Long Island Sound Study Updates

By Tony Sorrell, FCWC Board Member
The Long Island Sound Study-Citizen’s Advisory Committee (LISS-CAC) Quarterly Meeting was held on March 10, 2016 in New York City. Seventeen representatives from member organizations in Westchester, Long Island and Connecticut attended as well as representatives from the EPA and the NY DEC. The conversation at this meeting focused on nitrogen in Long Island Sound. Generally, nitrogen levels in the Sound are on a downward trend, which is the good news.
Mark Tedesco of the EPA LISS office  presented on a Nitrogen Reduction Strategy overview and then James Tierney of the NY DEC  presented the Long Island Nitrogen Action Plan.  Participants were informed about nitrogen reduction outreach programs that took place  in Galveston Bay, Tampa Bay and Puget Sound. It is suggested that best practices used in these areas could be implemented for an outreach and marketing program in the LIS region.

Hypoxia 20 year average

Hypoxia over past 20 years
In Westchester, our sewage treatment plant upgrades are helping to reduce nitrogen levels, however more work needs to be done to address non-point sources of pollution such as storm water, septics, and turf fertilizer.  Remediation alternatives like aeration and bio extraction still need to be explored to understand how they can help improve water quality in LIS.
Upcoming meetings and events
  • 2016 Long Island Sound Research Conference on Friday, May 13, 2016 in Bridgeport, Connecticut
  • 25th Annual Long Island Sound Citizens Summit on Friday, June 3rd at Stony Brook University’s Student Activities Center
  • LISS-CAC Science and Technology Advisory Committee (STAC) in NY, June 17, at Stony Brook.
  • LISS-CAC quarterly meeting June 23 with be held in CT
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Westchester Power Program launches first-in-state energy aggregation

Something remarkable happened when the Sustainable Westchester team working on the community choice energy aggregation program opened the energy supply bids from leading energy service companies last month.

Clean energy won BIG!

In February 2015, the New York State Public Service Commission approvwestchester-map4ed Sustainable Westchester’s petition to pilot a municipal energy aggregation program in Westchester County with an order that enabled this first-in-New-York effort.

What is a community choice or municipal energy aggregation program?

In states with deregulated energy supply markets, energy service companies m
ay sell electric or gas supply to consumers. New York deregulated about twenty years ago. About seventy energy service companies are authorized to sell supply as a commodity to New York customers. Some are more scrupulous than others. Acquiring retail supply customers one at a time is expensive for the supply companies. As individuals, customers have no bargaining power with the suppliers.

When all the homes and small businesses in a city bid out their combined electric supply together, suddenly, economies of scale help both the customer and supplier reduce costs and increase rate choices. Community choice programs have been commonplace and successful in six other states, but now for the first time, in New York State as well.

Ever since the February order, the Sustainable Westchester’s team hit the road to visit with dozens of city, town and villages all across the County. Municipalities that were interested in joining the aggregation program needed to adopt local legislation enabling them to proceed. Benefitting from great pro-bono advisers, the team prepared draft legislation and resolutions to assist the municipalities.

Next, the team pre-screened energy service companies to identify those that best fit our criteria, such as transparent business practices, good customer service, creditworthiness and ample experience supplying community choice aggregation programs in other states. In addition, the team developed a comprehensive Electric Service Agreement with ample protections for the municipalities and consumers and worked with attorneys from twenty municipalities to finalize all the language.

The Westchester Power Program introduced a few conditions that went well beyond the February Order to benefit the consumers. First, the energy bid required that bidders accept the Electric Service Agreement terms and conditions verbatim. Second, bidders needed to provide a basic supply rate for a fixed period of no less than 24 months that would be lower than the benchmark of the average 2015 basic supply rate from the default local distribution utility (ConEdison or NYSEG). Third, bidders needed to provide a 100% renewable energy supply rate as well for that same period. Fourth, bidders had to allow individual customers in a participating municipality to leave or enter the program or switch between the two rates with no added fees or penalties.

By the time, the team sent out the Request for Proposals to the pre-screened supply firm, over 110,000 homes and businesses in twenty cities, towns and villages were included as potential customers. This buyers group represents four out of ten county residents, a remarkable feat of collective action all by itself.

The day the bids were opened led to a startling realization that both the basic supply rate and the 100% renewable supply rates were below the 2015 benchmarks from ConEdison and NYSEG.

“Suppliers who really wanted to enter the New York aggregation market stepped up,” notes Glenn Weinberg, the lead consultant. “In the end, buying 100% renewable energy green supply for the next two or three years will cost less than buying the basic, brown supply last year.”

By the time the program goes live in May, over 70,000 homes and small businesses will be buying 100% renewable energy supply in the fourteen cities, towns, and villages that chose to make that option the default for their jurisdiction. These customers “going 100% green” represent three out of ten county residents and, astoundingly, two-thirds of the entire 110,000 consumers in the program.

“Collectively, our consumers choosing the green option will buy 650,000 megawatt-hours per year of certified renewable energy credits,” states Leo Wiegman, Sustainable Westchester’s Executive Director, “That amount is the energy output equivalent to adding 84,000 residential solar systems in the county overnight.”

“Our instant market for clean, non-fossil, non-nuclear energy supply is the largest collective action in New York to date to address climate change and create real market demand for clean energy.” concludes Weinberg.

For more information, visit www.westchesterpower.org.

 

Making a Sound Investment in Energy

March 2016 E-news

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Some events over the last few weeks are a reminder that we should take pause to fully assess the energy sources that we, residents of Westchester County, are investing in.

Over the course of four weeks our backyard has endured a ‘radioactive’ water leak from Indian Point Energy Center, and a home-heating oil spill contaminating the Bronx River. Not to mention there has been the ongoing battle concerning the high-pressure natural gas AIM pipeline expansion, which has received countless calls demanding construction to be halted.

We think it is high time that we collectively take stock and reevaluate where we want our energy to come from.

Background:

Indian Point ‘radioactive’ water leak

Indian Point has been at the center of many contentious discussions for decades. The facility is aging, and for years there have been reports of cracks, spills, and accidents. On Tuesday, February 6th, it was reported that Indian Point recorded a severe spike in radioactive, tritium-contaminated water at several monitoring wells[i]. The follow-up tests done a few days later on February 10th noted that the highest concentration was 80% higher than originally reported.

This leak is a major concern; it potentially threatens the health of the Westchester’s residents and environment. Governor Andrew Cuomo has taken steps to address this issue, starting a state investigation into the nuclear facility[ii]. Entergy, the company that owns the Indian Point facility, states that this latest leak should be of no concern to the public.

Home-heating oil spill contaminating the Bronx River

On Saturday, February 28th as much as 600 gallons of home-heating oil contaminated the Bronx River[iii]when a truck delivering to an apartment complex in Yonkers began to leak.

Approximately 2,100 gallons of oil spilled onto the roadway, of which 600 gallons drained down the storm drain on the road.[iv] The Department of Environmental Conservation and the Coast Guard were notified, and are staying on top of the situation.

Let’s make a sound investment:

We know that accidents happen, due to either human or mechanical error, mistakes are a normal occurrence in our daily lives – we get it. However we also think that these latest events are a window into the real risks these energy sources pose.

Renewable energy offers significant public health and environmental benefits. Air and water pollution emitted by coal and natural gas is linked to breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, and cancer; and replacing these energy sources with renewables has been found to reduce premature mortality and lost workdays, and reduced overall healthcare costs.[v]

 


 

We think it is time to seriously invest in safer, greener, renewable fuels and move away from potentially contaminating sources.

[i] Riverkeeper, Environmental and Health Organizations Call for Immediate Indian Point Shutdown (http://www.riverkeeper.org/news-events/news/stop-polluters/power-plant-cases/indian-point/environmental-and-health-organizations-call-for-immediate-indian-point-shutdown/)

[ii] LOHUD, NY to probe ‘radioactive’ water leak at Indian Point, 2/6/16 (http://www.lohud.com/story/news/politics/politics-on-the-hudson/2016/02/06/ny-probe-radioactive-water-leak-indian-point/79929984/)

[iii] LOHUD, Oil truck leaking near Bronx River, 2/27/16 (http://www.lohud.com/story/news/2016/02/27/oil-truck-leaking-near-bronx-river/81030662/)

[iv] DEC- DHSES Statement on Heating Oil Spill in Yonkers, NY (http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/NYSDEC/bulletins/1399a46?reqfrom=share)

[v] Machol, Rizk. 2013. Economic value of U.S. fossil fuel electricity health impacts. Environment International 52 75–80 (http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/renewable-energy/public-benefits-of-renewable.html#references)

Greening Your Blue Jeans

March 2016 E-News

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Dungarees, Levi’s, daisy dukes, denim – whatever you call them, blue they use a lot of water.

We all wear blue jeans, they are an American staple. But what is less commonly known, is how heavily the textile industry relies on water. To make one pair of stonewashed jeans requires about 500 gallons of water to grow, dye and process the cotton[i].

Americans throw away about 11.1 million tons of textiles annually (clothes, blankets, towels, etc)[ii] – that is a lot of water going to waste. This concern is becoming increasingly more important as the south-western United States continues to face extreme drought conditions[iii]. Access to water is only going to become more difficult due to climate change and demand, therefore we need a solution. One that is becoming increasingly popular, especially in our area is textile recycling.

Textile recycling companies see an opportunity to capitalize on the old t-shirts and blue jeans being thrown away. SpinGreen is an example of one such company operating in the New York Metro Area. SpinGreen advertises that “a stained t-shirt can turn into a wiping cloth, lone socks can turn into pillow stuffing, old denim can be turned into housing insulation, and teddy bears can be turned into car seat stuffing…[iv]” By finding a use for this often discarded resource, SpinGreen and other companies have found a way to profit while keeping organic products out of landfills.

SpinGreen has customized bins set up at various locations throughout our area, and they even offer a Green Concierge service. Keep an eye out for one in your neighborhood!

 


 

[i] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/polina-groman/recycling-textiles-quench_b_5413363.html

[ii] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/polina-groman/recycling-textiles-quench_b_5413363.html

[iii] http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

[iv] http://www.spingreen.com/faq/

Eagles and the Hudson

By Kate Munz, Member Relations Coordinator

15eagleswe3-large
Photo Credit: NYTimes on 5th Annual Eaglefest

In honor of Teatown’s EagleFest, we wanted to highlight the star of the yearly event, the bald eagle.

In the Hudson Valley we are very lucky to share space each season with this majestic, and nationally famous neighbor. While can see bald eagles yearly now, this was not always the case.

Before the 1900s, bald eagle populations in New York were plentiful, as many as 80 nesting sites according to the State Department of Environmental Conservation. But by 1976, only one pair of eaglets remained. Environmental groups citied pesticides, specifically DDT, for the reduced numbers. During that year, the state began its Bald Eagle Restoration Project as an attempt to bring back the population.

Today, approximately 500 bald eagles winter in New York. The eagles migrate to this region, usually arriving in December, as waters freeze in Canada and Nova Scotia. Eagle concentrations peak in January and February; heading back to their nests by mid-March.

We’ve seen the return of our eagles due to clean air and water, ample food supply, and largely undisturbed stands of trees – as these are important elements that support breeding pairs of eagles. It is therefore essential that we maintain this important habitat. Together we can work towards open space preservation and watershed protection.

Learn more about what you can do by visiting this page: http://www.birdday.org/birdday/themes/2012-twenty-years-of-imbd/20-ways-to-conserve-birds

 

Algonquin Pipeline: IN THE NEWS

AIM

Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline expansion project involves new high-pressure 42″ diameter gas pipeline sections slated to run from Stony Point in Rockland County, NY under Hudson River into Westchester and Putnam Counties in NY through Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

The new pipeline expansion is routed next to homes, schools, houses of worship,through sensitive parkland, eco-systems and watersheds; and is planned to go through Westchester County Park, Blue Mountain Reservation – and construction has started.

Algonquin Pipeline Expansion opponents gain media traction


 

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View: Don’t give parkland

Journal News, Opinion
Written by FCWC Co-President, Carole Griffiths

“Enlarging this pipeline and the expansion of the easements will have negative impacts on the park. There will be permanent destruction of trees and habitat for animals. New edges will be opened a few hundred feet into the forest on either side of the expansion, which will allow invasive species to further infiltrate the park.”


e1463a_8d6976b362d54183887ec0dd5cc256c7Opponents Block Construction

Journal News, Algonquin pipeline opponents arrested after blocking construction

“We all know that we have to do everything we can to keep all the fossil fuels in the ground and switch to renewable energy, wind and solar,” Rubin said. “We’re concerned about our children’s future.”


e1463a_9b5e6d968314492b9f3337a02de848fdTrees Protest Pipeline Expansion

Blog Post, Waking Up on Turtle Island

“A grove of trees in Westchester County’s Blue Mountain Reservation in the Town of Cortlandt is staging a protest in an effort to save their fellow trees from being cut down along the 1½ mile Spectra Energy AIM pipeline route through the reservation.”


e1463a_1d0cd1f6d91a409fbeafc6fc87468a8aVideo: High Pressure in NY

The Guardian, High pressure: the pipeline that could destroy New York state

“In December 2014, Governor Andrew Cuomo outlawed fracking in New York, citing the method as unsafe for both the health of his citizens and their surrounding environment. However, the ban did not take into account the transportation of fracked natural gas liquids through the state.”


e1463a_b54a51e80b9740d4b97650542571bfd8Video: 9 Protesters Arrested

Democracy Now!, at 5 minutes, 9 Arrested Protesting AIM Pipeline in Westchester County

“Following the defeat of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, environmentalists continue to oppose other oil and gas pipelines across the country.”


635755746381551281-347Letter from Bobby Kennedy

Riverkeeper, December 1st, 2015

“I write to bring your attention to significant issues regarding the Algonquin Pipeline expansion in New York and to seek your immediate attention and intervention in the application process…”


src-adapt-960-high-pipeline_thumb-1449518882014NYers fear gas pipeline

Al Jazeera America, NYers fear gas pipeline near nuclear reactor could spell disaster
“Whistleblowers and experts allege safety violations, inadequate oversight surrounding new project near Indian Point”