If you’re interested in local environmental news, here’s a sampling of alerts and bulletins I recently received through DEC Delivers that will give you some idea of this email service’s potential value. As mentioned in an earlier post, I highly recommend subscribing, particularly now that the EPA and other federal agencies have been handed over to thieves and scoundrels. Plugging in to the information made available by state agencies such as the DEC will be more important than ever in the fight to protect our environment and our health.
Alerts and Bulletins listed below:
Following these items, I’ll post some details about the DEC website, with links to features such as the contaminated site database search that you might find interesting and useful.
Last week there was an alert about a cleanup at the RPC that’s now underway. The email contained a link to this document, A Fact sheet on the RPC cleanup (PDF) which gives a brief history of the site, summary of known hazards, and a description of the work being done. If you’ve been through Orangetown recently, then this might be the explanation for any abundance of construction vehicles and extra traffic you may have noticed.
This past Wednesday I decided to visit the RPC site and see it for myself. The scale of the project, the number of buildings involved, and the state of their decay made an impression.
To add some context to the photos, here are a few excerpts from the Fact Sheet:
32 abandoned and derelict buildings containing over 1.1 million square feet . . . distributed across 61 acres. . .
Site Environmental Assessment:
After 25 years of lying vacant, the painted exterior building surfaces, including windows, railings, staircases, doorways and grates, have significantly deteriorated resulting in contamination of surficial soils around Site buildings primarily by lead. Basement rooms in many Site buildings contain old and leaking transformers with evidence of releases adjacent to floor drains. Many of the buildings contain extensive amounts of asbestos containing material in poor condition and there are reportedly seven unidentified underground storage tanks on the Site.
— Excavation of the approximately upper one foot of soil and asphalt, which will be disposed of off-site.
— Excavation to construct a temporary storm water detention basin.
— During excavations, a community air monitoring plan, and stormwater pollution prevention measures will be implemented.
—Demolition of buildings, underground tunnels, concrete sidewalks and roadways.
Surface soils adjacent to Site buildings contain elevated concentrations of a number of metals including lead, barium and copper. PCBs, semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) and pesticides were detected in site soils, . .
Additional site information from the DEC database:
Site Record for RPC – Core Area. Site Code C344080
(See the section, “The NYSDEC Website” at the bottom of this post for information on how to access site databases.)
Public comments are being accepted on the Draft Piermont Marsh Reserve Management Plan, which will guide management of the Piermont Marsh Reserve (the Reserve) for the next 10 years. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) will consider all public comments as it finalizes the management plan. Located in southern Rockland County, the Reserve’s 1,030 acres include the Hudson River estuary’s largest brackish tidal marsh, a broad swath of adjacent shallows, and small areas of upland in the Village of Piermont.
A public meeting will be held on Monday, February 5th, 2018 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Piermont Village Hall, 478 Piermont Avenue, Piermont, New York to provide information about the draft plan and solicit comments.
About the Piermont Marsh
Draft Piermont Marsh Reserve Management Plan (PDF)
2017 marked the 30th year of the Hudson River Estuary Program. Read about the steps DEC and its partners are taking to ensure a clean, accessible, and inviting river for those who live and work along its waters and its estuary communities. The 2017 Hudson River Estuary Coordinator’s Report is now available.
The information posted below was selected to accompany the RPC brownfield cleanup info, so it deals with contaminated sites for the most part. I’m leaving out about nine-tenths of what’s on the full DEC Website: climate change, invasive species, regulation, recreation, and more.
I should mention that (IMHO) their website could be better organized. I recommend doing a lot of bookmarking or copying of page addresses if you do much exploratory surfing, since they don’t seem to have a comprehensive site map. (They have a Using the DEC Website page, but knowing where menus are doesn’t help much when there’s lots of stuff inconsistently listed or missing. Sorry, DEC webguys.)
For most of us, this will probably be the most useful and important feature. You can sign up to receive email news and alerts on a ton of recreational and environmental topics of your choice: serious stuff for activists such as the ENB, Contaminated Site Alerts, and regulation changes; or more fun and recreational stuff like hiking trail conditions, how-to seminars, or perhaps the newsletter Hudson River Almanac, which I enjoy for it’s coverage of birds, wildlife, scientific studies, and assorted cultural and educational events.
Environmental News Bulletin (ENB)
The ENB is a compilation of permit applications, notices of environmental impact statement releases, public hearing notices, and other official announcements, and is the best way to find out what’s happening now, or what will be in the near future. ENBs are published every Wednesday, and you can choose to receive notifications via ‘DEC Delivers’ each week when the new one is posted; or, if you’re allergic to email, simply visit the ENB page anytime you feel the need to check up on things.
Here are a few links you’ll need in order to understand what’s in the ENB:
How to Use the ENB
Introduction to SEQR
State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) Permit Program
Visit the link above for instructions on how to receive alerts such as the one for the cleanup at the Rockland Psychiatric Center. To understand site details, you’ll need to review some of the essential information found in the pages listed below. As I mentioned, the DEC website is a little chaotic in places, but you should be able to find answers to most questions somewhere in these pages:
Environmental Cleanup & Brownfields
State Superfund Sites
Environmental Site Database Search
To show the usefulness of the data search, the table below is from a search for NYS Superfund sites in Rockland with a site classification of 02, which are dangerous sites. From the ‘Site Classifications’ page:
Classification Code: 2
a. The disposal of hazardous waste has been confirmed and the presence of such hazardous waste or its components or breakdown products represents a significant threat to public health or the environment: – or –
b. hazardous waste disposal has not been confirmed, but the site has been listed on the Federal National Priorities List (NPL).
The really fun part now will be going back to the search page, plugging in the site codes, and learning all the gruesome details about each of these sites.
Public Involvement and News Page is an OK starting point for visitors looking to engage in something productive. You’ll find links to news and events, ‘Green Living’ tips, Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) info, grant programs, environmental education and activities for kids, and whatnot.
The Citizen Participation Page has links to more useful stuff, such as community involvement programs, and the Citizens Handbook (PDF). The 57p. handbook covers how citizens can monitor environmental remediation sites and activities, and outlines how the bureaucratic process works. This isn’t light reading, but if you know about this handbook, and maybe download a copy to keep handy, it could be a “Break-Glass-in-Case-of” item if ever there’s an environmental issue that affects you directly, or there’s an issue you really want to take on in a serious manner.
— Christopher Johnson.
RocklandCAN will be looking to maintain an active blog in the coming year, and would like to have members contribute articles to help keep Rockland County informed about local issues. If you are interested in writing an article please contact Angela at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rockland County Executive
Clarkstown Town Board
Daniel Caprara (Ward 2)
Patrick Carroll (Ward 4)
Orangetown Town Board
Spring Valley Mayor
Spring Valley Trustees
Chevon Dos Reis
In the Spring Valley primary election this coming Tuesday, RocklandCAN’s endorsement committee has endorsed:
The ticket of Emilia White for mayor, and Eustache Clerveaux and Chevon Dos Reis for trustees.
This is a solid force for improvement in Village leadership. Together, they offer competence, compassion, and commitment to public service for Spring Valley residents.
Tuesday, September 12th is primary election day. Please vote for stability and progress in Spring Valley. -Gina
Given that our mainstream media does such a miserable job of covering environmental issues, it’s really a no-brainer that we must actively search for news, particularly on local matters. To help with this, I’ve compiled a list of resources that I turn to on a more or less regular basis.
This is just my own list of resources, and I’m sure I’m missing some very worthwhile ones; so if you feel there are additions I should make, let me know.
DEC Environmental Notice Bulletin (ENB)
The Environmental Notice Bulletin (ENB) is an official publication of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. It lists permit applications, hearings, judgements, and boring but sometimes critical stuff that can slip through quietly. If someone wants a permit to build on a wetland, increase effluent, or a hearing has been scheduled on some local activity, you’ll see it here first. While this may sound like a chore to check, it’s actually low energy; if you sign up through “DEC Delivers” to receive ENB notices, you’ll simply get a weekly one-sentence email every Wednesday saying the latest ENB has been posted, along with a link to it. It’s easy to spend a few minutes once a week to browse through; if nothing’s going on of importance, carry on with your day. (Or, if someone has applied for a permit to run an oil pipeline through Ramapo, feel free to freak!) Most of the time it’s not exciting or entertaining, but every now and then you’ll spot something happening in your back yard that will grab your attention.
I recommend first visiting the ‘How to Use the ENB’ page, so you can find the important stuff without too much trial and error.
Email Notices through DEC Delivers
Sign up to receive news and information from the DEC on a variety of environmental and recreational topics.
One of the best sites for climate change news, and for following the anti-change crowd.
New York Public Interest Research Group
New York Public Interest Research Group / Issues
Enformable (Nuclear Energy News and Information)
NRDC Natural Resources Defense Council
DigitalDemocracy While this is not an “environmental” site, it’s a great place to find out which NYS politicians are friends or enemies of the environment.
Toxics Targeting Database on Environmental Hazards in NY for Property Owners, Buyers, and Sellers.
“Use Toxics Targeting’s Free Map to search any neighborhood for more than 650,000 abandoned landfills, toxic dumps, leaking tanks and other government-reported contamination threats in the Empire State.”
What’s In My Water? NYPIRG’s New York State Drinking Water Profiles Project, 2017
Republicans have decided that they’re going to win the next round of elections by thoughtfully designing a better healthcare system for all citizens, disengaging from unnecessary military conflicts, ending racism, and fighting climate change.
Oh, right— in some other parallel dimension; not this one. Of course their strategy for hanging on to power is to control and distort information, and to keep the public misinformed. It’s what they’ve been doing for a long time now, and what’s been working for them.
And so we have FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to undo net neutrality protections. The chairman (a former Verizon lawyer) is selling the idea that the telecoms will be great guys, won’t favor their own programming, slow the content of competitors, filter news and information to their own advantage, or use their monopolies to separate consumers from more of their money. Those friendly telecoms will voluntarily keep the internet open, happy, and sun-shiny without Title II protections, according to Chairman Pai.
But of course that’s not the way it would actually work; not in this universe. A rollback of net neutrality would simply be more sabotage to the democratic process, added on top of gerrymandering, voter suppression, corporate financing of campaigns, media consolidation, corruption of academic programs, etc., etc.
Since net neutrality is a complex issue, I’ve assembled a small reading list to cover it in finer detail, and maybe help you to catch up if this issue is new to you. I’ll start the list off with a little bit of fun— a video of John Oliver’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ that for anyone who hasn’t seen it, does a fabulous job of encapsulating the basics. If you have seen it, then maybe watch it again to ease yourself into the proper frame of mind for diving deeper into the swamp.
One very small note of optimism I’d like to point out that is often missed, is that the FCC can’t just change its rules on a whim. It took a long fight for the FCC under former Chairman Tom Wheeler to win against Verizon and the other telecom giants in court, and put into effect the rules we have now. Having won that battle and getting the courts to agree that Title II protections are lawful and appropriate, it would take an uphill battle for Ajit Pai’s FCC to prove that the previous findings need to be reversed. So the new Trump FCC can’t just easily flip a switch and kill net neutrality rules on its own.
The bad news is that people = policy. With Ajit Pai in charge, the FCC can allow net neutrality to be undermined in various ways without changes in rules or laws. And the really bad news is that the telecom industry’s Republican allies in congress, plus a few Democrats, will try to take away the courts’ ability to restrict the FCC’s behavior by revising the Telecommunications Act and minimizing the FCC’s authority. Republican standard operating procedure is to first cry for new legislation to “save freedom,” “end uncertainty,” and “reduce burdensome regulation.” (Note the nausea-inducing title of Chairman Pai’s proposal— “Restoring Internet Freedom.”) Then, congress will go about writing legislation to do the exact opposite of what they promised. There are bills in the works– so far Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) has proposed S.993 and others are reported to be on the way.
This means that after signing petitions and sending in comments to the FCC, we’ll need to focus on congress, since that’s where the real battle will take place. Given that the Trump wrecking ball has been swinging wildly around Washington D.C. with no one at the controls, expect that the telecoms will act on the assumption that congress is as Republican as it’s ever going to be, and to push for new legislation ASAP.
Electronic Frontier Foundation
The FCC Pretends to Support Net Neutrality and Privacy While Moving to Gut Both
Don’t Get Fooled: The Plan Is To Kill Net Neutrality While Pretending It’s Being Protected
The FCC Is Leading Us Toward Catastrophe
Petition Opposing Chairman Pai’s Proposal
DearFCC: The Best Way to Submit Comments to the FCC about Net Neutrality (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
Questions about whether or not demonstrations are effective come up frequently. I personally feel that they’re important, as I’ve come around to the conclusion that politics is mostly a matter of brute force. I don’t recall much significant change happening because someone’s poem or video went viral. So unless someone has a Men-In-Black neuralizer they can flash fifty million FOX News viewers with, I’m reasonably sure that there’s no alternative but for millions of us each to do the hard work of changing the perceptions of the few people we’re close to.
Participating in the Peoples Climate March will help with that, but it’s actually not the TV optics that matter; the images of hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of D.C. won’t shift public opinion any more than other ‘here today / gone tomorrow’ news items. What will have an impact, though, will be my demonstration of concern over climate change; that will affect a number of people who know I was there, and who I can now talk to at length about climate change. They will not be able to remain quite so disinterested and detached as the corporate media would like them to be, after they’re aware that I was one of “those people” down on the streets of D.C. Maybe at some point it also becomes more that just me; it will be another friend, or a sister, or a coworker, who’s participation and motivation open them up to the possibility that climate change is a “stop what you’re doing and pay attention” issue, despite the garbage information thrown at them by the corporate media. It all comes down to the basic, brute force politics of talking to people face to face. Nothing fancy, no optics or media magic— just steady pressure on one person at a time, demonstrating through personal commitment that active resistance is a respectable, fashionable, and responsible thing to do.
Here are a few images of the respectable, beautiful people I was with on Saturday, trying to make things a little better for everyone on this planet.
“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” -Anonymous quote from ancient Greece.
Three groups of RocklandCANers set off at 7 a.m. for Albany in three different cars.
First we met the other 500 plus lobbyists at a church for a light breakfast, and organized into teams to strategize our lobbying effort .
We paraded to the rally in the park in front of the capitol. It was inspiring and fun. We chanted a lot and listened to inspiring speakers. The weather cooperated!
There were three lobbying groups. Assemblyman Zebrowski’s constituents went to visit him at 1 p.m., as did Assemblyman Skoufis’, and both legislators met with us in the hall after stepping out of the ongoing budget negotiations. The rest of us went to visit Senator Carlucci in his office. The meetings lasted about 30 minutes and ample notes were taken by each group’s note-taker.
It was a very productive and well-organized lobbying day. We obtained serious and useful information from the elected officials we visited. We will definitely follow up with both Assemblymen and the Senator back here in Rockland.
A Man who worked for the U.S. military in Afghanistan was detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at Newark-Liberty International Airport on March 13, despite the fact that he had been vetted for two years and been granted a special immigrant visa by the State Department. A parole hearing tomorrow will determine whether he can be released from detention and temporarily remain in the U.S. while seeking asylum, or will be deported back to Afghanistan where he faces threats of retribution from the Taliban.
From the ACLU website:
“The man, whose first name is Abdul, arrived on March 13 at Newark-Liberty International Airport on a valid visa, only to find himself detained and his visa revoked without explanation. Abdul had worked at dining facilities for the U.S. military and as a result, became the target of violent attacks and intimidation by the Taliban. He arrived in the United States on a valid visa, sponsored by a retired Army Sergeant, after the U.S. government vetted him more than two years in Afghanistan. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents detained him at the airport for over 28 hours, refused to let his attorneys meet with him, and pressured and misled him into signing a paper that withdrew his request for legal admission to the country.”
The vigil is being organized by immigrant advocate and veterans organizations, including Make the Road New Jersey, New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, and the International Refugee Assistance Program.
Read the full story—
The Record / NorthJersey.com, April 05
Immigrant advocates plan vigil for Afghan man held in detention
ACLU / News
Groups Push for Release of Detained Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Holder