Ryan, Molinaro vow to join lawsuit against EPA over Hudson cleanup

County executives from across the aisle and across the Hudson River announced this month that their counties – Ulster and Dutchess – will file a supporting brief in the state’s lawsuit demanding the federal government order more PCB dredging in the Hudson.

State Attorney General Letitia James brought the case against the Environmental Protection Agency to contest its approval of General Electric’s removal of river muck laden with tons of toxic PCBs that GE’s factory dumped into the river long ago. State officials, environmental groups and others have denounced the EPA’s “certification of completion,” contending that too much contamination remains and the company must continue its dredging.

That stance found bipartisan support from Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, a Democrat, and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, a Republican. They dramatized that alliance this month by meeting on the Walkway Over the Hudson, a pedestrian bridge over the Hudson that connects their two counties, and announcing they will file an amicus brief siding with the state against the EPA.

“The fight to protect our Hudson River started the modern environmental movement,” Ryan said in a statement. “Today we are coming together as two counties to continue that fight. We can’t let General Electric off the hook for the mess they made of our precious Hudson River.”

Molinaro, who was the Republican candidate for governor in 2018, said: “For generations, communities on both sides of the river have relied on it for drinking water, fishing, recreation, tourism and commerce.  Our communities have proudly shared the responsibility to care, advocate and fight for this piece of our home and way of life.  Today, we are once again coming together and vowing to take every step we can to hold the EPA and polluters accountable.”

James, who filed her federal lawsuit in August, thanked the two county executives in their press release and said, “GE and the EPA are either in denial or simply don’t care about how dangerous the PCBs in the Hudson River truly are, and the threat they pose to public health.”

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Candidate enters race to take on Metzger in 2020 (updated)

The former owner of a local school-bus company plans to challenge state Sen. Jen Metzger for the 42nd Senate District seat next year.

Mike Martucci of Wawayanda opened a campaign fundraising committee for the seat on Thursday. He’s not enrolled in either political party, but presumably would run as a Republican against Metzger, a Rosendale Democrat who’s serving her first Senate term. (Update: Martucci, previously an unaffiliated voter, enrolled as a Republican in January, Orange County voting records show.)

Martucci, 34, founded Quality Bus Services in 2008 and built it from a single bus serving Greenwood Lake School District to a company with 500 employees and 350 buses, according to an online biography. He sold the business last year.

Metzger, a former Rosendale councilwoman and director of the nonprofit Citizens for Local Power, beat Orange County Clerk Annie Rabbitt a year ago to win a seat that Republican John Bonacic held for the 20 years until his retirement in 2018. The 42nd District takes in all of Sullivan County and parts of Orange, Ulster and Delaware counties.

Metzger’s campaign noticed the Martucci’s filing and emailed supporters for contributions on Friday morning, warning that Republicans will spend big to try to win back the Senate control they lost in 2018. The message noted that Metzger doesn’t accept “corporate or lobbyist money,” and relies on donations from “good people like you.”

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Delgado campaign reports $1.5M on hand

Rep. Antonio Delgado raised $636,000 in the third quarter and had more than $1.5 million in his campaign account as of Sept. 30, a giant lead for the freshman Democrat in a district that Trump won by seven points in 2016 and Republicans have targeted as a 2020 pickup opportunity.

Of the three Republicans who announced campaigns for New York’s 19th Congressional District, Anthony German raised the most during those three months – $50,000. Ola Hawatmeh reported raising $5,000, and Michael Roth reported no income.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a fourth-term Democrat from Cold Spring, raised $268,000 in the third quarter and had a $425,000 balance at the end. Chele Chiavacci Farley, the Republican planning to challenge Maloney next year for the 18th District, reported $150,000 in donations and a $52,000 in-kind contribution from herself to her campaign, leaving her with $239,000 on hand.

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Plurality of upstate voters favor Trump impeachment in Siena poll

A Siena College poll released Tuesday found that 49 percent of upstate New York voters support impeaching President Donald Trump and removing him from office, with 43 percent in opposition and 8 percent undecided.

Statewide, the split on removal was 55-38 percent, a 17-point spread widened by support in heavily Democratic New York City. Suburban voters were almost evenly divided at 47 percent in favor and 48 percent against.

Views diverged sharply along party lines across the state: 79 percent of Democrats favored removal and 81 percent of Republicans opposed it. Slightly more independent voters were for than against, at 49-47 percent.

Siena surveyed 742 New York voters from Oct. 6-10, in the midst of the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry and ongoing coverage of the controversy that fueled it, involving Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. The poll’s margin of error was 4.3 percent.

Majorities of voters throughout the state felt the Ukraine matter justified the inquiry. The divide on that question in the Siena poll was 62-34 percent statewide, 52-46 percent in the suburbs, and 59-38 percent upstate.

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Schmitt named to water-quality task force

Assemblyman Colin Schmitt has been appointed to an Assembly Republican task force that will look at ways to protect water quality and provide state funding for water and sewer projects.

“From the very beginning of my term a top concern and priority of mine has been addressing water quality problems and water crises in my district and our entire region,” the New Windsor Republican said in a statement announcing his appointment. “From emerging contaminants like PFAS/PFOA, aging infrastructure, depletion of aquifers to harmful algae blooms and wastewater treatment concerns all levels of government must work together to deliver results.”

The Assembly Minority Task Force on Water Quality will hold public hearings around the state. One will take place at 6 p.m. on Oct. 30 at the Vails Gate Fire Department at 872 Blooming Grove Turnpike in New Windsor.

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Metzger questions need for new Danskammer plant

State Sen. Jen Metzger sent Orange County legislators a letter this month to rebut arguments in support of a proposed replacement for the Danskammer power plant in the Town of Newburgh and underscore the state’s mission to transition to entirely renewable energy sources by 2040.

The Rosendale Democrat, whose district includes part of Orange County, was weighing in on a proposed resolution in support of the power project, which the Legislature went on to pass in a 12-7 vote the following day after a long and contentious round of audience comments. Metzger, a vocal proponent of renewable energy, began her letter by pointing out that she served on a Senate working group this year that helped develop the law that set New York’s aggressive new carbon-reduction goals.

“To meet these ambitious goals, it is important to avoid investments in new fossil fuel infrastructure, which have an expected lifespan of 50 years or more,” Metzger wrote.

She then chipped away at the argument that the new gas-fired plant would burn cleaner than the current one by pointing out the existing plant is used only occasionally to meet peak demand, while the proposed one would run consistently.

She also questioned the future need for full-time Danskammer power, saying a report this year by the New York Independent System Operator “identified no reliability needs for the next decade, even after taking into account the closure of Indian Point.” She noted that NYISO hadn’t even factored into that conclusion two recent contracts for off-shore wind power that she said are expected to add 1,700 megawatts – three times that of the proposed Danskammer plant – to the grid by 2024.

She ended by sympathizing with the desire for construction jobs and suggesting they could be found instead through green-energy projects, such as “utility-scale renewable energy and storage resources,” that will be needed to meet the state’s goals.

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Four mid-Hudson Dems get top scores on environmental report card

Sen. Jen Metzger and Assembly members Kevin Cahill, Aileen Gunther and Jonathan Jacobson all had perfect scores on Environmental Advocates’ report card on how New York’s legislators voted on 35 bills the group supported in the 2019 session.

The report card graded all 63 senators and 150 Assembly members on their votes, with legislation ranked by the significance of the environmental benefits it would provide. One of the most important bills was the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law in July and which requires the state to cease all fossil-fuel power production and use only renewable energy sources by 2040. That legislation also seeks to have New York producing net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“We are blessed with a wealth of natural and scenic resources in the Hudson Valley and the Catskills, and I take very seriously my responsibility as a state legislator to protect them,” Metzger, a Rosendale Democrat whose district includes Sullivan County and part of Ulster, said in a statement about the report card. “Our health and well-being, and the economy of the region, depend on good environmental stewardship.”

Cahill, a Kingston Democrat, also touted his 100 percent score in a press release. He had criticized the scoring method used in a previous environmental report card for the 2019 session by the New York League of Conservation Voters, which had given him a 78 based on 16 bills it tracked.

“New York has long been at the forefront of environmental stewardship, pioneering regulations to protect air and water quality, preserve open space and enhance our communities,” Cahill said in his statement.  “I am proud of the successes we have had in the Assembly.  Now, we must build on our record and prevent any degradation of our natural resources.”

Sen. George Amedore, a Rotterdam Republican whose district includes part of Ulster County, got a 49 on Environmental Advocates’ report card and was rewarded with the group’s “Oil Slick Award” for that and his low scores for previous legislative sessions.

Here are how all 10 lawmakers representing parts of Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties fared on the report card:

Sen. Jen Metzger, D-Rosendale: 100

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston: 100

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh: 100

Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson, D-City of Newburgh: 100

Sen. James Skoufis, D-Cornwall: 97

Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, R-New Windsor: 88

Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-New Hartford: 72

Sen. James Seward, R-Milford: 62

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, R-Deerpark: 58

Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam: 49

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Orange DA urges residents to condemn NY’s “reckless” bail changes

Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler invoked the hit-and-run accident in the Town of Highlands in which a motorcyclist was killed this week as a prime example of the pitfalls of bail reforms enacted this year that soon will limit the instances in which judges can jail criminal suspects.

Hoovler said the SUV driver accused of causing the death by making an illegal U-turn on Route 9W could not have been held after his arrest on Wednesday under the new bail rules set to take effect on Jan. 1, even though he’s from another country and poses a flight risk. The suspect, 55-year old Rene Morataya of Mount Kisco, was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident and set to Orange County jail in lieu of $20,000 cash bail.

In a statement on Thursday, Hoovler listed a couple dozen crimes, including criminally negligent homicide and aggravated vehicular homicide, for which judges will no longer be able to order suspects held on bail. Had the SUV driver been arrested after Jan. 1, he “would have had to be released from state custody, without the possibility of bail being set, despite the seriousness of the crime and despite the defendant’s ties to a foreign country,” Hoovler said, noting that Morataya faces possible deportation after the criminal case is completed.

State police say Morataya was turning around on 9W about 8:20 p.m. on Tuesday when his SUV struck George Guy of Highland Falls on his motorcycle. Guy, 62, was thrown from his motorcycle and died at the scene. Morataya allegedly fled, and state troopers found him in Westchester County the following day.

Prosecutors and police have been railing against the impending bail restrictions, which were intended to reduce the number of people being held in jail for minor crimes because they can’t afford bail. Hoovler, in his statement on Thursday, condemned the changes as “reckless,” lambasted state lawmakers for inserting them in the budget they passed on April 1 with insufficient public discussion, and urged residents to contact their legislators to “express your concern about the negative effects that the upcoming changes in the bail laws will have.”

“Since before I took office, I have been an advocate of reform in the criminal justice system, but reform must be sensible, if it is not to result in a reduction in public safety,” Hoovler said. “I almost hesitate to call the upcoming bail changes ‘reforms,’ because they don’t change our law for the better.”

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New party endorses Orange County candidates

A new political party that has homed in on local races across New York announced its endorsements this week of nine candidates in various Orange County races who will run on that party’s independent ballot line in November, in addition to their major-party lines.

The candidates backed by the SAM Party of New York include seven Democrats and two Republicans running in five towns and for Surrogate Court judge. The party said in its announcement that it had interviewed 200 candidates from around the state and supported those who promote good government, transparency and citizen engagement.

“The candidates endorsed by the SAM Party of New York have a record of accomplishment in their communities and believe in the principle of working with others regardless of political affiliation in order to get results for residents,” party chairman Michael Volpe said in a statement.

Here are the Orange County candidates who will appear on the SAM line on Nov. 5: Dennis Leahy, Montgomery supervisor (D); Kristen Brown, Montgomery council (D); Kelly Allegra, New Windsor clerk (D); Sylvia Santiago, New Windsor council (D); George Doering, Blooming Grove council (R); Thomas Becker, Chester council (D); Stephen Keahon, Chester council (D); Virginia Scott, Cornwall council (D); Timothy McElduff, Orange County Surrogate Court judge (R).

The party’s website indicates many of its endorsements are in the Hudson Valley, but are scattered as far as Long Island and Erie County. Its stated priorities include curbing corruption and revitalizing the state’s economy.

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Orange GOP renews party leadership

Orange County Republican Committee members chose their leaders for the next two years at their biannual reorganization meeting on Thursday, extending the tenures of Chairwoman Courtney Greene and three other party officers.

In addition to Greene, who has been chairwoman since 2014, the party kept Ben Ostrer as its first vice chairman, Michael Ventre as its secretary and David Green as treasurer. The only substitution was Jim Burpoe replacing Nancy Itzla as second vice chairman.

Greene appointed Assemblyman Karl Brabenec as executive director of the party and Deerpark Town Clerk Flo Santini as assistant secretary.

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