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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.

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As Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveils his administration's vision for making New York City more resilient to climate change, Gotham Gazette is working to help democratize the public debate on the issues.

Gotham Gazette is partnering with veteran journalists and technology pioneers to bring you AdaptNY, which aims to "curate, document and foster conversation about how New York will adapt to the coming challenges of climate change."

The project is led by veteran journalist A. Adam Glenn, of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

The project will be edited and curated by Glenn, and Gotham Gazette will be providing content and editorial guidance. We'll also be promoting AdaptNY's efforts on Facebook and Twitter, and encourage readers to visit the project site.

We are also proud to be partnering with DocumentCloud to develop an online tool for stimulating public policy discussion around key reports on climate change.

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Increased flooding, more rain and storms, and higher temperatures are all predicted in a new report by the Bloomberg Administration. Over 800,000 residents are expected to live in flood plains by 2050, more than double the number currently estimated at risk. By that time, 90 degree days could become as regular as they are in Birmingham, Ala. Heat waves kill more people than storms. Sea levels are anticipated to rise four to eight inches by 2020. Bloomberg will give a speech today about how the city will begin preparing for this new climate.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration created a nationally heralded blueprint five years ago to steer the city toward a more sustainable future.

The mayor now says the city is on track to meet all the goals set forth in that plan.

A new report shows that the city has made significant progress on 100 of the 132 initiatives outlined in the city’s PLaNYC blueprint for sustainability.

The initiatives touch on areas including transportation, parks and open space and housing.

The report highlights last month’s launch of Citi Bike, which is the largest bike share program in the nation; the addition of 300 acres of new parkland; and the rezoning of 119 neighborhoods to allow taller buildings for housing or office space and to create pedestrian plazas.

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Tagged in: environment PlaNYC

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City lawmakers are holding a hearing today to discuss the state of ferry service in the five boroughs, with advocates and transportation experts expected to testify in support of expanding use of the waterways for transit.

The disruption to subways and buses by Superstorm Sandy brought renewed attention to the potential of the city's "blue highways." For instance, when the subway to the isolated Rockaway Peninsula was knocked out, emergency ferry service provided a critical connection for commuters needing to get to Manhattan. 

Advocates say expanded ferry service would create redundancy to the transit network, connect far-flung communities that have no other reliable transit and be available during emergencies.

Gotham Gazette took an in-depth look at the issue back in April.

The joint hearing of the Council's transportation, waterfront and economic development committees begins at 1 p.m. today.

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Superstorm Sandy caused 11 billion gallons of partially or untreated sewage - the equivalent of Central Park stacked 41 feet high - to leak into rivers, lakes, and waterways, according to this report by Climate Central. New York City reported six sewage spills larger than 100,000,000 gallons, and 28 larger than 1 million gallons. New York authorities estimate it will cost nearly $2 billion to repair flood damaged sewage treatment facilities. Sewage overflow is common in the city, although not on this scale, and climate change will only make things worse, the group warns:

"Climate change is making sewage treatment plants more vulnerable to major failures and overflows due to rising seas, more intense coastal storms, and increasingly heavy precipitation events."

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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.” 

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Tagged in: environment

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A member of a dissident faction of Senate Democrats has introduced legislation that would put a a 24-month moratorium on the form of natural gas drilling known as hydraulic fracturing, pending the outcome of major health studies into the practice. 

Sen. David Carlucci, who is a member of the Independent Democratic Conference representing Rockland and Westchester counties, announced Tuesday that he had introduced the bill.

“A quick buck is not worth the long-term debt that our children will have to live with if we get this decision wrong," Carlucci said in a statement. "Rushing to judgment without all of the facts is a recipe for a disaster, particularly involving a hydrofracking process that lacks transparency and accountability, and has appeared to pose significant harmful health effects towards populations surrounding the Marcellus Shale. I cannot in good conscience support any measure that does not first fully evaluate all related scientific data, and that is precisely what we are advocating for here today. Let’s get the facts at our disposal before we launch into unchartered territory.” 

Sen. Jeff Klein had similar reservations: "As I've said before, I have serious concerns about the process. These studies will provide the Department of Health with a much clearer sense of whether or not hydrofracking can ever be conducted safely."

A release from Carlucci's office notes that three major studies into hydrofracking are ongoing: One on the impacts on drinking water resources by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; a Geisinger Health System of Pennsylvania study on the health histories of hundreds of thousands of people who live near natural gas wells on the Marcellus Shale that covers parts of New York as well as Pennsylvania; and a study of health impacts led by academic researchers. 

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Legislation aimed at fortifying the city's infrastructure to withstand future extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy has been introduced into the City Council.

"Before we see another Hurricane Sandy hit our five boroughs, we must ensure our shoreline, our streets, our transportation system, our electrical system — every part of our city's foundation and groundwork is fully prepared," said Council Speaker Christine Quinn before the legislation was introduced. "If we want to protect our neighborhoods and prevent and limit future devastation, we have to act now."

They mayor's office said it was reviewing the bills.

The Council also announced a series of oversight hearings to look at the city's response to Sandy, scheduled to begin in January.

When asked whether the Council would look at the question of whether some rebuilding along the shoreline should be reconsidered, Quinn said it was a debate worth having.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg said yesterday that the city would rethink evacuation zones, electrical infrastructure, telecommunications networks, hospitals and transportations systems after Superstorm Sandy caused billions of dollars in damage, paralyzed communities and killed dozens of people.

But Bloomberg said that his administration would not abandon the waterfront and dismissed the possibility of building sea walls to hold back the ocean. Instead, he said the city would look at "coastline protections" such as berms, dunes, jetties and levies.

"No matter how much we do to make homes and businesses more resilient, the fact of the matter is we live next to the ocean, and the ocean comes with risks that we just cannot eliminate," the mayor said.

Bloomberg outlined the post-Sandy plan, his first major address since the storm, at a Lower Manhattan event, where former Vice President Al Gore also made an appearance and praised the mayor's previous efforts to respond to the effects of climate change.

In the Press...

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As politicians begin taking more seriously the possible construction of a sea barrier, Gov. Cuomo will travel to Washington today seeking over $40 billion in aid -- a large chunk of which will go towards protection from future storms. The Washington Post backed up similar thinking, calling big spending on preparation well worth it. But of course, planning will be difficult, and it's much more complicated than just walling of the city from nature. Future development should come into consideration; like new plans for Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. Some say the park's role as natural buffer against flooding would be compromised by the proposed stadiums and malls. And then there's the gas pipeline planned for construction under The Rockaways. Environmentalists say flooding in the area threatens its stability.

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After witnessing historic flooding and coastal surges caused by superstorm Sandy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says it is time for New Yorkers to examine how to adapt to more destructive weather events associated with climate change. 

“Going forward we are going to have to anticipate these types of extreme weather patterns,” Cuomo said at a news conference earlier today. “And we have to think about how we redesign the system so that this doesn’t happen again.”

And on Albany's Talk 1300 AM radio show, he said this: "The construction of the city did not anticipate these kinds of situations ... We are only a few feet above sea level. You now have a whole infrastructure under the city that fills. The subway system, the foundations of buildings."

But, as reporter Peter Moskowitz points out in his story for Gotham Gazette this week, there are few public policies creating incentives for public or private developers to invest money in adapting buildings for extreme weather events that could become more frequent with climate change.

Of course, it's unclear how much climate change can be blamed for Sandy or even Irene, or any particular extreme weather event — as The New York Times' Andrew Revkin says on his Dot Earth blog:

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The state announced on Friday it would restart the regulatory rule-making process over hydraulic fracturing, pushing back a decision about approval into next year. This comes after the move to study fracking's impact on public health. The industry is worried Gov. Cuomo may not approve the drilling after all.

In the Press...

An ugly message sent on marriage vote (Albany Times Union)

State Senate Democrats to get campaign cash lifeline from teachers union (Daily News)

In Southeast Queens, epicenter of housing bust, holding onto homes still elusive (WNYC)

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Environmental Advocates of New York have hired veteran spokesman Travis Proulx to be their new director of communications. Proulx served as a spokesman for the Senate Democrats through the good times and the bad. He even survived the fabled 2009 Senate Coup. He recently worked for the Cuomo administration. 

“Travis is a great addition to our office. His years of experience in the capital, working in both the legislative and executive branches, as well as his knowledge of state government, political campaigns, and statewide media, are huge assets to our organization and the state’s broader environmental community,” said Rob Moore, executive director of Environmental Advocates.

Proulx said, “Environmental Advocates has a well-deserved reputation for not only advancing environmental protections, but also advocating visionary policies that benefit all New Yorkers. I’m excited to join the team at such an important time for our state's environment, with big decisions looming on issues such as fracking.” 

You can expect to hear Proulx talking about hydraulic fracturing along with a bevy of other environmental issues facing New York in the months and years to come. 

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State agencies are in compliance with an executive order that vehicle purchases be alternative fuel vehicles, but guidelines about when to use which type of fuel are lax, according to this audit by the state comptroller.

Starting in 2005, 50 percent of all new light-duty vehicle purchases were required to be alternative fuel, increasing to 100 percent in 2010. Between January 1, 2006 and June 6, 2011, the authority purchased 731 light-duty vehicles, including 594 alternative fuel vehicles. The authority was not in compliance with the Order in 2006, but was compliant from 2007 through 2011. The authority has not developed any policy or given guidance to its employees on when to use alternative fuel E-85 in its vehicles. As a result, fuel selection is driven by employee choice rather than authority direction. For the three divisions tested, authority employees at locations with E-85 pumps used E-85 between 30 percent and 60 percent of the time.