeepsie Journal • June 12, 2008

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Among the used art books stacked on shelves, racks of secondhand clothes, vintage radios, black-and-white pictures of strangers and kerosene lanterns strung from the ceiling, sit boxes of used, vinyl LPs in carefully preserved record jackets.

For $20 or less each this past Sunday, you could have scooped up used copies of "Ravi Shankar: Live at the Monterey International Pop Festival," "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" by Neil Young, two self-titled albums by Duane and Gregg Allman, "Her Majesties Satanic Ball" by the Rolling Stones and an instructional record for those wishing to learn how to disco dance.

Welcome to Homer & Langley's Mystery Spot, an antiques shop that bills itself as an "emporium and odditorium." This time tunnel of treasures is only one reason to visit the hamlet of Phoenicia, an easily accessible, picturesque community nestled in the Catskill Mountains that offers everything from whitewater tubing to brick-oven pizza.

About 25 miles west of the traffic circle in Kingston, Phoenicia sits alongside the Esopus Creek, a few minutes off Route 28. Phoenicia is one of several communities in the Town of Shandaken, whose name, according to the town's official Web site, www.shandaken.us, is of American Indian origin and means "land of rapid waters."

Phoenicia is the largest hamlet in Shandaken and was once a busy hub of the Ulster and Delaware Railroad.

"Except for a few new buildings," according to the town's Web site, "it hasn't changed that much since the original 11 lots were laid out on each side of the street in 1853."

More than two-thirds of the land in Shandaken is state-owned and Shandaken is home to Slide Mountain, which, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation Web site, is the highest peak in the Catskill range at 4,220 feet.

My wife and I spent a relaxing afternoon in Phoenicia this past Sunday, strolling up and down Main Street, window shopping, admiring the Catskills from the sidewalk and, of course, eating.

Our day started at Sweet Sue's restaurant and, for about $25 including tip, I had a Greek omelet, tasty home fries and a slab of whole-wheat toast. My wife had an eggs-and-vegetables dish, toast and a buckwheat pancake.

As we were paying our check, I noticed one posting in particular on a bulletin board near the bathroom. What caught my eye was a question mark.

I ventured over to get a closer look and was intrigued by what I read: "Come visit Homer & Langley's Mystery Spot; Phoenicia - On the Boardwalk; The Catskills' Most Famous Odditorium."

A boardwalk? In Phoenicia? We left Sweet Sue's - which now serves dinner, by the way - and headed to the Mystery Spot. It's a true find, particularly for anyone who collects vintage vinyl records, and it indeed sits on a boardwalk-like deck off Main Street.

From the Mystery Spot, my wife headed to The Tender Land Home, which sells housewares, gifts, home accessories and very nice toys for children, including backpacks on wheels in the shapes of animals.

I headed to the bridge that spans the Esopus Creek and serves as the western gateway to Phoenicia.

Tubing is enjoyed

A tepee and carved bald eagle on the grounds of the Black Bear Campground and RV Park welcome visitors, and the road leading to the bridge affords great views of folks tubing in the Esopus.

Town Tinker Tube Rental is an anchor of Phoenicia and the Catskills, offering whitewater adventure that can be maneuvered with nothing more than a life jacket and tube.

For $18, you can rent an inner tube, life jacket and secure a spot on the Tube Taxi. You can tack on $3 for a tube with a seat, $3 for creek sneakers, $15 for a wet suit and $3 for a helmet.

The skies Sunday in Phoenicia were ominous, but the stream of tubers was steady down the Esopus, as was the line of people paying for gear and waiting for the taxi.

Additional outdoor recreation is available a short drive in the other direction from downtown Phoenicia, east on Route 214 toward Hunter Mountain. Devil's Tombstone, one of the oldest campgrounds in the New York state Catskill Forest Preserve, offers primitive camping sites, a day use area and a small shallow lake, all tucked into an area known as Stony Clove.

Devil's Tombstone offers access to trails leading to some of the highest peaks in the Catskill Forest Preserve, such as Hunter Mountain, home to the highest historic fire tower in New York state; Indian Head; West Kill Range; and Plateau Mountain, a grueling hike that offers majestic views of the Catskills.

Back on Main Street, The Nest Egg is one of those general store-type places that offers a little bit of everything.

Inside this corner store you will find jewelry, magazines, toys, homemade spreads, camping gear, books on snowshoeing, hiking and camping in the Catskills, Christmas decorations and, last Sunday, belt buckles and bags of shells, each selling for a buck on the front porch.

The Nest Egg is one of those places perfectly suited for the visitor, but which is not bogged down by tacky tourist stuff. In fact, you seem to soak in as much Catskill Mountain color at The Nest Egg as you might by climbing a nearby mountain.

Art lovers can pop into The Arts Upstairs, a gallery on Main Street that offers a lot of space for artists.

Recently, part-time Phoenicia resident Marisela LaGrave projected images of her work, as well as video, out the second-floor window of The Arts Upstairs, onto a building across the street gutted by fire, but which she has wrapped in plastic. Upcoming projections are scheduled.

Also on Main Street are two eateries that offer patio seating, as well as a traditional dining room inside.

You will know you are outside Brio's by the rich, deep aroma of pizza fired in a brick oven.

And you can't miss the Sportsman's Alamo Cantina, a bar and grill. There is a monstrous statue of Davy Crockett out front that, like the Catskills surrounding Phoenicia, inspires awe but offers up an opportunity for fun.

Reach John W. Barry at [email protected] or 845-437-4822.

Tubers come and go at Town Tinker Tube Rental.

Tubers come and go at Town Tinker Tube Rental.

 
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October 9, 2008, The Daily Mail: Appeals Court OK's Catskill Forest Preserve Taxes

Appeals court OK’s Forest Preserve taxes

MOUNTAINTOP — A Rochester-based state appeals court has issued a ruling that clears the way for New York State to continue paying taxes on its Forest Preserve parcels to its host communities.

The state’s tax practice had been ruled “arbitrary” last year by a lower court, based on a lawsuit filed back in the Gov. George Pataki administration, and if it had stood would have cost municipalities substantial tax dollars.

In Greene County alone, the state owns 79,213 acres, and -- for example -- paid a total of more than $2.2 million to local coffers in 2002, which included about $1.4 million for school taxes, $456,000 for the county itself, $364,000 to the towns, and another $64,000 for special district taxes.

At the town level, a more recent example is provided by Greene County Treasurer Willis Vermilyea, who said that the Town of Hunter’s most recent tax payment from the state for its Forest Preserve lands was $157,396.

That amounts to more than 9 percent of the town’s 2008 total tax levy of approximately $1.7 million, and is thus not an insignificant source of revenue to potentially lose.

The lawsuit that started it all was filed by a former town supervisor from western New York, in the Town of Arkwright, Chautauqua County.

Although the town does not have any Forest Preserve lands, it does have the Canadaway Creek State Wildlife Management Area (WMA), a 2,080 acre recreational open space preserve, which offers hiking, hunting, fishing, and related outdoor opportunities.

At about 22,000 total acres in the entire town, the WMA’s 2,080 acres is almost 10 percent of the lands available, but the state does not pay taxes on WMA’s, so Arkwright receives no direct dollars for its presence.

Additionally, the roads accessing the WMA are reportedly town-maintained, which means Arkwright incurs the road upkeep cost of the traffic going to the WMA.

As a property owner, NYS has the same rights as any other property owner, requiring a municipality to maintain existing road access to its parcels, so there is no availability for a town to use road maintenance as a funding leverage either.

The case hinged on an alleged unfair distribution of state tax payments, in that the state paid some municipalities for its lands, but not others, including Arkwright.

The matter worked its way up through the lower courts over the years, and last November, the plaintiff — John C. Dillenburg III, who through 2003 was Arkwright’s supervisor for 12 years — got a favorable ruling from the State Supreme Court which essentially said the tax payment process was “arbitrary and capricious,” a “hodgepodge” of state laws, and “devoid of any consistent rationale.”

Unfortunately for all municipalities that do receive tax payments from the state, that same ruling also ordered the state to stop paying taxes on all its lands.

The ruling did, however, also include from that same judge an immediate “stay,” thus allowing tax payments to continue while appeals were made, which was then done by the Office of State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo this past summer.

Filing court briefs in support of the appeal were the governments of the nine Adirondack Park counties, as well as numerous outdoor and open space groups, including the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), the Open Space Conservancy, and the Catskill Center for Conservation & Development.

Friday’s ruling by the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court, 4th Department, reversed the previous decision because a municipality can only tax the state if it gives its consent, which NYS did for all current and future Forest Preserve lands back in 1886, the year after the State legislature created the Forest Preserve.

Since it has not given its consent for the Canadaway Creek lands, there is no requirement to force it to do so.

Dillenburg’s lawsuit reportedly followed more than a decade of trying to work with the state to get about $24,000 in annual payments-in-lieu of taxes (PILOTs) for the WMA through the State Legislature and/or the Governor’s office, but to no avail.

It is unclear whether PILOT funds have occurred elsewhere for non-Forest Preserve lands through legislative funding.

The court’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit has been hailed by open space and outdoor groups for its economic benefit, and as removing a potential obstruction to state acquisition of lands for protective and recreational purposes.

“This is a major victory,” said ADK executive director Neil Woodworth, “for those who live, work and recreate in the Adirondacks and Catskills.”

“The state Forest Preserve, which protects more than three million acres of wild lands in the Catskills and Adirondacks, is an important asset to all New Yorkers,” said Woodworth, “and the fiscal burden of maintaining these lands should be shared by all New Yorkers, and not fall on the shoulders of a few.”

Catskill Center for Conservation & Development executive director Lisa Rainwater also praised the outcome.

“We are very pleased with the judge’s ruling,” said Rainwater.

“It is significant,” Rainwater said, “to keep the tax dollars flowing in the Catskill communities that have state lands within their boundaries for economic stability.”

“It also reaffirms the state’s responsibility to pay taxes to communities that have a significant amount of state lands within their boundaries,” she said.

To reach reporter Jim Planck, call 518-943-2100, ext. 3324, or e-mail [email protected].

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October 9, 2008, River Reporter: Delelopment Guide Released, Focus on Sullivan and UDRB

Development guide released

Focus on western Sullivan County and Upper Delaware River Basin

link to article is here

By SANDY LONG

UPPER DELAWARE RIVER REGION — The past decade has revealed steadily increasing development pressure in western Sullivan County, NY and the Upper Delaware River Basin.

In collaboration with the Upper Delaware Preservation Coalition (UDPC), the Open Space Institute and the Urban Design Lab (UDL) at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, under the direction of professor Richard Plunz, recently released “A Citizen’s Guide to Residential Development,” which is now available to the public.

The guide is the result of a spring semester 2008 Urban Design Research Seminar conducted as a sequel to last year’s seminar and publication of “A River Endangered: Proposed Power Transmission and its Impact on Cultural History along the Upper Delaware River.” Both publications are available through the UDPC and various public locations soon to be determined.

According to Plunz, who is also a member of the Town of Lumberland Planning Board, “There seemed to be a real need for people in the Upper Delaware region to have a better understanding of how land development works, what are the review processes and what recourse people have if they disagree with a project proposal. What we found was that there were some very interesting cases in the region where folks had already learned a great deal about how development works, and had had some success in getting input into the process. So the report includes not only the basics of process and concerns, but also some case-studies that people can read and learn from.”

In part, the work augments the Upper DelAWARE Roundtable’s recent GIS mapping of large development projects within the eight counties bordering the Upper Delaware River. Additionally, the Open Space Institute became a partner following an explanation of the research project at a roundtable meeting.

The publication examines the effects of residential development on the natural and social ecologies of the region. As noted in the guide: “The environmental conflicts are as complex as the players involved—governments, residents, developers, tourists—as well as the voiceless participants—the fish, deer, birds and native plants.”

Useful information on official review processes and public recourse relating to development is included. Five case studies are presented: Lumberland’s Lake Diana Subdivision, Cochecton’s New Turnpike Homes, Tusten’s Eagles Nest Estates and The Chapin Estate in Bethel.

The studies are followed by a review of other impacts to the region, such as the New York Regional Interconnection powerline and the exploration of natural gas extraction. Information on tools and resources available to residents and officials is also provided.

“We had tremendous cooperation from many organizations and individuals,” said Plunz. “We concentrated only on western Sullivan County in order to make the scale of study workable.”

Visit www.udpc.net for more information.

Contributed image  
This newly released publication examines residential development issues in the Upper Delaware region. (Click for larger version)
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October 6, 2008, Mid Hudson News: DRBC tells Sullivan officials they are watching gas drilling

MONTICELLO – A Delaware River Basin Commission engineer says the two states that share the upper Delaware River are reasonably up to speed with Marcellus Shale exploration.

William Muszynski they are paying particular concern to water resources. How much water would be drawn for each drilling operations, what chemicals would be added to the water, and what is done with the waste, are key issues.

The DRBC and most Sullivan officials say the exploration and drilling will happen.

Muszynski, and County Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis say they believe the state is up to speed, but legislator Dave Sager disagrees. Sager said both the state DEC and the DRBC are dropping the ball.

link to article is here
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October 6, 2008, AP: Appeals court rejects challenge to NY tax payments effecting Catskill Parkland

Appeals court rejects challenge to NY tax payments
Associated Press 10.07.08, 8:42 AM ET

link to article is here
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -

A state appeals court has unanimously rejected a challenge to the state's authority to make property tax payments on state lands.

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court reversed the November ruling of a judge in Chautauqua County who found the mix of tax payments and exemptions on various state-owned land was "palpably arbitrary."

In a ruling that alarmed some municipal officials in the Adirondacks and Catskills, he ordered payments to municipalities stopped, but stayed his decision.

The appeals court says the state has sovereign immunity from the obligation to pay taxes, but also can waive that immunity and pay local municipalities. The justices cited case law that the waiver is up to the Legislature's discretion, not subject to "equal protection" challenges under the constitution.

In his ruling, Walker had noted that the first statute permitting taxation of state-owned land was in 1886 for the Forest Preserve, which "bore a rational relationship to legitimate state purpose." But later measures did not, he wrote, and now some municipalities get payments while others don't, despite similar situations.

John Dillenburg, then town supervisor of Arkwright, brought the lawsuit, arguing that his community was being unfairly denied tax payments on state-owned property within the town.

Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said the reversal was a major victory for those who live, work and recreate in the Adirondacks and Catskills, where the state Forest Preserve protects more than 3 million acres. "The fiscal burden of maintaining these lands should be shared by all New Yorkers and not fall on the shoulders of a few," he said.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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October 6, 2008: Press & Sun-Bulletin, NY State to Publish Document of Gas Drilling Review Process

State to publish document on gas-drilling review process

By Tom Wilber • Press & Sun-Bulletin • October 6, 2008

 

The public will get its first look at how the state plans to proceed with a review of the environmental impact of natural gas drilling with the release of an outline scheduled for today.

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The draft document will provide a blueprint for the public process needed to update environmental regulations governing natural gas exploration. The review comes as energy companies lease land throughout the area to tap the Marcellus Shale.

Unlike relatively small vertical wells used to draw natural gas from other geological formations in the Southern Tier, drillers will rely on new technology to drill horizontally through bedrock and fracture it with water and chemical additives. The process, called hydro-fracturing or frac'ing, requires millions of gallons of water for each well and can produce similar amounts of waste.

The prospects have raised questions and concerns about how waste from the drilling process will be handled and disposed of, and where water will come from, what chemicals are used in the process, and how they are stored.

It's been more than 16 years since a review for gas-drilling impacts was completed under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

The public will get its chance to comment on the process during a series of administrative hearings, including one scheduled at Broome Community College in mid November. The time and exact location are pending, said Yancey Roy, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

"Everybody who has something to say will have the opportunity to be heard," said Stuart Gruskin, DEC executive assistant commissioner.

The process is to get the public's insight on what should be included in the environmental review -- assessing impacts on water or air, for example. But it is not intended to debate the merits of gas drilling, Gruskin added. "That doesn't have a place in our regulations," he said.

The document is to be released sometime today on the DEC's Web site, www.dec.ny. gov. The state has ceased issuing permits until after the review is completed, which is on schedule for next spring, Gruskin said.

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October 5, 2008, Times Herald Record: Main Street Revitalization Restaurant helps town thrive

 

The Lazy Beagle Pub & Grill in Livingston Manor opened late this summer. Other business owners in town hope the restaurant will bring them business. Peter Howley, shown here, manages the restaurant.For the Times Herald-Record/MICHAEL D. BLOOM

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LIVINGSTON MANOR — As Sims Foster watched this hamlet blossom — the fresh sidewalks, handsome light posts and new businesses — he realized that Livingston Manor was missing what every other vibrant community had: a restaurant.

So he gutted part of his family's building at 2 Pearl St. and built one.

"Manor is a shining example of a revitalized Main Street," Foster said. "But I think every town needs a good restaurant and there was a demand here."

The Lazy Beagle Pub & Grill, which opened late this summer, highlights the Foster family's role in Livingston Manor's continuing comeback. Other business owners in town have said the restaurant will help attract more people to their shops. The Fosters bought their building in 2003, when most shops were boarded up and the sidewalks were crumbling, and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in it. They opened Peez Leweez, a coffee and lunch shop, in one of the storefronts, and The Hot Corner, a sports memorabilia shop, in another.

"We grew up here and wanted to invest in the town and be a part of the growing new role of Livingston Manor," said Barry Foster, Sims Foster's father.

The Lazy Beagle filled the last empty storefront in their building, just as other downtown shops have gained new life. Sims Foster hired a green building contractor and used wood from torn-down barns for the tables and bar. As for the name of his pub, "I just wanted something with an adjective and an animal," said Foster, who works as a consultant to bars and restaurants in major American cities. His fellow business owners in Livingston Manor say the Lazy Beagle fills the need for a gathering place that is open after dark.

"I think it's definitely brought business in already," said Carolin Walton-Brown, owner of the Willow & Brown housewares shop. "The Lazy Beagle has given people a reason to stick around town, which makes a huge difference."

Lisa Lyons, who owns the Morgan Outdoors apparel shop, hosted a guest lecture by a falconer in September. People came from far-off cities for the event. In the recent past, those visitors would have gone home after the lecture.

"The beauty of it now is that all those people walked a block to have dinner at the Lazy Beagle," Lyons said. "People were amazed that we had it all in this little town."

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