Environmental News

by Tom Ellis

Since the prior SPB News last year, much has occurred locally and regionally.

Despite many enviro-activists working separately, climate activists are increasingly well organized and effective in their lobbying the state legislature. Nevertheless, a widely supported Renewable Capitol Act has not been enacted as of Earth Day. The RCA would invest $50 million this year to make the Capitol Building, Empire State Plaza, and nearby buildings served by the Sheridan Avenue Steam Plant, “100% renewable — heating, cooling, and power,” according to a March 11 commentary in the Times Union by Bob Cohen of Citizen Action.

Construction of the Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE) transmission lines that would bring up to 1.25 billion watts of electricity, much of it originating from dams, power stations, and giant, stagnant, greenhouse gas emitting reservoirs (some larger than Albany County) on destroyed rivers and flooded river valleys in Quebec and Labrador, has begun in several places in eastern New York. CHPE is falsely promoted as a climate friendly, clean, alternative to fossil fuel generated electricity. More than 100 miles of CHPE would be shallowly buried under the Hudson River. NYS government policy makers ignore that Hydro-Quebec has flooded millions of acres of habitat in Quebec during the last sixty years, wreaking enormous damage to plant and wildlife, and water quality.

Basil Seggos stepped down as DEC commissioner in April and Sean Mahar is now interim commissioner. Assemblyman John McDonald’s brother, James, a physician, is now NYS Health Department commissioner. Albany County Health commissioner, Elizabeth Whalen, recently departed her position to move to the state health department, and was replaced, on an interim basis, by Maribeth Miller.

Residents in several parts of the state including Cohoes, are trying to force the state courts and state agencies to enforce the “Green Amendment” to the NYS Constitution overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2021. The amendment reads: “Each person shall have the right to clean air and water, and to a healthful environment.” In court filings, NY Attorney General Letita James has asserted the Green Amendment does not empower courts to require state agencies to take action against large polluters. Many wonder what is the purpose of the Green Amendment if it cannot be used to protect public health and the environment. Is it just more greenwashing?

The notorious Norlite hazardous waste incinerator and aggregate production facility in Cohoes has at least temporarily discontinued “core operations.” The Colonie landfill, located atop an unlined hazardous waste dump on the Mohawk River bank, remains in operation, as does the Albany landfill on Washington Avenue Extension in the Pine Bush.

The 33-year-old Wheelabrator trash incinerator in Hudson Falls, also on the Hudson River bank, continues to operate. In nearby South Glens Falls, former Albany resident Tracy Frisch, has led an effective regional campaign that may soon block construction of the proposed Saratoga Biochar Solutions (SBS) 720-tons-per-day sewage sludge processing facility at the Moreau Industrial Park near the Hudson River.

The Waste Connections (WC) Dunn construction and demolition debris and who-knows-what-else dump in Rensselaer continues operating on an expired permit. DEC repeatedly delays a permit denial or renewal decision and provides virtually no information to residents and elected officials in Rensselaer County who wish to shut down the noisy and often-stinky dump that borders the 1000-student Rensselaer public school campus. WC and DEC are in constant communication and WC has floated the idea of having the scores of tractor trailers that traverse downtown Rensselaer streets each weekday begin arriving an hour later (7:30 a.m.) and possibly slightly reducing their number. Nevertheless, dump opponents will not compromise and insist the horribly sited dump must be closed now. The DEC commissioner is probably waiting for the governor to tell him what to do.

Parts of north Albany have experienced an odor of unknown origin in recent months.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan quietly approved legislation in mid-March passed in February by the city council urging the city water board to begin placing fluorides in the city’s water supply as soon as possible – probably next year. The Common Council blocked a similar proposal in 1994. This time the city council was successfully deceived and overwhelmed by several pro-fluoridation physicians and dentists who repeatedly and falsely asserted that water fluoridation has been proven completely safe for everyone by decades of scientific research. Spend a few hours on the internet researching water fluoridation and (1) human IQ, (2) kidney disease, (3) bone fractures, and (4) human health to get a glimpse of the vast worldwide research since World War II showing possible or likely damages to human health resulting from an entire population drinking, cooking, and bathing with fluoridated water every day, decade after decade. Nearly all of Europe has rejected community water fluoridation for a variety of reasons.

At a December 18 meeting of the city council, Elizabeth Whalen asserted that she is aware of studies that show that children who drink water in fluoridated Schenectady have fewer dental cavities than children in Albany. These studies are not public; thus it is unknown if they exist or how many there are, were they peer reviewed, are they any good? One of my anti-fluoridation colleagues, a retired epidemiologist, requested copies or links to these studies from Dr. Whalen, who did not provide the studies or links.

The Albany Times Union printed three “news” articles since the fall promoting community water fluoridation but as of Earth Day had not reported that Mayor Sheehan had signed the legislation. Maybe the Times Union and mayor hope city residents remain poorly informed that hydrofluorosilicic acid will soon be flowing through our water pipes and down our throats.

Editor’s note: this article reflects the view of the author regarding fluoridation of the City of Albany’s water and does not necessarily reflect the views of Save the Pine Bush.