On the Ballot: Environmental Bond Act
ADK is very pleased the proposal for a $3 billion Environmental Bond Act to create jobs, protect clean water, and address climate change was reauthorized during the state budget season. This comes in part thanks to over 1,000 letters sent to legislators by ADK advocates in support of the bond act’s reauthorization. The bond act was originally proposed last year by Governor Andrew Cuomo, but the pandemic and resulting economic issues caused the state to set the proposal aside. This year, the Clean Water and Jobs coalition, of which ADK is a part, successfully advocated to reauthorize the bond act, which will appear on the November 2022 ballot.
In moving the bond act forward, the legislature recognizes the joint importance of climate resiliency and a green economy. As the state continues to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Environmental Bond Act will support communities by protecting public health and natural resources while creating jobs. Passing the bond act will help give communities the resources they need to restore infrastructure, including the creation and protection of open space, and help put New York on a path to recovery.
Withdrawn: Ashokan Reservoir Pumped Storage Proposal
In mid-March the Catskill Mountainkeeper and ADK connected to address a new Pumped Storage Energy Project that Premium Energy Holdings had proposed for the Ashokan Reservoir in the Catskill Park. The project would have built a new several hundred acre upper reservoir and associated infrastructure above the Ashokan Reservoir to be used to generate electricity. The project area is surrounded by the Slide Mountain Wilderness and other popular areas for hikers and outdoor recreators. All of these public land areas are important to ADK members and the recreation community that ADK represents.
In response, ADK rallied with at least sixteen other conservation and recreation organizations rallied by the Catskill Mountainkeeper, Catskill Center, and the newly formed Coalition to Save Catskills Preserve, to file intervention and comment documents to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). State and local officials, including New York State Senator Michelle Hinchey, along with and state and municipal agencies also opposed the project. All told over 1,500 comments were submitted in opposition.
By mid-April, Premium Energy withdrew the project. This is a great example of individuals and groups working together, very rapidly, to protect the Forest Preserve. It is also a good example and reminder of the pressure and speed associated with energy projects that are attempting to meet the real need to develop non-fossil fuel-based energy sources quickly. We must remain watchful and provide information to ensure that projects are sited and designed to have the least impact possible, and when needed, to stop projects that threaten critical natural landscapes like the Catskill Forest Preserve and critical water resources like New York City’s Drinking Water System.
On the Ballot: Environmental Bill of Rights
The New York State Environmental Bill of Rights (aka the NYS Green Amendment), which will give all New Yorkers the right to clean air and water in the State Constitution’s Bill of Rights, will move to a ballot measure and go before voters this November. It will add the following to Article 1 of the State Constitution: “Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.”
The measure had to pass both houses of the legislature in two consecutive sessions and now must be voted on by the general public. ADK supports the Environmental Bill of Rights and is looking forward to a successful campaign this fall.
Solving: High Use in the Catskills
An effort parallel to the one in the Adirondack Park to address high use through the High Peaks Strategic Planning Advisory Group (HPAG) has been underway in the Catskills, with the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Catskills Strategic Planning Advisory Group (CAG). The CAG has completed a visitor use survey and is working on short-term and long-term recommendations through subcommittees, including Diversity, Natural Resource Protection, Educating the Public, Traffic and Parking, Tourism and Economics, and Digital Infrastructure, among others.
ADK has also engaged the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to provide a formal assessment and make recommendations to manage recreation-related impacts of high use in the Catskills. ADK is joined by partners the Catskill Center and Catskill Mountainkeeper, along with a steering committee of regional groups and land managers, including the 3500 Club, Catskill Mountain Club, NY-NJ Trail Conference, Woodstock Land Conservancy, DEP, and DEC.