The controversy over hydraulic fracturing in New York State has entered a new phase with the release of a draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“DSGEIS”) by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) containing recommendations for the implementation of high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York. If implemented, these recommendations would end a moratorium on permits for drilling new wells for high-volume hydraulic fracturing (also known as “hydrofracking”). The moratorium has effectively been in place since 2008 and was made official by an Executive Order issued by then-Governor David Paterson in December 2010.
The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a significant decision in a controversial case involving climate change and the Federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. On June 20, in American Electric Power Co., Inc. v. Connecticut, (Case # 10-174) the Supreme Court ruled that Congress, via the Clean Air Act, has authorized the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. This authority means that the Federal government has “occupied the field” of greenhouse gas emission regulation, thus precluding suits by third parties under federal common law (such as public nuisance claims) as a means to compel companies that emit greenhouse gases in their operations to limit those emissions. More importantly, this decision marks the second time that the Supreme Court has affirmatively stated that Congress has granted EPA the authority to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, which is believed by a majority of the scientific community to be causing or contributing to global climate change. Continue reading
On June 6, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to consider a constitutional challenge brought by the General Electric Company (“GE”) against an enforcement mechanism frequently used by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to compel potentially responsible parties (“PRPs”–see discussion below) to clean up contaminated sites under the Federal Superfund law. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case, known as a denial of certiorari, lets stand a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in favor of EPA in the case of General Electric Co. v. Jackson, 610 F.3d 110 (D.C. Cir., June 29, 2010). GE had claimed that the particular enforcement mechanism, known as a Unilateral Administrative Order (“UAO”) represented a violation of the constitutional right to due process. The Supreme Court’s action would appear to preclude further due process challenges to EPA’s use of the UAO. Continue reading
Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn formally announced the release of the New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, Vision 2020. The new plan is very ambitious in its scope, envisioning the waterfront as an integral part of the city, or the “Sixth Borough,” as Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden describes it.
As we discussed in October, New York City’s Vision 2020 plan is indeed comprehensive. The 192-page plan offers a wide range of strategies the City could employ to take better advantage of its waterfront, for both recreational and economic purposes. It proposes new waterfront open spaces, as well as improvements to the waterways themselves and related infrastructure, such as dredging to accommodate more container ships and upgrades to the city’s sewer system. In addition, the plan aims to address environmental concerns by making recommendations aimed at protecting wetlands, improving water quality, and addressing sea level rise and other climate change concerns.
Covering the entire report in one post would be ambitious, so ZONE instead plans to do a series of updates on the topic. In the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at several of these issues in depth and exploring their potential effect on local land use and other issues relevant to you, our readers.
Until then, you can read more about the plan, or download a copy of the entire 192 page document, here.
On January 4, Governor Cuomo announced the appointment of Joseph Martens as Commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Since 1998, Mr. Martens has served as President of the Open Space Institute, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of scenic, natural and historic landscapes. During Mr. Martens’ tenure, the Open Space Institute has engaged in a significant preservation campaign involving land acquisition and the placement of conservation easements. Mr. Martens’ appointment as DEC Commissioner, which is subject to confirmation by the State Senate, has been warmly received by environmental advocacy organizations in New York State. As of this writing, business organizations have not publicly weighed in on the appointment. Continue reading
Shortly after taking office, the incoming administration of Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo and his choice for Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) will have to address a controversial issue that has significant implications for the State’s economy, energy use and the environment. The issue is the use of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, (also known as “hydro-fracking” or simply “fracking”), an emerging technique for drilling underground wells to recover natural gas. Continue reading
Earlier this year, I had the privilege if sitting on a panel which analyzed a fascinating and innovative proposed urban agriculture development project in the Bronx. The event was very interesting and demonstrated the many benefits of urban agriculture, as well as the growing level of support for the concept.
The panel – put together by the Sustainability Practice Network – looked at one of the responses to an EDC RFP asking for development ideas for a vacant block in the Bathgate section of the Bronx. Continue reading
The Department of City Planning is currently in the process of updating the City’s Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, which was originally published in 1992. Local law requires that this update, which City Planning has entitled “Vision 2020,” be completed by the end of the year. The Waterfront Plan is not to be confused with City Planning’s update to its waterfront zoning, which occurred last year and focused primarily on the design of the open spaces required when a private waterfront property is developed. Continue reading
Earlier today, Mayor Bloomberg and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) regarding the City’s new Local Brownfield Cleanup Program (LBCP). Under the MOA, the City and DEC have agreed to work together to “promote and facilitate the cleanup and appropriate reuse of contaminated properties.” The LBCP allows parties that want to redevelop contaminated property in New York City to clean up the property under the jurisdiction of the City’s Office of Environmental Remediation (OER) and receive liability releases from the City once cleanup is complete . OER will consider accepting sites into the LBCP that have been determined by DEC to be ineligible for the State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program, which has stringent eligibility criteria. The LBCP also provides grants for investigation and cleanup of sites that are enrolled in the program, with priority given to certain types of projects, including community redevelopment projects and affordable housing projects. Continue reading