Thursday, July 16, 2015

TALK: Buffalo's SolarCity Plant - New Jobs in Clean Energy

For a printable flier, Click Here

UPDATE: Please Note - The event will be held in the Sanctuary of the Church, not the 2nd Floor Alliance Room as stated above.  
We'll be using the Ferry Street entrance.

Buffalo River Revitalization: Shoreline Access and Habitat Restoration

By Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and Great Lakes Commission

Lt. Gov. Hochul, Congressman Higgins join Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, 
Great Lakes Commission and NOAA to celebrate start of construction

Buffalo, N.Y. - As the 10-year effort to remove toxic sediment from the Buffalo River nears completion this summer, the focus now shifts to shoreline access and habitat restoration along this once-dead river. After nearly five years of planning and design work, construction is beginning at RiverBend and seven other locations along the Buffalo River that are essential for removing the river from the federal list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern by 2016.

To celebrate this next phase in the river's restoration, New York's Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and Congressman Brian Hig gins (D-NY, 26th District), together with other state officials and local leaders, met today across from the RiverBend site. Restoration work there will transform the shoreline into a healthy and viable ecosystem and enhance recent economic development activity at this former brownfield site.

"This revitalization effort is a product of a thoughtful and historic public-private partnership that is restoring habitats and strengthening our local economy," said Lt. Gov. Hochul. "It was almost unheard of decades ago to imagine this site attracting new outdoor recreational opportunities - like fishing and boating - to our beloved shorelines. Today, it is clear that this investment has finally brought this dream into a reality."

"Federal investments combined with community-based action are bringing the Buffalo River back to life and breathing new life into our city," said Congressman Brian Higgins. "This progress was made possible thanks to the great collaboration of federal partners committed to the Great Lakes, private partners committed to investing in western New York's future and community partners, including outstanding leadership by Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper whose commitment is truly transforming Buffalo for generations to come."

When fully implemented, the projects will restore nearly two miles of shoreline and 20 acres of habitat at eight sites on the lower Buffalo River: RiverBend (east and west shorelines), River Fest Park, Blue Tower Turning Basin, Old Bailey Woods, Ohio Street Boat Launch, Toe of Katherine Street Peninsula and Buffalo Color Peninsula.

Buffalo ‘City of Night’ Festival - Saturday, July 18th!

SATURDAY, July 18th, 6PM-12AM, along Republic Street in the Old First Ward (near Gene McCarthy's Pub), Buffalo.

[Click image to enlarge]

City of Night has grown! Last year we had 15,000 attendees. 

City of Night was started 3 years ago with the purpose of bringing the masses to what were historically, neglected and under utilized industrial grain elevators along the Buffalo River. 

This year we're moving our energy to the up and coming residential community of the Old First Ward.

Volunteer Opportunities available through Krystal Sondel -

Buffalo Spree voted us this year as the 'Best Summer Festival'.

Email Melanie Shorey at  if you're interested in coming on Saturday!

See the Facebook Event Page:

Check out some of the articles here for pictures and coverage from last year:

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

ADK Niagara Frontier Chapter: Conservationist of the Year Award

Conservationist of the Year - Art Klein

Adirondack Mountain Club - Niagara Frontier Chapter (ADK-NFC)

The ADK-NFC Conservation Committee honored Art Klein with the “Conservationist of the Year” Award at the Chapter's Annual Meeting and Picnic on Sunday, June 14, 2015.

Art Klein (holding the plaque) accompanied by the Conservation Committee.
[Click image to enlarge]

It is with great pleasure that the award was presented to Art Klein. Art has been an ADK member since the 1980’s and has been a Chapter and Conservation Committee chairperson.

His work at the Army Corp of Engineers provided him with special insight into preserving wetlands and waterways.

He actively investigates environmental issues in Western New York and formulates letters and articles to inform and alert the politicians about what needs to be done to preserve the environment.

His advice is that we all can make a difference. Art Klein says, "just get out there and let your voice be heard."

Monday, July 6, 2015

Environmental NEWS

Why solar panels won’t solve climate change 
Interview: The environmental movement should shift its emphasis from personal responsibility to political change, says activist Bill McKibben, founder of  

Economists and engineers are ahead in terms of finding solutions, according to McKibben. “Economists – left, right and centre – have been saying we need to put a price on carbon to reflect the damage it does. And engineers have said we need government effort to take advantage of new renewable technologies. Up to now we can’t have these things, because of the power of the fossil-fuel industry.”  

McKibben says that the most important thing people can do is join together with others to fight against large fossil-fuel infrastructure projects and encourage investors to stop giving money to the fossil-fuel industry.

Described by Time magazine as the planet’s best green journalist, and by the Boston Globe as the United States’ most distinguished environmentalist, McKibben made his first visit to Ireland, to speak at Meeting the Challenge of Climate Justice: From Evidence to Action.


Pope Francis, science and government are reframing climate change
The long-anticipated encyclical by Pope Francis to the world on the environment was released mid-June. The Lancet Commission, a distinguished United Kingdom-based health body, the following week released its report on health and climate change.
Pope Francis has already changed the conversation in the Catholic Church by prioritizing issues of justice and mercy. He holds a unique status today as a moral leader not only of Christians but of all peoples of the world. He has used that moral authority to call for a needed moral conversion about what he considers the interconnected issues of the environment, the poor, humanity, global development and peace.

Health professionals and scientists are also changing the conversation by calling attention to the ways in which environmental destruction, such as climate change, threatens human health and well-being. We feel the effects through more severe storms, risks of infectious diseases, food scarcity and more. There is strong evidence that the world’s poor are among the most vulnerable — a common-sense, but often overlooked, fact that Lancet and the encyclical spotlight. The Lancet report shows that combating climate change is an unprecedented opportunity to advance health, equitable development and sustainability.


Two Years After Oil Train Disaster, Profound Scars Remain in Lac-Mégantic
Activists prepare for demonstrations across Canada and US this week to 'Stop Oil Trains'

A week of direct actions across Canada and the U.S. to stop so-called "bomb trains" began on Monday, the two-year anniversary of the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster, when an unmanned train with 72 tankers carrying 30,000 gallons of crude oil careened into a small town in the Canadian province of Quebec, where it derailed, exploded, and killed 47 people.

Decontamination work continues to this day at the crash site, but was suspended at noon for a moment of silence. Later in the day, church bells will ring out 47 times at Lac-Mégantic's St. Agnes Church.

On every level, recovery in the small community has been challenging. 


Thousands March in Toronto, Urge Canada to Turn Away From a Fossil Fuel Economy
 Labor unions, student groups, indigenous communities, and environmentalists joined forces for the Jobs, Justice and Climate march, which activists called the most diverse climate mobilization in Canadian history.

The rally was timed to bring attention to the cause ahead of this week's Climate Summit of the Americas in Toronto, this fall's Canadian federal election, and the highly-anticipated UN Paris climate talks in November, which aim to bring together world leaders in legally-binding climate change solutions. 

Read more at VICE News

The EPA Just Banned the Chemicals That Helped Save the Ozone Layer 
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) can be as much as 10,000 times as powerful as carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere. 

"This rule will not only reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, but also encourage greater use and development of the next generation of safer HFC alternatives," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said.

"Tackling HFCs is a no-brainer," said Jason Kowalski, the US policy director of, which advocates for action on climate change. To restrict them is to go after "low-hanging fruit," he told VICE News, adding that the real issue in the climate change fight is the degree to which the Obama administration is willing to battle the fossil fuel industry.  

Read more at VICE News

Letter: How we heat, cool our homes matters 
The recently adopted New York State Energy Plan recognizes that in New York, we generate more greenhouse gases heating our buildings than by generating electricity. Heating and cooling our buildings efficiently with renewable energy will become increasingly more urgent as we address the challenge of climate change.


NY State Tax Incentives to Heat and Cool Homes Efficiently using Heat Pumps 
The potential for widespread adoption of heat pumps (shallow ground-source, aka 'geothermal') in New York was recently boosted by the passage of bills in the State Senate and Assembly. Final approval of these important pieces of legislation is now in the hands of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Urge Governor Cuomo to cut both energy bills and fossil fuel pollution by signing an online petition. Click Here to go to the petition.

State adds funds to budget in case of coal plant shutdown
 The allocation of $19 million in the state budget that’s designed to help communities affected by retiring coal plants was hailed Monday by the local Just Transition coalition. The coalition has been planning for the possibility of the retirement of the Huntley Generating Plant in the Town of Tonawanda.

Reduced operations at the Huntley plant have resulted in decreased tax revenue received by the town, Erie County and the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Schools. While environmental advocates urge the transition from coal-powered electrical generation to clean energy, it’s also anticipated that a full shutdown of that plant could have devastating economic impacts on labor and the community.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

TALK: Pope's Climate Encyclical 'On The Care of Our Common Home'

The Sierra Club
Climate and Clean Energy Writers Group
Monday, July 6th, 2015 Session:

Haven't had time to read the

Pope’s Climate Encyclical?

Come hear what Sister Eileen O'Connor has to say.


Find links to these inspiring published writings on Sierra Club's

Writer’s Group – In the News page.

~  ~  ~

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Climate Activist, Bill McKibben, looks at Green Energy Solutions in relation to Electric Utility Practices

Power to the People

Why the rise of green energy makes utility companies nervous.

By Bill McKibben  | The New Yorker | June 29, 2015 Issue

Mark and Sara Borkowski live with their two young daughters in a century-old, fifteen-hundred-square-foot house in Rutland, Vermont. Mark drives a school bus, and Sara works as a special-ed teacher; the cost of heating and cooling their house through the year consumes a large fraction of their combined income. Last summer, however, persuaded by Green Mountain Power, the main electric utility in Vermont, the Borkowskis decided to give their home an energy makeover. In the course of several days, coordinated teams of contractors stuffed the house with new insulation, put in a heat pump for the hot water, and installed two air-source heat pumps to warm the home. They also switched all the light bulbs to L.E.D.s and put a small solar array on the slate roof of the garage.

The Borkowskis paid for the improvements, but the utility financed the charges through their electric bill, which fell the very first month. Before the makeover, from October of 2013 to January of 2014, the Borkowskis used thirty-four hundred and eleven kilowatt-hours [3411 kWh] of electricity and three hundred and twenty-five gallons of fuel oil [325 Gal.]. From October of 2014 to January of 2015, they used twenty-eight hundred and fifty-six kilowatt-hours [2856 kWh] of electricity and no oil [0 Gal.] at all. President Obama has announced that by 2025 he wants the United States to reduce its total carbon footprint by up to twenty-eight per cent [28%] of 2005 levels. The Borkowskis reduced the footprint of their house by eighty-eight per cent [88%] in a matter of days, and at no net cost.

I’ve travelled the world writing about and organizing against climate change, but, standing in the Borkowskis’ kitchen and looking at their electric bill, I felt a fairly rare emotion: hope. The numbers reveal a sudden new truth—that innovative, energy-saving and energy-producing technology is now cheap enough for everyday use. The Borkowskis’ house is not an Aspen earth shelter made of adobe and old tires, built by a former software executive who converted to planetary consciousness at Burning Man. It’s an utterly plain house, with Frozen bedspreads and One Direction posters, inhabited by a working-class family of four, two rabbits, and a parakeet named Oliver. It sits in a less than picturesque neighborhood, in a town made famous in recent years for its heroin problem. Its significance lies in its ordinariness. The federal Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz, has visited, along with the entire Vermont congressional delegation. If you can make a house like this affordably green, you should be able to do it anywhere.

Most of the technology isn’t particularly exotic—these days, you can buy a solar panel or an air-source heat pump at Lowe’s. But few people do, because the up-front costs are high and the options can be intimidating. If the makeover was coördinated by someone you trust, however, and financed through your electric bill, the change would be much more palatable. The energy revolution, instead of happening piecemeal, over decades, could take place fast enough to actually help an overheating planet. But all of this would require the utilities—the interface between people and power—to play a crucial role, or, at least, to get out of the way.

An electric utility is an odd beast, neither public nor exactly private. Utilities are often owned by investors, but they’re almost always government-regulated, and they are charged with delivering power reliably and at an affordable price. Utilities are monopolies: since it would make no sense to have six sets of power poles and lines, utilities are granted exclusive rights to a territory. When you buy or rent a house, you automatically become the customer of the local utility, assuming that you want electricity and you don’t plan to generate all of it yourself. To keep the nation’s utilities honest, they are typically regulated at the state level by a public-service commission that sets rates, evaluates performance, and enforces mandates, such as a requirement that a certain amount of power come from renewable sources.

Whereas most enterprises are about risk, utilities are about safety: safe power supply, safe dividends. No surprises. As a result, the industry “has not attracted the single greatest minds,” David Roberts, who has covered energy for various outlets for a decade and is now a reporter for Vox, told me. “If you’re in a business where the customer is the public-utility commission, and after that your profits are locked in by law, it’s the sleepiest business sector there is, if you could even call it a business sector. They build power plants, sit back, and the money comes in.” The entire realm is protected, he added, by “a huge force field of boringness.”

But what has been a virtue, by and large, is now almost certainly a vice. Scientists insist that in order to forestall global warming we need to quickly change the way we power our lives. That’s perhaps most easily done by giant companies with big budgets for new technology; Google, Apple, and Ikea have all announced major plans to switch to renewable energy. For average Americans, however, the biggest source of carbon emissions is their home, so the utilities’ help is crucial in making the transition. And, even without climate change, utilities face a combination of threat and opportunity from disruptive new technologies.

Consider the Borkowskis’ new air-source heat pumps, which use the latent heat in the air (down to about zero degrees) to heat their home and provide hot water. These devices have made it practical for electricity to be used for tasks traditionally performed by oil and gas. Smart thermostats, such as the Nest, allow you to make your home far more energy-efficient—and can even, when connected to the “smart meters” that are now appearing on many houses, permit the utility to turn your demand down for a few seconds in response to fluctuations in the supply of sun and wind. Electric vehicles provide a major new use for electricity and, perhaps soon, the opportunity for huge numbers of idle car batteries to serve as a storage system for reserve power. (Solar and wind power can be a challenge to incorporate into the grid, because they’re intermittent—cloudy days happen, the wind fails. Affordable batteries are essential to making renewable energy widely available.)

“Americans spend eight per cent of their disposable income on all forms of energy,” David Crane told me. Crane is the C.E.O. of NRG, the country’s biggest independent power provider; the company operates more than a hundred energy-generation facilities, selling electricity to utilities that, in turn, sell it to customers. Nobody wants that eight-per-cent figure to rise, Crane said, because when energy prices go up the country tends to trip into recession. But plenty of companies, including Crane’s, would like to see a larger slice of that eight per cent. “I’m interested in electric cars, for instance, not just because of the effect on air quality but because I want to take market share away from oil,” Crane said. “It’s a brutal fight for market share.”

Power utilities now face uncertainty of a kind that traditional phone companies faced when cellular technology emerged. A few utilities welcome the challenge; others are resisting it; and the rest are waiting for someone to tell them what to do.

Read the full article at The New Yorker online to learn about McKibben’s interview with the co-founder and C.E.O. of SolarCity. McKibben also interviewed the New York State chairman of energy and finance and learned about his initiative called REV - Reforming the Energy Vision - that is trying to change the rules so that the utilities can both shift direction and make money. 

Click here to go to The New Yorker online.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

NY State Tax Incentives to Heat and Cool Homes Efficiently using Geothermal Heat Pumps

Geothermal heat pumps use the constant below-ground temperature to heat and cool homes.
Geothermal heat pumps provide a clean and efficient way to heat homes and buildings in winter and cool them in summer. Importantly, they also have much lower operating costs as compared to furnaces, electric heaters and air conditioners -- save energy and save money!

The potential for widespread adoption of geothermal heat pumps in New York was recently boosted by the passage of bills in the State Senate and Assembly.
  • Senate Bill S2905 and Assembly Bill A2177a establish a 25% tax credit (up to $5000) for the purchase and installation of geothermal energy systems.
  • Senate Bill S4279 and Assembly Bill A5508 provide a tax exemption for the sale and installation of residential and commercial geothermal heat pump systems equipment.
Final approval of these important pieces of legislation is now in the hands of Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

Assemblyman Sean Ryan and Senator Robert Ortt will hold a press conference (Tuesday, June 30th,  12:30PM at 10 Winter St., Buffalo - Map) to call on Governor Cuomo to sign the bills in to law.

TAKE ACTION: Call Governor Cuomo's office urging him to sign into law these important bills that will make geothermal heat pumps more affordable, and will lead to lower energy usage and lower energy bills.
Call 518-474-8390 -- You'll hear a recording: Press 2 to leave your message, or press 3 to speak with a person.

For a detailed description and video on how geothermal heat pumps work, visit the U.S. Dept. of Energy website.

A short description of how the heat pumps work along with a hat tip to the NY legislation is provided in a recent Letter to the Editor of The Buffalo News:
Cuomo could make NY a leader in geothermal energy

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Brian Higgins puts the Brakes on Transport of High-Level Nuclear Waste across the Peace Bridge

House Passes Bill With Higgins’ Amendment Requiring 
Risk Assessment of Proposed Nuclear Waste Transport 
Across Peace Bridge

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced approval of HR 2200, the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Intelligence and Information Sharing Act of 2015.  The bill includes an amendment, introduced by Higgins, which requires the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis to examine and share information about the risks associated with a plan to transport highly enriched liquid uranium across the Peace Bridge.

The Department of Energy has a plan to transport liquid nuclear waste from Ontario’s Chalk River Research reactor over the Peace Bridge, through Western New York and other states en route to the Department of Energy’s Savannah River site beginning next year.

Last July Congressman Higgins called on the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct an environmental review of the plan.  He argued, in contrast to spent nuclear fuel, the shipment of liquid nuclear waste is far more complicated, more radioactive, and therefore a breach or contamination would be significantly more dangerous.  Despite the fact that the route was approved nearly two decades ago, the DOE maintained a new Environmental Impact Statement was not necessary.

The bill approved by the House now compels a risk assessment before the plan proceeds.

“The route was approved nearly twenty years ago, and it reflects a pre-9/11 mindset with respect to the threat and consequences of terrorism,” said Congressman Higgins. “This legislation, as amended, would ensure that the Department of Energy has the information it needs to reconsider the wisdom of transporting dangerous nuclear material through high risk areas like Buffalo.”