Claiming “A Tax Rate Reduction of approximately
70% of the 2006 rate,” the Shandaken town board
stands ready to dramatically change the water rate structure
for the hamlet of Phoenicia.
The Board will hold a Public Hearing for the Phoenicia
Water District on Monday July 10, 2006 at 6:00 pm, to
hear comments on the plan.
The town board has been criticized for what some say is
a pro forma approach to public hearings. While such an
event is meant to hear what the public wants and allow
the board to respond by altering a plan or project to
suit the requests of the public, such an outcome is rare
under the current administration.
The idea to change the rate structure came only six months
ago after Water district taxes went through the roof due
to a town board decision to borrow $63,000 last year to
pay for upgrades to the water system.
Supervisor Robert Cross Jr., who has been faulted for
failing to obtain grant monies for such projects, said
this restructuring of the water rates puts the burden
to pay on the people and businesses that use most of the
For Water District landowners, water use taxes went up
a whopping 137 percent this year. Admitting that he should
have warned taxpayers of what was coming in their January
tax bill, Cross made a promise to take a lead role in
doing something about “the bad news in your Phoenicia
Water District statements.”
Based on information sent to taxpayers, it appears Cross
intends to reduce that water tax burden, but do so by
charging higher usage fees, in particular to local businesses.
Cross says commercial usage has grown from 50 percent
to 58 percent and its time that fees reflect that change.
“It’s only fair that people pay for the water
they use,” Cross wrote in a February 24 letter.
District Homeowners will still pay though. Their tax might
go down, but their usage rates will go up. While that
may not sound like any bargain Cross says the usage rate
levels “should be manageable for everyone.”
Cross plans on spending yet another $160,000 this year
for system upgrades. The town’s looking for grants,
he said months ago, but Cross still plans to borrow the
money at zero percent interest over 30 years rather than
wait for grant application results. An update on grants
is expected at the public hearing.
Regardless, Cross claims the loan would cost each homeowner
another $16 a year, a bargain given the fact that what
caused taxes to skyrocket this year was only a $63,000
Under the new rate structure, the following changes are
*Water Service Base Rate: $100.00 for the first 20,000
*Rate in Excess of 20,000 gallons = $5.00 per 1,000 gallons
*Tax Rate will be adjusted from $13.32 per 1,000 assessed
value to $4.20 per 1,000 assessed value.
Usage fees are currently low. An average household pays
less than $50 a year for the water that flows into their
domiciles after running through a new filtration system
installed two years ago. Water Commissioner Rick Ricciardella
says that the rates are simple.
“It’s $30 for the first 30,000 gallons, then
I believe its 50 cents for every 1000 gallons above that,”
Under the plan to be presented Monday, the same 30,000
gallons that cost $30 this year would cost $150 under
the proposed plan.
The positive result, in theory, is that the tax rate will
drop. If the new plan were already in place for 2006 the
tax rate would only be $4.20 per thousand of assessed
value, officials say.
The actual tax rate for 2006 is $13.32 per thousand.
An attorney that specializes in the rules and regulations
for the New York City watershed region claims the City’s
Department of Environmental Protection is altering its
policy toward septic system programs in a way that prevents
some landowners from using their property.
Jeff Baker, whose firm represents the Coalition of Watershed
Towns, alerted the coalition’s executive committee
to the issue so it can be discussed by EPA officials,
who are deciding whether to grant the city of New York
another 5 year filtration waiver. His point is that the
City should be given the waiver only after such matters
are investigated and, if necessary. be corrected.
Jeffrey Graff, a representative for the City’s Department
of Environmental Protection, was present for Baker’s
report and said that no policy has changed. However, residents
reported to Baker specific incidences where the DEP recently
rejected variance requests for septic systems based on
criteria that, until recently, was not used as reason
to reject same request.
It is alleged that DEP denied permission for variances
on land bought after the watershed deal was signed in
1997. According too Baker, DEP told applicants that the
land was bought with the knowledge of the watershed deal,
therefore if the land can't meet septic system requirements
it's tough luck. A variance would not be granted because
it is a self created hardship.
Baker said the DEP tried to get this clause put into the
deal in 1997 but it was specifically denied after the
Coalition of Watershed Towns fought against it. He added
that for quite some time after the deal was signed variances
were granted under similar circumstances to those that
are now being denied.
“It appears that at some point (after the deal was
signed) DEP made a policy decision,” Baker charged.
Graff is accumulating the documents of the related cases
and DEP’s related policy for review.
Sure enough, it turns out that a county committee is investigating
whether it would be feasible to use the old jail, soon
to be replaced by the way-over-budget new law enforcement
center, as a holding facility for the former Immigration
and Naturalization Service, now a part of the Department
of Homeland Security. And, according to county legislature
chairman David Donaldson, two private prison corporations
have had preliminary contact with Ulster County officials
to inquire about the possibility of using it for incarceration
purposes - one company contacting Ulster in January and
another in March. Donaldson added, however, that the companies
asked not to be identified so as to prevent their competitors
from learning of their interest.
So how can a jail we were told wasn’t good enough
stay a jail? Wwll… it turns out that while the state
Commission on Corrections was threatening Ulster County
with sanctions if it did not solve problems with overcrowding
at the old jail, it never cited the facility for violations
or said it was inadequate. Though it would need upgrading,
the old jail could perhaps be operated as a detention
center without major renovation. Furthermore, privately
operated prisons, such as those run by Wackenhut Corrections
Corporation, which enjoyed boom times in the late 1990s
as state prisons bulged from overcrowding and officials
looked for cheaper alternatives that could be implemented
quickly, have less regulatory oversight. Just ask the
Meanwhile, state approval to move inmates to the new jail
is anywhere from two to six months away, members of a
legislative oversight committee learned recently, because
of requirements for safety flooring in the kitchen and
delays in installing computer equipment, among other problems.
Terrence Moran, a field operations supervisor for the
state Commission of Correction, told county officials
Monday that they cannot begin training employees in the
new facility until all equipment is operational.
The Law Enforcement Center, which includes sheriff’s
offices and a 484-bed jail, was initially expected to
cost $54 million and open by April 2004. Cost overruns
have led to the jail facility being reduced to 402 beds,
while the project budget currently stands at $86.16 million.
No new opening date has been set.
Legislators have also learned of an anticipated parking
shortage at the site because of other departments planning
to locate there. The parking lot has about 200 spaces,
of which 85 are set aside for county employees.
All of this may end up causing greater problems down the
line, especially for Republican legislators who pushed
the project through at first, what with a state audit
citing mismanagement, inadequate oversight, design flaws
and poorly written contracts as the cause of cost overruns
and construction delays about to be used in a probe of
whether corruption played a role in the problems.
Donaldson, at a recent legislative session, singled out
former Legislature Chairman Ward Todd, saying that when
the project “really started to go bad,” the
Shandaken Republican was “looking the other way.”
Todd became chairman of the Legislature shortly after
contracts for the Law Enforcement Center project were
signed in the fall of 2000 and was succeeded in June 2003
by Republican Richard Gerentine of Marlboro. Donaldson
succeeded Gerentine this past January when Democrats took
control of the Legislature for the first time in a quarter-century.
Rodd has been under fire since it was revealed in April
that he was the recipient in late 2001 of $39.95 worth
of cigars purchased by an Atlanta-based consulting firm
that then billed the county for the purchase.
“I can certainly say that there were cigars being
bought and people billing twice for hotels and things
of that nature,” Donaldson said of items cited in
the state audit. “And I believe there was corruption
on the site. I believe on the site there was some purposeful
situations where people were doing the same work twice.”
Todd lamented the fact that he was not interviewed during
the process that led to the comptroller’s audit
and said he would take a lie-detector test to defend his
administration. He also said that during his last meeting
as chairman in 2003, there was no indication that delays
in the jail project were significant.
At the June 20 Onteora meeting at West Hurley elementary
school, Olive’s Joe Friedel voiced concerns regarding
the district’s inaction to create a new football
team for a future varsity league. On January 31, athletic
director Mike Kocher announced eliminating varsity football
due to lack of interest from students, high employee turnover
of coaches and difficulty in finding a good coach, and
proposed finding a well-qualified coach to build up a
strong football team who can compete well with area schools
and re-spark students’ interest.
Later in the evening school board president Dave Patterson
weighed in on the subject: “We want a program to
be built and the fact that nothing has been done, or at
least the perception that nothing has been done since
February, is a concern for anybody that’s involved,
parents as well as the board…”
Trustee Marino D’Orazio asked for more information
from Kocher and other administrators.
In other recent business, district school lunch manager
Christine Downs made a request to the board that lunch
fees be increased in order of offset the cost of more
healthier food, which tends to be more expensive.
Currently, elementary school lunch costs $1.45; the increase
would go to $1.60. High School lunch costs $1.75 and the
increase would go to $2.00
Adult lunch costs $2.98 and would increase to over $3.00.
School board trustee Rita Vanacore voiced a concern that
families with multiple children would have difficulty
affording the increase and asked for more information.
She noted that adult lunch price is inexpensive for what’s
being offered but Interim Superintendent Jack Jordan said
he believes that raising only the adult price will not
offset the cost completely.
The school board requested additional information for
the next school board meeting July 11.
Finally, the administration gave a presentation on the
2004-2005 school report card and the Comprehensive District
Educational Plan (CDEP). Bennett school Principal Laurie
Cassel reported that district is in good standing and
the elementary schools are doing exceptionally well.
“We consistently perform well, above in Ulster county
and the region,” said Cassel, noting that ELA, Math
and science scores are higher than the state-set benchmark,
including students with disabilities.
Middle School principal Gayle Kavanagh said, “I
wish I could say as much glowing things as Laurie just
did, but our scores are not as beautiful as the elementary
schools.” This is the first year ELA fell below
140 and math has consistently fallen below standards,
due in large part to special education students not meeting
Assistant High school principal Gabriel Buono reviewed
the regents and mentioned that out of 170 students, 166
passed English regent tests. He noted that this was a
very good accomplishment, with 100 percent of juniors
passing the test. Overall he reported that students are
doing very well on all regent exams with high passing
rates and Onteora has a good solid graduation rate.
As defined in the district CDEP study, there are four
areas in need of improvement. They are, kindergarten-through-eight
math, English language arts, students with disabilities
and technology. Assistant superintendent Deborah Fox said
that staff development including teacher aides is a major
Cassell added that CDEP has helped the district focus.
“This has helped people focus and target, using
the data and saying this is our goal and this is what
we need to do over the next three to five years.”
Interim transportation supervisor Peter Montalvo gave
a status report on the department. Responding to a question
Vanacore asked regarding the two bus requests turned down
by voters in May, he said they intend to assess the situation.
A bus for the disabled and full passenger bus was passed
by a department of transportation inspection and reported
in good shape. When the new school year begins he noted
that the department would decide, with the new superintendent,
regarding the future of the two busses.
The Bush administration has issued new regulations that
“clarify” what states can count when it comes
to work participation under the Temporary Assistance for
Needy Families Program, effectively tossing many more
needy off government rolls without any safety net to speak
of. Under the law, states are supposed to have at least
half of their welfare recipients in approved work activities
or face cuts in funding of up to 5 percent. However, states
have been on their own in defining those work activities.
Some have gone too far, the administration says.
Congress recently instructed the Department of Health
and Human Services to draft regulations that would explicitly
define the 12 work categories cited in federal law. For
instance, on-the-job training will be defined, as will
community service and unsubsidized employment. Furthermore,
in a recent speech, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt signaled
that he wanted stricter definitions of work. He questioned
Wisconsin’s use of pregnant women or new mothers’
bed rest as an eligible welfare activity. He also questioned
other activities, such as motivational reading and other
forms of job training.
But some social services analysts worry that the new approach
could stifle innovative programs undertaken by the states.
They say such approaches have helped reduce the welfare
rolls by 57 percent over the past decade.
“Every state’s economy is different and states
are dealing with different challenges among the welfare
recipients that remain on the caseload,” said Sheri
Steisel, director of human services policy for the National
Conference of State Legislatures.
Changes approved to the nation’s welfare program
in 1996 set limits on how long people could obtain cash
assistance. Since the law went into effect, the welfare
rolls have dropped from about 4.4 million families to
under 2 million.
The former Onteora honors student who accidentally set
a West Hurley house fire last year that killed his mother
and half-brother will avoid prison time under a deal reached
by his lawyer and the Ulster County District Attorney’s
Office and accepted by the county judge. Jack D. Henderson
Milgram, 21, instead will continue to receive psychiatric
treatment for the psychosis that two psychiatrists have
diagnosed, and he may be treated on an outpatient basis
rather than be institutionalized.
Milgram, a 2003 honors graduate of Onteora High School,
was charged with two counts of manslaughter in connection
with the June 7, 2005, fire that killed his mother, 46-year-old
Gayle Henderson, and half-brother, 7-year-old Garrett
Under the deal, Ulster County Judge J. Michael Bruhn accepted
Milgram’s plea of “not guilty by reason of
mental disease or defect” and will order psychiatric
Investigators said last year that Milgram admitted setting
fire to two books - the Bible and “Fahrenheit 451,”
Ray Bradbury’s novel about book-burning - in his
family’s home at 60 Collier Road in West Hurley
and that the fire spread quickly. Milgram’s mother
and half-brother were sleeping in a room one story up
from where the fire began. Investigators said Milgram
told them he tried to alert the two but was unable to
because the flames had become too intense.
Milgram, accompanied in court by his father, Michael,
said he set the books on fire with a cigarette about 3
a.m. after smoking a “small amount” of marijuana.
Two psychiatric reports regarding Milgram - one prepared
for the defense, the other for the prosecution - were
presented to Bruhn. Both reached the same conclusion,
Williams said: that Milgram suffered from “psychosis”
at the time of the fire.
Williams said Bruhn will get two more reports from other
psychiatrists, about Milgram’s current state of
mind, before deciding whether Milgram should continue
to receive outpatient treatment or be committed to a psychiatric
Milgram’s attorney, Leon Greenspan, said his client
is functioning in society, seeing a psychiatrist regularly,
taking prescribed medications and doing well in classes
he is taking at Ulster County Community College.
The Ashokan Field Campus (AFC) is open again, and it hasn’t
been sold to Circle of Life Camp or to the New York City
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), although
the DEP is negotiating a long-term presence on the property.
The 372-acre outdoor education facility in Olivebridge
was shut down for six months so the DEP could build a
berm on the property to protect the buildings that lie
in the river valley from possible flooding in the event
of water releases from the Ashokan Reservoir.
Jay Ungar and Molly Mason’s fiddle and dance camp
reopened the site in recent weeks, and Ungar now has a
plan for preserving the campus.
While the Circle of Life Camp for children with diabetes,
which tried to purchase the property last winter, has
withdrawn its offer, Campus Auxiliary Services (CAS) of
the State University of New Paltz (SUNY-New Paltz) is
in negotiations with another organization connected to
Ungar, whose goal is preservation of the land and continuation
of the long-standing educational programs at Ashokan.
Since the 1960s, SUNY has maintained AFC as a site for
optional student programs, but because it is located 40
miles from New Paltz, said Steve Deutsch, CAS director,
“It’s difficult to get our campus to use it.
Ninety-five percent of the revenues generated there are
from outside programs. We feel that the money we can get
from selling it will better help our students.”
There is already discussion of using the profits for student
housing or other campus initiatives.
“But we have a lot invested in it,” added
Deutsch. “We’re very concerned about where
it goes, and we don’t want to see the programs go
by the wayside. We don’t want to sell to a developer,
and we want to make sure the land is protected.”
CAS is currently involved in negotiations with DEP, which
was scheduled to withdraw from the campus at the end of
its six-month contract but now would like to maintain
the right to use the property. Deutsch said the city agency
is considering an outright purchase but at present is
trying to work out “some sort of utility easement
that would allow them to use the property for their purposes.
They have a definite need to release water, and that needs
to be dealt with, no matter who owns the property. We
are trying to accommodate their needs in perpetuity.”
Deutsch said DEP negotiations have first priority, but
discussions have also begun with Ungar, who said he is
not yet at liberty to disclose the details of his efforts.
“We have a long-term interest in Ashokan’s
future,” stated Ungar, who is one of the region’s
premier bluegrass musicians, performing locally and across
the country with Mason, his wife. Their fiddle and dance
camps are consistently well-attended, with up to 170 people
per week at the three annual summer camps, plus a winter
AFC director Tim Neu said the campus had been off-limits
to the public for the first half of this year because
of the potential water release to accommodate increased
water flow through the New York City reservoir system
as the city lowered water levels in the Schoharie Reservoir
for dam repairs. The campus was bisected by a berm—a
barrier of steel, wood, and concrete—that was originally
supposed to come down in June, until the DEP decided it
might need the berm in the future. Steps, like an old-fashioned
stile, were built to allow staff and students to cross
the berm. Neu credited Ira Stern, the DEP’s local
director of community planning, with getting the campus
back in shape for Ungar and Mason’s camp. “The
construction fences came out and the stile was built the
day before we opened,” he said.
The House of Representatives rejected Maurice Hinchey’s
bid to undercut a recent Supreme Court decision permitting
evidence obtained in violation of the “knock and
announce” rule to be used at trial. The vote came
two weeks after the court ruled that evidence seized by
police with a warrant who barge into homes even if they
don’t knock can be used in court.
By a 310-109 vote, the House rejected the amendment, blocking
the Justice Department from obtaining evidence in violation
of the knock and announce rule. The vote came as the House
debated a $59.8 billion measure funding the budget of
the Justice Department and other agencies.
“The knock and announce policy is enshrined in the
Constitution in the context of the Fourth Amendment,”
Hinchey said. “It is held up by numerous Supreme
Court decisions over the last 100 years.”
Civil libertarians have predicted that police will now
feel free to ignore previous court rulings that officers
with search warrants must knock and announce themselves
or run afoul of the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable
During a brief debate, GOP floor manager Frank Wolf of
Virginia argued that “we ought not on the floor
of the House ... overrule a Supreme Court decision.”
But Hinchey made his point when Rep. David Obey, D-Wis.,
retorted that Republicans voted to undercut the Supreme
Court’s decision last year to permit local governments
to use eminent domain to force owners to sell their property
for private economic development.
President Bush has issued an executive order to limit
the U.S. government from taking private property only
for the benefit of other private interests, like corporations.
The order came exactly a year after a divided Supreme
Court ruled a city could take a person’s home or
business for a development project to revitalize a depressed
local economy, a practice known as eminent domain.
“The federal government is going to limit its own
use of eminent domain so that it won’t be used for
purely economic development purposes,” White House
spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
She said more than 20 states had already enacted laws
that prohibit the use of eminent domain for purely economic
development purposes and four states have proposed constitutional
amendments on November election ballots.
The order does permit the federal government to take property
for many public purposes, such as for a public medical
facility, roads, a military reservation, acquiring abandoned
property or to prevent a harmful use of land.
The Albany Times Union has sued state Senate Majority
Leader Joseph Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver
for concealing the names of lawmakers who arranged to
spend millions of dollars in taxpayer money on pork barrel
projects called “member items.” In a petition
filed in Albany’s state Supreme Court, the newspaper
alleges the two powerful politicians have violated New
York’s Freedom of Information Law by refusing to
let the public see secret computer data kept at the Capitol
that projects each lawmaker obtained and who got the money.
The Senate and Assembly divvy up $170 million taken from
taxpayer revenue each year, sign a confidential deal with
the governor, then transfer the cash to a special member-item
account Bruno and Silver control as a kind of political
piggy bank. Lawyers for the Hearst Corp., owner of the
Times Union, prepared the lawsuit, which seeks to have
the courts order both legislators to release their records
and to pay legal fees for the lawsuit. State spending
through member items is a longstanding tradition in New
York. For the past several years, $200 million in member-item
money has been appropriated by the Legislature, with $85
million going to Bruno, $85 million to Silver and $30
million to Gov. George Pataki. They each can decide how
to distribute the money, with the legislative leaders
typically making it available to legislators from their
own party for local projects of their choosing.
The newspaper has obtained lists of Senate and Assembly
members who sponsored some member-item projects from some
state agencies, from the governor’s office and from
the Senate and Assembly minority leaders. But the refusal
of the leaders of the majorities in each house to honor
the FOIL request to account for all such expenditures
has left the public in the dark about the details of millions
of dollars more in spending.
“The core purpose of FOIL is to enable the public
to know what the government is doing,” said Robert
Freeman, executive director of the State Committee on
Open Government, an arm of the secretary of state’s
office. “Clearly, there is a public interest in
the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars.”
A judge will get to decide whether lawmakers keep lists
of member items and whether it is data tied to state spending.
“If a list exists, in my opinion, there is a precedent
to make it available,” Freeman said.
In the aftermath of the terrible flooding in New York
and other northeastern states, the National Trust for
Historic Preservation’s Northeast Office is offering
relevant materials and information developed in response
to hurricane relief work in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast
over the past year. They note that while floodwaters can
cause significant damage to historic buildings, they do
not spell the end. In our region, many of the affected
buildings have stood the test of time and have survived
other floods and severe weather. With proper cleaning
and drying out procedures, the only reminder of floodwaters
in historic structures should be a watermark and date
on the wall.
Here are several key actions property owners should take:
Most of the damaging effects of water, such as rot, rust,
and spalling, can be minimized by reducing both interior
arid exterior moisture levels. The least damaging method
for drying out a building is natural ventilation—open
the doors and windows, and if safe, dehumidifiers and
fans can also be used. Although tempting, do not use heat!
Warm, moist environments encourage mold and fungal growth.
Use caution when pumping water from basements. This water
may be providing the necessary pressure to balance the
hydrostatic pressure of the groundwater. If the groundwater
level is higher than your basement floor and you pump
the water from your basement, the foundation walls could
be pushed inward and collapse. If your basement is flooded
with several feet of water and you are reasonably certain
that your floor drains are operational, you can assume
that the groundwater table is high. It is advisable to
leave the water in place until the groundwater table sinks
and the water recedes by itself. If your basement contains
only a few inches of water, however, you may be able to
pump it out safely. Keep in mind that if the groundwater
level is higher than the floor, the water will return.
Even if you cannot pump the water out of the basement,
consult with local health officials to determine if there
is any sanitizing agent that can be used to treat standing
water in the basement.
To avoid needless condemnation and demolition of buildings,
it is important to ensure that people with expertise in
preservation of historic buildings conduct the building
assessments. Contact the New York State Historic Preservation
Office at (518) 237-8643, and the Preservation League
of New York State at (518) 462-5658 for lists of preservation
consultants and tradespeople. A checklist and much more
detailed information is available in the booklet, “Treatment
of Flood-Damaged Older and Historic Buildings,”
available online as a PDF at www.nationaltrust.org/hurricane/files/flood_booklet.pdf.
An updated version of the booklet can be ordered free
of charge at http://www.preservationbooks.org/.
Please contact the Northeast Office at 617-523-0885 for
Also, the state Legislature has approved a much-needed
incentive that will encourage new investment in the reuse
of historic buildings in urban and rural communities throughout
New York State. The measure provides for a State Income
Tax credit for the rehabilitation costs of historic commercial
and residential structures. The measure now goes to the
Governor for consideration.
Under this legislation, State and National Register-listed
owner- occupied residential structures in distressed areas
are eligible for a New York State Income Tax credit covering
20% of exterior rehabilitation costs, up to a credit value
of $25,000. Approximately 11,000 historic residential
structures are qualified statewide, primarily in urban
neighborhoods. The bill also includes incentives for historic
commercial properties. National Register-listed or -eligible
commercial properties that qualify for the Federal Rehabilitation
Tax Credit would qualify for an additional New York State
Income Tax Credit, covering 30% of rehabilitation costs,
up to a credit value of $100,000.
The Ulster County Industrial Development Agency recently
passed a resolution that will require paying union workers
the prevailing wage during the construction phases of
most Industrial Development Agency-assisted projects.
Jen Fuentes, senior field coordinator for the Hudson Valley
Area Labor Federation, said that all Industrial Development
Agency-assisted projects running up a bill of more than
$1 million will now have to use the prevailing wage during
construction. Fuentes said the new legislation does not
apply to projects “in the pipeline, just projects
in the future.”
Chester Straub, administrative director of the Industrial
Development Agency and president of the Ulster County
Development Corp., said a modified form of the new legislation
was put into place last year when union members brought
it up. The resolution was refined to highlight two specific
components - encouraging developers to use local contractors,
builders and workers in construction phases of projects;
and to mandate paying the prevailing wage during construction.
Among local projects effected are most of those under
the various mantels of Big Indian developer Dean Gitter…
An influential and controversial paper asserting that
recent warming in the Northern Hemisphere was probably
unrivaled for 1,000 years was endorsed recently, with
few reservations, by a panel convened by the nation’s
pre-eminent scientific body.
In the 155-page report, the 12-member panel convened by
the National Academies said “an array of evidence”
supported the main thrust of the paper. Disputes over
details, it said, reflected the normal intellectual clash
that takes place as science tests new approaches to old
The study, led by Michael E. Mann, a climatologist now
at Pennsylvania State University, was the first to estimate
widespread climate trends by stitching together a grab
bag of evidence, including variations in ancient tree
rings and temperatures measured in deep holes in the earth.
It has been repeatedly attacked by Republican lawmakers
and some industry-financed groups as built on cherry-picked
data meant to create an alarming view of recent warming
and play down past natural warm periods.
At the same time, the nation’s top climate scientists
are giving “An Inconvenient Truth,” Al Gore’s
documentary on global warming, five stars for accuracy
as reported in am Associated Press survey during which
they contacted more than 100 top climate researchers by
e-mail and phone for their opinion, including vocal skeptics
of climate change theory. Most scientists had not seen
the movie, which is in limited release, or read the book.
But those who have seen it had the same general impression:
Gore conveyed the science correctly; the world is getting
hotter and it is a manmade catastrophe-in-the-making caused
by the burning of fossil fuels.
Gore, in an interview with the AP, said he wasn’t
surprised “because I took a lot of care to try to
make sure the science was right.”
While more than 1 million people have seen the movie since
it opened in May, that does not include Washington’s
top science decision makers. President Bush said he won’t
see it. The heads of the Environmental Protection Agency
and NASA haven’t seen it, and the president’s
science adviser said the movie is on his to-see list.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has plunged into the acrimonious
debate over global warming and whether the government
should regulate “greenhouse” gases, especially
carbon dioxide from cars. Spurred by states in a pollution
battle with the Bush administration, the court said it
would decide whether the Environmental Protection Agency
is required under the federal clean air law to treat carbon
dioxide from automobiles as a pollutant harmful to health.
The decision could determine how the nation addresses
A dozen states argued that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping
chemicals from automobile tailpipes should be treated
as unhealthy pollutants. They filed a lawsuit in an effort
to force the EPA to curtail such emissions just as it
does cancer-causing lead and chemicals that produce smog
and acid rain. A ruling is expected by next June.
The states involved, which together account for more than
a third of the car market, say the Clean Air Act makes
clear carbon dioxide is a pollutant that should be regulated
if it poses a danger to public health and welfare. They
argue it does so by causing a warming of the earth.
The administration maintains that unlike other chemicals
that must be controlled to ensure healthy air, carbon
dioxide from burning fossil fuels is not a dangerous pollutant
under the federal law. And, officials argue, even if it
is, the EPA has discretion over whether to regulate it,
considering the economic costs involved.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit were California, Connecticut,
Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico,
New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.