Upstate NY

Young Says She’s Not Worried About Funding For Athenex

Western New York legislators appear to have moved past late payment issues with Buffalo’s RiverBend project. The state made good on more than $80 million dollars it owed last week.

“The governor is in charge of getting the money out the door from the Division of Budget and I think there was just a small glitch there and I don’t think that’s the norm. That was just the exception,” State Senator Cathy Young, R-Olean, said.

According to the state, the project will move forward without any delays. Officials have repeatedly pointed to the size and scope of the project as part of the reason it fell behind.

The state is investing $750 million dollars into RiverBend. Last month the Governor announced another major Upstate project, the Athenex factory in Chautauqua County.

When asked by a reporter if the RiverBend snafu gives her any reason to worry about the state’s investment in her district, Young said no.

“There is that $200 million line item in the budget and part of my job is to make sure that’s in the final budget and I will be working very hard to make sure that that happens,” Young said.

As Senate Finance Chair, Young should be instrumental in making sure it is part of the final budget.

“The Senate is very supportive and I think at the end of the day the Assembly will be too but, you know, we just want to make sure it’s in the signed document at the end of the day,” she said.

The governor said he would not support a budget unless it included the Athenex project.

Petersburgh To Receive Water Filtration System

The town of Petersburgh in Rensselaer County will receive a carbon water filtration system as the community grapples with the chemical PFOA in its drinking water.

The Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health on Tuesday announced the filtration system will be installed by Taconic Plastics, the company deemed to be responsbile for the chemical seeping into the drinking water in Petersburgh.

The announcement for Petersburgh comes as state officials seek to address drinking water concerns in nearby Hoosick Falls as well.

“Through the Governor’s leadership, we have secured this commitment from Taconic plastics to install a carbon filtration system that would provide clean drinking water to residents in Petersburgh,” said Acting DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC, DOH and the County will continue to work quickly to conduct further tests to determine the extent of contamination in the Town, and develop necessary actions to address the contamination.”

Last month, PFOA levels were found to be above guidance levels as determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to the water filtration installation, the DOH and DEC, along with country officials, will continue to conduct tests to determine the extent of the contamination in the town.

“We are working aggressively to resolve this issue and ensure a long-term solution for the residents of Petersburgh,” said Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. “DOH, DEC and the County will continue to test water samples and provide residents with the most up-to-date information, as we move towards a carbon filtration system for the Town’s water supply.”

Ex-Katko Aide Accused Of Holding Two Jobs With Syracuse, DFS

A now-former aide for Rep. John Katko is facing a third-degree grand larceny charge after he was accused of working for both the city and state at the same time.

Tom Connellan left his job as a sergeant with the Syracuse Police Department in 2015 to work for Katko, a Republican from central New York. Connellan left Katko’s office last month.

Connellan was allegedly paid for working for the Department of Financial Services while he was also paid for his job as a Syracuse police officer.

From 2011 through 2014, Connellan was allegedly doubling dipping and submitting false records to the state. The Onondaga County district attorney’s office alleges the theft amounts to $3,000 from both the city and state DFS, which regulates insurance and banking in New York.

The six-month investigation was handled by the DA’s office, as well as the state inspector general.

PSC: ‘Rescue Plan’ Ready For FitzPatrick

State utility regulators on Tuesday announced a proposed rescue plan to refuel the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County, which is due to be shuttered by its ownership in January.

“The plan would enable expedited financial support to FitzPatrick and other qualified nuclear power plants in Upstate New York,” said Public Service Commission Chair Audrey Zibelman. “Until then, we invite Entergy to work with us to make the plans necessary to refuel FitzPatrick and to support the statewide objectives of New York’s new Clean Energy Standard.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration and state officials have said they are pushing to keep the facility open, which employs about 500 people.

But Entergy Corp., which also owns the Indian Point nuclear facility in Westchester County, has said the FitzPatrick plant is no longer economically viable in today’s energy market.

As part of the proposal from the PSC, the state backing the creation of an energy credit that would place a monetary value on zero-emission power that is produced at FitzPatrick and other qualified plants.

At the same time, the PSC is pushing for the development of a faster response to financial problems facing nuclear facilities in New York.

If approved, the new credits would take effect by March 31, 2017.

Entergy Plans To Shutter FitzPatrick Next January

Entergy Corp. on Thursday announced it plans to shut down the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant on Jan. 27, 2017, a move that is expected to result in the loss of about 500 jobs for the central New York region.

The company had previously announced it would close the facility, which requires notification and review by state and federal regulators.

Today’s announcement of the shut-down date was made in an Entergy earnings report.

In closing FitzPatrick, Entergy has said the facility is no longer viable given the changes in the energy market across the country.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state officials are pushing back against the planned closure of the facility.

Cuomo has been locked in a separate dispute with Entergy over the relicensing of Indian Point, a nuclear power plant in Westchester County. Cuomo has long been a critic of the plant, given its proximity to New York City and a densely populated area.

Rochester College Students Push For Ridesharing

The Rochester Intercollegiate Council is releasing on Friday a letter to state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo that urges them to expand ridesharing to upstate cities.

The organization comprises nine colleges and universities around the Rochester area, including Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Rochester, and SUNY Geneso among them.

In the letter, the students write that bringing ridehsaring options would not only help them get to class, but also reduce drink-driving incidents.

“A ridesharing study conducted by Temple University found a 3.6-5.6% decrease in drunk-driving incidents within nine to fifteen months of introducing transportation network companies in various US cities,” RICC said in the letter. “Car-sharing services provide cheap and easy alternatives to get home, which could help decrease Monroe County’s DWI conviction percentage – one of the highest rates among the large counties in New York State.”

The ridesharing push is being backed by companies like Uber and Lyft that want to expand into the upstate markets.

Ridesharing is currently allowed in New York City, but there’s no statewide regulatory framework in place for overseeing the relatively new business model in New York.

Cuomo has spoken favorably of having the state regulate ridesharing, which could potentially supersede the city’s oversight.

“The Internet has transformed the way people get around and interact, but New York’s outdated laws are struggling to keep up. Antiquated regulations that restrict Internet-enabled competition stifle innovation and new economic activity in our communities,” said Noah Theran, Vice President of Public Affairs & Communications at the Internet Association. “New York’s lawmakers have an opportunity now to listen to their constituents, who demand access to ridesharing as a transportation option.”

Dear Governor Cuomo and the Members of the New York State Legislature.pdf by Nick Reisman

Marchione Considering Hearings On Hoosick Falls Water

Sen. Kathy Marchione said Tuesday in radio interview she would consider holding hearings on the drinking contamination in Hoosick Falls.

The hearings could stem in part to determine how much state regulators knew about the contamination of drinking water of the chemical PFOA and when the state knew it.

“We will discuss that because whether the state didn’t move quick enough or whether they thought they moved fast enough,” Marchione said on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom. “Sometimes you have to hear from the other perspective why they moved slowly, when did they actually know?”

State officials have defended not taking action sooner in the area, which they learned about a possible contamination in December 2014, with more tests beginning in July 2015.

Last month, state and federal regulators warned residents not to use the water in the Rensselaer County community and the Department of Environmental Conservation has moved to make it a state Superfund site.

The contamination is believed to have come from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, a company that owns a nearby manufacturing plant, and is the focus of the source of the contamination.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday told reporters that while he understands the concerns of residents, he also insisted the state’s deliberate approach to the contamination wasn’t meant to be any less aggressive.

“Fear is powerful and fear of what if, what if, what if — that starts the cascade and that’s not especially helpful, so let’s get the facts first,” Cuomo told reporters.

Marchione, in the interview, partially agreed with Cuomo’s assessment that more information is needed.

“They’re worried about their children, they’re worried about their own health, I think their fears are real,” she said. “I also agree with the governor we need to do the analysis to determine what exactly we have here.”

Meanwhile, Marchione suggested a more comprehensive approach is needed for assessing the risks of chemicals like PFOA, which had not been restricted by the state until last month.

“I don’t think they knew what to do. When the state hasn’t regulated the chemical, how do you know what you do?” Marchione said. “If it’s not on the regulation list, how can you go forward and fix something that no one has told you is broken?”

Who Will Pay For Niagara Falls To Run Dry?

For many people in Western New York, seeing a dry Niagara Falls will soon become a twice-in-a-lifetime event. The last time the falls was “de-watered” was 1969.

“I think this is a really fascinating opportunity sometime in the future for us to let the rest of the world to see what it looks like under the Falls.” Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul said. “I remember as a young child that this was going on and people went to see the attraction when the water was on and when it was off.”

Niagara Falls tourism officials are excited by the prospect as well. The water that goes over the American falls will be diverted in order to replace the historic Stone Arch bridges that connect tourists to Goat Island.

City leaders said they expect even more people to visit the city when the Falls are dry.

“Already just what has happened this week, with the news stories and the AP networks and the national news networks that I have spoken to, that is indicative that what is to come.” John Percy, President of Niagara Tourism & Convention, said.

But nobody knows exactly when that will happen. Mark Thomas, the Western District Director of the Office of State Parks, said the soonest the project could start would be 2019, if funding was secured in the very near future.

So far the Parks Office has only secured funding for the preliminary designs, which they showed off at an open house Wednesday night. The price tag for the rest of the project is upwards of thirty million dollars when construction, final design and administration costs are factored in.

Nobody’s exactly sure where all that money will come from.

“I think we don’t know right now other than we’re going to need money from a variety of sources,” Hochul said.

The funds will likely filter through the federal and state government but Thomas said not to factor out private investments too.

“We have all kinds of private fundraising efforts that go on at state parks where people have contributed significant sums of money to state park projects. We have one right here in Western New York. We raised over two million dollars for the Letchworth Nature Center, all private funding to match state funding,” Thomas said.

One thing local leaders agree on is the project in inevitable. The Parks Office says the bridges have already exceeded their life span and because of safety and environmental regulations, water will need to be diverted in order to replace them.

State Moves To Declare Superfund Site At Hoosick Falls

New York officials on Wednesday moved to the declare a state superfund site in Hoosick Falls amid growing concerns over the water contamination in the Rensselaer County village.

The move was announced by the Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos and Health Commissioner Howard Zucker following a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and local officials.

Seggos at a news conference said the move was designed to “restore the public’s confidence in Hoosick Falls.”

New York will institute an emergency regulation that designates the chemical contaminate perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a hazardous chemical.

“This emergency regulation will allow the DEC to tap into its superfund authority both to investigate the extent of the contamination of PFOA in Hoosick Falls and more importantly to begin remediation,” Seggos said.

Still, state officials defended not taking action sooner in the area, which they learned about a possible contamination in December 2014, with more tests beginning in July 2015.

“Obviously we are trying to be and we will be more aggressive in trying to bring the level down” of the chemical Zucker said.

At the same time, Zucker insisted the move wasn’t a reversal of the state’s previous stance on the safety of water in the village.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned residents not to drink the water in the village. The announcement led to Mayor David Borge reversing his assessment of the water safety in Hoosick Falls, while the state urged residents to consume only bottled water.

Zucker insisted, however, that it was the state and not the federal government that was taking action.

“The federal government has had their level out there,” he said. “They haven’t taken action. As you know, this governor is not the most patient person. He said let’s get this done and let’s tackle this ourselves and we have.”

The announcement comes after PFOA was found in the drinking water in the village near the Vermont border. Local officials have come under scrutiny over how long they have known about the contamination, which is believed to have come from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Plant facility in the area.

The action taken Wednesday will declare Saint-Gobain a superfund site, Zucker said.

“We are working hard to make sure that the public’s safety and the public’s health is addressed,” he added.

Niagara Falls Could Run Dry

The state parks system is considering a plan to temporarily shut off the American side of Niagara Falls within the next few years. That will be the topic of conversation at a public meeting at the Niagara Falls Convention Center, Wednesday.

De-watering the falls would allow workers to replace the 115-year-old bridges that connect tourist to Goat Island. It won’t be the first time engineers have diverted the water to the Horseshoe Falls in Canada.

“How they did it. They built that dam. It took a long time to turn it off. It wasn’t just overnight. They had to slowly build up that dam. It was about a six month period that the falls went dry and I think people were shocked that it could even be done,” former Niagara Falls City Historian Michelle Kratts said.

In 1969, the falls were emptied to study erosion. When the water ran dry, Kratts said they found a lot of things on the riverbed, from coins to a couple of bodies.