By Rebecca Martin
In a letter to Aimee Vargas, Director of Empire State Economic Development Council, a coalition of groups and a municipality that include KingstonCitizens.org, Riverkeeper, Woodstock Land Conservancy, Esopus Creek Conservancy, SaveCooperLake.org, Catskill Mountainkeper, NYPIRG, Food & Water Watch, Slow Food Hudson Valley, Red Hook Conservation Advisory Council, Town of Red Hook, Woodstock NY Transition, Kingston Transition, Sustainable Saugerties and Mid-Hudson Sierra Club alerted Ms. Vargas of their concerns regarding the upcoming December 10th announcement by Governor Cuomo and Niagara Bottling Company.
On August 12th, prior to the public being aware of the proposed project, the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council selected the Niagara Bottling Company endorsed the project as one of their 25 regional priorities for the 2015 funding cycle. Niagara submitted a CFA (Consolidated Funding Application) – public money – to help offset the cost of their facility build.
“In response to the proposed Niagara Bottling plant in the Town of Ulster, a growing number of individuals, communities, and organizations in Ulster County and New York State have swiftly come together to form a coalition. Together, the group is dedicated in promoting drinking water as a common good and protecting that right for generations to come.
Niagara wants to build a bottling facility that will process at least 1 million gallons per day (GPD) of water from Kingston’s water supply at Cooper Lake, using over 25% of its capacity, and plans to truck in much more than that from springs in surrounding communities.
On December 10th, Governor Cuomo will announce the winners of the 2015 grants from the Consolidated Funding Application process. In August 2014, Niagara Bottling’s proposal to build a facility in the Town of Ulster was selected as one of the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council’s (REDC) “Priority Projects.”
In our efforts to build a transparent, participatory process based on the facts about this project, we have learned that the proposal is being promoted without adequate analysis of its potential economic and environmental impacts.
The letter outlines the specific concerns related to the REDC’s selection process, including:
- The State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) have not yet taken place. We do not agree that funds should be awarded to a project before we know whether it could be harmful to the environment.
- The Niagara Bottling proposal does not meet REDC’s “selection criteria” such as the degree of community support for the project and whether the project supports sustainable development.
- The Niagara Bottling proposal does not align with the REDC’s strategic plan, and contradicts the plan for sustainable development in our region.
- The economic impacts of 10-year tax exemptions (including local school and property taxes) may well outweigh the benefits of 40 to 120 below industry standard jobs, many of which are typically not offered to area residents.”