Vol. 1, No. 11
May 7, 2012
Where it goes, how it gets there and what the city is doing to change how we recycle it. Page 6 THE GREEN ISSUE Cuomo’s green reputation hangs in the balance. Page 13 Why some mayoral candidates won’t talk about waste transfer stations. Page 16
Leading experts convene in Albany for the first “State Of Our State” forum. Page 22 The Avengers’ Mark Ruffalo “Hulks out” over hydrofracking. Page 26
THE PROBLEM WITH GOING GREEN
BY THE NUMBERS Growth Spurt
development and the politics underlining the whole process—success seems farther away than ever. In this issue of City & State we take a hard look at what going green means for New York. We examine the costs of growing the state’s solar power production, and what the looming issue of hydrofracking will mean for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s environmental reputation. And we spotlight the hot button issue of waste transfer stations, and what they will mean for the 2013 race for mayor. We talk with some of the city and state’s top environmental and legislative leaders to see what they think about the business of going green. And we check in with one of the country’s hottest movie stars, who knows a little something about living green (and turning green in
In his May 3 budget presentation, Mayor Bloomberg pointed out that the city’s labor market has outperformed the nation, gaining back approximately 180 percent of the private sector jobs lost during the recession, while the U.S. has only gained back 40 percent. (SOURCE: U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS; NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR)
the upcoming blockbuster The Avengers). Our main story follows a single piece of trash—an empty coffee cup—from the 49th floor of a midtown skyscraper to (literally) the slow boat to China where it will be processed and recycled—and most likely shipped back to the United States. What happens to that coffee cup in between is fascinating, and could have serious implications for the city of New York and its attempts to overhaul its recycling program. Going green is no easy task, especially for city and state government, which run not on biofuel or solar energy or wind power but on the most important green of all: cash. firstname.lastname@example.org
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Has “green” lost its luster? Corporations and Madison Avenue advertisers tell us of the advantages of “going green,” which seem to have more to do with consumerism and Andrew J. Hawkins product placement MANAGING than actual stratEDITOR egies for success. Governments double down on green technology, green architecture, green transportation—passing legislation and tax subsidies to ensure a more eco-friendly environment. But when you parcel out the individual pieces—recycling, infrastructure, energy
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THE FOOTNOTE: A real press release, annotated Sent 2:24 p.m. on Monday, April 30 from the New York City Council press office
Hours earlier, Council Speaker Christine Quinn stormed out of a rally to tout the twoyear-long struggle to pass the bill, after a living-wage supporter derided the mayor as “Pharaoh Bloomberg.” Quinn, a likely candidate for mayor, is seen as trying to court liberal Democratic voters without alienating the mayor or his allies in the business world.
New York Times columnist Michael Powell dubs this use of the words most impactful as “a leader in 2012’s ugliest adjective of the year contest.”
Living-wage supporters hope that this bill, while modest in scope, will help lay the groundwork for future legislation.
The Hudson Yards project, a 26-acre mixed-use development along the city’s far West Side, has been carved out of the bill’s requirements by Quinn. Nonetheless, key business advocates pulled their support for the bill just before its passage.
Bill requires those who directly benefit from City subsidies to pay their employees a living wage. New York, NY- Today, the Council will vote on living wage legislation that will require those who directly benefit from City subsidies to pay their employees a living wage. Given the scale and types of City economic development projects, an estimated 600 workers a year will receive a living wage as a result of this bill, with the potential to cover thousands of jobs over the next several years.
San Francisco has much higher livingwage standards, paying workers a minimum wage of $10.24 an hour.
LIVING WAGE BILL Each year, the City spends hundreds of millions of dollars on economic development in order to create jobs for New Yorkers. With this investment comes the responsibility of ensuring that jobs generated from taxpayer dollars enable New Yorkers to support their families. Under the living wage legislation, direct recipients of at least one million in government financial assistance must pay their employees a wage of $10 an hour with health care benefits or $11.50 an hour without. The bill also establishes a goal of providing a living wage for 75 percent of all hourly jobs on economic development projects, including retail tenant jobs. To monitor the City’s progress towards that goal, the legislation includes mandatory wage reporting obligations. The legislation will be implemented prospectively, and does not apply to deals where financial assistance has already been approved. Unless the City or the Economic Development Corporation provides a project with additional financial assistance, only then would the law cover an existing project. “When we invest in economic development, we should expect that the jobs that are created are good jobs – ones that will protect and grow the middle class. This bill does that and does so in a way that will not overburden businesses,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “The City has negotiated living wage requirements on individual deals in the past, and I believe that we must continue this work to provide as many living wage jobs as possible on subsidized projects. With this bill, we are fulfilling our duty to New Yorkers to make sure that taxpayer dollars are used to provide the maximum public good. By providing a high quality of life, attracting the best talent and protecting our middle class, we will remain the greatest city in the world.” “I am pleased and gratified that the Council will be voting on legislation that will provide living wage jobs at City-subsidized projects. I believe this bill has established a significant and important first step in addressing income inequality in our city. As one of the lead sponsors of this bill, I am fully committed to moving ahead under the Speaker’s leadership to implement this historic legislation,” said Council Member G. Oliver Koppell.
MAY 7, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
The living-wage bill has been weakened substantially throughout the amendment process, with exemptions carved out for nonprofits and manufacturers, and a substantial raise in the amount of subsidies developers had to receive to be subject.
Crain’s columnist Greg David wrote that .013 of New York City workers will be covered by the new law.
COUNCIL TO VOTE ON MOST IMPACTFUL LIVING WAGE LEGISLATION IN THE COUNTRY
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Around new York The best items from The Notebook, City & State’s political blog City & State’s political blog, The Notebook, is your key source for political and campaign developments in New York. Stay on top of the news with items like these at www.cityandstateny.com/thenotebook.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo will appoint Fran Barrett (above), wife of muckraking reporter Wayne Barrett, as his new interagency coordinator for not-for-profit services, a Cuomo source said. The position is a new one, created to help coordinate the agency’s process of reforming the state’s contracting with not-forprofit groups. Barrett, an experienced nonprofit group consultant, once described herself to The New York Times as “Wayne’s liaison to the planet Earth.” Barrett was formerly the executive director of Community Resource Exchange, a management consulting firm she founded in 1979 dedicated to advising nonprofit organizations. In 2009 Barrett was the recipient of the Alliance for Nonprofit Management’s 2009 Founders Lifetime Achievement Award, given to individuals for contributions to nonprofit capacity building over periods of 25 years or longer.
(above), Halloran.org? Officially, you would first have to go through Normannii Thiud, Inc., a defunct, neopagan charity founded by Halloran, which owns all the campaign-related sites. A campaign spokesman for Halloran, Steve Stites, said that Halloran initially began creating websites registered to the nonprofit years ago. (Halloran.org, for instance, was created in 2005, initially for religious purposes.) Later Halloran used the same credit card to register a slew of campaign-related sites as his political career blossomed, according to Stites, so the sites have continued to be officially registered to the religious nonprofit. Halloran’s neo-pagan religious beliefs have sparked interest; the Republican councilman is the country’s first elected official of that religious persuasion.
County Executive Dan McCoy. But Breslin says that won’t amount to much in the primary. “I think he probably is an ally [of McCoy’s], but I don’t think that’s an impediment to my victory,” Breslin said. Breslin bested attorney Luke Martland in a closely watched race in 2010. “Luke Martland was a very bright guy, but was an outsider,” he said. “Now we have Shawn Morse, who is an insider but has no support within the district.” Morse naturally did not take kindly to being called an insider. “This type of name-calling is one of the political games that longtime politicians like Neil Breslin play,” he said via email. “After 18 years in office, 18 years of collecting special-interest money and 18 years of not delivering for the people of this district, the guy who just announced his 10th reelection attempt surrounded by politicians decides to call me an insider.”
raise money for a run against Grisanti, a top target for Senate Democrats, who has a heavily Democratic district. Former Democratic Erie County Legislature Chairman 1, 3 Chuck Swanick (above), who has been endorsed by the Erie County Conservative Party (a major blow to 5 Grisanti) is already in the 2 Democratic primary. And earlier this month, Tonawanda attorney Kevin Stocker registered a campaign committee to run as a Republican. Queens Sen. Mike Gianaris, chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, has been spending a fair amount of time in Western New York trying to determine who will challenge Grisanti—but it’s as yet unclear who the DSCC will back in the Democratic primary. A spokesman for the DSCC did not immediately return requests for comment. But it does appear that the Erie County Democrats—who have had tensions with Swanick, a conservative Democrat who has alleged ties to Steve Pigeon, an opponent of Erie Democratic chair Len Lenihan—may be interested in backing Panepinto’s run: A fundraising invite has been posted on the Erie Dems’ website.
Want to buy up the domain name HalloranForCongress. com? How about HalloranWatch.net? Or perhaps the official site for congressional candidate and Queens Councilman Dan Halloran 4
Albany County Legislator Shawn Morse (above) had barely declared his intention to enter the primary against State Sen. Neil Breslin before the sniping began. Morse, who announced his run for Senate May 2, is hoping the redrawn 44th District will be favorable to his candidacy, as well as his alliance with newly elected Albany
May 7, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
The Democratic primary to take on GOP State Sen. Mark Grisanti is getting more crowded. Marc Panepinto, an attorney who has been rumored to be interested in taking on the freshman Republican, registered a campaign committee to
What’s this? A Republican attacking a Republican for attacking a Democrat?
Strange things are afoot in Westchester County. Diane DiDonato-Roth (above), a realtor and member of the North Castle Town Council in Westchester County, is calling out her primary opponent Bob Cohen for calling into question campaign expenditures made by the Democrat both are vying to face in November, Assemblyman George Latimer. It goes like this: Cohen’s campaign sent out a release last week charging Latimer with violating state campaign-finance laws by failing to itemize $17,000 in credit-card payments on his most recent filing. Of particular interest to Cohen were payments for “dinners for two,” which local news site Talk of the Sound took to be a not-so-subtle jab at Latimer for his “close, personal relationship with New Rochelle Judge Susan Kettner.” Latimer is married with children. “The Cohen campaign specifically called on Mr. Latimer to make public the names of who he dined with on those various occasions, many of which were clearly dinners for two,” the campaign’s statement said. DiDonatoRoth, who announced her campaign to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer in February, accuses Cohen of suggesting that Latimer was engaged in an affair with Kettner, even though her statement makes no reference to the judge’s name (though it does provide a link to the Talk of the Sound article). “The only people this kind of gutter politics hurts are the innocent family members of all accused,” DiDonato-Roth said in a statement. Cohen spokesman Bill O’Reilly said he was flabbergasted by DiDonato-Roth’s statement. “What smear?” he said. “All we asked is that Latimer account for his campaign spending, which looks like a series of dinners for two. I’ve never even heard of the judge before.”
Where it goes, how it gets there and what the city is doing to change how we recycle it By Jon Lentz | Photographs by Daniel S. BurnStein
he sleek, glassy Bank of America Tower is one of New York City’s tallest buildings, one of its most energy-efficient structures and perhaps the country’s most ecologically friendly skyscraper. It is also on the cutting edge on a less glamorous front: getting rid of its trash. The Durst Organization, the powerful real estate company and the developer of the Bank of America Tower, is doing all it can to minimize the building’s waste and keep it out of landfills. It all starts with the office workers. At Durst’s headquarters on the building’s 49th floor, the trash bins next to each desk are only for paper. None of the receptacles have plastic liners, a reminder to keep out any food or liquids. Pizza crusts, apple cores and half-eaten bagels have to be carried to a break room, where employees deposit them in wooden compost buckets. Empty water bottles, soda cans and glass go into a separate can. Any remaining garbage is dumped into yet another can. Lisa Cintron, a Durst quality-control manager, said it was an adjustment to take her trash to the break room instead of throwing everything away right at her desk. “Since you get up and you’re already there, you say, ‘Well, I might as well do the right thing and throw it in the right place,’ ” she said. “It was definitely inconvenient for people and hard to adjust initially, just the thought, but it really didn’t take much to adjust.” The on-site sorting, done on all but a couple of floors
May 7, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
at the Bank of America Tower and at a number of other Durst buildings, is just the start of the journey for each piece of trash. Food refuse is shipped to the Durst family’s composting farm two hours north of the city. Paper, cardboard and plastics are shipped overseas to be broken down and remade into new products. Much of the remaining trash is burned in an incinerator. Only a fraction of the garbage is buried underground. Helena Durst, a Durst vice president spearheading the company’s efforts to minimize trash and maximize recycling, said it’s all about setting an example in a city trying to boost its recycling. “It’s not a moral thing,” Durst said. “It’s an economic driver, and it’s an imperative for the environment. It’s the government’s imperative to be able to put the infrastructure in place so that we can all easily follow it.”
round 5 p.m. on a sunny day in March, the cleaning crews show up at the Bank of America Tower for the evening shift. Ljubica Martic arrives on the 49th floor, still lit by the fading sunlight, to tidy up the upscale corporate offices and cubicles, vacuum the floors and take out the trash. As a few employees wrap up their work and head for the elevators, Martic steps into a deserted break room with a sweeping view of the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and the harbor beyond. She scoops up
an empty Starbucks coffee cup on a table and drops it into a plastic bag. “We throw recycled paper here, garbage here, and we always use blue plastic bags in case we find cans or water bottles,” she says, snatching up other bits of trash from the table and dropping them into their designated cans. “Here, it’s more strict.” She yanks several half-filled bags and lugs them down the hallway to the freight area, where she drops them next to an elevator. Just before 7 p.m., the elevator doors open, and out steps a young Durst employee sporting a light blue work shirt and a mohawk. He loads the garbage into 55-gallon wheeled tubs, and the elevator descends to the ground floor. At the loading dock, the bags are tossed from the tubs onto the empty concrete floor. By midnight the dock is filled with hundreds and hundreds of bags.
ew York City generates a mind-boggling 50,000 tons of waste every day, day after day, and sends much of it out of the city on trucks, at a growing cost to the environment, as well as the city’s bottom line. The Bloomberg administration has taken notice, recently setting a goal of doubling the diversion rate for household waste, a measure for how much trash is kept out of landfills. continued on page 8
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To achieve that, the city is relying heavily on recycling, which it plans to increase by expanding what materials can be recycled, opening another recycling facility in Brooklyn and developing better outreach efforts. “In the plan to double the diversion rate, you’re going from 15 to 30 percent,” said Cas Holloway, the city’s deputy mayor for operations. “Where do those 15 points come from? Basically 10½ or 11½ points will come from an increase in recycling and reuse. And then another key part of this is we need to get New Yorkers to use less.” But even if the city reaches its goal, it won’t address a much bigger source of garbage. Commercial waste, including paper from office buildings, food waste from restaurants and debris from construction sites, makes up about three-quarters of the city’s trash. The city has less control over that garbage, leaving it to private
companies and private haulers to dispose of it. The commercial recycling rate is around 40 percent, in part because of lucrative markets for used paper, a plentiful resource from the city’s many office buildings, as well as plastics and other materials. But the city could still do more to boost commercial recycling rates, experts say. For one thing, the Department of Sanitation has yet to complete a comprehensive survey of how commercial waste is handled in the city. The study has been put off since 2006, when it was called for in the city’s solid-waste management plan. The City Council passed a law mandating its completion by the start of 2012, but the city missed the deadline, and now expects the study to be done by the end of this summer. “Probably the most significant thing we know about commercial recycling in New York is there’s a lot that we don’t know,” said Eric Goldstein, the New York environment director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“How well the businesses are doing across the board in New York, it remains something of a mystery, because we don’t have the data we need to assess and evaluate the program.” Once the Bloomberg administration gets a clearer idea of where its commercial waste is going— and to what degree businesses and companies are complying with existing regulations—it may want to look at ways it can follow the lead of businesses that are already on the cutting edge of trash recycling, like Durst.
t 4:14 a.m., a dark blue Royal Waste Services truck rolls up outside the Bank of America Tower to pick up its last load of the night. The truck backs into the building, and two young men in jeans, gloves and yellow fluorescent vests hop out. They grab bag after bag, heaving them into the mechanical jaws of the truck. They keep at it for nearly an hour, snatching up loose napkins, paper cups and pizza boxes, pausing occasionally to wipe the sweat off their faces.
March 12, 5:53 p.M. Bank of aMerica Tower, 49Th floor. Ljubica Martic, a cleaning lady, throws away a discarded Starbucks coffee. Shortly after 5 a.m., they hop back in cab of the truck and pull out into the dark, drizzly night. The truck zigzags across Manhattan, over the Queensboro Bridge and into Queens, where it
zips along the quiet side streets and bustling freeways until it arrives at its final destination. Royal’s transfer station in Jamaica, Queens, is a jumble of continued on page 10
id you know Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a plan that would reduce or eliminate vital social services that thousands of seniors depend on for their human dignity?
His plan puts care for homebound seniors in the hands of HMO-style healthcare providers under a program called Managed Care. To save money, these companies will force many seniors into nursing homes – or they can choose to stay home and die alone. Many of these seniors are currently cared for and protected by the dedicated city social workers in the Community Alternative Systems Agency (CASA). CASA workers’ only concern is making sure these seniors are well cared for in body, mind and spirit. Managed Care companies’ only concern is the bottom line.
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high price to have that material burned.” Once the sorting process is complete, a machine crunches the materials together into 1,700pound cube-shaped bales, about 5' by 6' in size. The bales are given an inventory number and put into stacks. A few days later, once 40 bales of a single material are ready, they’re picked up by forklifts and loaded into a huge metal shipping container to be sent overseas.
he city’s residential and commercial waste streams operate under such different conditions that lessons from one don’t always apply to the other. Commercial waste companies like Royal compete to find the best price for their recyclable materials, serving as an incentive to maximize recycling rates. By contrast, the city’s primary task is to keep streets clean and make sure it has a place to reliably deliver its trash. The city is also limited by the fact that homes, apartments and
buildings and trailers surrounded by a high corrugated metal fence. At either end of the station are paved outdoor areas teeming with mountains of trash. Huge yellow excavators clutch mounds of garbage with mechanical claws, shredding open the bags, spreading out the contents and moving them from one pile to another. With most food waste shipped to another facility, and a quick turnaround time for sorting and shipping out recyclable materials, there’s only a faint odor of garbage. Some of the piles are kaleidoscopes of plastic—bright orange and purple detergent bottles, empty motor oil bottles, greentinted soda bottles. Others have thousands of flattened brown cardboard boxes. The truck pulls into the station and dumps out the trash on the pavement, and a bulldozer pushes the load into one of the industrial buildings. Inside, dozens of low-paid Spanishspeaking workers wade through
white paper piled up like snow, picking through the waste for magazines, plastics, anything that doesn’t belong. Everything else—all the Little Italy pizza boxes, Poland Spring water bottles, printer-paper boxes—is loaded onto a sorting belt. The belt ferries it upward and onto a raised blue and yellow metal platform with a series of conveyer belts. More than a dozen workers, each assigned to pull out a particular material, sort through the waste as it passes by, dropping what they grab into a chute. The remaining garbage spewed out at the far end will be shipped to an incinerator or to a landfill. But whenever possible, there’s more money to be made by selling the waste. “We look at finding alternative markets to move that material regardless of what the price of it is,” said Robert Guarnaccia, a vice president at Royal Waste Services. “It’s always better to us than driving two hours out and burying it in a landfill or taking it to a burn center and paying a
March 13, 4:17 a.M. Bank of aMerica Tower, ground floor. John Ridgeway, the driver of a Royal Waste Services truck, picks up his last load of the night. schools simply generate less trash than huge office buildings, making anything more than a twice-a-week pickup difficult. But there are still lessons the city
can learn, Durst said. “We have all our material in loading docks, and we have a daily pickup, and it’s much cleaner than what we have on
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S P OT L I G H T : E n v i r o n m E n t the streets,” she said. “Part of the problem for our residential recycling rates is we have street-side pickup.” Durst suggested the city adopt a system with pickup for dry waste, such as paper and plastics, and separate pickup for wet waste, like food. It wouldn’t be easy, she acknowledged. The curbside pickup system would have to be changed somehow, since food waste would sit out too long and rot. Composting might have to be required to have enough material to justify sending trucks to fetch it. “If we had another method— and I don’t know what that method is—but if we could elevate our trash some way, have better ways of labeling what is recycling and what is not, we would probably increase our diversion from landfill rates or our recycling rates,” Durst said. In the short-term, commercial food composting may be the more likely next step. At least to start with, composting should be required at restaurants and grocery stores, Goldstein said. “The city ought to be requiring that their food waste, the vast bulk of their waste, be separately collected and composted,” he said. “It makes no sense at all to haul it out of state somewhere to generate global-warming gases when it could be turned into useful compost— and again, save money in the process. It’s a question of changing the corporate culture in a number of these places, and that’s one reason why the Bank of America Tower is an example of the cutting edge of sustainable trash-handling practices in the city.” Benjamin Miller, an environmental policy consultant and a former director of policy planning for the Department of Sanitation, agreed that commercial composting could help. But it comes with its own sticky issues, starting with questions surrounding storage space and sanitary requirements in restaurant kitchens and grocery stores, Miller said. Cost is another factor. And while the Dursts have their own composting facility, there are few such facilities near New York City that other companies can use. “Not to mention that the compost is then driven to the Durst farm and processed there—things that would be an extra expense for anyone else, particularly since the nearest composting facility that receives significant amounts of commercial wastes from New York City is in Delaware,” he said.
Making Businesses Feel Welcome in New York By Hon. Alfred DelBello
New York State has historically been one of the economic engines of the United States. From Buffalo to Brooklyn, we have always been in the vanguard of business, technology and cutting edge ideas. When I was Westchester County Executive, every week new businesses looking to move into the county would meet with my team. There was a sense of optimism in the region that our best days economically were in front of us. Unfortunately, in the last 25 years, Westchester, New York State and the region in general, have become particularly inhospitable to business. Taxes and the cost of business are going up for businesses, while school taxes and house prices have gone up for residents.
March 13, 6:45 a.M. royal Waste services transfer station, JaMaica, Queens. A conveyer belt dumps out any remaining trash after it’s picked through for salvageable recyclable materials. The Bloomberg administration will start to look at things like commercial food waste, Deputy Mayor Holloway said, despite its challenges. “To do it at scale, and really get a hold on this, you have to engage the restaurants and the other commercial businesses that produce a lot of food waste,” Holloway said.
few days after the Starbucks cup arrives at the transfer station, it’s loaded into a container with the other bales of mixed paper waste. The truck carrying the container departs the transfer station at 2:59 a.m. on March 16, and about two hours later it arrives at its destination: Port Newark, across the Hudson River in Newark, New Jersey. Within another 24 hours the container is loaded onto The Ever Divine, a ship bound for Qingdao, China. It’s a slow, soggy voyage for what’s left of the Starbucks cup. “China has all the need for that material,” Guarnaccia said. “How much stuff do we import? All the stuff that we import comes back here in boxes. They need that material to make new cardboard boxes, so they can ship us back all those electronics, all the clothing; everything, pretty much.” About a month later, on April 12, the container reaches land. It’s then loaded onto a truck and driven to one of the seven or eight major paper mills located about a half hour outside of the bustling Chinese port. At the mill, forklifts unload the
Within another 24 hours the container is loaded onto The Ever Divine, a ship bound for Qingdao, China. It’s a slow, soggy voyage for what’s left of the Starbucks cup. bales and put them in storage, where they are left so the raw material can dry out. A few weeks later, the wires holding the bales together are cut and the material is dumped into 20'-tall mixing vats. Water and chemicals are added, and the material is churned into a pulp, which takes about six to seven hours. The pulp is dried out on a slowmoving conveyer belt that runs through a low-heat chamber for five or six hours. When it comes out, it’s ready to be packaged as rolls of brown paper or, depending on the thickness, shaped into cardboard boxes. Three days after the mill starts breaking down the material, the new product is ready to be sold— and more than likely it will be used to ship goods and merchandise back to the United States. Maybe even to New York City.
People and capital move very easily today and corporations will often relocate to save money. Westchester County, sadly, loses business because of our high costs. These numbers are relatively easy to calculate but there’s a missing statistic that may be an even more telling economic indicator. How many businesses don’t relocate to New York because of cost? It’s hard to quantify, but because of our enormous costs of doing business it is abundantly clear that nobody is banging down the door to set up shop here – and many are deterred from expansion. There are steps, however, that we can take to encourage businesses to stay and to get on the path of attracting new businesses to the area. New York’s electricity prices are some of the highest in the country. Indian Point provides 2,000 megawatts, or roughly 30% of downstate New York’s power. The facility provides direct employment for more than 1,000 workers and helps broaden our tax base. It indirectly supports thousands of other jobs in the region. We must take every step to keep Indian Point open and safe because right now, if it were to close, our residential and commercial electricity rates would skyrocket. Replacing 2,000 megawatts of power is an extraordinarily difficult task and, perhaps, more importantly our electricity transmission system in New York State would make it difficult to transport power from other places to the downstate region. Major companies like PepsiCo, IBM, Regeneron and others call Westchester home and provide countless jobs to local residents. Let’s make sure that we keep these amazing companies here and attract new businesses by keeping electricity prices down. It’s a good first step. Hon. Alfred DelBello is board member and past Chairman of the Westchester County Association, former Mayor of the City of Yonkers, Westchester County Executive and Lt. Governor of the State of New York. Hon. DelBello is a partner at DelBello Donnellan Weingarten Wise & Wiederkehr LLP. S P E C I A L
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The New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (New York AREA) is a diverse group of business, labor, environmental, and community leaders working together for clean, low-cost and reliable electricity solutions that foster prosperity and jobs for the Empire State. W W W. A R E A - A L L I A N C E . O R G
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S P OT L I G H T : E n v i r o n m E n t
dAvId PATerSOn eLIOT SPITzer
By Jon Lentz How green is Gov. Andrew Cuomo? The answer may come down to what the governor decides to do about hydrofracking. With issues like redistricting, billion-dollar budget shortfalls and the legalization of same-sex marriage dominating the governor’s first 16 months in office, environmental issues haven’t exactly been at the top of his agenda. All the same, some environmentalists say Cuomo is off to a good start on issues like hydraulic fracturing, the Indian Point nuclear power plant and the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. But for others, Cuomo’s environmental legacy will come down to what course of action he ultimately takes on hydrofracking—and for now it’s impossible to tell how the contentious issue will play out. “I think the jury’s still out on his environmental record,” said David Gahl, the deputy director of Environmental Advocates. “If his administration decides to move forward on hydrofracking and how they intend to regulate it, these are big decisions that are going to cement his environmental legacy, and it’s not clear what direction they’re going yet.” Yet the governor’s approach on hydrofracking, which uses millions of gallons of water laced with chemicals to break apart shale deposits and release natural gas, has been welcomed by other environmentalists. Unlike other states, such as neighboring Pennsylvania, New York is taking a cautious, deliberative approach in reviewing the drilling procedure. “Look, this is a highly charged issue, yet I think they’re handling it extremely well,” said Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “They’re systematically doing the comments. They haven’t rushed to action. On the other hand, they haven’t said, ‘No, we’re going to totally give up on it,’ either. They’ve developed a measured approach.” Cuomo has taken positive steps on other environmental fronts, too, said Richard Schrader, the New York legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. One of those is maintaining funding for the Environmental Protection Fund, a piggy bank for recycling, land conservation and other green programs.
Cuomo’s green reputation hinges on hydrofracking decision
DriLLing Decisions •Department of environmental conservation review of hydrofracking (in process) •Working to shut down the indian Point nuclear power plant (in process)
•cut staffing levels at the Department of environmental conservation •slashed funding for the environmental Protection Fund
•Maintained funding for the environmental Protection Fund •Launched new York energy Highway, which could boost renewables and cleaner power (in process)
•expanded the bottledeposit law to include water bottles •issued a widely criticized report on hydrofracking and instituted a moratorium
•Boosted funding for the •increased staffing at the environmental Protection Department of environFund mental conservation
Indian Point Plays Key Role in Lowering Greenhouse Gas Emissions By Dr. Patrick Moore
The Environmental Protection Agency recently indicated that greenhouse gas emissions rose in 2010, just as the economy began to improve. The agency also said that summer conditions in 2010 resulted in “an increase in electricity demand for air conditioning that was generated primarily by combusting coal and natural gas.” Yet the federal government also informed the United Nations that it anticipates greenhouse gas emissions will fall roughly 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. If we want to have any hope of reaching these cleaner air targets by 2020, we’ll have to make an impressive effort. And that effort should start with strong and continued support for clean, safe, and reliable nuclear energy. In New York, the Indian Point nuclear power plant provides 12 percent of the state’s electricity and up to one-third of New York City’s power.
•Put a million acres of land in the catskills and Adirondacks into conservation
•Began cutting staff at the Department of environmental conservation
•Launched the innovative regional greenhouse gas initiative
How green are New York’s governors? And the governor has sided with some environmental groups on other issues, like shutting down the Indian Point nuclear power plant, although it’s not at all clear whether he’ll be successful in that effort. “Obviously we support him on the direction he’s taken on Indian Point,” Schrader said. “It’s complicated negotiations, but so far there’s been a transparency to it, and he’s been reaching out to environmentalists, and there’s a lot of opportunity here to do some very good policy as far as an old plant that has a lot of dangers in being allowed to stay open.” To be sure, Cuomo’s predecessors didn’t exactly set the bar very high. Gov. George Pataki made his mark on open space and land conservation and launched the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, but he also slashed staffing at the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Eliot Spitzer’s record as attorney general raised expectations that he would be a strong defender of the environment, but his term was cut short by a prostitution scandal before he made much headway. When David Paterson took office, he came across as indifferent to green issues. While some of his cuts to environmental programs were the result of the state’s fiscal struggles, Paterson disproportion-
ately targeted DEC and the Environmental Protection Fund. “I think already Cuomo has shown that he’s been as good as or a stronger leader on environmental issues than the other three,” Schrader said. “We’re keeping an eye on the fracking issue, but even there he’s showing an inclination to do this in a slow and smart way. To environmentalists this is somebody who’s a supporter of the issues we care about.” But environmentalists like Gahl aren’t quite ready to applaud the governor. Hydrofracking, they say, could have huge environmental impacts, and has drawn intense scrutiny from the public. “The governor has spent a fair amount of his time talking about hydrofracking,” Gahl said. “I think it remains to be seen whether the governor will step in and take complete ownership of this issue, just based on the political importance and the mass interest from the public. This is a serious environmental and political issue for his administration.” State Sen. Tony Avella, an opponent of hydrofracking, put it more bluntly. “If the governor allows hydrofracking to go ahead,” he said, “he owns this. It’s on him.”
Indian Point generates this power in a virtually emission-free manner and helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions by some 14 million tons annually. In fact, New York’s nuclear power fleet is the primary reason behind the state achieving the lowest-per-capita carbon emissions in the U.S. Despite the prominent role Indian Point plays in providing clean, safe, and reliable power to the citizens of New York, some still argue for its closure as well as the closure of other nuclear energy facilities across the nation. This is irresponsible. Such closures would result in a substantial rise in greenhouse gas emissions, as the state would be forced to make up for the power deficiency by combusting more coal and natural gas. Replacing Indian Point with four or five big natural gas plants would also result in increased toxic pollution and airborne particulates – both linked to asthma and respiratory illnesses. Indian Point is arguably the most scrutinized nuclear power plant in the country and is vital to maintaining New York’s environment and economy. If we want to reach the federal government’s greenhouse gas reduction targets by 2020, we’ll need to support the use of clean, safe, and reliable nuclear power, not just in New York, but across the country. Dr. Patrick Moore is the co-founder and former leader of the environmental advocacy organization Greenpeace and is Chair and Chief Scientist of Greenspirit Strategies. He is an advisor to the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (New York AREA). S P E C I A L
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New York AREA’s membership includes some of the state’s most vital business, labor and community organizations including the New York State AFL-CIO, Business Council of New York State, Partnership for New York City, New York Building Congress, National Federation of Independent Business and many more. W W W. A R E A - A L L I A N C E . O R G
email@example.com www.cityandstateny.com | May 7, 2012
S P OT L I G H T : E n v i r o n m e n t
Let The Sunshine In
2011 State Rank*
PV Installations (
= 25 Megawatts) 2011
CALIF. 1. California (1)
Lawmakers scale back their solar expectations, and hope for a Cuomo boost
large commercial solar projects. “The beauty of that is that the first target in 2015 is basically just taking the NY-SUN and the stuff that the Long Island Power Authority and the New York Power By Jon Lentz Authority are already doing, and makes sure it’s in state law,” said Jackson Morris, a tate lawmakers and renewablesenior policy adviser at Pace University who energy advocates are trying to let a has been involved in crafting the legislation. little more sunshine into the state’s And while the governor’s initiative energy portfolio. To do so, they’re scaling back and simpli- is short-term in its scope, the legislation sets longer-term targets to provide fying a stalled solar bill and attempting to certainty to the industry, drive long-term link it to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recently growth and lower installation costs over launched solar-power initiative. time, Morris added. The hope is that the new strategy will The governor’s office did not respond to allay concerns about costs associated with a request for comment. more solar investment, garner enough The legislation also leaves open how support to get legislation passed this to meet the targets, leaving session and position New “New Jersey it to the power authoriYork to better compete ties, the Public Service and create more jobs here is way ahead Commission and public as investment picks up in of us in solar utility companies to figure neighboring states. development, out the details. The original “We’re behind New bill would have created a Jersey, we’re behind Pennwhich means market built around solar sylvania, and we’re going to we’re way renewable-energy credits, be behind Massachusetts behind. How similar to those set up in and Connecticut,” said Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, can New Jersey New Jersey and other states, that idea has since been who chairs the Assembly be ahead of us but scrapped. Energy Committee. “Please in anything?” New York, which gets notice I’m not talking about only a tiny fraction of its New Mexico or Arizona or electricity from solar power, is still one of California. These are states in the Northeast the top states, ranking 10th with 60 megawith similar economies, similar weather watts of installed capacity. That’s up from 23 conditions, and we ought to be ahead of megawatts the year before, according to the that curve.” Solar Energy Industries Association. In recent years the Solar Industry But lawmakers and advocates, as well Development and Jobs Act, which called as Cuomo, say New York should take the for 5,000 megawatts of solar capacity lead on a national scale. by 2026, has failed to advance, amid In neighboring New Jersey, for disagreements over the best mechanism example, solar generation capacity more to boost solar investment and quarrels than doubled to 313 megawatts last year, over costs, which utility companies say ranking it second behind only California. would be passed on to their customers. “I think we’ve got to be more aggresLast year the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority was sive,” said Sen. George Maziarz, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee. “I commissioned to provide an indepenmean, New Jersey is way ahead of us in dent cost analysis. The report, released solar development, which means we’re in January, found that a target of 5,000 way behind. How can New Jersey be megawatts of solar power could cost rateahead of us in anything?” payers as much as $9 billion, and recomMaziarz, who is still sponsoring legismended “steady and measured growth.” A tweaked version of the bill was intro- lation based on solar renewable-energy duced in the Assembly last month that set credits, is weighing whether to sign on as a cosponsor to the new Assembly bill. more modest targets of 670 megawatts by “We’re going to take a look at it,” he said. 2015 and 3,000 megawatts by 2021. “Quite frankly, I like the original version. I The simplified bill also builds on appreciate NYSERDA’s exhaustive study. I’m Cuomo’s NY-SUN initiative. The initiative, which was launched last month, calls not sure that every one of their conclusions was absolutely correct, but it’s a scaledfor expanding existing state programs back version.” to quadruple the yearly installation of customer-sited solar over the next two firstname.lastname@example.org years and to boost financial incentives for
May 7, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
N.J. 2. New Jersey (2)
ARIZ. 3. Arizona (3)
N.M. 4. New Mexico (7)
COLO. 5. Colorado (5)
PA. 6. Pennsylvania (6)
N.Y. 7. New York (11)
N.C. 8. North Carolina (9)
TEX. 9. Texas (10)
NEV. 10. Nevada (4)
*Parentheses denote rank change from 2010
S P OT L I G H T : E N V I R O N M E N T
TRASH TALK Mayoral candidates weigh in on East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station By JON LENTZ Manhattan’s East 91st Street Marine Transfer Station has long divided people into two camps. Next year it may divide the candidates running for mayor of New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and other elected officials who don’t live near the defunct facility on the Upper East Side have pushed to reopen it as a way to haul less garbage by truck, ship more by barge and distribute trash facilities more fairly across the five boroughs. On the other side of the issue are local lawmakers and community groups worried about noise, pollution and the safety risks of local garbage trucks. They have filed a series of lawsuits to block the planned reopening of the facility, which was closed in 1999. Some candidates have been openly supportive of the station, which was included in the city’s solid-waste-management plan in 2006. Quinn, the candidate most closely associated with the project, has been a staunch supporter. Last June she led the Council to allocate capital dollars to build the station after the mayor’s office had decided to postpone the project. She went to then Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith and convinced him to provide funding for the station and three others. “The building of marine transfer stations has been done with community input, and we expect New Yorkers in every neighborhood to come together and do their part,” Robin Levine, a spokeswoman for Quinn, said last year. “In fact, Speaker Quinn’s own district on Manhattan’s West Side will include a transfer station to help ensure the borough is taking full responsibility for its waste.” 16
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller John Liu cast votes for the marine transfer station when they were both in the City Council, and neither one has changed his position. Mike Loughran, a spokesman for Liu, said the city has to make sure it has the necessary infrastructure to meet the growing demand for waste removal. “This is an issue of borough equity,” Loughran said. “The community has every right to be heard on this issue and has even taken their concerns to court. Comptroller Liu will keep a close eye on this project, as well as the spending associated.” But among the other Democratic candidates, the positions are less clear-cut. Bill Thompson, who ran against Bloomberg in 2009, said he still had a lot more to learn about the facility and had not yet taken a position. “I’ve had one meeting with the residents and they laid out why they thought it was not a good site and why it was not cost-efficient,” he said. David Mack, the vice president of Residents for Sane Trash Solutions, said his organization has recently started reaching out to the candidates to make the case for leaving the facility closed. “We believe that it would be a very important question for all candidates in the primary season, especially given that Speaker Quinn seems to be supporting the construction of the facility,” said Mack. Perhaps more than any other candidate, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer exemplifies the risks of explicitly supporting or opposing the facility. The Upper East Side is a
MAY 7, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
WHERE THE TRASH GOES Dozens of land-based transfer stations process New York City’s residential trash, but the city will open four marine transfer stations to ship out more of it by barge.* Existing land-based transfer stations
Planned marine transfer stations Recycling facilities
Planned commercialwaste marine transfer station
*Landmarks are approximate SOURCE: NYS DEPARTMENT OF SANITATION
key bastion of support for the borough president, so supporting the facility could result in campaign dollars drying up. Opposing it could hurt him in the outer boroughs. Yet in 2004 then Assemblyman Stringer was among the lawmakers who criticized the plan, calling on the city to build the waste transfer station in a commercially zoned location somewhere else. “I’m here today because I believe that siting such a facility is a process ripe with difficulty,” Stringer said at the time. “While we acknowledge the need for a station, no one desires a waste transfer station in their backyard. They’re right, it does not belong in this backyard, but it also doesn’t belong in anyone’s backyard.” Asked about his stance now, Stringer refused to answer. Josh Getlin, Stringer’s spokesman, declined to say whether the borough president is still opposed to the project, supportive of it, or neutral. “Since becoming borough president in 2006, Stringer has committed his office to
working with city agencies to minimize any negative impacts to the Upper East Side and Harlem communities that may result from the construction and ongoing operation of the facility,” Getlin said in a statement. One of the opponents of the transfer station is Charles Dorego, a senior vice president of Glenwood Management Corp. and a member of the Gracie Point Community Council, another group opposed to the facility. Glenwood owns a number of buildings that face Asphalt Green, the recreational space next to the marine transfer station. Dorego has also raised $149,900 for Stringer, making him not only the borough president’s biggest campaign bundler but the biggest bundler for any city candidate. But Dorego said his support for the borough president isn’t tied to his views on the marine transfer station. “I don’t support anybody based on one particular issue or not,” Dorego said. “I met him personally through this thing years ago, and we’ve become friends since, and I’m a supporter of his. I don’t necessarily tie my
support to him to the marine transfer station, because I’m not naive enough to think the borough president could stop this plan. He has absolutely no control over it whatsoever. You could talk to the person who lives on 79th Street about that.” But one longtime observer of the controversy over the marine transfer station said that Stringer has “always been purposefully vague.” “His thing is always ‘I’ve never wanted to directly oppose the East 91st Street Waste Transfer Station, because I don’t want to alienate communities of color,’ but at the same time he has been willing to smack around the process, how it came about,” the source said. “He’s attacked the process, not the site. So he thinks that gets some goodwill with the community here. He’s basically playing both sides.” If nothing else, there is digital evidence that offers a hint of where Stringer’s loyalties actually lie: On Facebook, the borough president “likes” Residents for Sane Trash Solutions, the group opposed to the transfer station. email@example.com
Driving Change in a Changing World Not so long ago, we all viewed waste differently than we do today. It was something to be collected and disposed of. That’s all. But the world is changing. People are more aware of the need to conserve natural resources. And they’re stepping up to reduce, reuse and recycle the waste in their homes, businesses and municipalities. As the industry leader in environmental solutions, Waste Management is helping our customers and communities recover the resources in waste. We are investing in technologies that allow us to take the materials we collect—such as food waste, cardboard, glass, plastic, and even everyday trash—and use them as valuable feedstock to generate energy or create new resources. Today, Waste Management is North America’s largest residential recycler, recovering 8 million tons of recyclables per year. And we currently create enough renewable energy from waste to power over 1 million homes. By the year 2020, our goal is to nearly triple our recycling capacity and double renewable energy production. With decades of experience and leadership in the waste industry, Waste Management is uniquely positioned to deliver the comprehensive environmental solutions that will meet the needs of a changing world.
Catskill Park. The legacy of New York’s greatest statesmen. The heritage of all New Yorkers. 1900 — Gov. Theodore Roosevelt declares the Catskills should be a great park “kept in perpetuity for the benefit and enjoyment of our people.”
1912 — New York legislators establish the Catskill Park to include “forever wild” Forest Preserve and surroundings.
1932 — Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt describes the Park as a “priceless heritage for the people of the State” and speaks out against those who would sacrifice it for profit.
1970 — Gov. Nelson Rockefeller states, “It is vitally important to reserve untrammeled places where people can renew their spirituality and essential humanity.”
“Sunset after a Storm in the Catskill Mountains,” Jasper Francis Cropsey, c.1860
The Catskill Park offers some of the most beautiful vistas and wilderness in America. It is the source of fresh air, clean rivers and drinking water for millions. It provides extraordinary outdoor recreation for residents and visitors from across the region. It is ingrained as part of the heritage of all New Yorkers.
Preserving and protecting the Catskill Park should be an objective we can all agree upon. We can ensure the park is protected against threats to its pristine nature—now and in the future. The time is right to declare the Catskill Park off-limits to any industrial activity that could harm the natural environment of one of our state’s most precious resources. It’s time to secure the legacy of the Catskill Park.
Learn more at
www.SavetheCatskillPark.org www.cityandstateny.com | May 7, 2012
E X P E R T R O U N DTA B L E : E n v i r o n m E n t JOE MARTENS
Commissioner, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Chairman, Senate Environmental Conservation Committee
Chairman, New York City Council Environmental Conservation Committee
New York City Deputy Mayor for Operations
Q: What is the time frame for the state’s review of hydrofracking? JM: We have a mountain of comments that have been sorted, categorized by subject areas, and distributed to staff, affecting probably five divisions here at DEC. When I say a mountain, it really is a mountain of comments. The volume of 66,000 comments is just huge. There are lots of boxes. Staff has started not just reviewing them but writing responses to them. I’m not on a particular time frame. We are just doing it as rapidly and as rigorously as possible. We’re going to be thorough about this. We’re going to answer the questions and respond to all of them, and it’s just a monumental task. We’re going to do it right. I said earlier this year my hope is it’s a matter of months—and we’re right in the middle of the process. We’ve probably got 56 staff or so working on nothing but the responses to comments. Q: But you’ve said you hope to finish it over the course of the summer? JM: That is my goal. I get killed every time I say any specific time because then everyone hangs on that time. We’re plowing through this as efficiently as we possibly can. Every time we hit an issue that we have differences of opinion between different divisions, we go through those very thoroughly. We have internal meetings, we talk about it and then we come up with an approach. It’s not as if [for each of] these comments there’s a single staff member who writes a singular response to it. It’s an intensive process. Q: Of the more than 66,000 comments, how many has DEC gone through? JM: I think most of the comments have been gone through and reviewed. How many draft responses we have, I’m not sure. Q: If this is approved, any thoughts on when drilling could start? JM: Once we complete the process, if we complete it this summer, I think we have 71 applications in the queue, and they would need to go back to the drawing board, because their applications would not be responsive to a new set of rules. I think all the companies anticipate that. They’ll have to amend it and resubmit it and we’ll review it. Some will be much more straightforward, and it could be approved in a much shorter time frame.
Q: Tell me about the hydrofracking legislation you’ve introduced. MG: The first piece of legislation prohibits public-owned treatments works from accepting wastewater associated with the exploration, development and production of natural gas from hydrofracking. The reason is, there are certain hydrocarbons in those chemicals that actually destroy the microorganisms that are in the public treatment facility plants that would render it useless to treat water as it does now. The second one prohibits the use of the wastewater and the salt and the content that’s with it from road and land spreading. The next one creates an oil and gas waste tracking program stronger than the one proposed in the draft SGEIS report. If they’re calling it medical waste, you have to track as if it’s hazardous waste. The next one is strengthening notification requirements for unauthorized wastewater discharge. That’s if there are any accidents or leakage from a truck. And then the last one, which was brought to my attention by the EPA, is to create a geographic information system to provide information to the public concerning what is going on in the gas and oil production well space; in other words, time frames. When is a well going to be started, the process of the well, how many are on a site—basically giving the public information on the progress on each well or wellhead. Q: Are you looking at anything beyond that? MG: We’re also looking at the health impact side of it. It’s hard to do a health impact study in New York State when you’re not actually doing the drilling, but I believe there is a committee reviewing the health impacts on other states that are doing drilling. Q: If these bills are passed, do you think hydrofracking could be done safely in the state? MG: No, I haven’t made a determination or not. Right now there is a regulatory moratorium, there’s no money in the budget, there’s a ban on it and there’s no permits being issued. So I’m waiting for the SGEIS to come out. The reason why I have those five pieces of legislation—in the draft SGEIS there’s nothing like that in there. And when I was talking to people through my own hearings, if this process did go forward, public notification and the water and things like that were a concern. So we’ll see.
Q: You recently held a hearing on climate change. What are you looking to do? JM: This was a hearing on a bill that follows up on an earlier action by Mayor Bloomberg in 2008 to put together a climate-change panel that would consider all the science and do some of the science regarding what the city could be facing with regard to climate change and sea level rising and all that. From 2008 to 2010 they did a report used by the mayor’s climate-change task force. PlaNYC now calls for this panel to be reconstituted and continue to perform that function on an ongoing basis. This is something I also want to see, so I wrote a bill that would do that. I don’t think we’ll have much trouble moving it forward. Q: What can the city do to boost its recycling rate? JM: Recently the Council passed a bill that greatly expanded the amount of plastics that can be recycled to make it less confusing for folks. Any kind of hard plastic item, you no longer have to turn the thing over and see whether it has recycling signs on it that say, like, No. 1 or No. 2. Anything that’s hard and plastic can be recycled, and people should be putting those in their recycling bin. This is something the Council and the Bloomberg administration are deeply committed to as we work through all the issues related to solid-waste management. Q: What are your top priorities with a little over a year and a half left in office? JM: We always have a bunch of things going. The thing that the Council and the Bloomberg administration want is to meet the goals of the greenhouse-gasreduction law that we passed in 2008, which is to decrease the city’s overall greenhouse gases by 30 percent in the governmental sector by 2017, and by 30 percent from all sources by 2030. The way to do that is really to go after where the greenhouse gases are coming from, which is buildings. We’ve been taking recommendations of the Green Codes Task Force, and this is critically important to meet the mandates of that act. And it’s not just reducing greenhouse gases. There’s a real local benefit to the reduction of air pollutants.
Q: How will the city double its recycling rate? CH: We’re basically going to reinvent how we communicate to New Yorkers about recycling. We’re making infrastructure investments. There’s a recycling facility that’s under construction right now in South Brooklyn that the city is going to partner in, where we are going to be able to increase the kinds of plastics that will get recycled. We’re going to increase the stream of what can be recycled. Fifteen percent of the city’s waste is food waste, and right now we really don’t have a comprehensive plan for capturing that stream. Some institutions, organizations and restaurants are very conscientious and do a good job, and on the city side some institutions and universities are doing things like experimenting with new composting technology. Q: What is the city doing already? CH: There are many greenmarkets throughout the city sponsored by GrowNYC that’s been around for a while. We helped to fund them. They have now expanded the collection of compost, and we’re going to continue that. So we’re going to be capturing gradually more of this stream. But what we really need is to tackle the question of how do we on a scale that is going to be meaningful capture that. Q: The city’s waste-to-energy pilot program is part of this effort. Will it be a tough sell? CH: At the pre-bidders conference, we had, like, a hundred people who were interested in getting the details about this RFP. The technology in this area has improved by leaps and bounds over the last 20 years. People are excited at the prospect that New York could be leading the way to bring this technology at a meaningful scale to the United States. The RFP requires there be a plan as part of any proposal for community engagement where they expect to put this, and consideration for emissions and all of the environmental standards. At the end of the day a proposer, by doing all those things, is going to show that a facility can be compatible with whatever environment they’re going to propose to put it in. New Yorkers want clean energy, and thanks to PlaNYC and the mayor there is more of an awareness than ever before that the city is going to have to deal with its problems in a way that doesn’t involve shipping most of it to be buried somewhere else. firstname.lastname@example.org
May 7, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
STAT E O F O U R STAT E
Kenneth Adams, Mike Elmendorf, Michael Likosky and Thomas Madison.
STATE OF OUR STATE Highlights from City & State’s conference exploring key state issues
n city & State’s inaugural “State of Our State” forum, key policymakers, experts and advocates weighed in on the opportunities and challenges facing the state in three critical areas: healthcare and Medicaid; energy exploration and development; and public-private partnerships. What follows are edited highlights from the day’s discussion.
SESSiOn 1: HEAlTHcARE And MEdicAid Q: How would a health exchange work in New York—or would we even have one if the Supreme Court nullifies the Affordable Care Act? Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, chair of the Assembly Health committee: The governor’s executive order is not keyed to the Affordable Care Act. So, by the terms of his executive order, if the ACA were either struck down or repealed tomorrow, unless he changes his executive order, the exchange would go forward. 20
James Tallon, president of the United Hospital Fund: If they ruled against the mandate and threw out all the insurance provisions, you wouldn’t have the subsidies that are integral to bringing people into the exchange, and you wouldn’t have the federal flows of money that are helping the state set up the exchange. So, without getting into any other questions, the exchange that’s envisioned under the law drafted in New York under the executive order would be operating absent federal law under very different terms.
May 7, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
Q: What if we cannot make this work? Gottfried: I am as convinced as can be that we cannot make it work. There’s an old Chinese expression that you cannot carve rock in wood. That is why I believe ultimately we are going to have to—and should, and I’m doing whatever I can to—move to a single-payer health-coverage system, because I don’t think our current system can be made good.
SESSiOn 2: EnERGy ExplORATiOn And dEvElOpMEnT
THiS EvEnT wAS SpOnSOREd by
Q: We’re at a critical time for energy in New York. How critical is it? dennis Holbrook, director of the independent Oil and Gas Association of new york: We are in a crisis mode. We have waited for coming up now on four years. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about drilling in New York, while the rest of the country has moved forward. I fully respect a process that says we want to make sure the science is sound. But that’s been the characteristic of New York for many decades in terms of [the Department of Environmental Conservation’s] oversight of the oil and gas industry. Why we suddenly put this major roadblock up, and say
nothing can take place until this study that seems to be endless, I don’t think there’s a rational scientific explanation.
continued on page 22
DEVELOPING NATURAL GAS, CREATING JOBS, PROTECTING NATURAL RESOURCES
Across the country, natural gas is creating good paying jobs and helping to revitalize the economy. And advances in technology are helping us protect the air by reducing emissions, protect land by reducing our production footprint and protect water by using reinforced cement and steel-encased drilling systems that go thousands of feet below fresh-water tables.
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STAT E O F O U R STAT E continued from page 20
Sen. George Maziarz, chair of the Senate Energy Committee: The status of energy today, on a scale of 1 to 10, we’re probably at a 4. Clearly there’s a transmission problem in New York. We have the capacity for a lot of generation in upstate New York, and can’t move it downstate. One of the positives we do have is stability in the executive branch. We’ve had three governors in five years, and now we’ve got some stability in the executive branch sending consistent signals to the Legislature on what we can do. Jackson Morris, senior policy adviser at the Pace Energy and Climate Center: The decisions that we make regarding a lot of generation that’s inefficient and old and should have gone away a long time ago needs to be replaced by cleaner resources, and those pieces are starting to fall into place. What happens between now and 2020 is really going to define the face of energy in New York for the next 50 years. And a big piece of that absolutely has to be the pieces that are coming into place regarding solar, because we are falling behind in that area. Q: Is transmission one of the state’s major energy challenges? Matthew Cordaro, co-chair of the Suffolk County Legislature LIPA Oversight Committee: Transmission has been the orphan in the energy problem arena for quite a long time. It hasn’t been lucrative for the utilities to invest in transmission. They don’t get as much return out of it. It’s been neglected. Transmission is very difficult to permit, even before construction. Many people don’t recognize that there is more opposition to transmission than to power plants because they traverse hundreds of miles with many communities along those right-of-ways. Q: Will the Indian Point nuclear power plant be relicensed? Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, chair of the Assembly Energy Committee: It is entirely likely that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will do what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has always done, and that is relicense the facility. But at 22
“We’re doing investments in South America or in Germany, but we can’t come 20 miles up the hudson River and invest it in a truly New York State asset until we get a new law in place.” what cost to Entergy? What will be extracted from them in order to do so, and not only at the NRC level but at the DEC level, where they have to comply with New York? Ultimately the question we ought to be dealing with as a matter of public policy is not, Are we willing to take a bet on what the NRC is going to do? What we ought to be determining is, If Indian Point closes, can we handle it? We can handle it handily. Our duty is to be prepared for it should they make the decision not to relicense or to close down sooner. Maziarz: You can’t take that much power off the grid in that area of the state where you have the most need. A lot of these costs the NRC is going pass off to Entergy, which in turn means ratepayers are going to have to pay for it. I think it will be relicensed and be there for some time into the future. Q: Is the New York Energy Highway aimed at replacing Indian Point? Francis Murray, president and executive director of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority: It’s a much larger issue we’re trying to focus upon. Now, what does or does not happen with regard to Indian Point may be a factor in terms of what an individual developer may suggest to us. Secondly, the governor has made it clear that from his perspective investment in energy infrastructure is critical to the state’s economic growth. He is not going to do anything that’s going to jeopardize the overall reliability of the electric
May 7, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
system here in New York State. SESSION 3: PUbLIC-PRIvATE PARTNERShIPS Q: Who invests in public-private partnerships? Thomas Madison, president of the New York State Thruway Authority: Ironically, in New York we have this enormous public employee retirement system, a $140 million or so that it’s investing in infrastructure assets in other places in the United States and in other countries around the world. We’re doing investments in South America or in Germany, but we can’t come 20 miles up the Hudson River and invest it in a truly New York State asset until we get a new law in place. Q: What will pave the way for public-private partnerships in New York? Mike Elmendorf, president of the Associated General Contractors of New York State: You need the authority to do it. The governor’s there. Design-build was a huge, significant step forward. When we travel around the country and talk to our colleagues in other states and say, “Hey, this is great, we got design-build authorization in December,” they kind of laugh at you, because we’re in the dark ages when it comes project delivery. There’s a whole bunch of other tools that ought to be in the toolbox in terms of delivering these projects. P3 is one of them. Like design-build, you need to have the legal authority
(Top) Susan Arbetter, Richard Gottfried and James Tallon. (Above) Jackson Morris, Francis Murray, Kevin Cahill, Matthew Cordaro, Dennis Holbrook and George Maziarz. (DylAn for these agencies that go out and do the procurement. To do that, you’ve got to have the framework. The Senate has moved, and the problem, frankly, has been in the Assembly. Q: Who should oversee these projects? Michael Likosky, director of the Center for Law and Public Finance at NYU: It’s best that the projects come up through the regional councils.… The value of the New York Works Task Force is you really want to raise the bar on financing; you want someone to go through. You really want to have your P3s and your infrastructure to have that central decision-making as well. Q: Will the state be giving away assets with little accountability?
Kenneth Adams, president of the Empire State Development Corporation: Let’s remember that government always retains control of these projects. You can have the authority to engage in public-private partnerships, and at the moment of negotiating a concession agreement—which is in effect when government is going to concede a portion of an existing asset or an asset to be built, and share in responsibilities and maintenance and financial benefits and so on—there is a specific concession agreement that says terms and conditions, and the theory should usually be, pay for performance. So government retains control to judge performance. And if performance isn’t met, and there’s a violation of that agreement, government pulls back the asset. email@example.com
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WHO’S ON FIRST? The likely culprit is a political/cultural witch’s brew that goes well beyond the acknowledged list of problems. It’s everywhere—state, county, city, town and village—and it’s the reason why we’re By RICHARD BRODSKY going to face a day of reckoning sooner onkers. Suffolk. Rockland. rather than later. For now let’s call it “bogus Newburgh. Erie. Nassau. The list of budgeting.” It’s an unspoken compact New York municipalities teetering between political leaders, voters, busion the brink of financial disaster is getting ness and labor interests, and the financial longer. At first glance it’s hard to find the community that yields annual budgets where recurring expenses common traits that got them exceed recurring revenues. there. At second glance it’s In other words, government even harder to locate any provides public services today statewide effort to figure out by paying for them tomorrow. what’s going on and what to The trick is achieved through do about it. gimmicks like borrowing to Yonkers is a relatively pay for current operating costs, stable and economically use of onetime revenues to pay prosperous city. Newburgh for operating costs and the sale is neither. Nassau has an Richard Brodsky of assets with the proceeds average household income of over $70,000, Erie about half that. There’s going to operating costs. It is the accumua similar spread on other demographic lated weight of those practices that has us and economic indicators. Politically the headed for disaster. There’s an interesting debate to be had leadership of these communities has been roughly split between Democrats about how this happened. For 30 years the and Republicans over the last 20 years. If public and both parties decided that the poverty and politics don’t explain it, what’s highest political priority was tax reduction. But neither party—nor the public— the common denominator?
“Bogus budgeting” has led New York to its current crisis
would accept service reductions at the same level. “Tax and spend” economics was rejected and “borrow and spend” policies were substituted. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a real place for public sector debt. But it’s supposed to be for capital investment, for improving the physical and social infrastructure of our communities, not for paying government salaries. And Tea Party austerity is a lousy economic theory, even on its best days. But a vigorous public sector, sound investment in our future and economic stimulation are not an excuse for doing what always fails. You can’t borrow your way to a stable economy. If the public and the political leadership and the unions and the chambers of commerce and the banks want schools, hospitals, parks, highways, bridges, subways, colleges, clean air and water and the myriad things that Americans expect in their daily lives, we’re going to have to pay for them. It’s that simple. Mindless opposition to tax increases won’t solve the problem. Hope that the economy will magically revert to the time of surplus won’t pay the bills. Insistence on levels of services and benefits that we can’t afford will make things worse. Our political theories are exhausted, and events are
about to overtake us. There are practical and concrete things that can be done now, even as we change the budgeting culture. The most important thing would be for the governor and the Legislature to enact, this session, a requirement that every municipality and school district have a public four-year financial plan. That’s the first step on the path to the truth. It is a classic American political dilemma, and it awaits leaders who see the political benefits to telling the hard truths that will begin the reconstruction of our governments and communities. We won’t be able to patch up, one-shot, borrow or gimmick our way out of it. Control boards and bankruptcies loom. Budget imbalances are turning into insolvencies. Who’s on first? Richard Brodsky is a Senior Fellow at Demos, a NYC-based think tank, and at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service. He served in the Assembly until 2010 and chaired the Corporations and Environmental Protection committees. He appears regularly as a contributing editor on WRNN-TV and on Fox Business Network.
IMAGINING ‘KELLY FOR MAYOR’ That is why New Yorkers desperately need and deserve a better, independent and capable alternative to those currently running. There is no question that New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly would fill the bill. By SUSAN DEL PERCIO Since Kelly has not said one way or the other if he is going to run, and all we have n a speech explaining his decision to veto the disastrous—job-killing— is hype and speculation, why not add to prevailing-wage bill, Mayor Michael that speculation an attempt to take a Bloomberg said, “The so-called living- glimpse at what a Kelly run would look like? Beginning with: Would and prevailing-wage bills are he change his registration and a throwback to the era when become a Republican? government viewed the Should Kelly run, it private sector as a cash cow should be as an indepento be milked, rather than a dent, because that is exactly garden to be cultivated.” what he is. That will not This throwback era was the exclude the five GOP counera of New York clubhouse ties from cross-endorsing politicians. It was also the era him and giving him a when politics trumped policy “Wilson Pakula,” a quirky and pandering coupled with ballot-access requirement. political payback was stan- Susan Del Percio This may upset some Repubdard operating procedure for New York City politicians. And looking at licans, but they did it for Mayor Bloomthe top contenders for the 2013 mayoral berg, who changed his registration and race, who all come from one Democratic became an enrolled Republican, though clubhouse or another, all of them also he never truly embraced the Republican appear to be a throwback to that very Party. Sure, he doled out lots of money, but in the end he switched his regissame era.
How the NYPD commissioner could make it happen
MAY 7, 2012 | www.cityandstateny.com
tration, did not enroll in any party and became exactly what he is, an independent. If Republicans have a problem with Kelly being an independent, they should search out a registered Republican and support him or her. Otherwise, they should put New York City ahead of party and support the person they believe will be best to lead the city. Next, would he run as “Ray Kelly” or “Commissioner Kelly”? It sound silly to ask, but it will be this distinction that will set the tone for his candidacy. As Commissioner Kelly he will only be labeled as the law-and-order candidate; he must expand on that brand. In order to do that, he needs to move past the commissioner title and become more personable and approachable. Only as Ray Kelly can he separate himself from— but not run away from—Mayor Bloomberg, and expand on his own ideas for the economy, education and so on. Running for mayor is much different from running a business or a police department. It requires a completely different temperament. Many have questioned how he will handle the unrelenting questions on issues like stopand-frisk and other policing issues in
minority communities. This won’t be an issue; Mr. Kelly has an outstanding record that he has never shied away from, and he wouldn’t be likely to start now. However, what can be a significant issue is how he will handle fundraising. While it is true many big-name money people are supportive of a Kelly candidacy and will be very helpful with fundraising, they can’t do it all, especially since the race could cost upwards of $20 million. Every politician hates raising money, and it is a good bet that Kelly will hate dialing for dollars more than most. Without a doubt a Kelly candidacy would be great for New Yorkers, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it would be great for him. Running for elective office is a very difficult thing to do, and running for the mayor of New York City is even more grueling. And while Kelly has seen these challenges up close and personal during his tenure with Bloomberg, seeing it and doing it are two different things. Susan Del Percio is a New York-based Republican strategist and founder of Susan Del Percio Strategies, a full-service strategic communications firm.
ITâ€™S ALL IN
tay plugged into New York politics all day long with The Notebook, the new political blog from City & State. Led by political writer Chris Bragg with contributions from the entire City & State staff, The Notebook is City & Stateâ€™s new online home for breaking news and sharp analysis of the shifting sands of campaigns and elections in New York.
JANUARY 23, 2012
B AC K & F O R T H
HULK SMASH HYDROFRACKING! Back and Forth with Mark Ruffalo
n The Avengers movie that opened this past weekend, Mark Ruffalo plays the Incredible Hulk, a creature born from a scientific experiment gone awry who joins a team of superheroes seeking to save the world. The risks of scientific progress and efforts to save the planet are also at play in his real-world battle against hydraulic fracturing, Ruffalo tells City & State. What follows is an edited transcript.
City & State: How did you become involved in fracking activism? Mark Ruffalo: I heard about hydrofracking before I moved my family to New York, and I thought it was going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. It was going to bring this vibrant new economy to upstate New York. But I also started to hear some questionable things about it. So I went to the old Internet and started doing some research. At this time, there was very little to learn. The gas industry is very rosy and extremely positive. There were inklings from EPA
whistleblowers and people in Wyoming whose homes were filling with gas and were coming up with these neurological disorders from the drinking water. So I decided, “I have to go look at this for myself.” CS: Where did you go? MR: I went to Dimock, Pa. It wasn’t really to find anything wrong. It was just to see what was going on. But in a room of 40 people, it became clear to me that these people were under siege in their life, and the American dream was betrayed. What about the EPA? The EPA wouldn’t
allow something like this to happen. Well, this isn’t regulated by the EPA, really. Well, what about the DEP? Well, they’ve pretty much turned their back on us. What about your attorney general? They’re not interested. There were victims there, and basically they were being told they were lying. You had these Americans who obviously had a problem, and everybody turned their backs on them. I didn’t want to get involved, honestly. But if I am who I say—I care about people and I care about injustice—then I realized this is coming to my community, where there are people that I love and I care for, and it can’t happen like this. CS: But fracking could create jobs in New York’s poorer regions. MR: There’s only a fraction of the jobs the industry says they’ll cre-
ate. They tend to be incredibly transient. Cornell did a study last year on what the effects would be, especially in small communities that rely on pristine water and pristine air. A lot of these communities Ruffalo have only agriculture and tourism to support them. What happens is the community is left worse off after the bust. A few people end up making a lot of money. It doesn’t make its way out to the rest of the community. The workers leave. The area is left with less economic diversity. It kills off other industries. I understand that we’re in bad times. The other thing that’s interesting to point out is the fastest growing job sector right now in the United States, at 10–18 percent a year, is the green sector, or the
renewable-energy sector. CS: In your experience, are people aware of the hydrofracking issue? MR: When I started three years ago, I just thought, There’s no way. We’re done for. We have the biggest industries in the world; we have Exxon Mobil and Chesapeake just dumping so much money. It was a done deal. Thousands of families have reported contamination now. These people are poor, they’re desperate. When their wells become contaminated, their properties become worthless. They turn to the gas industry, and the gas industry says, “We didn’t contaminate your well, but we will buy you out and give you water if you
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sign a nondisclosure agreement.” We will never know these people’s stories. You have people in Dimock, and some people in Wyoming now, these mothers whose children have come down with asthma and weird autoimmune-deficiency diseases, whose school is right next to compressor stations, and they’re getting together and they’re starting to get their stories out. They’re not taking the short money, which is what we’re seeing in Dimock. They’re saying, “No, we’re going to live through this, we’ve been wronged, and we’re going to get our stories out.” It’s very different now than it was even a year ago. Fracking is a national issue. There’s a lot of new information coming out, and the longer this goes on, the more we’re going to find out how damning it is. CS: What has been the most rewarding part of your activism on this issue to date? MR: I have to say what I wrote when this first started happening, in my local newspaper.
The title of it was called “Thank God for Hydrofracking.” And people thought that was a crazy thing. What I saw was, and this came from my experiences in Pennsylvania, was that what we were seeing was the quality and character of a community. And we were going to be tested on what we were made of as a community. Were we willing to basically screw our neighbors to make a buck, knowing that there’s a good chance that their well water could be contaminated? The problem with the whole property-rights movement around this is that these people are drilling 5,000 feet out from their properties, so they’re drilling into every other property that abuts them for a mile. And now you’ve infringed on my property rights. When that gas and that methane is seeping out of those casings and ending up in my well, you’ve infringed on my property rights. So the community suffers. What I’m seeing is these incredibly brave people who are really Americans who are standing up for something
that’s right, who aren’t selling themselves out for the short money, who have an idea that’s bigger than It’s just me against you, and I’m going to get mine and you can screw off. CS: Are there similarities between The Avengers and the fight against hydrofracking? MR: Superheroes have always been the guys that fight for the common good. That’s what I responded to as a kid. They always fought for the little guy. That’s what this fight is about. If the gas industry was just honest about what they do and how they do it, they wouldn’t have such a nightmare on their hands. I am beginning to feel like the only way they can make money is to do it the way they’re doing, to bypass regulations, to lie when contamination happens, to manipulate the markets. Now we’re seeing Aubrey McClendon and Chesapeake and the whole thing of them manipulating the markets, and lying to their investors. If they could do this safely and in a way that was aboveboard, then they
would do it. So you have a malicious, malign force out there that’s doing damage and in some way needs to be stopped. And that’s the kind of thing that superheroes come to the rescue to. The superheroes today are my neighbors. CS: You play the Incredible Hulk, who was created by a freak accident during a bomb test. Does that kind of cautionary tale relate to hydrofracking and its repercussions? MR: There’s a long line of scientific experiments gone bad in history and in storytelling, and it’s something we go back to all the time. It’s all over the comic books. It’s in our consciousness and our subconscious as a culture. We personify it in our mythologies as superheroes and we live next to it in our lives, such as Fukushima and what’s happening at Dimock. This is a struggle that will continue to go on as we become more desperate for this type of carbon energy. Long gone are the days when we simply stick a straw in the ground and get beautiful
concentrated carbon energy percolating to the surface with very little impact to the area around us. Now we’ve entered the era of extreme energy extraction: It’s hydrofracking, it’s deep-sea drilling, it’s mountaintop removal, it’s tar sands. These are the new norm, and they’re incredibly dangerous, incredibly toxic, and they’re accelerating global warming at an unprecedented rate. And that’s what we’re going to be stuck with. Just like the superhero disasters. CS: I know you’re in a hurry— and I really don’t want to make you angry and have you turn into the Hulk—but did you have a favorite superhero as a kid? MR: The Hulk. The TV show was my favorite, with Bill Bixby. I loved that show. CS: So it’s come full circle? MR: Yeah. I got lucky. In a lot of ways.
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“My daddy’s working up there.” Construction workers—and their families—are counting on our state leaders to help them stay safe on the job by protecting New York’s Scaffold Law. According to the most recent federal data available, onthe-job accidents took the lives of 37 New York State construction workers. Compounding the tragedy: devastating accidents like this can be prevented, but too often prevention takes a back seat to corporate profits. When irresponsible contractors cut corners on safety because they know they can get away with it, it’s not just their employees who pay the price. We need to work to make sure New Yorkers are kept safer from construction accidents.
New York State’s Scaffold Law was designed to protect construction workers—and their families—and to keep the public safe. It holds contractors and owners accountable for enforcing work site safety rules and regulations. Unfortunately, some builders, contractors, insurers and other special interests are trying to dodge their responsibilities by pressuring the State Legislature to erode the Scaffold Law. For all of our sakes, state leaders must continue to protect workers and all New Yorkers by keeping the Scaffold Law strong.
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Published on May 7, 2012
The May 7, 2012 issue of City and State . Targeting the politicians, lobbyists, unions, staffers and issues which shape New York City and S...