Can We Do Better? KingstonCitizens.org Asks the SUNY Ulster Board of Directors not to Enter into the Start-Up New York with Niagara Bottling

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By Jennifer Schwartz Berky, speaking to the SUNY Ulster Board of Trustees, 4 pm, December 16, 2014.

I am here with KingstonCitizens.org, an organization that now has over a thousand supporters and approximately 25 professionals in a region-wide coalition engaged in our work. (See Introduction to KC.org). We have been working since 2005 to increase transparency and civic engagement in Kingston, New York through public interest research, educational forums, and working in a non-partisan manner with our elected officials to support open government.

I am an urban planner with many years of experience in economic development and environmental conservation research, policy, and development work. As the Policy and Planning Advisor to Kingston Citizens and a trustee on local, regional and state boards, I am committed to providing well-documented information regarding discussions of public concern.

Your packets contain articles and references to support the statements I am making here today, so that you may evaluate and further discuss the points in this presentation. I and the members of our team are available for further discussion on this issue and welcome your questions.

Kingston Citizens has taken on the issue of the Niagara Bottling proposal because of an unprecedented outcry by residents in Kingston and surrounding communities that will be affected by this proposal. Hundreds of people have attended meetings in Kingston’s City Hall, scores have attended the Town of Ulster’s meetings, and 1,587 signed a petition within a 5-day period objecting to the State’s potential funding of Niagara’s 10.8 million-dollar grant proposal last week.

I have outlined 10 reasons why our organization and our many supporters are asking you not to enter into a partnership with the Niagara Bottling Company as part of the Start Up New York program. In your packets are the key references in this outline. A full folder of the resources we cite is being shared with Ms. Zell and Mr. Katt for your further analysis.

1. Alignment with the College Mission

The Niagara Bottling Company is not an appropriate fit for the SUNY Ulster mission: “SUNY Ulster is a vibrant community of learners distinguished by academic excellence, collaboration, innovation, service, and responsible use of resources.”

With what we present next, we ask you to fully consider whether the Niagara Bottling plant and your Start Up New York proposal are aligned with your mission. Furthermore, this is not an industry that links to SUNY’s educational mission articulated in The Power of SUNY, including 21st century, sustainability-oriented and environmentally-conscious education and job opportunities.

2. Student Goals for Academic Excellence

Students in the United States are increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability in social, environmental and economic terms. The Princeton Review recently reported that over 25% of applicants said that commitment to the environment would “very much” impact their decision on a college or university. The SUNY Ulster students must learn to compete in a global marketplace and, as they have said in their own words, “SUNY Ulster’s interactions with the Start-Up NY program, it has the capability to aid in the introduction of sustainable jobs and companies, as well as the potential to introduce unsustainable or environmentally harmful companies to the local area.” They are asking you to work with the former. They want to learn from socially-responsible companies. I hope you want this for them, too.

3. Transparency

The public became aware of the Niagara Bottling proposal several months after it went through several steps that would normally require public disclosure. Chief among these is the provision of water through the Kingston Water Department, whose “will serve” letter was issued, but not made publicly available until FOILed by KingstonCitizens.org, despite a potential lack of capacity and a known construction and maintenance decision that would require the assent of the Kingston Common Council, according to our City Charter.

When asked by the SUNY Environmental Club whether the students would have any input into Niagara’s proposed Start Up New York venture with the college, the president told the students that they could not participate in the college’s development of the Start Up New York plan.

4. Known Dangers of the Water Bottling Industry

The water bottling industry has become one of the world’s most wasteful industries. In 2007, when the last federal industrial energy data were published, the industry utilized 32 to 54 million barrels of oil, which is a third of a per cent of total US primary energy consumption. The Pacific Institute estimates that the total amount of energy embedded in our use of bottled water can be as high as the equivalent of filling a plastic bottle one quarter full with oil. Consumption of bottled water has grown 10 percent each year since these data were published. The bottling industry has managed to convince the public that bottled water is safer to drink than tap water. In truth, the industry is hardly regulated at all, with regular reports of contamination in the products. By comparison, municipal water supplies are tested at least hundreds of times per month and have a better safety record than bottled water.

5. Comparison of Costs vs. Benefits

The $10.8 million Regional Economic Development grant proposal, if awarded, would have provided Niagara with $90,000 per job created for 120 jobs and $270,000 per job for 40 jobs. Because the public has not been provided any information regarding the amounts associated with the tax incentives associated with Start Up New York, we are concerned that these are commensurately high in relation to the jobs created. The concept of “opportunity cost” must be considered here. According to the Start Up New York program regulations, here is a 200,000 square foot ceiling on the incentive award. Has the Board of Trustees evaluated other options?   Have you considered what this may prevent our community from doing in the future?

6. Economic Analysis

According the country’s leading economists in regional economic development and regional migration studies, “large incentive packages even when they are risky, unnecessary, damaging to the fiscal future of the locality, displacing, or place extraordinary burdens on constituents to fund future services (Markusen and Nesse 2007). “Companies that least need incentives have the resources to most effectively engage in opportunistic behavior. They cite documented cases where, after large incentives packages had been granted on the presumption of competition, corporate executives admitted that other sites were never seriously considered.” Timothy Bartik and other economists doing labor migration studies, have found that “a sudden increase in jobs as a result of a new plant or plant expansion—indicates that for every 100 new jobs in a region, about 7 will be filled from the ranks of the unemployed, about 16 by drawing existing residents into the labor force, and the remaining 77 from in-migration (Fisher 2004).” That study evaluated numerous cases of tax incentives in different regions, and noted that for “a fairly typical incentive package amounting to a 30% cut in taxes, only 9% of the new jobs arriving in a community will be attributable to the tax cut. The incentives provided to the other 91% are a pure waste of money.”

The leading scholar in this field, Timothy Bartik, has said that only 10 – 40% of jobs in these new industries go to area residents. He is with one of the country’s leading think tanks on labor studies, the Upjohn Institute in Michigan.  His work is the basis for my statement that fewer than half the jobs to area residents.  A literature review by economists Partridge and Betz from Ohio State University, who cite Partridge and Rickman (2006), Rowthhorn and Glyn (2006), and others, find that “in the long-term (about 7 years), approximately 80% of the new jobs go to migrants, leaving 20% of the jobs to original residents, with a larger share going to original residents in the short-term.

These economists also find that economic policies such as those being used to justify support for the Niagara Bottling plant “are really aimed to help politicians not residents, these policies slow needed adjustment mechanisms from poor to prosperous regions, and any benefits are dispersed to those who are already economically well off.”  The authors conclude that “economists are often highly critical of these policies because they focus on the place and not on the “people”. Economists also suggest such policies may slow the regional adjustment process and that the winners may be wealthy business owners or landowners—not the intended low-income residents (Glaeser, 2008; Pettus, 2006; Polese and Shearmur, 2006; Vigdor, 2007; World Bank, 2009).”

7. State Environmental Law

State agencies are specifically prohibited from funding an action until it has complied with the provisions of a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) (see section 617.5). Before considering the Niagara Bottling proposal for a Start Up New York tax abatements, we urge SUNY Ulster to allow the full environmental review process to occur so that all its related impacts can be evaluated, including the construction and operation of the plant, the sale of the water, the implications for Kingston’s overall water supply, the infrastructure required for withdrawals, and the potential impacts to the water bodies from which Kingston draws its water supplies.

 

8.  Niagara Bottling Company’s Track Record

  • The Niagara Bottling Company was found to have violated environmental regulations in California and Arizona.
  • Niagara Bottling sued the City of Groveland, Florida – with a population of just over 7,000 residents — which had to spend more than $1.4 million in its battle with Niagara and had to settle for $1.24 million credit toward sewer-utility payments and pay some other costs for the company. Niagara can use as much as 200,000 gallons a day in sewer service from Groveland for as long as seven years without being charged, which is among the most expensive of municipal services in any community.
  • Niagara employees, current and past, in plants across the country, have logged dozens of complaints about the company’s lack of training, safety procedures, criteria for performance its high turnover, forced overtime, and corporate culture of favoritism. If this were one plant, or just a few employees, we would not share these with you, but these reports came from several locations.
  • Industry reports show that – among the 90+ job categories at Niagara – many of the jobs, particularly in labor (not management) lower-paid than other employers in this industry. We are providing these for you in the digital file to Ms. Zell.
  • TheBureau of Labor Statistics (BLS is my source for the claim of lower pay and injury/illness at bottling plants. They issued several reports on this problem. Your packet has a page from a BLS report on this.

9. Your Role as Trustees

According to SUNY’s “Statement on the Governance Role of a Trustee or Board Member,” trustees or board members:

“…must act in good faith and exercise the degree of diligence, care, and skill that an ordinary prudent individual would use under similar circumstances in a like position. To conform with this standard, trustees and board members should:

  • Regularly attend and participate in board meetings and committee meetings where applicable;
  • Read, review, and inquire about materials that involve the institution, especially board minutes, annual reports, other reports, plans, policies, and any literature that involves the institution;
  • Have a fiduciary responsibility for the assets, finances, and investments of the institution and exercise due diligence, care, and caution as if handling one’s own personal finances; and
  • Use one’s own judgment in analyzing matters that have an impact on the institution.”

Among these fiduciary responsibilities, “When matters of fiscal governance become very technical and require greater expertise in assessing the fiscal condition of the institution or its long-term well-being, a board should seek the advice of experts.” Examples of this include:

  • Assessing any risk associated with the validity and reliability of financial data; and
  • Monitoring compliance with laws and regulations applicable to the institution’s operations.

10.  Leadership

Today, your students are asking you to make a commitment to exert leadership in your decisions regarding your relationship to Niagara Bottling. In order for Ulster County to give its students the tools to compete in our global market, they need to learn not only skills or to be trained in specific tasks. They need role models whose decisions reflect a respect for the public good and for the protection of our public resources. They deserve to see our leaders hold themselves to the highest standards and show that they are striving for the best opportunities they can secure for them.

Surely we can do better than this. We can evaluate proposals with a more inclusive process, one that is based in science and economics, and we can show our community that we want to fulfill a mission of academic excellence, collaboration, innovation, service, and responsible use of resources.”

Again, we are at your disposal to discuss this further. Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Specific References

Bartik, T. J. (2012), The Future of State and Local Economic Development Policy: What Research Is Needed. Growth and Change, 43: 545–562. doi: 10.1111/j.14682257.2012.00597.

Fisher, Peter. 2004. “The Fiscal Consequences of Competition for Capital.” Prepared for the Conference “Reining in the Competition for Capital” Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs University of Minnesota February 27-28, 2004

Glaeser, Edward L. and Joshua D. Gottlieb. 2008. “The Economics of Place-Making Policies.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity:155-239.

Gleick, P.H. and H S Cooley, “Energy implications of bottled water” Environmental Research Letters Volume 4 Number 1

Markusen, Ann, and Katherine Nesse. 2007. “Institutional and Political Determinants of Incentive Competition.” In Reining in the Competition for Capital, Ann Markusen, ed. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, pp. 1-42. http://research.upjohn.org/up_bookchapters/237

Partridge, Mark D. and Dan S. Rickman. 2006. “An SVAR Model of Fluctuations in U.S. Migration Flows and State Labor Market Dynamics” Southern Economic Journal 72(4):958-980.

Pettus, Ashley. 2006. “Rethinking New Orleans.” Harvard Magazine, January/February, Available at: http://www.harvardmagazine.com/on-line/010673.html.

Polese, Mario and Richard Shearmur. 2006. “Why Some Regions Will Decline: A Canadian Case Study with Thoughts on Local Development Strategies.” Papers in Regional Science 85(1):23-46.

Renkow, Mitch. 2003. “Employment Growth, Worker Mobility, and Rural Economic Development.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics 85(2):503-513.

Rodriguez-Pose, Andres. 2010. “Economic Geographers and the Limelight: Institutions and Policy in the World Development Report 2009.” Economic Geography 86(4):361-370.

Rowthorn, Robert and Andrew J. Glyn. 2006. “Convergence and Stability in U.S. Employment Rates.” The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics: Contributions in Macroeconomics 6(1).

World Bank. (2009) Reshaping economic geography. Washington, D.C.: World Bank.

 

General References on Sustainable Development

Anderson, Ray C. Confessions of a Radical Industrialist: Profits, People, and Purpose—Doing Business by Respecting the Earth. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2009.

Bartlett, Peggy F. and Chase, Geoffrey W. (eds.). Sustainability on Campus. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004.

Beavan, Colin. No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process. New York: Picador, 2010.

Benyus, Janine M. Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1997.

Brown, Lester R. Plan B: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble. New York City: W. W. Norton & Co., 2003.

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962.

Cox, John D. Climate Crash: Abrupt Climate Change and What It Means for Our Future. Washington, D.C.: Joseph Henry Press, 2005.

Daly, Herman. Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.

Farrell, James J. The Nature of College. Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2010.

Friedman, Thomas L. Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution—and How it Can Renew America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.

Green Building and LEED Core Concepts. Second Edition. usgbc.org/store.

Gore, Al. Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.

Hawken, Paul. Blessed Unrest. New York: Penguin, 2008.

Hawken, Paul. The Ecology of Commerce: A Declaration of Sustainability. New York: Harper Collins, 2010.

Katz, Greg. Greening Our Built World: Costs, Benefits and Strategies. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2010.

Martin, James and Samels, James E. (eds.). The Sustainable University: Green Goals and New Challenges for Higher Education Leaders. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012.

McDonough, William and Michael Braungart. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. New York: North Point Press, 2002.

Meadows, Donnella. Limits to Growth. New York: Universe Books, 1972.

Orr, David W. Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1994

Royte, Elizabeth. Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash. New York: Little, Brown, 2005.

Worldwatch Paper #170: Liquid Assets: The Critical Need to Safeguard Freshwater Ecosystems

July 2005
Sandra Postel
ISBN: 1-878071-76-9
78 pages

By taking advantage of the work that healthy watersheds and freshwater ecosystems perform naturally, cities and rural areas can purify drinking water, alleviate hunger, mitigate flood damages, and meet other societal goals at a fraction of the cost of conventional technological alternatives.

But because commercial markets rarely put a price on these “ecosystem services,” and because governments around the world are failing to protect them, they are being lost at a rapid rate. Global warming is the wild card that could further exacerbate the impacts of human activities on the natural systems that safeguard our water supply—impacts that include falling water tables, shrinking wetlands, vanishing species, and a decrease in both the quality and quantity of available freshwater.

The biggest enemy is tap water,” said a Pepsi VP in 2000. “When we’re done, tap water will be relegated to irrigation and washing dishes,” said Susan D. Wellington of Quaker Oats, the maker of Gatorade. But its more than just words: Coca-Cola has been in the business of discouraging restaurants from serving tap water, and pushing “less water and more beverage choices.”

Read MORE 

Niagara and SUNY Ulster? Petition Created by SUNY Ulster Students. Please consider signing!

PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION CREATED BY STUDENTS AT SUNY ULSTER.

“He (SUNY Ulster president Donald Katt) was very focused on the economic benefits….If you’re going to be sustainable, you need to be culturally sustainable. You need to be economically sustainable and you need to be environmentally sustainable.”

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Click on the image to view SUNY Ulster Students speak on the community college’s collaboration with Niagara.

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“How can you say that we are going to create internships and assure jobs for students when we aren’t being taken into account”

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Click on link to view more video.

Stand United To Problem Solve.

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By Rebecca Martin

The Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) recent denial of significant incentive funding for the proposed Niagara Bottling facility is now well known. Although we do not know at this time how their decision will impact the outcome of Niagara in the Town of Ulster, we continue on in our effort for a proper, thorough SEQRA process.

CITIZEN REQUEST
Please send this crafted letter (and add text of your own) to request “60 Day Public Comment Period and Additional Hearings to Allow Public Input on Draft Scope

IMPORTANT CITIZEN SEQR INFORMATION
SEQR Positive Declaration Review Timeline. Sign-on to be kept up-to-date

 

Start-Up NY and Niagara Water Bottling Facility

The REDC effort foreshadows further actions to come. Our united citizen effort to influence the REDC will no doubt seek the same outcome of tax incentives offered by the Start-Up NY program. There is much more to say about why Niagara Bottling is not a good match for Start-Up NY  which we will get to in much greater detail shortly. 

KingstonCitizens.org as well as the SUNY Ulster Environmental Club (a group populated by SUNY Ulster students) will be presenting to the SUNY Ulster Board of Trustees on Tuesday, December 16th.  Their petition requesting SUNY Ulster Community College to “rescind their proposed partnership with Niagara Water Bottling Company” regarding Start-Up NY will be part of their presentation.

Let us lift the students by boosting the numbers of this important petition.  I’d like to see it over 1000 by the time Tuesday rolls around:

SUNY ULSTER STUDENTS PETITION DONALD KATT, PRES OF SUNY ULSTER
We request SUNY Ulster Community College Rescind Their Proposed Partnership with Niagara Water Bottling Company

 

Stand United to Problem Solve 

What is certain at this point is that the political leadership around the County has listened to the concerns of the larger community. It is proof that citizens carry a great deal of influence as we should.

The Niagara proposal had an initial appeal to some of our elected and appointed officials; it would help the Kingston Water Board finance much needed infrastructure repairs and upgrades, and begin to address a troubled underutilized property in the Town of Ulster that also carries a regional impact. These are not small problems. But the Niagara proposal, with its request to consume over 25% of a finite resource ended up not to be the best solution to them as perhaps reflected by the REDC’s change of heart.

It has been made crystal clear how the public felt about it.

So while we maintain our vigilance, we must also recognize the serious problems that we face that include Kingston’s aging infrastructure. The current water rate structure and it being updated to reflect sustainable (and perhaps more lucrative) measures (currently, the more you use, the less you pay. The less you use the more you pay).  The Kingston Charter being updated.  The health and protection of an important water body and the land that surrounds it. Providing support in ways to utilize the Tech City property for sustainable enterprises.  

It is our aim to stand united to problem solve and to support our elected and appointed officials to do the same.  We have been heard, and for as long as that continues we offer a positive attitude and collaborative approach toward the political leadership that seeks real solutions for the problems affecting the region.

 

READ

Village of Red Hook Receives $3.8 Million Loan for Water Repairs from Assemblymember Kevin A. Cahill.

Coalition Responds to Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council’s Grant Decision.

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Thursday, December 11th, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Kingston, NY. – A coalition of organizations and communities from Ulster County and New York State submitted a petition on December 5th to the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council. The group requested that the council not award grant funds to the controversial Niagara Bottling Company proposal in this year’s round of grant announcement.

“We are pleased with the Governor’s announcement today and the decision not to fund the Niagara Bottling Company’s proposal at this time. With the project being in the midst of a full environmental review, it is a good decision to wait until all of the related impacts can be evaluated.” says the rapidly growing coalition in the region.

The proposed Niagara Bottling 414,800 square-foot bottling facility will process up to 1.75 million gallons per day (GPD) of water from the City of Kingston’s water supply at Cooper Lake located in Woodstock, using over 25% of its capacity, with plans to truck in much more than that from springs in surrounding communities. The Group’s effort is to build a transparent, participatory process based on the facts about this project, having learned that the proposal is being promoted without adequate analysis of its potential economic and environmental impacts.  A “Positive Declaration” has been determined and a full public scoping process in the State Quality Review (SEQR) process from the Town of Ulster as Lead Agency is now currently underway.

For more information, contact Rebecca Martin at rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

 

KingstonCitizens.org Delivers Petition to Aimee Vargas, MHREDC and Governor Cuomo

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By Rebecca Martin

We wish to thank everyone for their swift support in signing the petition generated by a coalition of organizations that requests the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Committee and Governor Cuomo not to fund the Niagara Water Bottling Facility at this time. 1553 signatures and still growing at this time!

VIEW PETITION

We are currently printing out your comments and signatures to send off to Aimee Vargas and the MHREDC this evening as well as a hard copy that citizens will take with them TOMORROW when they are on-site in Albany during the announcement.

We will be certain to let you know the outcome as soon as that information is available to us.

READ PETITION COMMENTS

VIEW SIGNATURES

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Coalition Petitions the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council.

 

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Sunday, December 7th 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

A coalition of organizations and communities from Ulster County and New York State petition the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council. The group asks the council not to award grant funds for the controversial Niagara Bottling Company proposal in this year’s round of grant announcements on December 10th.

Kingston, NY – 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.

Launched on the evening of Friday, December 5, the petition already had close to 1000 signatures at the time of this release, within just 48 hours of its circulation. The petition will continue to solicit signatures and may be found at HERE.   The letter is signed by fifteen (15) organizations that include KingstonCitizens.org, Riverkeeper, Woodstock Land Conservancy, Esopus Creek Conservancy, SaveCooperLake.org, Catskill Mountainkeeper, NYPIRG, Food & Water Watch, Slow Food Hudson Valley, Red Hook Conservation Advisory Council, Town of Red Hook, NY, Woodstock NY Transition, Kingston Transition, Sustainable Saugerties and the Mid-Hudson Sierra Club.

According to Paul Gallay, President and Hudson Riverkeeper, “New York State law specifically prohibits state agencies from funding an action until it has complied with the provisions of SEQRA. Before considering the Niagara Bottling proposal for funding, Riverkeeper urges the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council to allow the full environmental review process to occur so that all its related impacts can be evaluated, including the construction and operation of the plant, the sale of the water, the implications for Kingston’s overall water supply, the infrastructure required for withdrawals, and the potential impacts to the water bodies from which Kingston draws its water supplies.”

“This is the start of a growing coalition of those concerned and involved in protecting our water supply,” said Rebecca Martin, founder of KingstonCitizens.org. “If we had the luxury of time, we could have secured another dozen or more significant organizations in support of this petition. The work we are undertaking now is just the beginning of what we aim to do. There will be many opportunities for us all to work together.”

The proposed Niagara Bottling 414,800 square-foot bottling facility will process up to 1.75 million gallons per day (GPD) of water from the City of Kingston’s water supply at Cooper Lake located in Woodstock, using over 25% of its capacity, with 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 the group’s efforts to build a transparent, participatory process based on the facts about this project, they have learned that the proposal is being promoted without adequate analysis of its potential economic and environmental impacts. In the three months since the public was made aware of the proposed bottling plan, KingstonCitizens.org has worked with several local organizations, including Save Cooper Lake, Woodstock Land Conservancy and Esopus Creek Conservancy  as well as national organizations, such as Riverkeeper and Food & Water Watch. This work is being credited with achieving a more thorough, inclusive environmental review process by securing a “Positive Declaration” and full public scoping process in the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process from the Town of Ulster, which is the Lead Agency for SEQR.

A letter to Aimee Vargas, Director of Empire State Development (ESD) Mid-Hudson Region outlines the coalition’s specific concerns related to the REDC’s selection process, including:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The Niagara Bottling proposal does not align with the REDC’s strategic plan, and contradicts the plans supported by Governor Cuomo for sustainable development in our region.
  4. The economic impacts of 10-year tax exemptions offered by the Start Up New York program (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.

For more information, contact Jennifer Schwartz Berky at jennifer@kingstoncitizens.org

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About KingstonCitizens.org: Founded in 2007, KingstonCitizens.org is a community-based organization committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency between the people and their local government. By providing citizens with current and important information through better communication, its work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education and fun.

About Riverkeeper: Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and safeguard the drinking water of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents. Riverkeeper is a member-supported watchdog organization dedicated to defending the Hudson River and its tributaries and protecting the drinking water supply of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents. For nearly 50 years Riverkeeper has been New York’s clean water advocate. We have helped to establish globally recognized standards for waterway and watershed protection and serve as the model and mentor for the growing Waterkeeper movement that includes nearly 200 Keeper programs across the country and around the globe.

 

A letter to Aimee Vargas, Director of Empire State Development Mid-Hudson Region. “We request that the MHREDC NOT award funds to the Niagara Bottling Company on December 10th.

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By Rebecca Martin

READ the letter
SIGN the Petition

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. The Niagara Bottling proposal does not align with the REDC’s strategic plan, and contradicts the plan for sustainable development in our region.

  4. 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.”

 

READ the letter
SIGN the Petition

KingstonCitizens.org Offers Free Screenings of the Documentary TAPPED in December.

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VIEW Kingston “Tapped” Facebook Event

VIEW Woodstock “Tapped” Facebook Event

VIEW Saugerties “Tapped” Facebook Event

 

 

KingstonCitizens.org hosts free movie screenings of “Tapped” in Kingston, Woodstock & Saugerties“Tapped” examines the bottled water industry and its long-term social, economic and ecological effects 

Kingston, NY - KingstonCitizens.org with the support of the Woodstock Land Conservancy, Riverkeeper and Esopus Creek Conservancy is proud to sponsor free screenings of the film “Tapped” throughout the Mid-Hudson Valley region. The first of three showings in this ongoing film series will be held in December in Kingston, Woodstock and Saugerties.

Niagara Bottling Company, a national water bottling plant based in California, wants to establish a plant in the Town of Ulster. It seeks to purchase 1.75 million gallons of water per day from Cooper Lake, Kingston’s municipal water source, and plans to utilize support from the Start-Up NY Program that gives 10 years of tax abatements to qualifying companies.

Tapped focuses on industry giants PepsiCo and Nestle. The film documents the filmmakers’ visits to a town containing a Nestle factory as well as tests run on the bottles the company uses for its products. These test results showed “several potentially harmful chemicals, some known as carcinogens.” The documentary also focuses on the fraction of bottles that is recycled, noting that “forty percent of bottled water is really just filtered tap water, and every day we throw away 30 million single-served bottles of water.”

All events are free and open to all. NO TICKETS ARE NECESSARY. The public will be met by representatives of KingstonCitizens.org to answer any questions regarding the proposed Niagara Bottling Company project in Ulster County.

KingstonCitizens.org extends a very special thank you to all venue sponsors: BSP (Kingston), The Bearsville Theater (Woodstock) and The Inquiring Mind Bookstore and Cafe (Saugerties).

If your school or organization would like to host a screening, please contact Rachel Marco-Havens for more information at rachel@kingstoncitizens.org

“Tapped” Film Series Screening Dates and Locations:

WOODSTOCK
Sunday, December 7th
12:00pm – 3:00pm
Bearsville Theater
291 Tinker Street, Woodstock NY  12498

(Private Event) Friday, December 12th
10:00am – 11:30am
Woodstock Day School Assembly
1430 Glasco Turnpike, Saugerties NY 12477

SAUGERTIES
Friday, December 12th
6:30pm – 8:30pm
The Inquiring Mind Bookstore
65 Partition Street, Saugerties NY  12477

KINGSTON
Sunday, December 14th
3:00pm – 6:00pm
BSP
323 Wall Street, Kingston NY  12401

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About KingstonCitizens.org  KingstonCitizens.org is a community-based organization committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency between the people and their local government. By providing citizens with current and important information through better communication, our work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education and fun.

About Woodstock Land Conservancy  The Woodstock Land Conservancy is a non-profit organization committed to the protection and preservation of the open lands, forests, wetlands, scenic areas and historic sites in Woodstock and the surrounding area.

About Riverkeeper   Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and to safeguard the drinking water of nine million New York City and Hudson Valley residents.

About Esopus Creek Conservancy  

  • is to conserve significant natural landscapes
  • in the lower Esopus Creek watershed
  • and in the Saugerties area
  • by protecting the rural character of the environment,
  • by conserving and protecting natural habitats,
  • by promoting biodiversity, and
  • by sharing an appreciation of our natural resources with the community through public outreach, education and advocacy.

KingstonCitizens.org Hosts Public Educational Forum “Bottled Water: Bad for People and the Environment” with Food & Water Watch.

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KingstonCitizens.org to host a public educational forum and discussion called “Bottled Water: Bad for the People and the Environment” on Thursday, December 4th at the Kingston Public Library 55 Franklin Street, in Kingston NY from 6:00pm – 8:00pm Guest panelist will be Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Regional Director of Food and Water Watch (Washington, DC).

Kingston, NY –  In September, the citizens of Kingston became aware of a proposed diversion of up to 1.75 million gallons per day of their municipal water supply to the Town of Ulster. The proposal to sell this water would support the profit-making interests of Niagara Water Bottling Company, a California company that projects in return 100 or so jobs that pay below industry standards. They are also expected to seek the maximum tax exemptions, potentially shifting the burden to residents and local business as part of Start-Up NY and other public funding sources.  Since that time, KingstonCitizens.org has led a concerted effort to understand the details of this proposal that has involved the Kingston community as well as residents in surrounding communities who would also be impacted.

KingstonCitizens.org is pleased to present a public educational forum titled “Bottled Water: Bad for the People and the Environment” on, Thursday, December 4th 2014 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm at the Kingston Public Library located at 55 Franklin Street in Kingston, NY.  All are invited to attend.

Guest panelist will be Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Regional Director of Food and Water Watch (Washington, DC).

The evening will be moderated by KingstonCitizens.org’s Policy and Planning Director Jennifer Schwartz Berky.

This event will be filmed by Clark Richters of Kingston News.

For more information, contact Rebecca Martin at: rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

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About KingstonCitizens.org: KingstonCitizens.org is a community-based organization committed to improving the quality of life of Kingston residents through accountability and transparency between the people and their local government. By providing citizens with current and important information through better communication, our work is meant to nurture citizen participation and empowerment through projects, education and fun.

About Alex Beauchamp, Food and Water Watch
Alex Beauchamp is the Northeast Region Director at Food & Water Watch. Based in the Brooklyn office, Alex oversees all organizing efforts in New York and the Northeast. Alex has worked on issues related to fracking, factory farms, genetic engineering, and water privatization at Food & Water Watch since 2009. His background is in legislative campaigning, and community and electoral organizing. Before joining Food & Water Watch, Alex worked for Grassroots Campaigns, Inc., where he worked on several campaigns including organizing support for renewable energy in Colorado, fundraising, and running get-out-the-vote operations. Alex graduated from Carleton College with a degree in political science. He can be reached at abeauchamp(at)fwwatch(org).

About Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Planning and Policy Director – KingstonCitizens.org:  Jennifer Schwartz Berky, the evening’s moderator, has over 25 twenty years of experience in the fields of architecture, conservation, economic development, and urban planning in the non-profit, government, academic and private sectors. Prior to launching Hone Strategic, she served as Deputy Director of Ulster County Planning for over seven years, where she was the lead researcher and liaison to the Ulster County Charter Commission. Before moving to Ulster County, she worked in Washington, DC at the World Bank and Urban Institute, at the University of Rome (Italy) and as a project manager of design and construction for New York City’s major cultural institutions. Berky has lived for extended periods in Argentina, Chile, France, Israel, Italy, and Spain. She earned a B.A. in Art History from SUNY Stony Brook and Masters’ degrees in Urban Planning (M.Phil.) and Real Estate Development (M.S.) at Columbia University, where she is also currently completing a Ph.D. in Urban Planning on the subject of environmental economics.

VIDEO: Town of Ulster Town Board Defeats Resolution of City of Kingston and Town of Woodstock as Involved Agencies. Passes Resolution Clearing ToU as Lead Agency and Positive Declaration.

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By Rebecca Martin

* Because we want to get this information out to the public ASAP, we are still extracting important details from the video and of documents pertaining to  SEQR in the proposed Niagara Bottling Project over the next few days.  Please check back daily on this post as we do so and thank you.

Tonight at the Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting, the Town Board under the leadership of Supervisor James Quigley passed several resolutions that included a Resolution for the City of Kingston and Town of Woodstock to become Involved Agencies (Denied Unanimously, though with some hesitation),  2) A resolution clearing Lead Agency to construct a water bottle facility. (Resolution passed unanimously.) 3) A resolution declaring a positive SEQR declaration (passed unanimously).

The public comment was incredibly rich. Take a moment and review it below.

I ask that the citizens not be discouraged and to continue to be diligent.. There is a great deal underway to protect our interests. As the Town of Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber states in his public comment “There are citizens that transcend the borders…that are going to involve themselves. We would rather be inside the tent with you spitting out than outside the tent spitting in. But we will be an involved party….I just hope that we won’t have to dwell on legalisms as neighboring towns and as people and that share a very neutral concern for the future of our water sources of the area.”

We are united and committed in seeing our region prosper and in working together to find alternative solutions in addressing Kingston’s aging infrastructure.

Special thanks to Clark Richter of Kingston News for filming this evening.

 

Initial Public Comments

1:26 – 4:41
Kevin Smith, Chairman of the Woodstock Land Conservancy

4:45 – 6:11
Dennis Doyle, Ulster County Planning Board

6:20 – 8:05
Kate Hudson, Riverkeeper

8:14 – 11:57
Rebecca Martin, Kingston, NY
READ REBECCA’S SPEECH

12:00 –  15:44
Jennifer Schwartz Berky, Kingston, NY

15:55 – 18:37
Rev. Betsy Stang, The Wittenberg Center for Alternative Resources

18:47 – 22:13
Kitty McCullough, Kingston, NY

22:19 – 25:21
Rachel Marco-Havens, KingstonCitizens.org
READ RACHEL’S SPEECH

25:30 – 28:45
Robert Barton, Town of Ulster

28:58 – 31:58
Donald Gregorius, UC Legislator

31:57 – 35:39
Jeremy Wilber, Town of Woodstock Supervisor

35:55 – 39:39
Henrietta Wise, Olivebridge, NY

 

On Niagara Bottling Company Resolutions

0:10 – 1:08
Resolution including City of Kingston and Town of Woodstock as Involved Agency
Resolution defeated unanimously (though with hesitation)

1:12 – 1:41
Resolution clearing Lead Agency to construct a water bottle facility.
Resolution passed unanimously

1:42 – 2:29
Resolution declaring a positive SEQR declaration
“I would the people in the audience to know the that the town board is dedicating itself to an open and public process…as requested.”  – Supervisor James Quigley
Resolution passed unanimously

Closing Public Comments

2:46 – 5:21
Robert Barton, Town of Ulster

5:28 – 7:31
Jeremy Wilber, Town of Woodstock Supervisor

7:37 – 10:14
Rachel Marco-Havens, KingstonCitizens.org

10:23 – 11:27
Donald Gregorius, UC Legislator

11:35 – 13:40
Jennifer Schwartz Berky, KingstonCitizens.org

13:47 – 16:34
Kevin Smith, Chairman of the Woodstock Land Conservancy

16:43 – 20:09
Rebecca Martin, KingstonCitizens.org
READ REBECCA’S SPEECH

20:24 – 21:24
Mike Berardi, Town of Ulster

 

WHAT TO EXPECT: Town of Ulster Town Board Meeting Thursday, 11/20/14 at 7:00pm

By Rebecca Martin

The Town of Ulster Town Board will meet on Thursday, November 20th at 7:00pm.   Scheduled to occur that evening is the Town of Ulster Town Board to give final approval of itself as being “Lead Agency” in the proposed Niagara Bottling Company SEQR process.

The public is invited. Public comment on any matters will be made available following “Old Business” at the end of the evening. We expect that to occur between 8:00pm – 8:30pm, though it may be later.   Please see Supervisor James Quigleys’ note below.
We ask that all residents prepare a statement in advance to be no more than 3 minutes in length. Please show respect to municipalities that you are visiting.

Here are several posts to research that will help you to create your 3 minute speech so to hit key points that evening.

On a Positive Declaration in SEQR.
LINK1   LINK2  

Why the City of Kingston should be an Involved Agency.
LINK1   LINK2

Insightful letter to the DEC from Town of Woodstock Supervisor Jeremy Wilber.
LINK

Their meetings are always audio taped by the Town and we will be on hand to to film the event thanks to Clark Richters of Kingston News.

If you have any questions, please contact me at: rebecca@kingstoncitizens.org

Thank you.

 

TOWN OF ULSTER
TOWN BOARD

WHAT
Town of Ulster Town Board
1 Town Hall Road
Lake Katrine, NY

WHEN
Thursday, November 20th, 2014
7:00pm

WHERE
Town of Ulster Town Hall

AGENDA
Click on this LINK

 

As per Supervisor James Quigley regarding this month’s meeting:

“A DRAFT AGENDA will be posted Tuesday morning (we have linked it above) and is subject to change. There are no items currently listed on the Agenda related to Niagara Bottling. I am awaiting the Resolutions from Counsel prior to place the item on the Agenda. A Revised Agenda will be posted as soon as possible. There are two opportunities for the Public to speak during the meeting. In the beginning Statements may be made on Agenda Items. At the end of the meeting is Public Comment for any and all topics. Remember these are times for the Public to make statements to the Board not enter into a debate with the Town Board.  Anyone who wishes will be able to address the Board during these periods. Comments are limited to three minutes per speaker and there is no yielding time to other speakers.”

 

SPEAK DURING PUBLIC COMMENT ON TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4th At 7:30pm: In Support of Kingston’s Common Council Being Listed as an ‘Involved Agency’ in SEQR.

WHAT KINGSTONCITIZENS.ORG BELIEVES:

The Niagara Bottling Company’s proposal must be thoroughly evaluated for its environmental and economic impacts on our region. It is premature and irresponsible to agree to sell our water before due diligence is performed. … Read more…

KingstonCitizens.org Announces New Citizen Committees to Focus on Proposed Niagara Bottling Water Sale in Kingston, NY.

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By  Rebecca Martin

KingstonCitizens.org proudly announces it’s new Citizen Committees to focus on the Proposed Niagara Bottling Water Sale in Kingston, NY.

Residents are invited to join and are asked to be in touch with the chair of any of the committee’s of interest by Friday, October 31st. First meetings will be organized the week of November 3rd.   If you happen to miss the deadline, don’t fret!  Citizens can join at any time.  We are simply looking to get a head count prior to each committee’s first official meetings.

VISIT the KingstonCitizens.org ‘Citizen Committees’ page.  You will find it in the menu heading.  Click on ‘Proposed Niagara Water Sale’ for all committee information.

Below is our recent press release and a list of the committees for easy access.

It’s an incredible and exciting crew of citizen leaders! Join us as we broaden our abilities and thank you for your participation.

 

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  … Read more…

IMPORTANT marks to hit this week: October 13th – 17th

By Rebecca Martin

These are the important marks to hit as we enter into a new week regarding the Niagara Bottling Company Proposal:

* All week long *
CALL Martin Brand regional director of the NYS DEC region-3. 845/256-3033. Request that the DEC be lead agency for the SEQR review of the Niagara Bottling Company proposal. You can email him too at:  martin.brand@dec.ny.gov

* Tuesday, October 14th 6:30pm – 8:30pm *
ATTEND the upcoming Kingston Conservation Advisory Council Meeting on Tuesday, 10/14 at 6:30pm.   Water Department Superintendent Judy Hansen is scheduled to be present to answer questions regarding Kingston’s Water Supply as it pertains to the proposed Niagara Bottling Co. Project.  The Kingston CAC meets the 2nd Tuesday of each month from 6:30-8:30 at City Hall. These meetings are open to the public.  This meeting will be held in council chambers, the large room on the top floor of Kingston City Hall.  This event will be filmed. 

* Wednesday, October 15th  – 8:10am *
CALL in at 8:10am and ask Mayor Shayne Gallo all of your questions regarding the Niagara Bottling Company proposal.  WGHQ 920 AM    845/331-9255  See their SCHEDULE

* Thursday, October 16th – 7:10am *
CALL in at 7:10am and ask Town of Ulster Jim Quigley all of your questions regarding the Niagara Bottling Company proposal.  WGHQ 920 AM    845/331-9255  See their SCHEDULE