Out, Turned Off, Unplugged
fear that a proposed law may shut the public out of the power-plant
Ball knows how much time and effort it takes to fight a power-plant
company trying to move into your neighborhood. For the past
three years, Ball and her husband have been spending their
spare time attending meetings, writing letters, visiting with
politicians and shuffling through piles of paperwork to find
some way to stop Glenville Energy Park power plant from building
a new facility just 200 feet away from their home.
did not buy our beautiful riverside home as a starter home,”
said Ball, who lives along the Mohawk River in Scotia. “We
bought it with the intent of living out our lives here and
passing it on to our children.”
But if the GEP plant moves into the lot across from Ball,
her family’s plans for the future are sure to change.
Which is why Ball is outraged by a power-plant siting law
that will amend Article X, the Public Service Law that regulates
all power-plant proposals in New York state. The bill, she
said, would make it easier for power plants to come into a
community and build new facilities.
The industry-backed version of the state’s power-plant law
seeks to shorten the review process for a siting application
from 12 months to eight. And, if a power plant wants to build
a facility on a brownfield or an existing former industrial
site, that review process would be shortened to six months.
will make it harder for people and municipalities to organize
and fight against an application,” said Ball. “As it stands
now, it takes at least three to six months for a municipality
to familiarize themselves with the process and to contract
the necessary consultants before they can even begin to review
Article X is scheduled to expire on January 1, 2003. For years
critics of the law, which was first introduced in 1992 and
then revised in 1998, argued that Article X unfairly benefits
corporations by overriding local zoning laws and leaving communities
with very little time to participate in the review process.
The original law required a 24-month review process for all
siting applications; in 1998, that time frame was shortened
to one year.
Assemblyman Paul Tonko (D-Amsterdam) currently sponsors two
bills that are being put before the Assembly Energy Committee:
an industry-backed bill, and another version backed by environmental
idea is to put both bills in just to start the discussion,”
said John Howard, chief of staff for Tonko. “The industry
wants this and the advocacy groups want that. Where the ultimate
law comes out will clearly be somewhere in-between those two
extremes. There has been no bill passed, and certainly no
bill has been agreed upon, so we are a long way away from
seeing this thing becoming law.”
But for Ball, who favors the environmental bill, there is
no time to waste. In fact, her concerns that the industry-friendly
bill could become law were heightened last week when the Senate
Energy Committee endorsed the industry-backed version.
Gavin Donohue, executive director of the Independent Power
Producers of New York, said that New York state needs to have
at least 7,100 megawatts of power by 2005 to avoid blackouts
like those that happened in California last year. Unless New
York works to entice power companies to come here and build
new facilities, he said, power companies will take their business
to other states, where the laws are less stringent and the
application process is shorter.
are trying to put incentives in the bill so that we can keep
the lights on in New York state,” said Donohue. “We could
all differ on what the appropriate time frame here in New
York state should be. . . . but I don’t buy that argument
that the public is shut out of the application process.”
Donohue said that prior to submitting an application, many
power companies go into communities to educate the public
about the possible effects, good and bad, that a power plant
could have on an area.
companies will not want to go through the process to get an
application completed and then wait to see what the public’s
reaction is going to be,” said Donohue. “They will want to
see up front who supports it and give people a chance to voice
This makes the application period go much more smoothly, he
But for Ball, the six- to eight-month application process
is just not enough time for the public to review a siting
application once it is submitted.
puts anybody that is opposing a power plant at a huge disadvantage,”
said Ball. “They then have half the time to go through these
volumes and volumes of information, and half the time to have
their own studies done and to hire experts like lawyers or
in the air: (l-r) Arbor Hill Environmental Justices
Rodney Davis, Beverly Padgett and Aaron Mair. Photo
by Teri Currie
residents wonder if strange health symptoms are a result of
asbestos released during demolition of Arbor Hill Community
Helen Black started noticing large amounts of dust particles
building up in her home in Arbor Hill, she first thought it
was the result of renovations she had done earlier that year.
When her eyes and nose became constantly irritated and she
began having frequent headaches, she thought that perhaps
it was an allergic reaction to something in the air.
It wasn’t until other people in her neighborhood started speaking
up at the weekly Arbor Hill Environmental Justice meetings,
saying that they too were experiencing similar symptoms and
were worried that they had been exposed to asbestos, that
Black became concerned for her health.
were saying that their eyes were bothering them, they were
having respiratory problems, rashes and headaches,” said Black.
“These were some of the same symptoms that I was having. They
were also describing the same green, gritty dust particles
on their furniture that I had in my house.”
A number of Arbor Hill residents believe that the asbestos
exposure came in June 1999, when the city of Albany tore down
the old Arbor Hill Community Center to build the New Covenant
Charter School. As a result, eight families have filed a notice
of claim against the city for possible health and property
started going to the Common Council meetings and voicing our
concerns,” said Black. “They told us to file a notice of claim
against the city if we were concerned.”
Rodney Davis, executive director of the Arbor Hill Environmental
Justice Corporation, said that many residents who lived on
Third Street across from the old center while the building
was being taken down do not recall receiving any warning that
the city was going to be removing asbestos.
was done in the middle of the summer when everyone had their
windows open and dust flew in every direction, landing in
and around all the homes,” said Davis. “To the best of our
knowledge, the proper procedures were not followed, such as
bringing in a HAZMAT [hazardous materials] team to make sure
that the building was demolished according to federal standards.”
Joe Montana, director of housing and community development
for the city of Albany, said that the city has contracted
with the environmental firm Malcolm Pirnie to research what
was done at the time of the demolition. He said the firm is
scheduled to give a presentation at the Common Council caucus
on May 15 at City Hall.
believe that the proper methods were followed,” said Montana.
“I believe that the city did what the city was supposed to
do and Malcolm Pirnie is going to address that.”
Montana questions whether the residents’ symptoms could really
be a result of asbestos exposure.
know that it is a little bit premature,” said Montana. “I
have been certified in asbestosis, and I know it takes 18
to 25 years for that to show up in somebody. So there could
be exposure, but there couldn’t be any results of it at this
point. It’s only been a year down the road.”
Kerri Battle, spokeswoman for Albany County Executive Michael
Breslin, said that the County Health Department did receive
calls from people complaining of possible exposure. An engineer,
she said, was sent out to test the dust on the exterior of
those homes. However, those results are not back yet.
Anne Brown, whose 65-year-old mother has lived on Third Street
for 14 years, said that she is scared not just for her mother’s
health, but for everyone in the area.
is not just my mother that I am worried about,” said Brown.
“It is also all of the kids in the neighborhood who were running
up and down these streets that summer. What are the long-term
effects of this going to be if the short-term effect is already
showing up? Are people’s eyelashes going to start falling
In, Leather Out
they weren’t hookers. Those two pleather-clad beauties you
may have noticed roaming the streets around the state Capitol
last week were sent to Albany by People for the Ethical Treatment
of Animals. The women (l-r, Kayla Worden from Ashville, N.C.,
and Lisa Franzetta from Oakland, Calif.) were on a mission
to educate passers-by about cruelty in the leather industry.
According to PETA, much of the leather sold in the United
States is produced oversecas in places where animal cruelty
is common: Cows used to produce leather coats, for example,
endure beatings and broken bones before they are slaughtered.
PETA reports that it has even documented cruelty in slaughterhouses
in the United States.
The PETA dominatrices wanted to show that faux leather, vinyl
and synthetic fabrics can be just as comfy and sexy as leather.
From a Courthouse
political-corruption trial in Rensselaer County continued
this week, as former county attorney Dan Ehring, former county
labor lawyer Brian Goldberger and, last but not least, former
County Executive Henry Zwack were called to testify.
Ehring (pictured right) took the stand on Monday and denied
allegations that he threateningly stuck his finger in the
face of personnel employees to express his displeasure with
their refusal to bend to the Zwack administration’s requests
to give a physical-fitness retest to T.J. Germano, a politically
connected cop. “That’s not my style,” he insisted.
After Ehring came down from the stand, however, one observer
noted that during his testimony Ehring “struck people as just
the kind of person who would stick his finger in a person’s
Zwack (pictured, left), who took the stand Tuesday and Wednesday,
denied any knowledge of or connection to the bribery, corruption
and coercion alleged during the trial; Zwack, Ehring, Goldberger
and several other former Zwack aides are charged with trying
to rig a patronage deal for Germano in exchange for votes
from his grandfather, North Greenbush Democratic boss James