Thursday, May 27, 2021

News from the Ad Hoc Committees: Part 2

You may wonder where Part 1 is. It is written and ready to go, but Blogger, for reasons unknown, is preventing me from inserting photographs. Because this post is not as dependent on photographs, it is being published first.

The second Common Council ad hoc committee to meet last night was the one pursuing the idea of creating a solar farm on City-owned land. The original plan was to use a parcel of land on North Second Street, owned by the City, just north of Charles Williams Park. At the last meeting of this ad hoc committee, Hilary Hillman and David Konigsberg of the Conservation Advisory Council presented the idea of making the solar farm pollinator friendly, and the committee seemed open to that idea. Council president Tom DePietro said he would pass the information on to Peter Bujanow, Commissioner of Public Works, who will be preparing the RFP (request for proposal).

Last night, the scope of the proposed project had expanded to include a second parcel: the capped landfill at the end of North Second Street. The landfill, although located in the City of Hudson, was actually a county dump, and if the City wanted to take ownership of the capped landfill for use as a solar farm, it would have to assume all liability for the former landfill. For at least thirty years, no mayor or Common Council has been willing to do that, but it seems things have changed. DePietro questioned the reluctance of former mayors, saying, "What was that about?"

Putting solar panels on the landfill is not a new idea. In 2016, Ron Knott, who then was and still is Stuyvesant town supervisor and chair of the county Public Works Committee, proposed renting the landfill to Monolith Solar to create a community solar array estimated to serve thirty-five households. That proposal was not enthusiastically received by Hudson supervisors Don Moore (Third Ward) and Sarah Sterling (First Ward) or by Peter Paden, then executive director of the Columbia Land Conservancy. The lede in an article about the proposal that appeared in the Register-Star on April 28, 2016, read: "A proposal to erect solar power panels on Hudson's capped North Bay landfill appeared to die in committee  after facing opposition from two Hudson supervisors and the Columbia Land Conservancy." The following is quoted from that article:
At meeting's end, Peter Paden, executive director of the Columbia Land Conservancy, asked to address the committee. He said the CLC has been working with the city and county for years, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to test the concept of whether the North Bay could work as recreation and natural area.
"It's an extraordinarily beautiful place," he said. It provides Hudson with close connection to thousands of acres of woods and trails and a walk to beautiful areas of Stockport.
"The grassland on that landfill could be an important grassland bird habitat," he said, "which is important and rare."
Bujanow, who said he had met with Knott and gotten surveys of the property, reported, "Since five years ago, you don't have to penetrate the cap" to install solar arrays. There are, it seems, a lot of other considerations regarding using the landfill for a solar farm that haven't gone away "since five years ago."

Bujanow told the committee he would have a rough draft of the RFP for installing solar panels on both parcels--the area north of Charles Williams Park and the landfill--for the committee's next meeting. When reminded of the CAC's request that the solar farm be pollinator friendly, Bujanow said, "That's something to consider. I will explore that a little."


  1. I was in office when Supervisor Knott was heavily in favor of installing a solar farm at Hudson's capped landfill. At the time, we were exploring along with the CLC the option of pedestrian use of the landfill to access the trails at the north end of the property (the full assessment can be found here: People walking on the capped landfill to access trails was perceived by the County as detrimental to maintaining the integrity of the cap, while installing solar panels with their bases penetrating the cap somehow seemed to pose no issues. I clearly remember Supervisor Knott rather gleefully, with a chuckle and a smile, stating on multiple occasions that the County would gladly turn the landfill over to the City, with the City assuming all liability. While I cannot recall which town it was in, there was an issue with another nearby capped landfill that ended up costing six figures to remediate - this came up repeatedly when discussing transfer of the land to the City. The overall takeaway was that Hudson and its taxpayers could not knowingly assume that level of risk. There was also some question around whether the County could legally transfer any liability related to the landfill to the City (I'm not sure we ever landed on a definitive determination because the CLC finally gave up when it became obvious there was no workable pathway forward), even if the property were transferred.

    I'm no engineer, but I do know it was very clear that there were potential issues with the capped landfill that could perhaps extend the closure plan beyond its standard 30 years. It's been a few years, and it sounds like solar panels no longer need to penetrate the cap when installed (I have no idea how this works). There are times when leachate is visible at the edge of the cap where it meets the North Bay -- think technicolor seepage into the water. A great piece on the grim realities of the environmental impacts of landfills can be found here:

    I am all for renewable, sustainable energy. However, I urge the City's elected officials to research every aspect of utilizing the capped landfill as a solar farm location before moving forward with something that could potentially cause major issues going forward and cost the already overburdened taxpayers even more money.

  2. One word for the clearly out of his intellectual depth council president: leachate. Here’s a second word: liability. Hopefully tommy will read the former mayor’s excellent recent history (above). And learn something. People voted for this “leader” — “what was that about?” Indeed.

  3. I am almost certain that the County tests the leachate coming out of the old landfill, which is yards away from the bay. The County was doing a lot of digging around the landfill near the bay last year, perhaps creating leachate testing systems. Whatever the case, the city would be foolish to buy this without doing a thorough study by a professional engineer or two. Mr. Dipetro's seemingly casual approach to purchasing this potentially toxic relic is seriously concerning ("What was that about" is not far from "What's the big deal with an old landfill?")

  4. I’m just spitballing here, but would it be possible to put in the RFP that the solar provider leasing the land would either assume liability or take out an insurance policy to cover? Heck, while we’re at it, maybe have them throw in pedestrian access to the CLC trails, since I assume they’d need to create their own access paths for maintenance. Maybe it’s asking too much, but it doesn’t hurt to put it out there and see if there is any interest. Maybe there is a NYSERDA or federal grant possibility?

  5. Our region and the world's climate urgently requires an enormous expansion of clean renewable energy capacity to transition away from gas and coal.

    I applaud the leadership of anyone working to accelerate the work that needs to be done. An old landfill seems like a good option vs other sorts of open space (woodland, active farmland) if the liability issues can be resolved via an agreement where any long term risks remain with the county and/or solar developer.

    The sheer scale of capacity we need to build as a society in the next decade to have any hope of meeting the country's climate goals is worth wrapping your head around, and this map gives a good sense of it:

    If not on landfills it will need to be on other sorts of land.

    The roofs of city owned buildings and parking lot canopies should also be considered for solar installations.

  6. And, of course, instead of a view from the river of pretty green hills that Fredrick Cole might appreciate, boaters and artists will get an eyeful of metal and ugly reflective stuff. Hudson, further uglified.

  7. How quickly people forget, or it seems never even paid attention the first time. The present Common Council has recently had great concerns about the waterfront docks and making sure that area is a place for all to enjoy. They seem unaware of the North Bay and the beauty to be found there. There are all sorts of new bike trails in our area, linking the entire state, but walking trails don’t seem as popular these days. Peter Paden as former director of the CLC worked tirelessly for years to open the North Bay for more enjoyment by the public. There was a plan being worked on to connect all of their trails in Greenport and further north to Hudson starting near the present Dog Park. There was even a well thought out design and a lot of money was spent. If I remember correctly there was no more money and the county wasn’t the most enthusiastic proponent. This was a big loss for Peter.
    At the same time, Tim O’Connor was advocating tirelessly for the Bobolink, who have returned to the area, and the County now plans the mowing schedule of the landfill around their nesting season thanks to Tim and Jolene Race. This type of open grassland is an important habitat link. It needs to be protected from any development.
    There’s a classified ad in the paper today asking for bids for leachate removal at this same landfill. Hudson has been very wise not to take the landfill back from the County, who now owns it, as there will be no DEC 30 year sign off for the leachate problem and this is an expense and an ongoing liability previous City leaders were well aware of. The County would be only too happy to have Hudson take it back.
    The view from the top of the landfill is spectacular and will be permanently denied to us with a solar field there. (Check out John Cody’s recent photographs). I believe my words at the 2016 solar proposal were ‘Not over my dead body!” Many on the Board of Supervisors at that time did not seem to think that viewsheds were important. I still get teased about this but solar has not been proposed for this area again. The Charles Williams Park area is much more suitable for solar (and pollinators!). I am dismayed that current Hudson officials are taking up the idea of destroying precious grassland habitat and an irreplaceable view. The views, the light, the river, nature in all its glory in all seasons, these are why we love to live here and invite others to come and be renewed. The Columbia Land Conservancy has done so much for us in preserving so many beautiful areas for all to enjoy. We are lucky to have their advocacy! Yes we all want solar power but that doesn’t mean we have to destroy precious resources to get it. Landfills can be used for solar and are being proposed as appropriate solar sites but please not by taking away from the glory of the North Bay.
    Sarah Sterling
    Columbia County Supervisor Hudson-First Ward
    Chair Hudson Parks Conservancy

  8. This comment is about sneakiness, and a want of transparency even within local government.

    How is it that Mr. DePietro, whose idea this was, failed to inform the Conservation Advisory Council about the expanded proposal at a time when Mr. Bujanow was already researching it in league with a county official?

    To all appearances it was an act of advantageous mission creep. Having secured the CAC’s blessings a month ago to locate a solar farm near Mill Street, our expert managers landed on an expedient sop in the CAC’s one proviso that the array provides new habitat for pollinators.

    That’s why it was like clockwork when Mr. Bujanow promised on Wednesday to “explore” the potential for new pollinator habitats at the capped landfill too. (Evidently, he mistakes himself as a one-man CAC.)

    The actual CAC was not notified about the second solar farm because it had already inadvertently provided a planning strategy going forward. Henceforth, the city’s assurances about pollinator habitats - or some other new sop, undoubtedly something climate-related - will be used to subvert any environmental opposition to future questionable planning initiatives. It’s the old divide and conquer.

    For North Bay, it’s probably too late to stop the scheming momentum of Messrs DePietro and Bujanow, though some of us will try.

    Surely nobody can mistake this for good governance. There are plenty who see it as downright sneaky.

  9. Seems like the CW park area may be a better site than the landfill. Sounds like a can of toxic worms. On the topic of the environment, the Hudson sewer plant has dumped 1,140,000 gallons of raw sewage into the Hudson River over the past three days. I don't see how the city can responsibly expand construction, apartment buildings etc., adding more toilets and sewage without first fixing this problem.

    5/30 11:04 100,000 gallons dumped
    5/30 10:59 210,000 gallons dumped
    5/29 9:19 50,000 gallons dumped
    5/29 9:12 730,000 gallons dumped
    5/28 19:44 50,000 gallons dumped

    Total of 1,140,000 gallons over three days

    This is the most recent one:

    Issued: 05-30-2021, 11:04:26
    Affects: New York - Columbia - Hudson
    The Hudson (C) STP, NY0022039 is issuing this notification.
    Discharge location: 2 Dock Street, Hudson, NY
    Location details:
    Waterbody affected: Hudson River
    Discharge description:
    Potentially impacted public areas: Other -
    Discharge date and time: 05-30-2021 10:29:47
    Discharge duration: 5 Hours
    Discharge reason: Weather Conditions - Rain event caused high flows to system. CSO's will discharge intermittently throughout duration on event.
    Steps taken to contain discharge: Ensure all pumps are running to full capacity.
    Volume/rate of discharge: 100,000 Gallons Estimated
    Treated state of discharge: Partially Treated with Disinfection
    Additional information:

    For more information on the Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act visit SPRTK.

    [Disclaimer: Daily and/or termination reports will be provided for ongoing discharges. Wet weather CSO do not need to report daily nor provide a termination report. The information provided in this message is accurate at the time of report using existing systems and models.]

    NY-Alert Support -

  10. I'm 100% in favor of more solar development, but am seeing way too many plots of desirable open land being utilized for solar installation. North Bay area is the last big parcel of land left in the City, it borders the River, and it's in proximity to the hiking / biking trails that have recently been established. We should be prioritizing the use of blighted lands for solar, as opposed to using whatever parcel is quick and easy and attractive for the developer.