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Riverkeeper to Public Service Commission: No Need for Rockland Desalination Plant

Contact: Tina Posterli, 914-478-4501 x 239, [email protected]

NY Department of State echoes concerns of citizens and environmental groups in call for evidentiary hearing on proposed plant

Ossining and White Plains, NY – November 14, 2013 – Riverkeeper is requesting that the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) enter an Order declaring that there is no continuing need for United Water New York (UWNY) to develop a new-long term water supply source for Rockland County. Riverkeeper has submitted comments to the PSC on its examination of UWNY’s proposed desalination plant. Based on updated information and changed circumstances and the fact that UWNY started planning to build the desalination plant without making any efforts to reduce and control future demands, Riverkeeper has intervened as a party in the proceeding and is represented by Pace Law School’s Environmental Litigation Clinic in White Plains.

Data that show an abundance of drinking water supplies and untapped management options have been dismissed by United Water in order to skip straight to the finish line with plans to build an unprecedented desalination plant on the Hudson River.

“Through our comments, Riverkeeper is echoing what the citizens and elected officials of Rockland County have so effectively been voicing for nearly two years now: desalination is not the solution for Rockland County’s drinking water supply needs,” said Paul Gallay, President and Hudson Riverkeeper. “United Water is vastly overstating demand to further its goal of constructing a desalination plant, but the facts speak for themselves.”

The Rockland Water Coalition, which is comprised of citizens, officials and groups such as Riverkeeper and Scenic Hudson, has orchestrated an outpouring of opposition to the plant, and leads the ongoing call for an issues conference. This past July, the PSC announced that it would examine the underlying need for an energy-intensive and costly desalination plant that would draw up to 10 million gallons of water from Haverstraw Bay, one of the most extraordinary and biologically diverse sections of the Hudson River. The PSC gave United Water 30 days to study and report on the need for the proposed project. Instead of taking the fresh, holistic look that PSC’s Order required, UWNY dismissed the most recent available information showing that project demand is significantly lower than originally forecasted and failed to respond to the concerns and issues raised by public officials and organizations in a meaningful way.

The New York Department of State has also recently joined the call to examine the proposed plant more carefully and is issuing a request for an evidentiary hearing to review the need for a new water supply, whether desalination is the most cost-effective way to meet it, and the impact of the proposed project on water rates.

Riverkeeper’s comments highlight new information showing that there is plenty of time to approach the issues of long-term planning for a water supply source in a more cautious and reasoned way. Evidence includes:

  • Actual water demand has been much lower than projected;
  • Rockland County’s aquifers are recharging at a faster rate than expected according to a 2010 United States Geological Survey report, and UWNY has plans to expand its groundwater yield by 1 to 1.5 million gallons per day (mgd) by 2015 from current wells;
  • At least 4 mgd of additional water is available from Lake DeForest, Rockland County’s reservoir; and,
  • Additional conservation measures, including saving system water and reducing consumer water consumption, will increase supply by 4.5 mgd.

”We are so pleased to represent Riverkeeper in this PSC proceeding, and to work so closely with members of the Rockland Water Coalition to oppose this unnecessary, expensive and wasteful project,” said Professor Daniel Estrin, Supervising Attorney of the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic. “Through expert testimony submitted to the PSC, Riverkeeper and its partners have demonstrated that Rockland County’s future water needs can easily be met through a combination of common sense measures that would avoid a doubling of rates for Rockland County residents, as well as devastating impacts to the ecology of Haverstraw Bay, which has been designated Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitat by the Department of State. In short, the construction of a desalination plant in Haverstraw would benefit no one except Suez, the multinational conglomerate that owns United Water.”

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