Bargain shopping with the DEP

Gov. David Paterson may be calling for a state land-buying moratorium, but the DEP's watershed land acquisition program marches on. From a department press release yesterday:

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has submitted its application for a permit to continue to acquire land to protect the watersheds, the sources of clean drinking water for half the residents of New York State.  The permit, to be issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), will allow DEP to acquire additional properties to ensure that the undeveloped, environmentally-sensitive watershed lands extending more than 125 miles away from New York City remain protected.

Investors turn up the heat on natural gas

Reuters reports that a group of shareholders, worried about the environmental damage from drilling in the Marcellus Shale, is pressuring gas companies for greater transparency and more safety assurances.

The shareholder proposal campaign, aimed at 12 companies including Chesapeake Energy Corp (CHK.N), EOG Resources Inc
(EOG.N) and Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N), was sparked by mounting worry about chemicals used in a process to extract gas from rock called hydraulic fracturing, the groups said.

The groups behind the shareholder proposal: Green Century Funds and the Investor Environmental Health Network.

Stock quotes: Chesapeake, EOG, Exxon.

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Reports of legal US haggis premature, says USDA

We apologize for seizing on a London Times story that led us (and millions of gleeful Scots-Americans) to believe the USDA was on the brink of legalizing real sheep haggis, which for years has been contraband in the US.

As it turns out, the heroin of meat-puddings has a long way to go to convince the federal food agency that it's safe to eat. From the BBC, here's an unnamed USDA rep squelching all the fun:

"Recently, several news articles have incorrectly stated that the US will be relaxing or lifting its ban on Scottish haggis," a spokeswoman wrote.

A review of the ban on beef and lamb products was under way, she said, but there was no specific time frame for its completion.

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Ulster-style county government is spreading

It's been just over a year since Ulster County began electing a county executive and a comptroller, ending the county legislature's long reign over management matters. While Ulster exec Mike Hein and comptroller Elliot Auerbach (who has a blog! whee!) have stepped on some toes in their first year in office, they've earned some avid supporters as well.

Now it looks like Sullivan County might want elected execs, too. (Sullivan currently has an appointed county manager.) A committee to investigate the possibility of electing a county exec recently met with the Hein administration.

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Food from the forest

The Ashokan Center and Camp Epsworth are hosting a four-part forest gardening/permaculture workshop with AppleSeed Permaculture, running over four weekends from February to June.

Imagine a future of homegrown fruits- berries, pawpaws and persimmons, perennial vegetables- sorrel, ground nuts, water celery and more! All of this is possible.

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Variety reviews GasLand

A new documentary on hydrofracking gets serious love from Variety mag's Robert Koehler:

Who could have anticipated that one of the most effective and expressive environmental films of recent years would be the work of a Gotham theater director who's never before made a doc? Nobody, perhaps least writer-director Josh Fox, whose "GasLand" may become to the dangers of natural gas drilling what "Silent Spring" was to DDT.

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Pro- and anti-drillers rally in Albany

Lest anyone doubt the passion and commitment of the protestors at today's dueling rallies on the issue of natural-gas drilling in New York State, let the record state: It was January, and it was raining, and it was in Albany. Enough said.

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A representative of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability was on hand with a Blackberry posting live updates to Twitter. Crowd estimation at a protest is always a slippery beast, but it sounds like a good number turned out:

@stopgasdrilling At least 600 to 1000 ppl strong here to protest against fracing

Is everyone in the North Country a CO?

Recipe for New York State politics:

1. Take a rural county where almost a fifth of residents are under the poverty line.

2. Extract from it the nation's second-highest tax burden, preferably with a citrus reamer.

3. Stuff with massive prisons. Re-inject with tax dollars in the form of correctional officer salaries.

4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 until most of the region's natural economic juices have been thoroughly replaced with recycled porky broth.

5. Add thousands of inmates imported from New York City. Be sure to measure them carefully, as they will later be used to inflate upstate population estimates when drawing congressional districts.

6. Set sentencing laws to "extra tough."

7. Bake forever. Seriously. It can never come out of the oven.

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Truth-tellers in upstate exile

The Chronogram's Nina Shengold had a terrific profile recently of local writer Shalom Auslander, author of Foreskin's Lament and a frequent NPR contributor. In it, Auslander--who is screamingly hilarious, in that way that comes only from having endured deep psychological torment--dishes about his fundamentalist upbringing, his love/hate relationship with loosey-goosey Woodstock, and why he won't drive his car in Rockland County.

It’s easy to spot Auslander at Bread Alone in Woodstock—he’s bent over a notebook, frowning. He’s just come from the writing office he rented on Tinker Street a few weeks after Paix was born, where he’s been wrestling with a novel tentatively titled Leopold Against the World. “It’s about a genocide, but funny,” he says.

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Big day in Albany for gas and money

NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg's in the capital, telling state legislators how bad the governor's proposed budget is for Noo Yawk.

Meanwhile, citizens from across the state are rallying both for and against natural-gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, an issue that's particularly pressing here in New York City's watershed. We'll be posting more about the rally later in the day. If you have photos, video or anything else you'd like to share, send us links or media at [email protected].

In the meantime, you can follow along with the rally on Twitter. Damascus Citizens for Sustainability is tweeting at @stopgasdrilling. On the other side, the Independent Oil and Gas Association of NY is tweeting at @IOGANY.

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