Posts Tagged ‘economics’

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

OPINION: Who Is Teresa Sayward Working For?

Sometimes I think having so many conservative newspapers is a weird kind of blessing. Hoping to appeal to conservative editorial boards gives “our” politicians an opportunity to really show their true colors, and that’s just what Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward has done over at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

I think a lot of people who live and play in the Adirondacks would be astonished to hear that Sayward opposes state land purchases that would open land previously held by the rich and powerful to regular folks – places like OK Slip Falls – which Sayward opposes purchasing.

How about this nugget. In order to keep local prisons open (prisons we NO LONGER NEED and that costs us a fortune to operate) – Sayward’s wants to “privatize some of the golf courses, swimming pools and campgrounds.”

Who exactly are you working for Ms. Sayward? The people? Or your rich friends, lobbyist buddies, and fellow political hacks? Tell us, which campgrounds do you want to close to the public and why?

Why is it necessary to close the few public services we have and boost private interests in a economic climate that has decimated working people? Especially when that burden has been handed down to us by so-called private businesses by people like Sayward who have allowed them to run rough-shod over us all?

Maybe a bigger question is how can we keep reelecting a woman who wants to close public services (remember North Country Community College?) and hand them over to private interests?

Here’s a plan Ms. Sayward – EXXON/MOBIL has just recorded a record profit again this year of some $45.22 billion – how about taking some of what they have? It used to be ours anyway.

Stop taking ours.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Locals Oppose Gov’s Forest Preserve Tax Cap

The following press release, presented here in its entirety, comes from the John Sheehan of the Adirondack Council:

Proposed Cap on State’s Tax Payments to Localities Undercuts 122-Year-Old Compact Between State & Adirondack/Catskill Park Towns, Counties and School Districts

As the deadline nears for Gov. David Paterson to make last-minute changes to his 2009-10 budget plan, more than 100 government and civic leaders from the Adirondack and Catskill parks are urging the governor to discard his plan to cap the state’s property tax payments to local towns, counties and school districts that host state Forest Preserve lands. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Regional Foods Site Now Online

More and more consumers are looking for local foods. Community leaders are increasingly supportive of developing farmers markets and other venues for regional farmers to sell their products locally. A new website developed by the North Country Regional Foods Initiative – www.nnyregionallocalfoods.org – provides information on how to find regional foods and resources to help communities support and expand local food marketplaces.

The new website includes links to online tools designed to connect producers and consumers, research-based publications about North Country local foods, a calendar of local food events, and links to ongoing local foods work in the North Country.

Publications on the new website range from how to find money to strengthen local food systems and guides to increase the consumption of local farm products to cookbooks, advice on how to serve local foods at events, and economic analysis of farmers’ markets and other community-based food systems.

The site also includes the North Country Regional Foods Initiative’s series of research briefs, fact sheets and recommendations intended for other farmers, food business owners/operators, consumers, policymakers and community & economic developers working to enhance and sustain agriculture in Northern New York.

The report includes social and economic impact data generated by local/regional foods operations and the Northern New York-based organizations that support them and a summary of the spring 2008 conference on the role of Adirondack North Country foods in community and economic development.

The initiative was developed through a partnership of the Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties and the Economic Development Administration University Center at CaRDI and designed to document how local food businesses and activities benefit the northern New York region and identify strategies for enhancing those benefits.

According to CaRDI’s Ag Economic Development Specialist, Duncan Hilchey, consumer surveys, in particular the Empire State Poll conducted by the Cornell University Survey Research Institute in 2007, show that 78.5% of the New York State residents age 18 and older buy local foods and 37.4% of that group said they go out of their way to buy local food.

Partnerships between producers, consumers, community and economic developers and local officials can serve as a model for bringing community members together to support other regional development efforts. Those interested in learning about and supporting local food activities in the North Country may now join a regional electronic network.

To activate entry into the cce-nnylocalregionalfoods-l@cornell.edu listserv, send an email to bel7@cornell.edu with “Add me to the NNY Local/Regional Foods List” in the Subject line. More information on local and regional food initiatives is available from members of the Northern New York Regional Agriculture Program Direct Marketing/Local Foods team and the Community and Rural Development Institute (CaRDI):

Franklin County: Bernadette Logozar, (518) 483-7403, bel7[AT]cornell.edu

Clinton County: Anne Barlow-Lennox, (518) 561-7450, alb326[AT]cornell.edu

Essex County: Laurie Davis, (518) 962-4810, lsd22[AT]cornell.edu

Hamilton County: Nancy Welch, (518) 548-6191, naw5[AT]cornell.edu

Jefferson County: Rosalind Cook, (315) 788-8450, rlc53[AT]cornell.edu

Lewis County: Dolores DeSalvo, (315) 376-5270, dbd6[AT]cornell.edu

St. Lawrence County: Katherine Lang, (315) 379-9192, kaa20[AT]cornell.edu

Additional Info: The website at www.nnyagdev.org/ncrf-home.htm include links to:

Adirondack Harvest – a community organization focused on expanding markets for local farm products so consumers have more choices of fresh farm products and on assisting farmers to increase sustainable production to meet the expanding markets; www.adirondackharvest.com

Adirondack North Country Association – a 14-county association committed to economic improvement. Since incorporation in 1954, ANCA has worked to create a greater sense of regional identity and pride through advocacy and promotion; www.adirondack.org/

Community and Rural Development Institute (CARDI) – Since 1990, the Institute at Cornell University has responded to current and emerging needs in community and rural development; works with Cornell faculty and staff, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and other state and regional institutions; http://devsoc.cals.cornell.edu/outreach/cardi/

Cornell Farm to School Program – provides resource development, educational programs, and evaluation to support efforts to increase the amount of locally produced food served in NY’s schools, colleges, universities & other institutions; http://farmtoschool.cce.cornell.edu/

Farmers’ Market Federation of New York – a grassroots membership organization of farmers’ market managers, market sponsors, farmers and market supporters, offering services to increase the number and capacity of farmers’ markets in NY, develop the scope of professionalism in farmers’ market management and improve the ability of markets to serve their farmers, their consumers and their host communities; www.nyfarmersmarket.com/

FoodRoutes – a project of FoodRoutes Network, a national nonprofit organization that provides communications tools, technical support, networking and information resources to organizations nationwide that are working to rebuild local, community-based food systems; www.foodroutes.org

GardenShare – a non-profit organization working to end hunger in northern NY; focuses on local foods; harvest sharing; farm-to-school; food security; home gardening; and public policy; publishes free quarterly newsletter and St. Lawrence County Local Food Guide; and operates the EBT terminal for Food Stamp Program participants at the Canton Farmers Market; www.gardenshare.org

MarketMaker – interactive mapping system locates businesses and markets of agricultural products in NY, providing an important link between producers and consumers; http://nymarketmaker.cornell.edu/

Pride of NY Member Search – The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Pride of NY Program promotes and supports the sale of agricultural products grown and food products processed within New York State; http://www.prideofny.com/

USDA Community Food Systems – A Nutrition Assistance Program through USDA, contains general resources and information from farm to table and links to specific topics such as eating in a community food system; food entrepreneurship; and, community food systems research; http://fnicsearch.nal.usda.gov/fnicsearch.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

In AuSable Forks The Economic Crises Hits Home

I’ve been following the struggles of local business in the Essex County village of AuSable Forks. I asked Trudy Rosenblum who edits the Jay Community News to tell us about what’s been happening in her community. Here is what she sent:

AuSable Forks in the Township of Jay New York is feeling the first pangs of real hardship as the economic crisis arrives locally. Without warning Aubochon Hardware, conveniently located in the middle of the main street in Au Sable Forks, suddenly closed its doors. Now there are persistent rumors that the Grand Union in Au Sable Forks will also close along with several of the small businesses on the main street. People are very upset. They wonder what will become of this little town.

Au Sable Forks was once thriving with large sawmills, a foundry and an Iron Works company. There were plenty of jobs and numerous stores, hotels, restaurants and entertainment for the local population. Like any town, Au Sable Forks has seen its hard times, but the little town always managed to pull through, somehow adapting and changing, although it has never managed to recreate the beauty and attractiveness it had in the early 20th century.

Now the town is smaller and much poorer. There is a large population of elderly. Jobs are few and usually a long commute away. There is no industry, and no large employer. Visually it is no longer the charming quaint little village of the past that could attract tourists. Busloads of sightseers will not be stopping in the Forks even though we have the natural beauty that tourists want to see.

So Au Sable Forks has been of late a town hanging on. Up till the latest crisis at least its population could obtain locally the necessities for living, but with the closing of the big stores even that will be taken from the residents. It is especially difficult for a rural village in a cold climate to carry on in a poor economy. People already financially strapped must find a way to pay higher prices for everything because everything must be imported from cities farther away.

Home heating costs have gone through the roof. If you don’t have a car, there isn’t public transportation (although just this month a shuttle bus has been announced that will go to Lake Placid daily) so one has to rely on the good will of friends or they have to do without. Take away their ability to walk to the local store for food and other supplies and you have a recipe for disaster. The closest large grocery store is in Keeseville, Lake Placid or Plattsburgh, all a significant drive away, if you have transportation.

The impacts that the store closings may have could be pretty awful. As times get tougher and resources dwindle and become more expensive to obtain both in time and money, one would expect to see a rise in depression and a lowering of one’s frustration tolerance. Along with the lowering of frustration tolerance and the negative effects from the use of escape substances one could expect a rise in abusive behavior. At risk will be children, animals, women and the elderly. There is an old saying that like attracts like. Negativity will attract negativity causing a downward spiral.

There are many people in the Township of Jay working hard to prevent this downward spiral. The churches are very active providing food banks, inexpensive clothing, short-term shelter and even money. The politicians are hard at work trying to prevent the stores from closing and offering new programs to revitalize the appearance of the town. The residents are trying very hard to patronize local businesses and hire local workers. And to lighten the mood Au Sable Forks now has a renovated movie theater and in Jay there is a new performing arts theater in full operation presenting plays, concerts, story telling, dance classes, movement instruction and painting and sculpture classes.

It is hoped that with all these people working so hard the dire predictions of gloom and doom can be aborted and the positive cooperative spirit can attract more of the same. What is really needed, however, is a long-term fix. People need local good jobs. There needs to be some sort of industry; relying on tourism just isn’t cutting it.

We need our political processes, on the local, county and state levels to succeed in attracting an industry to the area; something that will create new jobs and revitalize the local economy. In the current economic climate, however, this may be only a dream. The alternative is bleak. One only has to drive down through New Russia, for example, and see the foundations of the buildings that once housed a thriving little population. The forest has closed over and reclaimed that area. Is this to be the fate of Au Sable Forks?



Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Adk Council: Budget Will ‘Savage Environmental Fund’

Governor Paterson released his budget proposals today and it doesn’t look good for the Environmental Protection Fund. Here is a note, just received from the Adirondack Council’s John Sheehan:

There is a great cause for worry about Gov. David Paterson’s first Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) spending plan, which was released today.

The governor proposes deep cuts in the programs supported by the EPF and proposes a fundamental change in the main source of revenue for the fund – from a stable, adequate source, to a speculative, untried funding scheme that has been blocked by the Senate for 20 years – threatening the EPF’s very survival. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Adirondack Hotel Wins DEC Environment Award

An Adirondack hotel that has gone all out to go green and educate guests, a Capital Region college that has taken big steps to reduce its ecological footprint, and a Hudson Valley school district effort to protect the water supply, reduce waste and run an organic garden are among the winners of the 2008 Environmental Excellence Awards announced today by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis.

The fifth annual New York State Environmental Excellence Awards ceremony took place in Albany today to acknowledge the winners and their projects. There were more than 40 applicants, with submissions coming from industry, local governments, advocacy groups, educational institutions, and the hospitality sector. A committee of 20 representatives from the public and private sectors selected the winning submissions.

“The projects selected are outstanding examples of how we can solve environmental challenges by using innovative and environmentally sustainable practices or creative partnerships.” Grannis said. “By recognizing New York’s environmental and conservation leaders, we hope to inspire stewardship so that others can make significant positive impacts and protect New York’s natural resources.”

Summaries of this year’s winners are below:

Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, Lake Placid, Essex County

Energy efficiency. Water conservation. Recycling. Green grounds. Environmental education. The Golden Arrow Resort has instituted green programs on a variety of fronts to reduce the environmental impact not only of the hotel, but also of the traveler. It features a “green roof” – a rooftop expanse of native plants that provides wildlife habitat, reduces water runoff and helps keep the inn warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A limestone beach reduces the impacts of acid rain. In-room recycling, insulated windows, energy-efficient lighting and low-flow plumbing fixtures are also part of the mix. The hotel offers incentives for guests that travel by foot, ski, bike or hybrid car. The Golden Arrow also assists others in the hospitality industry find ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

Brewster School District, Putnam County

Through its multi-faceted “Environmental Education/Sustainable Practices Project,” the Brewster Central School District has demonstrated leadership in protecting the environment and in promoting environmental education. This project includes significant capital improvements and managerial processes to save energy and to protect the region’s water supply by preventing excessive plant growth, loss of oxygen and fish kills in the receiving waters. The project also includes educational activities that have developed students’ awareness of environmental issues and have empowered them with opportunities to participate in meaningful, innovative, hands-on activities that have measurable environmental impacts. Accomplishments have already included a 50 percent district-wide reduction in solid waste production, a student-run organic garden, and a technologically advanced wastewater treatment facility built in 2007. Improvements have resulted in more than 17 percent in annual energy savings, 1,724,388 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions prevented, and 250,000 cubic feet each of paper and plastic waste diverted from landfills.

Union College, Schenectady County

Union College has instituted the U-Sustain initiative – an innovative, campus-wide program that involves faculty, staff, students and administrators with the goals of reducing the ecological footprint of the college, increasing environmental awareness on campus and in the community, and making the college more sustainable. Accomplishments thus far include the renovation of student apartments to be an eco-friendly house, energy reduction strategies, dining options that include student volunteers working with dining services to provide fresh, local and organic meals, initiatives to offset energy consumption, and increased recycling/waste reduction opportunities.

Chemung County Soil and Water Conservation District and Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board, Chemung County

These public agencies worked together to develop an innovative guide, “Stream Processes: A Guide to Living in Harmony with Streams,” that describes how streams work and why functioning floodplains are integral parts of the stream system. The guide contains dramatic photographs that help promote the need for sound management practices. The lessons learned can be applied to stream channels, floodplains, stream corridors, and watershed activities that do not trigger regulatory actions. The guide has already begun having a positive effect on decisions made by Chemung County landowners and local highway departments and its reach is expanding as a result of more than 30,000 guides being distributed to a variety of audiences throughout New York State.

Aslan Environmental and City of Kingston Wastewater Treatment Plant, Ulster County

The City of Kingston partnered the Aslan Group to develop a new and innovative system – the first of its kind in the world – for managing wastewater treatment plant residuals in an economical and environmentally sound manner. Waste “biogas” is captured from the plant’s digesters and utilized as the only required fuel to turn 10 wet-tons-per-day of municipal wastewater sludge into one ton-per-day of an EPA-recognized pelletized usable “biosolid.” The biosolid is distributed free of charge for use as a lawn fertilizer or furnace fuel, which costs less than the previous practice of landfill disposal. Also, methane gas is efficiently utilized within the process as a fuel and since very little methane is flared, oxides of nitrogen and other pollutant emissions have been reduced.

New York State Soil and Water Conservation Committee, Albany County

The committee’s Agricultural Environmental Management (AEM) – Farming New York Cleaner and Greener program serves as a national model of how a voluntary, incentive-based approach to agricultural management can successfully protect and enhance soil and water resources, while preserving the economic viability of a diverse agricultural community. AEM assists farmers in making practical, cost-effective decisions that result in the sustainable use of New York’s natural resources. Recently the program has expanded efforts to assist vineyards. Currently 52 growers have completed a new self-assessment workbook, which has resulted in the development of 16 action plans that implemented an average of nine improved farming practices at each location. While AEM supports voluntary environmental stewardship, it is also a vehicle by which changes in environmental regulations have been effectively implemented at over 600 Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Plans have been successfully developed for all 147 large CAFOs and 92 percent of the state’s 472 medium sized CAFOs. More than 10,000 New York farm families participate and receive information, education and technical assistance so that farmers are able to operate cleaner and greener while competing in today’s global market.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Discussion: An Adirondack Green New Deal

At the end of last month’s global warming conference a few participants were standing around talking philosophically about how to position the Adirondacks as a leader in the future green economy.

One local planner saw abandoned DOT lots along the Northway becoming park n’ rides, linked to local communities by bike and hiking paths, others envisioned them as green centers that connected mass transport, local information centers, and charging stations for locally produced energy. Someone else suggested painting a green stripe across every roadway that enters the Adirondacks – an unambiguous sign that you are entering a region where economics and the environment live hand and hand. Redraw the Blue Line as a Green Line.

SUNY Albany History Professor Lawrence S. Wittner, in a recent article at the History News Network, suggested that cuts in programs for education and healthcare proposed by Governor Patterson is the wrong way to climb out of our current economic recession. He pointed to the the inequities Adirondackers, and all New Yorkers, face:

The major reason the New York State budget is out of balance today—and has been intermittently for decades now—is that, for the last thirty years, the state has been cutting the tax rate for the top income New Yorkers. Specifically, driven by the desire to create a “business-friendly environment” in New York State, successive governors have succeeded in gradually lowering the tax rate for people in the top income bracket from 15.38 percent to 6.85 percent.

Thus, today, despite its liberal image, New York has a rather flat income tax rate, ranging from a low of 4 percent to a high of 6.85 percent… One of the state’s highly-respected think tanks, the Fiscal Policy Institute, estimates that a very small, temporary increase in the tax rates on the highest-income New Yorkers could yield as much as $7 billion per year—more than enough to cover the state’s projected fiscal woes.

Witner argues nothing less then that “government spending—and particularly spending that is funded by taxes on the wealthy—can also help to jump start the economy.” Witner connects his plan with the New Deal plans of FDR, which began with New York:

During the first years of the Great Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt served as governor, New York was one of the incubators of the New Deal’s Keynesian approach. A staunch backer of unemployment insurance, Roosevelt became the first governor in the nation to demand state aid for relief. Moreover, New York’s Temporary Emergency Relief Administration served as the first state relief agency in the country. Governor Roosevelt was also a keen advocate of expanding New York State’s investment in public power programs and of having the state buy up abandoned farms for the purpose of reforestation. In New York City, too, the municipal government reacted to the Great Depression by investing heavily in upgrading the city’s infrastructure. It established new (and free) city colleges like Brooklyn College (in 1930) and Queens College (in 1937), and opened its first city-owned subway line (in 1932).

So folks, if we need a New Deal, and we want it to be a Green New Deal led by our region – what proposals do you have?

What projects, small and large, can we do locally and regionally to advance a Green New Deal?


Monday, December 1, 2008

John Sheehan Responds to Attacks by Todd Shimkus

If you missed last week’s debate at the economic development symposium on the Northern Forest region at the Rockefeller Institute in Albany, you can see it the way it happened on YouTube here. The discussion featured Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian L. Houseal; Todd Shimkus of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce and Joe Short of the Northern Forest Center in New Hampshire.

The Northern Forest is a 70-million-acre swath of very big forests and very small towns ranging from Tug Hill, eastward through the Adirondack Park, northern Vermont, northern New Hampshire and to the coast of Maine. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Adirondack Climate Conference Final Thoughts

Well it’s over for today, but it’s clear that it’s not over forever. I think it’s fair to say that there was a collective sense that the Adirondack region is a unique place to lay out a framework to achieve local, national, and international changes in attitudes, policies, and our cultural and natural economies. One of the conference leaders (Howard Fish) put it succinctly when he said that residents of natural places like the Adirondacks play a critical role in ensuring both the survival of the world’s natural places and sustainable urban and suburban environments – the world looks to us to lead the way to, as the Adirondack region has for more then a century, coexistence between the natural and the human made world.

Here a few of the more important priorities that will likely be included in the draft Adirondack Climate Action Plan:

Education / Outreach / Clearinghouse of Technical Information
Improving Building Codes to Reflect Carbon Concerns
Incentivising / Creative Financing of Efficiency Retrofits
Advancing (Appropriate Scale) Local Energy Production for Local Consumption
Adopting Smart Growth Standards Across the Park
Promoting Alternative Energy Usage
Facilitating Local Green Business and Local Green Branding
Implementing Climate Change Research, Assessment, and Monitoring
Promoting Management of Our Adirondack Carbon Sink
Building Resiliency to Climate Change Through Local Planning / Action

Those were the ideas that seem to rise to the top. There were a lot more that will be incorporated into the draft action plan.

The three top priorities and three ways we’re moving forward:

Retrofitting Residences
Energy $mart Initiative will Approach 26 Communities Over the next year.

Clearing House / Education

There will be a new web site that hopes to be comprehensive on this issue in this region: WWW.ADKCAP.ORG

Leadership
Thirteen volunteers will form a steering committee to keep us on track and moving forward with the writing of the draft Adirondack Climate Action Plan.

Two final points:

The Seattle Climate Action Plan took two years to put together, so our task is going to be long but promises to be ecologically and economically rewarding for all Adirondack residents. We are looking at having a good draft document within a year.

An important point I think we’ve come away with is the notion that the Adirondack Forest, regardless of the value we ascribed to it before, now seems even more valuable as a carbon sink and nationally important precedent. Thankfully, it looks like local residents will lead the way to our climate future, whatever that may be, and that in itself is the most significant outcome of our little meeting here in Tupper Lake.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Study on Climate Impacts on Adirondacks Released

Here is a press release from the Wild Center on the report on Adirondack climate change impacts which was first posted here at the Almanack earlier today. I’ve been live blogging the Wild Center’s climate conference today and will continue tomorrow – you can read all the posts here (start from the bottom).

From the Wild Center: An advance edition of a sixty-two page report detailing potentially radical shifts in the ecology and economy of the Adirondack region was released today as part of a climate change conference held at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake. The document was produced by the Wildlife Conservation Society, and authored by Jerry Jenkins, with support from The Wild Center and The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.

The report analyzed data from the Adirondacks and looked at projected changes based on a range of peer-reviewed climate change models. The report states that even if fossil fuel use were immediately reduced, the upstate New York region would still experience a warming of about six degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. The report details a recent rise in temperatures in the Adirondacks. Highlights of the report include: » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Alternative Fuels and Small Scale Power Generation

First a note – the Jenkins report I mentioned in my first post here is now available at http://www.usclimateaction.org/userfiles/JenkinsBook.pdf – it’s a must read for its unique insight to the climate change challenges we have here in the Adirondacks.

Now for an update. I decided to sit in on the Alternative Fuels and Small Scale Power Generation workshop. There were about 30 people in the group and I was surprised how smoothly the discussion went. There were folks from all walks of Adirondack life: state, county, and town and village government, planners, builders and developers, educators and students, green business professionals, and simple residents with an interest. Among the groups who were represented (well actually not represented, but folks from these organizations were in attendance): the Adirondack Park Agency, St. Lawrence University, Paul Smiths, SUNY-ESF, Lake Placid High School, Houghton College, Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks, and many more.

We heard first from Amanda Lavigne of St. Lawrence University who provided us with lots of background information. We then characterized the problem as “what alternative fuels and power options are available to Adirondack Park residents that can reduce the rising economic impacts of home heating and transportation while minimizing carbon emissions and the impacts of climate change.”

Finally, we made a list of potential priorities including things like broadly incentivising alternative energy, creating a clearinghouse for information and technical assistance, encouraging appropriate scale local energy production for local consumption in a decentralized distributive manner, and many more.

Tomorrow we’ll be focusing on laying out a one year action plan for our group, and then we’ll be bringing it together with the rest of the other groups Wednesday afternoon.

More tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Future Paths to Mitigating Global Warming

Carter Bales, Co-Chair of the American Response to Climate Change National Conference, just gave a talk on what a national approach to greenhouse gas reductions might look like. “It’s difficult to be optimistic,” Bales said, noting also that it would require “a mobilization of the nation not seen since World War Two.” He said that provided the misinformation campaign of the Exxons and the coal producers fails, and the new Obama administration is serious, there “could be legislation may by 2011″ and it may become effective by 2015.” “There is hope” he said, “but time is not our friend.”

Generally speaking Bales said a four pronged action plan was necessary:

1 – a cap on carbon emissions
2 – raising efficiencies
3 – supporting deployment of new technologies and solutions
4 – addressing sections of the economy not included in the carbon cap (like ag and forestry)

Bales laid out five areas where differences could be made:

Building and Appliances (advanced lighting, electronic equipment, building shell / green building improvements). He called for a “new generation of appliances using half the energy of today.”

Transportation (biofuels, fuel economy improvements, advanced propulsion systems). Bales said gas would be $14 gallon if not for “peace keeping” and subsidies.

Industry (recovery of non CO2 green house gases from industrial processes, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency). Bales said that carbon capture and storage is “a complete nightmare, it either isn’t going to happen or it isn’t going to happen for a long time.”

Carbon Sinks (Afforestation of underutilized pasture and crop land, better forest management, alternative agricultural practices such as winter cover crops, conservation tillage). Bales noted that our carbon emissions in the US average about 20 tons per person; in India, it’s 1.5 tons per person. He also noted the important role of forested areas as carbon sinks. Guyana, he pointed out, has negative carbon emissions per person thanks to their large rainforest. “We should be paying Guyana to keep its rainforest standing,” he said adding that it would cost less than $5 a per ton of carbon emissions.

Power (expanding low carbon generation including carbon capture and storage for coal, developing wind and solar, and improving power plant efficiencies). “Natural gas is at best a transitional strategy,” he said, adding that “without fixing our power generation you’re not going to fix the problem.”

Bales also suggested a number of economic benefits from the transition to a low carbon economy:

1 – many existing industries (such as energy services) will boom especially as off-shoring is reduced and local production and servicing comes to the fore.

2 – new industries and businesses will form (particularly around efficiency retooling and green technologies).

3 – energy efficiency will save money for consumers directly.

4 – “peaking power” used at times of peak power demand will be reduced (“peaking power” is dirtier and more expensive)

5 – economies in rural areas (!!) will benefit from renewable energy technologies including wind and biomass.

One important thing for our region that Bales said was that there needs to be discussions on putting a value on standing carbon sinks like the Adirondack forests.

So far the conference is going well and putting together an Adirondack Climate Action Plan looks closer to reality then ever before. This afternoon smaller groups will meet and workshop over the following topics:

Energy Efficient Buildings & Contractor Preparedness
Alternative Fuels & Biofuels, Small Scale Power Generation
Local ‘Green’ Economic Development and The role of Government
Natural Ecosystems and The Role of Adirondack Lands and Forests in Carbon Mitigation

So many questions are going through my mind that it’s difficult to decide on which session.

What are the plans for getting the big real estate developers on board? After all, construction is a huge segment of our economy.

Does small scale power generation mean a distributed network? Small scale solar, water, and wind everywhere? Does it mean the kind of industrialization of our mountaintops and ridges like that proposed for the wind project in Johnsburg?

How does the tourism industry get on board? Does green economic development mean finally capitalizing on the Adirondacks potential as a green tourism destination?

Does the Adirondack sink mean that money will flow from government and industry coffers into the region in the future? Aren’t we in the Adirondacks like Guyana, at least a little bit?

So many questions, and I can only get to one workshop.

More at the end of the day.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Ruling Protects Adirondack State Tax Payments

On Friday, the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, 4th Department, ruled in the Dillenburg Case that the state may continue to make tax payments on state-owned land. The ruling will ultimately protect the Forest Preserve, local schools and governments, and the local economy.

In December of last year New York State Supreme Court Judge Timothy Walker issued an order throwing out payments in lieu of taxes for state lands. The move threatened to have a huge impact on towns, schools, and taxpayers in the region. Town of Inlet Supervisor J.R. Risley, said his town has about 400 year-round residents, 10,000 summer residents, and that 93 percent of the land is state-owned. The ruling was expected to double the town’s tax rate. Twenty-two percent of the Saranac Lake Central School District tax levy comes from taxes on state land – the number is fourteen percent in Tupper Lake. The ruling had been stayed while awaiting appeal – it was #2 on Adirondack Almanack’s Top Stories of 2007. » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 22, 2008

OPINION: Corporate Giants Taking More Local Money

There is news this week that two corporate giants – Verizon and Wal-Mart – are suing their local host communities to reduce their taxes.

That’s Verizon, the second-largest US telecom firm, who reported profits of 1.9 billion dollars in July, 2008. And Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, who reported profits of nearly 3.5 billion in August.

“The margin of profit is very high here,” Ticonderoga Town Supervisor Bob Dedrick told NCPR’s David Sommerstein. But that doesn’t matter to Wal-Mart, which has already been skipping out on their taxes in a “payment in lieu of taxes” agreement for the past ten years. They’re seeking an assessment that’s less then half of what it is now (about $30,000 less in town taxes). Ticonderoga has a population of about 5,500 – countless others shop in the store from the eastern Adirondacks.

By the way, Dedrick has been an outspoken supporter of the big box stores that have helped ruin local business in Ticonderoga – he once took a busload of local citizens to APA headquarters in Ray Brook to support the Ticonderoga Lowe’s. “We have had extreme support on this. APA, here we come,” he told local media at the time. Those will be famous last words – now he says “as far as corporate Wal-Mart; I’m pretty disgusted.” How about an apology to your neighbors Mr. Dedrick?

Over in Hebron, Washington County, Verizon’s four parcels are worth about $593,848 in fair market value, according to the town assessor. The company, however, wants that figure lowered by $246,000. That’s about $87,000 per parcel – quite a real estate bargain. “It doesn’t add up to a whole lot of money, but it’s a lot for a small town,” Hebron Supervisor Brian Campbell told the Post Star, ” “It’s just amazing. What an easy way out of paying taxes, if they can do it.”

We all know that these two companies have a virtual monopoly in their sectors in our region. Their profits are not limited to their hosts communities, but their costs do range far and wide: county services for underpaid employees, local emergency services, road and highway maintenance, and more. These are the costs we all pay.

Then consider last month’s U.S. Government Accountability Office’s study that found that the majority of U.S. corporations don’t pay federal income taxes: “The GAO’s study found that over 60 percent of U.S. corporations—with revenue totals of more than US $2.5 trillion—did not pay federal income taxes.” Of course the study didn’t mention which companies, and one wonders where Verizon and Wal-Mart stand on that account. According to media reports, “The GAO found that 25 percent of all large corporations did not owe federal taxes in 2005. A large corporation is defined as a company with more than $250 million in assets.”

Add to those costs the $700 Billion of the CURRENT round of corporate bailouts (roughly $4,000 per individual income tax filer) – and who knows what corporate gifts lie ahead.

So much for that $600 so called “stimulus check” that went out this year.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

APA to Host Online Energy Conservation Workshop

From the Adirondack Park Agency:

On Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at the Agency’s offices, there will be an energy conservation workshop beginning at 1:00 (and ending no later than 4:00) focused on technical assistance for the design, construction and financing of energy efficient residential dwellings. The session will be web-cast.

Presenters will include:

James Hotaling, Architect-Planner, AIA, AICP, will discuss the overall energy aspects approach of the regional plan, site assessment, including solar and other potentials, and his experience for the possible energy-related futures for large and small scaled homes, with ‘old’ and ‘new’ examples.

Michael DeWein, Technical Director, BCAP/Alliance to Save Energy, will discuss simple, cost-effective things people can do to save money and energy in the home. This will cover simple home air sealing and insulation treatments, to getting a proper energy audit, to installing a variety of energy conservation measures themselves.

David Trudeau, Program Coordinator for Honeywell, will discuss 3 NYSERDA residential programs for existing homes: i) EmPower NY, ii) Assisted Home Performance with Energy Star, and iii) Home Performance with Energy Star. David will also discuss various types of heating fuels (electric, propane, fuel oil, Kerosene, wood pellets, and cord wood) and the cost comparisons between them.