Saturday, December 30, 2006

After You Preserve A Historic House, What Comes Next?

[Read 'Modern,' our new modern house blog, here.]

The argument over the
Paul Rudolph house in Westport and whether it should be allowed to be destroyed has an interesting side to it that the New York Times discusses, indirectly, in a story in tomorrow’s paper: if you save historic houses, what do you do with them?

Philip Johnson donated the Glass House to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which has yet to open it for tours. Historic New England owns the Gropius House, in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and makes it available for very modest tours at $10 a head. Elsewhere preservation organizations are shutting down or selling houses that are much more typically “historic” because they are expensive to maintain and operate, and because they attract fewer and fewer paying visitors.

Examples: Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home, in Virginia; part of Winterthur, a duPont museum, in Delaware; and Montgomery Place, the Livingston family mansion in Annandale, New York, that is owned by Historic Hudson Valley, which the Rockefellers started:

Waddell Stillman, the president of the Hudson group, said he was “just as much a preservationist as anyone” but that he thought “any smart board would consider all the alternatives to declining attendance at a house museum,” one of which might be selling it back into private hands….

Simply put, there may be too many antique houses, with too many similarly furnished living rooms; too few docents left to show them off, and too many families taking advantage of cheaper airfares to show their children places like Versailles, where tourism is increasing. “Do you know why people aren’t going to most house museums?” asked Alan Neumann, a preservation architect from Rhinecliff, N.Y. “Because they’re boring.”

It might be more accurate to say that house museums aren’t interesting to enough people. But in a world where museums have to pay their own way, that distinction doesn’t mean much. If house museums do not have endowments, it is difficult to keep them open – or even keep them.

It’s hard not to draw the conclusion from this that the demand among museum goers is far less than the supply of historic house museums, and that the sales represent a market correction: maybe we need fewer historic house museums. Happily, when they are sold to private owners, museum houses get protected by preservation easements (an option that was available to the owner of the Paul Rudolph house, had he been aware of or interested in it). The wealthy people who buy them presumably can afford the upkeep and won’t need to sell off house lots from the land the houses come with.

I can think of just three modern houses that are (or will be) open to the public: the Glass House, in New Canaan; the Farnsworth House, in Plano, Illinois; and the Gropius House. The Gropius House was fascinating (to us, in particular, because it had several features that reminded us of our house), but it is an exceedingly modest historic site and it is hard to imagine it having much appeal to anyone but aficionados of modern architecture. Tours of the Gropius House run every hour on the hour, and there were two other people who took it with us – in other words, it was a $40 hour on a Sunday afternoon in November for Historic New England. At a nearby tourist attraction, whose main feature is a house site rather than a house (Walden Pond, that is), the parking lots were full. But maybe for now the demand for tours of modern houses equals the supply, and is enough to pay the bills. Our tour guide told us that of Historic New England’s 34 houses, the Gropius House is the most popular.


Paul Rudolph House: More Details

[Read 'Modern,' our new blog about mid-century modern houses, here.]

The Westport News has some interesting additional information about the probable destruction of the Paul Rudolph house, near Compo Beach.

The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation will try to get the house listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which will give it some status but no real protection; the trust is hoping the owner, Dr. Louis Micheels, will not object. An objection would block the listing.

Micheels has a deal in place to sell the house to a Westport developer named David Waldman (who everyone quoted in the Westport News seems to think is an outstanding specimen of civic virtue) and apparently has agreed to let Waldman tear the house down before he owns it (which seems risky on the part of Micheels, but I guess that’s his business):

Waldman does not own the property yet, he received a signed document from Micheels authorizing the house's demolition, according to Steve Smith, director of Westport's Building Department.

It was Waldman’s contractor who put tarps over places where windows and the roof were removed (here's a photo). The chairman of Westport’s Historic District Commission thinks that any rain that got into the house before the tarps went up might not have done as much damage as people feared.

WestportNow, an online newspaper that has been following the issue closely, is owned by a former TV newsman named Gordon Joseloff, who is now the town’s First Selectman (which I had forgotten). Joseloff has been to the site at least once although it’s not clear what role he’s playing, if any. WestportNow has referred to him in a story without bothering to mention his role in WestportNow, which is odd. On the other hand, it’s a bit petty of the Westport News to refer to WestportNow merely as a website, just as it seems irresponsible of an elected official (and perhaps hypocritical of a newsman) not to return phone calls from a reporter, as Westport News says of Joseloff when it sought comment on his role in the Paul Rudolph mess.

The Connecticut Trust and the state courts will try to deal with it all next week, although it seems all but inevitable that the house will come down.

[For more on the issue, see The Destruction of Paul Rudolph's Micheels House in the right hand column.]


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Holes in the Paul Rudolph House Get Covered

[Read 'Modern,' our new blog about mid-century modern houses, here.]

Now that the rains have come and gone, a tarp has been spread over the openings in the Paul Rudolph house, in Westport. WestportNow has some details, and a commenter there takes it as a sign of the moral integrity of David Waldman, the developer who is in contract to buy the house and who wants to tear it down. That might be true or it might be that Waldman (assuming he is responsible for the tarp) did not want to piss off the judge at the hearing next week. More rain is forecast for the weekend, so it's better late than never for the tarp.

[For more on the issue, see The Destruction of Paul Rudolph's Micheels House in the right hand column.]


Monday, December 25, 2006

Wish We Were Here For Christmas

Morning - Scuol Sot church

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Judge Halts the Demolition of the Paul Rudolph House But It Sounds As If Considerable Damage Has Already Been Done

[Read 'Modern,' our new blog about mid-century modern houses, here.]

A judge temporarily stopped the demolition of the Paul Rudolph house (here are some references) in Westport yesterday but he declined a request by the Connecticut Trust of Historic Preservation to order that tarps be put up to keep the rain from pouring in through the parts of the house that its soon-to-be-owner has already destroyed. Another hearing will be held on January 2.

Both the Times and WestportNow have stories up. Yesterday I noted that the new owners, developer David Waldman and his wife, hadn't yet closed on the property. The Times today for the first time calls them the "prospective owners."

Obviously until you close on a property you don't own it. Why the Waldmans were allowed to begin demolition before they owned the house is a mystery. Here's an account of what went on yesterday from thepoint of view of an architect named Michael Glynn, who has been trying to build support for preservation of the house and has very vocal in his unhappiness over its potential loss:

I just got back from Stamford Superior Court. We had a hearing regarding the injunction; the … developer David Waldman and his four lawyers; myself, the State SHPO [State Historic Preservation Office], the director of the Connecticut Trust, the Chairman of the Westport Historic District Commission - and our one lawyer.

The developer came over and … I said it was not about him, it was about the house, he said "it's my house". … Yesterday morning the judge ruled that before he would issue an injunction, he wanted to have a hearing, and to that end our lawyer needed to notify Waldman.

[In the meantime, a work crew went to the house and began demolition, Glynn says. Nepal
Asatthawasi, the director of the Paul Rudolph Foundation, was there with a couple of photographers who taking pictures; they were ordered to leave.

While this was going on the Westport Town Hall was having their Christmas Party, so no one could be reached immediately. Finally the First Selectman, Town Attorney and the Chief of Police went down and stopped it .... Today a judge ruled for a continuation of the status quo until the next hearing regarding a stay on January 3rd; he asked Waldman to cover the roof, Waldman refused …. So presently we are trying to get the Fire Marshal to cover the roof - it is starting to rain: whether or not this is accomplished will be critical to whether we have a house to save. I am looking ahead to finding a buyer, several people have expressed interest, but it will be hard to sell a land-bound shipwreck.

[For more on the issue, see The Destruction of Paul Rudolph's Micheels House in the right hand column.]


Friday, December 22, 2006

Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation Wants To Stop The Destruction of the Paul Rudolph House in Westport

[Read 'Modern,' our new modern house blog, here.]

The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation is going to court today to get an injunction preventing a developer from demolishing the Paul Rudolph House in Westport. Here’s a report from WestportNow.

The new “owners” (a developer named David Waldman and his wife) have already done a fair amount of damage. WestportNow says “an outside wall has been knocked down,” and it’s been reported that the roof and windows have been destroyed as well.

I put the word “owners” in quotation marks because one of the people involved in preservation efforts told me yesterday that although the Waldmans have a contract to buy, they haven’t closed on the property yet. He also told me that the sellers, a family named Micheel who hired Rudolph to design the house for them, was shocked when they learned of the damage. I’m amazed that someone would begin work on a property before the closing, mainly because until you close, you don’t own the property. But maybe the contract of sale allowed them to start ahead of time.

[For more on the issue, see The Destruction of Paul Rudolph's Micheels House in the right hand column.]


Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Conch in the Sound

A fellow named Bob Adams, from Milford, wrote to me the other day telling me that his wife came upon a conch shell on the beach not long ago, and asking if I knew whether one could expect to find conch in Long Island Sound. I thought the Sound was a bit far north of the natural range of a conch, and so I wrote back suggesting politely that maybe what she had found was a whelk.

It wasn't. Bob wrote about it on his blog (Full Tilt Sailing), complete with pictures. Take a look. It’s clearly a conch, and he’s asking experts if they can explain what it might be doing in Milford. Dozens if not scores of experts read this blog, and I fully anticipate that I’ll be inundated with explanations, which I’ll pass along.


Massachusetts Approves Two LNG Terminals, Which Might Be Good News For Broadwater Opponents

Two offshore liquefied natural gas terminals proposed for Massachusetts have gotten state approval and are expected now to be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as well.

Why do those of us down here in Broadwater Country care? Because it’s been acknowledged that the need for new LNG terminals in limited, that many more are being proposed than will ultimately be built, and the more that get approved before Broadwater, the lower the chance that Broadwater will be built. I admit that’s a house of cards, but it may be all we have.

I’m not against LNG terminals per se. Burning liquefied natural gas releases about 28 percent less carbon (greenhouse gases) into the atmosphere as burning oil, which releases about 21 percent less than coal ( did the math myself, based on a table on this page, so the calculations could easily be wrong). So assuming that LNG actually replaces those other fuels, we all get a big greenhouse benefit. Of course that’s a big assumption. Energy use is rising, so LNG won’t completely replace oil or coal. But it’s still better.

It’s just that for reasons I’ve state plenty of other times, Long Island Sound is the wrong place for it.


Sustainable Fish Flown in From All Over the World

A fish market in Branford is making a reputation for itself by selling only fish that have been deemed sustainable by the organizations that watch over those kinds of things. That means you won’t find Chilean seabass, orange roughy, Atlantic flounder, red snapper, sharks, groupers, imported swordfish and other species at The Flying Fish.

Finding a fish market that sells something besides the usual roster of tuna, salmon, swordfish, tilapia, trout, sole, Chilean sea bass etcetera isn’t that easy in the suburbs, which is why it’s such a please to visit a place like Champlin’s in Point Judith, Rhode Island, even if it’s just to look. So for that if nothing else I give The Flying Fish credit for that.

I also give them credit for paying attention to the sustainability issue. A number of months ago, at the urging of Kyle Rabin of Friends of the Bay, Rodale Books sent me Hooked: Pirates, Poaching and the Perfect Fish, G. Bruce Knecht’s terrific book about Chilean sea bass, the real name of which is Patagonian toothfish. It’s worth a read if you’re interested in how fast a fish can go from abundant to rare, and the extent to which law enforcement will go to try to stop poachers. It’s pretty much a guarantee not only that you’ll swear off Chilean sea bass after you read it but that you’ll cringe every time you sea Chilean sea bass for sale in a market or on a restaurant menu. Here's what the local Branford paper says about The Flying Fish:

The market only sells fish and shellfish that are caught or farmed in sustainable ways. They refuse to carry seafood that comes from sources that are overfished and/or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.

A newly published study in the journal Science warns that the world's wild-caught seafood fisheries could collapse by 2050. An information guide containing facts about which fish and shellfish are endangered is available free to customers of the Flying Fish Market.

On the other hand, how environmentally sustainable can an economic activity be it it has to rely on air transportation from all over the globe?

… its seafood is flown in daily from all over the world… "I'm waiting for FedEx to bring Hawaiian ahi tuna and fresh Baja white wild shrimp," said Hoben.

But that’s a quibble. The Flying Fish is in Branford, which isn’t exactly around the corner for me, so I doubt I’ll go there. But I’m glad they’re doing what they’re doing.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Broadwater: No and No. Islander East: No and Yes

If generalizations are allowed, then it’s safe to say that Long Islanders don’t want Broadwater to build a liquefied natural gas terminal in the middle of Long Island Sound, nine miles north of Wading River, but they do want Islander East to send natural gas from Connecticut to Wading River by building a natural gas pipeline under the Sound (that is, buried in its mud and silt and oyster beds, the latter of which happen to be in Connecticut).

Connecticut residents agree with them on Broadwater (that is, Shell and TransCanada) but disagree on the Islander East pipeline (Keyspan and Duke Energy).

Yesterday the Suffolk County Legislature agreed to kick in another one hundred grand to mount a legal fight to stop Broadwater. One of the things they’re afraid of is that the huge LNG terminal won’t be secure enough and will need to be guarded by people with bombs and bullets. According to one legislator:

"Gunboats are going to be needed to protect that area."

Broadwater of course trotted out its tried-and-true response: he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. From Newsday:

Broadwater officials dismissed [the] comments as "complete nonsense," saying the energy company has no plans to arm its terminal or boats. The only people carrying guns will be the Coast Guard and local police, said senior vice president John Hritcko Jr. "There are better ways to protect the facility. This is simply a scare tactic."

The truth is, they’re probably already there. The Coast Guard has been protecting, off and on, ferries in the northeast since September 11, 2001, and when I returned from Block Island to Point Judith last August, a Coast Guard gunboat rode in our wake for most of the way. I’d be surprised if they aren’t occasionally following the New London-Orient Point or Bridgeport-Port Jefferson ferries too.

Connecticut folks will be happy about that. Long Islanders will be less happy that yesterday the Connecticut DEP denied (not for the first time) Islander East a permit to put its pipeline through Branford’s waters, past the Thimble Islands, and through some productive oyster beds. From the Hartford Courant:

In a decision released Tuesday, the DEP repeated its stance that the pipeline will threaten the waters that surround the Thimbles and harm the cultivation of oysters and clams.

"While the bottom of the Sound may be out of sight we cannot allow it to be out of mind," said DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy in a statement. The DEP relied on the same experts and studies cited in its earlier decision that threw out Islander East's request for a water quality permit, in 2004. But this time, the DEP packaged the information more comprehensively. In October, a federal appeals court ordered the DEP to take a second look at the project and provide more evidence for its denial.

Among the DEP's findings:

Natural sediment along a wide, mile-long trench would be replaced with gravel backfill once the pipeline is in. The change to the sea bottom would have a devastating and long-lasting effect on the oysters and clams that grow there.

More than 7 million gallons of drilling fluid would fall onto the seafloor during construction - enough to fill the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. The lubrication fluids, plus silt dispersed during construction, would degrade water quality.

Dredging and the anchoring of work barges during installation would eliminate nearly 600 acres of commercial shellfish beds and another 500 beds not yet harvested.

Islander East, of course, will appeal.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Madison Landing Gets a Tentative OK From The Connecticut DEP

The state of Connecticut appears ready to give its approval to the proposed Madison Landing development, next to Hammonnasset State Park, a project that some environmentalists and smart growth proponents (like Audubon Connecticut and Connecticut Fund for the Environment) oppose and some environmentalists and smart growth proponents (like me) think is a good idea.

Last week the state issued a tentative permit that would allow the developers, Leland Alliance, to build a sewage treatment plant to serve 127 new houses and discharge 52,500 gallons a wastewater a day. The requirements for the treatment plant seem both strict and completely reasonable:

* Limit the total amount of potential pollutants, including nitrogen, that may be discharged into groundwater. DEP is requiring an advanced level of treatment to minimize pollutant loading to enhance and maintain the long-term health of the Long Island Sound. Nitrogen, which is contained in domestic sewage and other discharges, was closely evaluated because of the negative impact it has on water quality, natural resources and aquatic life.
* Require that a state-certified wastewater treatment operator be responsible for the operation, maintenance and monitoring of the system to assure compliance with the discharge permit. The Department has already obtained certification from the Town of Madison that it will ensure the effective management of the system through the establishment of financial and institutional controls to be negotiated by the applicant and the Town.
* Require that the design engineer, wastewater treatment operator, and Zenon system representative provide written confirmation that the Zenon system is operating within design specifications and permit conditions within three months of startup.
* Require that a state-licensed professional engineer perform an audit every two years to evaluate compliance with the permit and ensure the proper operation of the Zenon system. The results of the audit will be reported to the DEP, the Madison Water Pollution Control Authority and the Madison Health Department.

The permit is tentative to allow for a public comment period:

The tentative decision on the permit triggers a 30-day public comment period, which ends January 16, 2007, during which comments on the recommended action can be submitted to DEP for consideration. The agency will also schedule a public hearing on the proposed permit if it receives a formal request to do so. After reviewing public comments – and the finding of the hearing officer if there is a public hearing - DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy will make a final decision on the permit.

I think the Madison Landing project is a good because it’s compact, it’s built on a site that was already developed and therefore it isn’t gobbling up valuable open space, and because if it works it might encourage other communities to rethink their development policies, which have done nothing but turn Connecticut into endless subdivisions connected by ugly strip malls. I wish it weren’t next to Hammonasset, but that’s life.

If you’re interested in a longer discussion of why I like Madison Landing, I wrote about it here and here and here.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Fumee d'Ambre Gris: A Beautiful Painting of a Smoldering Piece of Sperm Whale Vomit

If you’ve been to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts, you’ve no doubt been knocked out by a stunning John Singer Sargent painting called Fumee d’Ambre Gris. The title of the painting meant next to nothing to me until I read this story, in today’s Times, and learned that ambergris is a very rare substance that occasionally turns up on beaches after having been vomited up from the intestines of sperm whales.

A Long Island woman found what may well be a hunk of ambergris near Montauk about 50 years ago, brought it with her to Iowa when she moved there, and recently sent it back to her sister, who still lives in Montauk, in hopes that her sister can sell it for a lot of money -- the real stuff is valuable. The problem is that since the whaling era is long gone, virtually no one can positively identify ambergris these days. So while it may indeed be whale vomit, it might also be a blob of worthless junk.

The woman in Sargent’s painting, by the way, is apparently letting the smoke wash over her face, which was a custom in Morocco, where Sargent started the painting. That wasn’t one of the uses of ambergris listed by the Times:

Ambergris has been a valued commodity for centuries, used in perfume because of its strangely alluring aroma as well as its ability to retain other fine-fragrance ingredients and “fix” a scent so it does not evaporate quickly. Its name is derived from the French “ambre gris,” or gray amber. During the Renaissance, ambergris was molded, dried, decorated and worn as jewelry. It has been an aphrodisiac, a restorative balm, and a spice for food and wine. Arabs used it as heart and brain medicine. The Chinese called it lung sien hiang, or “dragon’s spittle fragrance.” It has been the object of high-seas treachery and caused countries to enact maritime possession laws and laws banning whale hunting. Madame du Barry supposedly washed herself with it to make herself irresistible to Louis XV.


Developer Prepares to Demolish Westport's Paul Rudolph House

[Read 'Modern,' our new modern house blog, here.]

What’s the proper term for a developer who buys an architecturally significant modern house in Westport so he can knock it down and build a McMansion and who then explains it away by saying this:

“The house is not historically significant, and any view of how good or bad an architect Paul Rudolph was is purely subjective,” said David Waldman, who runs a commercial real estate company and whose wife is listed in town records as the buyer of the house.

And what’s the proper term for a real estate agent who sold it to the Waldmans, presumably knowing full well what she was selling and why and who explains it away by saying this:

“People are not interested in houses from the 1970s,” said Marina Leo of the Higgins Group real estate agency…

What's the proper term? “Greedy philistines” comes to mind, in my opinion.

The Times reported over the weekend that Waldman is demolishing the house this week. Here’s what the story also says about Paul Rudolph and the house he designed, which looks out over Long Island Sound to the Norwalk Islands:

It was designed by Paul Rudolph, who was the dean of the Yale School of Architecture from 1958 to 1965 and a student of the Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. Mr. Rudolph, who died in 1997, built homes and public and commercial buildings. Among them are his penthouse apartment on Beekman Place in Manhattan, Yale’s Art and Architecture Building and the Burroughs Wellcome headquarters in North Carolina.

And Robert A.M. Stern, the current dean of Yale’s architecture school said:

“All over the world people are waking up to the fact that Modernist houses are valuable works of art. The town of Westport will be diminished by this loss.”

[For more on the issue, see The Destruction of Paul Rudolph's Micheels House in the right hand column.]


Friday, December 15, 2006

Sink Broadwater

I just learned about this new blog, which has only been around for a handful of days. It's called Sink Broadwater. No idea who is behind it. Probably not John Hritcko.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Clueless About the Clean Water Fund

To me, the most amazing thing we’ve learned during the past year’s Clean Water Act malfeasance by the Connecticut Legislature is that many legislators didn’t even know they were doing it. A handful of them admitted it a year ago at a Greenwich Audubon forum (here and here), and yet they still didn’t do anything about it.

Greenwich Audubon held another forum yesterday. This time Greenwich’s legislators made their confession:

State Rep. Lile Gibbons, R-Greenwich, acknowledged that she and many legislators were regretful when they realized the extent of the budget cuts for clean-water initiatives ….

"I admit that I wasn't aware that that was happening in the budget," Gibbons said.

Acknowledging your transgressions is the first step toward forgiveness and perhaps toward making amends. Still, should we laugh ruefully or throw our hands up in despair when elected officials are so out of it?


Spreading The Cost of the Sound Cleanup Throughout Westchester

If you think that people living in Tarrytown, say, on the Hudson River, would benefit if Long Island Sound were in better shape, then you’d be in favor of a proposal in Westchester County to spread the cost of nitrogen removal at the county’s four Sound shore plants among all of Westchester’s sewer districts. As it stands now, people in the district served by the plant in Mamaroneck, for example, pay all of the costs for improving the Mamaroneck plant. Ditto for the treatment plants in New Rochelle, Rye and Port Chester.

The county also has sewage plants in Yonkers, Ossining and Peekskill (like all the county treatment plants, they serve areas that are bigger than the municipalities they’re located in). The county Board of Legislators recently decided to spread operational costs for all seven plants among residents of all seven districts. The next step, if it’s approved, is to do the same for capital costs, which includes the nitrogen removal projects that are needed for the cleanup of Long Island Sound.

No one has said publicly how much those costs will be. The Journal News reports that there could be “potentially hundreds of millions of dollars worth of improvements.” Hundreds of millions of dollars covers a big range but from what I’m hearing, it’s accurate if you assume it won’t be in the low part of that range. Spreading the costs among more people might be the only way the county can afford it.


Don't Worry, Jodi Rell, Your Buddies At FERC Will Watch Out For You

The chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has written a “don’t worry” letter to Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell, telling her that all appearances to the contrary Connecticut will have “an important role in the Broadwater whitewash.”

That’s not quite an exact quote, but I think he meant something like that. And I’m sure Jodi’s fears have been completely alleviated.

Labels: ,

No Pork For the Sound

Democrats in Congress are trying to control pork barrel spending, which is good. Unfortunately EPA’s Long Island Sound office, which is coordinating the clean up of the Sound, is mostly funded by Congressional pork. Bush’s budget includes just $770,000 for the Sound program; the rest of the program’s $2.5 million comes from Congressional earmarks, a/k/a pork. The Stamford Advocate explains.


Deer Census

It’s hard to figure out how many deer are in an area. This story says that the New York City DEP thinks there are 20 to 25 per square mile near some of its reservoirs, while Lyme disease researchers counted 50 to 55 per square mile in northern Westchester (which means there might be 1,100 deer in my town). The 50 to 55 estimate is in line with what Greenwich Audubon estimated a few yers ago, before it began a hunting program on its land.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

You Must Leave Immediately!

Have you heard the anti-Broadwater radio spots that Save the Sound/Connecticut Fund for the Environment will be running in New York, as part of the effort to persuade Gov. Pataki and other state officials to stop the LNG plant from being built?

The ad focuses on the fact that the terminal will be floating in waters, and moored on underwater land, owned by the people of New York. Two fishermen inadvertently drift into the part of Long Island Sound that will be off-limits to the public. A voice from a loudspeaker booms out an order: “You must leave immediately.”

To hear it, click here, scroll about halfway down, then click the play button.


FERC's Broadwater Environmental Review: Who Is Responsible and How Important Is It That The Study Has Serious Flaws?

How important were the criticisms of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Broadwater environmental impact study that four Connecticut scientists made last week, and what might they mean for the future of the LNG terminal? In the comments to yesterday’s post, Sam Wells, one of my more astute readers, indicates that they won’t ultimately mean much at all. Here’s what he wrote:

Not to sound negative here, but just because the quality of work might be cheesy doesn't mean the permit review is inherently wrong or invalid.

That is why most appeals to Federal District Court which win are based on administrative law, not substance. For example, if a public hearing was not properly noticed, that could send the entire shebang back to square one. If the EPA failed to be consulted about the NY/CT State Implementation Plan for ozone and particulate, that would be another. If the FERC "fast track" approval process was ruled invalid, that would also have repercussions for Broadwater.

But my impression is you can't win by arguing about the pipeline trenches.

Sam is saying that legal process is paramount and that in terms of substance the courts give the people who are doing the work a lot of leeway to decide what is important.

That’s no doubt true but it doesn’t mean you can’t win by arguing about trenches. You probably can’t win directly, but you can win indirectly, by arguing that the environmental impact statement is incomplete and incompetent. One of the ways to do that is to raise enough serious, substantive objections to force FERC to require a supplemental environmental impact statement. Compiling the supplement, writing it, reviewing it publicly, holding hearings etc. could add a year or more to the environmental review, during which time everything can change – the economics of liquefied natural gas, the need for the project (if some of the many LNG proposals being considered get approved first), the politics (if opposition in New York hardens and Eliot Spitzer decides to stake his reputaion on not letting Broadwater get built.)

The classic example took place 20 years ago, in New Rochelle, when a developer, with the city’s complete approval, proposed building 2,000 condos on Davids Island. Grassroots opposition was fairly weak until the draft impact statement came out and failed to mention that Long Island Sound – in particular the area of Long Island Sound around Davids Island – was in a severe ecological crisis called hypoxia. The DEIS also failed to account for how sewage from the island would be treated at a time when the sewage plant in New Rochelle was operating about a million gallons a day above capacity (which it still is). The Coast Guard, which was the federal agency reviewing the environmental impacts of the proposal, was forced to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement. Delays ensued, other agencies and levels of government weighed in with criticisms, and eventually (in 1991 or 1992, I think) the city of New Rochelle kicked the developer out.

It’s important to note that they key opinion in the Davids Island review came from the New York Department of State, which determined that the development was inconsistent with state policies for use of the coastal zone. The word back then was that Governor Mario Cuomo would have been happy to let the development proceed but, after some serious internal disagreements, he backed off and let his secretary of state, Gail Schaffer, do the right thing. In the Broadwater proposal, the Department of State has the same role.

The other point Sam and Brian Brown make – that FERC’s consultant rather than FERC itself writes the bulk of the environmental impact statement – is true but not particularly relevant. All environmental impact statements are written by consultants. The consultants, however, do what they’re told and what they’re paid to do. No matter who the consultant is, the Broadwater impact statement in FERC’s document and FERC is responsible. If the Connecticut scientists say the work is incompetent, we don’t blame the consultant, we blame FERC.

Now, FERC can blame the consultant if it wants, but that brings up the next relevant point. FERC oversees the study, but Broadwater pays for it. That means that FERC got from its consultant exactly what FERC and Broadwater (and Shell and TransCanada) wanted: an environmental study that glosses over the real issues in hopes that no one will notice. Broadwater pays the piper; Broadwater calls the tune. (There are people who disagree with me on this point, including some in government; the comment in this post is one example.)

But even so, it’s FERC’s document, and if it’s a whitewash and a sham, FERC is responsible.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

So Would He Give FERC a C Minus?

Quote of the Day:* Ralph Lewis, who is probably Connecticut's pre-eminent geologist, compared the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's environmental impact statement on the Broadwater LNG proposal to a research paper by "a reasonably bright undergraduate ... who probably went to the library the afternoon before the paper was due."

* He actually said it last Thursday but it was in the New Haven Register today.


Westport Developer Is Taking Down An Important House In Westport, This One Designed By Paul Rudolph

[Read 'Modern,' our new modern house blog, here.]

Word on the street is that a developer named David Waldman and his partner, Terry Friedberg, now own
the house that Paul Rudolph designed near Compo Beach in Westport, and that the demolition of the roof and windows has begin (just in time for tomorrow’s rain).

Their company is called Axis Point Group Holdings (8 Church Lane, Westport) and they apparently are not averse to tearing down important buildings if money can be made doing it. WestportNow reported in October that they took down a 19th-century house on Cross Highway in Westport, allowing the materials to be carted away and used for the restoration of other antique houses rather than sent to a construction and demolition dump, which strikes me as an incredible gesture of generosity and public-spiritedness on the part of these two altruistic developers.

People is Westport who don’t want to see the Rudolph house come down are asking like-minded folks to call Axis Point Group at phone 203-227-9080 and encourage them to stop the demolition (and put up some tarps in the process) and so a preservation agreement can be reached.


[For more on the issue, see The Destruction of Paul Rudolph's Micheels House in the right hand column.]


Hartford Courant Says Replenish The Clean Water Fund

The editorial page of the Hartford Courant implores Connecticut legislators to get back to business and put more money in the Clean Water Fund, particularly because it’s needed to continue the Long Island Sound cleanup:

Connecticut has made a lot of progress in improving the Sound. But there's more to be done. The General Assembly should keep its commitment and refresh the Clean Water Fund.

The editorial comes on the heels of last week’s meeting in Hartford to push for more funding, which itself came after a year of agitating on the part of a few lonely souls.

Is the bandwagon starting to get crowded?


Fluke Catch To Fall, Fishermen Don't Like it. Also: Thimble Buying, Broadwater, Oyster Revival

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is cutting the number of fluke that fishermen will be allowed to catch, in hopes of allowing the population as a whole to rebound.

Recreational fishermen don’t like that though, which is odd – you’d think that people who do something for fun would be interested in the long-term well being of their recreational activity.

Businesses on Long Island that rely on recreational fishermen for their income don’t like the change either because they think it will mean less money for them. But isn’t that the definition of environmental sustainability – a business that can make a go of it without damaging the environment? Here’s Newsday’s report.

Meanwhile, here are some quick hits from over the weekend that I didn’t get to yesterday:

Mrs. Svenningsen, the enormously wealthy woman who is buying up the Thimble Islands, gives “her first and only” interview, here.

Broadwater has an application in to the Army Corps of Engineers, here.

There’s an oyster revival in Greenwich, here.


Monday, December 11, 2006

A Notable Modern House Near Compo Beach Is On The Verge Of Being Torn Down

[Read 'Modern,' our new modern house blog, here.]

It turns out that
New Canaan isn’t the only place where important modern houses are torn down to make way for ugly neo-colonials or single-style monstrosities. It happens in Westport too.

An email came in the other day from an architect who was letting a bunch of modern house aficionados in New Canaan know that a house designed by Paul Rudolph, at 16 Minuteman Hill, near Compo Beach, is in danger of coming down. WestportNow, an online paper, pictured it here, and the picture generated a torrent of comments, which are worth reading.

I’m not sure what a local government can or should do in a case like this, but it’s obviously true that for a house to be preserved it either has to be donated or, if not, put on the market for a price that someone who knows its architectural value is willing to pay. Publicity helps, particularly among people who know and admire modern houses. One example: when a guide took a bus full of people past a Marcel Breuer house, on West Road, during the New Canaan Historical Society’s 2004 Modern House Day, and told those on the bus that a developer was about to buy it and tear it down, someone on the bus decided to buy it instead.

(To give you an idea of how wide-ranging and sophisticated my knowledge of modern architecture is, a couple of weeks ago I wrote about a visit to New Haven and the Yale Art Gallery, which Louis Kahn designed and which just reopened after a renovation. I wrote:

I’m not sure who designed the Yale School of Architecture building, though. It’s across York Street from the Yale Art Gallery and is notable for its awfulness.

Then I read this, in today’s Times, and learned that (surprise) Paul Rudolph designed it. Nevertheless, it's still ugly.)

[For more on the issue, see The Destruction of Paul Rudolph's Micheels House in the right hand column.]


Connecticut Wants Permit Role in Broadwater Review

Connecticut seems prepared to argue that even though Broadwater’s liquefied natural gas terminal would be in the New York waters of Long Island Sound, the “exclusion zone” around the terminal (publicly-owned waters in which no boats would be allowed) extends into Connecticut, and therefore Shell and TransCanada need a permit from Connecticut.

At least that’s what I think Governor Jodi Rell and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal are saying in this New Haven Register story, which isn’t the clearest report I’ve ever read (the reporter keeps writing, for example, that Connecticut wants “a say” in the decision; of course Connecticut already has a say, via the environmental impact public review; what is doesn’t have is the authority to say yes or no, which is what it wants).

That reminds me: I didn’t catch this when I read David Funkhouser’s interview last week with the head of FERC, Joseph T. Kelliher. Kelliher said that economics weren't important to FERC when it makes its decisions; FERC is concerned with safety. But isn’t there something else FERC should be concerned about – the reason they call the study they’re doing an environmental impact study? You get the impression reading Kelliher’s comments that the environment isn’t that big of a deal to them, which may be why Ralph Lewis, Lance Stewart and two other scientists found such flaws in the EIS.


A Very Rare Sea Turtle Washes Up On A Long Island Beach

A Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, barely alive from the cold water, washed up on a Long Island beach the other day. A fellow from Sag Harbor found it, took it home (which was illegal and also dangerous for the turtle), and then called the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, which is now trying to revive it.

Twenty years ago, cold-stunned Kemp’s ridleys were fairly common on Long Island’s north shore. The turtles ride the Gulf Stream north and then for some reason juveniles fail to get back to warmer waters before the temperature drops. I haven’t heard of a major cold-stunning episode since then though. Call this number if you find a turtle on the beach: 631-369-9829.

I wrote a long chapter about sea turtles in the Sound but then decided not to use it in my book. You can read it here.


Rowayton Historical Society Wants To Let More People See Its Colllection

One of my stops when I was searching for photographs for my book was the Rowayton Historical Society’s collection at the Seeley-Dibble-Pinkney House, on the Five Mile River. I met an older man and woman there on a Saturday morning in spring and together we looked through old photos stored in boxes and hanging on the wall. When I found four pictures of oyster boats that I thought I could use, they pried them from their frames, put them In an envelope, and handed them to me, extracting a promise that I bring them back in a week after I had gotten them copied. I did, of course, and the pictures are in the oystering chapter of my book.

The Rowayton Historical Society is making an effort now to get that stuff and lots of other photos, diaries and artifacts out of storage and on display. Here are some excerpts from a Stamford Advocate story:

The hope is to put the vestiges from Rowayton's history on display downstairs in the house, with themed exhibits of photographs and other items. Upstairs, the storage area will be more spread out, and there will be research rooms for people to look at the items more closely.

The paper documents will complement the other tools the historical society has on display in a barn on the property, and oystering paraphernalia at the Barclay Boathouse just behind it.

Before the museum opens, the historical society plans to renovate parts of the Pinkney House, including opening up a walls to create more free-flowing spaces and removing the modern kitchen upstairs to create more storage….

The house is a prominent piece of Rowayton history. Built by Alfred Seeley, a package ship operator, in 1820, it remained in the same family until it was purchased by the Sixth Taxing District. Alphonso Dibble, who married a Seeley daughter and lived at the house, operated a meat and grocery store at what is now Rowayton Market.

Historical society members see the museum as a central part of the proposed Five Mile River Landing National Historic District.

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 08, 2006

Four Connecticut Scientists Tell State Panel that FERC Glossed Over Broadwater's Environmental Impacts

Four Connecticut scientists provided the first substantive critique (that I’ve heard of anyway) of FERC’s review of the environmental impacts that Broadwater would have, and in a nutshell they say the study is seriously flawed.

Even scientists can be biased of course but I’ve always listened closely when Ralph Lewis and Lance Stewart had something to say. Yesterday they and two others told the Connecticut task force that is looking into the Broadwater liquefied natural gas issue that the FERC environmental impact statement was poorly researched, reflects a lack of understanding of the Long Island Sound, draws unwarranted conclusions, and is so shallow as to be elementary.

Lewis (retired state geologist) and Stewart (associate professor at UConn's Department of Natural Resources and a commissioner for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council) were joined by Peter Auster (science director for UConn’s National Undersea Research Center) and Roman Zajac (University of New Haven biology professor). Judy Benson of the New London Day seems to have been the only reporter to cover the meeting.

Auster: “This document was poorly researched. The authors glossed over the issues to conclude that it would have minimal impact.”

Lewis, the state geologist, told the committee that the report does not reflect an understanding of the floor of the Sound. He said Broadwater may have to drill much deeper through layers of sediment and clay to reach bedrock than the report anticipates. The drilling would be needed to construct the yoke mooring system that would hold the terminal in place and the 22 miles of pipeline that would connect it to an existing undersea gas line.

Zajac faulted the report for relying on video footage of the portion of the Sound where the terminal would be located. The video footage is unclear and cannot be used to draw conclusions about the marine life throughout the Sound, because different areas of the Sound provide different habitats for different creatures….

He also faulted the report for lack of data to back up many of its statements, and for not addressing issues such as the effect noise from the terminal would have on fish and other creatures.

Stewart called the draft report “the most elementary I've ever seen.” He said he is most concerned about the heat that would be generated by the terminal, because subtle rises in water temperature can have negative impacts on fish, lobsters and other marine creatures. An analysis of that issue was absent from the FERC report, he said.

Public hearings on the EIS have been set for January: Tuesday, January 9th: Mitchell College, New London. Wednesday, January 10th: Smithtown West High School Auditorium (tentative). Thursday, January 11th: Wading River/Shoreham High School. Tuesday, January 16th: Branford High School.

11:15 a.m. update: It turns out that the New Haven Register covered the meeting too. I found the link through the Full Tilt Sailing Team blog, which was new to me until I saw it on Connecticut Weblogs.

12:30 p.m. update: Connecticut Network recorded the hearing. You can find it and watch it here, assuming you have the right software, which I apparently do not. Thanks to Leah Schmalz, who found it and send along the link.


Connecticut Legislators Meet in Hartford to Acknowledge Implicitly That They Blew It By Not Putting Money Into The Clean Water Fund

It seems as if a fair number of Connecticut legislators were at the Clean Water Fund meeting in Hartford yesterday and that they were in general agreement that they screwed up big time in recent years by not putting money into the fund. Here’s the Connecticut Post’s coverage.

Its probably true, as some people in Connecticut have been suggesting, that the fund needs about $150 million so the Long Island Sound cleanup (and other water quality projects) can continue. It’s also probably true that if they ask for $150 million they might get the $70 million that Terry Backer and others have been saying is needed. In any case, all kinds of people were in Hartford yesterday throwing around the $150 million figure.


Looking Closely at the Local Falcons

Peter Davenport, of the Stamford Advocate, takes a close look at birds in Greenwich and Norwalk, including a pair of peregrines that occasionally use the steeple of St. Mary’s Church in Norwalk.


Sea Grant Board Member to Head LI Planning Board

Michael White, who apparently has some environmental bona fides (chairman of the LI chapter of the League of Conservation Voters, board member of New York Sea Grant) is going to be named to head the Long Island Regional Planning Board, replacing Lee Koppelman, a legend who wore out his welcome.

I know Koppelman mainly from reputation but also because I heard him speak once at a Long Island Sound Task Force conference and because I looked through (read would be too strong a word) a book (The Urban Sea: Long Island Sound) of which he was a co-author. Either it was too turgid or I was too obtuse but I didn’t get much out of it. Koppelman was a strong leader, I gather, who didn’t leave many friends behind or, if he did, Newsday didn’t bother to find them.

As for White, if you’re the head of an LCV chapter, by definition you are perceived as a moderate who works well with Democrats and Republicans or, in this case, builders and environmentalists. The LI Regional Planning Board has no equivalent that I’ve ever heard of in Connecticut and is far more influential than the Westchester County Planning Board, but even so it’s an advisory group whose power is limited to its ability to get people to agree that its ideas are good. Whether its influence over the years has been good or bad is for Long Islanders to decide, I guess, but I don’t consider Long Island, the birthplace of suburban sprawl, to be a paradigm of good planning.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Connecticut Municipalities Pushing to Double the Clean Water Fund

There’s an important meeting in Hartford going on now to discuss Connecticut’s Clean Water Fund, which is where Connecticut’s share of the money for the Long Island Sound cleanup comes from. David Funkhouser has a preview in today’s Courant.

He reports that DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy is looking into reforming (perhaps) the way the Clean Water Fund is administered.

And although Soundkeeper/Legislator Terry Backer has been pushing for $70 million a year in the fund, David reports that some people want a whole lot more:

The fund needs up to $160 million next year and just under $140 million the following year "to get Connecticut back up to where it should have been," said Gian-Carl Casa, director of legislative services for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. "A large number of projects are ready to go, and the funding isn't available for them."

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Commercial Fisherman and Another Myth Busted at the Same Time

One of the things I wrote about in the Tucker Crawford post I linked to earlier today was how modern day environmentalists (myself included) mythologize and sentimentalize commercial fishermen. Crawford was a good, hard-working fisherman who at one point was arrested for selling striped bass that were contaminated with PCBs and who in fact denied (no doubt to his dying day) that PCBs were a problem in the Hudson. He was a link to a past that we assume was simpler and therefore better, and that was destroyed by industrialization, and for that he was to be admired, but he was also just a regular guy doing what he could to get by.

A couple of days ago police nabbed a fisherman from Brooklyn named Frank Sabatino, who allegedly was intending to sell striped bass contaminated with PCBs. Here’s how the Daily News reported it, mixing myth-making with police reporting:

An enduring survivor of the city's dying commercial fishing community was hooked by state police for allegedly trawling in contaminated waters.

When Frank Sabatino was arrested Sunday as he pulled his boat into Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, he had a haul of 872 pounds of striped bass, 32 pounds of illegally caught fluke, two prohibited Atlantic sturgeon and other banned seafood, authorities said.

The fish, caught off Jacob Riis beach, are illegal because the water is contaminated with PCBs, mercury and other dangerous chemicals, Department of Environmental Conservation officials said.

Sabatino had been the subject of a National Public Radio feature a few years ago – you know the kind: the sound of waves lapping at the bow, gulls calling, maybe a bell buoy, a terse but colorful (and ironically prescient) introduction by the narrator …

If Frank Sabatino could have things his way he'd spend every day fishing on his own boat, but given the realities of a commercial fisherman's life, he's often captaining somebody else's clam-boat or else working as the engineer on the casino boat or else diving to check moorings - Whatever it takes to make some extra cash....

… and lots of local color from Sabatini himself about how wonderful it was in the old days:

Everybody was involved in the fish business, one way or the other: there was Cow High Charlie, there was Joe Black, Pineapple Mike, Flounder Foot, another fellow named Bushel Mike. These were guys that used to put straw, newspaper in their boots! Not because they were cheap, that's the way these guys were taught. They were good people. I used to bring my report card down, because if I didn't, they probably wouldn't let me in the boatyard.

Sabatino says all he’s guilty of is fishing without a license. He faces up to four years in jail (although I’m sure he’ll never do time, and maybe he doesn’t deserve to). Whatever. Next time we write about the last fisherman, let's dispense with the sentimentality.


The Old Fishermen Are Going

Fred Bilyou, one of the last of the Hudson rivermen, died the other day. Tucker Crawford died not long ago. How many more can there be? Not many, thanks to General Electric.

It’s been years since I’ve been out to the North Fork of Long Island, which is where Long Island Sound’s and Peconic Bay’s last traditional commercial fishermen were working, using pound nets. I had assumed they were long gone too but I was talking the other day to someone who has a house out there and a sailboat, and he told me some of the pound nets are still there. I’m not sure why I consider that good news, but I do.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Connecticut's Lobster Take Rises For First Time Since 1999 Die-Off

Connecticut lobstermen working Long Island Sound landed 714,000 pounds of lobster last year, up from 647,000 pounds in 2004, the Greenwich Time reports. That’s the first increase since the big 1999 die-off. In 1998, the catch was 3.7 million pounds but I bet you’d have a hard time finding a lobster biologist or fisheries manager who doesn’t think that was overfishing.

The article makes a couple of dubious points that it’s only fair to point out. The reporter quotes a local lobsterman thus:

"Greenwich is a hot spot. Used to be anyway, but there's no more fish. Everything is polluted. There's raw sewage in the water, garbage. It's terrible. Nobody cares in the town of Greenwich about water.”

It’s true that there are no more fish during the depths of summer, when hypoxia is at its worst, but there are plenty of fish the rest of the year. And nobody is dumping raw sewage into the waters around Greenwich. I’m of the opinion that just because somebody said it, a reporter is not obligated to use it in the paper if it’s demonstrably wrong.

He also writes:

Seven years ago, a massive die-off, whose causes experts still debate, devastated the Long Island Sound's lobster population.

But how much debate is actually going on? Lobstermen claim that pesticides had something to do with it. Almost everyone else disagrees, and thinks it was a combination of factors. Claiming that there’s a debate over the cause is almost like claiming that there’s a debate over global warming. There’s the scientific consensus and those who agree with it, and there are those who don’t. That’s not a debate. It’s a (largely irrational) disagreement.


Accolades for Commissioner McCarthy

How is Gina McCarthy doing as head of the Connecticut DEP. Rick Green of the Hartford Courant thinks she’s doing just fine. He writes:

Credit Gov. M. Jodi Rell on this one - she ignored the political hack tradition and hired the best candidate, conducting a private-sector style search and luring McCarthy from an environmental post in Massachusetts.

"The development that is happening everywhere is an indication the state needs to step back and think," McCarthy told me. By creating an Office of Responsible Growth, she said, Rell is sending a loud signal that environmentalists should be a part of this debate.

I’ll join in the praise if her patron, Jodi Rell, has enough influence to get ample money back in the Clean Water Fund.


More Shad, Fewer Scallops

We make progress in one environmental restoration issue but at the same time lose ground on another. Shad are being restocked in the River Charles (the old Standells song, “(I Love That) Dirty Water” apparently is obsolete, finally) but eel grass (and the scallops that grow in eel grass beds) is disappearing from Nantucket.


Let's Ban Not Just Leaf Blowers, But Lawn Fertilizers Too

Some towns in my county are actually promoting non-phosphorus fertilizers to homeowners, landscapers and garden centers, in an effort in an effort to keep the nutrient out of New York City’s reservoirs. Some landscapers are washing their hands of responsibility:

"Everyone around here wants their lawns as green as possible as fast as possible," said Matthew Troy of Troy's Garden Nurseries in Bedford.

But that’s the kind of self-justifying fallacy that landscapers and lawn crews have always used as they to sell homeowners on unnecessary maintenance – weekly mowing and leaf blowing, from April through November – and unnecessary fertilization. It’s the “give the people what they want” philosophy. The truth is, the landscapers and lawn crews are actively selling and promoting things that are bad for the environment. “we recommend the use of fossil fuels to blow leaves off your lawn in the middle of summer, even though the planet is getting hotter and hotter because of the use of fossil fuels. We can be there every Friday morning.”

Leaf blowers and lawn fertilizers are frivolous and harmful. We should just ban them.

Labels: , ,

Stock Car Racers Decide Not To Build a Speedway in a Salt Marsh

Here’s bad news for people who like to put bad development in inappropriate places (and good news for the rest of us, including those of us who have who detest their old hometown but still feel protective of it).

Labels: ,

Monday, December 04, 2006

FERC Head Tells the Courant His Only Concern Is Safety

FERCin' Broadwater ... The Hartford Courant’s David Funkhouser traveled to Washington to interview Joseph T. Kelliher, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, about FERC’s role in the approval of the Broadwater liquefied natural gas plant in Long Island Sound.

Kelliher asks us to trust him that the only thing FERC is interested in is safety. And let’s face it, based on the cumulative record, why would we not trust the word and competence of a Bush Administration appointee? Here’s what Kelliher says:

"There seems to be a perception on the outside that we are actually balancing need vs. safety," he said. "That's completely untrue. ... When the commission looks at an LNG facility, we are not an economic regulator, we are a safety regulator, pure and simple."

But Dave helpfully points out in the next sentence that the FERC’s environmental impact statement for the Broadwater project went to great pains to deal not just with safety but to establish the need for the project:

… FERC's environmental report and other agency literature make clear that the agency believes such projects are needed, especially in the Northeast. Energy demand in the region is rising faster than generation capacity and the ability of the infrastructure to deliver that power.

Looking at the contrast between Kelliher’s statement and the plain language of the EIS, the word “disingenuous” comes to mind. That’s the charitable word, anyway.

Kelliher also says the giant LNG facility can’t be built unless New York State gives its approval on a handful of issues, a question that some people disagree with but which Connecticut Fund for the Environment thinks is right. The state must decide that the plant would be consistency with state policies for the coastal zone, and it must grant Broadwater an easement for the long-term use of the land at the bottom of the Sound. From the Courant:

The law did give FERC the authority to approve the siting of liquefied natural gas terminals. But, he said, "the state role in reviewing LNG import facilities is undiminished. ... There's more than one decision-maker. If we disapprove a project, it can't be built, but we're not the only body that has to approve an LNG facility."

Natural filters ... In Narragansett Bay, volunteers have been cultivating oysters in an attempt to revive the population. One of the hopes is that the population can eventually resume its traditional ecological function as a massive, natural filtration system. From the Providence Journal:

A single adult oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day and live up to 25 to 35 years if undisturbed, said Dale Leavitt, an assistant biology professor at Roger Williams University and the RI-ORGE founder and technical assistant.

“Fifty gallons of water a day, 365 days a year, thousands of oysters, they’re moving a lot of water,” Leavitt said.

Michelle J. Lee, a ProJo reporter who is also a fellow with the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting, wrote the story.

Clean Water Fund ... Robert Miller of the Danbury News Times admirably outlines the issues facing Connecticut’s towns and cities as they try to upgrade their sewage treatment plants despite alack of money in the state’s Clean Water Fund.

Location, location ... Interested in knowing what the market value is of a one-acre island in the Thimble Islands? Mrs. Svenningsen knows. Hint: it’s not all that cheap.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Calliope Hummingbird

People in the northeast who keep hummingbird feeders out in summer are usually tempted to take them down by the end of September, when ruby-throated hummingbirds – the only species of hummer that nests here – have moved south. The standard advice, though, is to keep the feeders up for another couple of months, at least, because late fall can bring wandering species to the region, rufous hummingbirds in particular.

Dori Sosensky, one of Connecticut’s most dedicated birders, maintains a feeding station, complete with hummingbird feeders, at LighthousePoint Park, in New Haven, and she and others were rewarded yesterday with an extraordinary visit from a calliope hummingbird (an adult female), which lives and nests in the southwest and west. The Connecticut Ornithological Association’s daily email remarks:

The bird was visiting the feeders in the butterfly garden all day, from when it was sighted around 10:00 AM every 15 to 30 minutes until 4:20 PM. It is worth noting the effort that Dori Sosensky in particular has put into creating and maintaining this garden and keeping the feeders available so this could happen.

[Monday update: I gleaned the following clarification from Monday's Connecticut birder email: I was told quite pointedly by Dori that, while she has been keeping the hummingbird feeders in operation, the butterfly garden is the work of a great many people, and her contribution is far more limited than what I indicated in yesterday's report. In particular I send my apologies to Christine Cook the designer, Dan Barvir the New Haven Park Ranger, and Carol Lemmon past president of the Connecticut Butterfly Association, as well as what I was told were many more contributors. Mea maxima culpa, and thank you all.]

You can see the tiny bird (the smallest North American bird, in fact), here, thanks to a couple of terrific photos by Julian Hough, a birder and photographer. It is the first time a calliope hummingbird has been seen in Connecticut.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Yale Art Gallery's New Opening and Old Storage

The Yale Art Gallery is reopening on December 10, restored to something approximating the vision of its architect, Louis Kahn, after decades of alterations. It’s one of those places on Chapel Street that I referred to the other day as having interesting things to look at inside and out. Kahn also designed the Yale Center for British Art, which is across Chapel Street. I’m not sure who designed the Yale School of Architecture building, though. It’s across York Street from the Yale Art Gallery and is notable for its awfulness.

Only part of the Art Gallery was open during the renovation, the part that’s in the old building, which houses not only an interesting collection of American paintings and artifacts, but the remains of the painter John Trumbull, whose decision to sell his paintings led to the creation of the Yale Picture Gallery, and those of his wife. If you’re in the old building, take the elevator (it’s old enough to require an operator) to the basement and look for the commemorative plaque. I was reading it aloud to my son the other day when the elevator operator walked by.

“They’re in there,” he said and pointed to a door near the plaque. A small sign read “Storage.”

As for the new part of Art Gallery, it had an opening for the press yesterday, but environmental bloggers weren’t invited.
eXTReMe Tracker