Friday, January 07, 2011

Will our new NYS governor be green?


There are encouraging signs that Governor Cuomo will be an environmentally proactive leader. Starting off on Wednesday, in his first State of the State address, Cuomo has put our environment on his main agenda:

"A cleaner, greener environment: Governor Cuomo will create the “NY Cleaner, Greener Communities Program” to provide competitive grants that will encourage communities to develop regional sustainable growth strategies in housing, transportation, emissions control, energy efficiency. The program will emphasize revitalizing urban areas through smart growth, creating green jobs, building green infrastructure including roof and rain gardens, and strengthening environmental justice and protection. “Governor Cuomo Outlines Transformational Plan for a New NY

Grants for many green projects, including green roofs, and especially creating green jobs, will help steer us in the right direction. And, Cuomo has made some new appointments, both to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC):

“North Country officials express confidence in the nomination of Joe Martens as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made the announcement Tuesday, and the reaction here was instant and accepting of a leader many consider thoughtful and capable of assimilating different points of view to garner consensus.” Local leaders applaud Cuomo's DEC decision |January 5, 2011| Press-Republican

Also, Cuomo has been praised for his new choice for NYS Attorney General’s office. The new Attorney General has lost no time on tackling an issue mostly forgotten in our region—Acid Raid.

ATTORNEY GENERAL SCHNEIDERMAN MOVES TO SUE MAJOR PENNSYLVANIA POWER PLANT Homer City Plant Is Largest Out-of-State Contributor of Sulfur Dioxide Pollution to New York; Emits more than double the SO2 emitted by all NY power plants combined Schneiderman Suit Seeks Full Compliance with Clean Air Laws, Including Installation of State-of-the-Art Pollution Controls to Cut Pollution Emissions NEW YORK, NY (January 6, 2011) - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that he is taking action to sue a major Pennsylvania electric power plant over multiple violations of the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) at the facility. The plant, Homer City Station, is the largest out-of-state contributor of sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution to New York. The facility emits approximately 100,000 tons of SO2 annually – more than twice as much of this harmful pollutant as all of the power plants operating in New York combined. (January 6, 2011) OFFICE OF THE NEW YORK STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL

Maybe, those who are concerned about the state of our environment will have as strong an advocate for our environment as NYS Attorney General Elliot Spitzer. Few public officials in my time have shown the leadership and aggressiveness in trying to solve our Air Quality problems as former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

So the new governor is off to a great start, but will he go the distance? There’s going to be a lot his plate, but our environment must be at the top of his concerns. Clearly, the hydrofracking issue will take center stage in the coming month, and there are clear signs that Cuomo is going to stick to Governor Patterson’s latest order to hold off on horizontal hydrofracking:

No. 2 REVIEW, CONTINUATION AND EXPIRATION OF PRIOR EXECUTIVE ORDERS | Governor “Executive Order No. 41, issued December 13, 2010 (Requiring Further Environmental Review of High-Volume Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus Shale);”

One of the measures the new governor could adopt would be to give some teeth to the updated New York State Department of Conservation’s (DEC) Beyond Waste: A Sustainable Material Management Strategy - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation. The updated plan adopts Zero Waste principles and is good as far as it goes, but it needs enforcement behind it. That is, it is one thing to suggest that we prevent toxic and unnecessary materials from going into our landfills but quite another to strictly enforce rules to prevent it. Without enforcement, few counties will feel compelled to go the extra mile to ensure nothing that can be recycled or reused goes into a landfill.

But looming over all environmental issues in our state (and all states for that matter) will be Climate Change. Though many don’t want to accept it or change their behavior because of it, Climate Change is happening. Here’s a story that came out the same day of the governor’s State of the State address:

Northeast had a broiler of a year in 2010 - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports- ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) - As the Northeast hunkers down for winter, hot-weather worshippers can take heart: New Hampshire, Rhode Island and a handful of New England cities from Hartford and Boston to Caribou, Maine, are coming off their warmest year on record. Climatologists at Cornell University say Wednesday that 23 of the 35 cities they monitor in 12 northeastern states had an average temperature in 2010 that ranked among the 10 hottest on record.  (January 5, 2011) WCAX.COM

The sense of urgency about Climate Change must be translated into concrete actions because our public officials will not have the luxury of playing Climate Change denial. As our lakes lose water, invasive species increase, warm-weather diseases increase (like West Nile Virus), water waste infrastructure gets overwhelmed by more flooding, and a whole lot more, the governor is going to have to be ready. Unlike the steady diet of the misinformed and the maddening masses of Climate Change deniers on the net, the governor is accountable for protecting the public. And there may not be much time:

“We calculate that 100 months from 1 August 2008, atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will begin to exceed a point whereby it is no longer likely we will be able to avert potentially irreversible climate change. 'Likely' in this context refers to the definition of risk used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to mean that, at that particular level of greenhouse gas concentration, there is only a 66 - 90 per cent chance of global average surface temperatures stabilising at 2º Celsius above pre-industrial levels.1 Once this concentration is exceeded, it becomes more and more likely that we will overshoot a 2º C level of warming. This is the maximum acceptable level of temperature rise agreed by the European Union and others as necessary to retain reasonable confidence of preventing uncontrollable and ultimately catastrophic warming. We also believe this calculation to be conservative.” 100 Months: Technical note

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