Saturday, September 24, 2011

Celebrating Trees in Our Communities

Celebrating Trees in Our Communities

This community oriented presentation by international arboricultural consultant, Frank Buddingh’  will explore the importance of trees and how they are intimately linked to our lives.

Attendees will be introduced to:
1. the elements within the community that impact the health of trees
2. conflicts within the areas of local environmental policy and social customs pertaining to the health of trees
3. health-promoting features of the tree population
4. the need for change within our communities in regard to the health of its trees and the future

“We owe some understanding to our trees, without them life on earth is simply impossible!”, says Frank who has worked with and consulted on trees for over forty years in many locations around the world. Franks clients have ranged from royal households and local governments to corporations and tree owners. He has a deep understanding of the needs of trees and the importance of balancing these needs with the needs of people. 

Thursday, October 13th at 7:00, Larchmont Library. Free.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Utilities and Hurricane Irene

LORAX's Patricia Podolak reports on Monday's WCBOL Committee on Environment & Energy Committee meeting:

FYI. This afternoon I took some time from my busy work schedule and attended the West. Co. Board of Legislators – Committee on Environment & Energy Meeting. The topic of today’s meeting was utility storm response. Representatives from Con Edison and NYSEG were present to discuss the recent electric outages and obstacles resulting from tropical Storm Irene. Leg. Kaplowitz was not present due to the recent, sudden passing of his father. Majority Leader Harckham chaired the meeting. Seven other legislators were in attendance. The meeting lasted 1.5 hours. 

In  brief overview:

·       PSC was invited to attend and was not present. Harckham termed this “very disturbing” and “an abomination."
·       Harckham raised the issue that no significant resources were available until Wednesday after the storm.
·       NYSEG emphasized the extreme differences between its service territory and that of Con Edison. Con Edison 380 sq miles. NYSEG 11,000 sq miles, 26 counties, 270 municipalities. NYSEG heavily rural and spread out, covering 44% of upstate. 15% of NYSEG customers were without power.
·       Con Ed said that they had 2 Incident Commanders (IC’s). NYSEG said that they had 1 IC and he came from a sister company in Maine and arrived on Wednesday.
·       Con Ed said that most power was restored by Thursday evening---97% of West Co. NYSEG took longer.
·       They both used first few days for clearing trees with help of DPWs. Then line outages addressed.
·       Both brought in out of state crews.
·       Con Ed sand bagged some substations due to the threat of flooding.
·       NYSEG said they experienced the worst infrastructure damage in 30 years. Brewster division heavily wooded and difficult to access. 3,000 wires down and 300 poles down.
·       NYSEG worked transmission segment first, then the distribution lines. Some substations were out.
·       Both claimed that they had a problem getting dry ice. One legislator noted that there is an ice company in Mamaroneck that was selling it after the storm.
·       Con Edison said that their approach has been having municipal liaisons and they plan to meet with municipal officials in the future and not the public
·       NYSEG said that they have too many municipalities to cover and that is why they can not have municipal liaisons. However, for this storm they said that they did use municipal liaisons in West Co.
·       Municipal officials were invited to speak. The Police Chief from Pound Ridge noted that their entire town was out and they only have NYSEG. He further noted that the municipal liaison approach was more of a problem than help for them because it introduced yet another layer in the process.
·       Both utilities said that they will not cover the cost of lost food because the outage was storm related.
·       There will be a follow-up meeting Sept 19 or 26. Issues were identified today. Plan of action to be addressed at next meeting.

In my opinion, both utilities should include the public in their meetings and not just select municipal officials.

With well organized emergency response and preparedness plans, everything should fall readily into place. There may be a few minor glitches which is all that a municipal liaison should have to become involved with. I agree with the Police Chief from Pound Ridge. Too many layers of bureaucracy can impede the restoration/recovery process and the municipal liaison should not play a major role.

NYSEG should use an in-state IC that is on staff.

It has been demonstrated repeatedly that the PSC is not in control where it should be. After years of dealing with this, it has become evident to me that the regulators are too close to the utilities. It is the PSC that should be investigated by our state elected officials. Reform is necessary at the level of the PSC. That is the only way to obtain significant change. Complaint letters to the PSC will only result in marginal actions.  

It should be further noted that trees are not the only cause of electrical outages during major storms. It is a complex issue that includes (and is not limited to) flooding, winds, aged infrastructure, employee training, emergency response procedures, etc.

There are individuals who have and who continue to try to address distribution line vegetation management issues. A regulatory approach would be the most effective. There are sensible ways and standards that can be utilized if officials are serious about it. However, one cannot ignore the significant impact of aged distribution line infrastructure (lines, poles, transformers, etc.) and lack of routine infrastructure maintenance. In the case of Con Edison, rather than clear cutting their transmission line where the outages are not occurring, it would be more prudent for them to shift resources to the distribution lines.

These are complex issues, and it is doubtful under current circumstances that complaints filed with the PSC will bring about long term necessary change.

Thank you.

Dr. Patricia Podolak
Chair, Utilities Oversight Committee
Town of Yorktown

Monday, September 12, 2011

Hydrofracking Report Out, Countdown Clock Begins

From Eco Politics Daily
Submitted by Dan Hendrick on Thu, 2011-09-08 10:51.
With the release of a study of economic and community impacts, the Department of Environmental Conservation officially has officially started the countdown clock on its plan to allow hydrofracking in New York State.
DEC Commisioner Joe Martens has said his  agency's goal is to protect the environment while creating economic  opportunity.DEC Commisioner Joe Martens has said his agency's goal is to protect the environment while creating economic opportunity.The public comment period for the revised draft environmental impact statement began Sept. 7 and concludes Dec. 12.  
Running concurrently with that public comment period, the DEC will also accept input on its proposed regulations governing high-volume hydraulic fracturing.
The fact that these two public comment periods are running concurrently reflects the Cuomo administration's intention to move swiftly with its hydrofracking review. 
The new studies conclude that hydrofracking will produce much-needed jobs: between 4,400 and 18,000 construction jobs and 1,800 and 7,200 long-term jobs. Estimated wages run between $621 million and $2.5 billion per year, while the state government is estimated to receive $24 million and $125 million in new personal tax revenues.
But many questions remain, including the possibility of imposing royalties on natural gas to help pay for the state's cost of regulating the industry. 
Exactly how any gas produced from hydrofracking will fit into New York's energy future and needs also remains a serious question -- in addition to the well-documented environmental concerns.
For now, one thing is certain -- the upcoming four public meetings (dates and locations not yet announced) are guaranteed to be lively.

The nearest locale for hearings in our area will be NYC. -mg -