Sunday, May 17, 2015

PUBLIC MEETING: Amherst Town Board to Review Draft Hydrofracking Law

The Amherst Town Board will review a draft Local Law banning high-volume hydrofracking and fracking waste at the 7:00pm meeting on Monday, May 18 in the Amherst Municipal Building, 5583 Main St, Williamsville [Map].

The draft Local Law states the following Prohibited Uses:
  1. No land in the Town of Amherst shall be used for high volume hydrofracking (HVHF).
  2. To the extent not pre-empted by Federal, State or County rules, regulations or statutes, no byproducts of hydrofracking are permitted to enter or be disposed of in the Town of Amherst.
The Hydrofracking Resolution and draft Local Law can be downloaded using links shown under the "Attachments" section: Click Here

Citizens concerned about toxic and radioactive fracking waste from Pennsylvania being disposed in New York or spread on our roads should attend. Another concern is fracking of the Utica Shale which extends throughout our region.

We need the Town Board to subject the local law to a public hearing and a vote at their next meeting. If the local anti-fracking law passes the review today, it will be on the agenda for a public hearing and vote at the next Town Board meeting in two weeks.   

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pope’s Adviser has Strong Words for Climate Change Deniers

                                                           Tom Toles | The Washington Post
Pope’s top adviser blasts US climate skeptics
By Timothy Cama - 05/12/15  |  The Hill
Pope Francis’ closest adviser castigated conservative climate change skeptics in the United States Tuesday, blaming capitalism for their views.

Speaking with journalists, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga criticized certain “movements” in the United States that have preemptively come out in opposition to Francis’s planned encyclical on climate change.

“The ideology surrounding environmental issues is too tied to a capitalism that doesn’t want to stop ruining the environment because they don’t want to give up their profits,” Rodríguez said, according to the Boston Globe's Crux blog.

Rodríguez’s comments came at the beginning of the annual meeting of Caritas Internationalis, an association of Catholic charitable groups.

He said many individuals both inside and outside the Catholic Church are awaiting Francis’s encyclical “with hope,” and especially watching how it might impact the United Nations’s December meeting that seeks to  reach an agreement on an international climate change pact.

That is Francis’s top stated goal for the encyclical, to encourage Catholics to fight climate change and influence the U.N.’s process.

But Rodríguez singled out the United States as the source of premature criticism, the Globe reported.

“I have already heard criticism over the encyclical,” Rodríguez said of the United States, adding that it is “absurd” to be so negative about an encyclical that no one in the public has seen.

The Heartland Institute, funded in part by the billionaire conservative brothers Charles and David Koch, has taken the lead on countering Francis’s encyclical.

The right wing group sent climate change deniers to the Vatican last month to try to convince top Catholic officials that human activity is not harming the planet, and there is no need for Francis’s action.
~   ~   ~   ~

Pope Francis: Environmental Sinners Will Face God’s Judgment 

“We must do what we can so that everyone has something to eat,” Francis said. “But we must also remind the powerful of the Earth that God will call them to judgment one day, and it will be seen if they truly tried to provide food for him in every person, and if they worked so that the environment would not be destroyed, but could produce this food.
 -- Pope Francis, May 12, 2015 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

PUBLIC MEETINGS: Niagara River Greenway

The Niagara River Greenway Commission will hold two meetings May 19 at the Tifft Nature Preserve, 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd., Buffalo [Map]. The executive committee will meet at 2:00 p.m. and the full commission will meet at 3:00 p.m. Both meetings are open to the public.

[Click image to enlarge]
Projects that are being considered for consistency review are as follows and posted at
  • City of Niagara Falls - Hyde Park shoreline and upland improvements
  • City of Niagara Falls - Niagara Riverview Trail improvements 53rd Street node
  • Town of Lewiston - Kiwanis Park courts restoration
  • Town of Lewiston - Colonial Village Park playground project
  • Erie County - Amos Sangster and Annie Crawford Memorial markers
To review the Final Niagara River Greenway Plan or to learn more about the commission, visit

The Niagara River Greenway Commission is a public benefit corporation charged with the planning and development of a greenway of interconnected parks, river access points and waterfront trails along the Niagara River from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario at the site of the historic Fort Niagara.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Local Residents Travel to Meeting of Coal Plant Shareholders

NRG’s Coal-Powered Business Model Holds Back

 Local Clean Energy Vision

PHILADELPHIA -  As NRG Energy shareholders prepared to meet on May 7, 2015 for the power company’s annual meeting, residents representing four of the communities where NRG operates its coal-fired power plants called on the company to be a local partner in the shift away from coal to clean, renewable energy. Many of the residents are NRG shareholders and will be attending the company’s meeting in Philadelphia.

While NRG aims to reduce carbon emissions 90 percent by the year 2050, that goal puts communities that have dealt with coal pollution for decades on the hook for more pollution and years of uncertainty. NRG has a strong track record for clean energy investments in select communities, but residents are hoping to show shareholders that the majority of NRG’s business is anchored in the company’s coal fleet.

The Waukegan coal plant in Illinois, which NRG acquired in 2014, has operated on the shores of Lake Michigan for almost 60 years. Community members have called for a clear timeline on phasing out coal at the power plant for many years, but NRG has yet to commit, leaving open questions for local community leaders hoping to revitalize the city.

 "I believe that through a partnership with Waukegan, NRG has the opportunity to invest in the clean energy future we all want, and that NRG can help us change the landscape of Waukegan," Waukegan City Council Member David Villalobos, who lives near NRG’s Waukegan Coal Plant. "I'm here in Philadelphia this week to address NRG's Board of Directors to tell them that a transparent transition from coal to clean energy can help Waukegan plan and grow."

Residents from Tonawanda, NY have a similar call for a 'just transition' away from fossil fuels at NRG’s Huntley coal-fired plant near Buffalo.

“Renewable energy and energy efficiency provide tremendous opportunities for jobs, local economic development and cleaner air,” said Diana Strablow, a retired teacher from Tonawanda, NY near NRG’s Huntley Coal Plant. “I plan to ask NRG for a plan to ensure that the vision is ‘clean, renewable energy for all,’ and not ‘clean, renewable energy for some.’

Many residents will share their experiences with pollution from NRG’s coal fleet. NRG’s Cheswick coal plant near Pittsburgh, PA is one of the single largest sources of air pollution in Allegheny County.

“We are urging NRG to be a good neighbor in our community by installing and operating the best technology available while it continues to burn coal here” said Barb Szalai, a community member from Springdale, PA who lives near NRG’s Cheswick Coal Plant. “If NRG cannot do its part to clean up its pollution, we urge the company to be a partner in our community’s transition away from coal.”

The city of Baltimore, MD experiences exceptionally high levels of pollution. Earlier this year, After more than fifteen months of intensive engagement with industry and the public health community, Maryland's Department of the Environment finalized new protections against air pollution from the state’s coal-fired power plants. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan frustrated Maryland citizens when he dropped these vital safeguards the day he took office, an outcome that NRG lobbied for.

“Every community deserves clean air, and we’re calling on NRG to be a partner in our efforts to clean up our air in Baltimore. NRG knows that the giant centralized utility model is one of the past,” said Talya Tavor, a community member and local organizer from Baltimore, MD who lives near NRG’s Dickerson and Chalk Point Coal Plants.  “We're living in an era where people value energy freedom and customer choice. That freedom and choice should extend to ALL communities; not just some.”

Press Release Contact: Emily Rosenwasser, 

TALK: Bakken Oil Trains in NY - What You Need to Know

Presentation by

Sandy Steubing, Lead Organizer
People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE)

WHEN: Saturday, May 16 -- 2pm-3:30pm
WHERE: Crane Branch Library (Upstairs), 633 Elmwood Ave, Buffalo

Large volumes of explosive Bakken oil are being transported by tank  rail cars. The oil comes from North Dakota and much of this oil is  destined to refineries on the east coast. This year, North America is  averaging one Bakken oil train derailment per month and each  derailment results in multiple explosions and fires.

Many of these Bakken oil trains travel through densely populated urban areas such as Buffalo NY on their eastward journey to Albany NY or Philadelphia, PA.

Sandy Steubing, lead organizer for People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE), is on an Upstate New York tour lecturing about the  many "bomb" trains coming through Buffalo and Upstate NY. She will  focus on the environmental justice of those living near the rail  tracks, and the effects of extreme energy extraction on climate change.

Sandy began her activism in the early 1960's in San Francisco. She  brings with her a huge depth of knowledge to bear on the many dangers  posed by the Bakken oil trains.

Submitted by Charley Bowman,
Sponsored by the Renewable Energy Task Force of the WNY Peace Center, Mothers Out Front (Rochester), and Food & Water Watch (

Aftermath of oil train derailment and explosion in W. Va.. Foundation of a burned-out home at bottom.
[Click image to enlarge]

RIVERKEEPER FORUM: Unexpected Voices of the Great Lakes

 Join  Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper this Wednesday from 6:30pm-8:30pm for a very special event at the Albright-Knox Gallery: Unexpected Voices of the Great Lakes, a panel discussion featuring internally acclaimed photographer Edward Burtynsky, whose artwork is pictured below. Burtynsky will discuss how his connection to the Great Lakes shaped his craft and the predominant theme in his images, "nature transformed through industry." The panel discussion following Burtynsky's talk will include:
    •    Allan Jamieson, a member of the Wolf Clan of the Cayuga People. He has worked with numerous native communities on issues related to water access. He is a founder of Neto, a Native American nonprofit based in Buffalo that started the Buffalo Creek Treaty Canoe Paddle held annually on the Buffalo River.
    •    Sandy Smith Cunningham, an educator from Nichols School in Buffalo whose innovative seventh-grade science curriculum teaches the principles of chemistry through the lens of the Great Lakes and environmental resources. She has been deeply involved in Great Lakes education and outreach.
    •     Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. Jedlicka is a recognizable local expert on water quality issues and Great Lakes policy. She will provide a rare insight and reflection of her own personal journey to lead one of the world's largest Waterkeeper organizations.

The panel also will include a student from South Park High School in Buffalo who is active in his school's efforts to educate and inform a new generation about the importance of the Great Lakes and its tributaries.

This event is a collaboration between Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and the International Joint Commission's Great Lakes Water Quality Board.  

Please RSVP here. This event is free and open to the public. We hope to see you at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (1285 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, New York) on Wednesday, May 13 from 6:30-8:30pm!

The Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper Team

[Click image to enlarge]

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Renewable Energy and Climate Leaders Earn Sierra Club Awards

Sierra Club recognizes award recipients for their environmental efforts

By T.J. Pignataro | | May 1, 2015

Paul McDonnell and Richard Steinberg
A green upgrade to the power system in the Buffalo Public Schools earned a trio of men a top award Thursday from the Sierra Club’s Niagara Group at the organization’s annual awards dinner.

Paul McDonnell, Jason McCarthy and Richard Steinberg were tapped with the Blake Reeves Award for Leadership from the group for their work to install solar panels in about 20 of the city’s school buildings.

It was the second award of the week for McDonnell, the facilities director at the Buffalo Public Schools who led a $1.4 billion school reconstruction program. McDonnell won the Nelson Rockefeller Award for public sector architects on Monday from the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

McDonnell told the Sierra Club the project came with no capital costs to the district with assurance the district would be charged the same price for electricity for the next 20 years.

“We’re going to be reducing our carbon footprint, and it’s a great educational opportunity for our kids,” McDonnell said.

McCarthy is the North District member of the Buffalo School Board and Steinberg is a Sierra Club member.

The Blake Reeves Award was named in honor of the founder of the local Sierra Club chapter.

The other award Thursday went to Charley Bowman of the Renewable Energy Task Force and the Western New York Peace Center.

Bowman holds a doctorate in biology from the State University of New York at Albany. He taught at the University at Buffalo for 27 years as a science professor. He was awarded the Bruce Kershner Conservation Award for “leadership in working with many climate change issues and his concerns for justice and peace being central to the mission of climate justice,” according to the Sierra Club.

Monday, April 27, 2015

How do You like Your Water -- With or Without Plastic Microbeads?

By David Kowalski .

Microbeads are tiny plastic spheres that are widely used in cosmetics and skin care products as exfoliating agents.

When products containing the microbeads are washed down the drain, they enter the sewage system. However, the microbeads are not filtered out by sewage treatment and so they enter our waterways.

Initially found in open waters of Lake Erie, microbeads have subsequently been detected in water of Lake Ontario, Cayuga Lake, Oneida Lake, the Erie Canal and elsewhere. Microbeads were recently found in the Adirondack Region in Lake Placid wastewater.

A study just released by the NY State Attorney General's Office found microbeads in wastewater discharged from 74% of the treatment facilities tested. The true contribution of microplastic pollution is likely greater than that detected since only the easily-identified types of microbeads (spherical and speckled - only 6% of the total types) were studied.

[Click image to enlarge]
Microbeads in the water are consumed by fish, other wildlife and ultimately by humans.

Fredonia State College professor, Sheri Mason, has researched microbead pollution in the Great Lakes. Mason says that the plasticizer chemical present in the plastic is the concern because it can move out of the plastic and into you.

Certain plasticizer chemicals may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects.

Another important concern is microbead absorption and concentration of toxic chemical pollutants present in waterways. This could harm fish and other marine life that mistake the toxic microbeads as food. Fish that bioacumulate the concentrated toxins over time may cause harm to birds, pets or people that eat them.

The New York State Legislature needs to back a bill to eliminate microbeads to protect our environment and public health. The Assembly has already passed a bill to prohibit the sale of personal cosmetic products containing microbeads.

The Senate bill (S3932-2015) has been referred to the Environmental Conservation Committee. Unfortunately, there was insufficient support to bring that bill up for a vote last year.

Public support is absolutely necessary to move the Senate bill out of the Committee and to the floor for a vote.

Take Action - Contact your NYS Senator
Urge them to Co-sponsor Bill S3932-2015, the "Microbead-free waters act," to prohibit sale of personal cosmetic products containing microbeads.

Senate Directory and Identity:
- For phone numbers and to contact by Email, visit:

- To identify your Senator, go here:

Buffalo News Editorial cartoon by Pulitzer Prize Winner Adam Zyglis
This post was updated on 4/28/2015.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

NYS Senator Stands Up for Climate Science in the Face of Ignorance

By David Kowalski .

Senator Brad Hoylman, ranking member of the NY State Conservation Committee, called out the Senate majority for ignoring the term 'climate change' in their Earth Day Resolution.

Speaking in the senate chambers, he implored the legislative body that "we be mindful as public policy makers of the solemn responsibility to be good stewards of our planet."

Holyman said “There is an oversight in the resolution, which I feel obligated to point out, that there is no mention of climate change. The two words 'climate change' do not appear in the resolution.”

“It has to be [an oversight]. This is Earth Day, not Flat Earth Day. And the science, Mr. president, is clear.”   

Holyman cited scientific facts drawn from reports from the International Panel on Climate Change and cited by the NY City panel on Climate Change: rising temperatures, increasing precipitation, heat waves, extreme weather, sea level rise, and flooding of New York City, the most densely populated city on Earth.

“We should be mindful of the economic impact of climate change. With extreme weather events predicted to increase, we have to be prepared for economic impacts including infrastructure damage, rebuilding costs. The direct costs of Superstorm Sandy alone was $71.4 Billion,” he said.

“We are dooming our children’s future unless we act now.”

“Now the Peoples Climate March … 350,000 people attended it. It was in my district less than a year ago, but what have we done to address it?"

"Where is NY State’s Climate Action Plan? Who’s in charge of Climate Change in NY State? Can you name that person? I can’t.”

Hoylman concluded, “Mr. President, I support this [Earth Day] Resolution, but urge my colleagues, as we move forward in this legislative session, to take decisive steps to reverse global warming and climate change."

Senator Hoylman's full testimony delivered in the senate chambers can be viewed in a video here.

The Earth Day Resolution passed by the Senate GOP majority omitted the phrase “climate change” because some legislators objected to the words, according to a Capital New York report.

Republican Senator John DeFrancisco said it was a "politically correct term" and cast doubt on the notion the Earth was warming because his city saw record cold this winter.

“It was global warming a few years ago, and I can attest, being from Syracuse, New York, that the globe wasn't warming around Syracuse this winter. So by putting a label to good environmental practices is a very risky thing and that's why [climate change] was not put in this resolution,”  DeFrancisco said.

Buffalo News editorial cartoon by Pulitzer-Prize Winner Adam Zyglis

Senator DeFrancisco is ignorant of the fact that global warming is not simply evaluated by determining the temperature in his home district of Syracuse NY.

Global warming is assessed by measuring temperatures at numerous locations on land around the world as well as in the oceans that make up more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface. Measurements are made over time and the global average temperature is determined.

So, while it was brutally cold this winter in Syracuse, across NY state and elsewhere in the Eastern U.S., most all other regions on land and in oceans around planet Earth showed above average warming according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Results of NOAA's global temperature analysis are displayed on world maps for the months of January (click here) and February (below).