Tuesday, January 10, 2006

New York State Announces the Cleanup of Long Island Sound Will Be Delayed by 3 Years. Environmentalists Cheer the News

Apparently the goal of ending Long Island Sound’s dissolved oxygen crisis by 2014 is out the window.

What other conclusion can one draw not just from Connecticut’s pollution control cutbacks but also from the decision, announced today, that New York State has “reached an agreement” to give New York City until 2017 to upgrade its sewage plants for nitrogen removal?

Remember, we alredy had an agreement. The agreement, which New York State, Connecticut and the US EPA all signed, was to reduce nitrogen by 58.5 percent by 2014.

But with great fanfare, the state put out a press release today that says:

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer today announced that New York State and New York City have reached an agreement that will sharply reduce nitrogen discharges from wastewater treatment plants on the East River. …

Under the new agreement, New York City will build on prior achievements and undertake a phased approach that, by 2017, will result in a 58.5 percent reduction in nitrogen discharges from its wastewater treatment plants.

Was New York City somehow absolved of its responsibility to achieve th 58.5 percent goal by 2014? There is not one sentence in the press release that explains why the gets a three-year extension.

Not only that but David Miller at Audubon New York and Adrienne Esposito at Citizens Campaign for the Environment – two steadfast advocates for the Sound cleanup – apparently think it’s wonderful news.

David J. Miller, Executive Director of Audubon New York, said, "This is the single most significant action over the past 15 years to reduce nitrogen pollution into Long Island Sound. The Agreement takes the clean up plan and past agreements off the shelf and into direct actions benefitting the Sound."

Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said, "The reduction of nitrogen is a critical component needed to address water quality in the Long Island Sound. New York City's commitment to reducing nitrogen pollution in the Sound will have a meaningful and significant impact on the restoration on this national treasure. Long Island Sound has made significant progress over the past ten years. This agreement will ensure more progress over the next ten years."

So let’s review: Connecticut has basically decided that it’s going to stop funding sewage plant improvements in anything like a timely manner. Connecticut Fund for the Environment, in fact, has calculated that the state’s funding cutbacks could add an additional 23 years to the Connecticut part of the cleanup. And New York City, for reasons that are a mystery, has convinced the state to give it an extra three years to meet its obligation.

Someone should tell EPA, by the way, because its Long Island Sound Study website still says the goal is 2014! How out of the loop can you be!

Is there any reason that Westchester and Nassau counties should not now ask for an extension too?


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