Ulster town supe says Niagara plan warrants full-scale environmental review

Photo: Dion Ogust.

Photo: Dion Ogust.

Town of Ulster Supervisor James Quigley III said this week he will recommend a “positive declaration of environmental significance” on Niagara Bottling’s proposal to build a water bottling facility at a vacant parcel near the old IBM campus. If the board agrees at its meeting set for Thursday, Nov. 20, it means the controversial plan will face lengthy review and multiple rounds of public comment.

The proposal calls for the development of a $54 million facility at the site adjacent to TechCity. When fully operational, the plant would use up to 1.75 million gallons of water each day purchased from Kingston’s municipal system. The plant would also process spring water trucked into the facility from other locations and produce plastic bottles. Niagara officials say the plant would bring about 120 new jobs to the area, while payments for Kingston water would help offset the cost of replacing aging infrastructure. Opponents of the plan, who have turned out in force at public meetings on the issue, worry that the deal will leave the city short of water and/or damage the ecosystem around Kingston’s watershed at Cooper Lake in Woodstock.

Quigley has expressed support for the plan and says he’s concerned that it could be derailed by organized opposition. But, he said, given the size of the project, and the emergence of vocal opposition, a “Type 1” State Environmental Quality Review action, which allows the public to scrutinize and comment on studies carried out by the applicant on everything from traffic patterns to visual impacts, was appropriate. Quigley added that a “negative declaration” asserting the project would have no deleterious effect on the environment — which would effectively circumvent public review — would almost certainly lead to a lawsuit by opponents of the plan. Legal action, he said, would take at least as long as a Type 1 review and have a less predictable outcome.


“Let them read the reports, let them comment on the reports,” said Quigley of the opposition. “Rather than just turn around and say that the reports are bogus, which is what they’re doing now.”

How the process will play out

The SEQR review process will begin with a scoping document produced by the company and subject to approval by the town board, which is acting as lead agency and heading up the review, and other “involved agencies.” The document lays out issues to be studied and reviewed for inclusion with a draft environmental impact statement. Once the DEIS is accepted as complete, the public has a chance to review the document and weigh in. The town board may require the applicant to respond to specific questions or criticisms compiled during the public comment period. The lead agency can also mandate formal hearings on issues raised during the public comment period. Once the lead agency accepts the environmental impact statement as complete, each involved agency will have an opportunity to lay out findings, including recommended changes to the project, before the review is complete.

Quigley said opponents of the plan, and anybody else who cares to, will have ample opportunity to comment on aspects of the project. But, he added, the review would not be slowed down by demands to study and re-study minor points of objection.

“I do not anticipate studying frogs on the moon and their potential impact on the Cooper Lake watershed,” said Quigley.

Quigley said Niagara had already committed to producing studies on some major expected impacts. They include a traffic study for the plant where, Niagara predicts, some 260 trucks would unload and offload each day in a 24-hours-a-day/364-days-a-year production cycle. The company must also produce a report detailing the exact composition of effluent to be discharged into the Esopus Creek. The review will also include an updated report on the capacity of the Cooper Lake watershed and the ability of the Kingston Water Department to service the bottling facility without negatively impacting current customers.

Lead agency status

The Ulster Town Board is also expected to declare itself “lead agency” in the review at the Nov. 20th meeting. The move means the board will guide the SEQR process and make the final call on whether to accept draft and final versions of the environmental impact statements as complete. Activists opposed to the plan, as well as Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo and the Kingston Common Council had, called upon the state Department of Environmental Conservation to take on lead agency status and do the review itself. But the DEC and a number of other “involved agencies” which will have to grant permits or make other decisions involving the construction and operation of the bottling facility have already signaled that they have no problem with the Ulster Town Board taking the lead.

There are 4 comments

  1. Kevin Maris

    I think Quigley is an arrogant ass who shows nothing but contempt for the environment and the towns of Kingston and Woodstock. 100 low-paying jobs pale in comparison to the threat that it represents to our future water supply.

    Frogs on the moon, indeed.

    DEC is nothing but a cowardly lion and will be viewed with disdain and contempt for generations to come if this process comes to fruition.

  2. Enterthewoods

    I hope SAUGERTIES folks are paying attention to this. What will be the impact of discharge at the factory site on the Esopus Creek. Will there be sufficient protection in place in place to pollutant out of the creek? What restrictions will be placed on discharges? How will it be monitored? Will it impact fishing, aquatic and bird life on the Esopus? Niagara doesn’t have a great track record of obeying the rules at bottling plants out west. How will that effect Saugerties tourism $$ and propery values if the creek is polluted with plastics.

  3. Rachel

    Kingston, Woodstock, Saugerties, Ulster, Esopus, the Hudson Valley,New York City, New York State… Keep your eyes open. New York is Water Rich… And Big Water has their eye on us. The Town of Ulster is already setting themselves up to push the plastic manufacturing plant into Tech City regardless of the decision to use Cooper Lake/Kingston’s water. The segmented action submitted to the DEC did not include mention of Kingston or Woodstock’s water. This tells me that they must be thinking of all of the possibilities. We have to be wide scope enough to see out of our own back yards, and into the minds of decisive and slippery politicians guides by Big Corporate interest.

    This is what I had to say to Mr Quigley this evening at the Town Of Ulster Board meeting this evening:
    First, I’d like to thank you for cutting to the chase and including the POS Dec in your declaration this evening.
    There is no point in wasting any time on that.

    As someone who lives in Woodstock; the town with the least to gain and the most to lose, standing beside the Aldermen and women of Kingston who have also requested to be granted involved agency status, I ask you to consider both municipalities as involved agencies in your declaration tonite.

    I want to point out a few things.

    Today while you were discussing the leaks in the system, on the Kingston public radio, you said something that was very alarming, and I quote:

    “It’s like going to your garbage can and selling what’s in there”

    And I disagree. Vehemently.

    You have publically mocked informed citizens– who have asked you to follow the rule of law–in inappropriate and inconsiderate ways.

    Your dismissal of our concerns is very disconcerting.

    If you really Consider the water that quenches our municipalities to be garbage, that you can sell as a way to fix an ailing infrastructure, then I’m not sure that you, Mr Quigley and the Town of Ulster are the right municipality to be handling the SEQR process as lead agent.

    I want to point out that I am not a Woodstocker just fighting for my lake. I am a Hudson valley citizen concerned about the sustainability of our region.

    Economic development of Ulster
    HAS to be considered with an eye on sustainability.

    And as you said this morning on the radio, it is likely that Niagara will not have the patience to sit through The length of time it takes to process a thorough and honest SEQR process, which includes a public scoping process.

    And why would they? They thought we were an easy target.

    We are not.

    This proposal never should have made it this far.

    And as it has been made very clear by the citizens of the concerned and interested Municipalities–our water is not in play.

    But, because we all know you have a job to fill Tech City–and I read your incomplete application to the DEC– I need to say now, as we go forward, regardless of whether niagara gets their water from cooper lake, I am not comfortable with a plastic manufacturing plant in Tech City or anywhere else in the region.

    And I ask that you turn toward responsible and ecologically concerned businesses in your search to fill Tech City.

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