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ZAGATA: Christians Told: Help The Poor, But Resist Continental Pipeline

Column by Mike Zagata, April 27, 2018

Christians Told: Help The Poor,

But Resist Continental Pipeline

Mike Zagata

Each week while attending church, a member of the clergy reminds us of our responsibility to assist the poor. Doing so is important and something engrained in us by our parents.
It is especially important in this area because we are part of Appalachia, a region known for its poverty. Indeed, according to Catholic Charity’s definition of poverty, 30 percent, or three out of 10 of Otsego, Delaware and Schoharie counties’ residents live in poverty.
What is interesting about this is that, when the issue of exploring for natural gas in New York was being debated, Oneonta’s churches inserted a flyer opposing fracking for natural gas in their weekly bulletins. The direct result was the loss of the jobs that would have come to the area and thus help lift people out of poverty.
That includes jobs for the BOCES graduates trained as welders, heavy-equipment operators and surveyors.

At the time, there was valid concern that this misunderstood process might contaminate our water and air. Those concerns have not been realized in Pennsylvania and that economy has prospered – more people have jobs as a result.
However, it just seemed inconsistent with what I was hearing about helping the poor to oppose something that could have helped lift them out of poverty.
The real impact on the poor wasn’t fully understood at the time. However, it is now crystal clear.

Otsego Now director Tom Armao alerts Assistant USDA Secretary Anne Hazlett to NYSEG’s failure to provide sufficient natural gas or electricity to Otsego County. With him at the Rural Development Forum at Hartwick College Friday, April 20, was Brooks’ BBQ President Ryan Brooks.

New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG), now owned by a company headquartered in Spain, was counting on the new source of natural gas and the Constitution Pipeline to enable it to provide Oneonta with the gas it needs.
That means not just gas needed for us to grow, but enough gas (and electricity in the form of three-phase power) to be able to supply the needs of the businesses, institutions and residences that are here now.
NYSEG brings gas to Oneonta via a pipeline from DeRuyter. That pipeline is in a state of disrepair after decades of neglect, and Iberdrola, NYSEG’s Spanish owner, isn’t interested in spending the money it would take to repair the pipeline to the degree that it could deliver enough gas to meet existing demand, no less improve it to the point that it could meet demand from projected growth.
They look at Oneonta as being stagnant and thus not a good place to invest capital. Some are questioning whether or not they are living up to their franchise agreement to provide an adequate gas supply.

You might not know this, but our some of our educational institutions and the hospital are on what is known as “curtailment” with regards to their natural gas supply. That means, if it gets too hot or too cold and the overall demand for natural gas increases beyond NYSEG’s ability to supply it, those institutions must replace their use of natural gas for heating with oil-fired generators.

That is more expensive and increases air pollution.
Things are so bad that Lutz Feed bought a new gas-fired dryer to reduce the moisture content of stored corn and NYSEG told them not to hook it up. Why? because there wasn’t enough natural gas. What does that tell us about the likelihood of Oneonta being able to attract new businesses and manufacturers that could provide jobs to those who need jobs and to the young people who might like to remain here?
The next time the basket is passed in church, put in a little extra to help the poor. You see, we helped keep them that way.

Mike Zagata, former DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and environmental executive for Fortune 500 companies, lives in West Davenport.

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ZAGATA: Audubon Now Says: Young Forest Desireable

Column by Mike Zagata, April 13, 2018

Audubon Now Says:

Young Forest Desireable

 

Mike Zagata

You’ve just read the Spring 2018 issue of “Living Bird” magazine published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and were startled, and excited, to read: “Overall, specialists say a healthy forested landscape should include roughly 10 percent of young woodlands.” (Right now, that number for our forestland hovers around
2 percent.)
That’s a dramatic shift from just a few years ago when Audubon was adamantly protecting mature forests at the expense of young forests. In other words a few years back, it wasn’t OK to cut a few trees, even clear-cut five or 10 acres, but it is now.
Why the shift in policy – you already know the answer having read the previous articles in this series. Now the questions become what to do about it and how?
You own 50 or so acres and you’d like to harvest it to generate some cash, and you also want to benefit those wildlife species, including many songbirds, American Woodcock, ruffed grouse and deer, which rely on young forest (grasslands and brush) for their habitat.

Basswood Pond in Burlington Flats is one of Otsego County’s state forests.

To whom do you turn for help? You’re now aware of the risk associated with trying to manage the timber sale yourself: risk of not getting what you should for your trees; risk of not knowing which trees to cut and which ones to leave; and the risk of not knowing how to manage the logger so that he or she does what you want done.

There are some places to turn to for advice.
Your regional office for the DEC (ours is located in Stamford) has a regional forester on staff who can walk you through the process and maybe even put you in touch with the consulting foresters who service this area.
The National Resource Conservation Service (part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) has an office on Route 33 just south of Cooperstown and can assist you.
Cornell’s Cooperative Extension Program offers forest-related workshops and has a Master Forest Owner Program (MFO), providing forest landowners with a free visit by a MFO who listens to what you want to accomplish and then explains how to go about doing it.
Another good source of information is the state Forest Owners Association. (www.NYFOA.org). They have 10 chapters located around the state that host “Woods Walks” to help explain how to manage a forest and many of their members participate in the MFO Program and volunteer as MFOs.

What do you do if you forest has been logged repeatedly using the high-grading approach where they took “the best” and now you’re left with “the rest”?
There traditionally has not been a strong market for low-grade wood (“the rest”) in New York. Landowners who wanted to re-invigorate their forest or manage it for wildlife via techniques that allow light to reach the

forest floor again have had to bear the burden of the cost.
However, with Governor Cuomo’s stated goal of having 50 percent of our electricity come from “renewable” (like trees) by 2030, the future market for low-grade wood or “biomass” seems much brighter.
If my memory serves me right, Oneonta had an opportunity to capitalize on that trend, but it, along with so many other options, was rejected. Colgate University, on the other hand, chose to take advantage of the opportunity and heats with biomass.

Mike Zagata, DEC commissioner in the Pataki Administration and a former environmental executive with Fortune 500 companies, resides in West Davenport.

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