By Rebecca Martin
I’d like to turn your attention for a moment to a critical aspect of the current SEQR process for the Niagara Bottling Company where the Town of Ulster Town Board is lead agent.
Have a look at page 1 in ‘Full Environmental Assessment Form’ (EAF) submitted to SEQR. In the ‘Brief Description of Proposed Action‘ where it says:
“The applicant (Enterprise Properties LLC) is proposing the construction of a water bottling facility on a 57.50 acre parcel of land at the end of Boices Lane. In addition, the project will involve the extension of municipal water and sanitary sewer services to the project site as well as natural gas and electric utilities….” etc.
Why is this significant?
The ‘ACTION’ in the EAF for SEQR submitted does not include the City of Kingston’s water source when it is a key component. Why wasn’t it included? Hard to say, but suspect it is because the City of Kingston has not yet made a decision. Given the EAF was submitted however without it is a concern in SEQR known as ‘segmentation‘.
The proposed ‘segmenting’ of the environmental review precludes a full environmental review of all of the potential impacts associated with the whole action, which includes the City’s decision to agree to sell its water and the Town of Ulster’s decision to allow the plant to be built and the DEC’s decision to allow water to be withdrawn from Cooper lake by the city of Kingston, and to allow Niagara to withdraw wastewater to the Lower Espous Creek.
The potential environmental impacts of all of these should be considered at the same time, through one environmental review overseen by one lead agency. That is what SEQR regulations strongly recommends: “Considering only part, or segment, of an overall action is contrary to the intent of SEQR.
What now? Could be any number of things. One of which may be that if the City of Kingston makes a decision to sell its water source to Niagara, a new SEQR process would be triggered.
It appears that the Town of Ulster has jumped the gun – big time. Outside of all of what is relayed here, in order to be a lead agency on a project this large where so many agencies and municipalities are involved would have required a letter from the Town of Ulster’s Town Board requesting to be lead agency. At which point, every single agency/municipality would need to give consent before proceeding. If there were a lead agency dispute, it would go before the Commissioner of the DEC for resolution. SEE 617: SEQR to understand authority and definitions.
As a reminder of what we are speaking of here, below is a photo of Cooper lake today taken by a local resident.