The “Spotlight” has done a fine job during 2021 reporting on the proposed sale of the Stony Creek Reservoir by the Town of Colonie. Climate change issues are an important concern for many members of society today. For the past 51 years I have been working on utility related projects as a team member of the New York State Public Service Commission, the New York State Consumer Protection Board, the New York State Energy Office, as a private consultant, and as an academic researcher. Over the years I have worked on projects where there were many significant environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, the National Defense Resources Council, and many other environmental groups.
During 2021, I conducted a Freedom of Information Act request project where 25 questions were sent to the Town of Colonie to study the environmental related issues. The Town of Colonie provided eight boxes of information to answer the requests. All the documents were reviewed at the Colonie Town Hall beginning in July and August 2021. This type of review requires that careful analysis be conducted concerning the many documents. There are ongoing issues such as the potential inappropriate use of funds by the Town of Colonie related to environmental impact fees.
One of the more interesting documents this year uncovered was a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation order from June 2019. This order fined the Town of Colonie and three other entities for developing a construction project in the Pine Bush Preserve to build a water interconnection facility between the water agencies of Colonie and the City of Albany. This transaction is related to the Stony Creek Reservoir sale since the Town of Colonie maintains that the water from the interconnection could replace the water capacity from the Stony Creek Reservoir. The DEC order outlined how the respondents had damaged vegetation in the Pine Bush and disturbed the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly habitat. A fine of $45,000 was imposed and a special environmental project fund for the amount of $9,000 was imposed. The matter was made worse since the Town of Colonie failed to make the DEC order public and instead hid the item from the public in a confidential Town Board meeting.
For an environmental group the issue of the Karner Blue Butterfly is a species that must not be disturbed in any manner. It is unfortunate that the Town of Colonie successfully hid this environmental abuse from the public. I am glad that the abuse of the Karner Blue Butterfly habitat by the Town of Colonie and others has been exposed.
There are other issues concerning environmental abuse that occurred by the Town of Colonie over the past 14 years. Other issues are still being analyzed and will be presented when the analysis is complete. There are issues concerning the mismanagement of environmental issues by the Town of Colonie government that will be exposed in the future.
Kevin M. Bronner, Ph.D.