Wednesday, April 29, 2009

News That Matters - April 29, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you (Almost Daily) by PlanPutnam.Org

"It is doubtful whether any spot in the State has as many of the buried dead of the Revolution as this quiet spot." - James H. Smith, 1882

Good Wednesday Morning,

We've had a few days of July weather and now it's time to jump back to spring. Look for the next few days to be, um, normal, for a change. I tell ya, once it gets above 75 or so it's too warm for me... but the gardens love it and if you look outside now we have actual shade and the crab apple tree outside my window has, this morning, burst into bloom.

Carmel residents decided they didn't want a PARC group home in their community citing 11 already in existence, fear the "commercial" look and extra traffic that might have been generated (which amounts to a handful of staff cars and a van). With one hand, town officials praised PARC for their work while with the other slapped them down. I know there are (unfounded) fears regarding these facilities but I personally have a hard time saying no to people who need assistance.

What had long been known by historians as one of the most important Revolutionary War sites in the nation has been officially acknowledged by the Town of Fishkill. A letter from the state historian has confirmed that the Fishkill Supply Depot site at the intersection of Route 9 and I84 does, in fact, hold the graves of men who died while stationed there. The site, mostly paved over where American history succumbed to American commercialism several decades ago, is still threatened with additional development unless something is done to preserve what's left of it. We've followed this story in the past and will continue to do so.  The NY Times even ran a story about this (reposted in part here last week). See this website for more information.
Image: A signed 'pass' by Israel Putnam.
Courtesy Fishkill Historical Focus.

Over the past months I've been receiving three or four times a week, calls either from a company that promises to lower my credit card interest rates or to remind me that the warranty on my car is about to expire... press 1! Well, I don't use credit cards and the warranty on my vehicle is long since gone. I've written to the state to complain several times and each time the complaint has come back for insufficient information. Apparently they want finger-prints and DNA samples from the caller since the date and approximate time of the calls isn't enough. If you're also getting these calls, please write.

Website Watch:
The Greenhorns is a documentary film that explores the lives of America’s young farming community—its spirit, practices, and needs. As the nation experiences a groundswell of interest in sustainable lifestyles, we see the promising beginnings of an agricultural revival. Young farmers’ efforts feed us safe food, conserve valuable land, and reconstitute communities split apart by strip malls. It is the filmmakers hope that by broadcasting the stories and voices of these young farmers, we can build the case for those considering a career in agriculture—to embolden them, to entice them, and to recruit them into farming.

Visualizing The Grid - The U.S. electric grid is a complex network of independently owned and operated power plants and transmission lines. Aging infrastructure, combined with a rise in domestic electricity consumption, has forced experts to critically examine the status and health of the nation's electrical systems.
Lastly, several people have written to ask me to post one thing or another to the blog but it's been set up specifically for you to post yourself! It gets many hundreds of readers each week so your message will get out there... not to worry. Point your browser here, create an account and post away. That's what it's there for.

And now, the News:
  1. Hudson Valley counties receiving failing grades for ozone from American Lung Association
  2. Executive Order To Reduce Property Taxes In New York 
  3. Preservation groups snap up land
  4. How smart growth can keep our drinking water safe
  5. Proposed wind turbine law to get committee review in New Windsor
  6. The Battle Over New York's Marcellus Shale
  7. How cost-effective is it to make homemade pantry staples?

Hudson Valley counties receiving failing grades for ozone from American Lung Association

NEW YORK – All of the Mid-Hudson Valley counties measured for ozone by the American Lung Association in New York received failing grades for the period 2005 through 2007, the Lung Association reported Wednesday.

Westchester County had 36 high ozone days, Orange County had 29, Putnam County had 27, Dutchess County had 15 and Ulster County had 13.

Putnam County was one of only two counties in the state to have a “very unhealthy” day monitored, according to the EPA’s Air quality Index.

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Executive Order To Reduce Property Taxes In New York 

Governor David A. Paterson today took a first step towards providing real property tax relief to New Yorkers by issuing Executive Order No. 17, which establishes measures to evaluate costs of mandates on local governments. The Executive Order, signed by Governor Paterson today, represents the first step in a broad mandate relief agenda that he will push during the current legislative session. It will ensure an increased flow of information in an effort to make better decisions about the impacts of proposed legislation and regulations on property taxes for New Yorkers. The Executive Order applies only to regulation and legislation from the Executive Chamber or State agencies.

“It’s time to put the brakes on the spiraling cost of property taxes by taking a close look at unfunded mandates that are handed down from the State to local governments, and in turn drive up the cost of property taxes for New Yorkers across the State,” said Governor Paterson. “This Executive Order will provide us with more detailed fiscal information about the effects of proposed legislation and regulations. By having more detailed information earlier in the process, we will be able to better evaluate possible costs associated with regulations and our own program and departmental bills to ensure that we are making responsible and cost effective decisions for the residents of our State.”

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Preservation groups snap up land

Recession makes space available, cheaper
By Alexa James
Times Herald-Record
April 27, 2009 6:00 AM

SHAWANGUNK — Despite dour economic times, local land acquisition groups vow to continue working for their cause: preserving rural acreage in the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains.

Earlier this month, the Open Space Institute bought 35 acres of undeveloped mountain on the eastern side of the Shawangunk Ridge, bringing its total portfolio in the Sam's Point Preserve to about 5,700 acres. The organization is trying to collect a total of 7,500 acres for the park.

"Obviously, because there's less money in America than there was nine months ago, we have to be selective about what we do and prudent about what we buy," said Bob Anderberg, the institute's vice president and general counsel. But a shaky economy won't derail the group, he said. Over the past four decades, "we have been quietly protecting land through good times and bad."

Real estate in the Hudson Valley has turned into a buyer's market. Open space is at bargain-basement prices, and new construction has stalled.

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How smart growth can keep our drinking water safe

April 27th, 2009
While we’ve done much to clean up our water sources since the 1970s with the passage of the Clean Water Act and the tightening of regulations controlling pollution in our water, the problem still remains in troubling ways.

PBS’s “Frontline” aired a piece last week called “Polluted Waters” about the abysmal way we’ve been treating two of our most vital waterways — the Puget Sound and the Chesapeake Bay. (You can watch the entire program online here for free.) The two-hour special takes a look at these two unhealthy waterways that continue to be contaminated by high levels of pollution more than three decades after the passage of the Clean Water Act.

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Proposed wind turbine law to get committee review in New Windsor

April 18, 2009 6:00 AM

NEW WINDSOR — There’s been progress in the town’s effort to develop a law regulating wind turbines.
Supervisor George Green said a “semi-draft” of a proposed law will be presented to the town’s infrastructure committee – which includes town planning, engineering and legal consultants – on Tuesday.

If it passes muster there, Green said it will be put in formal draft form and presented to the Town Board.
The issue arose after a green business owner who would like to sell turbines asked to put up one on his property.

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The Battle Over New York's Marcellus Shale

In an age of diminishing resources, the discovery of an untapped oil or natural gas reserve can stir messianic visions. Salvation is to be found in tar sands and what were once prohibitively expensive methods of extracting crude oil or natural gas from the earth. ‘Drill, baby, drill,’ 21st century scripture in some quarters of the United States, reflects the sort of devil may care attitude that, remarkably, in an age of scarcity still drives much of our energy policy.

Last summer, when oil was fetching $140 a barrel and the price of natural gas reached record highs hundreds of landmen descended on the Catskills and Poconos in New York and Pennsylvania. They crisscrossed the Delaware basin holding meetings with local residents in an attempt to persuade them to lease their land. They want what’s underneath that land—trillions of cubic feet of natural gas trapped in the Marcellus Shale, a formation that stretches from Ohio to New York and runs through West Virginia and Pennsylvania. There were tales of deception, of fraud, and of large sums promised. The frenzy has been described as a modern day gold rush.

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How cost-effective is it to make homemade pantry staples?

By Jennifer Reese
Posted Wednesday, April 22, 2009, at 12:17 PM ET

Although I love to cook, I've always secretly, darkly, suspected it is costlier to craft at home what you can buy at Ralph's. Obviously, homemade bread tastes better than Wonder, but does playing Martha Stewart really save you money? While packaged food is mostly lousy, some of it can be spectacularly inexpensive. Out of work and increasingly obsessed with our grocery budget, I decided to test my intuition and run a cost-benefit analysis on how much I'd save—if anything—by making from scratch six everyday foods that I usually purchase from Safeway and my local bakery.

Except where noted, I chose the most affordable products and ingredients available (i.e., the 10-pound sack of generic sugar instead of a tiny pouch of organic cane sugar from Whole Foods) and priced everything down to the last grain of salt. Based on an estimate from my utility company, it costs around 32 cents per hour to run an electric oven. To melt butter slowly over a gas burner: 9 cents per hour. To boil water, more like 14 cents per hour. I take it as a given that everyone knows better than to quit their job—any job—to take up cracker-baking, so I attached no value to time. I happen to love messing around in the kitchen. Here's what I found:

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