New York’s Fracking Ban Signed into Law: In a major victory, in April 2020 the NY State Legislature permanently banned fracking by enshrining our state ban into law as part of the state budget. As one of the most vocal and effective organizations in the fracking fight, Mountainkeeper has long advocated for codifying our existing ban to ensure long-term protection for our state’s people and the environment, and this victory is the culmination of years of hard work and determination. While it’s possible that a future state legislature could seek to overturn the ban, the fact that it’s now a law, rather than a regulatory action, would make any such attempt far more complicated and time-consuming, so this adds an important extra layer of protection for the long term.
Constitution Pipeline Cancelled: After almost 8 years of intensive opposition by Mountainkeeper and our allies, in early 2020 the company behind the Constitution Pipeline canceled the project. Working with Stop the Pipeline and landowners in the pipeline’s path, Mountainkeeper and our allies successfully exerted pressured on the Governor and DEC to deny the required water quality permits for this dangerous pipeline. The state’s decision launched a slew of court battles, and in the end the investors finally read the writing on the wall and pulled their support for the project. Moving forward, Mountainkeeper will build on this momentum and share our campaign strategies as a powerful model for success in fighting other big fossil fuel projects.
Demonstrating the Economic Value of the Catskills: In December 2019, Mountainkeeper and regional partners released an updated economic evaluation study of the Catskills and Catskill Park entitled Economic Valuation Study for Public Lands in the Central Catskills. This report confirmed that open space recreational lands in the Catskills are worth millions of dollars annually to the local economy. Based on data collected in 2018, recreational opportunities on publicly owned lands in the Catskill Park and the Catskill-Delaware Watershed, plus private lands open to the public, draw over 2.7 million visitors annually. These visitors spend an estimated $170,031,580, while creating an additional economic impact of $123,889,686 and supporting 1,882 jobs. We are using the report’s results in our advocacy efforts around securing funding to support the Catskills Park and broader region.
A Nation-Leading Climate Win: In the summer of 2019, Governor Cuomo signed New York's historic Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) into law. The nation's most ambitious economy-wide climate law, the CLCPA mandates that electricity production in New York be greenhouse gas emission-free by 2040, and the state reduce all human-caused climate emissions to 85% below 1990 levels by 2050. It also calls for at least 35% of all climate funding to benefit disadvantaged communities. Mountainkeeper led the way with our partners at NY Renews to draft and build support for the CLCPA, and have since been working to make sure the law delivers on its promise to build a clean energy future rooted in climate and environmental justice while demonstrating how aggressive climate action at the state level can drive broader change.
From Pollution to Solution: Transforming a Dirty and Dangerous Power Plant Proposal in Ulster: Mountainkeeper and our allies scored a big 2019 win against plans by Glidepath to build a 20 MW fossil fuel-powered "grid support" plant in Ulster County. Thanks in part to our work to rally public opposition and encourage Glidepath to eliminate the plant’s gas component, the project was transformed into a battery-storage facility, with zoning and energy management approaches that are a model for our emerging renewable energy system. We also helped teach local municipalities how to enact moratoria on fossil-fuel projects while considering protective changes to their zoning laws.
New Rail Trail for the Catskills: Following years of advocacy by Mountainkeeper and our allies, the vision for a new multi-purpose trail in the Catskills became a reality when the first completed segment of the world-class 11.5 mile Ashokan Rail Trail officially opened to the public for biking, hiking, and birding in October 2019. In addition to preserving habitat along the old rail corridor, the project will add jobs to the region, generate new economic spending, and encourage people to get active outdoors.
Scientific Findings on Risks of Fracking Updated and Distributed: June 2019 saw the release of the updated 6th edition of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking, co-authored by Mountainkeeper Sr. Research Director Kathy Nolan, MD. This comprehensive collection of articles, news stories, and government reports on fracking’s many harmful impacts continues to be an important source of scientific firepower for anti-fracking allies across the country and the underpinning for all of Mountainkeeper’s fossil fuel work.
Helping Farmers in Crisis: The crisis facing our region’s small family farmers has reached major proportions, with many on the brink of losing everything. In the summer of 2018, Mountainkeeper responded by launching FarmHearts--a partnership with Bethel Woods, Cornell Cooperative Extension Sullivan County, and Sullivan Renaissance--to support and protect small family farms, the backbone of life in the Catskills for generations. In addition to raising awareness about the crisis, FarmHearts established a small grant program for emergency relief, stop-gap measures, or other agricultural projects to help keep farms viable and operating while we seek long term solutions at the state and federal levels. FarmHearts also offers information and referrals for technical assistance and other resources to support small farms.
Keeping a Tar Sands Boiler out of Albany: In a huge victory, in May 2018 Global Companies announced that it was backing away from plans to build a massive boiler to process tar sands at the port of Albany, directly adjacent to an environmental justice community. Mountainkeeper and our allies fought for years to block this dirty and dangerous project, which would have exposed the Hudson River and its communities to the risk of pollution, explosions, and spills, and endangered the health and safety of people living in the low-income Ezra Prentice Homes next door. The project also would have fueled the oil and gas industry’s efforts to turn Albany into a major east coast oil hub.
Powering our Green Energy Future: Mountainkeeper’s RenewableNY program made a big splash in speeding New York State’s transition to a clean energy future through our ambitious three-year Solar Outreach Initiative, which wrapped up in early 2018. This model campaign helped nearly 750 homeowners and small businesses in 15 New York State communities go solar and encouraged more than 150 people to sign up to get power from shared solar farms, adding a total of over 6.3 MW of solar energy to the grid.
Protecting an Iconic Catskills Watering Hole: In the summer of 2018, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) implemented a free permit system to control access at the Peekamoose Blue Hole—a beautiful swimming hole that was being overrun by visitors. Mountainkeeper helped sound the initial alarm alerting decision-makers and the media about the degradation of this sensitive area due to overuse and supported the permit idea as an effective way to keep wild places accessible to all while protecting them from being loved to death.
Protecting the Hudson River and Communities: In June 2017 Mountainkeeper and our allies helped beat back a proposal to build 43 new commercial shipping anchorages along the Hudson River that would have facilitated a huge uptick in river transport of crude oil by barge. We helped rally people to generate the 10,000+ comments that pushed the US Coast Guard to suspend rulemaking on this dirty and dangerous project and have since been watching closely as the Coast Guard studies waterway safety hazards and evaluates mitigation measures to reduce risk.
Historic Ban on Fracking in New York State (2015) Catskill Mountainkeeper was one of the first environmental groups to challenge fracking in New York, and played a central role in the uphill coalition fight that won the historic state-wide fracking ban—the first by a state with large, potentially profitable, natural gas reserves.
Mountainkeeper’s unique blend of expert advocacy and political savvy -- fueled by the power of our grassroots activist supporters and our staff's fierce determination to win against all odds -- was key to the coalition’s success in galvanizing the massive public outcry that finally convinced Governor Cuomo to protect the health of New Yorkers, and the integrity of our environment, from fracking.
Mountainkeeper’s contributions to this fight included shining a light on the health impacts of fracking and calling for a comprehensive Health Impact Assessment of the practice; pressuring state officials to re-open New York’s drilling regulations; supporting towns in passing their own local fracking bans; and building and uniting a diverse anti-fracking movement including local front-line groups and national organizations.
Defeating the Port Ambrose LNG project (2015) Mountainkeeper played a crucial role in rallying the public outcry that convinced Governor Cuomo to veto the proposed Port Ambrose Liquefied Natural Gas project in November 2015. This massive deepwater port 19 miles off the shore of Long Island would have threatened coastal communities, damaged marine ecosystems, and displaced a wind farm proposed for the same spot. Mountainkeeper worked closely with coalition partners—including residents and community leaders in the Rockaways, fisherman, fracktivists, surfers, elected officials, and climate activists—to educate and mobilize people to fight back against this disastrous project.
Establishing a New Visitor’s Center for the Catskills (2015) Mountainkeeper helped oversee the planning and construction of the first-ever visitor’s center for to be built the Catskill Park—the Congressman Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Park Interpretive Center (www.catskillinterpretivecenter.org/), which opened in June 2015. This beautiful facility is raising the profile of this iconic park, and enhancing the visitor experience by providing a welcoming space to learn about the region’s abundant natural resources. Along with our partners in the Catskill Park Coalition, Mountainkeeper is providing ongoing assistance in staffing the Center.
Powering our Green Energy Future (2015) Mountainkeeper’s RenewableNY program and three on-the-ground partners launched the Solar Outreach Initiative, an ambitious three-year campaign funded by a major grant from NYSERDA. Mountainkeeper is serving as project manager for this campaign, which is making it easier and more affordable for people and businesses in 15 New York counties go solar through education and outreach campaigns, bulk purchasing programs that lower costs, and job training and development programs that are building a new clean energy workforce. Projected to save $500,000 in consumer energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 496 metric tons each year, the project aligns with the Governor’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) strategy to build a next-generation energy system that is clean, resilient, and affordable for all New Yorkers. The final report can be viewed here.
Staving off an Invasion of Casinos (2013) Mountainkeeper was successful in blocking plans to site multiple Las Vegas-style casinos clustered in the Catskills, and our team has worked to ensure that that the single new casino permitted for our region—the Montreign Resort Casino, part of the larger Adelaar resort being built in Kiamesha Lake—has the most positive impact possible on the area. We also are part of a conservation coalition that is helping plan a nature center and trail system at the new resort complex that will teach resort visitors about the ecology of the region and help them enjoy being outdoors in this spectacular part of the world.
Growing Ecotourism in the Catskills (2012) Co-founded by Catskill Mountainkeeper, the Trailkeeper.org network works to grow tourism—the number one economic driver in the Catskills—by highlighting the region's outdoor recreational resources and providing information about trails, area attractions, and amenities on its website, www.trailkeeper.org. This ongoing project is a partnership between Catskill Mountainkeeper and the National Park Service, Delaware Highlands Conservancy, Sullivan County Visitors Association, Sullivan County Division of Planning and Environmental Management, and Morgan Outdoors.
Launching a Collaborative to combat Extreme Energy (2012) Mountainkeeper cofounded the Extreme Energy Extraction Collaborative (E3C), a grassroots community-led effort to foster cooperation among diverse groups fighting all forms of extreme energy extraction—including coal, gas, oil, tar sands, uranium, and industrial biomass—across the U.S. Mountainkeeper is an anchor organization for E3C, which organizes bi-annual Summits where a diverse collection of organizers, activists, and representatives of both frontline and “big green” group build relationships and develop common strategies. These Summit meetings helped build energy and shape strategies for the historic 2014 "People’s Climate March" in New York City.
Protecting the Delaware River Basin (2011) Mountainkeeper played an instrumental role in securing the moratorium on drilling and fracking in the Delaware River Basin, which encompasses 13,000 square miles across four states and provides drinking water to 15 million watershed residents. This is the only area within Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale that is protected from exploitation by the oil and gas industry.
Blocking the NYRI Power line (2009) Mountainkeeper helped block the proposed New York Regional Interconnect (NYRI) power line, a $2.1 billion 190-mile-long eyesore with 120-foot towers that would have cut a destructive swath across seven upstate counties. After three years of opposition to this project, Mountainkeeper and our colleagues scored a huge victory in 2009, when NYRI withdrew its application to build the powerline.