Thursday, February 18, 2010

Scenic Hudson Appeals DEC Permit

Back in November 2009, when O&G first presented its plan for using the old railroad bed as a truck route from the quarry to the deep-water dock before the Greenport Planning Board, it came as a surprise to everyone that O&G's Patrick Prendergast had in hand a permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation. How could the DEC have issued a permit for work in the freshwater wetland without doing an environmental review?

One of the people present at the November meeting was Mark Wildonger of Scenic Hudson, and a month later, Scenic Hudson challenged the permit on a number of grounds with the Freshwater Wetlands Appeals Board. The DEC moved that Scenic Hudson's appeal be dismissed because it was not filed in a timely fashion. The permit was issued on October 30, 2009. Scenic Hudson's appeal was filed on December 24, 2009. The DEC argued that Scenic Hudson had 30 days to appeal the permit, and the 30 days started on October 30--the effective date of the permit. Scenic Hudson maintained that there was no public knowledge of the permit until November 24, when Prendergast waved it about at the Greenport Planning Board meeting. (A point of interest: The cover letter, signed by Michael Higgins and dated October 30, indicates that copies of the permit went to the Greenport Planning Board and to the Mayor of Hudson.)

Yesterday Sam Pratt reported that on February 2, 2010, the Freshwater Wetlands Appeals Board denied DEC's motion to dismiss Scenic Hudson's appeal. Click through Sam's report to download the FWAB's decision and order.

1 comment:

  1. There seem to me to be two key problems with this permit:

    (1) The DEC appears to have done only a perfunctory job of analyzing the impacts on neighboring wetlands, and virtually no study at all of the significant air and traffic impacts of using this abandoned railbed as an active industrial haul road;

    (2) O&G and Holcim seem to have disguised this application as one for routine "maintenance" and "improvements" to an existing road, which again has not been an active transit route for some 35 years. The only time it has been used explicitly as a road in nearly two generations was during a short-lived emergency c. 2004, when Niagara Mohawk was given very limited access to it in order to complete an environmental remediation project.

    As such, the DEC does not appear to have actually reviewed the full impact of transforming this defunct causeway into a full-fledged highway, with heavy trucks coming and going (by my calculation) every 3-5 minutes during daylight hours. This is a completely new and unprecedented use, and should have been subject to a full and very public process.

    By treating this as maintenance instead of a new project, DEC dodged that responsibility.

    Permission for some ill-defined maintenance -- as if there were already an existing and active road simply needing minor upgrades -- is entirely different than a blanket permit for a new truck route (one which does not appear to include any meaningful limitations on this intrusive and potentially dangerous activity).

    In my view, O&G and Holcim thus have grossly overstated the actual extent of what was permitted, with the connivance of certain mining-friendly bureaucrats at DEC. It shouldn't be allowed to proceed unchallenged.

    --Sam Pratt