Inside Scoop

On  Earth Day 2020, more than 300 people and organizations — including Scenic Hudson — came together virtually to advocate state leaders for increased public health and environmental protections. The day included a series of brief “conversations” with legislators about hot-button environmental issues in their districts and across the state.

Scenic Hudson Director of Public Policy Andy Bicking and Policy Analyst Althea Mullarkey got the inside environmental scoop from four valley legislators.

Assemblywoman Didi Barrett (Columbia/Dutchess counties)—“Carbon farming is a win-win-win for the environment because it takes carbon out of the atmosphere, where it’s toxic, and puts it in the soil, where it increases productivity and makes the soil healthier…. Even though it’s a time-honored practice that many farmers in this region probably practiced 300 years ago…it has been out of fashion. We’ve helped support its return.”

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (Dutchess/Ulster counties)—“During my tenure as [Assembly] Energy Chair, we created Green Jobs-Green New York and developed a comprehensive and dynamic energy planning process for New York State. Several years later, after Green Jobs-Green New York was put into place, tens of thousands of people have been trained in green technologies, millions and millions of dollars have been distributed to people across New York State to conserve, to retrofit their homes to make life a little more comfortable and easier, and of course to reduce the carbon footprint.”

Sen. Sue Serino (Putnam/Dutchess counties)—“Before COVID, we were moving toward a greener economy. Moving forward, working with the business community — and bringing together people of all ages that are working — I think we can come up with some great ideas so we do protect our environment.”

Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (Saratoga/Washington counties)—“Cleaning up the Hudson River, making it possible once again to dredge the Champlain Canal to a navigable depth, has the possibility to open it up to commercial shipping, which would be a benefit to all of the businesses up and down this section of the river. But even if we can’t get to a navigable depth, cleaning up the Hudson River opens up the possibility of additional tourism.”

Click here for more interviews.

Keeping the Hudson Open

Perhaps more than ever before, the current health crisis has demonstrated the power of nature to provide solace and a respite from stress, while also highlighting the urgency to stop plans that would limit public enjoyment of the region’s natural treasures. Permanently safeguarding long-cherished connections to the Hudson River and securing new places for people to walk, fish, launch boats and hunt along its shore are the goals of the new Hudson River Access Plan commissioned by Scenic Hudson.

Our new Hudson River Access Plan can be downloaded using the links below.

The plan provides perhaps the most comprehensive evaluation ever—and the first undertaken in more than 30 years—of existing public access along the river’s rail corridor between Poughkeepsie and Rensselaer. It also suggests locations for new shoreline access and recommends ways to improve crossing the rail lines safely.

By ensuring safe rail travel and continued, safe river access, the Hudson River Access Plan offers a “win-win” alternative to Amtrak’s proposal to erect new impasse fencing and locked gates at locations between Rhinecliff (Dutchess County), Stuyvesant (Columbia County) and beyond. In an unprecedented move, last year the leaders of 12 Hudson Valley municipalities that could be impacted by Amtrak’s proposal joined Scenic Hudson in signing a letter to the state Department of State urging it to object to the plan to construct eight-foot-tall fencing.

In total, the Hudson River Access Plan documents 64 current and potential future sites for waterfront recreation between Poughkeepsie and Rensselaer. In addition to identifying each location, the plan denotes its size, ownership, amenities and current crossing characteristics, and also suggests potential or desired crossing improvements.

The plan also outlines 11 recommendations, to be completed over the next five years, which would increase public access to the river and enhance rail safety along the corridor. They include amending state laws to require preparation of a comprehensive public access plan, expanding education programs to improve safety along the rail corridor and developing a pilot program to demonstrate technologies that enhanced safer rail crossings.

See this news release for additional details.

Victory in Athens

Athens, NY from the air

Great news: A developer has withdrawn its application to create a construction and demolition debris processing facility along the Hudson River in the Town of Athens. The operation would have handled 6.4 tons of waste each week at a 6-acre site on the waterfront of this historic and charming Greene County community. Most of that waste would have come from downstate building sites. Hats off to the local activists, Keep it Greene and Friends of Athens for this victory!

Athens, NY from the air
Athens, New York (Photo: Jeff Anzevino)

Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan strongly opposed the plan in this op-ed. He stressed how operations like this would set back efforts to make the  Hudson River the centerpiece of the region’s ongoing economic resurgence—case in point being  the opening last year of the Hudson River Skywalk. Our Board Chair Kristin Gamble also spoke out forcefully against the proposal at a March 1 community meeting in Athens that drew hundreds of concerned citizens.

Despite this victory, a great testament to the power of grassroots activism, there are still plans to create another facility that could hold 600,000 tons of construction waste in nearby Catskill. This would result in the creation of waste berms along the river in the hometown of Thomas Cole, whose paintings and essays warned of threats to the region from wanton development. The berms would also be visible from Olana, whose views help make it one of the region’s premier tourism destinations.

Not only could our region face adverse scenic and economic impacts; the environmental risks to the river and its tributaries from a flood of such facilities in our river towns could be a major setback to public health. 

We’ve called on the state to develop a comprehensive regulatory approach to construction and debris disposal. But one thing is clear: Facilities like this don’t belong on a beautiful stretch of the river recognized as the cradle of American art.

Stop Danskammer Now

While developers of the proposed new gas-fired Danskammer power plant in Newburgh insist in public that it will be much “cleaner” than the current facility, their application to the state Siting Board reveals the truth — the plant’s more frequent combustion of fossil fuels will vastly increase emissions that pollute the air with climate-warming carbon and chemicals directly linked to asthma.

Still, most state legislators have stayed silent on the project, or voiced support for it, despite wisely adopting one of the country’s most ambitious climate targets — achieving 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040. Now that the state Siting Board is reviewing the application, it’s time for our elected officials in Albany to speak out and join our campaign to block this white elephant.

We urge you to contact your Senator and Assembly member and ask them to lend their support to stopping this ill-conceived plan by (1) publicly expressing their concerns about it and (2) contacting the Siting Board and asking them to pull the plug on the project.

The Legislature has set New York on a smart and sensible course for combatting climate change. The Danskammer plant presents a roadblock in reaching their visionary goals and creating a healthy environment for our children and grandchildren. We need their help to put the brakes on it now.

Danskammer Power Plant