Monday, April 5, 2010

News That Matters - April 5, 2010

News That Matters

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

Good Monday Morning,

Our hearts go out to Kent Supervisor Kathy Doherty for the loss of her father a few days ago. Funeral services were held today in Carmel.

A Hearty Congratulations to John Allen on his retirement last week from employment with the town of Putnam Valley.

Kuba Beck and his wife Helen are both survivors of the Holocaust and both worked in Oskar Schindler's factory during the war. They will give a talk about their experiences this Thursday evening at the East Fishkill library in Hopewell Jct. Call 845-221-9943 for more information.

The NYC DEP has issued updated regulations which will permit new sewage treatment plants in the Croton Watershed. You can also build stormwater related infrastructure within the 100' wetlands buffer and you'll no longer need a permit to pave driveways that cross wetlands. This is Paul Camarda's most favorite wet-dream come true. (See the story below.)

Raise your hand if you called the DA's office to encourage them to drop the politically related charges being levied against Carmel's Lori Kemp.

It's now several days since I became a Republican and my old friends and associates are quite perplexed about it. At a gathering this past weekend it was one of the main topics of concern and my assurances that it hadn't changed me a bit were offset by their wondering why I was wearing a lapel pin on my plaid searsucker jacket showing President Obama sporting a Hitlerean mustache.

With the announcement that Bob Bondi is now contemplating the sharing of sales taxes with the towns and his ongoing "listening" tour about the viability of disbanding county government mixed in with his new love affair for Greg Ball, the tea baggers and all things anti-MTA, it sure does seem like he's running for re-election this year.
Of course, those of us who know the County Executive and have worked with him in the past understand that he has no intention of sharing sales taxes, has no desire to disband county government and fully appreciates the value the MTA has to the economy of Putnam County so we're not going to see any movement beyond the campaign on any of those issues, especially the MTA tax surcharge. So, it's all a game of smoke and mirrors and with Mr. B as it always is.
While we're talking about the MTA I just want it to be made clear that I support subsidized mass transit and you should too. The overall economic benefits are so great that eliminating those subsidies would be terribly detrimental to Putnam County's economy.
Like it or not, the MTA connects local residents with higher paying jobs downstate whose earnings make their way into your non-MTA using pockets. Your contribution of a few dollars a year to keep those subsidies in place is a necessary investment in our economic and fiscal health.

I hear all the time from people saying that they don't use the MTA and so why should they pay for it? It's simple really: When a customer walks into your store and spends money he earned working downstate you've benefited - directly. When the guy or gal comes home from their job downstate, which is higher paying than most they could get here, he has money to spend on a carpentry project or at the grocery store or to take his family out for dinner and the movies. Then that money trickles on down through the economy and eventually into your pocket in one way or another.

As it is now, a round-trip fare to NYC from most of Putnam County will set you back $30 during peak travel times and $22 at other times. If you commute on a regular basis that ticket is $330 a month or almost $4000 a year, money that is not going into the local economy. Add to that the cost of the subway or bus once you get downstate (another $1000 a year), parking ($500) and it's already pretty pricey. [~$5500 a year!]

Imagine what it would cost if commuters had to carry the full weight of the cost of that transportation and what that would do both to jobs downstate and to our communities?

And, with $5500 a year coming off your salary for your commutation costs there is a breaking point at which paying commutation fares to work downstate eliminates the free-cash you will have with the only alternative being that you can no longer afford to work there (the costs being too great) and thus must leave the area taking your earnings - and your jobs - with you.

Since Putnam County has done jack-shit to attract those high-paying jobs preferring instead to focus on minimum wage earners so, in order for us to survive, affordable mass transit is essential and the elimination of such is foolhardy and terribly short-sighted.

So it's particularly distressful to hear County Executive Bondi and State Senator Leibell protesting against mass transit since by all accounts those guys aren't dumb and fully understand the direct economic benefits to the community from continued MTA subsidies. I am absolutely positive that the $170,000 a year Putnam county contributes to the MTA is rewarded in millions of dollars of earned income by county residents - and they know it.

Perhaps the people are smarter and would explain why only 24 people have signed Greg Ball's petition demanding an end to subsidized mass transit.

The other day Patterson resident Bob Dumont took the Putnam County Land Trust [PCLT] to task for working out an arrangement with a developer for a property swap along Ice Pond Road.
Mr. Dumont's rather impassioned letter was important only in what he misunderstood about the practicalities of land conservation. In a rapidly urbanizing area such as ours, protection of important resources is often a balancing act of competing interests.

However, as far as I can tell, the partnership between the PCLT and a builder that Mr. Dumont had complained about has met some rather important conservation goals and I encourage the community to support the Land Trust in this, and their other endeavors.

For example; it has protected the viewshed and the upper watershed of the ecologically sensitive Ice Pond Preserve which has been an important conservation goal for our County for quite some time. A rocky knoll, unique in our area, which overlooks the preserve, and which hosts rare and endangered species, has now been preserved and bicyclists using the rail trail to be built along the east shore of Ice Pond will not be seeing houses, but a stunning natural landscape instead. This deal also completes protection of the vast majority of Ice Pond itself securing the last of the available buffer lands for this important part of the western Great Swamp watershed.

But perhaps most importantly, the deal lets developers know they have options when it comes to being good neighbors in our community, options that can benefit all of us in the short, and the long run especially when habitat for wildlife and protection of open spaces to protect our drinking water wells and our peace of mind are being assaulted on all fronts virtually every day.

Remember back when you were a kid and one of the goofs you'd play is to put your hand up behind someone's head in the form of a "V", the quintesenntial Bunny Ears", and then giggle knowing the victim had no idea of the alleged funny insult? Of course you remember! Well then, seeing this image is essential. Notice also that for some reason the image is reversed.

And now, the News:
  1. Brooklyn Botanic Garden Aims to Save Native Plants
  2. New York Denies Indian Point Plant a Water Permit
  3. New NYC rules for watershed now in effect
  4. Zoning to help gas drilling?
  5. Drill, baby, drill: The myth of energy independence
  6. Top execs get huge salaries as dairy farms close

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Aims to Save Native Plants

American colonists once watched for the spring bloom of the Nantucket shadbush, a sign that it was warm enough to bury the winter’s dead.

Today, that shadbush and dozens of other flora native to the New York region face extinction, a result of urban development and the encroachment of invasive plants from foreign lands, scientists from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden report.

Hoping to revive the plants, the scientists recently completed a 20-year project mapping species in every county within a 50-mile radius of New York, providing detailed information on the health of more than 15,000 native and nonnative species.

Humans have clearly made their mark. “Plants from other parts of the world are now quite abundant, but there are many others that have been lost due to urbanization,” said Gerry Moore, the botanical garden’s science director.

Dr. Moore said the institution was hoping the maps would inspire city and county officials and local gardeners to begin planting endangered species.

In addition to the Nantucket shadbush, sometimes called the Juneberry for its edible summer-ripening berries, the study found that at least 50 native varieties were in danger of extinction, including the coastal violet, a unique variety of violet with dissected leaves, and the hairy angelica, a small plant with a burst of tiny white flowers.

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New York Denies Indian Point Plant a Water Permit

In a major victory for environmental advocates, New York State has ruled that outmoded technology at the Indian Point nuclear power plant kills so many Hudson River fish, and consumes and contaminates so much water, that it violates the federal Clean Water Act.

The decision could force the plant’s owner to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade its cooling system, and it raises the threat that the two operating reactors at Indian Point, which supply 30 percent of the electricity used by New York City and Westchester County, could be forced to shut down when their federal operating licenses expire, beginning in 2013.

Officials at Entergy Corporation, the plant’s owner, did not respond to calls for comment on Saturday. The company has 30 days to request a hearing before the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which issued its denial late Friday of a water-quality certification sought by Entergy.

But opponents of the Indian Point plant noted that the state’s decision was not conditioned upon retrofitting the cooling system.

“For all we know, this is it — the beginning of the end,” said Alex Matthiessen, president of Riverkeeper, the environmental organization that, along with others like singer Pete Seeger and Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, has been fighting the plant for years. Mr. Matthiessen said it was conceivable that Entergy could spend the money to retrofit its cooling system and then reapply to the state.

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New NYC rules for watershed now in effect

NEW YORK — Updated regulations for the New York City reservoir system watershed took effect on Sunday.

City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway said the new regulations amend existing regulations to align them with changes made in federal and state law over the past 10 years, and address issues that have been raised during the city’s administration and enforcement of the regulations since their adoption.

The previous regulations were adopted in 1997 as part of the Filtration Avoidance Determination issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which allowed the city to continue operating its unfiltered drinking system from the Catskill and Delaware watersheds.

“More than 9 million New York state residents depend on New York City’s three upstate reservoir systems for clean drinking water,” said Holloway in a news release. “To protect this vital resource, the city has purchased land or easements on more than 108,000 acres upstate. And we work closely with our upstate partners to prevent impacts on water quality from agricultural uses or other development. These updated regulations are another step to ensure that projects in the city’s watershed are designed and constructed in ways that protects water quality.”

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Zoning to help gas drilling?

Damascus zoning to help drilling?

Planning commission considers subsurface extraction in river corridor


DAMASCUS, PA — Damascus Township is considering adjusting its zoning regulations to accommodate anticipated gas drilling within its borders.

Horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing is allowed in the entire rural residential (RR) district but not in the Delaware River District or the Township Neighborhood Development District. The RR district comprises nearly 90 percent of the surface area of the township.

The township is adjusting its zoning so that it’s consistent with other mineral extraction regulations, according to zoning officials. They also want to allow people within the river district and the neighborhood development district to get the benefits of any gas that might be under their properties.

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Drill, baby, drill: The myth of energy independence

We're told that President Obama's political calculus in opening large areas off the U.S. to new oil exploration is to gain bipartisan support for comprehensive energy and climate change legislation. If so, it's a fool's errand. Even though presidential candidate John McCain supported the kind of drilling and nuclear power now backed by Obama, the Republican party is united in its unwillingness to support this administration.

The economics of the matter are equally clear-cut and unforgiving. As more of the developing world industrializes and adopts American car culture, demand for oil is rising at a rapid rate, far more than new production can handle. Also, light sweet crude, the cheapest and easiest to extract and refine, is in decline in many regions and is probably in absolute global decline. The remaining oil will be costlier when it reaches end-users, whether manufacturers or drivers. This is no small matter considering that the structure of the global economy, including international supply chains, has been based on a cheap oil era.

Alternatives provide little relief from this reality. They generally require more energy inputs than the new energy they create; even "green" alternatives often require large inputs from fossil fuels. And they can produce unintended consequences, from disrupting the food supply to environmental damage.

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Top execs get huge salaries as dairy farms close


REGION — While dairy farmers are in a struggle for their livelihood, milk industry executives are pulling in what many think are excessively high salaries.

Examining Internal Revenue Service documents used by the dairy industry, one can see how high milk executives’ salaries somewhat parallel the excessive bonuses being paid to American banks executives who were linked to the financial collapse in the fall of 2008.

An article on the IRS 990 Dairy Executive Form appeared on the widely read, dairy-oriented newspaper, The Milkweed, a weekly that focuses on the vicissitudes of the dairy industry.

“This article reveals, for the first time, salaries of certain key personnel at dairy promotion groups and trade associations,” said Pete Hardin, Milkweed editor. “Information for this article was gained by accessing the publicly available data through Internal Revenue Services Form 990.”

Typical of the salaries were the salary of $695,675 a year for the president of the Dairy Management, Inc. (DMI) and the salary of $647,632 for Jerry Kozak, the president of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). Fourteen other examples of high salaries were listed in the article, with all 16 totaling $5,220,831.

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