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NY Congressman's Amendment To Slow Anchorage Site Proposal Advances

A bill authored by a New York congressman to halt proposed anchorage sites along the Hudson River until there is further study has advanced. An environmental professor says while it’s a good first step, the proposal should bring more accountability to bear on the U.S. Coast Guard.

Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of the 18th district says legislation he wrote to halt the U.S. Coast Guard’s Proposed Rulemaking to create up to 10 anchorage sites between Kingston and Yonkers was included as part of the Coast Guard Authorization Act, which passed Wednesday in committee. Maloney had urged his amendment’s passage during a markup.

“The language in this amendment will guarantee that the Coast Guard study the impacts of this and report back to the Congress before it moves forward with this very controversial proposal,” Maloney said. “We owe this to the people we represent to get it right.”

Maloney’s Anchorages Away Act would require the Coast Guard to submit a report to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on the impacts of these proposed anchorages on existing Superfund sites and endangered species habitats. The Coast Guard has proposed creating up to 10 anchorage sites in the Hudson River to park as many as 43 commercial vessels between Yonkers and Kingston. Here’s U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Chief Warrant Officer Allyson Conroy.

“We are aware that the amendment passed yesterday,” Conroy says. “The Coast Guard continues with our process and, right now, we continue to evaluate the more than 10,000 that came in during our six month comment period.”

The more than 10,000 comments submitted by the close of the comment period in December are unprecedented for the Coast Guard, which usually garners just a handful for its advance notice of proposed rulemaking.

“This is a very serious proposal and we want to make sure that we give each and every comment, each and every section and issue the due attention that it deserves,” Conroy says.

John Cronin is senior fellow for environmental affairs at Pace University’s Academy for Applied Environmental Studies in the Dyson College Institute for Sustainability and the Environment.

“I think the amendment that Congressman Maloney proposed for the Coast Guard project is a good one,” says Cronin. “I don’t think it goes far enough.”

Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Cronin, who also is managing faculty of the Pace Environmental Policy Clinic, says he has spoken with Nadler’s staff about the following proposal.

“The Environmental Policy Clinic at Pace has also proposed an amendment to the annual Coast Guard authorization that would make the Coast Guard proposal for the Hudson a major federal action — that’s a designation — a major federal action under the National Environmental Policy Act, which would then require the Coast Guard to follow the rules of the National Environmental Policy Act in writing an extensive Environmental Impact Statement,” Cronin says. “This would also require hearings, it would require another public comment period, it would involve additional federal agencies and all stakeholders and would launch a process that would probably have gone for at least three years, not one year.”

A spokesman for Nadler did not respond in time for this broadcast. Maloney says his provision will slow the Coast Guard’s process, and is a step toward killing the proposal entirely.

“Thousands of our constituents at home have expressed deep concern for the merits of this Coast Guard proposal and believe it puts at risk so much of what we treasure and love about the Hudson River, the contributions it makes to our local economy and to the ecosystem and, really, our way of life,” Maloney said.

In October, Maloney introduced the Hudson River Protection Act, which would prohibit the Secretary of Homeland Security, and by extension the Coast Guard, from establishing new anchorage sites for vessels carrying hazardous or flammable material within five miles of an existing Superfund site, a nuclear power plant, a site on the National Register of Historic Places, or a critical habitat of an endangered species. Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel is a co-sponsor.

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