Back in August, we reported on the Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation Training Center and “Gas Village”, a new construction in the Town of Ulster. With a speedy environmental review process, the Town of Ulster Town Board determined that the project would have no significant adverse environmental impacts.
Construction on the site destroyed nearly 30 acres of forest located in the Lower Esopus Creek watershed. Complaints about stormwater, erosion and turbidity started to roll into the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and on October 29th, a notice of violation (NOV) was issued for the projects State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) Permit for stormwater discharges caused by construction activity. On that very same day, another NOV was issued for another contentious local project known as “850 Route 28” also for stormwater pollution.
In the case of Central Hudson, the state wrote that, “At the time of the inspection, the water quality in the wetland was indicative of pollution from discharges from stormwater runoff related to construction activities. This is a violation of Article 17 of ECL. Please be advised that violations of the ECL are subject to penalties of up to $37,500 per day per violation.”
A final determination on enforcement is not yet known, though we are all pleased by the DEC’s initial action.
What is a State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) Permit?
On the NYSDEC’s website, it says that ‘”New York is rich in surface and groundwater resources”, it says on the . “Article 17 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) entitled “Water Pollution Control” was enacted to protect and maintain these valuable resources. Article 17 authorized creation of the State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) program to maintain New York’s waters with reasonable standards of purity.
The SPDES program is designed to eliminate the pollution of New York waters and to maintain the highest quality of water possible– consistent with public health, public enjoyment of the resource, protection and propagation of fish and wildlife and industrial development in the state.
New York’s SPDES program has been approved by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for the control of surface wastewater and stormwater discharges in accordance with the Clean Water Act. However, the SPDES program is broader in scope than that required by the Clean Water Act as it controls point source discharges to groundwaters as well as surface waters”.
VIEW Central Hudson “Gas Village” training facility in Town of Ulster Destroys 28 Acres of Forest (KingstonCitizens.org)
Last week, we met a resident who lives on Glenerie Boulevard in Lake Katrine. Her home is sandwiched between the Lower Esopus Creek and the CSX train tracks. We got the call because of the ongoing muddy releases in the Lower Esopus Creek and offered to come and look to see the creek from her property.
In December of 2020, she had witnessed the massive muddy pollution released into the Lower Esopus from the Ashokan reservoir first hand during an unprecedented storm event. A mix of rain and snow melt resulted in 63 billion gallons of water flowing into the Ashokan reservoir during a 48-hour period, making it one of the largest runoff events in the history of NYC’s water supply.
The releases turned the Lower Esopus into a thick chocolate milk colored mess, and the harms to the creek have been ongoing throughout the spring and summer months. Furthermore, our area has experienced heavy rains this year, leading to the Town of Ulster recently issuing an alert that more releases from the Ashokan reservoir were to be expected. New York City had measured the rainfall in July to be 5.31 inches at the reservoir, more than the area typically receives for the entire month and falling into the 90th percentile conditions for runoff.
Climate change is no longer some future existential threat. It is here, now.
During our visit, we learned about a recent clearing of nearly 28 acres of forest between 9W and Glenerie Boulevard. “It’s now a huge hole in the ground and none of us were informed it was even happening, “ she said. With the daily dynamite blasting, residents complained and were finally given an auto bot call an hour before and loud horns moments before each incoming blast. Residents reported damage to their foundations and roofs.
“What is it?” we asked. Turns out, it’s a large training facility and Gas Village project for Central Hudson. How did we miss this?
When we left, we made several calls to local advocates to find out if they were familiar with the project. Most were as surprised as we were. After some digging, we learned that Central Hudson purchased property in this area to the south. For the present project, they purchased a separate 56 acres from Carriag Properties, an apparent Callanan Industries affiliated entity and needed a 1+ acre lot line adjustment from Largay LLC (Bread Alone) to connect the two parcels. The lot line adjustment occurred in 2019 at the Ulster Planning Board and Town Board together with site plan approval. No one appeared at the public hearing. At that time it appeared from the Town minutes that various residents were focused on Glidepath (a fossil fuel project that was proposed in the Town of Ulster that we, along with residents, NGOs and county representatives, were able to transition into a battery storage proposal outcome).
Residents who own property on Glenerie Boulevard are faced with three serious environmental and economic harms: Muddy pollution from the Ashokan Reservoir into the Lower Esopus Creek; a freight train that carries hazardous materials (such a Bakken crude oil); and now, deforested lands that many believe has displaced thousands of animals in order to build a Central Hudson training facility and outdoor gas ‘village’. Where are the Town of Ulster representatives? Where is the county?
The Town of Ulster is notorious for bad planning and projects that are shortsighted and potentially harmful to their community and our area at large. They were nearly successful in selling the City of Kingston’s drinking water supply back in 2014 (Niagara Bottling Company) and welcomed a fossil fuel power plant a few hundred feet from a residential neighborhood (Glidepath). Luckily, both projects were forever changed for the good by the hard work of local advocates.
Unfortunately, with the Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation Training Center’s speedy environmental review process completed some two years ago where the Town Board as lead agency found that the project would have no significant adverse environmental impacts and made a determination of nonsignificance within a month’s time. It’s anyone’s guess what the residents living nearby can expect.
This project caught us by surprise, so there is a lot of catching up to do. It’s uncertain what long game strategies there can be. But in the short term, Town of Ulster residents should demand that the Town Board implement environmental oversight of any future developments.
The Town of Ulster is one of the few municipalities in Ulster County that has rejected the implementation of a Conservation Advisory Council (CAC). CAC’s are important bodies created by a municipal board to advise local agencies on development, management and the protection of natural resources. Even though residents have asked for and offered to participate in a CAC for nearly a decade, the Town Board, led by Supervisor James Quigley did not support it and what Quigley says, so goes the board.
Additionally in June, the Town of Ulster – one of the impacted communities on the Lower Esopus Creek – declined to submit comments to the New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation during the public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on behalf of their constituents. Again the Town Board, led by Supervisor James Quigley did not support it and what Quigley says, so goes the board.
There is an election this fall, where Supervisor Quigley is up for re-election. Without anyone running against him, he is sure to win another four years. There are also two town board seats up for grabs, but they, too, haven’t any real competition. It is so important that we nurture new leadership in the Town of Ulster. If you are a resident there, consider challenging future elections. They have it in mind to keep passing the baton to those who think like the current administration does. Get in there.
TAKE ACTION: In the short term, Town of Ulster residents are encouraged to join members of TownOfUlsterCitizens.org to insist that the Town of Ulster take the Climate Smart pledge. Residents can also demand that the town initiate a Conservation Advisory Council in order to help shape good protections for its remaining natural assets. Consider asking them how you can run for office in your town. Contact: email@example.com
A Timeline of Transactions: Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation Training Center
1982-1983: Callanan Industries buys land located at N.Y.S. Route 9W and Eastern Parkway in the Town of Ulster. The Covenant is not mentioned in these documents that turns up later on.
“The Applicant, Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation, is proposing to construct a 40,351 square foot Training Academy that will feature offices and classrooms, a separate 31,358 square foot indoor training area and an outdoor gas ‘village’ containing (6) 120 square foot residential training buildings, (1) 800 square foot commercial training building, (1) 240 square foot apartment training building, and simulated electric transmission and distribution pole yards. A 41,550 square foot Electric Transmission and Distribution Primary Control Center will be developed adjacent to the proposed Training Academy. The site will tie into an existing municipal water main and a request to extend the existing municipal sewer district will be made to allow connection to an existing sanitary sewer pressure line. The buildings will utilize proposed parking areas on the north and south of the Training Academy and Primary Control Center providing 226 parking spaces. The project area is a 56.51 acre wooded site located on New York State Route 9W and Eastern Parkway. The project area is situated in Highway Commercial (HC) and 1-Family Residence District (R-30) Zoning Districts. A 1.8 acre land swap with the adjacent site, Bread Alone (Largay, LLC), is also proposed.”
7/30/19: Date of Submission Letter addressed to the Planning Board. Did they obtain (or need to) a zoning variance for the 1-family Residence district portion? (need to look at zoning code and ZBA agendas and minutes)
“The applicant, Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation, is seeking site plan, special use permit and lot line realignment approval for the development of a 56.51-acre parcel located in the Highway Commercial HC) and 1-family Residence (R-30) zoning districts. The proposal includes a 1.8-acre land swap with the adjacent Bread Alone site to allow Central Hudson to access the proposed Training Center, Primary Control Center, Training Annex and outdoor training facilities through their site.”
Project Narrative: “The project site is currently a 56.51-acre vacant lot …..The area of the new development currently includes wooded area, unregulated streams and a Federal Wetland in the southwest corner of the parcel. The proposed improvements will result in approximately 28.7 acres of disturbance”;
5. Carraig Properties LLC sells 56.43 acres of land to Central Hudson.
12/10/19: Having gone to contract just 2 1/2 months after the Callanan Industries/Carraig Properties sale, Carraig Properties LLC. sells 56.43 acres of land to Central Hudson for $630,000, nine times the price they paid. In the deed, the land has a covenant that prohibits “overburden” (a term that in this case is a product of mining).
Did Callanan Industries know that this was (evidently) purchased to sell to Central Hudson? Would that include clear cutting?
Central Hudson purchased a large piece of land, which the subdivision map calls “Glenerie Lake Park”, from Carraig Properties LLC (who, as per the 7/31/18 deed listed above, held the deed for less than a year after purchasing it from Callanan Industries LLC). This piece of land had a covenant attached to it (that may prohibit clear cutting) that prohibits “overburden” (a term that in this case is a product of mining), which was also in the deed from it’s previous sale, less than a year prior.
“…Land swap with the adjacent Bread Alone site to allow Central Hudson to access the proposed Training Center, Primary Control Center, Training Annex and outdoor training facilities through their site.”
9/30/20: Contract for sale from Largay LLC (Bread Alone) to Central Hudson
9/30/20: Contract for sale from Central Hudson to Largay LLC (Bread Alone)
12/02/20: Largay LLC (Bread Alone) sells 1.7 acres to Central Hudson for $100,000
12/02/20: Central Hudson sells 1.8 acres to Largay LLC (Bread Alone) for $100,000
Central Hudson already owned land, just below the Bread Alone Land. In order to connect their old land with their new land, Central Hudson traded a section of their new land with a section of Bread Alone’s land.
Business transactions between Largay LLC (Bread Alone) Bank of Greene County are also listed on UC Deeds filed on the same date (12/22/20)