Saturday, January 30, 2010

Beginnings of NY High-Speed Rail

In April 2009 the Obama administration listed Buffalo as a candidate for high-speed rail funding.

On Thursday, President Obama announced funding to begin to lay the foundation for
high-speed passenger rail from Buffalo to Albany and New York City (the Empire Corridor), as well as for the North East Region and other regions of the country.

$151 million to help with high-speed rail projects

The federal stimulus money will be used for a series of projects along the Empire Corridor, including preliminary work on a third track between Rochester and Batavia and construction of a second track between Schenectady and Albany, as well as track improvements between Albany and Montreal.

The Depew and Rochester train stations also will be renovated to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The amount of funding was far less than the $4.7 billion the state had sought. Of that total, $3.2 billion would have been targeted for a dedicated high-speed third track along the rail route and the rest for station, bridge and equipment improvements.

Advocates in Washington said that while the state had sought more funding, the amount it will receive still would be a major step toward 110-mph trains that would reduce travel time from Buffalo to Albany to 3½ hours and to New York City to less than six hours.

"I think this is wonderful," said Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, who organized the 11-member Upstate New York Caucus early last year to push the rail project.

"I was hoping for a half-billion, but I'm happy with what we got. They're not going to start it and not finish it, and I'm going to make sure of that."
Read the report by Mark Sommer and Jerry Zremski in The Buffalo News.

Information from the White House:

New York - Albany - Buffalo:
The 468-mile Empire Corridor connects all of New York’s largest cities. The vision for the corridor is to increase speeds to 110mph and add daily round trips, with one of the largest investments being the construction of a third track between Albany and Buffalo.

The Northeast Region currently has the most integrated passenger rail network in the country. The vision for these rail corridors is to invest in projects that will boost speeds, cut trip times and strengthen the system as a real alternative to air and car travel. The seven intercity passenger rail corridors in the region are shown in the map.

[click image to enlarge]
Additional information from the White House on funding of these and other regions of the country is here.

Restoring and Greening the Neighborhood

PUSH Buffalo, Homefront Inc., and the Massachusetts Avenue Project are restoring vacant and abandoned houses on Buffalo's West Side and re-energizing them using environmentally-friendly solar and geothermal heating systems. In addition to these green rehabilitation efforts, their strategy focuses on job creation and urban agriculture, and it is being looked at by NY State as a model for neighborhood redevelopment.

NY Gov. David Paterson
recently proposed the Sustainable Neighborhoods Project to revitalize vacant homes across the state by using existing state resources to create long-term affordable city housing. He said that he would start with Buffalo’s 23,000 vacant houses, and that the Sustainable Neighborhood Project will invest in environmentally-responsible projects that develop blighted property, vacant land, community gardens and urban agriculture.

In The Buffalo News:
State looks at West Side as model for redevelopment

Developers using environmentally friendly strategies to curb vacant housing
PUSH Buffalo activists view Paterson's pledge and a subsequent visit by the governor's aide as an indication the state may be nearing a decision to help fund their multimillion-dollar neighborhood development.
I think they're assessing our work," said Aaron Bartley, executive director of PUSH, one of the groups spearheading the development. "The level of interest they've shown tells me they're interested in what we're doing."

What PUSH and its partners, Homefront and the Massachusetts Avenue Project, are doing is overseeing a redevelopment strategy that emphasizes more than just housing rehabilitation. It also focuses on job creation and the environment.

The plan targets a 25-block area directly south of West Ferry Street and west of Richmond Avenue, with an eye toward rehabilitating abandoned homes and revitalizing vacant lots and public spaces.

The primary focus is on housing, with plans for a green-designed rehabilitation of about 200 housing units, three-quarters of them vacant.

"If we really want to make a dent in the housing problem on the West Side," Bartley said, "we have to hit at least 100 vacant housing units."

If this development has an edge over others, it may be the proven track record of the three community groups leading the effort. Each of them has had success in redeveloping vacant properties.

Together, they have completed a green-designed rehabilitation of six vacant housing units and are working on 17 other units right now.

Read the report by Phil Fairbanks in The Buffalo News.

EPA acts to Stop Coke Plant Pollution

Earlier posts described a surprise raid of the Tonawanda Coke plant by federal and state agents, and the arrest of the plant's environmental control manager. The Clean Air Coalition of Western NY continues to raise awareness about the plant's pollution on behalf of the local residents. The good news is that the EPA is responsive to the pollution problems, and is increasing pressure on the coke plant to clean up their act.

EPA vows to get tough on River Road plant

Tonawanda Coke told to fix violations
Judith Enck, regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, announced Thursday a series of violations against Tonawanda Coke that made it clear the company has escaped close notice for years by inspectors. The violations carry fines up to $35,000 a day, and Enck said the EPA would not be shy in pursuing them if Tonawanda Coke fails to act.

Clean Air Coalition of Western New York has complained about the mysterious illnesses and air pollution from Tonawanda Coke for the past four years.

But it took a protest outside Tonawanda Coke’s gates in October, and complaints to Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, plus Sens. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and then Enck’s move to the EPA before anything happened.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Jackie James-Creedon, who founded the Clean Air Coalition after she was stricken with fibromylagia, an auto-immune disease.

Creedon and Erin Heaney, executive director of the coalition, spent a day with Enck in Albany after the protests in October and briefed her on Tonawanda Coke.

“The optimal outcome is that Tonawanda Coke fixes what is broken,” Heaney said. “We need to make sure that every step is taken to make sure the risk is as low as possible.”

“We’re doing what we can to control the benzene emissions to the greatest extent possible,” Enck said, “and this is very important, because benzene is a known human carcinogen.”
Read the report by Michael Beebe in The Buffalo News.

Mayor wants to 'Green' Niagara Falls

Mayor Paul Dyster gave his "State of the City Address" in Niagara Falls on Thursday. He presented five challenges: honest government, economic development, a livable city, keep our city safe, and create a green philosophy. The text of the last challenge is shown in full below.

Create a Green Philosophy

The last of our five major challenges is to create a "green" philosophy here in Niagara Falls to promote a sustainable way of life. Those cities that are most nimble in addressing the new challenges will become more prosperous. Those that lag will be left behind.

More than a century ago, Niagara Falls led the world by harnessing one of the world's largest sources of sustainable hydroelectric power. Our heritage demands that we lead the way again by developing renewable energy sources. And we must work to reduce our own use of fossil fuels, so that we can reduce emissions and make city operations more sustainable.

"Going green" isn't a fad. It is a way of life and must become a way of thinking that shapes the way we operate, the way we build, and the way we do business every day.

So we have started buying hybrid cars, including – you guessed it – the mayor's car. We've worked with the Power Authority to buy two electric vehicles for the Police Department. We are participating in a trial program for a fuel additive that may reduce pollution and improve gas mileage. We're working to reduce energy usage in city buildings, and we've started to replace old-style light bulbs with high-efficiency fluorescents. The first replacement bulbs were installed in – you guessed it – the mayor's office.

The new public safety building wasn't originally designed to meet green building standards, so I insisted that some changes be made. And thanks to our intervention, we will have a LEED-certified courthouse. We are also working with the Power Authority to reduce energy costs at the Hyde Park Ice Pavilion.

And we're making sustainability a key part of the design of the Old Falls Street-West Mall reconstruction project. Our work will be a national model for reducing the rain runoff entering our sewer system, reducing the burden on our wastewater treatment plant.

Through the NFC Development Corporation, we recently created a grant program that will help businesses to modernize their facilities so they'll use less energy, replacing outdated lighting, furnaces and water heaters.

And in the future, we will explore ways to educate our residents about simple, day-to-day changes they can make to "go green" in their own households. This will include an outreach program to make sure our residents are recycling all the materials that they can – which will benefit the environment, reduce the need for landfill expansion, and improve the financial return on our city's recycling program.

Our city is known for its natural beauty. It is our responsibility to safeguard it. We must think green at every level of decision making. Working together, I'm confident that we will create a progressively cleaner, greener community.

The text of the complete speech is here.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fun Friday: Global Warming Assembly

Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) is a national nonprofit dedicated to educating America's High School students about the science behind climate change and inspiring them to do something about it—while having fun along the way. If cow farts offend you, DON'T watch this video! (be patient, there may be delays in the beginning of the video, but the stream gets better later) [mobile link is here]

To learn more about ACE, visit their Website.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What's the Hydro-Fracking Rush?

Hundreds of New Yorkers to Rally at State Capitol Monday, January 25th

The Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) released a report entitled "Protecting New York's Air, Land, Water and People—What's the Hydro-Fracking Rush?" The report outlines the problems of the controversial “hydro-fracking” plan being proposed in the Marcellus and Utica shale and provides key policy recommendations for elected officials. Hydro-fracking, or high volume hydraulic fracturing, is a potentially dangerous method of natural gas drilling that threatens to contaminate NY’s water, land, and air.

On Monday, January 25th, at the west side of the State Capitol Building, hundreds of members of the public, from across NYS, will call on Governor Paterson and the NYS Legislature to delay the rush to drill and stand up for the protection of our water, land, and air.

“While gas is valuable, clean air to breathe and safe water to drink are priceless,” said Dereth Glance, CCE Executive Program Director. “Until hydro-fracking is proven safe and the true costs are exposed ; we need to STOP New York’s rush to drill.”

For more Information on Monday’s Rally and a link to the CCE report, click here.
For a Fact Sheet on hydro-fracking, click here.

On the same day, advocates for national gas exploration will also hold a rally in Albany in support of Marcellus drilling. See a news release here.

In the NEWS

Lancaster ecology firm sets stage for rewards from ‘green economy’
Kevin Neumaier sees nothing but opportunity in the budding “green economy,” but the president of Ecology & Environment also says the Lancaster environmental services firm may have to wait a little while to reap its full rewards.

Between rising interest in wind-energy projects, efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and a push to make buildings more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, Neumaier believes that E&E will have plenty of chances to find work in the coming years.

Neumaier believes that some of that growth will come from efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, easing one of the main causes of global warming. That could lead to increased spending on renewable energy projects, such as wind farms, as an alternative to power plants that run on fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas.

E&E already is working on dozens of wind projects, which has led to E&E’s wind project revenues to jump from almost nothing in 2004 to nearly $8 million last year. Neumaier believes that offshore wind farms will be a fast-growing part of that business in the coming years, despite questions about the affordability of electricity generated by those projects.

E&E also expects more work from efforts to make buildings greener. The company this week was named by the General Services Administration as one of 18 contractors nationally to work on efforts to make federal buildings more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. While it’s not clear how much work that will bring E&E, company officials said that it could average about $5 million to $7 million a year over the next few years.
Read the report by David Robinson in The Buffalo News.

Montante, Chinese sign solar power deal

An industrial park under development in the Town of Tonawanda has been rebranded as New York’s first “solar ready” commercial development, as its owners Monday celebrated the signing of a deal expected to bring Chinese know-how and investment to the site.

Leaders of TM Montante Development, the owners of the newly renamed Riverview Solar Technology Park, and the Shanghai New Energy Industry Association held a ceremonial signing of a memorandum of understanding Monday morning at the offices of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership in downtown Buffalo.

The text of the memo was not made public, but it was described by leaders of both parties as a promise and plan to link the renewable energy industries of China, where 35 percent of the world’s solar energy modules are made, and Western New York, where solar and other renewable energy sources are seen as an environmentally responsible route to economic renewal.

State economic development officials announced recently that the state had awarded a $1 million grant to the Town of Tonawanda for its Riverwalk East Park Connector project to build roads and utility services for the Montante project and for the town-owned North Youngmann Commerce Center nearby.
Read the report by George Pyle in The Buffalo News.

Senate, House panels approve `net metering' bills
A bill aimed at utility customers who install renewable power sources such as wind turbines is seriously flawed and would hurt Indiana's renewable energy movement, clean energy advocates told a state Senate committee Thursday.

The bill would expand the number of customers who can send excess power from wind, solar and other renewable energy systems back into the electric grid - an option currently limited to schools and homeowners.

But before the Senate Utilities and Technology Committee approved the bill 8-3 and sent it to the full Senate, it endorsed changes that drew strong criticism from supporters of efforts to expand Indiana's "net metering" rules.

The amended bill bars customers generating more than 10 kilowatts from carrying over excess power credit on to future bills. "You will kill net metering if you do not allow customers to roll over credit," said Laura Arnold, president of Indiana Distributed Energy Advocates.

Read the AP report in The Buffalo News.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In the NEWS

Steel Winds project will add six windmills
Six new windmills will be built on the old Bethlehem Steel site this year. According to First Wind spokesman John Lamontagne, the new towers will be about 240 feet tall, and with the blades, the windmills will be about 400 feet tall, the same as the eight turbines that the company operates along the Lackawanna shoreline.

The Thruway Authority will seek proposals from the wind turbine industry to assess the feasibility of constructing smaller windmills at six Thruway sites in Western NY: Batavia, Eden-Angola, Silver Creek, Dunkirk, Westfield and Ripley.

The plan is part of Gov. Paterson’s objective of meeting 45% of NY electricity needs through energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Read the report in The Buffalo News.

Water-focused group tries to steer government money to clean up Buffalo
BUFFALO, New York – When the state of New York and this post-industrial city don’t have the resources to seek government funding for water preservation projects, Julie Barrett O’Neill’s staff step in.

“There is a lack of capacity at the state and city level,” said the executive director of nonprofit group Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, which works to promote, preserve and protect the environments of the Buffalo and Niagara rivers. “There’s not a lot of infrastructure so we have to step in.”

So far the 20 or so staff at Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper have brought up to $12 million in funding to Buffalo, with another $50 million to come over the next two years.

The group is now looking at ways to access some of the $475 million set aside by the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama as part of the Great Lakes Initiative, aimed at restoring the Great Lakes. Together the Great Lakes contain 22 percent of the world’s fresh water.
Read the full report at

Report finds region ripe for green economic future
Buffalo Niagara Enterprise on Tuesday rolled out what it called “third-party validation” that the alternative energy industry can hold the key to turning this part of the Rust Belt green.

“With its diverse manufacturing heritage and skilled work force, the region can become a key asset in U. S. efforts to expand its competitive presence in emerging green industries and technologies,” wrote consultant Keith W. Rabin, president of KWR International.

The 162-page report, commissioned by Buffalo Niagara Enterprise and funded by a grant from the electric utility National Grid, argued that such factors as idled industrial facilities, skilled work force, varied educational institutions and strategic location should position the region to respond to the nation’s call for renewable, secure and environmentally friendly energy sources.

Beyond the idled factories and the underemployed worker base, Rabin said, Western New York offers the climate and resources necessary to generate wind, solar and water power, plus the transportation network necessary to ship products that could be manufactured here.
Read the report by George Pyle in The Buffalo News.

For a Buffalo Niagara Enterprise Summary Report on the green economy and Western New York’s alternative-energy manufacturing potential, click here.

US Department of Labor announces $150 million in ‘Pathways Out of Poverty’ training grants for green jobs
WASHINGTON — Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced $150 million in green jobs training grants, as authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). The "Pathways Out of Poverty" grants — as the group of funding awards is known — will support programs that help disadvantaged populations find ways out of poverty and into economic self-sufficiency through employment in energy efficiency and renewable energy industries.

"These Pathways Out of Poverty grants will help workers in disadvantaged communities gain access to the good, safe and prosperous jobs of the 21st century green economy,"said Secretary Solis. "Green jobs present tremendous opportunities for people who have the core skills and competencies needed in such well-paying and rapidly growing industries as energy efficiency and renewable energy."

Through the 38 grants awards announced today, targeted populations will receive recruitment and referral services; basic skills, work-readiness and occupational skills training; supportive services to help overcome barriers to employment; and other services at times and locations that are easily accessible. Through these programs, participants will receive certifications and on-the-job training that will lead to employment.

The press release is here.

NOTE: A search of grant recipient cities in upstate NY found Rochester and Syracuse, but not Buffalo.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fun Friday: "COOL IT" by Raffi & Friends

The Global COOLING Song, by Raffi, known for singing songs for children. Raffi performs here along with his friends, including scientist David Suzuki. [mobile link is here]

Saturday, January 9, 2010

In the NEWS

Revitalizing upstate neighborhoods
By NY Gov. David A. Paterson
For too long, your government has stood by and watched as the jobs of tomorrow never arrived and upstate New York slipped further and further into economic decline.

We must begin by addressing the surfeit of prime housing stock that lies vacant in so many of our great cities.

To tackle both of these problems efficiently and effectively, I have proposed the Sustainable Neighborhoods Project. This effort will revitalize vacant homes across the state by using existing state resources to create long-term affordable city housing, and we are going to start with Buffalo’s 23,000 vacant units.

Additionally, the Sustainable Neighborhood Project will invest in environmentally-responsible projects that develop blighted property, vacant land, community gardens and urban agriculture. State agency experts will work with community development officials in each upstate city to facilitate these projects, and each partnership will establish clear goals for each new sustainable neighborhood.

But if we are going to rebuild New York’s economic might and create the jobs of the future, we must also renew the strength of our manufacturing base and keep our commitment to the people who carry its legacy into the 21st century.

That’s why we are going to support clean energy retrofits for businesses that otherwise would be unable to afford them. We are going to create a network of industrial assistance centers to educate businesses on alternative manufacturing approaches. And I will submit legislation to reform the Power for Jobs program, so that businesses will have the certainty they need to make long-term investments in our state.

We must also use existing infrastructure to re-energize our traditional manufacturing sector and attract the manufacturing jobs of the future. That is why I am proposing a new state program that will support public-private partnerships to inventory each region’s unique manufacturing assets and develop plans to restore and market these sites.

Read the full report in The Buffalo News.

[UPDATE: 01/10/2010] Paterson sets public meeting here
Gov. David A. Paterson will conduct a town meeting at the Buffalo Museum of Science at 2 pm on Tuesday, January 12.

According to The Buffalo News, it will be the governor’s first in a series of appearances around the state, aiming to build public support for the legislative program he announced in his State of the State message.

Read the report in The Buffalo News.

New smog rule could be a surprise to some counties
Stricter rules proposed Thursday by the Obama administration could more than double the number of counties across the country that are in violation of clean air standards. That would likely have a big impact on other parts of the nation since California already sets stringent standards for cars, ships and trucks.

Smog is a respiratory irritant that has been linked to asthma attacks and other illnesses. Global warming is expected to make it worse, since smog is created when emissions from cars, power and chemical plants, refineries and other factories mix in sunlight and heat.
Read the full report in The Buffalo News.

End this bad idea
Jamestown power plan lacks support, board should drop the project
The dream of turning its otherwise unnecessary coal-fired power plant into a shining example of a new way to burn America’s abundant coal without wrecking the world’s weather certainly sounds attractive. But, as the many critics of the plan have convincingly argued, it is less attractive than trying it out on a power plant that is already belching out tons of climate-changing gases.

If the carbon-capture technology doesn’t work, or if making it work is so expensive that nobody can afford to operate it, running the test on an existing power plant leaves us no worse off than we were before. If Jamestown builds a new plant only to find out that the carbon can’t be economically captured, then the city is left with a new coal-burning plant that it either has to operate in order to make back its investment, or shelve as a way of stanching the flow of money and the release of soon-to-be banned or heavily taxed carbon.
Read the Editorial in The Buffalo News.

Experts: Cold snap doesn't disprove global warming
Beijing had its coldest morning in almost 40 years and its biggest snowfall since 1951. Britain is suffering through its longest cold snap since 1981. And freezing weather is gripping the Deep South, including Florida's orange groves and beaches.

Whatever happened to global warming?

Such weather doesn't seem to fit with warnings from scientists that the Earth is warming because of greenhouse gases. But experts say the cold snap doesn't disprove global warming at all - it's just a blip in the long-term heating trend.

"It's part of natural variability," said Gerald Meehl, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. With global warming, he said, "we'll still have record cold temperatures. We'll just have fewer of them."
Read the full report in The Dallas Morning News.

Buffalo Niagara Green Expo -- April 17

The Buffalo Niagara Green Expo will be held at the Walden Galleria Mall on Saturday, April 17 and will be Open to the Community.

Businesses and Organizations:
Do you have green products, services, ideas or concepts? Have you taken steps to green your business or your community? If so, you are invited to have an Exibitor's Table at the Green Expo to advertise and spread your green words to communities in the Buffalo-Niagara region and beyond.

The Galleria Mall is strategically located directly off the NY State Thruway at the Walden Ave. exit in the Buffalo area, and it dominates a trade region that includes Niagara Falls and extends south to Pennsylvania and west into Ontario, Canada.

"We had a very productive walk through at the Mall over the holidays and are excited about the potential for this year's Expo."
Bill Nowak, Deputy Chief of Staff, Director of Policy Research for NY State Senator Antoine M. Thompson.

Senator Thompson, the Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, has convened the Buffalo Niagara Green Expo steering committee because of his strong desire to support local green businesses and organizations as a key niche for WNY's 21st century economy.

"The Galleria Mall is going to be a terrific venue to get the word out to the Buffalo/Niagara/WNY communities and attract other businesses to participate."
Deborah A. Robbins, VP New Business Development and Sustainability, Rubberform Recycled Products LLC.

Businesses and Organizations interested in participating in the Buffalo Niagara Green Expo may e-mail Mary Fisher, Exhibitor Recruitment Chair, or phone at 833-2929, ext. 117.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Fun Friday: Empire State of Mind

Music Video: Alicia Keys sings her heart out about NEW YORK.
Stephen Colbert joins in with a rap...suburban style!
Keys and her group are moving. Colbert is hilarious.

Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down

Lyrics to Colbert rap are here.
Lyrics to Empire State of Mind are here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

WNYorkers: Take Survey -- Win Prizes

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo is planning a new environmental website and would like input from the general public of Western New York in order to understand their interests in environmental news and activities.

The Foundation has created an online survey to obtain your input. This information will help guide the development of the new website.

Complete this survey by January 15, 2010 and you will be entered to win an iPod nano or $100! To be eligible to win a survey prize, you must live in Western New York.