by Lynne Jackson
ALBANY, NY: The First Presbyterian Church was the location of the April Save the Pine Bush vegetarian dinner which featured representatives of five environmental groups telling us about the state of the environment.
Bobbi Chase, of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CEC), gave us an update about toxics. The state superfund has run out of money and has not been re-funded by the state. There are 770 toxic waste dumps around the state that have no money for cleanup. The superfund needs $200 million each year. There are 2000 dry-cleaner sites that need cleanup by are not funded by the superfund. Bobbi spoke of corporate accountability. Kodack is one of the largest polluters, emitting more dioxins from their plant than all of the incinerators in New York State combined. Dioxins cause problems in humans at very low concentrations, measured in parts per trillion. Dioxins cause reproduction problems, cancer, and immune problems.
CEC would like to eliminate problems with toxic chemicals by not having them manufactured in the first place. Using green building materials would help a great deal. New York State has a green-building tax credit, which gives credits for using green building materials, building bike racks, showers, and other green initiatives. One of the materials that cannot be used for a green building tax deduction is vinyl chloride, which is used in vinyl siding. Vinyl siding per se is not hazardous, but its manufacture and disposal are very hazardous. When burned, vinyl chloride produces dioxins. The production of vinyl is a very toxic process. A lot of vinyl is made in Cancer Alley (the name says it all). The vinyl manufacturers are suing NYS over the green building tax credit. The case is scheduled to be heard in June.
To learn more about the problem of toxics in New York State, go to CEC’s website at http://www.ecothreatny.org.
Carol Nemore, of the Audubon Society spoke next. She began by saying she would not be using vinyl products anymore. She commended Save the Pine Bush for being around for so long and for being able to save so much land in an urban area. The Audubon Society is concerned about preserving habitat areas for birds and other reasons.
Carol explained that the Audubon Society is interested in “smart growth” (some people, she said, say they have never met grow that is smart). The Audubon Society is working with New York State on a smart growth conference in 2004.
Other projects the Audubon Society is working on include: getting the Environmental Protection Fund passed; a grant to study the Normanskill; a program funded by a medical doctor about pesticides (bad for birds, bad for humans) and educating homeowners on not using them; looking at a bill to create a task force on invasive species; and working on a bill to ban ATVs in the Catskills and the Adirondacks (perhaps the Pine Bush should be added?).
Pete Sheehan of the Sierra Club began by noting that the Sierra Club was founded in 1892 and has 600,000 members nationally. The Sierra Club is proud to work with Save the Pine Bush. Sprawl is one of the Sierra Club’s major issues, and it is everywhere. The local Sierra Club stopped the construction of a golf course on pristine wetlands in the Saratoga State Park.
Pete Sheehan is very concerned about the asphalt plant proposed to be built in the South End of Albany. At the beginning of the evening’s program, Dan Van Riper made an announcement about the proposed asphalt plant, and how citizens can object to this massive air polluting plant being put in downtown Albany, which is already suffering from degraded air pollution (email firstname.lastname@example.org for information about the asphalt plant). Pete was concerned about this as an environmental justice issue, locating such a polluting plant in an area with a high percentage of poor and minority citizens.
Sierra Club is very concerned about the issues of environmental justice and of sprawl. The Sierra Club uses the approach of natural resource planning; for example, not to allow the Department of Environmental Conservation to ignore the importance of buffers on streams, and other similar issues.
Ann Reynolds, from Environmental Advocates (EA), noted that her organization used to be called the Environmental Planning Lobby and was formed 34 years ago by people who were concerned about statewide issues. She began by speaking about the generation of electricity as producing the largest amount of air pollution. She said the EA makes position statements on bills in the legislature, and rates these bills with either one, two or three trees or with one, two or three smokestacks. They rate a wide variety of bills, from ones that have to do with habitat, hunting, asthma and dozens of issues in-between.
This year, she felt the EA had a victory on the budget. The Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) was given $125 million, and the money in the fund is to be used for the purposes outlined of the fund, and not to be used for salaries for DEC staff or other non-EPF functions.
The brownfields legislation in NYS still has not been passed, though it has been through three legislative sessions. More progress has been made on this bill than other years.
Article 10 is the law that governs the process to site power plans. The legislation covered plants of 80 megawatts and higher; thus many plants of 79.9 megawatts have been proposed. Article 10 has been allowed to expire. The EA has set re-authorizing Article 10 as a priority.
Another issue EA is working on is a net-metering bill. This would allow people, schools, churches and businesses to install solar panels, and if they produced more energy than they use, to put that energy back into the grid. In other words, their meters would run backward. Currently, standby charges by the utilities are often so high, that solar panels are not economically beneficial.
Aaron Mair confessed that he really came to speak to us this evening only to have Rezsin’s lasagna! Aaron is president of the Arbor Hill Environmental Justice Center and a member of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission. He spoke about his involvement with shutting down the ANSWERS incinerator in Arbor Hill, and starting the Arbor Hill Environmental Justice Center. He would like to see his Arbor Hill community connected to the Pine Bush. There is no transit for residents of Arbor Hill to get to the Pine Bush, he would like to see a green-way connecting the Hudson River to the Pine Bush. On the way to creating this green-way, many eye-sores need to be taken care of, such as NL Industries, pipes un-connected to sewer systems, and other companies which pollute.
He spoke about Tivoli Park, which is a beautiful natural area in the City of Albany. He urged everyone to go visit Tivoli, unlike Lark Street, Tivoli still has its trees.