Green Innovations

Developing renewable and clean technology companies in New York

Monday, September 9, 2013

DEC Budget Proposals, Albany, NY:

Green groups worry about dwindling DEC budget

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The Environmental Committee chairs in the legislature have proposed a $5 billion dollar environmental bond act, to be voted on in November 2014.

But, at an Assembly hearing on the state's environmental budget, advocates say they're more worried about dwindling staff at the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Assembly Environmental Committee Chair Robert Sweeney is sponsoring a bill to create a $5 billion dollar environmental bond act to promote clean water, clean air and to preserve public land. 
The bill, which is also sponsored by the Senate’s Environmental Committee Chair, is in the early stages of discussion.

But at a hearing on the budget for the Cuomo Administration’s Department of Environmental Conservation, known as the DEC, advocates expressed more concerns over the 30% reductions in staffing over the past several years.

Paul Gallay, with Hudson Riverkeeper, says the agency, which has suffered budget cuts for over a decade, now has 3000 employees, compared to a high of 4200 in the early 2000’s.  And he says some essential tasks are not getting done, like the proper monitoring of water quality permits by industries that border New York’s lakes and rivers.

 “We’re flying blind with regard to the bad actors,” Gallay said. 

Gallay says he worked for the DEC in the 1990’s, and he says even with full staffing, many worked overtime to keep up with the demands. “I call on you and I challenge you  to investigate what the impacts have been,” Gallay told the committee. 

Others praised the environmental agency for creating a pesticide registry, but lamented that there were not enough people to implement it.   

Adrienne Esposito, with Citizens Campaign for the Environment, is from the south shore of Long Island and lived through Superstorm Sandy last year. She says DEC employees were taken from their regular tasks and assigned to work on storm recovery, which she greatly appreciates. But she says in a time of climate change, it’s important to have enough people to respond to weather disasters without disrupting other important tasks.

 “I feel like sometimes the environmental agency is looked upon as this luxury item,” Esposito said. “That we can cut to the bone or do away with in in hard times. And that is a falsehood. 
Esposito, speaking afterward, says she does back a bond act, but says it has to be done right, with a realistic number of workers to carry it out. “We’re doing less with less,” she said. “We can’t substitute a marketing phrase for real meaningful change here in New York.”

Environmental Commissioner Joe Martens did not testify, he sent a deputy commissioner instead.  

Assemblyman Sweeney devoted more questions to Deputy Commissioner Anne Reynolds on hydrofracking, than on the proposed bond act. “Is there a time frame for some decision on fracking?”

Sweeney asked. Reynolds’ answer, like those of her boss and others in the Cuomo Administration, was non-committal. “There isn’t a time frame at this point,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds says the agency is still working to answer 100,000 public comments submitted last January, and still waiting for Governor Cuomo’s Health Commissioner to finish a review that was begun nearly a year ago.  

Esposito, with Citizens Campaign for the Environment, says while her group wants careful consideration of fracking, it’s taking attention away from other issues, like coping with climate change.

Siena poll- Hydrofracking still a dead heat in New York:


Hyrdofracking supporters march after a rally last October in Albany. A new Siena College poll shows New Yorkers evenly divided on whether the state should allow hydrofracking. (Lori Van Buren | Albany Times Union, via AP)
Glenn Coin | By Glenn Coin | 
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on August 12, 2013 at 9:52 AM, updated August 12, 2013 at 12:06 PM
New Yorkers are still evenly split on whether hydrofracking should be allowed in the state, according to the most recent Siena Research Institute poll.
A poll released today shows 41 percent support hydrofracking and 42 oppose it. That's a statistical dead heat in a poll with a 3.4 percent margin of error.
The word is getting out on hydrofracking, though: Just 12 percent of respondents in this poll said they didn't have enough information or an opinion, the lowest in the last year.
Opposition is strongest Upstate, where hydrofracking, if allowed, would likely take place. Upstate residents were opposed to hydrofracking 47 to 42 percent. New York City residents were likewise opposed: 42 to 37 percent. The only region that supported hydrofracking was the New York City suburbs, by a margin of 47 to 37 percent.
The state has had a fracking moratorium in place for five years, and the Department of Environmental Conservation has not yet completed a full environmental report. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said said in May he will decide before the 2014 elections whether hydrofracking will go forward in New York.
Today, Cuomo said on "The Capitol Pressroom" radio show that the DEC was still awaiting a report from the Department of Health. Health Commissioner Nirav Shah said in February that report would be done "in a few weeks."
According to the Siena poll, Democrats oppose fracking by a margin of 48 to 32 percent.
Republicans continue to favor it by a margin of 55 to 31 percent.
Income, however, doesn't seem to make any difference. People who make under $50,000 opposed fracking by 42 to 40 percent; those making over $100,000 supported it 42 to 40 percent. Again, those are both statistical ties.
Contact Glenn Coin at or 315-470-3251.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Green Symposium in NY, September 19:

Garrison Institute Climate, Buildings, and Behavior Symposium

Bright Power CEO Jeff Perlman will participate in a panel discussion on Creating an Energy Action Plan. Accompanying him will be Michael Catalano of the Jonathan Rose Companies.

Garrison Institute Climate, Buildings, and Behavior Symposium (September 19, 2013)

From September 18th to September 20th, the Garrison Institute will host its fifth annual Climate, Buildings and Behavior (CBB) Symposium. This high-level meeting will convene real estate professionals including both for-profit and not-for-profit firms, building industry experts, and researchers and experts in behavior change to explore the science and practice behind successful approaches for enhancing sustainable practices, reducing energy consumption, and significantly lowering the cost of building operations in multi-family residential and commercial buildings.  CBB’s innovative approach is focused on the human dimensions of resource optimization with special attention on engaging building occupants and shifting away from wasteful energy practices.

Friday, September 6, 2013

NYSP2I continues pollution prevention efforts at the local level:

Community Grants Program accepting funding applications


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The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute is now accepting applications for its 2013-2014 Community Grants Program.
The New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) provides nonprofit organizations and local governments financial and technical assistance for projects that promote and implement pollution prevention practices at the community level. By increasing awareness of these efforts, NYSP2I aims to improve the health, environmental quality and economic vitality of New York state.
“Our mission is to provide a statewide, comprehensive program of sustainable technologies and research, build industrial-community partnerships focused on cleaner production and provide education and outreach aimed at making New York state more sustainable,” says Anahita Williamson, director of NYSP2I. “Through the Community Grants Program, we are able to connect with communities in New York state and provide much needed financial and technical support for initiatives and programs at a grassroots level.”
To date, NYSP2I has supported 41 projects throughout New York state with grants totaling over $540,000. Past projects include education programs on pollution prevention and conservation for middle and high school students, homeowner education encouraging environmentally conscious practices and rainwater harvesting and education regarding deconstruction and green building renovations.
The 2013-2014 Community Grants Program award winners will be announced in late November. For more information about the program and to download the grant application forms, go to Applications are due by 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4.
About NYSP2I
NYSP2I, located at Rochester Institute of Technology, was created in 2008 by the state and is supported by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The institute provides statewide, comprehensive and integrated programming in technology research, development and diffusion, training and education aimed at making New York state more sustainable for workers, the public, the environment and the economy. Additional partners include Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Clarkson University, State University of New York at Buffalo and New York’s 10 Regional Technology Development Centers.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Saving Lake George: Can Sensors And Big Data Protect $1 Billion In Tourism?

IBM Research Scientist Harry Kolar (right), Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer of the RPI Darrin Fresh Water Institute (center) and Eric Siy from The FUND to Save Lake George scout locations for new sensors. Credit: Erin Reid Coker/Feature Photo Service for IBM
As I write this update, campers and wildlife enthusiasts 185 miles to my north are converging on New York State’s crystal-clear, 32-mile-long Lake George for one of the last hurrahs of summer.
While they’re busy setting up their tents on the interior islands, they may run across scientists being dispatched there over the next three years as part of an ambitious, multi-million-dollar environmental monitoring plan that will use sensors and Big Data analytics to study the lake’s complicated ecosystem.
This isn’t just some tree-hugger-inspired boondoogle. Surrounded almost entirely by forests (46 percent of which are state preserves), Lake George generates a whopping $1 billion in tourism annually. It may seem invulnerable, but the long-term health of its natural ecosystem is in question, which could pose a threat to that revenue.
That’s because over the past 30 years, road salt applied to the flanking roads during the harsh winter months as well as storm-water runoff have contributed to a threefold increase in salt levels in the lake. Both of these factors are also encouraging chlorophyll growth, which threatens water clarity, and therefore tourism.
Enter the Jefferson Project at Lake George (named for the third president of the United States, who was a fan), spearheaded by IBM‘s Smarter Water experts, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the non-profit FUND for Lake George.
Their idea is to use a combination of data analytics, three-dimensional (3-D) computer models, and 30 years worth of historical data to improve scientific understanding of how stuff is circulated around the lake. Eventually, that information could be coupled with real-time data feeds, such as weather forecasts, to predict the possible impact of certain events on the lake, and maybe even to take action to prevent particularly negative outcomes.
“Lake George has a lot to teach us, if we look closely,” said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. “By expanding Rensselaer’s Darrin Fresh Water Institute with this remarkable new cyberphysical platform of data from sensors and other sources, and with advanced analytics, high-performance computing and web science, we are taking an important step to protect the timeless beauty of Lake George, and we are creating a global model for environmental research and protection of water resources.”
This isn’t the first big project using sensors and IBM Big Data technology to develop an environmental protection plan.
Several years ago, IBM teamed up with Marine Institute Ireland to monitor wave conditions, marine life and pollution in and around Galway Bay. Drivers of that research included concerns over tourism and the local fishing industry. But the data was also used to assess whether or not the bay is a viable location for wave-generated electricity.
There’s also a sensor-enabled monitoring network installed up and down the 315-mile long Hudson River. The River and Estuary Observatory Network (REON) is tracking temperatures, salinity, dissolved oxygen and pollution metrics; it is also being used for mapping fish populations. The first-of-its-kind effort is a collaboration between IBM and The Beacon Institute.
“From this data, we can build scientific models to understand how changes in chemistry and biology affect the fish and the river, and by extension, the larger scale ecology,” said Arthur Sanderson, professor of electrical, computer and system engineering at Rensselaer and senior science advisor for The Beacon Institute, referring to the Hudson River network.
Personally, I’m still not sure I would eat a fish caught in the Hudson, at least down near New York City. But real-time monitoring systems like REON and the one being installed in Lake George will certainly help communities and businesses make much more informed decisions about how to use water resources around the world.
-Heather Clancy, Contributing writer for Forbes