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February 2010 Archives

February 1, 2010

Department of Energy Releases Its Final Plan for Cleanup and Decommissioning of the West Valley Demonstration Project

On January 22, 2010, the Department of Energy (DOE) released its final plan for cleanup and decommissioning of the West Valley Demonstration Project, a former nuclear fuel reprocessing facility in New York. The final environmental impact statement (EIS) outlines three alternatives, with DOE’s preferred alternative a phased-in plan that allows partial to unrestricted land use at the site. In phase one, the main plant process building, vitrification facility, remote handled waste facility, and lagoon areas would be decommissioned.

According to DOE, decommissioning would take eight to 10 years, and phase one activities are already under way. In its preferred alternative, no decommissioning actions would be taken on the underground high-level waste tanks and disposal area that is licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The other alternatives examined by DOE involve complete removal of all facilities and contaminated soil to allow eventual unrestricted land use, or a procedure known as “close-in-place,” which could provide for partial release of land to other uses, but with a possible long-term license management agreement.

The land and facilities at West Valley are not owned by the federal government, but by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Once DOE completes the cleanup, the premises will be returned to state. Until that time, New York pays 10 percent of the project costs, and DOE pays the remaining 90 percent.

February 11, 2010

Public Service Commission Approves Up to $35 Million for Combined Heat and Power Generation Facility

On February 11, 2010, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) approved up to $35 million in financing to build a 9.6 MW renewable-fueled electric and steam generation facility at Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome, New York, to provide lower priced electric and steam service to tenants in the industrial park. The power plant operator, Griffiss Utility Services Corporation, plans to install a biomass-fueled combined heat and power generation facility at the Griffiss Park.

The facility is sized to meet electric and steam needs at the Griffiss Park, where it will supply approximately 75% of the Park’s electric demand and will replace the existing steam boilers, supplanting them as the source for meeting all steam load requirements. The power plant operator will remain interconnected to National Grid to obtain the remaining 25 percent of its electric needs. Griffiss Park, a 3,500-acre complex containing approximately 80 buildings and 29 miles of road, formerly operated as a United States Air Force Base.

Griffiss Utility manages the electric and steam utility services provided within the Park and it works with existing and prospective property owners and tenants on strategies to minimize energy costs. The approved financing would take the form of tax-exempt revenue bonds issued by the Oneida County Industrial Development Agency, minimizing financing costs. Construction of the facility will enable it to reduce the cost of providing electric and steam service within Griffiss Park by approximately $1.5 million per year.

Because it uses biomass as its primary fuel source, the facility will reduce carbon dioxide emissions at the Park by approximately 46,000 tons per year, the equivalent of taking more than 7,500 passenger vehicles off the road. Biomass also supports the local economy, through the injection of approximately $3.5 million in spending annually into nearby forestry industry.

February 16, 2010

New York Task Force on Green Codes Issues Set of Recommendations for Revising City Codes

On February 1, 2010, the New York City Green Codes Task Force issued a set of more than 100 recommendations for revising the City’s construction, fire, water, sewer, and zoning codes to incorporate a broad range of energy efficiency and environmental measures.

The Task Force was assembled in July 2008 by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and brought together city officials and more than 200 volunteers from architecture, public health, construction, real estate, organized labor, housing, and other fields.

According to the report, while many of the 111 recommendations were tailored to the City’s codes, they will be applicable to other jurisdictions. The recommendations cover measures to reduce carbon emissions as well as adapt to the effects of climate change. The Task Force recommendations cover overarching code issues, health and toxicity, energy and carbon emissions, building resilience, resource conservation, water efficiency, stormwater, and urban ecology. Most broadly, the Task Force recommended that environmental protection be expressly recognized as a fundamental principle in the City building code. Another broad recommendation simply urged full enforcement of the City construction codes by developing an effective compliance strategy and addressing known impediments to enforcement.

Broad health and toxicity recommendations would include steps to limit harmful emissions from carpets, paints, and glues; restrict use of formaldehyde in building materials; and filter soot from incoming air. The recommendations also included smaller steps such as encouraging stairway use to promote exercise and increasing the availability of drinking fountains to reduce environmental stress from bottled drinks. Air quality recommendations ranged from controlling volatile organic compounds and particulates during and after construction, to reducing bathroom mold through materials substitution, to phasing out dirty boiler fuels.

For energy efficiency, the Task Force recommended broad changes to simplify the City’s excessively complex code structure, which creates loopholes and makes enforcement difficult. According to the report, narrower code changes could promote use of insulation by allowing it to be counted as internal floor space or be added to side and rear yard setbacks of buildings; increase the allowable size of exterior window shades; or encourage window screens and openable windows for natural ventilation. In another energy recommendation, the Task Force said solar panels and other alternative energy roof installations could be encouraged through code changes to allow them as “permitted obstructions” that would not be counted against building height restrictions.

The recommendations for building resiliency were aimed at helping modern buildings withstand natural disasters, blackouts, and climate change effects such as rising sea levels, stronger winds, and wetter conditions. These recommendations ranged from using natural light and ventilation to reduce the dependency of modern buildings on electric lighting, mechanical equipment, and externally supplied energy, to requiring toxic materials to be stored in flood-proof areas.

February 26, 2010

New York City and DEC Reach Agreement to Improve Water Quality in Jamaica Bay

On February 25, 2010, New York City and DEC announced that the City will spend $100 million on nitrogen control retrofitting at three wastewater treatment plants and $15 million on marshland restoration projects to improve water quality in Jamaica Bay, under a preliminary agreement.

According to the City, this money, together with $95 million previously committed for plant upgrades, will reduce nitrogen loads discharged into the bay by 50 percent by 2020. The agreement with DEC exempts the City from $45 million in potential penalties for construction delays in nitrogen control upgrades at two other wastewater treatment plants. According to the City, those funds will be invested in future clean water projects. The pact is a broad agreement in principle and still must be set down in a formal written document.

The habitats around Jamaica Bay support 91 fish species, 325 species of birds, and many reptile, amphibian, and small mammal species.

According to the City, the wastewater plant upgrades in the agreement will be operational in 2015, and all improvements will be completed by 2020. The agreement also provides for interim nitrogen reduction measures that will improve water quality beginning this spring.

The $15 million saltwater marsh restoration investment will be spent on projects in the interior of Jamaica Bay. The City and State also agreed to pursue the proposal of Jamaica Bay for designation as a “no discharge zone” barring release of sewage from boat toilets and holding tanks.

About February 2010

This page contains all entries posted to Envirosphere in February 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

January 2010 is the previous archive.

March 2010 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.