November 6, 2015

Call to action

On Wednesday, October 28th, Rensselaer County Chairman Stan Brownell and Vice Chairman Alex Shannon proposed another bill to protect drinking water , and we understand that they intend to bring it to a vote on November 10th.

The language of the bill reflects much improvement over the “eminent domain” version, and we now have a basis for moving forward to the development of a bill acceptable to us, the residents. However, it needs a lot of improvement. In fact, when comparing this bill to that which Legislator Alex Shannon and others introduced in August, this bill represents a significant step away from that bill's protections.

For example: The bill covers residents living within ¼ mile from a blast; the August bill protected residents living one mile from a blast: a 75% reduction in those protected. While we could live with covering residents living within ½ mile, ¼ mile – only 1320 feet -- is too small a radius.

The bill declares it a violation only when a "significant" "permanent" reduction in a well's recharge rate occurs. The August bill triggers a violation whenever there is any reduction and for good reason: how does one define "significant" and "permanent" and what does a resident do when there is a significant, but not necessarily "permanent", loss or a "permanent" but not "significant" loss: (s)he has to put up with it, under the bill's terms.

The bill requires that before remedial or enforcement action can be taken to deal with the presence of a hazardous substance in drinking water, regulations to define what a hazardous waste is, must first be issued. Regulations take at least a year to get put into place, probably more: what does a resident do in the meantime when a DEC-recognized and defined hazardous substance is found in drinking water after a blast?

The bill exempts from its effect mining operations subject to "applicable Federal Regulation." "Mining" is removal of a mineral from the ground. Thus, a blaster such a Kinder Morgan has a basis to assert that excavation of a trench in the course of its NED construction project is subject to federal regulation since the excavation is subject to requirements of several federal agencies, and so, is exempt from the requirements of the proposed law. There are arguments both ways, but why give a blaster such as Kinder Morgan an opportunity to challenge 

We simply cannot allow the legislators to give us, the residents they are in office to protect, less now than what they had offered us only a couple of months ago!

Charles Sullivan reviewed the new bill in great detail and on Friday evening, gave Chairman Brownell and Vice Chairman Shannon extensive comments and revised language that, if included, will get us to where we want to be in terms of drinking water protection from blasting. However, we must show our determination to them and to the other legislators that we do not accept this bill’s present language and will not tolerate any lessening of the protections that the Republicans proposed to provide us in August.

We need once again to go to the public forum and to the legislative meeting IN FORCE to express our dissatisfaction with this new bill’s present language and to demand that it be cleaned up to better protect us along the lines of what Mr Sullivan provided them.

The public forum is this Wednesday, November 4, and the legislative meeting is Tuesday, November 10th. Both sessions start at 5:30 PM. As you did in October, please come out IN FORCE, bring your signs, sign up to speak, and voice your objections! The address is 1600 7th Ave, Troy, NY 12180. Also, please e-mail each legislator informing him or her of your INTENSE dissatisfaction with their delays in passing an acceptable bill and in being offered less than what had been offered before by way of protection.

This probably will NOT be the last time we will have to show the legislators our determination in getting what we residents want by way of protection against the harms to our drinking water supplies. We must CONTINUE to make our presence known by showing up IN FORCE whenever the legislators meet. Otherwise, we will be ignored.


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