Pilgrim Pipeline: Kingston Public Safety Committee Rejects Thruway Authority as Lead Agency. Requests DEC Instead.

 

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VIEW the letter to the council from the CAC in its entirety by clicking on the link below.

TIMELY ACTION:  Please attend the next Kingston Common Council meeting on Tuesday, December 1st at 7:30pm and sign-up to speak in support of the City of Kingston passing a resolution that rejects the Thruway Authority’s request to be Lead Agency in SEQR for the Pilgrim Pipeline proposal and, that the DEC take on the role of Lead Agency instead. 

VIEW Facebook Invitation


By Rebecca Martin

On November 16, 2015, municipalities in NYS that are ‘Involved’ agencies in the Pilgrim Pipeline SEQR process were informed by the Thruway Authority (by letter) requesting to be Lead Agency.  With only the allowed 30 day window to respond (which, in this case, would be December 16th, 2015) – hardly any time at all – municipalities are forced to have to act swiftly. At this early stage, all appear to be in agreement that the Thruway Authority should not be leading the environmental review process and that instead, the DEC should take on that role.

The City of Kingston is one of those municipalities.

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VIEW the draft resolution in its entirety by clicking on the link below.

Why is the DEC the better choice for Lead Agency of a proposal such as the Pilgrim Pipeline?

  • The proposed pipelines threaten numerous resources of state-wide concern within the DEC’s jurisdiction, including the Hudson River and such important tributaries as the Rondout, Esopus, and Catskill Creeks and Wallkill River, State-regulated wetlands, the Karst Aquifer Region (a priority project designated in the NYS Open Space Conservation Plan), and other resources that the DEC is responsible for protecting.
  • NYS DEC, as the state environmental agency, is best suited to guide the environmental review of this large, multi jurisdictional project that has the potential to impact environmental resources in six New York counties and 29 towns, and is the agency with the power and the expertise to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated review.
  • NYS DEC has statewide responsibility for mitigating climate change and helping to ensure that New York will meet the targets set in the 2015 New York State Energy Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050 below 1990 emissions levels. The Commissioner’s Policy mandates that DEC must consider climate change in all its actions, including permitting. This proposed project to construct the first crude oil pipeline in New York must be evaluated within the context of the Energy Plan and state energy objectives, and the DEC is best positioned to ensure the comprehensive evaluation that is needed.
  • The two pipelines will traverse and impact private lands and resources both inside and outside of the New York Thruway right-of-way, and the evaluation of those impacts should therefore be led by an agency independent of the Thruway Authority, particularly given that the Thruway Authority has a potential financial interest in this project owing to any revenues that could be collected for use of the right-of-way.

I am pleased to report that Kingston took immediate steps upon learning of the Thruway Authority’s intent, and tonight the Public Safety Committee passed through a resolution created by Kingston’s Conservation Advisory Council requesting that they refuse the Thruway Authority’s request, and press that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) take on the role instead.

The resolution will now come up in front of Kingston’s Common Council to vote on TUESDAY, December 1st at 7:30pm.  This is a great opportunity for the public to speak during public comment, to urge that the resolution pass and that a notice to all necessary parties be sent ASAP and prior to the December 16th “Lead Agency” request deadline.

 

For more information on this, please read:

1. Letter from CAC president Julie Noble 
2. Draft Resolution Presented to Kingston Public Safety Committee
3. Kingston’s Role as Involved Agency in SEQR and the Pilgrim Pipeline.
4. KingstonCitizens.org SEQR Glossary Definitions

 

VIEW Tonight’s Discussion on the Pilgrim Pipeline Lead Agency in SEQR:
Begins at 1:13 and ends at 22:00. 

Kingston’s Role As “Involved Agency” in SEQR and the Pilgrim Pipeline

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Click on this image to view the Lead Agency request letter from the Thruway Authority.

By Rebecca Martin

VIEW: The city of Kingston’s memorializing resolution opposing the Pilgrim Pipeline. 

As you probably read in the papers yesterday (Daily Freeman, 11/18/15), Pilgrim Pipeline, LLC has filed a ‘use and occupancy’ permit application in NY to construct the Pilgrim Pipeline.  According to the papers, the pipeline would run under at least one of Kingston’s roads (as it follows the Thruway).

Because of which, the City of Kingston is an ‘Involved’ agency in SEQR, which means that Kingston will be able to have a voice in determining who is Lead Agency of this project.

This is now incredibly timely, as the Thruway Authority (TA) has sent out “Lead Agency” letters to all “Involved” agencies, which means that one has probably arrived by now at City Hall, and the City of Kingston will need to respond by DECEMBER 16th.  What’s important to note here that during this process, municipalities must respond by this date. Having no response is a supportive nod “yes” to the one requesting Lead Agency status. 

As you may recall in January of 2014, the City of Kingston unanimously passed a memorializing resolution #21 of 2015 ‘in support of the Kingston Conservation Advisory Council’s Recommendation to Oppose the Proposed Pilgrim Pipeline” that was sponsored by the Council’s Public Safety Committee and that passed unanimously.

Why is it important that city of Kingston right now decline the Thruway Authority as Lead Agency, and instead – request that the DEC take on that role instead? First, the proposal may in fact violate New York State Energy and Climate policies firmly in place.  READ: Energy/Climate Programs: NY’s Climate and Energy Portfolio. Additionally, here are five points so clearly outlined by Jennifer Metztgar who resides in the Town of Rosedale, also an ‘Involved’ agency in the proposal. We changed the municipality to reflect our own.

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1) More than 20 New York municipalities, including the City of Kingston, have passed resolutions (both memorializing and otherwise) of opposition to this project after concluding that the risks and costs to our communities far outweigh any potential benefits, and that the project contradicts local and State energy goals;

2) The proposed pipeline threatens important resources of statewide concern, including the Hudson River and major tributaries, such as the Rondout, Esopus, and Catskill Creeks and Wallkill River, State-regulated wetlands and other resources that the DEC is responsible for protecting and is best equipped to ensure a full and adequate evaluation of environmental impacts. 

3) The DEC is one of the State agencies responsible for State efforts to mitigate climate change, and is best positioned to lead an evaluation of this project’s potential impacts on climate.

4) DEC, as the state environmental agency, is best suited to guide the environmental review of this large, multi jurisdictional project that has the potential to impact environmental resources in 6 New York counties and 29 towns, and is the agency with the power and the expertise to ensure a comprehensive and coordinated review, 

5) The pipeline will traverse and impact private lands and resources outside of the Thruway right-of-way, including lands within the City of Kingston, and it is therefore more appropriate for the DEC than the Thruway to play the lead role in evaluating the impacts to those lands and resources.  

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Inside of Kingston, we’d like to thank Kingston’s elected and appointed officials for the hard work they have already put into the Pilgrim Pipeline issue inside our community.  We are now faced with our first critical item – so to help support them,  we are working on a direction for our community to speak in response to this initial request. It will come about swiftly, so please stay tuned to learn what you can do to in support a Kingston request the DEC be Lead Agency in SEQR on the Pilgrim Pipeline proposal.

 

Planning Board Meeting: Public Hearing on Proposed Shooting Range in Kingston Public in Midtown, Kingston?

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By Rebecca Martin

Citizens in the City of Kingston spoke regarding the proposed Shooting Range in Midtown, Kingston. Some requested a public hearing, and it appears that the Planning Board has determined it to be appropriate to hold one.

More details shortly. Part three of the video, by the way, will be available later on today.  Please review the video below.

Read more…

Historic Water Sales Referendum Passes in Kingston: 3,625 to 737

Cooper Lake Woodstock NY Photo credit: Corinne Gerval
Cooper Lake
Woodstock NY
Photo credit:
Corinne Gerval

“Rebecca Martin, founder of KingstonCitizens.org, said the decision was an important one. The group has been a strong proponent of the measure. “Congratulations to the citizens of Kingston for taking this important first step in protecting their water by voting ‘yes’ on the water sales referendum,” Martin said via email Tuesday night. “KingstonCitizens.org wishes to thank the leadership of the city of Kingston’s Common Council and our partners, including Kate Hudson of Riverkeeper, Kevin Smith of the Woodstock Land Conservancy and Mary McNamara of the Esopus Creek Conservancy.”  – The Daily Freeman

READ: Four Reasons to Vote Yes on the Water Sales Referendum on Tuesday, November 3rd.

Four Reasons to vote YES on the Water Sales Referendum on Tuesday, November 3rd.

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By Rebecca Martin

Vote YES on the Water Sales Referendum on Tuesday, November 3rd by TURNING OVER THE BALLOT where you will find the referendum.

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The Niagara Bottling proposal came out of the blue for Kingston citizens (VIEW the timeline). After extensive work by a growing coalition of residents and stakeholders to bring as much information to the public forward as possible, Niagara abandoned their proposal on February 15, 2015.  Elected officials acted quickly afterwards, and the City of Kingston’s Common Council unanimously voted (twice), with the Mayor’s approval, to support a Water Sales Referendum that would give the public a say in municipal water sales outside of Kingston’s corporate boundaries to be placed on the ballot this fall. It’s an unprecedented and critical opportunity.

Some have asked, will this impact agreements already set in place? The answer, is no. This referendum impacts any contracts moving forward. The process will have to be determined, but it will allow the council to collaborate with the Water Department to set some real criteria to its decision making as should be the case.

Here are four important points made by KingstonCitizens.org’s Jennifer Schwartz Berky in our piece “In Their Own Words“.

During the Niagara Bottling proposal last year:

#1   
You had no say about whether to sell our limited supply of safe, high quality drinking water to a billion-dollar corporation for a fraction of the rate that you pay.

#2
You had no say about the use of your tax dollars going toward the attraction of a polluting industry.

#3
You had no say about how this would limit further residential and commercial development in Kingston.

#4
You had no say regarding whether this was environmentally detrimental to our community.

If you vote “YES” for the Water Referendum, you will for evermore have a say.   Say “YES” to include Kingston’s Common Council – and the public – to the Water Board’s decision making process in the sale of our precious municipal water.

The referendum will appear on the back of your ballot. Make sure you TURN IT OVER when you vote on Tuesday. 

 

 

Further reading:

* Kingston Water Department issued a ‘Will Serve’ Letter to Niagara Bottling, welcoming them to Kingston before the public had any knowledge of the proposed deal on 9/15/14. Lets make sure that doesn’t ever happen again.      READ

* In Their Own Words. Citizens, elected officials and stakeholders share their views on why citizens should vote YES on the Water Sales Referendum.  READ

* The Mayor of Kingston appoints Water Board Commissioners solely. Who are they, and what experience do they have to help steward our municipal water source?  What is the selection process?  It has all been handled out of the public eye until we started watching last year, and we will continue – as the Water Department, though currently independent, is still a part of Kingston City Government. The Charter states that Water Board Commissioner’s terms are five years, though there are still members who have served since 1981. Why?    READ

A Citizen’s Rights Regarding NYS Open Meetings Law on Use of Recording Devices

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By Rebecca Martin

At the last Water Board Meeting, a board member made a motion to “Make sure that those who record meetings notify us prior to doing such action and that we have a record of those doing such.” 

In other words, you can’t record their meetings unless you alert the board in advance and then, submit some form of paperwork to be determined.  It passed through unanimously and their Lawyer, Bill Cloonan, clarified and obliged (see video below. Starts at 7:31  and ends at 9:18).

What the board and their lawyer may not have realized is that what they requested was against NYS Open Meetings Law on recording devices.

Jennifer Schwartz Berky, KingstonCitizens.org’s Policy and Planning advisor, called Albany to confirm that this was the case, and crafted a letter to the Water Board requesting that they overturn the motion based on judicial precedents (see below).

Citizens have the right to record all city meetings, and as it pertains to the water board – we will continue to do so until the end of time. Or until at least the City of Kingston does it themselves.  Water management is just too important for us not to.

We hope that this instance helps to inform the public on their rights in this case.

Read more…

VIDEO: Mayoral Candidate Debate 10/22/15

KingstonCitizens.org is pleased to bring you video from last evening’s Mayoral Candidate debate (10/22/15). Special thanks to Kingston News for helping us to make it possible.

Please mark your calendars and VOTE on Tuesday, November 3rd. The polls are open from 6:00am – 9:00pm. To locate your polling place, please visit the BOE POLLING PLACE site for more information.

Don’t forget that the Water Sales/Supply Referendum will appear on the BACK OF THE BALLOT!  Please consider a YES vote and give Kingston citizens the opportunity have a voice in any future water sales outside of our community.

Thanks.

Read more…

Water Sales Referendum will appear on the BACK of the ballot in the November 3rd General Election in Kingston, NY.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

A Water Sales Referendum will appear on the back of the ballot in the November 3rd General Election in Kingston, NY. KingstonCitizens.org encourages Kingston voters to get out and vote ‘yes’ on what would be a positive and historic charter revision on the municipal water protection front for the community, and the region.  

Kingston, NY – A Water Sales Referendum to include the Kingston Common Council on all sales of water outside of the City’s corporate boundaries will be on the back of the ballot during the General Election on November 3, 2015.  Polling places are open on that day from 6:00am – 9:00pm.

Over the past year, citizens of Kingston and the region faced a potential threat to its water and watershed during the Niagara Bottling Company’s attempt to purchase a significant share of Kingston’s municipal water supply. During a State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR), it was further revealed that the Kingston Water Board — a four – five member group appointed by the sitting Mayor of Kingston (who is also a member of the group) — was independent of City Government and had the sole discretion to approve such a sale. This decision making body’s power excluded Kingston’s Common Council and, therefore, all citizens of Kingston from the decision making process.

Read more…

IN THEIR OWN WORDS: Why Does Passing The Water Referendum on November 3rd Matter?

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By Rebecca Martin

As part of our ongoing effort to educate citizens on the upcoming Water Referendum that will appear on the November 3rd  ballot,  we are happy to present this piece, “In their own words” to share insight from residents who live and work inside and out of the City of Kingston.

Our lives are intimately impacted by the decisions made by our elected and appointed officials on all fronts.  In this case, regarding water, by voting ‘YES’ to include the Common Council on all sales of water outside Kingston’s corporate limits, we have a real opportunity to assure better decisions to be made.

Please take note. The Water Sales Referendum will be on the BACK OF THE BALLOT on November 3rd.

Read more…

VIDEO AND TRANSCRIPTION: Finance Committee Meeting (7/15/15)

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At a recent Finance Committee meeting on July 15th, 2015, council members were addressed by Gregg Swanzey, Director, Economic Development and Strategic Partnerships Department (EDSP) alleging that there were ‘serious’ grant management issues of seven of Kingston’s grants, and in particular those coming from Kingston’s Parks and Recreation office.

As far as we know to date, the directors of both departments have not yet sat down together to discuss these items – line by line – with their  reports.

Based on video of the meeting, it appears that the EDSP office was charged by the Mayor to work on a report (that took approximately 8 weeks) to present to the Common Council’s Finance Committee. Apparently, the Parks and Recreation department received the report  two weeks prior to respond in time for the July 15th meeting (although without a formal communication request by Parks and Recreation to be added to the evening’s agenda, the department was not officially allowed to respond during the meeting, although there are moments where they did as you will see in the video).

Generally, elected/appointed officials or citizens who wish to move something through to council start by sending a ‘communication’ to council president to be added to an appropriate committee so to present.  An action for the committee to take is generally (if not always) requested which is then either approved out of committee and moved to council to vote or, kept on the agenda for further review and discussion.

In this case, the result (since there wasn’t any formal action being made) was for there to be an audit of all City of Kingston’s grants (suggested by Finance Committee chair Maryann Mills that evening).

The request for a citywide audit of grants, however, did not pass through Council in August. No further request or action has since been made on the subject based on press reports.

Before any further steps are taken by Kingston’s highest office that might further burden the public and cost more taxpayer monies, citizens should request that both Kingston’s Economic Development and Parks and Recreation Departments sit down face to face, having each a report of their own, to identify which are actual issues and which are not – and then, to proceed from there.

The meeting is roughly transcribed and included below so that citizens can follow along, as it can be hard to follow if you haven’t any background on this matter.

Read more…

VIDEO: Kingston Mayoral Debate

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We are pleased to provide the Mayoral Debate in its entirety from tonight (8/24/15) organized by Temple Emanuel and moderated by the League of Women Voters.

Brought to you by KingstonCitizens.org. Thanks to Clark Richters of Kingston News for filming tonight’s event.

 

 

PART ONE

00:00 – 5:00  Ground Rules
5:18 –  8:26   Steve Noble, Opening remarks
8:37 – 11:59   Shayne Gallo, Opening Remarks

#1 – What is the most pressing issue for the City of Kingston?
12:17 – 13:39    Shayne Gallo
13:42 – 15:30   Steve Noble

#2 What are you proposing for job growth in the City of Kingston?
15:50 – 17:42    Steve Noble
17:50 – 20:29   Shayne Gallo

#3 Do you believe the City Mayor should have more input or oversight into the Kingston school district and their budgets and board of education?
20:52 – 21:55    Shayne Gallo
21:57 – 23:50    Steve Noble

#4  As Mayor, what will you do to resolve the ex-fire chief litigation without raising taxes?
24:08 – 25:27  Steve Noble
25:28 – 27:35  Shayne Gallo

#5 What is your position on drug policing in Midtown, do you think URGENT has been excessive and bad for community or important for bringing safety to the community?
27:56 – 29:53  Shayne Gallo
29:59 – 32:15  Steve Noble

#6 Do you have any plans or proposals to improve the complaint process, and would you support or work towards some form of civilian oversight of the city police?
32:40 -34:42  Steve Noble
34:45 – 37:01  Shayne Gallo

#7  Do you support initiatives such as the Rail Trail, ‘Building a Better Broadway’ and the Riverport?
37:15 – 38:40  Shayne Gallo
38:47 – 40:55  Steve Noble
41:00 – 41: 28  Shayne Gallo rebuttal

#8 How important do you think the traffic flow problem in Uptown Kingston is and what will you do to move it forward?
41:45 – 43:46  Steve Noble
43:54 – 45:55  Shayne Gallo

#9 Do either of you have concerns about nepotism in City Government?
46:27 – 48:05  Shayne Gallo
48:07 – 50:04  Steve Noble

#10 Explain the logic behind the sale of the fireman’s museum, and can you explain what happened with the fishing pier project and how can this be avoided in the future?
50:39 – 52:42  Steve Noble
52:46 – 55:06  Shayne Noble

#11 Considering the issues highlighted by Black Lives Matter, how would you move Kingston towards a police force that exemplifies excellent community policing?
55:27 – 56:50  Shayne Gallo
56:51 – 59:03  Steve Noble

 

PART TWO

#12 There are numerous questions about community. How will each of you include the minority community in your administration and what could the city do to communicate with the residents?
00:40 – 2:35  Steve Noble
2:40 – 4:11     Shayne Gallo

#13  Do you have a plan to improve the housing stock for the poor without forcing them to sell?
4:20 – 5:55  Shayne Gallo
5:56 – 8:07  Steve Noble

#14 What is your position on the upcoming water referendum and the appointment of new water board members?
8:25 – 10:09  Steve Noble
10:15 – 11:30  Shayne Gallo

#15 If you think in terms of the two most important initiatives for the mayor, what would you be most concerned about continuing if you were elected, what would you be most excited about promoting if you were elected mayor?
12:31 – 14:00  Shayne Gallo
14:02 – 16:28  Steve Noble

Closing Statements
16:50 – 21:49  Shayne Gallo
21:50 – 27:07  Steve Noble

Water Powers Public Hearing on Thursday, July 23rd at 10:00am

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A great day. The Kingston Common Council sends the Water Powers legislation to the Mayor’s office for a final signature. The decision to do so was unanimous after each reading (there were two).

By Rebecca Martin

This week, many anticipate the scheduled public hearing on the Water Powers legislation on Thursday, July 23rd at 10:00am at Kingston City Hall Council Chambers (this event will be filmed).

It is the final step in the process that would include both “the Common Council and the Mayor of Kingston for any water sales outside of the City of Kingston’s corporate boundaries.”   It is expected that the mayor will sign off on the legislation on Thursday, sending it to the ballot as a referendum in November for the public to decide.

It’s our water. We are INVOLVED.

As it is currently written, Water Powers in the City of Kingston’s charter excludes an elected body (although the Mayor of Kingston does sit on the water board of commissioners)  in decision making on how the public’s water supply is sold outside of the city of Kingston. The public’s most valuable resource therefore is in the hands of about five-six people.

If the public votes in favor of the referendum this November,  water sales outside of our corporate boundary will be made with the inclusion of Kingston’s common council. This action will allow the City of Kingston a ‘seat at the table’  in the case of a SEQR review, something that we did not have and that was terribly frustrating last year.

The inclusion of the common council for water sales would give our  community a ‘discretionary decision’ to make as an involved agency in SEQR (we were only an ‘interested agency’ last fall and as you might recall, we had to fight tooth and nail for it.  That hard won status still gave us little to no authority).  As an ‘involved agency’ we would have a say in determining who the ‘lead agency‘ in SEQR would be, creating an important opportunity for the collective community voice.

Taken from the SEQR handbook:

As an ‘involved’ agency, the City of Kingston would be allowed to 

  • Make certain the lead agency understands the extent of the involved agency’s jurisdiction; and
  • Provide the lead agency with observations and concerns about the proposed action and its potential environmental impact so the lead agency may consider them in making a determination of significance.

When a lead agency has made a negative determination of significance (negative declaration) each remaining involved agency may make its final decision on the action after completing any other required procedures.

When a lead agency has made a positive declaration each involved agency could:

  • Participate in scoping, making the lead agency aware of that agency’s concerns and technical requirements identify potential significant environmental impacts and suggest alternatives and mitigation;
  • Assist the lead agency in reviewing a draft EIS for adequacy, if requested;
  • Participate in any hearings, as appropriate;
  • Provide formal agency comments during the public review period;
  • Assist the lead agency in responding to substantive comments on the final EIS, if requested; and
  • Prepare the involved agency’s own separate SEQR findings before making its final decision.

An involved agency can also influence the determination of significance by the lead agency.  All involved agencies are encouraged to submit comments during the coordination period. Comments that deal with an agency’s specific area of interest or jurisdiction are especially appropriate. 

It’s an important safeguard, particularly when municipal water is involved.

Oversight and Transparency. 

The City of Kingston is fortunate for many reasons – one of which is that it has its own water source.  In amending the charter and including the common council as a determining body in water powers, some are concerned of political antics intruding upon their sales.  But this inclusion isn’t about personalities,  as council members and those in executive office come and go.  This is about making certain that policy and the law are applied for decision making as it pertains to our water and water infrastructure.

In the spirit of community and in seeing our region prosper, with proper oversight, good science, climate change modeling and all other matters we can help to support sustainable economic development while placing the health of our watershed and the impacted communities first.

In less than a year from the time that we first heard and spoke out on our concerns of the Niagara Bottling Company’s proposal in the Town of Ulster, the public will have the opportunity to make itself  ‘involved’  in water sales outside of our ever changing community, a voice in the protection of our water supply today and for future generations.

We’ve come a very long way.

Water Powers Amended Legislation Passes Through Council

L/R  Kevin Smith (Woodstock Land Conservancy, Alex Beauchamp (Food and Water Watch), Kate Hudson (Riverkeeper), Heather Schwegler (KingstonCitizens.org), Steve Schabot (Ward 8 Council), Rachel Havens (KingstonCitizens.org/Earth Guardians NY), Aiden Ferris (Earth Guardians NY), Matt Dunn (Ward 1 Council), Deb Brown (Ward 9 Council), Charlie Grenadier (Kingston citizen!),  Rebecca Martin (KingstonCitizens.org), Bill Carey (Ward 5 Council), Jim Noble (Alderman-at-Large), Steve Noble (Environmental Specialist and Mayoral Candidate), Mary McNamara (Esopus Creek Conservancy).

By Rebecca Martin

Last night, the Kingston Common Council unanimously passed through an amended Water Powers resolution.

We will be following up with the Mayor’s office to get a date on the public hearing that is to occur in the next 10 days (the Daily Freeman reported 20) so that you can organize your schedules in advance to attend.   This – after ten months – will be the last meeting of this sort and ask prior to the November ballot.

Thank you for your participation.

READ: Kingston Times Editorial “Moral, Business and the Moral Imperative” by Dan Barton

 

“We are pleased to witness the second reading of the amended local law regarding Water Powers to include the common council in municipal water sales outside of Kingstons corporate boundary this evening. Once passed, the legislation will be on its way to a referendum and a public vote this fall.

Shortly after February 13th of this year, when the Niagara Bottling Company choose not to locate to the area, our community was left with an opportunity to examine our charter and to consider who was to be included in the decision making process for water sales outside of our community.

Since then, KingstonCitizens.org and our great partners – some of which we am pleased to say are here tonight – have had the distinct pleasure to support you, our common council, as you have taken a very important step in identifying a solution to effectively protect the interests of the public whom you represent.  You understand that the more eyes that are watching, the more minds that are aware of how their government functions – the more likely we can expect transparent outcomes. 

Thinking about water and our watershed together as a people and elected/appointed body is new for our community. Some are calling it historic.  That, is now a part of your legacy and its something to be very proud of.

So thank you, to all of our council members and council president for your collective concern, smarts and follow through on this matter. Swiftly, you addressed a glaring item and your action tonight illustrates great leadership to our community.”

– KingstonCitizens.org

 

PUBLIC SPEAKING 

Rebecca Martin, KingstonCitizens.org:   4:38 – 6:55

Alex Beauchamp, Food and Water Watch:  7:00 – 9:10

Kate Hudson, Riverkeeper:  9:21 – 11:05

Kevin Smith, The Woodstock Land Conservancy:  11:07 – 15:59

Jennifer Schwartz Berky:  16:03 – 18:27

Johannes Sayre:  18:34 – 22:34

Rachel Marc0-Havens, Earth Guardians NY:   22:52 – 24:44

Aiden Ferris, Earth Guardians NY:  24:52 – 26:14

 

SECOND READING, COUNCIL SPEECHES. RESOLUTION PASSES!

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Global Trade Deals, Water and You

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By Arthur Zaczkiewicz, MSW

WHAT YOU CAN DO:  A version of the trade “fast track” goes to the senate. Contact our senator NOW. 

WATCH Robert Reich on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

There’s been a lot of chatter on social media sites, in blogs and – more recently – mainstream news sites about “TPP” and “fast tracking.” It has something to do with jobs and it could help or hurt the economy (depending upon who you ask). President Barack Obama is involved, and Democrats and Republicans are gnashing teeth over the darn thing. Ring a bell?

But what exactly is TPP and why should we care?

Without boring you to death, here’s a quick rundown of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal:

  • TPP involves the U.S. working with 11 other countries (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam) to reduce trade barriers.
  • The U.S. Trade Representative states that the “TPP is the cornerstone of the Obama Administration’s economic policy in the Asia Pacific. The large and growing markets of the Asia-Pacific already are key destinations for U.S. manufactured goods, agricultural products, and services suppliers, and the TPP will further deepen this trade and investment.”
  • And further, the USTR says as a group, “the TPP countries are the largest goods and services export market of the United States. U.S. goods exports to TPP countries totaled $698 billion in 2013, representing 44 percent of total U.S. goods exports. U.S. exports of agricultural products to TPP countries totaled $58.8 billion in 2013, 85 percent of total U.S. agricultural exports.”
  • President Obama has worked on TPP for the past six years – but mostly in private with about 600 business leaders and policymakers.
  • Recently, steps to make TPP a reality have been taken up in Congress, and lawmakers have struggled with a variety of proceedual aspects, including the so-called “fast track” policy that gives the President the power to negotiate trade deals (including TPP) on his own authority.

At first glance, TPP sounds like a great idea. It will bring down trade barriers that make it hard for U.S. to export goods to other countries. U.S. companies that would benefit from this include large manufacturers, multinational chemical companies, meat and processed food producers, drug makers and retailers.

Retailers in particular are interested in seeing this pass because TPP would lower the costs of goods they sell, which would boost their profits. And that’s good because two-thirds of our economy is fueled by spending on retail goods and services. And the retail industry is the largest private-sector employer in the U.S. with 42 million Americans working at retail, and in related services.

One key reason retailers are supporting TPP is that consumer spending and behavior is shifting. When the so-called “Great Recession” struck, consumers were essentially traumatized into earning less and spending less. Overtime, as economic conditions improved, shoppers remained cautious. And the consistent, year-over-year sales gains that retailers experienced was suddenly in flux. Consumers are more wary of where and how much they spend, and they are increasingly spending their money on “experiences” instead of on “things.”

And we see the ramifications of this locally. At the local mall, J.C. Penney shuttered its doors (and 75 jobs) due to a softer retail sales market. And Office Depot closed as its competitor, Staples, acquired it and closed stores.

So, who again would want to jeopardize this shaky industry – one that employs so many people? Well, taking down trade barriers is a two-way street. As noted above, the trade deal would help many businesses. But it would also harm many others as well. Such as smaller manufacturers and farmers, which is why Congressman Chris Gibson is cautious on TPP. In a letter to constituents last week, he wrote:

“Last week, I finally had the opportunity to read the TPP. I am opposed to this agreement as it is written currently. I have many concerns surrounding agriculture, small business, workers, the environment, our personal privacy, and national sovereignty. Specifically, I believe the TPP could do the kind of harm to agriculture that NAFTA did to manufacturing in our country, undermining the ability of our farmers to compete with our global competitors. I am confident that if we got a fair trade agreement that put our farmers, small business owners, and workers on a level playing field with our global competitors, we would do very well. The proposed TPP draft would not achieve that goal.”

One example of who would be harmed is local dairy farmers and milk producers, like Boices Dairy. If TPP was passed, the market could be flooded with cheap milk from overseas and our local producers would not be able to compete. Apple farmers would also be threatened. Ulster County is the largest apple producer in the state, which is the second largest supplier in the U.S.

On the manufacturing side, TPP presents more problems than it solves. Last month, Kevin L. Kearns, president of the U.S. Business & Industry Council, said in a letter to council members that since 2000, “the U.S. has lost more than five million manufacturing jobs and 57,000 manufacturing establishments. This lost manufacturing has come at a real cost for America’s middle class. What should be paramount on the minds of our elected officials is how to rebuild this lost industrial capacity. The TPP is emphatically not the answer. Instead, it’s simply the latest in a long line of trade deals (like NAFTA, China, CAFTA, South Korea, etc.) that have opened the door to predatory trade with countries that have only their own interests at heart.”

Kearns is angry, and rightfully so. Economists repeatedly urge for policy that encourages bolstering manufacturing and related infrastructure. Why? Because these types of jobs pay the best and without it, the middle class can’t exist, and our economy would tank, which is what is slowly happening, according to economists from the Pew Research Center who say the middle class is evaporating.

Ok…so aside from harming dairy and apple farmers, how else is TPP a questionable policy? Well, according to drafts of the TPP released by Wikileaks and media outlets such as The New York Times, there’s a policy in TPP that would allow multinational companies to overturn local laws that impede their path to profitability via appealing to an international tribunal. But what would that look like? And why would that be bad?

Consider this possible scenario:

A major drug maker such as Pfizer – under the TPP policy – could say that certain laws in the U.S. (or any of the member countries) are limiting its ability to make profits. This could be laws that prevent the drug maker from releasing products without testing its safety on humans first. Pfizer could appeal to the tribunal and overturn these laws.

Or it could be a food company that says certain laws that prevent food additives thwarts its sales and profitability, and could appeal to the international tribunal to overturn these laws.

Another example would be Monsanto saying that local laws that ban pesticide use is reducing its sales and profits. It too could appeal to the international tribunal and have those laws overturned.

And the examples go on and on, which is why many environmental groups are against TPP. And they are joined by some strange bedfellows: Tea Party activists who see this as a threat to U.S. sovereignty. The biggest threat, though, is to environmental and consumer protection laws.

Last year the Sierra Club inked a position letter on the chapter in the TPP that allows for the tribunal review. Read it HERE

The Sierra Club said in a separate statement “a joint analysis by Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reveals that the current TPP environment chapter…could lead to increased stress on natural resources and species including trees, fish, and wildlife.”

Here’s another example of how this could be harmful. Consider this scenario – one that strikes close to the hearts of Kingstonians:

Let’s say Niagara Bottling (or another company like Nestle) decided to reconsider its business strategy. So they decide to go ahead and build a distribution center for their fleet of vehicles that serve the Northeast at Tech City. There will be no bottling at the plant – at least initially.

And then one day they decide to start drawing water, filtering it and then bottling it to augment their product supply. It could just be drawn from the current supply at Tech City and it could be a very small amount, say 40,000 gallons a day.

After a year, they could document that local laws in Kingston that regulate corporate or commercial use of large quantities of water via the Town of Ulster or directly with the Kingston Water Department is impeding their path to better profits – noting that their strategic plan is to expand water bottling in the Northeast region.

In that scenario, they too – under TPP – would be allowed to have an international tribunal review and overturn any local Kingston City law that thwarts their path to profits.

Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed one of the steps that would allow TPP to happen.

The National Retail Federation, which represents the retail industry, immediately sent out a press release applauding the move. As mentioned above, retailers have a lot riding on passage of TPP; remember that their profits and long-term outlook depends upon it.

“Today’s vote on trade promotion authority will grant Congress new powers and responsibilities to craft and monitor our 21st century trade policy, and aid our trade representatives as they work to negotiate pending and future trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” the NRF statement said.

Up next is a senate version of the bill. They could include language that allows for Congress to give input on the component policies within trade agreements, including TPP. That might help protect consumer and local environmental laws. We’ll have to keep an eye on how things progress in D.C.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:  A version of the trade “fast track” goes to the senate. Contact our senator NOW. 

WATCH Robert Reich on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Get informed about TPP by checking out the USTR website HERE

And the Sierra Club SITE

And here is the TPP draft pages from WIKILEAKS

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Arthur Zaczkiewicz, MSW, is an editor and writer with over 20 years of journalism experience. He is also a social worker and a community educator and organizer, and a Desert Storm combat veteran.