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Audio Feature: This week in local environmental news

Sep 17, 2022 2:03 am

Here is a roundup of the biggest environmental stories locally this week from the WGXC Newsroom. Click here to download or play this week's environmental news from WGXC.

Marie J. French reports at Politico how efforts to build offshore wind turbines at the Port of Coeymans and Port of Albany are being opposed by environmentalists. The Port of Coeymans recently has been a maritime hub for construction debris from New York City, so it would seem environmentalists would support a shift to building offshore wind turbines. But environmentalists see the expansion of the ports as risky to the health of the Hudson River. “We’ve had 20 years of this creeping expansion,” Barbara Heinzen, a Coeymans resident, said. The 125-acre Port of Coeymans is about 15 miles south of Albany and is owned by Carver Companies, recently added an industrial park to the dismay of some neighbors. The Carver Companies businesses have been fined several times by the DEC for environmental violations, including a 2018 fine for illegally stored road salt at the port. The current expansion plans there would require dredging to increase the depth of the Hudson River and allow bigger ships to load and unload. That dredging will eliminate the potential habitat for the endangered sturgeon in the Hudson River. Carver wants to mitigate that loss by funding 1.8 acres of habitat restoration at the Schodack Island State Park across the river. On Aug. 8, the Department of Environmental Conservation concluded that all negative environmental impacts had been minimized and mitigated “to the maximum extent practicable.” At the Port of Albany, the complaints are about the number of trees cut down for the port's expansion. John Lipscomb, Riverkeeper’s boat captain, said, “We seem to compromise our values. It’s not about wind. It’s about politically popular projects." Read more about this story at Politico.

Nick Reisman reports for New York State of Politics that on Sept. 12, Gov. Kathy Hochul's office announced that the New York Power Authority was giving an Israeli firm a $1 million grant to help develop fast-charging battery capabilities for electric vehicles. To phase-out gas-fueled vehicles in New York, the state will need to have many fast-charging stations for cars and trucks throughout the state. "Through key strategic partnerships, New York is driving the advancement of cutting-edge clean energy technologies that will have a global impact in the fight against climate change," Hochul said. "New York's collaboration with the state of Israel, a hub for innovative, clean energy technologies, will deliver forward-thinking solutions that will strengthen New York's EV infrastructure." While California has mandated that no more fossil fuel-powered cars will be sold there after 2035, New York has yet to announce a similar mandate. Read the full story at New York State of Politics.

Rick Karlin is reporting for the Times Union that General Electric Co. has agreed to conduct a study of possible PCB and other contamination in the lower Hudson River from the Troy Dam to New York Harbor. The agreement was announced by the federal Environmental Protection Agency on September 13. New York parties, led by Department of Environmental Commissioner Basil Seggos as well as the Hudson Riverkeeper group, have maintained that more studies, as well as additional dredging, will likely have to be done. GE has taken the position that its dredging was completed in 2015 when, following an agreement with the EPA, they removed approximately 2.5 million cubic yards of PCB-laden sediment from a 40-mile stretch of the river between Fort Edward and Troy. The contamination dates from the 1940s to the 1970s, when GE regularly discharged PCBs into the Hudson from its capacitor plants in Fort Edward and Hudson Falls. While it was legal to do so at the time, the dumping sparked worries about pollution since PCB is now considered a probable carcinogen. Under the new agreement, GE will develop a plan for “extensive water, sediment, and fish sampling between the Troy Dam and the mouth of the New York Harbor.” The organization will look for evidence of PCBs and other contaminants as well. New data is needed to determine the best path forward, according to the EPA. This is being done in advance of what could be formal studies that could come before a cleanup plan. EPA Regional Administrator Lisa Garcia in a statement, “The information will help us determine whether and how to prioritize investigations in each portion of the lower Hudson and how to best address contamination.” Read the full story in the Times Union.

Ted Remsnyder is reporting for Columbia-Greene Media that the New York State Department of Public Service will hold a series of public meetings on a proposed New York State Electric and Gas Corporation rate hike. NYSEG [NIGH-SEGG], which provides electric service to portions of Greene and Columbia counties, has requested the PSC to approve changes to annual electric and natural gas delivery rates. NYSEG is proposing to increase its electric delivery revenue by approximately $274 million, a 31 percent hike in base delivery revenues for the company. If approved, the rate increases would take effect on May 1, 2023. The Department of Public Service will host a series of virtual public statement hearings on the rate hikes beginning Sept. 15, with hearings scheduled at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. State residents are able to provide their comments to the PSC about rate changes. Greene County Administrator Shaun Groden said the county is encouraging NYSEG customers to express their opinions about the rate changes to the state agency. “I think when people see those numbers, they’re going to say, ‘What?’” Groden said. “Why are these things going up so much? I don’t know if there’s a correlation between the fact that we’re pushing to more green energy, which is more expensive. There’s a benefit to green energy but now we’re going to agree to pay 50 percent more because we’re going to use solar?” Additional virtual Department of Public Service hearings on the NYSEG proposal will take place on September 28 and October 18, at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. each day. Last week National Grid announced its residential natural gas customers should expect to pay an estimated $263 more on their heating bills, beginning in November and continuing through the end of March. National Grid electric customers will pay approximately 22 percent more than last winter. Read the full story at HudsonValley360 [dot] com.

Andrea Macko is reporting for Porcupine Soup that Central Hudson Gas and Electric is once more warning customers to prepare for higher energy supply prices as electric and natural gas prices increase again, the company announced September 13. The residential price for electric supply will increase from 8.32 cents per kilowatt hour in August to 13.06 cents per kilowatt hour as of September 13. Natural gas prices that went into effect on September 1 also increased from 87.1 cents per hundred cubic feet in August to 97.8 cents per hundred cubic feet. According to Central Hudson, the utility purchases electricity and gas from “third-party suppliers on behalf of customers. These costs are not marked up and Central Hudson does not profit from them, meaning customers pay the same rates as Central Hudson for the energy they use.” Several international, national, and regional factors are contributing to this market volatility, Central Hudson says. For instance, inflation is plaguing the entire planet since the pandemic, and Russia's invasion of Ukraine has wreaked havoc on energy markets. Read the full story at porcupine soup [dot] com.

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