Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year, Buffalo! -- 2010

Happy New Year!

Celebrate New Year's Eve in Buffalo

Party with the people
For those looking to get out and celebrate New Year’s Eve with a crowd, The Buffalo News describes some of the activities going on around town.

VIDEO: Watch the Ball Drop
Buffalo Sports Fans: It's OK to "drop the ball" on New Year's Eve! Watch a preview of what's to come in the video. Couch potatoes can watch the real deal happen on TV channel 7 at midnight.

Metro Rail extends service for New Year’s Eve event

Travel to New Year's Eve events in downtown Buffalo in an eco-friendly way. Take the Metro Rail. Also, no worries about driving, traffic or parking.

Don't get "hurt in a car"...
If you overdo it at your favorite Buffalo watering hole, don't drive home. Phone "Designated Drivers of Buffalo" at 713-7703 to get yourself and your car home safely for free, up to a maximum drop-off distance of 20 miles (might be a good idea for the bars to prominently display this phone number tonight). The law offices of William "hurt in a car" Mattar are paying the fare for any inebriated bar patron in the City of Buffalo.

A Blue Moon on New Year's Eve
It doesn't happen very often...only once in a blue moon. Generally there's only one full moon per month. But there will be two full moons in December, the second one on New Year's Eve. The second one is called a "blue moon", because it's a rare occurrence. The last blue moon on New Year's Eve occurred almost 20 years ago. It's not really blue in color, and it will be full and bright white, unlike the colorized, eclipsed moon in the photo.

The 29.5-day cycle of the moon matches up pretty well with the length of calendar months (moon = moonths, errr months...get it?). Two full moons in one month happen about every 2.5 years. The last time a blue moon fell on December 31st was in 1990, and the next time won't be until 2028, according to NASA.

Tonawanda Coke Plant Manager Busted!

Tonawanda Coke official accused of environmental crimes
An official at Tonawanda Coke Corp. was charged in federal court with three counts of violating environmental laws.

Tonawanda Coke’s environmental control manager facing federal charges

After a raid on Tonawanda Coke last week, federal prosecutors Wednesday arrested the plant’s environmental control manager.

Top Official at Tonawanda Coke Arrested
Press Release From U.S. Attorney's Office

Clean Air Coalition of Western New York
The actions taken against Tonawanda Coke for the sake of the public health in our community were the direct result of important work done by the Clean Air Coalition. They are becoming a powerful voice for environmental justice in Western NY, and they need your support to continue and expand their work.
Please consider becoming a member and making a donation. Your membership will allow the Clean Air Coalition to keep the community up to date, support new research efforts and make sure our community’s voices are heard by those who have the power to make change.

Earlier posts about the Clean Air Coalition and their actions against air pollution at Tonawanda Coke:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Groundwork Buffalo

Executive Director

Groundwork Buffalo is an independent, not-for-profit, environmental organization working in conjunction with communities, the National Parks Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. Groundwork organizations’ purpose is to build sustainable communities through joint environmental action thereby empowering people, creating better places, and helping to bring about prosperity through practical projects with people, business, government and other organizations.

The Executive Director will be responsible for managing the operations of Groundwork Buffalo, including managing an office, fund-raising and development, overseeing financial and program management, making regular progress reports and complying with grant reporting requirements, hiring and managing staff, and setting the strategic direction of the organization.

For a full description of the Groundwork Buffalo employment opportunity, click here.

To apply, please send a cover letter and resume to Groundwork Buffalo at or mail to Groundwork Buffalo, c/o LISC, 700 Main Street, 3rd Floor, Buffalo, NY 14202.

Job Openings at BUFFALO ReUSE

Buffalo ReUSE has two AmeriCorps Job Openings.

We are looking for a
ReSource Educator and a Green Space Coordinator. The candidates shouldn't feel intimidated about the teaching part. If they've never taught a group of people--we can train them. They just have to have the desire and capacity to teach. Their service will last one year--from JAN-DEC 2010.

N. Seawell, Director of Community Programs
Buffalo ReUse Inc.,

2010 Commemorative Calendar from Buffalo ReUSE
Revenue generated from our sale of 2010 Commemorative Calendars funds our social mission, which includes neighborhood revitalization, job training, and environmental stewardship.
Learn more and purchase a calendar here.

To read earlier posts on Buffalo ReUSE, click here.

Buffalo First! Coupon Books & Office Needs

Get Discounts at Local Businesses with

Buffalo First! Coupon Books

Individuals, Schools and Businesses can now order books with the click of a button. Wholesale and Retail. If you are an individual buying books PLEASE consider buying from one of our great local businesses first (below). Your support helps them.

You can page through an electronic version of the coupon book here.

Buffalo First Director, Amy Kedron, was recently interviewed by Reuters:
Buffalo groups seek ways to help local businesses
Amy Kedron is also working to promote local businesses. She is the co-founder and director of Buffalo First, which sells books of coupons for local businesses.

Kedron is a former academic and has spent a lot of time thinking about what she does. A chart in her latest coupon book – she has the proofs with her when we meet – shows how for every $100 spent at a non locally-owned business, $57 leaves the community, whereas that figure is only $32 if you spend it at a locally-owned business.

“In a way I feel sorry for CEOs of big corporations,” she said. “They are legally obliged to maximize shareholder value and cannot do a lot for communities like this because they would be breaking the law.”

“We have forgotten in this country that there is so much more to capitalism than just the exchange of goods and services,” Kedron added. “It’s about community and local businesses are the best at building communities because their owners are in it to make a living, not a killing.”
Read the full report by Nick Carey at

We're Seeking Office Donations
We have recently moved into our new office space above Hyatt's All Things Creative! Currently our 'wish list' of necessary items contains a microwave and minifridge. If you or your business have these items, or other general office supply needs which you are not using, think of Buffalo First!
Don't forget, all donations are tax-deductable!

We are excited to continue establishing our new space, and we thank you for helping us reduce, reuse, and recycle!
Thank you for supporting Buffalo First's mission to create a more local, green and fair economy in WNY. We look forward to hearing from you!

Always Local,
The Buffalo First Team

Buffalo First! Building a Local, Green and Fair Economy

Buffalo First Inc., 910 Main Street, Buffalo, NY 14202 E-mail

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Feds Raid Carcinogen-Emitting Coke Plant

On Thursday, more than 50 federal and state agents pulled a surprise raid on the Tonawanda Coke plant, with a search warrant to collect evidence for an on-going investigation, according to the Niagara Gazette.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been investigating the facility following air quality tests by the NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation showing levels cancer-causing benzene in the air near the plant 75 times greater than EPA guidelines.

Local residents attribute the toxic air, which also contains hazardous soot particulates, as a cause of respiratory problems and cancers in the area. Several years ago they formed the Clean Air Coaltion of Western NY to draw attention to their plight and to attempt to create a dialogue with plant owner J.D. Crane, who has ignored them. The persistent health problems of residents and a recent protest against the high-level toxic emissions from the Coke Plant drew strong citizen support and attention from the media as well as from the U.S. Senators Schumer and Gilibrand and Representative Slaughter. Those congress members contacted EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to develop a plan to reduce benzene emissions at the coke plant.

According to The Buffalo News, company officials ignored an EPA demand to submit testing protocols for hazardous emissions. The raid included EPA officials from its criminal investigation division, the DEC, the U.S. Coast Guard and state attorney general’s office. “We took records and samples,” U.S. Attorney Kathleen M. Mehltretter said after the raid, declining further comment. The EPA filed suit against Erie Coke on September 22, alleging continuing pollution, poor maintenance of coke ovens and lack of required annual inspections of smoke stacks and boilers. The federal suit stated that Erie Coke could be liable for damages of more than $32,500 a day for violations.

“The community is excited that decisive action is being taken against Tonawanda Coke,” said Erin Heaney, executive director of the Clean Air Coalition. “We’re closer than ever to seeing justice delivered for the residents of Tonawanda.”

The EPA has provided information to the local Tonawanda community on their air quality study and their evaluation of the Tonawanda Coke facility. The EPA communication is here. [PDF]

The recent raid by federal and state officials has also been reported on local TV news from stations WKBW, WGRZ and WIVB.

The plight of the local residents and Tonawanda Coke’s reluctance to talk to them has been highlighted in an Editorial in The Buffalo News.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Weatherization Saves Energy & Money

Obama promotes home energy-efficiency spending
President Barack Obama called Tuesday for new federal incentives to make millions of homes more energy efficient as a way to create jobs, save money for homeowners and reduce pollution. He said that insulation is "sexy". "Here's what's sexy about it: saving money," Obama said homes and offices are responsible for 40% of U.S. energy consumption, and that homes built in the first half of the last century can use about 50% more energy than modern dwellings.

"The simple act of retrofitting these buildings to make them more energy efficient - installing new windows and doors, insulation, roofing, sealing leaks, modernizing heating and cooling equipment - is one of the fastest, easiest and cheapest things we can do to put Americans back to work while saving families money and reducing harmful emissions," Obama said.

About $8 billion of the $787 billion economic stimulus bill is dedicated to energy-saving investments in homes. Read the full AP report in The Buffalo News.

High heating bills of poor targeted
PUSH Buffalo is demanding help from National Fuel to reduce heating bills of low-income residents. At a recent rally, some signs read “We want to green our homes, not National Fuel’s wallet.” The federally funded Home Energy Assistance Program provided about $50 million to National Fuel last year to help underwrite the heating bills of low-income residents in Erie County. The PUSH Buffalo campaign is seeking a commitment from National Fuel to help weatherize 1,000 units in 2010. PUSH says weatherizing costs about $6,500 per house, and lowers heating bills by 30%-40%.

Read the report by James Heaney in The Buffalo News.

Music Video: "Double Panes"
A music video to promote saving energy and money through home weatherization, energy efficiency, energy audits, insulation, and double-pane windows (hence the title).
It's by a group of Stanford University students having fun for a good cause. Check it out:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Offshore Wind Power in NY

Power Authority seeks bids for wind farm
Project off the shores of Lake Erie or Lake Ontario could generate up to 500 megawatts of electricity
The New York Power Authority took its first major step Tuesday to advance its efforts to encourage the development of a big wind farm off the shores of Lake Erie or Lake Ontario.
Terry Yonker, the U. S. co-chairman for the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative, said it is important for the Power Authority to make good choices as it proceeds with the project because it will set precedents for other offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes region.
“The potential for wind power in the Great Lakes is among the best anywhere on earth,” he said.
Read the report by David Robinson in The Buffalo News.

Lake Erie Map of feasible wind sites (black areas)
Link to Lake Ontario Map is here

Great expectations for Great Lakes
State seeks proposals from private developers to provide wind power ALBANY --
The possible transformation of the Great Lakes into a major source of wind-generated electricity began Tuesday, when New York became the first state to open its share of the lakes to offers by private wind developers.
During a news conference on the shore of Lake Erie near Buffalo, Gov. David Paterson and other officials unveiled plans for the state to reach 20-year agreements with owners of selected projects by December 2010. Proposals would be due at the state Power Authority by June 2010.

Great Lakes Offshore Wind Project Request for Proposals
Links to NY Power Authority files are here.

And on the East Coast...

Plan Advances to Build Wind Farm Off New York City

New York area politicians and energy officials are moving ahead with what could be the nation's largest offshore wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean 13 miles from Queens.
The Long Island/New York City Offshore Wind Collaborative, a group of utilities and government agencies, said Wednesday it would request proposals next year from developers for a 350-megawatt wind farm near the Rockaway Peninsula that could cost more than $1 billion and involve more than 100 turbines.
Read more in the Wall Street Journal.

Power from Cow Manure - It Happens!

Renewable Energy From Manure Becomes Reality for NY
Dairy coalition methane digesters to power 32,000 homes by 2020
ROSEMONT, Ill., | Dec. 11

Methane digesters on dairy farms could soon be a common source of energy for residents and businesses in the state of New York. That is one result of the Dairy Power Summit, held Oct. 29 and 30, 2009, in Syracuse, N.Y., which brought together more than 200 New York dairy farmers and industry stakeholders from across the country to discuss the potential for dairy-supplied renewable energy.

Summit attendees set a 2020 goal that 40 percent of all manure from New York dairy farms goes through the anaerobic digestion process, which captures methane from manure and generates clean, renewable energy. The energy produced from this effort could power 32,000 homes while strengthening the economic vitality of New York's dairy farms. It also would reduce New York's greenhouse gas emissions by 500,000 metric tons of carbon, equivalent to taking 100,000 cars off the road.

Gov. Paterson's "45 by 15" program is one of the nation's most aggressive energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives. By 2015, New York State will meet 45 percent of its electricity needs through improved energy efficiency (15 percent) and clean renewable energy, such as methane (30 percent).
Read more here

Don't laugh now! Cow Power is nothing to wrinkle your nose at. Pacific Gas & Electric Company and BioEnergy Solutions started a biogas-to-pipeline injection project in Fresno County, CA, to produce renewable natural gas from animal waste in 2008. This single project is expected to deliver the electricity needs of about 50,000 PG&E residential customers. Construction of a second biogas distribution network near Bakersfield, CA, is scheduled for 2010.

Biogas is powerful stuff.
Cow poo could potentially provide enough energy to power 3% percent of the national grid!

Biogas is produced when microbes break down a methane-rich source like manure. Cow manure is put into covered lagoons that trap the natural gas as the manure decomposes.
Methane has more than 20 times the greenhouse gas potential of carbon dioxide. The BioEnergy Solutions system is said to cut methane emissions from manure by as much as 70%, or 1,500 tons annually on a 5,000-cow farm.

Following the digestion and upgrade processes, the waste water and remaining solids can be utilized to irrigate and fertilize nearby crop lands.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TORONTO STAR for the Planet

On Monday, December 7th, as the U.N. Climate Summit opened in Copenhagen, the TORONTO STAR joined together with 56 newspapers in 45 countries to speak with one voice on climate change in a common editorial on their front page (click image to enlarge).

The project was the result of weeks of negotiations between the papers to agree on a final text.

Among those taking part were two Chinese papers – the Economic Observer and the Southern Metropolitan – and India's second largest English-language paper, The Hindu.

In addition to the Toronto Star, some of the other best known papers in the world, such as Le Monde, El Pais, and Russia's Novaya Gazeta also participated.

A team of Guardian writers and editors took the lead and went through three drafts to arrive at a text that satisfied all the editors involved.

The editorial states:

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year's inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world's response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time, and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between East and West. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

To read more at the TORONTO STAR, click here.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Business Gets Green: December 17th

Senator Antoine Thompson's
Thursday, December 17, 2009
5:30pm to 7:30pm

Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Branch Library
1324 Jefferson Ave, Corner of Jefferson and East Utica [ Map ]
This is a wonderful facility - intimate but spacious.
Lots of Free Parking - 25 spaces in the library lot - and ample on-street parking. Now that it's getting dark earlier, we will provide accompaniment to your car after the meeting if you'd like.

for the 15 minute featured presentations:

  • Terry Yonker - The Great Lakes Wind Collaborative -- See VIDEO here
  • David Magid - Hughesco -- See VIDEO here
  • Steve and Barry Carr - Clean Communities of Western NY -- See VIDEO here
  • Ran Webber - The Skyway to the Future
Descriptions of the businesses in the featured presentations are here. Our presenters will have great information to help your business grow, go green, and save money in the process !!!

The Format for Business Gets Green includes 1/2 hour of 30 second Introductions by businesses, organizations and individuals. See one VIDEO here and another VIDEO here.

The Introductions are followed by 4 - 15 minute feature presentations on businesses or issues that are of special interest, usually with Powerpoint slides.

If you would like to give one of the 15 minute presentations, please contact Bill Nowak with a 2-3 paragraph description of your presentation and dates (3rd Thursdays) you can be available to present.
As usual, this session will be filmed for LCTV and YouTube. Thanks Jon Allen! Videos are posted here.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Clean Air Coalition of WNY

Message from the Clean Air Coalition (CAC) of Western NY

Membership Meeting
- We're meeting up Wednesday, December 2nd to catch up and plan our next steps! Join us to hear about the EPA's new testing at Tonawanda Coke, what the DEC's final report says (in plain English) and help us figure out how we can keep Tonawanda Coke on their toes.
We're also hosting Northwinds BioDiesel, a company that wants to move into Tonawanda and be a good neighbor from the start. They're flying in to share their vision and answer our questions - we hope you can join us! As usual, we'll be at the Sheridan Parkside Community Center (169 Sheridan Parkside Drive) at 7 pm.

The EPA and DEC keep the pressure on Tonawanda Coke
-This month the DEC released the final report of their air quality study. You can all 200 pages of it here - or you can check out the fact sheet we made with all the essentials - it's attached! The report clearly points to Tonawanda Coke as the most deadly polluter in Tonawanda. The EPA wrote a letter to Tonawanda Coke demanding they complete additional testing. You can find the letters here.

Holiday Party! - Please join us Thursday, December 10th at 7pm at the Ken-Ton Chamber of Commerce, 3411 Delaware for a holiday celebration! There will be good food, great people and lots to celebrate. The event is potluck, so please bring a dish to share. We're providing drinks and roast beef. RSVP to Jen with your dish and the number of people attending ASAP.

Contact Erin Heaney for further information. Hope to see each and every one of you soon!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Business Gets Green: November 24th

TUESDAY, November 24th

The focus is on preparations for the
2010 Green Expo

Senator Antoine Thompson's Business Gets Green session in November will focus on starting preparations for the 2010 Green Expo, which will be held on Earth Week Saturday, April 17th, 2010.

You are invited to be part of this effort!

Business Gets Green will meet:
  • Tuesday, November 24th from 5:30 to 7:00 PM
  • Environmental Education Associates, 346 Austin St [Map]
(near where Grant turns into Military -- convenient to Grant St. exit of 198)
The EEA offices are in the adaptively reused former Police Station at 346 Austin St.
Please join us!

For additional information, contact Bill Nowak
Deputy Chief of Staff, Director of Policy Research
for NYS Senator Antoine M. Thompson

Coal Pollution and Public Health

A talk entitled "Choking on Coal" will be presented by
Dr. Alan Lockwood, MD

Professor of Neurology and Nuclear Medicine
University at Buffalo
  • Monday, November 23 at 7:30pm
  • Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center
  • 341 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo [Map]
Dr. Lockwood, former president of the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), recently testified before a U.S. Senate committee about the negative effects of coal-burning power plants on human health. The PSR report is here.

For a printable flyer with additional info, click here.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Restoring Greatness to the Great Lakes

Last year I posted a report on the need to clean up the Great Lakes, including then presidential candidate Obama's campaign promise to do just that.

President Obama has now signed legislation approving $475 million of funding as part of his Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Realizing the importance and scope of the cleanup, he has promised that the funding will add up to $5 billion over five years.

As reported by Jerry Zremski in The Buffalo News on November 6, 2009:
The funding greatly enhances the odds that Buffalo will receive federal funding for a $60 million project to remove contaminated sediments from the Buffalo River, said Julie O'Neill, executive director of the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. It also boosts the chances of winning local funding for a habitat rehabilitation project on the Niagara River, O'Neill said.
Cited today in an Buffalo News Editorial entitled "Help for the lakes":
Not only will it help put Americans to work during this jobless recovery, it also takes advantage of the Great Lakes Compact, the 2008 agreement by the eight Great Lakes states to do their part to preserve the lakes. Tourism and fishing industries should also benefit, and with Buffalo’s waterfront about to take a giant leap ahead, that’s more good news for Western New York, whose fishing opportunities are unique.
See also earlier Re-ENERGIZE BUFFALO posts dealing with the Great Lakes.

Steel Winds: Brownfields to Greenfields

Along with the national movement to expand renewable energy sources of electricity comes a need for appropriate land to accommodate large wind farms and solar arrays. One approach builds on the saying "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade". That approach was taken at the site of the former Bethlehem Steel plant in Lackawana NY near Buffalo in 2006: idle brownfields in the rustbelt were successfully re-purposed into an urban wind farm named 'Steel Winds'. The brownfields were transformed into Greenfields.

The Steel Winds project is now providing a model for the nation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have now identified nearly 4,100 contaminated sites deemed economically suitable for wind and solar power development, as well as biomass, according to a Scientific American article highlighting Steel Winds.

EPA's Re-Powering America's Lands initiative was formed last year to coordinate federal efforts to encourage the use of contaminated sites for renewable energy, such as brownfields, old mines, and landfills. The EPA highlighted Steel Winds as an example in its report, and also a solar photovoltaic facility sited at a former landfill in Fort Carson, Colorado as well as other sites.

According to the EPA report, brownfields and other contaminated lands are environmentally and economically beneficial for siting clean and renewable energy facilities because they:
• Generally have existing transmission capacity, infrastructure in place and adequate zoning
• Take the stress off undeveloped lands for construction of new energy facilities, preserving the land carbon sink
• Provide an economically viable reuse for sites with significant cleanup costs or low real estate development demand
• Provide job opportunities in urban and rural communities

Environmentalists are in favor of using brownfields and landfills for clean energy development because it relieves the development pressure on pristine places.

The EPA will kick off a series of national workshops to allow state and local leaders, renewable energy developers and conservation groups to brainstorm. A brownfields conference called "Revitalization in the New Economy" was held in Colorado last week. The 13th National Brownfields Conference will take place in New Orleans this week.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Environmental Citizen of 2009

[click image to enlarge]

To see the full Award Poster from the Erie County Environmental Education Institute, click here.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

NY State Green Jobs--No Training Corps in Buffalo?

Governor Signs The Green Jobs/Green New York Bill
Gov. Paterson signed a bill to establish a program to create green jobs and stimulate investment in weatherization and energy efficiency improvements for residential and commercial buildings. The program is designed to create jobs, lower energy costs for households, not-for-profits and small businesses and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Press release is here.

To fund the weatherization loan program and establish the Statewide green jobs training program, NYSERDA will use a portion of $112 million from the auction of carbon emission credits through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The seed money from the RGGI fund will be used to leverage private investment, which will move us toward a goal of retrofitting one million homes over the next five years.

The Green Jobs bill will allow the State to increase its existing and successful weatherization efforts that are already underway. The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) will eventually administer $394 million in funds under American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. By the end of October, $190 million in 64 contracts, representing every county in New York, will be executed as part of the WAP program.

Governor Funds Green Jobs Corps, but None in Erie County
Gov. Paterson also announced that $7 million from the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) has been awarded to 11 counties and New York City to launch the new Green Jobs Corps programs. This funding will allow local departments of social services to provide job skills training and subsidized employment opportunities in “green industries” for public assistance recipients and low-income individuals. Participants in the Green Jobs Corps program will develop occupational skills that will enable them to get jobs in addition to supporting their ability to remain employed and advance in their careers.

Half of the money will go to NY City, and the remainder is divided among 11 counties, which do Not include Erie County, home to Buffalo, the third poorest city in the Nation. WHY NOT Buffalo?

Green Career Web Site Announced

To help connect job seekers with the opportunities being announced today, Paterson also announced the launch of a new web site to assist those seeking to enter the new green job sector. The site – – is designed to make it easy for individuals, businesses and workforce professionals to find the State’s local training programs and green job opportunities.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

CO2 Emissions Raise Global & Local Concern

On Saturday, October 24, people around the globe, and in Buffalo, participated in an International Day of Climate Action, called simply '350', to draw attention to problems associated with excessive CO2 emissions generated by burning fossil fuels and ways to solve those problems.

Why 350? A team of scientists, led by NASA climatologist Dr. James Hansen, determined that 350 ppm (parts per million) is the safe level of heat-trapping CO2 (carbon dioxide) which we must get below in order to preserve climates similar to which life on Earth is adapted.
They found that throughout human civilization prior to the Industrial Revolution, before the extensive burning of fossil fuels, levels were only as high as 280. That level is far below the current level of 387, which is increasing at rate of 2 ppm per year. An intergovernmental panel comprised of over two thousand scientists has linked the rise in heat-trapping CO2 levels over time with climate change and environmental impacts that are threatening the health and well-being of people around the world. More recently, scientists have observed a connection between rising CO2 levels and increasing acidification of the world's oceans accompanying the deterioration of the ocean food web.

An international group directed by environmentalist Bill McKibben felt that world leaders must be informed of the urgent need to reduce the level of heat-trapping CO2 to at least 350. McKibben and co-founders named the group '350' to draw global attention to the science-based CO2 target of 350, a number that means the same thing in all languages. Scientific information about a safe CO2 emission target is essential for U.S. law makers aiming to cap emissions and shift to clean energy sources, as well as for world leaders seeking a strong and equitable climate treaty at the U.N. International Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark in December.

On Saturday, October 24th, people in 181 countries came together at over five-thousand '350' events around the world, calling for strong leadership and urgent action on the climate crisis. Visit to see a spectacular slide show of events around the globe. Below is a composite of photos taken at '350' events in three different countries. The photo suggests that international cooperation can help get to 350 in Copenhagen
[click photo to enlarge].
Locally, there were several '350' events. On Thursday evening, Daemen College and the Sierra Club participated in a 350 event in conjunction with a talk called "Chill the Drills", about oil drilling in Alaska and climate change caused by burning fossil fuels.

On Friday, University at Buffalo students in the UB Environmental Network held a 350 march and gathered in the Student Union to inform others about 350 [click photo to enlarge].
On Saturday, the WNY Climate Action Coalition co-sponsored a teach-in and march along with other groups, including Catholic Charities, the Sierra Club, Network of Religious Communities and the energy-charged UB Environmental Network. A report on the event was published in The Buffalo News and is here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Toxic Air at Tonawanda Coke

Recently the Clean Air Coalition of WNY organized a protest against the high-level toxic emissions from the J.D. Crane Coke Plant on River Road in Tonawanda, NY, drawing strong support from local residents and others, as well as considerable attention from the media. The protest was followed up by a phone call-in to the ECIDA in opposition to public subsidies they awarded to Tonawanda Coke whose air pollution is harming the health and well-being of local residents.

The awareness of the toxic air at Tonawanda Coke raised by the Clean Air Coalition
on behalf of local residents has gotten the attention of the federal government.

Senator Schumer challenged the owner of Tonawanda Coke to meet with community groups and listen to their concerns about harmful benzene and other chemicals coming from the coke plant, as reported in The Buffalo News. The plant owner, J.D. Crane, has ignored repeated requests from local residents to meet and discuss the air pollution problems and possible solutions.

Lisa Jackson, head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), gave assurance to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand that concern about dangerously high emissions of the carcinogen benzene “is not an issue that will slip through the cracks.” “If the DEC [NY state Department of Environmental Conservation] does have findings, they have the full capability to do a significant enforcement action that would include significant fines,” Sen. Gillibrand said EPA head Jackson told her.

"The DEC has announced no action plan, which is frustrating to the residents of this community," said Erin Heaney of the Clean Air Coalition. Resident Jeani Thomson, who suffers from cancer, lupus, and constant headaches, says studies and remedies have been slow in coming. "If they keep going years and years and years, I'll be dead before that," said Thomson, as reported by WIVB TV News.

The DEC already has findings of emissions monitoring which took place between July 2007 and July 2008. Thomas Gentile, head of the DEC’s Air Toxics Section, indicated that the Tonawanda Coke plant on River Road has been the likely source of the irritations to the eyes, ears, noses and throats of nearby residents at a meeting with them on June 12, 2009.
Benzene, a carcinogen, was found in concentrations that greatly exceed the State average, particularly at the Grand Island monitoring station, according to the June 13, 2009 report in The Buffalo News.

I obtained the map and data from the DEC website and learned that the elevated benzene concentrations were not monitored at Grand Island, as stated in the News article above, but rather at Grand Island Boulevard in Tonawanda, as seen in the DEC map of pollution monitoring sites, below, and as indicated in the benzene emission data below the map. Grand Island Boulevard (GIBl on the map) is immediately North East of J.D. Crane's Tonawanda Coke plant, the soot-blackened area in the center of the map.
[click image to enlarge]
Benzene emissions at Grand Island Boulevard were on average 75 times higher than than the NY DEC guidelines (blue-green horizontal line near 0.00 concentration; AGC =0.13). Chronic inhalation of benzene causes disorders in the blood, affecting bone marrow, damaging the immune system, causing anemia and increasing incidence of leukemia. In addition to being a carcinogen, benzene may irritate the skin, eyes, and upper respiratory tract according to the EPA. Benzene can also induce changes in the structure and function of chromosomes, and adverse effects on the fetus, including low birth weight, delayed bone formation, and bone marrow damage, have been observed where pregnant animals were exposed to benzene by inhalation.

Soot particulate emissions from the Tonawanda Coke plant are yet another problem for local residents. Particle emissions are a leading cause of respiratory illness and premature death.
EPA is concerned about small particles because those generally pass through the throat and nose and enter the lungs. Once inhaled, these particles can affect the heart and lungs and cause serious health effects.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

Business Gets Green: October 15th

Thursday, October 15, 2009
5:30pm to 7:30pm

Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Branch Library
1324 Jefferson Ave, Corner of Jefferson and East Utica [ Map ]
Lots of Free Parking - 25 spaces in the library lot - and ample on-street parking. Now that it's getting dark earlier, we will provide accompaniment to your car after the meeting if you'd like.

for the 15 minute featured presentations:

  • Benjamin Rand - Insyte Consulting & NYS Pollution Prevention Institute - See the VIDEO here
  • Katie Duggan-Haas - Resource Recyling Systems - See the VIDEO here.
  • Joseph Murray - Ace Energy, Inc. - See the VIDEO here
  • Donna Chapman - WNYCOSH Staff Coordinator - On the recently passed Green Homes/Green New York bill - See the VIDEO here
Descriptions of the businesses in the featured presentations are here.

The Format for Business Gets Green includes 1/2 hour of 30 second Introductions by businesses, organizations and individuals. See the VIDEO here.

The Introductions are followed by 4 - 15 minute feature presentations on businesses or issues that are of special interest, usually with Powerpoint slides.

If you would like to give one of the 15 minute presentations, please contact Bill Nowak with a 2-3 paragraph description of your presentation and dates (3rd Thursdays) you can be available to present.

As usual, this session will be filmed for LCTV and YouTube. Thanks Jon Allen!

Videos from the Sept. 24th Business Gets Green session are on the Web:

Dan Conable - NYS BioMass Energy Alliance
Creighton Randall - Buffalo Car Share
Dave Majewski - R.E.D. is the new Green
Short Introductions

Save the Date: Senator Thompson wants you to know that we are scheduling the 2010 Green Expo for Saturday, April 17th. Please save this date, and if it represents a conflict with something you know is being planned, please let us know right away so we can seek some accommodations.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Clean Air Coalition Rally

Rally for Clean Air
at the
J.D. Crane Coke Plant in Tonawanda, NY.

Members of the Clean Air Coalition, local residents, and supporters gathered near the J.D. Crane coke plant today to protest air pollution that is harmful to human health. The plant emits high levels of benzene, a chemical that can cause cancer.

Satellite photo of the dirty coke plant

Slide show of the rally

For more information, contact Erin Heaney, Executive Director of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York.

UPDATES: Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009
Benzene pollution is certainly bad enough, but the coke emissions also include soot, a.k.a. black carbon. Black carbon air pollution is a leading cause of respiratory illness and premature death. Controlling emissions will save lives and improve health.

The satellite photo above shows the accumulation of extensive black carbon deposits at the J.D. Crane Coke Plant. Soot particulate emissions contribute to the fact that our region's unhealthy air remains among the worst in the state. Nearby residents of the Coke Plant have experienced black carbon fallout at their homes in addition to benzene pollution, as shown in the video, below:
Senator Charles Schumer Demands Coke CEO Make More Concerted Effort to Decrease Emissions of Benzene - June 22, 2009

What's That Smell?
- ArtVoice

In September, J.D. Crane's Erie Coke Corp. in Pennsylvania was sued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the PA Department of Environmental Protection in federal court to force the corporation to update or replace aging equipment.Regulators say the work could cost as much as $20 million. The report is here.

UPDATE: Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009

The Buffalo News -- Front page report
Danger in the air
State study finds Tonawanda Coke emits benzene up to 75 times higher than recommended guidlines, stirring calls for action
By Mark Sommer
See for a Video entitled: Residents Upset With Tonawanda Coke

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Stimulus money flows to clean NY water

Last March, the NY State Environmental Facilities Corporation solicited projects to identify green infrastructure opportunities in need of funds. The selected projects were then submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for final approval. New York received $432 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $86 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.

Western New York recieved $9.8 million for innovative water quality projects through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The funds were awarded to 10 different projects through a new State initiative known as the Green Innovation Grant Program, which promotes sustainable, environmentally sensitive water infrastructure and technologies.

Monroe County, Jamestown, and Medina received the largest grants:
  • $3.2 million to Monroe County for the construction of a highly visible and educational green roof on part of the plaza level of the Monroe County Civic Center.
  • $2.55 million to the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities, Chautauqua County, for the upgrade of existing digesters at the wastewater treatment facility, restoring the bio-solids process to allow the facility to effectively use the methane gas from the sludge digesters for power generation.
  • $1.7 million to the Village of Medina, Orleans County, for the installation of green infrastructure at the wastewater treatment facility to achieve greater energy efficiency, while creating renewable energy and managing stormwater. Green improvements include rainwater harvesting, a green roof, solar units, and energy-efficient lighting.
The report on the funding announcement from Gov. Paterson is here.

On August 31, the Governor announced $15.4 million in federal funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for three projects in Western NY:
  • The Town of Caneadea in Allegany County will receive $8.3 million to support the planning, design and construction of a project to address various drinking water quality issues. Treatment will be constructed for the existing source. A new well source will also be provided to conform to current standards for supply capacity. The project also includes a new transmission main, replacement of aged water mains and the provision of public water to areas presently served by poor quality private wells.
  • The Town of Erwin in Steuben County will receive $6.3 million to support the planning, design and construction of a drinking water supply interconnection with the Town of Erwin Morningside Heights Water District as a primary source of water. Funding will support the installation of a new storage tank, distribution system, a secondary/emergency interconnection to the existing Village of Painted Post water system, and the provision of public water to areas presently served by private wells of insufficient quality and/or quantity.
  • Chaffee Water Works Company, Inc. in Erie County will receive $800,000 to support the planning, design and construction of the project, which will address drinking water quality issues and includes improvements to the existing well source, the addition of a new backup source, replacement of an existing storage tank, upgrades to the hydro-pneumatic system, automated treatment controls, tank level alarms, and the replacement of the aged inadequate distribution system.
The report on the funding announcement from Gov. Paterson is here.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Talk: Building New York's Solar Economy

The WNY Sustainable Energy Association presents
Building New York's Solar Economy
Where We Are, Where We Need to Go, and How to Get There

A talk by
Ron Kamen

Senior Vice-President, EarthKind Solar

7:00 p.m., Tuesday, October 6th
Room 202 Schenk Hall
Daemen College
4380 Main Street, Amherst

Schenk Hall is across from the Wick Campus Center.  See Campus Map for location and free parking on campus.

Ron Kamen, President of the New York Solar Energy Industries Association, NYSEIA, is senior VP of EarthKind Solar, the leading solar thermal energy company in New York.  Ron began his career as an energy policy expert in the 1980s when he worked to create Demand Side Management programs that gave the utility industry a financial incentive to invest in energy efficiency, spurring New York's current multi-billion dollar efficiency programs. In the 1990s, Ron developed energy efficiency projects with Fortune 1000 companies and government entities, and from 2000 - 2006 he played a key role in creating NY's wind power market, helping propel growth from 50 MWs to over 1,000 MWs of wind energy today.

For more information, e-mail Walter Simpson or phone (716) 839-0062. Event co-sponsored by the WNY Climate Action Coalition.