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.