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Monday, November 23, 2009


This letter was sent to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) after the DEC expressed its intention to issue Barrett's Paving a permit to start a quarry. This quarry would be located adjacent to the Village of Port Leyden, potentially exposing residents to environmental hazards including dust, noise, and blasting accidents. Sheila has stated the issue better than I can so here it is.

November 16, 2009 VIA FAX: (315) 785-2242

November 16, 2009

Mr. Mark Wiggins
State Office Building
Watertown, NY 13601

Re: DEC Findings Statement
Barrett Paving Materials, Inc.
Millick Quarry
(T) Leyden, New York

Dear Mr. Wiggins:

I am shocked by the DEC’s intention to issue a mining permit for the above-captioned project. Your allegation “that a balance of project need by the applicant and public safety and environmental concern by the public and interested parties have been met” is, frankly, preposterous and flies in the face of the published DEC Mission Statement. Specifically:

DEC Mission and Issue Priorities
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was created on July 1,1970 to bring together in a single agency all state programs directed toward protecting and enhancing the environment.
Indeed. This project will destroy a rural environment that boasts clean air and peace and quiet.

DEC Mission

"The quality of our environment is fundamental to our concern for the quality of life. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the State of New York to conserve, improve and protect its natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being." - Environmental Conservation Law, Article 1

The DEC has been provided with photographs showing uncontrolled dust (on more than one occasion) and pollution at Barrett’s location in Boonville, a blatant violation of its SPDES permit. By their own admission in language contained in the DEIS, these “best management practices” will continue. How such practices will enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of Port Leyden and their overall economic and social well-being is a mystery to me. The DEC has taken no action, as required in Environmental Conservation Law, Article 1.

DEC's goal is to achieve this mission by embracing the elements of sustainability - the simultaneous pursuit of environmental quality, public health, economic prosperity and social well-being, including environmental justice and the empowerment of individuals to participate in environmental decisions that affect their lives.

After the period for Public comment ended on July 10, the DEC published letters from citizens commenting on the proposed project. NOT ONE LETTER IN SUPPORT OF THE PROPOSED QUARRY WAS RECEIVED. The empowerment of individuals to participate in environmental decisions that affect their lives?? People attempted to participate and were clearly ignored.

Mr. Mark Wiggins
November 16, 2009
Page Two

In addition to letters from concerned citizens urging that this project not be approved, the DEC received a letter from the Pipeline Safety Trust, a national watchdog organization setting out the possible adverse consequences of allowing this project to move forward. It goes as far as to point out that the DEIS merely copies marketing data from the Iroquois Pipeline brochure. It is chilling in its predictions. The DEC received letters from the American Lung Association, Trout Unlimited, an organization concerned with pollution and wildlife preservation and the NYS Office of Mental Retardation, representing individuals with disabilities of all kinds. Organizations of this magnitude do not lend the credence of their names to causes that are to be taken lightly. Their input for those for whom they advocate was obviously taken lightly by the DEC.

Foster Green and Healthy Communities
· Use DEC's program areas to encourage smart growth
· Clean up contaminated land, especially in urban centers
· Reduce local waste generation and maximize recycling
· Promote community greening and urban forestry
· Preserve open space and working landscapes

Smart growth? How exposing a tiny Village, 365/24/7 to respirable crystalline silica, a named Category I carcinogen, can be equated with smart growth and the promotion of a green and healthy community begs comprehension. Community greening? This project will destroy it. And while open space will be preserved, where there is now community access, the open space will be only for the benefit of Barrett Paving.

Connect New Yorkers to Nature
· Promote environmental education and outdoor experiences for all age groups
· Increase participation in hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and trapping
· Provide state-of-the-art facilities and high-quality and unique outdoor experiences
· Preserve and provide access to green space close to where people live, work and play

The land in question will be lost for the purposes of environmental education and outdoor experiences for all age groups, since it will no longer be appropriate for hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and trapping. There will be no state-of-the-art facilities and certainly no possibility of unique outdoor experiences anywhere around this quarry. And in keeping with its mission statement, that the DEC maintains that this project will preserve and provide access to green space close to where people live, work and play is, actually, absurd.

Mr. Mark Wiggins

Page Three

Promote a Toxic-Free Future
· Reduce waste and use of toxics
· Promote green alternatives and technologies
· Support alternatives to the use of hazardous pesticides
· Promote product stewardship
· Enhance public access to information on toxics

Respirable crystalline silica is toxic. This project can in no way be construed as contributing to reduction of toxics. No agency – not the CDC, not the American Cancer Society, not the American Lung Association, not OSHA, not MSHA – has ever published PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit) guidelines for residents who live near mines/quarries.

Lafarge North America is the largest diversified supplier of construction materials in the U.S. and Canada. It publishes Material Safety Data Sheets for all its products. While it has not done a PEL study for those who live near mines/quarries, it sets out explicitly the hazards of respirable crystalline silica which is produced by the extraction of limestone from the earth. What it does set out in its MSDS is the prescribed PEL for miners which, by the way is no more than eight hours, and then only if the worker is wearing protective gear.

The Village of Port Leyden will be exposed to this named Category I carcinogen 365/24/7. We can hardly be expected to live our lives wearing protective gear. The letter written by the American Lung Association to the DEC stresses the need for use of green alternatives and technologies. Neither Barrett nor the DEC has addressed this issue. Shame on you.

Safeguard New York's Unique Natural Assets
· Conserve, protect and restore watersheds and coastal resources
· Apply state-of-the-art management techniques, including ecosystem-based management
· Ensure sufficient water management infrastructure for New York's future
· Promote sound land use and planning
· Add unique and valuable ecosystems to the Forest Preserve
· Protect biodiversity and unique ecosystems across New York

Mr. Mark Wiggins
November 16, 2009
Page Four

Having read the DEIS and the DEC’s Findings Statement, I see no evidence of any of the above-captioned objectives being met by this project, nor the DEC’s insistence that they are. Many area residents have their water supplied by wells. Wells were tested prior to the commencement of the project. Since part of the DEC’s mission statement is “the simultaneous pursuit of environmental quality, public health, economic prosperity and social well-being, including environmental justice and the empowerment of individuals to participate in environmental decisions that affect their lives,” it would seem incumbent on the DEC to ensure they are implemented. The DEC’s intention to issue a mining permit belies your stated commitment.

Work for Environmental Justice
· Reduce environmental and health impacts on communities overburdened by pollution
· Ensure equal access to environmental decision-making
· Promote urban greening, open space access, and other environmental benefits in overburdened areas
· Increase community-based enforcement

A rational person would conclude a rural area such as the Village of Port Leyden that has managed to keep pollution levels low – and not without cost - would be applauded for its efforts.

The DEC’s decision to issue a mining permit in this case tells communities like Port Leyden that their input doesn’t count. Clearly, the decision-making process is one-sided. Barrett Paving Materials is the largest of 14 subsidiaries on Colas North America, based in Canada. The largest shareholder in Colas North America is Bouygues, a corporate giant with its headquarters in Paris, France. Their headquarters are housed in an environmentally tony building that has won no less than 17 prestigious awards for ecological savvy. Clearly, their input matters to the DEC. That they would disrupt our well-being for their own gain has not been taken into consideration on behalf of residents. There has been no equal access to environmental decision-making in this case. And that’s very, very sadly telling.

This project does not promote urban greening, open space access and other environmental benefits. Farming and agricultural activities and the land required for them are disappearing from Lewis County and rural areas throughout the United States. This project will erase still more of it.

And, if the Board of the Town of Leyden approves this project and it is operated with Barrett’s best management practices – which include pollution and blasting accidents - as is the location in Boonville, will the DEC help this community enforce your stated mandates? Given the decision to issue a permit, I truly believe not.

I understand all too well that Barrett has satisfied the minimum requirements of the SEQRA process and that in theory you have no choice but to issue this permit. Had the DEC any corporate conscience, it would have referred this case to a court for decision.

Mr. Mark Wiggins
November 16, 2009
Page Five

I do not understand how the DEC can ignore Barrett’s reputation – amply documented in the DEC’s own files - particularly when it has been provided with compelling evidence that visually verifies, with dates - their carelessness and callousness at all their locations in New York. In this case their refusal to grant an extension of time for public comment, requested because of the death of Carol Lustyik’s mother is, I think an unashamed indication of their disregard for the community they will adversely impact. I liken the DEC’s decision to assigning a child molester community service at a daycare center as a teacher’s aide.

Sheila Callahan
P.O. Box 116
Port Leyden, NY 13433
(315) 348-4350

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Answer Is...No

A few posts back I asked the question "Does Rick Lucas Want To Be A County Legislator?". Well the votes are in and the answer is a resounding NO. In fact barely had the votes been counted in his win over Joe Baruth in the District 8 Lewis County Legislative race when Lucas admitted in the Watertown Daily Times that he is interested in becoming Assemblyman for the122nd district, the seat now held by Dede Scozzafava. I reported that this was likely in my post and it has been reported to me that Lucas scoffed at my suggestion that he really was more interested in being an assemblyman than a county legislator. Watertown Mayor Jeff Graham reported yesterday on his blog that Lucas wants to run for Assembly and that Jefferson County Legislator Ken Blankenbush is also interested.
Lucas must not become an assemblyman. His time on the Lewis County Board of Legislators has been devoted to advancing his own private agendas. In my opinion he has demonstrated not even a remote understanding of ethics nor does he demonstrate any interest in the subject of ethics. He has refused to recuse himself from certain issues, even when the Lewis County Ethics Board has told him he should. He either doesn't understand the difference between abstaining and recusal or he doesn't care.
The cynic in me says, "Wow, he'll fit in with the rest of state government just fine " when I watch him thumb his nose at ethical concerns, but we can''t let cynicism rule our decision making.
Lucas can run if he wants to of course. However, he does need to improve his vocabulary. Run for Assembly or not, Mr. Lucas needs a tutorial on the definitions of "abstain" and "recusal".

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lewis Legislators Protect Themselves-But Not Taxpayers

On Election Night 2009 the Lewis County Board of Legislators announced a Tentative Budget with a 3.5% tax increase. More importantly, the Legislators raided the Fund Blance to the tune of about 2.1 million dollars in order to get the tax increase down to the current tentative level.
By using the high amount of fund balance, your fund balance, your tax dollars, the Legislators are avoiding making any tough decisions on unnecessary or frivolous positions such as the Trail Coordinator or making tough decisions regarding high level staffing salaries or positions.
By avoiding their responsibilities they are hoping to avoid angering certain constituencies, but in taking the safe route they are wasting your hard earned money and just plain aren't doing their jobs.
By releasing their plans at this late date they are hoping to avoid being held responsible for their actions. At this time you still have about another 45 minutes to get out and vote. Make use of that time if you read this and have not yet done so.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Brazen Hoffmanites

Former Lewis County Democratic Committee Chairman Peter Cecconi had both his civic and his religious sensibilities affronted this morning as his family attended church at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Lowville, N. Y.
There in the parking lot of the church was a Hoffman campaigner handing out anti-abortion material to parishioners entering the church parking lot. This raises some questions on a couple of levels. First, while we are well aware of the official position of the Catholic Church concerning abortion, it would seem at a minimum, poor taste for a political campaign to bother people on their way to church in a gratuitous and obvious way to gain political favor for a political candidate.
Perhaps more importantly, at the St. Peter's site, the old parochial school is now a voting site and campaigning is forbidden within 100 feet of a polling place and Mr. Cecconi took real offense to this perceived infringement.
Like an old testament prophet, like Moses come down from the mountain (or if you know Pete, the mountain itself) Mr. Cecconi confronted the interloper and demanded he cease his activities.
Cecconi notified a number of authorities, including media sources but at last report the campaigning in the church parking lot continued.
I am uncertain what, if any actual legal issues may exist here, but this symbolizes the smugness and self rightousness of the Hoffman campaign and supporters. Indeed it symbolizes the dangers of the far right ideology. While reasonable people may disagree over the abortion issue, the true believers at the heart of the Hoffman campaign are far from reasonable people. Only they know what is right concerning abortion, only they know what is right about gay marriage, only they know what God's message is concerning these issues, only they know how to read the Constitution, and on a Sunday morning while taking your family to church they will shove it down your throats in the church parking lot.
The behavior of the Hoffman zealots should send a strong warning to the voters of the 23rd Congressional District. Their ideology is narrow, rigid and uncompromising and that will be the approach of Mr. Hoffman if elected.
While I was typing this I was notified that others were upset and complained about the tactics of the Hoffman camp. Kudos to Pete Cecconi and others that challenged their methods and also to the local priest that, I was just informed, asked the campaigner to leave.

Gerald A.Smith No Longer Write In Candidate

Saying "We can't chance a Hoffman victory" Gerald A. Smith threw his support today to Democrat Bill Owens and urged friends and supporters to do the same. Mr. Smith, who some were going to write in on the ballot in the 23rd Congressional District because of his progressive politics and for being the "real" Democrat feels we no longer have the luxury of a vote on principle's alone and urges all Democrats to vote for Mr. Owens.