It’s Fish vs. Dams, and the Dams Are Winning – The New York Times

“NEWBURGH, N.Y. — For thousands of years, alewives and blueback herring have left the ocean to swim up the Hudson River to any one of scores of tributaries to lay their eggs. But in a more recent era, the fish have been literally hitting a wall as dams popped up all over the region, powering grist and woolen mills and later factories.

Today, there are an estimated 2,000 dams in the Hudson River Estuary between New York City and Albany, N.Y. Many are small and obsolete, abandoned by long-shuttered factories and serving no purpose other than to thwart fish migration and harm river ecology.

Now a growing band of environmentalists wants to restore the waters to their natural state. They are targeting dams for removal not only in the Hudson Valley but across New York and the United States.

“Small dams are everywhere, and many of them just persist through inertia,” said John Waldman, a biology professor at Queens College and the author of “Running Silver: Restoring Atlantic Rivers and Their Great Fish Migrations.” “Until recently, no one had the wherewithal or energy to take these things down.” “

A Maine Paper Mill’s Unexpected Savior: China – The New York Times

By 

Photographs by 

“OLD TOWN, Maine — During the deepest part of last winter, a van pulled off the highway and followed the two-lane road that skims along the Penobscot River, coming to rest beside the hulk of a shuttered pulp mill. The van’s door slid open and passengers climbed out: seven Buddhist monks from China.

Andrew Edwards, a mill superintendent from the nearby town of Lincoln, led them to a room where he had stockpiled the things they had requested for the ceremony: oranges, limes, apples and seven shovels, one for each monk.

Snow lay deep on the ground, two feet of gritty, frozen crust, and he remembers worrying a little about the visitors. “They were in their, I don’t know what they’re called, their Tibetan outfit,” he said. “With the sandals and whatnot.”

He stepped back and watched as the monks wandered from the boiler houses to the limekiln to the pulp mill, chanting, burning candles and gently tapping a gong.”

DL A female Chinese billionaire was bringing the paper mill back to life, after being closed for three years. All the Trump supporters were confused and conflicted. The new Chinese owner started with a strict feng shui analysis.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Beautiful story, thank you Ellen Barry et al. Some of the comments are good and thought provoking too. “Cathy Cashman, now 64, had started there when she was 22. The mill’s history was her history.” I hope that the honorable CEO, the ChairLady, will offer Ms Ellen Barry a small part-time job, related to American-Chinese relations and good feng shui.
David Lindsay is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” on 18th century Vietnam

Opinion | How to Help Brazilian Farmers Save the Amazon – By Daniel Nepstad – The New York Times

By 

Dr. Nepstad is a forest ecologist who has worked in the Brazilian Amazon for more than 30 years.

Credit…Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

“When I moved to the Amazon “Wild West” town of Paragominas in northern Brazil in 1984 as a young scientist studying forest recovery on abandoned pastures, I expected a town filled with bandits and land grabbers. Instead, what I mostly found were courageous, hard-working families from across Brazil who had come to the rugged town of sawmills, cattle ranches and smallholder settlements to improve their lot in life.

But as the global outcry over recent Amazon fires and the rise in deforestation has demonstrated yet again, the stigma surrounding Amazon farmers as accomplices in this destruction remains, making enemies of would-be allies.

Indeed, outrage over the fires and President Jair Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and actions obscures a central question: Can responsible, law-abiding landholders and businesspeople in the Amazon — like those I met in Paragominas — compete with people who break the law, grab land and forest resources and drive much of the deforestation?

The simple answer is no. And until that changes, it will be difficult to stop the cutting and burning of these forests, which worldwide account for about a tenth of the carbon dioxide emissions that are warming the planet. But two recent developments suggested things may be changing for the better.

One turn of events was the decision by the California Air Resources Board in September to endorse — after 10 years of design and debate — a Tropical Forest Standard that could protect the forests of the Amazon and beyond. The standard sets rules for state, provincial and national governments in the Amazon to limit deforestation so that they can qualify to sell credits to companies seeking to offset some of their greenhouse gas emissions.

This standard is designed to make sure that the carbon offsets that companies are buying are actually going to real, verifiable deforestation efforts. What’s significant about the standard is its size — it focuses on recognizing and rewarding successful forest conservation across entire states, provinces or even nations in the Amazon. Moreover, and this is critical, it includes principles for guaranteeing that indigenous groups and other local communities have a voice in the policies and programs that are developed.”

Hamden’s Credit Rating Downgraded By Moody’s | Hamden, CT Patch

HAMDEN, CT — Moody’s Investors Service once again downgraded Hamden’s bond rating. It’s new rating is Baa3 from Baa2 and Moody’s outlook remains negative for the city’s foreseeable financial future.

“The downgrade to Baa3 reflects the town’s very narrow financial position, which will remain challenged in coming years due to a high equalized tax rate and high, and rising, fixed costs,” Moody’s said in its analysis. “The town’s long-term liabilities are high, largely due to years of under-funding pension liabilities, including in fiscal 2019.”

The ratings function much like a consumer’s credit rating. Generally higher ratings come with lower borrowing interest rates as the risk of defaulting on loans is lower.

Source: Hamden’s Credit Rating Downgraded By Moody’s | Hamden, CT Patch

Opinion | Midterm Climate Report: Partly Cloudy – The New York Times

“The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made it clear that averting the worst consequences of climate changes (lesser consequences are by now all around us) will mean quickly cutting back on the use of fossil fuels that cause global warming.

Big Oil didn’t get the memo.

Faced with what they saw as an existential threat to their businesses, BP, Valero, Phillips 66, the Koch brothers and other members of the fossil fuel fraternity dumped more than $30 million into Washington State to crush a ballot initiative that would have imposed the first taxes in the nation on carbon emissions. Backers of the proposal hoped it would serve as a template for similar action elsewhere and perhaps for the country as a whole. But the theoretical elegance of a carbon tax, which most economists and scientists believe is the surest way to control emissions on a broad scale, was no match even in reliably Democratic Washington for relentless fearmongering about job losses, higher electricity bills and more expensive gasoline.

The defeat in Washington was the most disappointing setback for climate activists in the midterm elections on Tuesday, a day of decidedly mixed messages on climate change in particular and environmental issues more broadly.”

Opinion | Appalachia Is More Diverse Than You Think – by Robert Gipe – The New York Times

“. . . Many of my pro-Trump neighbors are frustrated and angry, but they are not naïve. They bear a hard-earned sophistication regarding the reliability of political promises. Federal subsidies have kept a roof over our heads and food in our bellies, but they are no substitute for good jobs. Ignoring or eliminating environmental and workplace safety regulations and suppressing taxes on the corporations that own the minerals and run the companies have not created prosperity for the bulk of the community, either.

Sexism and racism have played a significant role in the voting habits of some of my neighbors. So has anger. So have conservative religious beliefs. But that isn’t just in Appalachia. That’s what’s happened in America. As a nation, we are capable of great violence against those we have discounted, disagree with or feel we can afford to ignore. It is very discouraging when we do. It is painful.

What pains me and many of my neighbors in the mountains the most are divisive political posturing and partisan wrangling divorced from the realities of our economic struggles. Between the coal economy crash in 2012 and Mr. Trump’s election in 2016, coalfield communities began to look for economic life after coal. We began to look at our other assets and what else our people might do. We still are looking, but that is more difficult to do when we are pitted against one another.

We all crave honorable work at a living wage. We want success tied to the success of the community. We want to be safe. We are weary of fear. We are exhausted by hate. We in Appalachia join our fellow Americans in asking: Who will encourage our best selves? Who will enable our joy? Who will release the energy hiding in our hearts?”

Robert Gipe is the author of the novel “Weedeater” and a contributor to “Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to ‘Hillbilly Elegy.’”

$3700 Generators and $666 Sinks: FEMA Contractors Charged Steep Markups on Puerto Rico Repairs – The New York Times

By Frances Robles
Nov. 26, 2018, 106

Lisandra Oquendo and Alexis Morales Ortiz at their home in Punta Santiago, P.R.CreditSaul Martinez for The New York Times
Image

“Their house had been approved for $18,000 in FEMA repair funds, but little was accomplished with the money.CreditSaul Martinez for The New York Times
SAN JUAN, P.R. — Juan F. Rodríguez had substantial damage to his house in northeastern Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria slammed through in September 2017, but he felt better when he was told that the Federal Emergency Management Agency would pay for $5,000 in repairs.

The contractor hired by Puerto Rico’s FEMA-financed housing recovery program treated the roof with sealant, replaced four feet of cabinets and installed smoke detectors around his house with Velcro.

“I looked around and said, ‘Wait a minute, that treatment costs $100, and I can buy those cabinets for $500,’” Mr. Rodríguez said. “I know. I worked construction. Let’s say they did $2,000 worth of work, because prices are high now and you have to pay for labor. But $5,000?”

Mr. Rodríguez wasn’t the only homeowner who complained after the devastating storm — the worst to hit Puerto Rico in 89 years — that federal taxpayers were being charged far more for emergency home repairs than residents ever saw in improvements to their homes.””

The Race for Alaskan Oil: 6 Key Takeaways – By Steve Eder and Henry Fountain – The New York Times

By Steve Eder and Henry Fountain
Dec. 3, 2018

“FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the most pristine landscapes in the United States. But that may soon change as the Trump administration seeks to exploit an untapped trove of oil beneath its coastal plain.

Since Congress approved a measure last December to open the coastal plain to oil exploration, the Department of the Interior has been charging ahead with a plan to sell drilling leases as early as next year. Trucks weighing 90,000 pounds could begin rolling across the tundra even before then to conduct seismic tests that help pinpoint oil reserves.

The hurried approach has alarmed some government specialists and environmentalists, who say that risks to wildlife and damage to the tundra are not being taken seriously enough. And it comes as the Trump administration moves more broadly to exploit fossil fuels in Alaska and beyond, erasing restrictive policies that were designed to protect the environment and address global warming.

The New York Times examined how, in the space of about a year, the refuge’s coastal plain — known as the 1002 Area — went from off-limits to open for business. Here are six takeaways.”

Drilling in the Arctic: Questions for a Polar Bear Expert – By Henry Fountain and Steve Eder – The New York Times

By Henry Fountain and Steve Eder
Dec. 3, 2018

Andrew Derocher is a biologist at the University of Alberta who has researched polar bears for more than three decades. He is also a volunteer adviser to Polar Bears International, a conservation group.

He discussed the status of polar bears in the Arctic amid a warming climate, and the potential impact of oil and gas exploration. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q. Worldwide in the Arctic, there are roughly 25,000 polar bears in what scientists consider to be 19 subpopulations. Over all, how are they doing?

A. People assume that because we’re concerned about polar bears from a conservation and management perspective, that all polar bears must be doing terribly. That’s not the case. Polar bears are doing just fine in many parts of their distribution, and with 19 different populations around the Arctic, we have 19 different scenarios playing out.

. . . .    The interview ended:

What do scientists know about the impact of oil and gas exploration and production on polar bears?

One of the things that’s pretty cool about bears in general and polar bears in particular is each bear has an individual behavior pattern, or personality, if you want to call it that. Some bears just don’t seem to care — they are just not worried by people, not worried by snow machines or all-terrain vehicles or trucks going by. Yet others are extremely wary, don’t like it and will move away quickly from disturbance.

By and large, I think polar bears are fairly robust to disturbance, but once they have small cubs they tend to be quite timid.

One of the concerns we have is den abandonment. If you harass a bear around a den, there’s a greater likelihood that she will leave it with her cubs. And that is not a good thing. Young cubs are not that well developed and rely on the dens for protection. Moving them around is never a good idea.

We have to accept at least the basic premise that disturbance is not going to be beneficial for the bears. Then the question is, just how bad is it going to be? That’s difficult to say. But anything that adds on to the current impacts of sea ice loss is not going to be good for the population.”

Henry Fountain covers climate change, with a focus on the innovations that will be needed to overcome it. He is the author of “The Great Quake,” a book about the 1964 Alaskan earthquake. @henryfountain 

Editorial: Ned Lamont for governor – GreenwichTime – Hearst (Newspapers)

“By just about any account, Connecticut is in an unhappy, uncertain place.

Look at most ranking lists titled “Best place in America to… (pick your topic)” and you will likely have to read down until you find “Connecticut” in a mediocre — or worse — position.

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Its roads are congested, corroding factors in a stagnant economy. Its rail system is balky, detracting considerably from a now-frayed selling point that the state is “conveniently” situated between New York City and Boston.

The state’s finances are critically out of whack — $4.5 billion short in the biennium budget set to go into effect on July 1, 2019; pensions underfunded by some $100 billion and demanding annual state contributions so large they choke the state’s ability to spend on other needs.

How did we get here? It’s easy — and completely inaccurate — to pin it all on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the 63-year-old Democrat who has held office the last eight years and who will turn the power — and the headaches — over to a successor on Jan. 9.

Today’s problems are rooted in decisions — and inaction — dating back at least to the 1990’s, including labor agreements, made during the tenure of former Republican Gov. John G. Rowland.

The challenges will not be solved in a short time. Nor will they be wrestled to the ground by imposed will alone.

All three candidates for governor are businessmen, none with state-wide governing experience.

Oz Griebel, of Hartford, a former Republican running as an independent, is energetic, knowledgeable about transportation needs, and optimistic about the state’s potential. His idea to hold off on funding the state pensions for two years, though, is an approach that contributed to the present plight.

Republican Bob Stefanowski’s proposal to eliminate the state income tax over eight years is unrealistic. The tax — about $9.5 billion annually — represents more than half of Connecticut’s tax revenue. What’s replacing it?

Stefanowski’s style seems to be of the “imposed will” school.

The Hearst Connecticut Media Group Editorial Board believes the best person for the job is Ned Lamont, the 64-year-old Greenwich entrepreneur turned investor.”

Source: Editorial: Ned Lamont for governor – GreenwichTime