Consultant Endorses KJ Pipeline EIS On August 11, Orange County Executive Edward Diana announced that the county has hired environmental consultants Stearns & Wheler to review whether the Village of Kiryas Joel met all legal requirements on its SEQRA process. The Village of Kiryas Joel pledged to cooperate fully with the consulting firm.

On August 30, the consultant’s preliminary report found that the Village of Kiryas Joel took the proper steps and order in preparing its EIS. Yet, despite the Stearns and Wheler report, County Executive Edward Diana said the county is seeking legal counsel to “seriously examine whether legal actions should be taken to stop the project from moving forward.”

This intrusion into a municipality’s internal affairs is unprecedented in Orange County history. The County Executive , in his Aug 30 press release, explained that it’s being done: “to satisfy the concerns of taxpayers, residents and elected officials.” His statement only helped raise even more questions. Especially when you compare the county’s current actions to its inaction when the Town of Woodbury declared itself lead agency on the Woodbury Commons project. There can be no doubt that Woodbury Commons has a far greater impact on the environment and on traffic in Orange County than the Kiryas Joel pipeline will ever have. Yet, Orange County did not question Woodbury’s authority nor did it second-guess the outcome of its study.

Were the taxpayers, residents and elected officials not concerned then?

Furthermore, as a condition for approval, Woodbury Commons was required to build a septic system to handle its raw sewage. Only six months after the project was completed its septic system failed. The county then allowed Woodbury Commons an emergency hook-up to the already overtaxed Harriman Sewer Plant. The hook-up was supposed to be for only six months but it has been on for over four years now.

Were the taxpayers, residents and elected officials not concerned then?

The millenium natural gas pipeline link, 36 inches in diameter, is currently snaking its way across 22 miles of Orange County ’s unspoiled open space. Orange County found no need to hire a consulting group to review this SEQRA process.

Were the taxpayers, residents and elected officials not concerned then?

Sullivan County has recently legalized gambling casinos. A huge portion of the traffic to and from will pass through Orange County . The traffic will overwhelm county roads and heavily tax its infrastructure. The county did not find the need to hire consultants and lawyers to review this SEQRA process either.

Are the taxpayers, residents and elected officials not concerned?

In 1998-99, when the entire North East was in the grips of a thirty-year drought Orange County taxpayers, residents and elected officials did express their concern over the water shortage. Kiryas Joel was blamed for drying up everyone’s wells. The County then proposed a water sharing system between municipalities in Southern Orange County but did not follow through. Instead it shifted the onus of solving Southern Orange County’s water problems on Kiryas Joel. Kiryas Joel accepted the challenge and implemented the plan that the county has adopted 11 years previous but dropped, as it is wont to do.

How did the county deal with the taxpayers, residents and elected officials when they DID express their concerns?

County Executive Diana, in a prepared statement wrote: “I still have many questions and grave concerns about an individual municipality running a 13-mile pipeline to tap the New York City Aqueduct. I firmly believe that a project of this magnitude must be able to serve the water needs of the entire region, not one municipality alone."

Excuse me Mr. County Executive but wasn’t it Orange County that passed a unanimous resolution, in 1988, to build a water-loop, only to drop the idea? Wasn’t it Orange County that proposed, in 1999, a regional water sharing system, only to drop that one too? And wasn’t it Orange County that proposed, in 1999, that Kiryas Joel find a new source of water? Kiryas Joel not only accepted Orange County’s suggestion it even adopted Orange County’s own plan! So why is it that the same county that was so quick to blame Kiryas Joel for the water shortage and in whose lap it dropped the problem, is so unhappy when a solution is found, not just any solution but the county’s very own solution? And, last but not least, how can you in good conscience say that this pipeline will serve only one municipality? Did it not occur to you that on an annual basis 400 million gallons will remain in the local aquifer if Kiryas Joel stops using its wells? Will this not raise the overall water table of the entire local aquifer? And will that not help prevent local wells from ever going dry again? If this isn’t a regional solution what is?

Since the county’s current actions are unprecedented and in light of the questions raised in the above paragraph, it behooves the County Executive to explain what the concerns of the taxpayers, residents and elected officials are. He should explain which taxpayers, residents and elected officials he is looking out for. Is it the taxpayers, residents and elected officials of Kiryas Joel who have lived under severe water restrictions for the past six years? Is it the taxpayers, residents and elected officials of Kiryas Joel’s neighboring communities whose wells have run dry in the past? Or is it the taxpayers, residents and elected officials who, for political gain, shamelessly portrayed an entire law abiding community as parasites?

The Village of Kiryas Joel had asked Legislative Chairman A. Alan Seidman for an opportunity to present its side of the story before the legislators voted on the pipeline issue on July 1. Legislative Chairman Seidman refused. He explained that their vote would only memorialize the legislators’ feelings and as such they did not need to hear from Kiryas Joel before they expressed their feelings.

Ladies and gentlemen, behold your democracy in action!

With their feelings memorialized the legislators changed their minds. They began demanding that the county take legal action to enforce their memorialization.

The blatant nature of Orange County ’s underhanded ways along with the obvious double standard that it applies to the Village of Kiryas Joel flies in the face of fairness, justice and equality.

 


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