Category Archives: Environment

Con Ed report highlights emissions cut

This is truly incredible news. Con Edison recently released their 2014 Sustainability Report 2014 Sustainability Report (read it here) and they are touting some eye-popping numbers. Since 2005, Con Ed has cut greenhouse gas emission by 45 percent. That’s the same as removing 500 thousand cars from the road.

Other highlights taken directly from the report include:

  • As one of the largest consumers of municipal water in New York City, we purchased over 3.6 billion gallons of water, approximately 100 million of which was used for basic water and sewage services at our facilities while the rest was used to generate steam.
  • The wise and effective use of natural resources is one of Con Edison’s five key EH&S objectives. We continue to focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling to minimize consumption. This applies to our use of materials as well as our use of energy and water and we were proud in 2014 to again have a recycling rate of 90% for our non-hazardous waste.
  • Our primary impact on habitat and biodiversity is on our overhead transmission rights-of-way (ROW) and in 2014, we continued to enact our Land and Vegetation Management program which was developed, in part, to encourage biological diversity along these passageways. We’ve also undertaken an initiative in partnership with the New York DEC to reduce the spread of invasive species in ROW.
  • Our seven climate change principles help guide our work, and in 2014 we reached the halfway mark in our four-year, $1 billion plan for storm hardening investments to adapt our system after two of our most significant storms within two years (Hurricane Irene in 2011 with over 200,000 outages and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 with over 1 million outages) and improve our resiliency.

(source: Con Edison’s 2014 Sustainability Report)

We are proud to have Con Ed as a member and congratulate them on making and keeping their commitment to improving corporate sustainability.

USA Today says yes to fracking

Less than two weeks ago New York State officially banned fracking. The decision was not unexpected. In fact, we’ve known it was coming since last December. We remain dismayed that state officials chose to ignore the evidence that fracking can be done safely, including a detailed report from the EPA.

A holiday weekend editorial in the USA Today says it best: “Any debate about banning it should take a hard look at what that would cost the nation and at facts that aren’t always part of the discussion.

Those facts are spelled out in a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency on fracking and groundwater. One of the harshest charges against fracking, often leveled with apocalyptic intensity by its foes, is that it indiscriminately contaminates vital drinking water supplies.

The EPA’s timely report essentially said that’s overblown.”

The Business Council remains hopeful that as more and more reports come out that fracking can be done safely the state of New York will reverse its misguided ban. The residents of the Southern Tier deserve the chance to join in on the economic opportunities hydraulic fracturing has created in many communities around the country.

New York businesses observe Earth Hour

Many New York businesses participated in Earth Hour on March 28 by turning out and dimming lights to emphasize energy-efficiency awareness.  The Empire State Building dimmed its lights, while theaters on Broadway also toned down the neon.

Business Council member Verizon turned off the lights in nearly 500 of its buildings in 37 countries around the world. In all, Verizon darkened 25 million square feet of building space around the world—the equivalent of nearly 12 Empire State Buildings.

Since 2010, Verizon and its employees around the world have participated in the Earth Hour movement, helping the World Wildlife Fund to promote sustainable living, expand energy-efficiency awareness, and take a stand against climate change. Verizon promotes sustainability in its employee culture, encouraging participation in Earth Hour and community-environment events. As a result, thousands of employees — many of them among the 17,000 member Verizon Green Team, the company’s largest employee resource group—have pledged to darken their homes in 25 countries during Earth Hour 2015.

Please click here to watch as Verizon observes Earth Hour.

Finch Paper boosts margins with new products, leadership

Business Council member Finch Paper has introduced an average of one new product a month since CEO Debabrata Mukherjee took over at the Glens Falls paper company in May 2013.

Mukherjee, is chief executive officer of Finch Paper, a manufacturer of uncoated paper that employs 617, making it one of the largest employers in the 11 county region. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of The Business Council of New York State, Inc.
Since taking over as CEO following the retirement of Joseph Raccuia, Finch Paper has seen earnings improve for six consecutive quarters.

Now, Finch is in the early stages of a $20 million project to purchase and install new equipment at its’ wood yard to reduce fuel and electricity consumption. The project also will replace a portion of Finch’s largest paper machine. New York State’s economic development arm awarded $1 million in December to help underwrite the cost of those improvements. The upgrades at the wood yard are expected to be finished by September.
Muhkerjee told The Albany Business Review’s Robin Cooper, “It’s about supplementing what you have with new talents, creating a culture of winning and bringing new products to market. I’ve done this before.”

Finch’s $20 million in upgrades will improve efficiency without reducing headcount, he said.

Those improvements come as Finch prepares to bring more products to market. In the past 18 months, Finch introduced 18 new products including tags for clothing and gift cards. The company also began making more paper for envelope manufacturers and has worked to increase its market share of paper used in books and uncoated magazines.

Please read Cooper’s complete story here.

IBM recognized by New York State DEC with Environmental Excellence Award

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has recognized Business Council member IBM with its Environmental Excellence Award for IBM’s innovation, commitment to environmental sustainability, social responsibility and economic viability.

IBM was recognized for its Chilled Water Optimization Project in Dutchess County as an effort that demonstrates their commitment to the environment. East Fishkill, IBM’s largest facility, supports the significant energy demand of semiconductor cleanroom space. This project required meticulous collaboration between all aspects of the facility’s operations team because any degradation of the cleanroom environment would have significant negative impacts. The chilled water plant is among the most efficient of its type and saves almost 2.5 million kWh of energy which translates to avoiding 5,400 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. That equates to taking more than 1,000 cars off the road.

The award was presented at the 11th Annual New York State Environmental Excellence Awards celebration, which was held at the Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, SUNY Polytechnic Institute at their NanoFab South Rotunda and Auditorium in Albany.

“This year’s awards recognize innovative programs, smart business decisions and unique collaborative initiatives that improve New York’s environment and contribute to a stronger economy,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “Through the Environmental Excellence Awards, DEC is able to showcase those who are setting the example for others across New York.

Lake Champlain pipeline supported by environmental, business, and government leaders

The largest environmental watchdog group in the Adirondack Park, the Adirondack Council, has thrown its support behind a proposed natural gas pipeline crossing Lake Champlain from Vermont to International Paper’s Ticonderoga Mill.

“This will result in a dramatic drop in pollution for New York and for downwind areas of Vermont,” Adirondack Council Executive Director Willie Janeway said during a Nov. 18 public hearing on the proposed pipeline. “This would be welcome news not only for environmental reasons but for public health benefits. These are public benefits.”

Vermont Gas is proposing an additional transmission line from its Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project which will run from Vermont, under Lake Champlain, and to the IP Mill. The mill would then power their boiler with natural gas instead of No. 6 fuel oil.

“I hope (people) take note that things have changed in the Adirondacks,” Janeway added. “You have town and economic leaders talking about environmental responsibility. You have environmental engineers working with businesses to bring balance.”

The meeting was held by the New York State Public Service Commission, who will continue to take comments from the public through the end of the year.
Local government leaders have also come out in support of the project.

“They are trying to improve the environment by supplying fuel to IP which will cut their emissions by 50 percent,” Ticonderoga Supervisor Bill Grinnell said. “I would like to see IP continue as a successful company in this area. I really feel this is for the good in the community.”

Members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors also attended to show their support for the project.
The proposal also received support from Lake George Association Executive Director Walt Lender, who also works with IP.

“We could not have as vibrant of a community if we did not have the strong corporate partner that IP is,” Lender said.
“Our board is unanimously behind the proposal to bring natural gas to IP,” Chairman Randy Douglas said. “We went through the closure of a paper mill in Jay, and we are still recovering from the effects. This is a lifeline for IP.”

The Business Council of New York State supports the project and is preparing comments that will be submitted to the state Department of Public Service (DPS).

The DPS will receive comments on the project known as case number 14-T-0406, through December 31.

Comments regarding the case can be submitted by email to secretary@dps.ny.gov; by mail to Secretary Kathleen H. Burgess, NYS Public Service Commission, 3 Empire State Plaza, Albany, N.Y., 12223-1350 (Re: Case 14-T-0406); or by accessing the case file through the DPS website and selecting the “post comments” link.

State high court upholds zoning bans on gas drilling

In a 5-2 decision, the state’s highest court, The Court of Appeals, has ruled that the current state law regulating oil and gas drilling operations does not supersede local zoning laws.  In effect, the decision upholds lower court rulings that held communities can use local zoning laws to effectively ban natural gas development.

Writing for the majority, Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote that state law allows local governments to control their zoning codes to allow or disallow activities within their boundaries. The case involved bans in two upstate towns, Middlefield in Otsego County and Dryden in Tompkins County.

Industry supporters said the bans were a “huge obstacle” to the additional investment in the New York Marcellus Shale formation. The bans had been challenged by an organic dairy farmer near Cooperstown that held a natural gas lease on its farm, and the bankrupt Norse Energy Corp., which held gas leases in Dryden.

Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, told the Albany Times Union that should the state decide to allow fracking, it would force companies to “navigate a patchwork of red lights and green lights.”

That would be enough to discourage some companies from coming to the state, he said. “Some companies have been waiting on the sidelines, watching for this decision,” he said. “Some people will not come to New York and spend money, or they will leave.”

The Business Council of New York State had joined with the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, Inc., the National Association of Royalty Owners, NARO-NY, the Upstate New York Towns Association, Inc., and Southern Tier Residents for Economic Independence to file an amicus brief urging the court to overturn the lower court rulings in the case.

That brief argued the state has an overriding interest in the development and promotion of its oil and gas reserves, and that there is a need for uniformity across the state with a comprehensive state law that supersedes restrictive and inconsistent local laws and ordinances.

Industry supporters could seek state legislation pre-empting the local zoning decisions, but the prospects for enactment of such a law is highly unlikely to occur.

Chief Judge Lippman and Judges Read, Rivera and Abdus-Salaam concurred with Judge Graffeo’s decision. Judges Pigott and Smith dissented.

Ecology and Environment receives ACEC award for engineering

Business Council member Ecology and Environment Engineering, P.C. (E & E) has been awarded the American Council of Engineering Companies’ (ACEC’s) prestigious Diamond Award in the water resources category for the firm’s pioneering work on the Town of Carroll Groundwater Treatment System for Frewsburg Water District (FWD) public water supply well.

Diamond Awards honor the work of ACEC New York member engineering firms for exceptional projects, both within New York State and around the world. Projects are judged on complexity, future value to the engineering profession, original or innovative application of new or existing technologies, and meeting or exceeding client needs.

The Town of Carroll project was the first of its kind for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). The project focused on remediating the groundwater migrating from the old landfill and providing public drinking water. The Chautauqua County Department of Health (CCDOH) had required the FWD to discontinue the use of their Public Well Number 5 (PW-5) because the well was drawing water that was part of the contaminated plume from the old Carroll Town Landfill site. The Record of Decision for the Carroll Town Landfill site required the treatment of the groundwater contamination plume.

NYSDEC tasked E & E with designing a treatment system at PW-5 and using it as the extraction well. The design needed to meet the drinking water standards of the New York State Department of Health and CCDOH so that the well could be made available to the FWD again. Frewsburg had tried to locate another well within their village but could not find a suitable location with sufficient flow to meet the system demands.

The system as designed removes the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) to meet drinking water standards and then performs standard NYSDOH required bacterial treatment of the water. All water is tested and certified in accordance with NYSDOH standards before it is pumped into the water system for the village of Frewsburg. The treatment plant is also designed to discharge water, after the VOCs are removed, to the Conewango Creek when the FWD system demands do not need water from this well.

2014 Spring Environment Conference

This week, environmental leaders from businesses across New York gathered at The Business Council’s 2014 Annual Spring Environment Conference to focus on the latest changes to environmental law, regulations, and policies. This year’s conference focused on New York state’s efforts to “Lean” government processes at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).

Attendees heard from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens and Xerox Corporation’s Chief Process Officer Gregory D. North, in addition to other speakers from NYSDEC.

The event was sponsored by Behan Communications, Inc.; Groundwater Sciences Corporation; Harris Beach, PLLC, International Paper, The West Firm, PLLC, and Young/Sommer LLC.  Colden Corporation exhibited at the event.

DSC_1187 2014Camera 161 2014Camera 167 2014Camera 176 2014Camera 219 2014Camera 221 2014Camera 252 2014Camera 258

 

“I Love My Park Day” this Saturday

parksThis Saturday, May 3, New Yorkers across the state will celebrate the third annual “I Love My Park Day,” by volunteering at their favorite state park or historic site. There is still time to register on the Parks and Trails New York website to participate at a location near you.

Governor Cuomo said, “I encourage all New Yorkers to take some time to give back and join the thousands of volunteers that have already signed up to participate in ‘I Love My Parks Day’ this Saturday. New York’s park system is one of our state’s most valued assets, and by helping improve these sites, we can all play a part in preserving them for generations to come.”

This year, it is expected that almost 6,000 volunteers of all ages will help improve parks and historic sites through hundreds of projects including park clean-up, planting flowers and trees, and trail maintenance.

In 2013, 78 participating parks and historic sites hosted 4,000 volunteers for “I Love My Park Day.” 

The Business Council is a proud sponsor of this event!