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Enck criticizes Stefanik on protecting Adirondacks
Representative points to her record and calls remarks 'misinformed'

GLENS FALLS — A staunch defender of the environment is calling out Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik for not doing enough to protect the Adirondacks.

As new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt proposes rolling back and repealing environmental regulations, former regional EPA Administrator Judith Enck said the Adirondacks are being placed in danger.

The mountainous, snowy area will have the ecology of West Virginia in 70 to 80 years if nothing is done, she said.

“More ticks. More invasive species,” she said in a Post-Star editorial board meeting last week. “Goodbye Gore Mountain, West Mountain, all the ski centers.”

And she predicted a huge impact on the businesses that are based on a snow economy: selling snowmobiles, housing skiers and selling food and drink to winter enthusiasts, among others.

While she blamed Pruitt — and the Trump administration — on the reduction in environmental regulations, she said the area needs a crucial ally: Stefanik.

“She has to vote the right way on the floor,” Enck said. “Her lifelong voting record (on supporting the environment) is 19 percent.”

Stefanik disagreed with Enck in a statement Friday. Her aide, Tom Flanagin, said Enck was “misinformed.”

He noted that Stefanik is a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus and co-chairperson of the Invasive Species Caucus. She has introduced two pieces of legislation aimed to combat invasive species and was last year awarded the Supporter of Nature Award from the Nature Conservancy.

She was also the co-author of a Republican climate change resolution introduced last year that called for innovations in clean energy.

“Clean energy innovation is key to addressing the serious issue of climate change,” Stefanik said about the resolution, calling it a “priority” to address climate change.

She is on the record opposing President Donald Trump’s budget, partly because of the proposed cuts to the EPA, and she pledged to keep fighting to protect the Adirondacks, even when that means voting against her party.

Enck spoke as a volunteer environmental advocate, saying she has no interest or intention in running for office. Instead, she said, she wants to focus on the environment.

In particular, she wants Stefanik to champion the Clean Power Plan, which is currently being considered for repeal.

The rule was expected to lead to a 24 percent reduction in carbon, nationwide.

“That would have given us a fighting chance against climate change,” Enck said. “It would have slowed it down.”

That’s what is needed to keep snow in the Adirondacks.

Stefanik has criticized the Clean Power Plan and last year voted for an exemption for plants if the governor of their state said the carbon reductions would raise electricity prices too much.

On the other hand, Stefanik sent a letter to Pruitt about the necessity of funding acid rain research in the Adirondacks, as well as a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about the hemlock woolly adelgid.

In the letter to Zinke, Stefanik asked pointed questions about Zinke’s plan to combat the invasive species that has just reached the Adirondacks and whether he was going to share that plan with state and local officials.

“An effective response is essential during the time immediately following detection,” she wrote.

To Pruitt, she said that a cut in funding could bring back “the days of dead lakes and a dying forest.”

“While we are all pleased to see the Park come back from the brink, work is ongoing and we risk a return to more polluted days should we turn away from this important monitoring,” she wrote in a letter signed by seven other Congress members as well, including Republican John Faso and Democrat Paul Tonko of New York.

The letter emphasized that the tightening of the Clean Air Act made the difference.

Enck is also worried about the air.

“The Clean Air Act is in jeopardy. What they’re doing is death by a thousand cuts,” Enck said.

She acknowledged that companies have to spend a lot to protect air and water.

“A big fossil fuel power plant installing electrostatic precipitators costs them money. Us telling a company they can’t build in a wetland means they can’t expand there,” she said. “But protecting wetlands means you don’t have a flood. And we all benefit from breathing clean air.”

She said Pruitt ought to “be honest” and tell Congress that he thinks the clean air and clean water acts are bad for business.

“Then John Faso and Elise Stefanik get to debate that,” she said.

The trouble is that the fight isn’t “dramatic,” she said.

There aren’t streams with orange water that must be cleaned. The creep of invasive species that kill trees, make water undrinkable and ruin lake recreation is hard to see.

But the proposed cut in EPA’s budget would make the area much worse, Enck said.

Funding to combat invasive species in Adirondack lakes would almost definitely be reduced, if not eliminated, she said. The remaining budget also wouldn’t have enough money to support needed work here on reducing nitrogen runoff from farms or building more infrastructure to keep sewage out of lakes, she said.

“I think the Adirondacks is more at risk than other parts of the state,” Enck said.


Steven Senne, Associated Press 

Fans at a Boston bar react after the New England Patriots scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the NFL Super Bowl 52 football game between the Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis, Sunday. More on the Super Bowl in the B section.


Local
Glens Falls IDA hires consultant for brownfield program

GLENS FALLS — The LA Group has been hired to conduct necessary studies to prepare for future development of two city brownfield areas.

The Glens Falls Industrial Development Agency recently approved hiring the Saratoga Springs-based firm for two separate contracts to work on the Warren Street and South Street Brownfield Opportunity Areas.

EDC Warren County President Edward Bartholomew said LA Group’s work will be to do some of the technical, historical and archaeological review of the properties ahead of any redevelopment efforts.

The first contract is to assist the efforts to redevelop Warren Street from Pruyn’s Island all the way to the city line. The area encompasses as far north as Dix Avenue and south to Oakland Avenue and the Feeder Canal Trail.

Among the properties along that corridor that could be redeveloped are the former Native Textiles building at 211 Warren St., the former Glens Falls Armory building and concrete block houses along Fredella Avenue.

The total cost for the Warren County BOA study is not to exceed $83,000. The state is paying 90 percent of the cost, with a 10 percent local match of $8,300.

The South Street area includes the area from Glen Street to Broad Street, according to Bartholomew. This is the same area that is included in the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

For the South Street Brownfield Opportunity Area, the cost is not to exceed $137,767, with the state paying 90 percent and a local match of $13,778.

Bartholomew said the local match can be in-kind services.

LA Group provides planning and technical assistance, landscape architecture, engineering services and public outreach. Bartholomew pointed out that Jim Martin, senior planner and economic development specialist for the LA Group, worked for the city from 2002 to 2005 as economic development director.

The Warren Street BOA is at step one, which provides a basic look at the study area and boundaries, current land use and zoning, potential for revitalization and description of existing sites, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation website.

The South Street BOA is at step two, which requires a more in-depth analysis of economic and market trends and potential redevelopment efforts.

Bartholomew added that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed in his budget to consolidate the steps. The current system prolongs the work, according to Bartholomew.

“There are essentially two studies done before we now receive money to do implementation. There’s no guarantee that you’re going to get money that next year to do step two. It really became a cumbersome process,” he said.

The BOA program is very competitive. There are 44 active BOAs. Glens Falls has two and Queensbury has a third, according to Bartholomew.

The Warren County BOA can piggy-back off of a $25,000 state grant that EDC Warren County received to determine the challenges and obstacles to redeveloping a stretch of land around the former Ciba-Geigy pigment plant that has been dubbed the “Warren County Opportunity Zone.”

The zone includes the old Ciba-Geigy parcel plus about 60 acres of the Warren County airport land, the Queensbury Business Park, the Warren-Washington Counties Industrial Development Agency industrial park and property owned by Vic Macri near the Walmart store on Quaker Road.

The redevelopment area is bordered on the south by the Hudson River, and the westernmost part of the zone stretches to state Route 9L. It is about 800 acres in total.


State
AP
US investigators say deadly Amtrak train crash preventable

CAYCE, S.C. — Federal investigators are trying to figure out why a switch was in the wrong position, sending an Amtrak train into a freight train and killing a conductor and an engineer in South Carolina.

But they already know what could have prevented the wreck that injured more than 100 passengers — a GPS-based system called "positive train control" that knows the location of all trains and the positions of all switches in an area to prevent the kind of human error that can put two trains on the same track.

"It could have avoided this accident. That's what it's designed to do," said National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt, referring to technology that regulators have been demanding for decades with mixed success.

He said the passenger train hurtled down a side track near Cayce around 2:45 a.m. Sunday after a stop 10 miles north in Columbia because a switch was locked in place, diverting it from the main line. A crew on the freight train had moved the switch to drive it from one side track — where it unloaded 34 train cars of automobiles — to the side track where it was parked. The switch was padlocked as it was supposed to be, Sumwalt said.

The system that operates the train signals in the area was down, so CSX Corp. — the freight railroad operator which runs that stretch of track — was manually operating the signals. Sumwalt said it was too early to know if the signal was red to warn the Amtrak crew that the switch was not set to continue along the main train line.

Just hours after Sunday's crash, which also sent 116 of the 147 people on board the New York-to-Miami train to the hospital, Amtrak President Robert Anderson deferred to investigators about whether the system would have stopped this crash. "Theoretically, an operative PTC system would include switches in addition to signals, so it would cover both speed and switches," Anderson said.

The Silver Star was going an estimated 59 mph when it struck the freight train, Gov. Henry McMaster said. It was the middle of the night, and many people were jolted from sleep by the crash and forced into the cold.

"I thought that I was dead," said passenger Eric Larkin, of Pamlico County, North Carolina, who was dazed and limping after banging his knee.

Larkin said he was on his way to Florida when he was awakened. The train was shaking and jumping, and his seat broke loose, slamming him into the row in front of him, he said.

He said he heard screams and crying all around him as he tried to get out. Other passengers were bleeding.

The locomotives of both trains were left crumpled, the Amtrak engine on its side. One car in the middle of the Amtrak train was snapped in half, forming a V off to one side of the tracks.

Engineer Michael Kempf, 54, of Savannah, Georgia, and conductor Michael Cella, 36, of Orange Park, Florida, were killed, Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said.

"Any time you have anything that happens like that, you expect more fatalities. But God blessed us, and we only had the two," Fisher said, her voice choked with emotion.

Of the 116 people taken to four hospitals, only about a half dozen were admitted. The rest had minor injuries such as cuts, bruises or whiplash, authorities said.

On Wednesday, a chartered Amtrak train carrying Republican members of Congress to a retreat slammed into a garbage truck in rural Virginia, killing one person in the truck and injuring six others.

And on Dec. 18, an Amtrak train ran off the rails along a curve during its inaugural run near Tacoma, Washington, killing three people and injuring dozens. It was going nearly 80 mph (128 kph), more than twice the speed limit.

With the recent string of crashes, "it's becoming almost like an epidemic for Amtrak," said Najmedin Meshkati, a University of Southern California engineering professor who has studied positive train control.


Washington
AP
The Powell era at the Fed seems sure to face some turbulence (copy)

WASHINGTON — When Jerome Powell is sworn in Monday as the new chairman of the Federal Reserve, the pride of the moment may be tempered by Powell’s recognition of the risks that lie ahead.

A ferocious sell-off on Wall Street on Friday — with stocks tumbling and bond yields rising after the January U.S. jobs report suggested higher inflation ahead — served as a blunt reminder of the challenges Powell’s Fed will face.

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Powell stressed his intention to carry on the cautious approach to interest rate hikes that his predecessor, Janet Yellen, pursued in four years as Fed chair. Yellen was able to oversee a gradual rate policy because inflation posed no threat: It ran below even the Fed’s 2 percent annual target throughout her tenure.

The Powell era could be entirely different. The job market is tighter. Wages are up. Federal debt will likely rise. Tax cuts could accelerate growth.

All of which seems likely to drive up inflation, which is what spooked investors Friday. The main question, is by how much? For weeks, investors have been demanding higher bond yields. On Friday, after the government said average pay rose year-over-year in January at the fastest pace in more than eight years, the 10-year Treasury yield reached 2.84 percent, a four-year high.

The Powell-led Fed would be pleased to see inflation finally reach its 2 percent goal. The problem would be if it were to surge well above that level. The Fed would face intense pressure to accelerate its rate hikes to tighten credit and curb inflation.

That’s where the risks come in: If the Fed tightened credit too little, inflation might surge out of control. If it tightened too much, a recession could result. Steering a safe middle ground has proved tricky for the Fed throughout its history. It has sometimes miscalculated how fast to raise rates and triggered an economic downturn.

In December, the Fed predicted that it would raise its benchmark short-term rate three times in 2018, just as in 2017. Yet some economists now foresee four increases. And those rate hikes would coincide with the Fed’s continued paring of its bond holdings — action that puts upward pressure on rates for long-term consumer and business loans.

“The next phase of managing the economy may not be as easy,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, who expects four rate increases in 2018. “The Fed may have to raise rates more quickly because the economy is stronger.”

For now, the economy that Powell’s Fed will preside over shows strength and resilience. Unemployment is at a 17-year low. The economic expansion, already the third-longest in U.S. history, appears to be improving after a long stretch of subpar growth. On the surface, it might seem that all the Powell Fed needs to do now is serve as caretaker for a high-flying economy.

But the Fed always has felt compelled to respond to threats before, not after, they arise, while there is time to prevent high inflation or an economic slowdown.

“Everything points to a more aggressive Fed under Powell,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

No less an authority than Alan Greenspan, who led the Fed for 18½ years until 2006, expressed worries last week that dangerous bubbles might be forming in the financial markets, in part because of high federal debt resulting from increased benefit spending as baby boomers retire and the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts now taking effect.

“We are dealing with a fiscally unstable long-term outlook in which inflation will take hold,” Greenspan said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.

The two most recent U.S. recessions were caused by bursting asset bubbles. The pricking of the dot.com bubble led to a brief recession in 2001. And the collapse of the housing bubble ignited the 2007-2009 downturn, the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The current recovery began in June 2009. If it lasts until June 2019, it would tie the longest expansion on record — the one that lasted from March 1991 to March 2001.

Although the expansion has been marked by slow economic growth, that very trait might ensure its durability: Plodding growth has kept inflation low and prevented the economy from overheating.

“I don’t think a recession is on the horizon,” said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State University, Channel Islands. “We have had one of the slowest periods of economic growth on record, and I think slow means it will go for a longer period.”

For that forecast to prove correct, the Powell Fed will need to manage its rate policy with exceeding care. Friday’s jobs report showing wages rising 2.9 percent over the past 12 months — the biggest such jump since the recession ended in 2009 — suggested that the Fed may be entering an era of higher inflation and a need for higher rates.

With Yellen’s departure, the seven-member Fed board will have only three members. President Donald Trump has nominated Marvin Goodfriend, an economics professor who has long urged the Fed to raise rates more quickly, for one vacancy. Goodfriend awaits Senate confirmation.

But the president hasn’t yet nominated anyone for the three other vacancies. Those selections will be critical in determining the Fed’s pace of rate hikes and in carrying out Trump’s desire to loosen bank regulations. Powell’s responsibility will be to forge a consensus among the board members and the 12 regional Fed bank presidents who help set monetary policy.

Powell will be the first Fed leader in three decades without a Ph.D. in economics. But David Jones, the author of several books on the Fed, said that Powell, with his background as an investment banker, reminded him of the longest-serving chairman, William McChesney Martin, who led the Fed from 1951 to 1970. Martin also lacked a doctorate in economics but had extensive knowledge of Wall Street.

“Powell, like Martin, understands markets, and I think he will be as plain-spoken as Martin,” Jones said, citing Martin’s famous summation of the Fed’s job: “To take away the punch bowl just when the party gets going.”