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Common Council Tuesday: Stop Frackin’, Start Mergin’

Resolutions on two critical environmental issues will come before Buffalo’s Common Council at its session at 2PM Tuesday: an anti-hydrofracking measure, and a call for a merger of bridge authorities into one border crossing authority.  

Council members involved in the measures say that, despite the timing, the two issues aren’t linked.  Nevertheless, this confluence means this week’s council session will be especially high-energy, with highly invested citizens expected to demonstrate their support for these actions.

Stopin’ the frackin’ mess

The anti-fracking measure has been in the works for some time, in partnership with Frack Action, and takes a similar tack to the City of Pittsburgh, PA.  All sides in the struggle over hydrofracking have taken note of Pittsburgh’s “groundbreaking” (no pun intended) action, and now eyes are on Buffalo (see this item in Rochester’s alt weekly, City).

Even more important than the ban on hydrofracking within the city is the prohibition on the Buffalo Sewer Authority from accepting hydrofracking fluid from anywhere else, according to UB Professor Emeritus Lynda Schneekloth.  A founder of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Lynda has been following this issue closely, and spoke about it during a talk Monday evening at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, sponsored by the Western New York Land Conservancy.  Lynda pointed out that gas companies won’t disclose the chemicals they add to to the millions of gallons of water they use to hydrofrack each well–but some of the chemicals known to be used are known carcinogens.

Even more frightening, if you’ve been following coverage in Artvoice, is the high likelihood that the Buffalo Sewer Authority has already been accepting hydrofracking fluid, without knowing or being able to verify.  If you haven’t already, read the Artvoice coverage and be afraid, be very afraid!  Here, here, and here.  In response, last week Lovejoy Councilmember Richard Fontana filed a resolution calling for Commissioner Comerford of the Buffalo Sewer Authority to appear to answer questions about this.

Mergin’ the border crossing authorities

For far too long, the Peace Bridge Authority (officially the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority) has been operating as its own fiefdom, and law unto itself.  With a half-Canadian board, and a Canadian leader as popular here as Voldemort (check out this Buffalo Rising interview with him), they operate–like Seneca Gaming–as if they are above local laws and regulations meant to protect the community.  Their high-handed and heavy-handed tactics have held a neighborhood and the entire community hostage.

But it appears, as West Coast Perspective lays out, that the times, they are a-changin’.  This week’s resolution (Resolution Common Council Merge Authorites.pdf) comes amid a flurry of announcements which appear to set back both the timing and viability of the PBA’s plan to build a massive truck plaza on the waterfront, and add capacity to the existing bridge.

Sign2.jpgWhat effect will this resolution likely have?  “It’s more a case of us using our bully pulpit,” resolution co-sponsor Councilmember Joe Golombek told me.  “And timing is everything,” suggesting that with recent developments this resolution can add impetus to an idea which has been raised by elected officials at the state and federal levels such as Assemblyman Sam Hoyt and US Senator Chuck Schumer.

Sign1.jpg“We would like them to take a more regional approach,” co-sponsor Councilmember David Rivera told me.  He also sees this resolution as speaking to the concerns of the residents and the community that are most affected by the PBA’s current plans, “which include the demolition of over 100 homes and businesses,” and air quality issues on the lower west side.  Rivera told me that he and Golombek have been working together on border crossing issues for some time, as their riverfront council districts adjoin each other and are most directly affected by border crossing plans–the Peace Bridge being in the Niagara district, and the Ambassador Bridge proposal in the North district.  Both councilmembers told me that they’re not fans of the Ambassador Bridge proposal, as residents of the neighborhoods that would be affected have similar concerns to those relating to the Peace Bridge proposals.

It’s expected that the resolution will receive wide support and be well received across a broad spectrum of interests, from advocates for Olmsted parks, to the lower west side community most directly affected, to community planners, waterfront advocates, environmentalists, and advocates of governmental agency reform.  Joe told me that he even heard from a member of a conservative thinktank who likes the resolution, being in keeping with principles of downsizing and rationalizing government.

Can’t come to Common Council this week?  Council is now covered with streaming video.  Find it on the City of Buffalo web site — click on the Government TV icon (down on the left).

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