Blogs from Sarah Crean Sun, 30 Mar 2014 15:30:44 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb EXCLUSIVE: Environmentalists Call on Bloomberg to Make the Most of Time Left As Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure draws to a close, a coalition of environmental organizations is urging him to take action now to make the city more sustainable.

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“Now is the time to lock in forward-thinking sustainability policies and prioritize the most critical projects for completion,” the New York League of Conservation Voters and other organizations say in Bloomberg-Countdown.pdf.

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The goal of the 2013 New York City Sustainability Countdown is “to help focus the city’s efforts for the remained of 2013.”

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The groups argue the city could take immediate steps in several key areas, including preparing for the impacts of climate change; addressing ongoing air quality issues; reducing and de-contaminating the waste stream; making buildings more energy efficient; and increasing mass transit options.

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They note that their goals “are practical and achievable, and with the support of Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council, can be made realities by the year’s end.”

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One such goal is requiring the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to conduct a Community Air Survey in every borough. The report’s authors argue that a more “more complete picture” of New York City’s air quality is needed.

“The survey should measure street-level air pollution at 150 locations across the city over every season, gathering data on common air pollutants that affect public health,” NYLCV and partners like the American Lung Association state. They also propose that data collected during these surveys should be made available to the public in an annual report.

Last week, as the region was scorched by temperatures into the 100s, the state issued air quality health advisories for the metro and Long Island regions three times because of dangerously high surface ozone levels.

Other sustainability goals that the group says can be accomplished by year’s end include making mass transit more affordable and increasing options for commuters.

They propose that the city’s Department of Transportation finalize its preparation for Select Bus Service routes now in development (M34/34a, M15, B44, Bx41, S79) and start to plan for two to three new SBS routes. The group is also urging the City Council to pass existing legislation that would require employers of fifty or more to offer tax-free federal transit benefits.

Dan Hendrick, a spokesman for NYLCV, noted that other cities have already passed similar legislation in order to expand the number of employers who offer such federal benefits.

Perhaps the most far-reaching goal is that the city lock-in and prioritize planning for climate change no matter who becomes mayor.

The Sustainability Countdown proposes that “climate resilience” become a “clear, codified responsibility of the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability.” And the document states that the public should be able to track the city’s progress through the release of annual assessments.

NYLCV and its partners say that the city can act now to protect against the growing risk of flooding by following its own just-released recommendations [link to Resiliency report] to study the viability of additional Bluebelts, Greenstreets, and other naturally-occurring drainage systems throughout the city.

Dan Hendrick said the mayor and the City Council have made the city’s present and future environmental sustainability a major priority, but that as time drains away, “we see there’s going to be competing priorities … There’s only so much bandwith that the administration can have right now.”

Referring to the Sustainability Countdown, he added, “These are really the important ones. The criteria to be in the countdown (was that) … It had to be far-along. That it has real traction, and there’s a mechanism for it to advance. And now it’s time to move ahead and lock it in.”

]]> (Sarah Crean) City Thu, 25 Jul 2013 03:26:18 +0000
Groups Call For More Public Input On Proposed Deepwater Gas Port Off NY Coast NEW YORK — Over 100 environmental groups from New York, New Jersey and other states are seeking to extend the public comment period for a proposed deepwater liquefied natural gas port off the New York coast.

The port will increase the supply of natural gas in the New York City-metro area.

The port “could pose a major security threat to a densely populated area, risks burdening the region’s ecosystems with air and water pollution, and will tend to discourage investment in renewable energy supplies,” the groups said in a letter sent to federal authorities today.

In their letter to the Maritime Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard, the coalition, led by Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy and Clean Ocean Action, charged that the time allotted — 30 days — for public comment on the project’s scoping documents was insufficient.

“It is manifestly unfair to expect either the general public or concerned individuals with scientific and technical expertise to submit thoughtful and comprehensive scoping comments on an application of over fifteen hundred pages by July 24,” the groups stated.

The coalition has also requested that more public scoping hearings be scheduled, in addition to those currently planned for July 9, in Long Beach, N.Y., and July 10, in Edison, N.J.

Liberty Natural Gas, the project’s developer, argues that the port “will have a significant downward impact on natural gas prices in the [downstate New York] area, as well as on the price of gas-fired electricity.”

In a statement responding to today’s letter, Liberty CEO Roger Whelan noted that, “These [scoping] meetings are the first step in the comprehensive federal and state review process that will take place over the next year.” He added that the port project “will provide 600 good paying jobs [and] invest over $90 million into the local economy."

The federal Maritime Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard are responsible for reviewing the project.

In its notice of intent published in the Federal Register on June 24, the Maritime Administration noted that after the public scoping session for the port closes, it will prepare a draft “environmental impact statement” that the public will have the opportunity to comment on.

Natural gas from the facility, known as Port Ambrose, will be able to reach New York City consumers directly via the proposed Rockaway pipeline.

Port Ambrose’s buoy system and pipeline infrastructure — lying in 100-foot ocean waters — would be located 17 miles southeast of Jones Beach and 27 miles away from the entrance to New York Harbor.

Port Ambrose would be situated within an area now under review for a major off-shore wind farm. It would also be located along the New York Bight, the coastal indentation made famous by Hurricane Sandy because of its powerful contribution to storm surges.

The port site is also 24 nautical miles east of Long Branch, N.J.

A spokesman for Liberty, which describes itself as “a portfolio company of a fund advised by West Face Capital, a Toronto, Canada based investment management firm,” said that the port was designed to receive incoming liquefied natural gas from Trinidad and Tobago and other foreign locations.

Some environmental groups have challenged this representation of the project, saying that the proposed port could just as easily be re-engineered to ship natural gas out of the U.S. for export. They argue that Port Ambrose would stimulate demand for natural gas extracted from shale sources in the Northeast, leading to heightened pressure on underground water sources.

“Any permit issued for a deepwater LNG port is for import and export,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, one of the groups that signed the letter. “There is no public interest in allowing a LNG to be established in our region … It would begin the demise of our clean ocean economies … [It is] the fossil fuel industrialization of the ocean.”

According to Liberty, after incoming frozen gas is warmed and “re-gasified,” it will be transferred from Port Ambrose into a new 22-mile subsea pipeline system feeding directly into the Transco Lower New York Bay Lateral pipeline. The Transco Lateral pipeline runs parallel to the Rockaway coast.

The Transco pipeline will, in turn, connect with the proposed Rockaway pipeline, which is to travel along the ocean floor, eventually running underneath Jacob Riis Park and Jamaica Bay, into Brooklyn and Queens. Both the Transco and Rockaway pipelines are managed by Oklahoma-based Williams Companies.

The section of the Rockaway pipeline underneath Jamaica Bay is managed by National Grid and is already under construction. The ocean-floor section of the pipeline, along with a gas and metering station to be constructed at Floyd Bennett Field, are undergoing a lengthy federal environmental review process.

The Port Ambrose project represents a new attempt by Liberty to build a liquefied natural gas facility along the East Coast. An earlier project, to have been constructed sixteen miles off the coast of Asbury Park, N.J., was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie in 2011.

After his veto, Governor Christie was quoted as saying, “I take very seriously our obligation to protect the environmental health of our coastal waters … Offshore LNG poses unacceptable risks to the state's residents, natural resources, economy and security. We must ensure that our 126 miles of shoreline remain an economic driver for tourism and that our fishing and shellfish industries remain healthy and productive now and for future generations.”

Liberty says that concerns raised by the state of New Jersey have led to a more environmentally sensitive facility proposed for New York. In a statement on its website, the company maintained that the project’s size had been reduced by 50 percent and that the port had been designed to “avoid any onshore impacts, including impacts to wetlands … and avoid any sensitive fishery areas and any near-shore areas that could affect tourism or other uses.”

Port Ambrose could impact a major renewable energy project to be located thirteen miles off the Rockaway Peninsula. The port lies within the “proposed area of interest” for the Long Island-New York City Offshore Wind Collaborative project.

Described as having the potential to be the largest off-shore wind project in the United States, the wind project is a public-private collaboration between the New York and Long Island Power Authorities, Con Edison, the City and State of New York, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The Maritime Administration noted in its request for comments that the wind energy project “will be acknowledged and considered in the processing of the Port Ambrose application and National Environmental Policy Act analysis.”

]]> (Sarah Crean) City Mon, 01 Jul 2013 18:38:20 +0000
Sustainability After Bloomberg: Candidates Offer Hints of a Vision One of the most pressing questions about the end of Michael Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor is what will become of his groundbreaking efforts to make New York a more environmentally sustainable city.

In a forum organized last night by the New York League of Conservation Voters, nine mayoral hopefuls provided strands of information that — if nothing else — pointed at the depth and complexity of the challenges ahead.

Several candidates made the point that Bloomberg’s achievements were only the first steps in a lengthy process. Said Republican Joe Lhota: “Bloomberg set us on the path to sustainability. We need to take it to the next level.”

The candidates addressed questions on reducing the city’s carbon output, protecting New York from rising sea levels and future catastrophic storms, transitioning to more sustainable sources of energy, and guaranteeing access to parkland for all residents.

While a number of candidates referenced PlaNYC, the Bloomberg administration’s far-reaching sustainability plan, none said what would become of the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, created to “develop, implement and track” the progress of the plan.

However, there was general support for Bloomberg’s objective of an 80 percent reduction in New York City’s carbon emissions by 2050. “That’s where we need to be looking,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the Democratic forerunner.

Eight of the nine candidates — except for Republican John Catsimatidis — accepted the basic premise that climate change is a man-made phenomenon. While some of the candidates articulated more of an overall vision for a sustainable New York than others, they shared a core set of interests.

For instance, several candidates agreed that retrofitting the city’s building stock and lowering energy consumption is a key sustainability objective for several candidates, including Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Lhota. The need to expand sources of financing for retrofitting was raised by City Comptroller John Liu, who added: “The City could have moved more aggressively.”

All of the candidates agreed that the city needed to increase its use of sustainable sources of energy. But ,when asked, none were willing to definitively state — as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has — that the Indian Point nuclear power plant 47 miles to the north of the city in Westchester County should be closed. Licenses for Indian Point’s two operating reactors expire later this year and in 2015.

Sal Albanese said the city needed “bold leadership” on solar, wind and electric cars “so we can close Indian Point.”

Forum moderator and WNYC host Brian Lehrer brought up a new Stanford/Cornell study, which argues that by 2030, the state’s power demand for all sectors (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, industry) could be met using renewable sources.

Lehrer noted that the Stanford study specifically mentions developing off-shore wind farms.

Former City Comptroller Bill Thompson replied that wind farms were “worth trying … New York City probably is a perfect place.” Liu wondered if the city had “forgotten” about solar energy.

When asked whether New York City needed to develop a policy on natural gas and hydraulic fracturing, there was widespread agreement that drilling in the city’s upstate watershed should remain off-limits. Both Albanese and De Blasio expressed their general opposition to hydraulic fracturing in New York State.

But there was less clarity on whether the city should expand its use of natural gas and permit the construction of new pipelines as Bloomberg has advocated. Quinn said: “You can’t rush into something like the Spectra pipeline [which will cross through the West Village and transport gas extracted, at least partially, by hyrofracking] … But I would not take it off the table.”

Liu argued in response that the city simply had not invested enough in renewable energy.

How and where to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, and how to protect the city from future storms will be a major sustainability challenge for New York City’s next mayor.

Lhota maintained that structures in the Rockaways and Brooklyn could be built to withstand flooding, while neighborhoods sitting upon the coastal marshes of Staten Island should probably not be rebuilt.

Lhota asserted that the city had “failed” during Hurricane Sandy. “We have to find a way to protect lower Manhattan”, he said, adding that soft-infrastructure solutions, like oyster beds, could help to mitigate the impact of storm surges.

Thompson added: “We need a deputy mayor for infrastructure.”

The candidates also addressed the city’s ongoing waste challenges. All of the candidates supported Bloomberg’s target of recycling 30 percent of the city’s waste stream by 2017. Only 15 percent is currently recycled.

How waste will be transported — and through which neighborhoods — proved more contentious. A number of the candidates expressed reservations about re-opening the 91st Street waste transfer station in Manhattan. Quinn said she supported the idea.

Lehrer raised another environmental justice issue: New York City does not currently meet minimum federal air quality standards, and the resulting public health impact weighs disproportionately on communities of color.

Speaker Quinn responded that new forms of rapid transit, use of marine-based solid waste transfer, and the phasing out of heavy heating oils would help to address the problem.

Environmental justice also factors into public access to open, green spaces.

Former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, who is running on the Independence Party line, noted that some communities are left behind as public-private partnerships to maintain city parks become more common.

“There should not be discrimination in the quality of parkland in the event that there is no wealthy partner,” he said.

Several candidates stressed that investments in energy efficiency, mass transit and other sustainability strategies would have another critical result for New York City residents. “They will create jobs,” said Thompson. He added, “Sustainability is part of every discussion.”

]]> (Sarah Crean) Elections Tue, 23 Apr 2013 19:42:13 +0000
City's Longest-Running Construction Project Reaches Milestone Ahead Of Schedule

Construction on what has been described as New York City’s longest-running and most expensive construction project — a tunnel to expand the capacity of the water supply system — reached a new milestone yesterday. And it was ahead of schedule.

Work on Manhattan sections of the tunnel have been taking place seven days-a-week — on multiple shifts.

The project is one arm of the extensive network of tunnels, aqueducts and reservoirs that comprise the city's remarkable water supply system.

Approximately 2,750 feet of new trunk water mains have been installed on the Upper East Side, along with upgrades to existing mains. The work was executed by the city’s departments of Environmental Protection and Design and Construction, who report that the $38 million construction project was completed five months early.

According to the DEP, trunk water mains range in size from 30 to 48 inches and “serve as a conduit between the large water tunnel shafts and the smaller water mains that make up the local distribution networks."

The agency says that completion of the project marks an important step towards the activation of the Manhattan section of water tunnel no. 3, which is scheduled to take place by the end of the year.

The city is in a race against time to complete tunnel no. 3 before tunnels no. 1 and no. 2 must be de-commissioned for inspections and repair. Both tunnel no. 1 (completed in 1917) and tunnel no. 2 (completed in 1936) have been in continuous operation since their construction. Both tunnels are reportedly leaking.

When it is finally completed in 2020, tunnel no. 3 will be 60 miles in length and will supply drinking water to all five boroughs.

Construction on the tunnel began in 1970. The Bloomberg administration has committed $4.5 billion to its construction. The DEP reports that since 2002 the agency has invested $10.5 billion in the city’s water supply and distribution systems.

The city’s water supply system delivers one billion gallons of drinking water to New York City and surrounding suburbs every day.

Image of water tunnel no. 3 courtesy of the DEP.

]]> (Sarah Crean) City Thu, 18 Apr 2013 16:32:19 +0000
Work Officially Begins On Natural Gas Pipeline Project Under Jamaica Bay Work has officially begun on the natural gas pipeline project that will run underneath Jamaica Bay.

National Grid spokeswoman Karen Young says the utility started preparatory work for construction of two gas pipelines underneath Jamaica Bay’s Rockaway Inlet. The pipelines will be 1.6 miles in length and 50 feet below the seabed. Work began last Friday.

Young said that she was not sure exactly when drilling would commence under the Rockaway Inlet.

In a later phase of construction on its “Brooklyn/Queens Interconnect project”, National Grid will connect these cross-Bay lines to customers in Brooklyn and Queens via a new gas meter and regulating station to be housed within a historic hangar at Floyd Bennett Field. Gas entering the meter station will eventually link to an existing gas main on Flatbush Avenue.

National Grid’s new delivery capacity will be supported by an off-shore feeder pipeline to be constructed by Oklahoma-based Williams Cos. The company manages the 10,000-mile Transco natural gas pipeline, which runs parallel to the Rockaway coast.

Much of the construction on the pipeline will take place in Gateway National Recreation Area, a 26,000-acre National Park, which includes ocean-facing Jacob Riis Park and the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

The National Grid portion of the Rockaway pipeline project was reviewed under the New York City Environmental Quality Review Act. In December 2011 the city issued a negative declaration, meaning that the city found the project “would not have an adverse impact on the environment.” Because of this, the project did not require a public review process or full-scale environmental review.

Williams’ off-shore pipeline and meter station proposal, however, is still working its way through a federal environmental review process.

The company said in a statement: "The project also has all other required city, state, and federal approvals.” The utility expects that this first phase of construction will be completed in May.

National Grid noted the environmental benefits of converting homes and businesses from oil to natural gas. “Each conversion is equivalent to taking 15 cars off the road for a year,” the company said. Local environmental groups have questioned whether the pipeline project will impact marine life off the Rockaway coast and whether it is an appropriate use for a national park.

]]> (Sarah Crean) City Wed, 27 Mar 2013 21:35:15 +0000