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November 19, 2009 Meeting - Sea Level Rise Task Force

Meeting Summary


Steering Committee and Task Force Members

Robi Schlaff, DEC
Mark Lowery, DEC
Frank Castelli, Suffolk County
Fred Nuffer, SEMO
Fred Anders, DOS
Michael Gerrard, Columbia Law School
Kristin Marcell, DEC
Lisa Weiss, DOT
Suzanne Mattei, DEC
Adam Freed, NYC Mayor's Office
Aaron Koch, NYC Mayor's Office
Michelle Moore, DEC
Gerceida Jones, NYU
Amanda Stevens, NYSERDA
Arturo Garcia-Costas, DEC
Richard Svenson, DOH
Camilo Salazar, Suffolk County
Brad Tito, Nassau County
Ivan Lafayette, Department of Insurance
Joe Placide, Department of Insurance
Lisa Garcia, DEC
Tony Morenzi, DEC
Udo Drescher, DEC

Other Interested Parties

Lillian Ball, Southold Town Land Preservation
Alan Cohn, NYC DEP
Pippa Brashear, Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC
Catherine McVay Hughes, CBI
Josh DeFlorio, Cambridge Systematics, Inc.
Diane D. Buxbaum, US EPA
Sara Gordon, Peconic Land Trust
Susan Kath, NYC Law Department
Sarah Kogel-Smucker, NYC Law Department
Kevin Fennessey, Ravenswood Generating Station
Ellen Weiss, The Nature Conservancy
Timothy Banach, Bard Center for Environmental Policy
Victoria Weiss, Dewberry
Kimberly Flynn, 9/11 Environmental Action
Thurlough Smyth, NYC DEP
Michael Bilecki, National Park Service

News and Announcements

Lisa Garcia, the DEC's Environmental Justice Coordinator and a Steering Committee member, has accepted a position as a special assistant to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson on environmental justice.

Summary of Executive Order 24

On August 6, 2009 Governor Paterson released Executive Order 24 establishing a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050, creating a Climate Action Council and directing the preparation of a Climate Action Plan for NYS.

The Climate Action Council consists of the heads of about a dozen NYS agencies who have been tasked with delivering a draft September 30, 2010.

The report is expected to:

  • inventory NYS greenhouse gas emissions
  • identify and assess short and long-term actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change across all economic sectors
  • identify and analyze the anticipated reductions and the economic implications of each action
  • identify the anticipated life-cycle implications, consequences, benefits and costs of implementing each action
  • identify short and long-term economic development opportunities and disadvantages related to greenhouse gas emission reductions and the development and deployment of new technologies and energy sources
  • coordinate its activities with the State energy planning process
  • identify existing legal, regulatory and policy constraints to mitigation and adaptation and recommend ways to address them
  • establish estimated timelines for implementing actions

Four technical working groups (Power; Residential/Commercial/Industrial; Agriculture/Forestry/Waste; Transportation/Land Use) will propose mitigation strategies to achieve the 80 x 50 goal, a fifth working group will be responsible for adaptation recommendations across all sectors. Each working group will comprise 15-20 stakeholders and agency staff. Work groups will convene beginning in January.

Stakeholder participation in the Council effort will consist of series of public meetings in the fall of 2010.

See link on right for more information on EO 24.

Update on CLIMAID project

This project, a climate impacts assessment for the state is being led by Cornell and Columbia University and funded by NYSERDA. It covers impacts to transportation, communications, ecosystems, coastal areas, public health, water, agriculture, and the economy. The final report will summarize risk, include stakeholder input on risk and strategies, and provide adaptation options for the state. It won't make "recommendations" or evaluate the options for prioritization.

Drafts of each sector report are now complete. The drafts will go through advisory committee review in November and expert review in January. The final report is expected to be completed in April or May of 2010.

Each sector is planning to do a stakeholder survey. Task force and steering committee members will be included in this survey.

Update on NYC Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) and the NYC Adaptation Task Force

The summary of the climate science and projections for NYC by the NPCC is complete. The Adaptation Task Force's comprehensive adaptation plan and framework will be out in January or February of next year with specific recommendations for how the city can increase its resiliency.

An event at the NY Academy of Sciences on Dec 2nd will highlight NYC's work to date on the NYC Panel on Climate Change (NPCC) and the NYC Adaptation Task Force. The daylong conference is invitation only. A public event will be held in the evening.

The Adaptation Task Force has been working with engineers and the building community to develop cost estimates on scale and scope of strategies. These recommendations should be done by the end of the year.

Work group progress updates

The ecosystems and natural habitats work group has developed an online system for members to vote and comment on the draft recommendations released in June. At their next meeting the group will be building out and revising recommendations and highlighting any areas of overlap. They are also currently drafting text for the additional habitat types in the natural resources inventory (low, moderate and high energy shorelines, coastal bluffs, rocky intertidal areas, submerged aquatic vegetation, benthic habitats, freshwater tidal marshes, aquatic ecosystems and a wide variety of species and communities dependent on these habitat types). They are also identifying the characteristics of coastal areas that might inform a decision to pursue one type of adaptation strategy over another.

The infrastructure work group completed their section for the draft report including a detailed inventory of impacts to each infrastructure sector. Some members are now focusing on the community resilience work group. The infrastructure work group will now review their draft recommendations for gaps and obstacles to implementation.

The legal work group is reviewing recommendations for legal implications. The group has been evaluating new policy options being considered in other states and countries for applicability in New York. The workgroup recommended that all members read: State and Local Governments Plan for Development of Most Land Vulnerable to Rising Sea Level along the U.S. Atlantic Coast. EPA's Jim Titus is lead author. (See Risingsea and Open Access Journal for Environmental Science links in right column). The workgroup has also been following coverage of recent and pending legal and regulatory issues in other states and countries. Some items of note:

  1. Stop the Beach Renourishment v Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection (Supreme Court case to be argued December 2): The briefs of the parties and various friends of the court can be found at: http://www.abanet.org/publiced/preview/briefs/dec09.shtml
  2. Texas Proposition 9 (2009) amending the Texas constitution by establishing as constitutional a public right to use state-owned beaches from the mean low tide to the line of vegetation: http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/Texas_Proposition_9_(2009)
  3. Severance v Patterson, a case concerning "rolling easements" under the Texas Open Beaches Act: http://docketdb.com/public/dockets/09-0387
  4. Draft planning guidelines of the state of New South Wales in Australia based on sea level rise projections:
    The draft guidelines follow an Oct. 2009 policy statement by the state of New South Wales providing the following sea level rise projections (compared to 1990 mean sea levels): 40 cm (15 inches) by 2050 and 90 cm (35 inches) by 2100, acknowledging "that higher rates of sea level rise are possible." http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=ukmXcVJesYA%3d&tabid=177

The community resilience work group is focusing on the human dimensions of impacts to the coastal zone. They have drafted an outline for this new section which will highlight secondary impacts to communities from climate change; environmental justice issues, and strategies for communities to become more climate resilient. They are collaborating closely with DOS on their post storm development planning guidance to help communities recover from coastal impacts. They are also focusing on the public health impacts, implications for community input, and the lack of monitoring of existing climate impacts. The group would like to do a workshop with community groups to focus on these issues in the winter/spring.

The mapping and graphics group is planning to highlight The Nature Conservancy's Coastal Mapping Tool (see Coastal Resilience link in right column) as a primary source of graphics depicting the risks associated with sea level rise and storm surge. The Nature Conservancy has received funding to expand their work to the Peconic Estuary and the north shore of Long Island. Expanding this tool to include the entire coastal area of NYS was accepted as a priority recommendation of the task force in the spring.

Deadline for Final Report

The task force agreed to adjust the final report deadline to June 30th, 2009 so that our work can be incorporated into the Climate Action Council's draft plan (due September 30, 2010.) A draft for public comment will be done by the end of April and public outreach meetings will be held in May. Due to the acceleration of the final report, we will not be issuing a preliminary report. Given the resource limitations of the current economic situation staff will also look into the possibility of partnering with the CAC effort for public outreach meetings.

The NYC Climate Change Adaptation Task Force Report should be released by December, 2009 and NYSERDA's ClimAID report is due to be released April 2010 allowing for inclusion of the information from both of these projects into the SLRTF report.

Next Steps

Each work group will answer the following three questions for their recommendations:

  • What is the desired outcome of the recommendation?
  • What are the major steps and actions required to get to the desired outcome?
  • Who has authority over each action to get to the desired outcome?

Workgroups will insure that recommendations are vetted by the stakeholders groups and then submit their revised recommendations to the steering committee for prioritization.

A revised timeline will be developed to include the new report deadline and public outreach and meetings. We hope to be able to have focus groups with local elected and community representatives.

Agenda for the Sea Level Rise Task Force Meeting held on Thursday, November 19, 2009, at the Public Service Commission Board Room, 90 Church St., New York City from 11:00 - 1:30 p.m

Meeting Purposes:

  • Present task force with updated information on adaptation efforts in NYS
  • Present task force with proposed new report release date (July 30, 2010)
  • Present task force with progress reports from workgroups
  • Discuss next steps
Time Topics Presenters
11:00 - 11:15 Welcome/
Robi Schlaff, DEC and Kristin Marcell, DEC
11:15 - 11:45 Updates on adaptation efforts in NYS and integration with SLRTF E.O. 24 and the NYS Climate Action Council - Jared Snyder, DEC and Alan Belensz, DEC
ClimAID - Amanda Stevens, NYSERDA
NYC Adaptation Task Force - Adam Freed, NYC Mayor's Office
11:45 - 12:30 Work group progress reports and next steps Infrastructure and community resilience - Suzanne Mattei, DEC and Lisa Weiss, DOT
Ecosystems and natural resources - Sarah Newkirk, TNC and Karen Chytalo, DEC
Legal - Udo Drescher, DEC
Community Resilience - Arturo Garcia-Costas, DEC
Maps and Graphics - Fred Nuffer, SEMO
12:30 - 1:00 Update on process of refining preliminary recommendations and discussion of guiding principles Robi Schlaff, DEC and Kristin Marcell, DEC
1:00 - 1:30 Comments and Next Steps
1:30 Adjourn