Thursday, December 11, 2008

News That Matters - December 11, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"When the shining light of liberty has been turned off, who cares about the rule of law?"

- Anonymous.

Good Thursday Morning,

In the News:

Tilly Foster made the news again this morning (see article). The county Executive and Ann Fanizzi both support the proposed deal with George Whipple while pretty much everyone else is confused, some angered and others justifiably incredulous. In case you've forgotten just what's in that proposed contract, I ran a casual analysis of it back on December 3rd which you can - and should - read here.

Dawn Powell reports again from the Free State of Putnam Valley. This time it's on a recent Planning Board Meeting and it's quite a write-up. Check it out at the blog. Dawn's unabashed and casual observances are a much needed addition to the life of citizens in Putnam Valley. If you attend meetings in your town, why not write them up and post them to the blog?

Now that gasoline prices have dropped quite dramatically, have your driving habits changed? Have you gone back to being a road warrior or did the patterns set when gas was $4 a gallon stay with you? Or, did you ignore the cost of gasoline and keep on driving?
 Take an NtM poll and let us know.

According to news reports, it costs $37 million for the state of Maryland to execute people sentenced to death. The article says, "Both New York and New Jersey recently abandoned the death penalty after weighing the merits of a system in which tens of millions of dollars were being spent with virtually nothing to show for it." With prisoners spending an average of 12 years on death row the costs have risen astronomically over the years. 

Tomorrow (Friday) is our weekly Things To Do Edition and to tell you the truth, other than the amazing puppet show at Arts on the Lake, I have precious few events to note. If your organization or group has something going on this weekend or into next week, send it along.

And now, the News:

Putnam weighs 40-year lease for nonprofit to run Tilly Foster

Susan Elan
The Journal News

Putnam officials plan to tour county-owned Tilly Foster Farm in Southeast later this month as they evaluate the terms of a draft lease that would turn over operation of the 199-acre property to Kent philanthropist George Whipple's nonprofit Preserve Putnam County through 2048.

"We're not giving the farm away," Legislator Vincent Tamagna, R-Philipstown, chairman of the Physical Services Committee, said during a meeting of the committee Tuesday. "Putnam residents didn't want to spend their money on a farm or a golf course (county-owned Putnam National Golf Club in Mahopac). But we have both open and working."

The proposed 40-year, no-cost lease would give Whipple control over who sublets space at the former horse-breeding farm.

Read More

Upstate NY office makes more energy than it takes

By MICHAEL HILL | Associated Press Writer

RHINEBECK, N.Y. - Northeast winters can challenge even the greenest of buildings. Solar panels struggle on dreary days. Insulation is tested by subzero temperatures.

So the owners of Hudson Valley Clean Energy are laying claim to a conservation coup. Their unremarkable looking headquarters 90 miles north of New York City is "zero net energy," meaning it makes more energy than it takes over a year.

If the claim is verified in the coming months by the advocacy group Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, the company is eligible for a $10,000 prize for the "best" net-zero energy building from New England to Maryland. Just as importantly, company president Jeff Irish and vice president John Wright will get official bragging rights for a building that runs an electricity surplus in the Northeast.

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Rockland County gets green-building law

Laura Incalcaterra
The Journal News

NEW CITY - Construction projects that involve county-owned or -operated buildings and those that cost $1 million or more will now have to meet environmental standards to make sure they are as green as possible.

County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef yesterday signed the Rockland County Governmental Green Building Code into law, following its passage by the County Legislature on Nov. 6.

But even before a law was in place, the county began pursuing greener buildings, designing the proposed tech building at Rockland Community College and a new county Highway Department garage to be environmentally friendly, Vanderhoef said yesterday.

"We want to try to build as green as possible, to the extent that's financially feasible, because it saves money," Vanderhoef said.

Read More

Green Party US offers six big steps for economic recovery

The Green Party of The United States supports workers occupying a factory in Chicago after layoff: bailout money isn’t being used to help working Americans

Green Party leaders said today that the incoming Obama Administration and Congress should take six major steps to reverse the financial meltdown and restore financial security for Americans.

The steps include

  • A Green public works program,
  • Aid for state and municipal governments,
  • Expansion of mass transit,
  • Single-Payer universal health care,
  • A peace dividend gained by ending the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and
  • An end to the wasteful war on drugs.

Read More

Are Chemists, Engineers on Green Jobs List?

By Andrew C. Revkin
December 9, 2008, 7:26 am

For weeks, there’s been a growing chorus — from the incoming Obama team to community-welfare campaigners and environmental bloggers — pushing for building the economic revival around “green jobs.” So far the focus seems to be mainly on rebuilding physical infrastructure: insulating leaky low-income housing, building wind turbines, improving the clunky electrical grid and the like. These are, by almost any measure, logical starting points for an effort to cut America’s energy bill and carbon dioxide emissions while restoring prosperity.

But for such an initiative to be green at a scale sufficient for the atmosphere to notice, my sense is it will need to focus just as much on rebuilding the country’s intellectual infrastructure. I’m not quite sure I’ve heard any leader yet describe the sustained, aggressive “energy quest” that would be required to lead the world toward a future with non-polluting energy choices sufficient to empower more or less 9 billion people — and how that quest would have to extend from the living room to the boardroom, from the laboratory to the classroom, to be transformational.

As our ongoing Energy Challenge series and plenty of independent studies have made clear, the country and world are still not engaged seriously in advancing non-polluting energy technologies, from solar cells to the elusive notion of capturing carbon dioxide from power plants at a large scale and stashing it somewhere. (One phrase that reverberates almost as much as green jobs these days in climate-energy discussions, with far less credibility, is “clean coal.”)

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4 billion litres

4 billion litres is the volume of toxic leakage that spills into the environment each year from Alberta’s toxic Tar Sands. A new report released by Environmental Defence uses industry data to arrive at a conservative estimate of tar sands tailings ponds leakage into the environment. The report, 11 Million Litres a Day: The Tar Sands’ Leaking Legacy finds that over 4 billion litres of contaminated tailings water already enters the groundwater each year, and new projects could expand this number to over 25 billion litres within a decade.

“This massive leakage from toxic tailings ponds are yet another reason why tar sands oil is dirty oil,” said Matt Price, Program Manager, Environmental Defence.

Tailings ponds are known to contain dozens of toxic contaminants like heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and naphthenic acids. Naphthenic acids in particular break down very slowly and therefore pose a long-term threat to the groundwater of the region. The tailings ponds sit upriver from the Peace-Athabasca Delta, one of the world’s largest inland freshwater deltas and home to Fort Chipewyan where residents already have serious concerns about pollution and their health.

Read More

Wave Power Facility Successful in Sweden

ScienceDaily (Dec. 9, 2008) — A wave energy plant located in the sea outside Lysekil, Sweden has been quite successful. In his dissertation for Uppsala University, Rafael Waters* is presenting findings from the experimental facility, in which he has played a leading role in designing and constructing.

For nearly three years, a wave power plant has stood on the bottom of the ocean a couple of kilometers off the west coast of Sweden, near Lysekil. Rafael Waters, from the Uppsala University Division of Electricity, designed and built the facility as part of his doctoral project. The station is uniquely durable and maintenance-free thanks to its simple mechanical construction, which was engineered at the Division.

“Instead of trying to adapt conventional energy technology to the special challenges of wave energy, we developed a technology that is adapted to the ocean from the start,” says Rafael Waters.

Read More

American Rivers' Vision

Blue trails have the incredible potential to stimulate local economies, encourage physical activity, improve community pride, and make rivers and communities healthier.

Communities across the country are beginning to plan for conservation when creating new and improving existing blue trails by organizing trash cleanups, improving access and navigability by removing dams that no longer make sense, securing more natural flows, protecting against poorly planned development along blue trails - the list goes on.

American Rivers is helping communities do this by providing tools to promote river-based recreation.

By planning for these improvements, communities will reap the benefits of greater recreational opportunities and healthier rivers now and for years to come.

Read More

Effort to Relax Pollution Limits Is Dropped

The Bush administration said Wednesday that it was abandoning its pursuit of two proposed regulations relaxing air-pollution standards for power plants, surprising both industry and environmentalists by ending its pursuit of one of the last remaining goals set out by Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force in 2001.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s public affairs office sent out a brief statement by e-mail announcing that it would not pursue the changes in how power-plant emissions are measured, which would have allowed increases of hundreds of thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, the building blocks of smog and fine-particulate pollution.

That proposal had been opposed by senior agency officials, both in the enforcement section of the agency’s Washington headquarters and in regional offices like San Francisco.

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Extra Second to Be Added to 2008

Associated Press
Dec. 9, 2008 -- With a brutal economic slowdown, 2008 may feel as if it will never end. Now the world's timekeepers are making it even longer by adding a leap second to the last day of the year.

Along with the economy, the Earth itself is slowing down, requiring timekeepers to add an extra second to their atomic clocks to keep in sync with Earth's slightly slowing rotation. So an extra second will be tacked on to Dec. 31 after 6:59:59 p.m. and before 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

That extra second will make 2008 -- already long with an extra day on Feb. 29 -- the longest year since 1992.

The decision to add an extra second was made by an international consortium of timekeepers, whose American arm announced it Monday. World commerce and digital technology depend on accurate to-the-second timekeeping, said Geoff Chester, spokesman for the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, responsible for one-third of the world's atomic clocks.

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