Also vetoes County Legislature’s resolution criticizing FERC capacity zone move
By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong
Citing “inaccurate and misleading” assertions in a resolution that attacked federal efforts to enhance the Clean Water Act, Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell recently vetoed the measure, which the Putnam County Legislature had passed Oct. 7 after months of dithering.
Odell also vetoed a second resolution, likewise passed by the legislature Oct. 7, that endorsed legislation passed by the House of Representatives to deny funds to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for purposes of imposing higher energy rates in the Hudson Valley. While concurring about the appropriateness of countering FERC, she faulted the legislature for not mentioning her own opposition to FERC and for only directing concern to Sen. Charles Schumer while ignoring Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
During its Oct. 29 budget approval session, the legislature agreed to “enter into the journal” the vetoes, or officially declare that it had received them, but did not discuss the matter. Under the county charter, if the legislators want to override a veto, they must do so at a formal meeting within 30 days of acknowledging receipt and pass an override by a two-thirds majority.
The statement objecting to FERC passed unanimously and that veto could presumably be overridden. But the measure opposing the Clean Water Act revisions squeaked by on a 5-4 vote, making a two-thirds vote to override problematic.
Neither resolution appeared on the legislature’s agenda for its formal monthly meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 5.
The legislature’s Clean Water Act resolution attacked a draft rule or regulation released last March by the Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency intended to strengthen elements of the Clean Water Act, a landmark national antipollution law passed in 1972. The two federal agencies claimed their draft revision would not place under federal purview any waters historically out-of-bounds but, rather, would define and clarify the law’s scope.
Their proposal would bring seasonal streams, wetlands near rivers, some canal-like ditches and similar water features under the law’s protection. Court decisions in recent years either limited the law’s reach or created confusing complexity, or both, and the EPA and Army Corps portrayed their revisions as setting things straight.
In its resolution, the county legislature argued that the draft rule would “capture a significant number of Putnam County Highway activities and transportation infrastructure,” apply to projects “which do not currently require such oversight, at great expense so the taxpayers of Putnam County, with little — if any — substantive environmental benefit,” and represent “significant ongoing maintenance costs and delays to county citizens.”
Odell wrote to the legislature that she vetoed the resolution “based on inaccurate and misleading statements” in it. She focused on several points she found objectionable, including “an inaccurate claim that the proposed regulation would ‘now capture a significant number of Putnam County Highway activities and transportation infrastructure’” and the resolution’s contention that federal oversight would expand “at great expense to the taxpayers.”
Actually, Odell told the legislature, according to the EPA, the changes do not apply to waters not historically covered by the Clean Water Act and would actually decrease federal jurisdiction over some highway ditches and similar water features. Likewise, she wrote, “there is no indication that the regulation will cause any ‘great expense’ to Putnam County’s government and taxpayers. In fact,” she added, “the regulations will provide greater clarity and consistency in its application, continuing to ensure that the county’s waterways remain clean.”