By Larry Beahan
Merry Christmas from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Department of Environmental Conservation. Here is a preview of what Cuomo has in your stocking. It’s fossil fuel and – well, how to put this politely? – cow manure.
Cuomo must know Hurricane Sandy was part of the climate change brought on by global warming and all those greenhouse gases we’ve been sending up there. He must have heard of the barrels of fracking return water contaminated with radon and heavy metal that are being shipped across the border from Pennsylvania into New York.
Doesn’t he know that our Lake Erie beaches are closed half the time because they are flooded with human and cow E. coli?
Cuomo and his DEC have resorted to a tired bureaucratic trick this holiday season. Announce a new policy with as abbreviated a public comment period as possible and schedule it during the Christmas rush. Maybe no one will notice. But we are noticing.
The DEC has issued a faulty set of fracking regulations, without waiting for the results of a promised investigation of fracking effects on health. The comment period ends Jan. 12.
In case you are not busy enough celebrating and protesting fracking, the DEC also announced new regulations on CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) otherwise known as factory farms, one of the most water-polluting sources in the state. That comment period ends Jan. 21.
The old regulations define a farm with 200 cows as a CAFO and require it to invest in a plan to minimize the run-off of manure into ground water. That is “minimize” not “eliminate” run-off because courts have recognized the inevitability of manure spread on soil being dispersed by rain into ground water. Therefore, courts define CAFOs as point sources of contamination and require them to have State Pollutant Discharge Elimination permits.
The new CAFO regulation would allow about 800 of 6,000 New York dairy farms to increase the size of their herd from 200 to 300 without requiring one of these permits.
The governor’s stated idea is to latch onto the boom in yogurt consumption which the Pepsi Cola people are promoting. Incidentally, the Pepsi people were big campaign contributors to the governor. The governor claims concern for the farmers. He wants to save them the $150,000 on average it costs each CAFO to prepare to properly handle the manure its 300 to 2,000 cows produce. But if the regulations change, they will simply export this cost to the rest of us in terms of pollution’s effect on our health, quality of life and the cost of clean drinking water.
In your letter to Santa Cuomo, tell him, “Leave the CAFO regulations alone and keep fracking out of New York State.”
Larry Beahan is conservation chairman of the Sierra Club Niagara Group.