Trumps EPA Pledges to clean up NYC’s Most Radioactive Site – But Funding in Question.

WNYC. November 7th, 2017


The Trump administration is taking on its first Superfund cleanup in New York City – that is, assuming it has the money.

Last month, a $40 million plan to remediate a radioactive site in Queens where highly toxic materials were once poured into city sewers was unveiled by local officials of the Environmental Protection Agency. Known as Wolff-Alport for the chemical firm that was once located there, the site sits on an industrial stretch in the Ridgewood neighborhood of Queens. About three-quarters of an acre in size, the site currently houses a deli, an auto-shop and four other businesses. The E.P.A. counts a public school, a bar and some 300 residences within the site’s immediate vicinity.

Wolff-Alport, the newest of the city’s three designated Superfunds, was added to the E.P.A.’s Superfund priority list in 2014. The move came after surveys identified radioactivity throughout the property, including below public sidewalks and streets and in nearby sewers.

Going after such sites has been declared a priority for new E.P.A. administrator Scott Pruitt, a former attorney general of Oklahoma whose views on the environment make him one of the President’s most controversial appointees. Before assuming the post, Pruitt sued the agency repeatedly and still maintains that climate change is not the result of human activity.

But if he’s a climate change doubter, Pruitt has proclaimed himself a Superfund believer. In a memo this summer, Pruitt wrote: “My goal as Administrator is to restore the Superfund program to its rightful place at the center of the agency’s core mission.”

Judith Enck, former regional E.P.A. administrator for New York who pushed to get Wolff-Alport on the Superfund list, said she remains skeptical of Pruitt’s public declarations in support of cleaning up these hazardous waste sites.

“You can’t be the E.P.A. administrator and not stand for anything,” Enck said. “So he’s latched on to Superfunds. But at the same time, he’s cutting the budget, so it kind of rings hollow.”

President Donald J. Trump has proposed cutting $327 million – or around a third – of the nation’s annual Superfund budget. At the same time, Pruitt is also seeking to end the E.P.A.’s financial support to the Department of Justice, which holds the polluters of these hazardous waste sites accountable.

Regardless, spokeswoman for the E.P.A Tayler Covington, said that the agency is committed to cleaning up Wolff-Alport.

“There are no plans to change any of the cleanups for the three New York City Superfund sites,” said Covington. “We are in the budgetary process and final funding levels will not be settled until Congress acts.”

But experts on the Superfund program contend that even the current funding levels are still well below what is needed to clean up the nation’s many contaminated sites.

The E.P.A. announced the cleanup plan for Wolff-Alport in late September. The site’s remediation calls for all tenants to be permanently relocated, all buildings to be demolished and sewers to be replaced. The contaminated soil will be transported to a waste landfill.

All told, the cleanup will cost $39.9 million. But exactly where those funds will come from remains a question.

The E.P.A. maintains an account for each Superfund site in which money allocated for the cleanup is held. The Wolff-Alport-designated bank account currently holds just a little over $650,000, Thomas Mongelli, E.P.A. project manager of the site, told WNYC.

Usually, it’s the original polluters who are responsible for picking up the tab for cleanups.

At Newtown Creek, a heavily polluted waterway that borders Brooklyn and Queens, six potentially responsible polluters have been identified. The Gowanus Canal in southern Brooklyn has more than 30 known polluters. Wolff-Alport, on the other hand, is considered in E.P.A. terminology an “orphan," which means that the original polluter is defunct and can’t be relied upon for payment.

“There is a good chance that most of this money is going to need to come from the federal Superfund program and federal Superfund is running on fumes,” Enck said.

Beginning in the 1980s, a tax on Superfund polluters amassed funds for cleanup in a trust account. But that provision expired around 1995, and the account has since languished. Although there are no official estimates of the cost to clean up all of the country’s polluted sites, Kate Probst, author of a report to Congress, “Superfund’s Future: What Will It Cost?," said the $280 million account balance is woefully insufficient.

Although annual congressional appropriations for Superfunds were meant to compensate for the trust account’s decline, these appropriations have also steadily dwindled. Federal contributions for Superfund cleanup have fallen from $2.1 billion in 1999, to an annual budget of $1.2 billion by 2013, according to the Office of Government Accountability.

This shortfall has stunted the cleanup work at the nation’s most contaminated sites, Probst said. “If they had more money, they probably would have cleaned up more sites, or gotten construction completed on more sites. We know the number of cleanups are slowing,” she said, adding that she expects there will be more disruptions due to the funding shortages. “That is the tip of the iceberg," Probst said.

City officials are also worried that the feds may be low-balling the costs of cleaning up Wolff-Alport. In an August letter to the E.P.A., Haley Stein, a lawyer with the city’s law department, stated that the city “believes that E.P.A. significantly underestimates the cost and feasibility of implementing its preferred alternative."

City officials declined to detail the reasons for their skepticism.

At an E.P.A. meeting about the site in Queens this summer, a handful of residents also expressed concerns about the Trump administration’s plan to cut the Superfund budget and how that would affect Wolff-Alport’s cleanup.

Walter Mugdan, acting deputy regional administrator for E.P.A. region 2, was frank in his response.

"Do I know how this site will rank against others? I don’t," Mugdan told residents, according to a transcript of the meeting. "But I do know radioactive materials are [a] serious concern and what we do know is that people are actually being exposed.”

Indeed, The New Yorker, citing government findings, dubbed Wolff-Alport, “The most radioactive place in New York City," in a 2014 video story, which recounts the site’s fascinating history.

In the 1920s, business partners Harry Wolff and Max Alport founded the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company. At the factory, workers processed monazite sand to extract rare earth metals – a highly toxic procedure. By the 1940s, the Atomic Energy Commission, the successor of the Manhattan Project, started buying radioactive thorium from the site. In the 1950s, the factory shuttered.

Norman Kleiman, director of the Eye Radiation and Environmental Research Laboratory at Columbia University, said the E.P.A. had an obligation to clean up the site. Radiation there is "well above the average terrestrial exposure even in New York City,” Kleinman told WNYC.

"People are especially concerned about exposure,” Kleinman added, “and from a public policy and public health point of view, it’s important to allay fear."

He said risks to passersby and casual visitors to the site are likely minimal, however. "We get radiation from the sun, from the stars, so we live and are bathed in a radioactive world,”Kleinman said.

But for those who labor at the site everyday, the risks associated with Wolff-Alport’s radiation are higher.

On a sunny, autumn afternoon, Alberto Rodriguez, owner of Los Primos Auto Body Repair and Sale, was especially busy with cars to fix. His shop is one of the businesses that the E.P.A. has said will need to relocate.

Rodriguez said he has yet to hear from the federal agency as to when he has to move or how much compensation he’ll receive.

He’s also concerned about the years he’s spent at the radioactive site.

“I’m worried because this doesn’t just happen immediately, especially things like cancer,” Rodriguez, who is originally from the Dominican Republic, said in Spanish. “It happens over time.”

Over the years, there were numerous warnings about the site’s toxicity. In the 1980s, the E.P.A. reviewed the old chemical site but did not take immediate action. But in 2012, a report by the federal Department of Health and Human Services found that “pedestrians who frequently use the sidewalks of Irving Avenue may have an elevated cancer risk from exposure to ionizing radiation.”

After reading that report, Enck said she rushed to convene city, state and E.P.A. officials to begin working on a cleanup plan. “It seems like government agencies knew about the contamination for quite a long time,” Enck said.

In 2014, the E.P.A. installed large steel and concrete slabs over hotspots where radioactive waste remains buried.

The federal agency estimates that the cleanup will take 17 months – a pretty quick timeline. One of Pruitt’s main priorities at Superfunds is redevelopment, and he says his first goal in this effort is “expediting cleanup.”

But this focus on speed and development has some environmental experts concerned.

“I, like many people, was struck by the number of recommendations that had to do with redevelopment and reuse,” Probst said, referring to Pruitt’s Superfund task force. “Are they going to decrease cleaning standards? To the extent that you’re allocating funds to redevelopment and reuse, and you don’t have as much money as you need, it’s a zero sum game – if they’re going to reuse, they’re not going to something else.”

Besides being an “orphan” in the technical sense, Wolff-Alport is also an orphan in terms of neighborhood concern. There are few residents involved at the site and no organized community groups.

While the other two city Superfunds – Newtown Creek and Gowanus Canal – are farther along in the cleanup process, residents and nonprofits are monitoring the work there.

For example, the Gowanus Canal has an active community advisory groupand residents who meet regularly to discuss the site.

Katia Kelly, who lives nearby, runs a blog where she chronicles the stages of the Gowanus’s cleanup.

“If residents are involved and care enough to take part in the process, cleanups move forward quicker,” Kelly said. “We still try to have the community’s voice heard against the special interest groups and organizations.”


EPA Recognizes Excellence and Innovation in Clean Water Infrastructure
EPA Recognizes Excellence and Innovation in Clean

Water Infrastructure

Contact: David Kluesner, 212-637-3653, E-mail Dave

NEW YORK, N.Y. (October 31, 2017) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized 28 clean water infrastructure projects for excellence and innovation within the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program. Honored projects include large wastewater infrastructure projects to small decentralized and agriculture projects.

EPA’s Performance and Innovation in the SRF Creating Environmental Success (PISCES) program celebrates innovation demonstrated by CWSRF programs and assistance recipients. The CWSRF is a federal-state partnership that provides communities a permanent, independent source of low-cost financing for a wide range of water quality infrastructure projects. Over the past 30 years, CWSRF programs have provided more than $125 billion in financing for water quality infrastructure.

“For decades the Clean Water State Revolving Fund has supported critical water infrastructure projects that help grow the American economy and support our way of life,” said Mike Shapiro, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “These projects are a testament to the power of the Clean Water State Revolving Fund in leveraging investment to meet the country’s diverse clean water needs.”

Twenty-eight projects by state or local governments, public utilities, and private entities were recognized by the 2017 PISCES program. In EPA Region 2, the following projects were recognized:

Honorable Mention

  • New Jersey: Green Infrastructure CSO Initiative – City of Hoboken

Recognized Excellence

  • New York: New Rochelle WWTP Upgrades – Westchester County

More about each of these projects and the PISCES program can be found: PISCES


E.P.A. Announces Repeal of Major Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule

New York Times, October 11th, 2017


WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Tuesday that Scott Pruitt, the chief of the agency, had signed a measure to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, setting up a bitter fight over the future of America’s efforts to tackle global warming.

Mr. Pruitt, who had signaled the move at an event with coal miners in eastern Kentucky on Monday, said in a news release that his predecessors had departed from regulatory norms in writing the Clean Power Plan, which was finalized in 2015 and would have pushed states to move away from coal in favor of sources of electricity that produce fewer carbon emissions.

Describing the Obama-era regulation as the “so-called Clean Power Plan,” the E.P.A. statement said that repealing the measure “will also facilitate the development of U.S. energy resources and reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens associated with the development of those resources.”

The repeal proposal, which will be filed in the Federal Register on Tuesday, fulfills a promise President Trump made to eradicate his predecessor’s environmental legacy. Eliminating the Clean Power Plan makes it less likelythat the United States can fulfill its promise as part of the Paris climate agreement to ratchet down emissions that are warming the planet and contributing to heat waves and sea-level rise. Mr. Trump has vowed to abandon that international accord.

It also is a personal triumph for Mr. Pruitt, who as Oklahoma attorney general helped lead more than two dozen states in challenging the rule in the courts. In announcing the repeal, Mr. Pruitt made many of the same arguments that he had made for years to Congress and in lawsuits: that the Obama administration exceeded its legal authority in an effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. (Last year, the Supreme Court blocked the rule from taking effect while courts assessed those lawsuits.) A leaked draft of the repeal proposal asserts that the country would save $33 billion by not complying with the regulation and rejects the health benefits the Obama administration had calculated from the original rule.

Coal- and natural-gas-fired power plants are responsible for about one-third of America’s carbon dioxide emissions. When the Clean Power Plan was unveiled in 2015, it was expected to cut power sector emissions 32 percent by 2030, relative to 2005. While many states are already shifting away from coal power for economic reasons, experts say scrapping the rule could slow that transition.

Environmental groups and several states plan to challenge the repeal proposal in federal courts, arguing against Mr. Pruitt’s move on both scientific and economic grounds.

Industry groups cheered the announcement, but have also indicated that they would prefer that Mr. Pruitt replace the Clean Power Plan with a new, more modest regulation on power plants in order to blunt any court challenges. The E.P.A. is still required to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions because of a 2009 legal opinion known as the endangerment finding.

“We have always believed that there is a better way to approach greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” Karen A. Harbert, the president of the Chamber of Commerce’s Global Energy Institute, said in a statement. “We welcome the opportunity for business to be at the table with the E.P.A. and other stakeholders to develop an approach that lowers emissions, preserves America’s energy advantage and respects the bounds of the Clean Air Act.”

How would targets be changed?

In order to regulate pollution from existing power plants, the E.P.A. has to set goals for each state based on what is technically feasible and cost-effective. Under the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration set targets by assuming utilities could improve the efficiency of their coal plants, shift from coal to cleaner natural gas and add more renewable energy to their grids.

But Mr. Obama’s approach was controversial, because the E.P.A. assumed utilities could reduce emissions at individual plants by taking actions outside of those plants — say, by replacing coal plants with wind farms elsewhere. Industry groups and more than two dozen states challenged this move in court, arguing that the E.P.A. can look only at cleanup measures that can be undertaken at the plants themselves.

Mr. Pruitt is proposing to repeal the Clean Power Plan on this basis. He also argued that the Obama administration overstated the benefits of its rule by factoring in the gains from curbing global warming in other countries as well as from reducing harmful air pollutants other than carbon dioxide.

If Mr. Pruitt does end up pursuing a replacement rule, it would almost certainly be confined to inside-the-fence-line measures, like upgrading coal-plant boilers. Previous E.P.A. analyses found that such upgrades would lead to a roughly 4 percent increase in efficiency at coal plants.

What is the impact on emissions?

While the repeal of the Clean Power Plan offers a reprieve for America’s coal industry, it is unlikely to halt the decline of coal altogether. Even in the absence of the rule, many utilities across the country have opted to shift to natural gas, wind and solar, driven by cost concerns and state-level policies. Many states, like California and New York, are already moving ahead of the targets set by the Clean Power Plan as they develop their own climate policies.

Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, a Democrat, noted that his state planned to exceed the goals that had been set under the Clean Power Plan because the state was closing coal plants early and developing jobs in wind and other renewables.

“We have dramatically cleaner air and we are saving money. My question to the E.P.A. would be, ‘Which part of that don’t you like?’” Mr. Hickenlooper said.

A new analysis by the research firm Rhodium Group estimated that United States electricity emissions are currently on track to fall 27 to 35 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, roughly in the range of what the Clean Power Plan originally envisioned, even if the regulation is repealed.

But John Larsen, the author of the Rhodium Group analysis, estimated that if Mr. Obama’s policies had remained in place, as many as 21 states would have had to make deeper reductions than they are currently expected to do without the rule — including Texas, West Virginia, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — and emissions most likely would have fallen further than the 32 percent originally envisioned.

“So for certain states,” Mr. Larsen wrote, “today’s announcement is a big deal.”

Experts also note that the Clean Power Plan would have prevented a rebound in coal use in case natural gas unexpectedly became more expensive or various policies to promote renewable energy were blunted. The repeal comes on the heels of a proposal by the Department of Energy to subsidize coal and nuclear plants by revamping electricity markets.

Jody Freeman, director of the environmental law program at Harvard Law School, said the Energy Department proposal combined with the Clean Power Plan repeal signaled that the Trump administration was putting its thumb on the scale in favor of fossil fuels.

“You see a pretty powerful message. Disavow any effort to control greenhouse gases in the power sector, and instead, intervene in the market to promote coal. It’s a wow,” she said.

What happens next?

Mr. Pruitt’s proposal for repeal will now have to go through a formal public-comment period before being finalized, a process that could take months. Mr. Pruitt will also ask the public for comment on what a replacement rule should look like, but the E.P.A. has not offered a timeline.

Environmental groups and Democratic-controlled states are expected to challenge these moves on multiple fronts.

The attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts said they intended to sue the E.P.A. once the repeal is finalized.

”Fuel-burning power plants are one of our nation’s largest sources of climate change pollution, and common-sense science — and the law — dictate that E.P.A. take action to cut these emissions,” Eric T. Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, said in a statement. “I will use every available legal tool to fight their dangerous agenda.”

That raises the question of whether the Trump administration can craft and finalize a replacement rule by the 2020 election. Failure to do so, some industry groups worry, could allow a new administration to start over and impose a more stringent climate plan on power plants.

Partly for that reason, many states are already preparing for the prospect of tougher carbon regulations down the road.

Consider Arkansas, one of the states that challenged the Clean Power Plan in court. Ted J. Thomas, the chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, says that his state is nonetheless in the process of shifting from coal to cheaper natural gas. The initial rule also persuaded the state to start exploring clean-energy options, like expanding wind power, promoting the use of smart meters and developing a working group to look at carbon capture technology for coal plants.

“Even if they repeal the Clean Power Plan, or replace it with something that doesn’t require us to do very much, you still have to reckon with the fact that ultimately regulations on carbon are coming,” Mr. Thomas said. “So we need to develop options to deal with that other than sticking our heads in the sand and hoping we can just file lawsuits forever.”

“You can either be prepared or unprepared,” he added, “and that’s a pretty simple choice.”


Paul Yates

8 hours ago

All Caesar’s guest’s arose from their recumbent attitude. "Ye gods! I shall see a burning California city; now I can finish the game,"…

Patriot 1776

8 hours ago

I think we need to change the name of the EPA to the EDA. the Environmental Destruction Agency is a more fitting term for what these evil…


8 hours ago

Clearly, the EPA’s original mission has been aborted. "Callous", "Indifferent", "Contemptuous"; "Self-serving" — this is the Trump/Pruitt…

Rain Rain didn’t go away

Houston Let Developers Build Homes Inside Reservoirs. But No One Warned Buyers.

An extreme example of why resiliency will not work if we continue to allow people to build in flood plains (or in this case a reservoir designed to hold flood water). It’s a long article with the link below, but the bottom line is summarized in this quote from the article: "This is not dumb, bad planning,” he said. “This is very well-thought-out, bad planning."

October 13, 2017

When Jeremy Boutor moved to a master-planned community in Houston’s booming energy corridor, he saw it as idyllic.

Lakes on Eldridge boasted waterfalls, jogging trails and a clubhouse. It was upscale, secure and close to the office. A bus even picked up his two young sons in front of their house and took them to a nearby international school.

“This neighborhood was a paradise,” said Boutor, who moved to Houston from Paris two years ago after his employer, a French-based energy company, asked him to relocate.

Then, Hurricane Harvey changed everything.

As the downpours began and Boutor studied maps flashing on his TV screen, he realized that his home wasn’t at risk of flooding just because of record rainfall; it was also located inside one of two massive reservoirs that had been built west of Houston decades ago to protect the city from catastrophic flooding.

View Full Story From The Texas Tribune

Group highlights Little Neck Bay pollution

Queens Chronicle, October 5th, 2017


The environmental advocacy group Save the Sound has revealed that its tests of Little Neck Bay water this year revealed a large amount of sewage contamination.

During this year’s swim season, the group worked with volunteers to collect water samples from 11 locations in the bay. Among other findings announced last Thursday, Save the Sound said that 42 percent of the samples collected did not meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s criteria for safe swimming water.

Most of the substandard samples collected were taken after rainfall.

“Little Neck Bay faces multiple sewage pollution challenges including antiquated septic systems along the shoreline, combined sewage overflows from NYC and municipal sewage discharges from Nassau County,” Save the Sound Director Tracy Brown said in a statement. “Save the Sound is happy to be working in partnership with the residents of the bay who share our commitment to reducing water pollution. To get lasting results here we also need New York City, Nassau County and NY State Department of Environmental Conservation to commit resources to cleaning up the bay.”

Only 58 percent of the samples collected this year met the agency’s safe swimming criteria; the remainder failed. While far from perfect, the statistics are an improvement from last year’s Little Neck Bay samples tested by Save the Sound: 60 percent of those failed the EPA swimming criteria.

In one part of the bay, though, there has been marked improvement from last year. Going down from 101 last year to 39 this year, the environmental group said the average bacterial count measured from testing water at Douglaston Manor Beach have decreased.

“This season we saw improvement at the Douglaston Manor Beach,” Save the Sound Water Quality Program Manager Peter Linderoth said in a prepared statement. “We want to see this scenario throughout the bay.”

The city Department of Environmental Protection did not return a request for comment about Save the Sound’s findings. Its state government counterpart did, though.

“The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation continues to require the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to construct and expand sewer system improvement projects to lessen the impacts of future Combined Sewer Overflows,” a spokeswoman for the DEC said in an emailed statement. “In fact, such improvements have reduced discharges to Alley Creek and Little Neck Bay by 60 percent per year.”

Douglaston Civic Association President Sean Walsh said that while Little Neck Bay has improved in recent years, he would like to see more done to mitigate the impact of combined sewer overflows, which pollute the body of water when rain overwhelms the sewer system.

“I’d like to see more holding tanks,” he said, explaining that an increase in them would result in less pollution from combined sewer overflows. He added that an expansion of the Tallman Island Wastewater Treatment Plant’s capacity would also be a good idea.

Staten Island deer kill was backed by state and feds, Oddo says

Staten Island Advance, October 4th, 2017


CITY HALL — State and federal authorities supported killing Staten Island deer in order to control the borough herd, officials confirmed.

The feds even undertook an environmental assessment of such a deer "cull" in 2015, but the NYPD "blanched" and the city refused, Borough President James Oddo wrote on Facebook Tuesday.

The Parks Department confirmed Oddo’s account, but said the NYPD didn’t "blanch." A cull was considered unrealistic because Staten Island is still an urban environment and even a controlled slaughter would require large swaths of borough green space to be cordoned off by the NYPD.

Police supervising the hunt would only add to the cost and complexity of the endeavor. Hunting is illegal across the five boroughs, so the city would have to get special state approvals for the kind of massive deer cull demanded by Staten Island’s large herd. And because hunting is illegal, any city slaughter would likely be delayed by potential lawsuits.

Ultimately the city decided to sterilize hundreds of Staten Island bucks. More than 875 vasectomies have been performed on them since the program began last year.

Oddo wrote about officials discussing the deer cull in a Facebook post that linked to an Advance story about an injured deer barging into a clothing shop on New Dorp Lane Monday afternoon. The deer was euthanized.

The borough president said that situations like this "might become more prevalent" during the mating season.

The number of collisions with vehicles tends to increase during the mating season or "rut" for white-tailed deer because bucks and doe are less cautious and are primarily focused on mating. The rut in New York is typically between October and January.

"I have long warned that one day we will see the tragic loss of human life occur," Oddo wrote on Facebook. "It has not yet happened, but it feels inevitable."

Oddo wrote he’s "tried to raise the alarm with literally every level of government."

"We even got the federal, state, and city officials together to discuss a solution that could have included a cull of the population, and the federal government undertook an environmental assessment throughout 2015," Oddo wrote. "In fact, the USDA and State DEC were ready and willing to undertake a cull, similar to what has been done in other jurisdictions similar to Staten Island. This was stopped because the NYPD blanched, the City of New York refused, and activists were waiting on standby to bring lawsuits that some believe would have delayed any action for many years."

Oddo’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for additional comment. The NYPD, U.S. Department of Agriculture and state Department of Environmental Conservation didn’t immediately comment.

"Under the current integrated deer management plan, the City has been able to act as rapidly and humanely as possible to limit the future impacts of deer on Staten Island," Parks Department spokesman Sam Biederman said. "We have sterilized an estimated 90% of the male deer on Staten Island, enhanced driver safety measures and educational efforts, and taken aggressive action to protect Staten Island’s natural resources. And as Borough President Oddo says, awareness is key: Drivers in Staten Island must stay vigilant for deer during rutting season."


An unrestrained deer herd can harm parks and private property, spread tick-borne illness like Lyme disease and wander into roads more often, increasing the risk for deadly vehicle collisions.

Manipulating deer fertility is only permitted by the state as part of scientific research. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, which regulates wildlife, approved the city’s vasectomy program last year.

Parks Department contractor White Buffalo will be paid up to $3.3 million by the city to perform vasectomies over the course of a three-year research program. The second year will be divided into two phases — from Aug. 15 and Oct. 20 and then in winter 2018.

The vasectomy effort is expected to eventually reduce the herd 10 to 30 percent annually, though some wildlife experts thought the plan won’t work because the city is ignoring basic deer biology and conventional herd management practices.

The Parks Department believes the herd is now growing mostly through reproduction, not migration, and sterilizing males instead of females is meant to be faster, cheaper and more humane.

There are between 1,918 and 2,188 deer across Staten Island, according to a estimate from White Buffalo using data from the vasectomy program.

That’s about four times the city’s last count and a 9,000 percent increase in the herd since 2008.


Before deciding on sterilization, city officials reviewed a variety of methods that could be used to manage New York state deer. They were outlined in a federal draft assessment prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and Wildlife Services and released in November 2015.

Lethal solutions included shooting, hunting and euthanizing deer. Non-lethal methods included physically barricading or fencing deer, altering habitats, supplemental feeding to reduce crop damage, relocation, behavior modification with noise or visual stimuli, chemical pesticides or birth control.

De Blasio wouldn’t rule out killing the deer in March 2016, telling the Advance, "I don’t want to presume how we handle it yet until we finish the work of assessing the situation." That was two months before the city unveiled the sterilization plan.

Oddo has previously said lethal methods should be used to control Staten Island deer.

"Any deer management plan that does not take an integrated approach that includes lethal and non-lethal means is tantamount to kicking the can down the road and putting off the tough decisions. It is deciding by not deciding," Oddo said in a statement in March 2016. "Staten Island and Staten Islanders will pay a heavy price for that delay."

Oddo wrote Tuesday, "It seems no one is happy with the current deer situation."

"On the one hand, some want us to do nothing and leave them alone. Those folks cringe when they see bucks that have been tagged as part of the current male sterilization plan," Oddo wrote. "On the other end of the spectrum are those who want more aggressive action by government. Even those who favor the current male sterilization don’t really know what its impact will be."

Gov. Cuomo, stop this gas pipeline

An important climate-change decision right in our backyard

New York Daily News, October 3rd, 2017


Addressing the federal government’s very visible retreat from climate leadership, and reaffirming New York’s participation in an alliance of states that will strive to meet carbon reduction targets on their own, Gov. Cuomo this month said, “it is more important than ever for states to take collective, common-sense action.”

There is a pressing decision that Cuomo can make all by himself to demonstrate his commitment to combating climate change. As the summer heat dies down, a fight for the city’s coast is heating up.

Williams, an Oklahoma-based gas pipeline and processing company with a poor safety record, wants to build an expensive new pipeline from New Jersey to the Rockaways. It says this is important to “help meet the growing natural gas demand in the Northeast, including the 1.8 million customers served by National Grid in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island.”

The Northeast Supply Enhancement Pipeline would run within a mile of Staten Island, then continue past Brooklyn’s beaches to link up with two existing pipelines off the Rockaway shore.

The project would require more than a year of construction, some of it around the clock, which could endanger beachgoers and marine life by churning up arsenic, lead, DDT, dioxins and harmful PCBs .

And the end result would be a new pathway for fracked gas — fuel that New Yorkers don’t even need, and that would worsen climate change.

This is exactly the wrong direction to head in if we really want to shift toward renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal, which is the direction public policy and the market are really moving.

New York City has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 (compared with 2005) by retrofitting buildings for greater energy efficiency, switching to electric vehicles and using more renewable energy. New York State says that 50% of the state’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2030 — just 13 years from now.

As fossil fuels go, fracked gas has some particularly bad qualities. It’s essentially methane, a greenhouse gas that captures 84 times as much heat as carbon dioxide in the initial 20 years after its emitted.

And from an economic perspective, this pipeline is unnecessary. Even if all of the city’s boilers currently burning oil made the switch to gas, demand for gas would rise only 6%, according to a report prepared for the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.

Meantime, the New York region is rapidly building out more solar and wind capacity, as advances in battery storage are making renewables even more attractive.

Williams says the proposed project would cost $926 million to build. You can bet National Grid’s gas customers in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island will wind up footing most of that bill through higher rates, which will rise even higher if gas demand were to fall short, as seems likely.

But ultimately, the case against a new pipeline comes back to climate change. We remember all too keenly the damage from Superstorm Sandy. It’s taken years, but now you can stroll on newly fortified boardwalks past rebuilt homes and grab a hot dog after a swim.

This pipeline will threaten that uniquely New York combination of city and shore, because even if the gas never leaks, burning it will worsen climate change. That will make storms more frequent, more deadly and more costly.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission holds most of the cards when it comes to deciding whether this new pipeline gets built. FERC has rarely met a pipeline it didn’t love. But New York State also has some cards it could play.

Williams can’t build unless the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation issues a water quality certificate and a protection of navigable waters permit. Williams would also need an easement for use of underwater land from the state’s Office of General Services.

In other words, Cuomo can stop this pipeline. Having just announced a redoubled commitment to climate action and the Paris accord’s goals, this is his perfect opportunity to lead.

New Yorkers who enjoy a swim at our beaches and who hope for a more livable planet should let the governor know we are counting on him to do the right thing.