September 14, 2008, Daily Freeman: Belleayre ski center backers rally against cuts



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Belleayre ski center backers rally against cuts
Joe Kelly, chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, speaks during Saturday's meeting at the ski center in Highmount.
Joe Kelly, chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, speaks during Saturday's meeting at the ski center in Highmount.

HIGHMOUNT - Local residents, business owners and employees of the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center turned out in droves at the state-owned facility Saturday morning to rally against Belleayre budget cuts that many say would threaten their livelihood.

The event, organized by the Coalition to Save Belleayre, attracted more than 200 people who were drawn to the mountain by a word-of-mouth message that the coalition, which was to meet that morning, decided just days ago to open the session to the public.  The matter at hand for all involved was the recent announcement that Belleayre faces severe budget cuts, putting as many as 300 jobs in jeopardy and reducing ski operations for the coming winter season.

One by one, speakers took turns explaining how the cutbacks would do harm to them personally and hurt the region surrounding Belleayre, which is in the Shandaken hamlet of Highmount, near the border of Ulster and Delaware counties.

The governments of the three towns likely to be most affected - Shandaken and Hardenburgh in Ulster County, and Middletown in Delaware County - had representatives on hand Saturday to say their respective municipalities already has taken official stances opposing the cuts planned by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which operates the ski center.

U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-Hurley, sent word that he would reach out to Gov. David Paterson and work to halt any cutbacks. State Sen. John Bonacic's chief of staff, Langdon Chapman, pledged the Mount Hope Republican senator's support to the cause, saying Albany needs to be aware of Belleayre's importance to the local economy.

"People get their lives changed every day because Belleayre exists," Chapman said, adding that he feels a bit like the main character in Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist."

"Please sir, can we have an economy, too?" he said, to applause from the crowd.

Len Bernardo, a candidate for Ulster County executive, suggested a new name for DEC.

"It should be renamed the Department of Economic Cuts," said Bernardo, an enrolled Conservative from Accord who is running on the Republican and Conservative lines.

Robert Shapiro, a Fleischmanns resident, said everyone knows the state needs to make budget cuts, but he questioned the fairness of plans to cut as deep into Belleayre as is being discussed. He wondered if other state-run recreation facilities face the same fate.

"Are the people at Bethpage Golf Course wondering if they will have the grass cut there? Are the folks at Jones Beach wondering if the number of lifeguards will be reduced?" he asked.

When operating fully, Belleayre, off state Route 28, boasts the Catskills' only Cat-access skiing and a widened and improved halfpipe and Area 51 Terrain Park. With 47 trails, parks and glades and eight lifts, including a new high-speed quad, Belleayre has evolved over the years, especially since the 1980s, when it faced closure. Skier visits have grown from 70,000 in 1995 to more than 175,000.

It was noted at the meeting on Saturday that, at present, no one really knows the extent of the proposed cuts, but speculation among those concerned puts them anywhere between a closing of the facility to a bare-bones operation that would use only a couple of lifts and a handful of trails.

The Department of Environmental Conservation said on Friday that Belleayre will be open seven days a week this season, but officials would not discuss the details of any possible cuts, saying only that nothing has been decided.

Representatives of the Coalition to Save Belleayre handed out contact sheets to those who attended Saturday's rally and urged them to make use of them. The names on the sheets includes state Environmental Commissioner Alexander "Pete" Grannis; Paterson; state Assemblymen Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, and Clifford Crouch, R-Guilford; Hinchey and U.S. Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-Greenport; Bonacic; and county officials in Ulster and Delaware counties.

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September 13, 2008, The Daily Mail: Barber says economy needs fixing

Barber says economy needs fixing

CATSKILL — Greene County Democrats opened their campaign office at 362 Main St., Catskill, Wednesday afternoon with a formal ribbon cutting, and NYS 51st Senate District candidate Don Barber was the guest of honor.

Barber, who hails from the western end of the district, in Tompkins County, told those present that his is a progressive agenda that focuses on improving the economy, fixing health care, and protecting family farms and the environment.

Barber touted his farming background and small business owner status — he owns a construction company with eight full-time employees — as a major difference between himself and incumbent Republican state Senator James Seward (R-Oneonta), who is seeking re-election.

“Why not have a working person representing you in Albany?” Barber said to those present.

He said Seward has “been in Albany 22 years,” and cited an increased state debt and the flight of young adults from the region as two of the results from the state over those years.

Barber also noted the size of the 51st Senatorial District, and indicated his experience with rural issues applies well to it.

“This district is huge,” he said. “It goes from here to Tompkins County,” and noted that it takes three-and-a-half hours to cross.

“This district is 10 percent of the land mass in New York State,” Barber said, adding that it includes farmlands, the Catskills and part of the Adirondacks.

Barber was first elected 15 years ago as a town councilman in Caroline, served four years, ran for supervisor, was elected, and is now in his sixth two-year term.

After the ribbon ceremony Barber said that his municipal service in the Town of Caroline offers good examples of the type of perspective he brings to government.

“There are two things especially,” he said.

“Since I’ve been on the Town Board, our tax rate has gone up less than one-percent a year for all 15 years that I’ve been on the board,” he said.

“And second, even though we were fiscally responsible, we’ve still been very progressive,” he said.

Barber said that included completion of two groundwater aquifer studies — one for the Six Mile Creek aquifer and one for the Willseyville aquifer — and surface water management of the Six Mile Creek to address flooding.

He indicated he is especially proud of the municipality’s energy policy.

“We were the second municipality in all of New York State,” said Barber, “to purchase 100 percent of our municipal electricity from a green source.”

That green source is wind energy, for which the town signed a three-year contract several years ago. In addition, he said they signed a contract for methane last year.

Barber said they have thus been “keeping the budget (down), while getting the community moved ahead.”

Barber also said the wind policy inspired the creation of a local citizens group, Energy Independent Caroline, and that on a single day in April they distributed one compact fluorescent light bulb to every household in the town.

He said it was about 100 volunteers, and that while some bulbs were delivered by car, many were also delivered by horseback, bicycle or foot.

On the issues, Barber said that he is running for Senate because, “The economy around us, and in upstate New York, needs a real boost. It needs it for our children,” he said.

“I’ve been a small, local business owner,” Barber said. “So I know the perspective of what they need. Small businesses are the basis for any economy.”

“Health care is a huge burden on business, small and large,” Barber said, “as well as a burden on our property taxes, and the solution is single-payer health care,” which he described as “publicly financed, privately delivered health care, like Medicare, for all.”

“It is the biggest impediment to starting up a business,” Barber said, “and something that makes New York State’s larger businesses non-competitive in the international market, because it’s not a burden on our competition in all the other industrial countries.”

Barber said there is also a third item that needs to be addressed.

“New York State is dysfunctional,” said Barber. “It’s known as the most dysfunctional state government in the U.S.”

Barber indicated that an initial step is correcting that condition.

“Most of the things I talked about aren’t functional until we get them out of their dysfunctional nature,” he said, and indicated that if elected, he is not opposed to reaching out to Republicans to solve the problem.

“I’m experienced working across the aisle,” he said.

“There is a great opportunity in 2009 when the State Senate changes its majority to Democrats,” Barber said. “The Senate is only two seats away from changing its majority.”

Fellow Democrats said Barber is the right man for the job.

“Don Barber,” said Greene County Democratic Party Vice chairman Brud Miller, “has a proven track record in the Town of Caroline, particularly on energy.”

“He’s a businessman,” said Miller, “and he’s not part of Albany.”

“I think he will bring a good economy for all of Greene County, as well as the rest of the district,” Miller said.

State Democratic Party Committeewoman Marie Greco of Catskill agreed.

“The man is a small businessman, and he’s a farmer,” Greco said.

“I appreciate all that he stands for,” Greco said, “and I think that he will be good for the working people of this area.”

Town of Athens Democratic Party Chairman Paul Hasbrouck also noted Barber’s experience.

“He’s a working person. He’s going to be for the working person,” Hasbrouck said. “I think that’s very important.”

“I think a lot of the politicians in this nation forgot about the working people, who built America,” he said. “They’ve gone to special interests, and I think Don Barber can bring that back.”

“Small businesses built America,” Hasbrouck said. “I think he’ll give us a little more help for the middle class.”

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

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September 13, 2008, Oneonta Star: Belleayre Festival on, but moved

Belleayre Festival on, but moved

By Patricia Breakey
Delhi News Bureau

The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced Friday that the 29th annual Belleayre Fall Festival will be held at the Delaware and Ulster Railroad in Arkville on Columbus Day weekend.

The event is traditionally at the DEC's Belleayre Mountain ski area, but a DEC spokeswoman said the event, set for Oct. 11 and 12, was moved because of a partnership between DEC and the railroad.

Maureen Wren, DEC spokeswoman, said that Belleayre Mountain representatives will be at the festival to provide information about tickets for the upcoming ski season.

She said Belleayre will operate seven days a week this season, but the DEC will continue to evaluate the ski center's operation.

This year's festival will offer train rides, a ski and winter apparel sale, live music, food, dozens of craft vendors, a kid's crafts tent and face painting, she said.

The rally was called by the Coalition to Save Belleayre when rumors began to circulate that the fall festival was being canceled and the ski season might be shortened.

Joe Kelly, coalition spokesman, said that when word leaked that the harvest festival was not being held at Belleayre,

"It was making people very nervous, but it was impossible to get definitive statements out of the DEC.

"This event brings as many as 16,000 people to our community in one single weekend," Kelly continued. "Cutting this out will make our hotels and restaurants bleed profusely, to say nothing of the stores, gas stations and others who benefit."

Kelly said he understands the need for cuts and that everyone has to share in the pain of the current economy.

But, he added, not only do local businesses that depend on Belleayre suffer, but so do the counties that depend on the sales tax and bed tax revenues generated by these visitors.

Rich Schaedle, chairman of the Catskill Heritage Alliance, said its opposition to the rumored budget cuts was voiced in letters sent to state and federal representatives and to legislators in Ulster and Delaware counties.

On Friday, Sen. John Bonacic issued a prepared statement saying, "In eight years, the Senate has worked to direct nearly $20 million to Belleayre for more trails, a new lift, and now a major lodge expansion. In fact, this year, there is another $750,000 allocated.

"The DEC cannot now turn its back on the Catskills," Bonacic continued.

Schaedle described the ski center as "an important recreational destination for the state and an engine of economic vitality for this region."

Schaedle said word of the rumored festival cancellation came from vendors, who said they received letters announcing that the event would not be held.

___

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

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September 13, 2008: Albany Times Union, Official leaf-peepers behind state updates on fall hues

Eye on changing landscape
Official leaf-peepers behind state updates on fall hues
 
By SHARON HONG, Staff writer
First published: Saturday, September 13, 2008
GRAFTON -- Frances May keeps one eye on the road and the other on the trees while driving to work each day this time of year.

It's been her fall custom for 14 years to take note of the leaves around Grafton Lakes State Park, where she works as a park and recreation aide.

May is an official state leaf-peeper, whose job is watching for the change from green to more vibrant colors.

Observers like May report what they see to the Empire State Development Division of Tourism, which creates the fall updates residents and tourists use to find peak leaf color around the state.

"We get yellows and oranges and rusts and reds," May said. "I think the sugar maples -- sugar maples are the red and orange combination on the same tree -- they're the prettiest."

Volunteers like May are recruited through tourism promotion agencies or public appeals, said Eric Scheffel, senior public information specialist for the state tourism division. He calls himself "head leaf-peeper."

Volunteers file weekly reports noting the approximate percentage of trees that have changed in their area, the brilliance of the colors, the predominant color and stage of progress. The task is one part diligence and two parts enthusiasm, Scheffel said.

"They just have to have enthusiasm for observing and recording what they see," Scheffel said.

Initially, May said, "Oh, it was a fun thing to do, it was a volunteer thing, and I just liked doing it.

"I've always liked trees and being in the country and nature. ... When we were in school we used to go and collect leaves and we would press them between two pieces of wax paper."

Most of the state's 60 official peepers have dual lives as employees of tourism offices or state parks. A few members of the public have volunteered, including an elementary school student, Scheffel recalled. He was supervised by his mother, who helped record and send in his observations, Scheffel said.

Currently, there are five or six citizen peepers.

Updates from the foliage spotters are compiled and generated into progress reports for the I Love New York program. The report is available on the I Love New York Web site and through a hot line. I Love New York also creates a color-coded map indicating peak foliage change across the state.

The first report for this fall was released on Wednesday and predicts 30 percent color change in the Adirondacks around Mount Arab and Tupper Lake and 15 percent around the Catskills. Trees around the rest of the state are showing 10 percent or less color change.

Around Grafton, it's about 2 percent, May said.

The state posts weekly reports on Wednesdays through the end of the season in mid- to late October.

The peak in the region usually is around Columbus Day, a long weekend for many tourists, Scheffel said. Last year's peak was around Oct. 17.

May predicts the viewing season will be good this year.

"Last year, it was kind of a dull year, the leaves seemed to just turn brown and then fall off," she said. "But this year they're starting to really color. I think we'll have a really good season if we don't get too much rain."

Tourism to the Adirondack and Catskill regions brought in more than $2 billion in the past eight years and is a $1.6 billion industry in the Capital Region, supporting 32,560 jobs, according to Empire State Development's NYS Tourism Economic Impact Study from 2008.

Fall attracts a significant number of visitors.

May encouraged residents and tourists to take advantage of the weekends to enjoy the foliage. "Definitely, if you want to get your children out, away from the computer, take 'em leaf-peeking," said.

But, she warned, "Be careful when you're driving."

Sharon Hong can be reached at 454-5414 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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September 11, 2008 WAMC, Ramsay Adams Interviewed about NYC Watershed

Protecting New York's Water...and Neighbors' Basements


HUDSON VALLEY, NY (2008-09-11) New York City's water is the focus of attention on two fronts: many environmental groups are calling for a ban on gas drilling that could endanger it. Meanwhile, residents along the city's aqueduct system say they're sick of pumping the city's water out of their flooded basements. Hudson Valley bureau chief Susan Barnett reports.
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9/5/08 DEC Press Release "DEC Finalizes Catskill Park State Land Master Plan"

1109

News from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

For more information contact: Maureen Wren, 518-402-8000

DEC Finalizes Catskill Park State Land Master Plan

Balances Recreation and Wilderness Protection on State Lands

ALBANY, NY (09/04/2008; 1210)(readMedia)-- The plan guiding the future management of the state's 292,000 acres in the Catskill Forest Preserve has been finalized, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today. The update to the Catskill Park State Land Master Plan has been the subject of extensive public comments and reviews and the new version strikes an appropriate balance of protecting the wilderness and expanding recreational enjoyment. Among other changes, the plan adds a "Primitive Bicycle Corridor" for recreation and includes invasive species management to address emerging threats to resources.

"This finalized Master Plan incorporates the significant public input we received throughout the development process and will assist DEC in managing the Catskill Forest Preserve to balance public needs with the protection of our precious resources," Commissioner Grannis said. "We will also continue to work with our partners like the Catskill municipalities and New York City to foster new opportunities for recreation and connecting New Yorkers to nature in this unique region, while ensuring that the resources are protected for this and future generations."

The Catskill Forest Preserve is part of the Catskill Park, which consists of 705,500 acres of public and private lands. Since its creation in 1885, the Forest Preserve has grown from 34,000 acres to nearly 300,000 acres of public land within Delaware, Greene, Sullivan, and Ulster counties. Forest Preserve lands are protected under Article 14 of the state constitution as "forever wild" and cannot be logged, leased or sold, and must be managed to protect wilderness values. The state pays property taxes on DEC land.

The original Catskill Park State Land Master Plan was developed in 1985 and classifies state forest preserve lands within the Park based on their physical character and capacity to accommodate human use. This resulted in four land classifications: wilderness, wild forest, intensive use and administrative. The Plan also designates management units and directs DEC to develop individual unit management plans that guide management activities and public use of those units.

In 2003, a proposed draft revision of the Catskill Park State Land Master Plan (CPSLMP) was released for public review and comment. In response to the input received, DEC revised the draft and proposed a new version in April 2008 for additional public review and comment. This final plan reflects that input. Revisions recognize existing and future mountain biking opportunities on state lands in the Catskills and commits DEC to preserving bike trail corridors. Specific changes from the original plan include the following

  • Create a new land classification - Primitive Bicycle Corridor - to encompass approximately 156 acres. The Master Plan reclassifies four trail corridors (100 feet wide) through existing or proposed new wilderness areas, mostly in Greene County, that will allow the public to use a bicycle but will otherwise be managed according to wilderness guidelines. These corridors are along old roads and have had historic bicycle use:

a)Indian Head Wilderness: Mink Hollow Road - its entire length through the Indian Head Wilderness (3.2 miles)

b)Indian Head Wilderness: Overlook Turnpike from the Overlook Mountain Wild Forest boundary to Platte Clove and Prediger Road (4.5 miles)

c) Hunter-Westkill Wilderness: Diamond Notch Road - its entire length through the Hunter-Westkill Wilderness (3.2 miles)

d) Blackhead Range Wilderness: Colgate Lake -Dutcher Notch Trail, an old road including Colgate Lake Wild Forest to Stork's Nest (2.4 miles)

  • In Wild Forests, allow for bicycle use on roads open to the public, state truck trails, old wood roads, foot trails, snowmobile trails, and horse trails, unless such use is deemed unsuitable through the Unit Management Planning process.
  • Increase the size of the Colgate Wild Forest from 600 acres to 1,495 acres, utilizing the 2,400-foot contour as the boundary. This will provide increased opportunities for recreation appropriate in Wild Forests, including bicycle use.
  • Include invasive species management, as the original Master Plan did not contain any reference to this emerging threat. DEC and its new Office of Invasive Species will work with the Catskill Region Invasive Species Partnership to help identify and educate the public about invasive species. In addition, DEC may take necessary actions to control exotic invasive species where there is potential for significant degradation to the native ecosystem.

New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Emily Lloyd said: "The Catskill Park lies almost entirely within the New York City watershed. DEC's management of these lands is important to the future of the City's water supply and vital to the region's economy. We are glad to see this revision of the Master Plan come to fruition and we feel it balances long-term conservation and recreational use."

Russell Thorpe, President of the Fats in the Cats Bicycle Club said, "We are very pleased that this Master Plan is responsive to comments by cyclists to preserve current and future mountain biking opportunities in the Catskill Forest Preserve, promote cycling as a health benefit, and contribute to local economies. Primitive Bicycle Corridors enhance the experience of mountain bicyclists by connecting wild forest areas and maintain the potential for recreational access and development of trail systems throughout the Catskill Forest Preserve. We look forward to working with DEC to identify and develop new mountain biking areas in wild forest areas consistent with the new plan."

Neil Woodworth, Executive Director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, said: "This is a very balanced plan that expands responsible recreational opportunities while protecting the Catskills, one of New York's greatest and most beloved natural resources. This plan will create new mountain biking opportunities while protecting hiking trails on steep slopes of the Catskill High Peaks and will expand the Catskill wilderness to protect the summit of Hunter Mountain and the Escarpment Range."

Edward K. Goodell, Executive Director of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, said: "By reallocating and strengthening the wilderness and wild forest areas within the Catskill Forest Preserve, this plan manages to simultaneously balance the needs of various users and remain true to the ‘forever wild' designation in the state constitution."

Lisa Rainwater, Executive Director of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, said: "The Catskill Center commends the DEC for developing a thorough and fresh ‘green' print for the Catskill Park and Forest Preserve. For generations to come, residents and visitors alike will benefit from the plan's many advances, including increased protection of sacred places and the introduction of four Primitive Bicycle Corridors designed to challenge mountain bikers traversing the rugged Catskill Mountain wilderness. The Center also applauds the DEC for its aggressive posture in working toward eradicating many of the invasive species that threaten our native habitat."

The finalized plan can be found on the Department's web site, http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/43013.html .

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9/5/08 THR, "Wet summer brings mushroom boom to Northeast"

ACRA, N.Y. (AP) -- There's a mushroom boom in the wet woods of the Northeast this summer.

Hillsides bloom with black trumpets. Disc-shaped mushrooms called artist's conch sprout from tree trunks. Forests are laced with tasty chanterelles giving off faint whiffs of apricot and with a pretty but deadly variety called destroying angels.

"For the last two summers we've had lousy crops of mushrooms because it was too hot and it was too dry," agroforester Bob Beyfuss said during a recent ramble through a Catskill forest. Not so during this season of soaking rains. Beyfuss found caps sprouting from the forest floor practically behind every tree.

Rainfall has been well above average around New York and New England this summer, with some areas hit with twice as much precipitation from July 1 through Aug. 18, according to the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University. Rain is fungus fuel, and it has helped along a bumper crop for mushrooms that is expected to last into the fall foraging season.

"It's been the best summer since 1989," said Russ Cohen, a veteran forager from the Boston area who hunts around the Northeast.

Cohen said porcini mushrooms have been particularly easy to find this year. He added that chanterelles, a horn-shaped mushroom popular with foragers, have been notably larger. In New York's northern Catskills, Beyfuss, who works at the Cornell Cooperative Extension Agroforestry Resource Center, left the woods on a recent tour with a baseball cap full of black trumpets and a plump chanterelle.

In Warner, N.H., George Packard said he and his wife recently came back from a night forage with about 15 pounds stuffed into plastic grocery bags. That included a bear's head tooth that was 8 inches across and weighed about a pound. But it was mostly black trumpets.

"We came upon, basically, an entire hillside that was threaded through with black trumpets, which are in our estimation one the best, most delectable mushrooms that are out there," Packard said. "We've never collected anything like this many mushrooms in that short a time."

Health officials generally discourage people from eating wild mushrooms because the price of misidentification is so high. To an unpracticed eye, a poisonous jack o' lantern can look like a chanterelle.

New York health official reiterated warnings about eating mushrooms this summer after a series of incidents involving the aptly named destroying angel. Also called the death cap, it is a bright white mushroom loaded with toxins. Even a little bite can kill.

"A piece as big as your fingernail, that's it," Beyfuss said, pointing to a destroying angel deep in the woods.

A 61-year-old Westchester County woman died in July after eating death angels she found growing near a highway rest stop. Two more women from the Albany area suffered kidney failure later that month after eating death angels foraged from the side of the road.

The mushrooms also have been blamed for sickened and dead dogs in New York.

Foragers have strategies for mushrooms they're not absolutely sure about, like eating a little bit and waiting 24 hours before eating more. Beyfuss, coming across a tan-capped mushroom that looked like a bitter bolete but might have been a tasty porcini, sliced a tiny bit of flesh off a cap with a pocketknife and placed it on his tongue.

"Ptooey!" he spat. "Yeah, that's definitely the bitter bolete."

Still, Beyfuss's advice experts to neophyte mushroom hunters is: Don't eat them. He said identification should be left to experts, not a book or a Web site. Differences between a fine meal and one that could kill are too subtle to judge without a trained eye.

"You can buy really good tasting mushrooms in the store," Beyfuss said as he foraged. "So why risk your life?"

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August 6, 2008 NYC demands drilling ban

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NYC demands drilling ban

Toxic gas may taint city's water
 
By ABRAHM LUSTGARTEN, ProPublica, Special to the Times Union
First published: Wednesday, August 6, 2008

 

New York City officials have demanded a ban on natural gas drilling near its Catskills reservoirs because they fear the drilling could contaminate the city's drinking water.

 

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They've asked the state Department of Environmental Conservation to establish a one-mile wide protective perimeter around each of the city's six major Catskills reservoirs and connecting infrastructure -- a buffer that would put at least 500,000 acres off limits to drilling.

They also want to wrest more regulatory control from state officials.

New York City is one of just four major cities in the United States with a special permit allowing its drinking water to go unfiltered. And that pristine water comes from a network of reservoirs and rivers throughout five counties. If the special permit were revoked, the city would have to build a treatment facility that could cost it nearly $10 billion, according to Walter Mugden, an official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

That's roughly what the state estimated it would earn from natural gas development over the next decade.

In a letter from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to state officials, obtained by ProPublica, Commissioner Emily Lloyd said she was not satisfied with state assurances that the environment would be protected from drilling in the Marcellus Shale, a layer of rock that dives 7,000 to 9,000 feet below much of the Appalachian East, including south central New York state.

The letter doesn't offer specifics on how drilling might taint the city's water or explain the basis for a one-mile buffer, but it made clear that as guardians of New York City's water, city officials view drilling as a serious threat.

Lloyd asked that a state, city and federal working group be formed to reassess regulations in the watershed. She also called for the city to be given a say in the state's permit review process, and for the public to be allowed to comment on each well permit, something that is not guaranteed now.

"If you are ranking areas of concern that need extremely careful protection (the New York watershed) would have to be at the top of anybody's list," said Mugden, director of the division of environmental planning and protection at the Environmental Protection Agency, region two. "More than half the state depends on that watershed on a daily basis."

The Marcellus Shale is among several large new natural gas reserves in the United States that are becoming economically viable in a time of record oil and gas prices. Recovering the gas involves a process called hydrofracking -- shooting millions of gallons of water and drilling chemicals at explosive pressure deep underground to break up the rock. Hydrofracking requires more water than most other types of drilling, and the identity of the chemicals, which are sometimes toxic, is protected as a trade secret, making it difficult to assess how waste water can be safely treated and discharged.

 

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August 27, 2008 New York Times "Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid's Limits"

The Energy Challenge

Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits

Mike Groll/Associated Press

The Maple Ridge Wind farm near Lowville, N.Y. It has been forced to shut down when regional electric lines become congested.

Published: August 26, 2008

When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.

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The Energy Challenge

Congested Lines

Articles in this series are examining the ways in which the world is, and is not, moving toward a more energy efficient, environmentally benign future.

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Dot Earth: If You Love Wind … (August 27, 2008)

Readers' Comments

"Massive wind farms in the Dakotas are great . . . but they aren't going to provide power to many big urban centers (if any) because that transmission loss is going to be a killer. "
Ralph, Glen Cove, NY
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That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.

The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads.

“We need an interstate transmission superhighway system,” said Suedeen G. Kelly, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

While the United States today gets barely 1 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, many experts are starting to think that figure could hit 20 percent.

Achieving that would require moving large amounts of power over long distances, from the windy, lightly populated plains in the middle of the country to the coasts where many people live. Builders are also contemplating immense solar-power stations in the nation’s deserts that would pose the same transmission problems.

The grid’s limitations are putting a damper on such projects already. Gabriel Alonso, chief development officer of Horizon Wind Energy, the company that operates Maple Ridge, said that in parts of Wyoming, a turbine could make 50 percent more electricity than the identical model built in New York or Texas.

“The windiest sites have not been built, because there is no way to move that electricity from there to the load centers,” he said.

The basic problem is that many transmission lines, and the connections between them, are simply too small for the amount of power companies would like to squeeze through them. The difficulty is most acute for long-distance transmission, but shows up at times even over distances of a few hundred miles.

Transmission lines carrying power away from the Maple Ridge farm, near Lowville, N.Y., have sometimes become so congested that the company’s only choice is to shut down — or pay fees for the privilege of continuing to pump power into the lines.

Politicians in Washington have long known about the grid’s limitations but have made scant headway in solving them. They are reluctant to trample the prerogatives of state governments, which have traditionally exercised authority over the grid and have little incentive to push improvements that would benefit neighboring states.

In Texas, T. Boone Pickens, the oilman building the world’s largest wind farm, plans to tackle the grid problem by using a right of way he is developing for water pipelines for a 250-mile transmission line from the Panhandle to the Dallas market. He has testified in Congress that Texas policy is especially favorable for such a project and that other wind developers cannot be expected to match his efforts.

“If you want to do it on a national scale, where the transmission line distances will be much longer, and utility regulations are different, Congress must act,” he said on Capitol Hill.

Enthusiasm for wind energy is running at fever pitch these days, with bold plans on the drawing boards, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s notion of dotting New York City with turbines. Companies are even reviving ideas of storing wind-generated energy using compressed air or spinning flywheels.

Yet experts say that without a solution to the grid problem, effective use of wind power on a wide scale is likely to remain a dream.

The power grid is balkanized, with about 200,000 miles of power lines divided among 500 owners. Big transmission upgrades often involve multiple companies, many state governments and numerous permits. Every addition to the grid provokes fights with property owners.

These barriers mean that electrical generation is growing four times faster than transmission, according to federal figures.

In a 2005 energy law, Congress gave the Energy Department the authority to step in to approve transmission if states refused to act. The department designated two areas, one in the Middle Atlantic States and one in the Southwest, as national priorities where it might do so; 14 United States senators then signed a letter saying the department was being too aggressive.

Energy Department leaders say that, however understandable the local concerns, they are getting in the way. “Modernizing the electric infrastructure is an urgent national problem, and one we all share,” said Kevin M. Kolevar, assistant secretary for electricity delivery and energy reliability, in a speech last year.

Unlike answers to many of the nation’s energy problems, improvements to the grid would require no new technology. An Energy Department plan to source 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from wind calls for a high-voltage backbone spanning the country that would be similar to 2,100 miles of lines already operated by a company called American Electric Power.

The cost would be high, $60 billion or more, but in theory could be spread across many years and tens of millions of electrical customers. However, in most states, rules used by public service commissions to evaluate transmission investments discourage multistate projects of this sort. In some states with low electric rates, elected officials fear that new lines will simply export their cheap power and drive rates up.

Without a clear way of recovering the costs and earning a profit, and with little leadership on the issue from the federal government, no company or organization has offered to fight the political battles necessary to get such a transmission backbone built.

Texas and California have recently made some progress in building transmission lines for wind power, but nationally, the problem seems likely to get worse. Today, New York State has about 1,500 megawatts of wind capacity. A megawatt is an instantaneous measure of power. A large Wal-Mart draws about one megawatt. The state is planning for an additional 8,000 megawatts of capacity.

But those turbines will need to go in remote, windy areas that are far off the beaten path, electrically speaking, and it is not clear enough transmission capacity will be developed. Save for two underwater connections to Long Island, New York State has not built a major new power line in 20 years.

A handful of states like California that have set aggressive goals for renewable energy are being forced to deal with the issue, since the goals cannot be met without additional power lines.

But Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico and a former energy secretary under President Bill Clinton, contends that these piecemeal efforts are not enough to tap the nation’s potential for renewable energy.

Wind advocates say that just two of the windiest states, North Dakota and South Dakota, could in principle generate half the nation’s electricity from turbines. But the way the national grid is configured, half the country would have to move to the Dakotas in order to use the power.

“We still have a third-world grid,” Mr. Richardson said, repeating a comment he has made several times. “With the federal government not investing, not setting good regulatory mechanisms, and basically taking a back seat on everything except drilling and fossil fuels, the grid has not been modernized, especially for wind energy.”

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August 27, 2008 New York Times "Wind Turbines in the Catskills" Peter Applebome

Our Towns

On an Upstate Wind Turbine Project, Opinions as Varied as the Weather

Stewart Cairns for The New York Times

Kelly and Ken Haas, retired New York City police officers who moved to Stamford three years ago, say wind turbines would ruin their view. They say the technology needs time to improve.

Floyd Many, now 81, grew up in the rolling hills of Delaware County in the Catskills. He has served on the town board for the past 25 years.

But when asked about anything comparable to the disputes that are pitting neighbor against neighbor and prompting stern warnings about the importance of remaining civil before public meetings, he draws a blank.

As we stumble toward what’s supposed to be a greener future, almost everyone, in the abstract, is for wind energy, surely as green, safe and abundant an energy source as there is. But, as residents of Long Island saw last summer in a proposal for wind turbines off Jones Beach that was quickly deep-sixed, it’s often not so simple at all.

So on the road from Grand Gorge to Stamford you see the yard signs popping up in front of barns and houses — “Yes to Clean Energy” on some, “No Industrial Wind Turbines” or “Save Our Mountains” on others.

It’s a long way from the hellish fires in Southern California or the scary drought in the Southeast to the Catskills. But for those contemplating the issues of climate change and the roadway to greener energy, it’s not so far away at all. Whatever role climate change may be playing right now, it’s clear that even something so elemental as the wind is as subject to the vagaries of politics, self-interest and community dynamics as anything else.

“I will say this just once: not in my backyard,” Mr. Many said, when asked to characterize the discord. “People in Delaware County think it ought to be in the Adirondacks. People in the Adirondacks think it should be in the ocean off Massachusetts. Teddy Kennedy thinks it should be somewhere else. Everyone wants alternative energy, but no one wants it where they have to look at it.”

The proposal here, by Chicago-based Invenergy LLC, calls for a wind farm with 33 turbines, each 410 feet fall, along six miles of the Moresville Ridge between Stamford and Grand Gorge. The company says the project eventually could produce 260 million kilowatt hours a year, or roughly enough to supply 43,000 homes.

People support it for various reasons. Some landowners will make money by allowing the turbines to be put on their property. Some prefer turbines on farms to farms being sold off for subdivisions. Some think that it’s an issue of property rights and that landowners should get paid for turbines on their land if that is what they want. Some think the town and neighboring Roxbury, which is further along in the permitting process, will benefit from fees paid by the company. Some even think the project should be built because it’s the right thing to do.

“I personally believe that the country is at or near an energy crisis, we’re doing nothing to take care of it at a national level and people at some point have to step up and face it,” said Mike Triolo, a town board member now running for supervisor. “We don’t live in a micro society. We have macro problems that affect us all.”

People oppose it for various reasons, too. They hate the thought of giant turbines marring the primal Catskill vistas. They see wind as a new energy rip-off dependent on federal subsidies. They think turbines create noise and annoying flickers of light. They think the company won’t pay enough to the town, that the turbines could cause fires that would be difficult to control, that they will kill birds and bats. They say it will hurt property values, that they don’t want it in their “viewscape” or in their backyards.

Ken and Kelly Haas are retired New York City police officers. They moved to the mountains full time three years ago and now face the prospect of living at the base of a ridge with the turbines on top. They cite all those reasons and more. They don’t want to sound unpatriotic. They don’t think of themselves as kneejerk Nimby’s. They just say the more you learn about the turbines, the more there is not to like. “The more you learn, the more you see this is all about big business making money,” Mr. Haas said.

Mrs. Haas said there would soon be better alternatives: “You think back a couple of years, people carried those big boomboxes. Then it was Walkmans, now it’s an iPod. Things got smaller and more efficient down the road. This particular wind turbine is not going to solve all the problems of the world.”

Wind accounts for just 1 percent of the country’s electricity use. President Bush has said it could reach 20 percent. Maybe we can get there by putting it all way out in the Texas Panhandle or the Great Plains. Maybe there will be many, many magic marvels in the years to come: microturbines and benign marvels of solar or geothermal energy, energy from ocean waves and tides. Maybe there’s a micro solution to this macro problem with no pain and no sacrifice for anyone.

And then, maybe not.

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