Monday, February 25, 2013

Clean air finally achieved at Floyd Bennett ?

Clean Air Victory: City Suspends Burning of Hurricane Sandy Debris After Pollution Levels Exceed Air Quality Standards

(New York, NY) - After repeated problems with smoke and high levels of air pollution, New York City has suspended the burning of downed trees and vegetative debris that remain from Hurricane Sandy. A federal contractor had been burning the debris in open air burners at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.

Despite objections raised by environmental and public health advocates, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) granted a variance from its own air pollution regulations last December to allow the burning to take place in so-called "air curtain burners." The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) also issued a letter saying that for this operation it would not enforce the state's ban on open burning. Under the conditions of the city's variance, the burning could have continued through mid-April.

The groups had called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for overseeing debris management from Hurricane Sandy, to aggressively pursue non-incineration options for the wood waste, which can be chipped and used for mulch and other purposes without emitting harmful pollutants.

The major concern raised by advocates was that smoke and fine particulate matter from the debris burning would worsen air quality in an area that is already suffering from poor environmental conditions in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. These concerns proved to be well-founded. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which set up air monitors around the perimeter of the site, air pollution levels in the vicinity of the burners exceeded health-based national ambient air quality standards for fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) on five separate days between December 28th and February 7th.

In a letter to the DEP dated February 1st, the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project (NYELJP), together with the American Lung Association of the Northeast, the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), and the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, strongly objected to the continued use of the air curtain burners given their demonstrated public health risks. The groups urged an immediate cessation of burning in favor of an alternative method of waste disposal such as chipping the remaining wood for reuse.

In a separate petition to the DEC, the NYELJP challenged whether the air curtain burners should have been regulated as incinerators, rather than just open fires. DEC's open fire regulations include a prohibition on the burning of waste products, but the regulations were intended to target "burn barrels" and backyard trash burning, not large-scale debris burning operations like those underway at Floyd Bennett Field.

"The Army Corps, DEC, and DEP all acted in the interest of expedience, without due consideration for public health and safety," said Joel Kupferman, Esq., NYELJP's executive director. "Despite the fact that environmental and public health advocates, community members, EPA Region 2 officials and City Council members all raised numerous health concerns about the use of air curtain burners beforehand, these concerns were ignored or overlooked by all other agencies involved until it was too late, and the burning had already caused numerous exceedances of health-based air pollution standards. We need a proper, public discussion of why the Army Corps, DEC, and DEP all relied on the fact that a "public health emergency"
was declared after Hurricane Sandy to use "emergency" exceptions to air pollution regulations that are designed to protect public health."

"It was obvious from the start that burning massive quantities of wood 24/7 with virtually no pollution control was a bad idea," said Laura Haight, senior environmental associate. "These air curtain burners are little more than dumpsters with fans. The city officials wanted to believe they would work, despite evidence to the contrary, and the Army Corps didn't want to change its practices. We hope that a lesson has been learned here."

"The combustion of this debris led to high levels of particulate matter, a major lung irritant linked to asthma attacks, heart attacks and even premature death," said Jeff Seyler, CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. "We are glad that the city has given up on this misguided plan and that residents downwind can now continue rebuilding from Sandy without this additional air quality concern."

"Burning woody debris has never been an effective or safe way to facilitate storm clean up in NYC," said Roger Downs, Conservation Director of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. "We are encouraged that all parties now agree proper processing and reuse of tree limbs and vegetation, in the form of wood chips and mulch, is the best pathway forward to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

The groups had high praise for the EPA for conducting air monitoring on the site and for posting the data on its webpage. A description and timeline of the burning can be found at: "EPA's efforts to keep the public informed about the burning operations at Floyd Bennett Field, monitor their impact on air quality, and make all data public stands in stark contrast to the DEP," Kupferman said. "We've had to send multiple Freedom of Information Act requests to access DEP's monitoring data, and still have not received most of it."

The groups also praised New York City Councilmember James Gennaro, chair of the City Council Environmental Protection Committee, for exercising his oversight responsibility.

Other groups that opposed the burning included Citizens' Environmental Coalition, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Coalition Against the Rockaway Pipeline (CARP), New York Climate Action Group, and the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH).

Joel R Kupferman, Esq

New York Environmental Law and Justice Project

National Lawyers Guild -Environmental Justice Committee

NLG-NYC Hurricane Sandy Taskforce

Environmental Justice Initiative for Haiti

351 Broadway-third fl NY NY 10013-3902 USA

Cell 917-414-1983 Office 212-334-5551 twitter@envjoel

About the American Lung Association of the Northeast

The American Lung Association of the Northeast is part of the American Lung Association, the oldest voluntary health organization in the U.S.

Established in 1904 to combat tuberculosis; our mission today is to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. The focus is on air quality, asthma, tobacco control, and all lung disease. The American Lung Association in the Northeast serves CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI and VT.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pouch Camp ( Greenbelt , Staten Island) update

From Pine -Oak Woods Protectors Conservation group email:
Dear member of Protectors' E-mail Network,

There is a great opportunity to get the money to purchase the conservation easement over Phase II of Pouch Camp. It would help if you will contact ourState legislators using the sample letter as a guide. The attached list of legislators are the public servants who need to be prompted to act. Let them know why you care about Pouch and the Greenbelt and ask that they fight for the proposed

Please send a copy of your letter to Remember that they will not accept attachments and that you must provide your name, address and phone. They will print only your name.

The State Budget is being negotiated with our legislators beginning now through early March. Please make contact during February.

Thank you for helping all of our Greenbelt to be permanently protected!
Ellen Pratt
New York State Elected Officials, as of 01-01-13

NYS Assembly

Assemblyman Joseph Borelli
101 Tyrellan Avenue
Staten Island, NY  10309
Phone:  718-967-4194

Assemblyman Michael Cusick
1911 Richmond Avenue
Staten Island, NY  10314
Phone:  718-370-1384

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis
11 Maplewood Place
Staten Island, NY  10306
Phone:  718-987-0197

Assemblyman Matthew Titone
853 Forest Avenue
Staten Island, NY  10310
Phone:  718-442-9932

NYS Senate

Senator Andrew Lanza
3845 Richmond Avenue
Staten Island, NY  10312
Phone:  718-984-4073

Senator Diane Savino
36 Richmond Terrace, Suite 112
Staten Island, NY  10301
Phone:  718-727-9406


Hon. Andrew Cuomo
Governor of the State of New York
New York State Capitol Building
Albany, NY  12224
Email:  [go to web site]
Phone:  518-474-8390
Sample letter –  can be modified
                                                                                                  your address, e-mail
                                                                                                       address and date

Dear Senator/ Assemblyman - Assemblywoman,

        It’s wonderful news! N.Y.State’s Department of Environmental Conservation  has proposed to designate $5 million of the State’s Environmental Protection Fund to purchase a conservation easement over the 23 acres of Pouch Camp nearest the still-mapped Richmond Parkway Corridor, the area identified as Phase II on the map of Pouch Camp.

        We ask you and urge you to fight to be certain that this recommended $5 million  allocation is included in the final version of the FY2014 State Budget.  We know that you recognize that this acreage is at the heart of the Greenbelt. It is crucial to the maintenance of  Pouch Camp as the jewel of the Greenbelt and City’s only Boy Scout Camp.  143 acre Pouch Camp is open year round and the conservation easement over this parcel will enable increased public access to this portion of Pouch Camp. Pouch Camp enables many underserved Metropolitan Area youth to experience the outdoors for the first time.  It provides a priceless resource for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and YMCA outdoor programs and for limited use by the public.

        As you know from “The Greenbelt in Crisis: Save Pouch Camp,” the book produced by Protectors of Pine Oak Woods which we gave you in 2011, Pouch Camp contains a variety of rich botanical and wetland habitats which support the annual migration of millions of birds, song birds and the survival of many mammals, amphibians and reptiles.
Also, the Camp is a great environmental education and outdoor recreation resource.

        Pouch Camp encompasses two watersheds, New Creek and Richmond Creek. It provides natural and stable flood prevention and water management within the entire mid-island area.  With the abundance of wetlands on our coastal island, management of water resources and flood prevention is a crucial need, as shown by the destructive power of  recent storms and Sandy storm surge.

       We are very fortunate that  N.Y.S.D.E.C. has proposed to give so much funding for the preservation of Pouch Camp and our Greenbelt.  Please work very hard to make sure that D.E.C.’s proposed $5 million for Pouch Camp is approved  in the FY2014 State Budget.