Montgomery: Colleagues opposed stream protections
Criticism from Legislator Nancy Montgomery and residents on Tuesday (Aug. 2) apparently thwarted an effort by the Putnam County Legislature to adopt a resolution urging the governor to veto legislation extending environmental protections to more of the state’s streams.
In an email alert on Sunday (July 31), Montgomery, a Democrat whose district includes Philipstown and parts of Putnam Valley, alerted activists that her Republican colleagues were circulating a draft resolution to oppose the legislation. Montgomery said they planned to introduce the measure, requested by Legislator Amy Sayegh of Mahopac, during the “other business” portion of Tuesday’s meeting.
But that night, after the legislators had dealt with the agenda and Legislator Neal Sullivan of Carmel-Mahopac, who chairs the Legislature, called for other business, no one mentioned the resolution.
“I guess we took it off the agenda,” Montgomery said shortly before the meeting adjourned. “I’m grateful that we’re not opposing what will be protection for our streams and am looking forward to having this” state law.
“Water is the new oil,” in terms of being a valued resource, she added. “We must do everything we can to protect it.”
The Legislature, consisting of Montgomery and eight Republicans, previously has passed resolutions to put its views on the record in opposing state laws or proposals. In April 2019, the Legislature voted 8-1, after prolonged debate and with Montgomery in dissent, to approve a resolution demanding the state Legislature repeal the Reproductive Health Act. The law added protections for abortion rights and removed references to abortion from the state criminal code.
If signed by Hochul, the environmental legislation will classify more waterways as streams worthy of safeguarding. Introduced by state Sen. Peter Harckham, a Democrat whose district includes eastern Putnam, it requires that projects affecting them have permits from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
State Sen. Sue Serino, a Republican whose district includes the Highlands, and Assembly Members Sandy Galef, whose district includes Philipstown, and Jonathan Jacobson, whose district includes Beacon, each voted for the measure in Albany. As of Wednesday, it awaited Hochul’s signature.
Although Harckham’s legislation cleared the Assembly in March and the Senate in May, Putnam’s resolution did not surface until July 29. Typically, legislators discuss resolutions in a public committee session before sending them to the full body for action. The resolution did not appear on the agenda for the Aug. 2 meeting.
Putnam’s draft resolution declares that local soil and water conservation districts can protect waterways and that while “well-intentioned,” the state legislation would “create the need for more than 40 times the applications to go to the DEC.” It asserted that obtaining permits already takes four to eight months and that, “based upon the current backlog and timeframe for permitting, this would delay projects for at least 26 months.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Montgomery said that she had spoken with DEC officials and “nobody could tell me that there was any validity to that” claim of long delays.
Afterward, she expressed satisfaction at the outcome. “I’d say this was a win for me,” she said. “The resolution didn’t even make it to the floor!”
Residents who contacted legislators after her alert criticized the draft resolution and the way it was to be introduced. Withholding the writers’ names, Montgomery provided several examples.
“I am aghast that you would protest a New York State law that will help protect our waterways,” wrote a Mahopac resident. “If you held any kind of public hearings on this matter, as you should have done, I am sure you would find that Putnam citizens want our waterways protected.”
A resident of Putnam Valley asked: “Why would you even consider wasting the taxpayers’ time and money putting forward a resolution to oppose the state’s decision to further protect waterways from damage and destruction?”
And a Patterson resident maintained that “to have my county Legislature make such a request is an outrage.”