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Audio Feature: This week in local environmental news

Dec 11, 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.

Andrea Macko in Porcupine Soup reports that on Nov. 30 Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that construction has begun on the 339-mile underground Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line that will bring electricity from hydropower from Canada to New York City. Local communities get some money and a risk of environmental accidents. Locally, the transmission line mostly runs along the CSX Railroad right-of-way, and passes through Bethlehem, Ravena, Coeymans, New Baltimore, Coxsackie, and Catskill and then into the Hudson River. While their are environmental risks locally, the project supplies 1,250 megawatts of clean energy to New York City, enough to power over one million homes. Hochul's office says that will reduce carbon emissions by 37 million metric tons statewide, the equivalent of taking over half a million cars off the road every year. The Greene County Industrial Development Agency awarded the projects tax breaks, and the project will bring $15.7 million for Greene County, $3.1 million for the Town of New Baltimore, $1.9 million for the Town of Coxsackie, $1.7 million for the Village of Coxsackie, $1.2 million for the Town of Athens, $4.3 million for the Town of Catskill, and $2.1 million for the Village of Catskill. The Coxsackie-Athens Central School District would receive $29.5 million, while the Catskill Central School District is getting $27.5 million. The Riverkeeper environmental group is not enthused about the project. “This destructive project raises numerous concerns. There are better alternatives that have lesser impacts and far greater benefits.... The CHPE project fails to meet the most basic requirement of a clean energy project, because it will not directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and it will continue to emit greenhouse gases after 2040, when New York’s climate laws require the electric grid to be emissions free,” a Riverkeeper statement says. “Adding insult to injury, this project would take up billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies that should be paid to a project that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Construction on the transmission line is expected to be complete in 2026. Read more about this story at Porcupine Soup.

Pete DeMola reports in the Times Union that the Coeymans Landing Marina was fined $49,724 in July after a fiery explosion last January that injured a worker. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration filed four violations against the marina because of the explosion that started after a welder inadvertently ignited an oil tank. Settlement talks with the federal agency eventually reduced the fine to $14,917. OSHA officials found that marina employees were improperly trained on hazardous chemicals in their work areas, and that the Coeymans Marina did not insist that cutters or welders and their supervisors were suitably trained. Carver Companies, the marina owners, did not respond for comment about their violations. Marina worker Eric Allen started the explosion in the boat shop welding near a 275-gallon waste-oil tank. Vapors caused the tank to explode, spraying oil within the blast radius. Allen suffered serious burns to his chest, abdomen, hands, arms and torso, with Joe Gessner dragging out his co-worker and using a fire extinguisher to knock back the flames. Smoke from the fire could be seen miles away. Hours later, firefighters got the flames extinguished. Read the full story in the Times Union.

Nick Reisman reports for New York State of Politics that environmental advocates are hoping that Gov. Kathy Hochul will sign a bill that would expand the number of streams in the state that could fall under environmental protection. "C" class waterways, currently used for boating, fishing, and other recreational activities, would be reclassified as streams if Hochul signs Senate Bill S4162. "Because of the close contact people have with class "C" waterways, listing them as streams will allow for their protection," according to the bill's memorandum. Agriculture organizations and the New York State Highway Superintendents Association oppose the measure, and in 2020 then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a similar bill. The Northeast Dairy Farmers are also against the legislation, saying in the statement the proposal, "would be an inefficient use of taxpayer resources, while adding undue financial and regulatory burdens for family farms, other landowners, and Local Soil and Water Districts." Peter Harckham, a state Senator who sponsored the legislation says the bill would add 40,000 miles of Class C streams in New York State to the Protection of Waters Regulatory Program and "give the state Department of Environmental Conservation the authority and resources to safeguard these streams." Read the full story at New York State of Politics.

Roger Hannigan Gilson reports in the Times Union that Gov. Kathy Hochul last week.signed a new law mandating that fees paid to New York by solar companies that convert agricultural land into solar farms will now go toward preserving other farmland. The fees previously went into the general fund. But now the money goes to the Agricultural and Farmland Viability Protection Fund, created by a bill sponsored by state Sen. Michelle Hinchey. The Saugerties Democrat got the bill unanimously accepted n both the state Senate and Assembly last summer. Since 2000, 750 large commercial or industrial solar projects have been funded through the state, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency. “(I) look forward to ensuring that we continue to work to create a future centered on locally sourced, healthy food and incentivize smart solar development without eliminating our finite agricultural resources,” Hinchey said. Read the full story in the Times Union.

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