Monday, December 29, 2008

Recycle Your Christmas Tree!

Now that the holidays have ended, let's keep those Christmas trees out of the landfills.

Bring your tree (free of ornaments and tinsel) to one of the designated sites in parks across the city next weekend for Mulchfest!

Saturday and Sunday
January 10th + 11th

Trees will be chipped on-site in several parks locations, and mulch will be freely available. There are additional parks sites for drop-off only, too. For more information, visit the Parks Department.

If you can't make it to the parks this weekend, leave your clean tree (no ornaments or tinsel) out on the curb for collection by the DSNY. Tree collection will take place from January 5th to January 16th. For more information, visit NYCWasteLe$$.

Image from Catface3's Flickr pool

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Ravitch Plan vs. the Kheel Plan

You may have heard about the current Ravitch Plan to fund the MTA's budget deficit. The plan would impose stiff fare hike on subway and buses, automatic hikes on the subways and buses every two years on an inflation adjusted basis without necessity for public hearings, a tax of 0.33% on payrolls and self-employed income, and tolls on the East and Harlem River bridges. All this at a time when individual finances are already under more pressure than any time in recent memory.

But there is a progressive alternative plan by noted labor mediator Theodore W. Kheel. The original plan, which received only sparse publicity as an alternative to the mayor's defeated Congestion Pricing plan, has been updated to reflect the current troubled times. It would on average double the Mayor's Congestion Pricing fees, impose a surcharge on taxi rides, would make subways on average 75% less expensive and free during off-peak hours, and buses free 24/7. The plan is estimated to reduce traffic in the Manhattan Central Business District by a dramatic 33% compared to an estimated 3% reduction for the Ravitch Plan. It would dramatically reduce air pollution in the city, actually reduce subway crowding because of redistribution of ridership to take advantage of the variable pricing times, and fund the MTA through the congestion charge on vehicles and through myriad efficiencies created by the plan, such as the decreased need to collect fares (especially on buses as passengers board) increased speed and ease of travel, friendlier atmosphere for biking and walking, and hopefully by increasing economic activity by alleviating rather than increasing the financial burdens on the majority of city residents at this worst of all possible times.

As you might expect, such a radical plan will probably meet a wall of skepticism and silence from government and media. But we will keep an eye on it's progress. For details, go to

Image from Nurture New York's Nature

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fuel-saving idea--just in time for the holidays! just published their Top 10 Eco-Tips for the Holidays. My favorite one is this:

When entertaining, don’t let all your guests drive separately to the party: register your event at Ride Amigos! They take care of everything from arranging carpools, rideshares, taxi shares and even calculate the CO2 saved in offsetting the carbon footprint of the event.

See the other nine great tips.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More on Gas Drilling in the NYC Watershed

On December 15th, NYC Comptroller William Thompson sent a letter to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation which warned that drilling for gas in the part of the Marcellus Shale within the City's watershed could potentially degrade the the City's water. That could threaten the City's EPA exemption (because of the city's high quality water) from having to build a $6-10 billion filtration plant, increasing the City's water budget expenses 30% and adding significantly to the City's already severe budget problems.

The press release of the Comptroller's office and the Comptroller's letter to the DEC can be read here:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Support H.R. 7231

Support H.R. 7231: To repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing in the Safe Drinking Water Act, and for other purposes.

What is Hydraulic Fracturing:

Hydraulic fracturing is a technique used in drilling for oil and gas. Millions of gallons of fresh water along with sand and chemicals (some of which are toxic) are injected under high pressure miles down the drilling hole to fracture underground formations and prop them open in order to better release oil and gas trapped within. Environmentalists are alarmed about possible contamination of groundwater supplies (to say nothing of all the clean water used up in the process) because of the possibility that newly created or preexisting fractures in the underground formation will reach groundwater sources.


The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 regulates the injection of fluids underground because of dangers it poses to groundwater sources. But The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has held that hydraulic fracturing does not fall under that regulation because its purpose is extraction of oil and gas and not injection of liquids for storage or disposal.

When reports began to appear in Alabama and elsewhere of changes in drinking water quality after the commencement of the hydraulic fracturing, that position was challenged by The Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation (LEAF) a Southern regional foundation dedicated to protecting the regional environment. LEAF petitioned the EPA to regulate the process; the EPA rejected LEAF's petition, and LEAF appealed.

In 1997, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit (Atlanta) ruled that the EPA's position violated the plain wording of the Safe Drinking Water Act and that hydraulic fracturing should indeed be regulated under the Act. But in 2005, with strong support from the Bush Administration, Congress passed The Energy Policy Act, which reversed the court's ruling and exempted the process from regulation.


Three Congresspersons have now introduced H.R.7231, which would reinstate federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing. They are Rep. Diana DeGette and Rep. John Salazar, both of Colorado, and our own Rep. Maurice Hinchey of New York.

The Safe Drinking Water Act rules that "underground injection" endangers drinking water sources, but, as amended by the 2005 Energy Policy Act, excludes hydraulic fracturing from the definition of "underground injection." The relevant section of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)(1)) reads as follows:

(d) "Underground injection" defined; underground injection endangerment of drinking water sources For purposes of this part:
(1) Underground injection.- The term "underground injection"-
(A) means the subsurface emplacement of fluids by well injection; and
(B) excludes-
(i) the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and
(ii) the underground injection of fluids or propping agents (other than diesel fuels) pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities.

The full text of H.R. 7231 (below) amends the above section as follows:


Section 1421(d)(1) of the Safe Drinking Water Act (42 U.S.C. 300h(d)(1)) is amended by striking subparagraph (B) and inserting:

'(B) includes the underground injection of fluids or propping agents pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas, or geothermal production activities; but

'(C) excludes the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage.'.

To support H.R. 7231:

(202) 224-6542 or by Web Form:

(202) 224-4451 or by Web Form:

Your representative via congressional switchboard: 800-828-0498 or by email:


Hydraulic Fracturing

The Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974



Image of frac pit from Earthworks

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hydraulic Fracturing, the Marcellus Shale, and the threat to New York City's Watershed

The Oil and Gas Accountability Project has made it very easy for New York residents to make comments to the DEC about hydraulic fracturing. Comments will be accepted through December 15th, so act now!

Hydraulic fracturing is a drilling technique for gas and oil, which environmentalists fear can contaminate groundwater sources. New York still regulates hydraulic fracturing, unlike many other states, and unlike the federal government, which in 2005 exempted the process from regulation by the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act.

But that is not to say the state disallows hydraulic fracturing, and New York City's upstate watershed sits atop part of the Marcellus Shale, which is a giant natural gas formation 6 to 8 thousand feet below ground, stretching from Western New York State to West Virginia. Recent technological advancements (including in hydraulic fracturing) have made the Marcellus Shale within the realm of exploitation, and drilling companies have become active in the region. New York's Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, recently issued a consumer alert, warning upstate landowners about "landmen" -- agents for oil and gas exploration companies using "strong- arm tactics" in trying to secure leases for drilling.

Any drilling in New York State would be contingent on passing an environmental impact statement. Nonetheless, the fear is that drilling in the watershed will imperil the city's famed municipal water. The New York based environmental group Riverkeeper and The Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter are lobbying to declare the portion of the Marcellus Shale that is within the City's Watershed to be off-limits to drilling.

Some people to contact to ban drilling in the NYC Watershed:

Governor Patterson through his secretary: 518-474-8390 or by email.

Councilman James Gennaro, Chair of the New York City Council's
Environmental Committee: 212-788-6956 or by email.

Your City Council Member


The Marcellus Shale

The Oil and Gas Accountability Project has made it very easy for New York residents to make comments to the DEC about hydraulic fracturing. Comments will be accepted through December 15th, so act now!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Children's Clothing Swap

Who needs big box stores when you can outfit your child at the Coop for FREE?

Bring your child's outgrown clothes to the Coop to trade with other members. Please bring only items that are in good condition.

Collect clothes for your own children, only. At 1:30, any remaining clothes will then be available to anyone.

Attention moms-to-be: Come to the swap to find newborn clothes!

(Do not bring clothes to the Coop before the hours of the exchange.)

Saturday, December 13
Non-members welcome

Image from Wendy Crockett's Flickr pool

Monday, December 08, 2008

Tell the Governor to Fix the Plastic Bag Bill

From the New York League of Conservation Voters:

"Plastic bags are clogging our landfills and endangering our environment.

Earlier this year, New York City enacted a law requiring large stores to accept plastic bags for recycling.

This program is simple, easy for consumers to understand and was adopted with broad support from both the environmental and business communities in the city.

The New York State Legislature followed New York City's lead and adopted a statewide program.

Unfortunately, this new bill waters down New York City’s more stringent law.

You can make a difference by asking the governor not to sign this bill until he and the Legislature reach an agreement to exempt New York City from the new statewide law."

Time is short -- the governor must act by December 12th. To send a message to the governor about the plastic bag bill, click here:

Image from Greenhem's Flickr pool

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Healthy Home Tips

Winter weather has us all spending more time indoors. The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) new Healthy Home Tips for Parents has great advice for everyone who likes a safe and cozy nest for winter. Many of the tips should be easy for Food Coop members, who have great choices in organic food and healthy home products. Can you think of any tips to add to the list?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Recycle Your Electronics Next Weekend!

The Lower East Side Ecology Center sponsors an electronics recycling event next Saturday, December 6, from 10am to 4pm at PS 321 in Park Slope (7th Ave between 1st and 2nd Sts).

Recycle your working and non-working:

  • Computers (laptop & desktop), servers, mainframes

  • Monitors
  • Printers, scanners, fax-machines, copiers
  • Network devices (routers, hubs, modems, etc.)

  • Peripherals (keyboards, mice, cables, etc.)

  • Components (hard drives, CD Roms, circuit boards,
    power supplies, etc.)

  • TVs, VCR & DVD Players
  • Audio visual devices
  • Radios/Stereos

  • Cell Phones, pagers, PDAs, phones, answering machines, etc.

  • Media (floppies, CDs, zips, VHS tapes)**

** Gets sent to Green Disk - if you have a lot of media please go to the website, pay a small fee, download an address label and send it directly to them.

For more information, see: Lower East Side Ecology Center

Image from Lower East Side Ecology Center