Friday, July 22, 2011

DEC Removes 'Nigger' From State Documents

The term Nigger still lingers in environmental conservation laws classifying bodies of water in New York. A regional researcher alerted the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) about the racial epithet two years ago. Officials then did a computer search and found three other examples buried in regulatory indexes and a map. This week, the state quietly moved to correct the problem. While it can't rename local roads and water bodies, the agency is finally scrubbing the n-word from its regulations.

Since it's technically a rule change, the deletions can't happen instantaneously but must first be proposed. The result is one of the more unusual rule changes announced in the official state register, the latest edition of which carries the headline: "Removing a Racially Offensive Term That Appears in the Regulations."

The agency proposed it as a "consensus rule," obviating the need for any public hearings. "DEC has determined that no person is likely to object to the adoption of the rule as written," the register states.
In the meantime, DEC deleted the word from regulations posted on its website. One of those instances, a little, narrow lake in the wooded wilderness of Hamilton County, is now referred to as "unnamed lake."

The required public-comment period still stands, which means the regulations won't officially be amended for another month and a half.

An offensively named road in the town of Danby in Tompkins County is cited in a report posted online in February. The agency was unaware of that until a reporter brought it to its attention on Thursday.

The federal government began to strip the n-word from its topographic maps in the early 1960s. But within the more obscure reaches of cartographic bureaucracy, the n-word occasionally endures. (WSJ, 7/22/2011)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Power NY Act of 2011

Article 10 Reauthorization Law

The Power NY Act of 2011 

The New York Legislature has passed and Govern Andrew Cuomo has signed the “Power NY Act of 2011.” Section 12 of the new law reauthorizes and modernizes Article X of the Public Service Law, which expired on January 1, 2003, governing the siting and approval of power plants in New York.

Like its predecessor, the new version of Article X aims to centralize and streamline the siting approval process, although the threshold for application of the law has been lowered from 80 to 25 megawatts. The law creates and vests permitting authority with the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment (“the Board”). The statute provides that two local residents will be part of the Board with the other five members being State officials for each proceeding. The law also provides for “intervenor funding” which will enable municipalities and other local parties to participate in all phases of the administrative review, including the mandated adjudicatory hearing.

The Board is given authority to override local laws and ordinances if they are “unreasonably burdensome.” Unless otherwise agreed to by an applicant or extended due to a “material and substantial amendment to the application” or “extraordinary circumstances,” Board decisions must be rendered within a year of the application being deemed complete.

Article X displaces the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process for covered projects, but mandates several environmental analyses of the facility’s impacts. These analyses include a “cumulative air quality analysis” of the combined effects from the proposed facility, other proposed sources and all existing sources; a description of the demographics of the surrounding community; and a description of “reasonable and available” alternative locations. It also requires the Board to find that the project minimizes or avoids disproportionate impacts on the surrounding community.

There are significant differences between the new version of Article X and the expired version. The lower 25 megawatt threshold will allow smaller projects to be covered by the law and may particularly benefit developers of wind projects, which in most cases would not have been covered by the expired version. The increased emphasis on environmental justice impacts addresses concerns stated by environmental groups. Current applicants for local and state permits for a power plant may elect to be covered by the new law.  (Sive, Paget & Riesel, PC)

Governor Cuomo’s Memorandum on the Legislation