Orange Environment March 10,2005 Press Release
For Immediate Release:
Orange Environment President Michael R. Edelstein blasted the adequacy of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Stockbridge-Munsee Casino in testimony before the Bureau of Indian Affairs Thursday night, asserting that “unless severe and likely impacts of the proposed project can be reasonably mitigated, the project should not be permitted.”
Edelstein singled out the issues of traffic and air pollution impacts that Orange Environment has repeatedly raised in the Sullivan casino context. In detailed testimony, Edelstein showed how coverage by the DEIS of traffic and air pollution issues was inadequate and actually demonstrated impacts. While there was an effort to examine the issues, Edelstein’s testimony showed how the examination evaded the difficult questions.
For example, the DEIS implies sizable traffic impacts on the RT 17 corridor even if the project is never built. With the project, the problems are much worse. The cumulative effect of multiple projects is worse yet. However, these traffic impacts are never deemed significant and no effort to address or mitigate them is made. Existing congestion on Rt 17 is not acknowledged.
Another example is the discussion of ozone precursors in Orange County’s air. The DEIS argues that casino traffic will account for only a small increase. Omitted is the fact that the reason that the casino contribution may be a small fraction is that the amount of pollution here is already so high. Orange County is already in noncompliance for ozone under the Clean Air Act. The DEIS argues that additional contributions to this problem don’t matter because it is so bad. I would argue it the opposite way. Unless you prevent new sources from adding to the problem, you will never be able to get a handle on it.
Likewise, the DEIS examines air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and particulate matter around the proposed Sullivan county casino site. But these pollutants are ignored in Orange County, where they are likely to be a problem when traffic slows or comes to a stand still. Because Orange County is already in non-compliance for Particulate Matter, it is disingenuous to neither test for it nor project impacts. In reality , this is a severe contaminant likely to occur as traffic congests. The full analysis of the DEIS is attached.
Orange Environment called for several changes. First, it demanded a supplemental impact statement to include all cumulative sources of traffic and pollution, citing omissions from the DEIS that include two additional casino projects. The organization also called for assessment of alternative ways to get clients to the casino and to lower Rt 17 traffic, with particular attention to the creation of a new Main Line rail line. “Absent a rail line, there may be no way to address these problems,” Edelstein concluded.
As for the inadequacy of the DEIS, Edelstein observed, “Some people think that writing a good environmental impact statement involves hiding the most significant impacts of the project. That flies in the face of the National Environmental Policy Act and good sense. If you don’t address the most serious problems that will haunt the project over time, why bother even doing an impact statement, It gets reduced to a charade.”
P.S. No representatives of Orange County were evident leaving Orange Environment to defend the interests of county representatives.