Saturday, December 2, 2017

December 2017

Monday December 11, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Phil Hall and Lee Yuen Lew)

On the news tonight: help for financially distressed Connecticut towns; MGM and Connecticut tribes battle over Bridgeport casino; Long Island Congressman allies with Bannon after Ryan quits fund-raiser; and more offshore wind sites identified
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 CT News Junkie reports:
The newly formed Municipal Accountability Review Board met for the first time Friday. The Board will be in charge of helping extremely distressed municipalities like West Haven and Hartford get their finances under control. 

As part of the recently approved budget, the Board has $20 million in contract assistance and $28 million in restructuring funds that can be used to help extremely distressed municipalities. 

The Board has informed West Haven officials that their city qualifies for assistance under Tier III.  It expects the town will apply or assistance. The City of Hartford has yet to seek its assistance, but would also qualify as a Tier III community. The Board under a Tier III arrangement has the ability to reject two collective bargaining agreements if it felt they would have a negative impact on city finances.

The Hartford City Council was to vote today whether to apply for assistance from the Board. 
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MGM Resorts International is putting new pressure on Governor Malloy and legislative leaders to open the bidding process on future Connecticut casinos beyond the state’s Indian tribes. 

The Fairfield County Business Journal reports that MGM Resorts International executive Uri Clinton sent a letter to the governor acknowledging that the respective tribal owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun expressed interest in a Bridgeport casino. Clinton noted that his company has already submitted a proposal to open a $675 million casino resort in the Steel Point section of Bridgeport and has gained support for this project.

Clinton pointed to the state ban on non-tribal gaming and said his company “would welcome the opportunity to compete for a Connecticut commercial gaming license, along with the tribes and any other interested parties.” 

According to the Connecticut Post, a tribes’ spokesman said the MGM project “comes with a $1 billion price tag for Connecticut - and ours does not.”  He was referring to money the state could lose in gaming payments, under a compact that gives it 25 percent of the tribes’ slot machine revenue in exchange for the right to operate without other competitors.
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27east.com reports:
Stephen Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and current Breitbart News executive chairman, will headline a fundraising event for U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin in Manhattan on Thursday. This follows the decision by Paul Ryan to cancel plans for attending the rally after Zeldin opposed the G.O.P.’s tax plan.

Zeldin and the event’s other two featured guests, Republican businessmen Wayne Berman and Arthur Schwartz are strongly pro-Israel. But a number of prominent pro-Israel organizations — including the Anti-Defamation League, and J Street — advocated for Mr. Bannon’s removal from the White House until he left in August.

But Mr. Zeldin defended Mr. Bannon in an email on Wednesday. Zeldin praised Bannon for combatting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel on college campuses and his support for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and decertifying the Iran nuclear deal.
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Newsday reports:
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management or BOEM, has identified a swath of the South Shore 17 miles off the coast of the South Fork as a potential area for new offshore wind farms. If selected, the site would encompass over 200 thousand acres of ocean waters 15 nautical miles from land, from Center Moriches to Montauk.

This is in addition to the LIPA approved a 90-megawatt project off Montauk and  the New York State plan for 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind, including a project 15 miles from Long Beach.

The federal sites differ from those proposed by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority in October. Since the sites all are in federal waters, a federal plan would trump any state guideline.

BOEM says it will accept information and site nominations before a 45-day public comment period about the sites. The process of identifying those sites will begin early next year. 
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Friday December 8, 2017  (Thanks to news volunteers Trace Alford and John Iannuzzi)

In the news this evening: Connecticut schools in violation of safety laws; Malloy says state transportation fund at a crossroads; East Hampton fights pine beetle infestation; Suffolk judge texted prosecutors from bench, could face sanctions
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In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook school shootings five years ago, Connecticut legislators earmarked millions to address safety concerns raised by the grieving community.

A Hartford Courant investigative report suggests that half of Connecticut schools are in violation of some aspect of the law requiring them to submit a School Security & Safety Plan.

The 30-page document developed by the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection should be submitted each September, but state records show that nearly 100 districts haven’t submitted a plan this year. Schools are also supposed to submit records of all crisis management, or “lock down” drills. However last school year, only 52 districts did.

State Representative Andrew Fleischmann told the Courant the legislature is considering inflicting penalties on districts that don’t follow the law. 
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CT NewsJunkie reports: 
Governor Malloy says the state is at a crossroads with funding transportation projects. The state will have to decide what projects to fund, what fares to raise and what services to provide. 

Malloy says: “The state’s Special Transportation Fund can no longer support normal operation or planned levels of capital investment.”  The fund was expected to be insolvent by 2021, but the latest estimates have it running a $38.1 million deficit in 2019.

If the state does nothing to resolve the situation, it would have to reduce highway, rail and bus services, and reduce the capital program by more than $4 billion over the next five years.  As part of the budget, $37.5 million was diverted from the Special Transportation Fund. 

Voters won’t have a chance to weigh in on whether to establish a lockbox on that money until 2018.
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Newsday reports: 
With the infestation of the southern pine beetle in East Hampton Town growing nearly tenfold, town officials said Tuesday they have cut down more than 5,000 trees and are confident they are getting ahead of the problem.

Andrew Drake, a town environmental analyst, said the pine beetle has spread to 7,720 trees, a substantial increase from the 800 infested trees that were discovered in early October.

There are only about 2,500 trees left to cut down and expose to the cold as part of the state-approved method for killing the beetles and preventing further spread. Four subcontracting crews are expected to finish the job within three weeks.

The quick spread prompted Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell to declare a state of emergency in late October. Officials have already spent $160,000 to inspect public and private properties, and cut down infested trees with property owners’ permission. The town board approved doubling that amount in a vote Tuesday.  
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Thursday December 7, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteer Mike Merli)

In the news tonight: Connecticut Republican gubernatorial candidates square off in first debate; Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes seek to be included in Bridgeport casino talks; New York State bill would let DACA recipients keep driver’s licenses after program ends; and farmers defeat new Southold winery law.
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Connecticut News Junkie reports:
Seven of the Republican candidates running for Governor of Connecticut squared off in their first debate of the 2018 election cycle, and largely agreed they don’t like “career politicians.” They offered mixed opinions on how they would handle the state’s budget and grow the economy.

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, Bob Stefanowski, and David Stemerman were qualified under the threshold set by the Republican Party to join the debate, but did not attend. Those on the debate stage included Stamford Chief Financial Officer Mike Handler, State Representative Prasad Srinivasan of Glastonbury, David Walker, Peter Lumaj, Steve Obsitnik, Senator Toni Boucher of Wilton, and Tim Herbst, a four-term former Trumbull first-selectman.

There are currently 22 candidates vying for the Republican nomination for Governor of Connecticut, and at least six on the Democratic side. The race for Governor is currently being considered a “toss up” by the Cook Political Report, which changed its outlook on the race in June.
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Connecticut News Junkie reports:
The Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes are asking Connecticut leaders to include them in any conversations about a potential Bridgeport casino. 

A letter from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation Chairman Rodney Butler and Mohegan Tribal Chairman Kevin Brown was sent to House and Senate leaders yesterday.Governor Dannel P. Malloy was copied on the letter, as well as Attorney General George Jepsen.

The letter sought to remind the state about the relationship it has with the tribes and the mutual financial benefit derived from the slot revenue sharing agreements, which “steered more than $7 billion in direct payment to the state’s General Fund and created billions more in other economic activity.”

The letter comes a day after MGM Resorts International’s top executive, Jim Murren, spoke to a Bridgeport business group to promote the company’s proposal for a $675 million resort casino in Bridgeport.
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The Albany Times-Union reports:
Legislation proposed by a Bronx assemblyman would allow undocumented immigrants protected under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) program to keep their driver’s licenses after the program ends in March. Democratic Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda is also proposing a bill to make DACA recipients eligible for the Excelsior Scholarship free state college tuition program. Neither bill has been printed yet. 

According to Sepulveda’s office, the driver’s license bill would bar the state Department of Motor Vehicles from canceling, suspending, or rescinding driver’s licenses issued to DACA recipients.

His office added that the Excelsior Scholarship bill would make recipients eligible for that program without needing to apply and qualify for the state Tuition Assistance or Education Opportunities programs. 
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Newsday reports:
Farmers and winemakers defeated a Southold Town proposal that would have placed tough new requirements on North Fork wineries.

Under the proposed law wineries would have been required to farm a minimum of 10 acres of planted grapes. And wine sold by the facilities would have been required to be made from grapes 80 percent of which were grown on site. Wineries now can have additional crops on 10-acre farms, and wine is required to be made “primarily” from on-premises grapes.

The board voted unanimously to withdraw the proposal to change the law.

Farmers argued the law would have dealt the biggest blow to new wineries that must wait years for newly planted vines to produce usable grapes, as well as those that make wine from locally purchased grapes or lease vineyards. 
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Wednesday December 6, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Liz Becker and Danniella Tompos)

In the news this evening: Connecticut legislators to rethink Medicare Savings Program cuts; Progressive non-profit will support female candidates; Suffolk updates home wastewater law; and Southampton Board votes No on luxury homes and golf course 
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On January first, roughly 86,000 Medicare Savings Program enrollees in Connecticut will no longer be eligible for the program because the income eligibility limits were lowered with passage of the state budget in October.  

As reported by CT Mirror, for some, the program pays for Medicare Part A and B premiums and out-of-pocket costs. As of January 1, that drops by more than half. For others, the program only covers the cost of their premiums. Officials say they are developing projections for total enrollees affected, and warned the forecast could grow. 

State legislators have been inundated with calls about the rollback and were scheduled to meet today with Governor Malloy to discuss it — along with what to do about the $208 million deficit already projected for the new two-year budget.

According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, the changes will save about $20 million this fiscal year and $61 million in fiscal year 2019. 
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CT News Junkie Reports:
The shock of the 2016 election inspired a progressive women’s advocacy group to get organized. 

Politica CT, the nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c)4 organization was co-founded by Jamie Mills, an attorney, and State Senator Beth Bye of West Hartford. It will do issue advocacy work and recruit progressive women to run in targeted elections. Mills said the group is going to be actively seeking women leaders to run for state House and Senate seats next year.

New Haven Representative Robyn Porter said that when women get involved in politics they get to have conversations about things that typically aren’t addressed when the process is dominated by men.

Celinda Lake, of the Democratic polling firm Lake Research Partners, said almost 148,000 unmarried women who showed up in the 2016 election are not planning to show up in the 2018 election. But the right issues and the right candidates will be able to bring those voters out.
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Newsday reports:
Suffolk lawmakers approved a bill on Tuesday requiring permits for new septic systems and mandating the installation of septic tanks by those looking to replace cesspools. These are first steps toward updating how the county handles wastewater from un-sewered homes.

The amendments to Suffolk’s sanitary code passed 12-5 with all Democrats and Republican Legislator Thomas Barraga of West Islip voting in favor of it. Other Republicans expressed concern about the fee the county would charge for a permit, and said the law didn’t do enough to improve water quality.

Requiring a septic tank when a cesspool fails will cost an estimated additional $2,000 to $2,500 for a homeowner.There are an estimated 360,000 un-sewered homes in Suffolk County, with about 252,000 using cesspools. As required by the bill, homeowners who replace aging cesspools starting in July 2019 would have to add a septic tank. 

Deputy County Executive Peter Scully said bills requiring advanced septic treatment systems in some cases will be brought before the legislature in 2018.
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27 East reports:
On Tuesday, the Southampton Town Board voted down zoning that would have allowed for luxury housing and a golf course to be developed in East Quogue in western Southampton Town. The Board voted 3 to 2 in favor, but four votes were required to approve a special zoning district for the project to proceed.

The two dissenting board members John Bouvier and Julie Lofstad said they had concerns about the development’s environmental impact. They cited possible contamination of the aquifer, the sole source of the area’s drinking water, due to recycling of contaminated water on the golf course, and a yet to be approved wastewater treatment system.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, and board members Stan Glinka and Christine Scalera, voted in favor of the project. They said the development would have been the best option for the economy, school district and environment.  

Without the special zoning, the developer plans to build a 137-unit subdivision—including 13 affordable housing units. School administrators were concerned about possible jump in school enrollment.
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Tuesday December 5, 2017  (Thanks to news volunteers Trace Alford, Phil Hall, and Alyssa Katz)

In the news this evening: Norwalk Land Trust buys wooded property for $5 million; protest for fired Branford bike shop mechanic; Toulon wins sheriff’s race - is first Black Suffolk Sheriff; New York ups fines for illegal deer hunting
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The Norwalk Land Trust has agreed to buy the 15.4-acre White Barn property in the Cranbury area of Norwalk for $5 million.

As reported by Fairfield County Business Journal, the wooded property is one of the last large privately owned spaces in Norwalk. It includes a 1-acre pond fed by the Stony Brook, part of the Saugatuck River Watershed drainage basin that feeds into Long Island Sound.

A developer that has permits to build 15 luxury homes on the property agreed to work with the Land Trust on an arrangement that will permanently preserve the property as undeveloped open space. The nonprofit land trust needs to raise the $5 million purchase price by April 1 in order to complete the transaction.
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A bike mechanic who was fired after 15 years at a well-known bike shop in Branford has garnered community support in demanding justice.  
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WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus reports:

Alfonso Santiago worked at Zane’s Cycles without incident until he was told in mid-October that the owner, Chris Zane, “doesn’t want you anymore.” Santiago believes his dismissal was related to his efforts to organize fellow mechanics into a union, the United Food and Commercial Workers, which Zane has vigorously opposed.

Supporters protested outside the bike shop last Friday and are demanding severance pay for each of the 15 years Santiago worked there. He supports a family of four, including two young daughters, and the loss of income has been traumatic.
  
Chris Zane did not return a call seeking comment.\

Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News. 
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Newsday reports: 
Democrat Errol Toulon Jr. will be Suffolk County’s new sheriff after Republican candidate Larry Zacarese conceded the close race Monday. Toulon, a former New York City deputy corrections commissioner, becomes Long Island’s first African American nonjudicial countywide elected official.

Toulon and Zacarese vied to replace Sheriff Vincent DeMarco in the November 7 election that was too close to call on election night and required counting more than 14,000 absentee ballots. Zacarese, an assistant police chief at Stony Brook University, conceded the election in a news release issued Monday and congratulated Toulon.

Toulon said Monday he looks forward to combating gang violence and the opioid epidemic in Suffolk, and introduce a “strong re-entry program” for those leaving county jails.
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The Albany Times-Union reports:
A new law signed by Governor Cuomo last week increases fines for killing deer, bear, moose, and/or elk out of season to a $500-minimum a $3,000-maximum.

The penalties apply for “deer jacking” — the practice of shining a spotlight on a deer at night to cause the animal to freeze, making it easier to shoot. 

In-season illegal killing of deer comes with a potential penalty of up to one year in jail or a fine of $250 to $2,000. The law also increases penalties for repeat offenders. Any person found guilty of illegal hunting within the last five years could be fined between $750 and $2,000.
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Newsday reports: 
New York State was awarded $1.05 million in grants for projects aimed at improving the health and water quality of Long Island Sound. Nine of the 15 project areas are on Long Island and will receive more than $600,000.

The grants will help pay for programs such as reusing treated wastewater for irrigation, monitoring water quality, building a fish passage, and promoting the importance of upgrading septic systems.  

Last month, Connecticut received $1.29 million in grants for 20 projects.
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Monday, December 4, 2017 (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Phil Hall, Lee Yuen Lew and Neil Tolhurst)

In the news tonight: Bridgeport to use 1.8 million dollars to hire more cops; judge nixes public financing for Mayor Ganim’s campaign for Governor; more lay-offs at Brookhaven National Lab; and education groups call for $2 billion increase in New York budget
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Mayor Ganim’s administration intends to use a $1.8 million federal grant to hire new police officers. The U.S. Department of Justice grant covers up to 75 percent of entry level salaries and benefits for newly hired officers for three years.
The grant was welcome news for City Hall, but not for some immigrant advocates. To obtain the grant, Ganim and Police Chief Perez signed a “Certification of Illegal Immigration Cooperation.” 
"Make the Road CT" organized a rally last week outside of Ganim’s offices after the grant was announced. The organization charged that the Ganim administration has sold out to Republican President Donald Trump. Earlier in the year Ganim pledged to make Bridgeport a “welcoming city” for all immigrants and has issued municipal IDs to documented and undocumented residents. Exact details for using the grant money are still being worked out in City Hall. 

Since his election, Ganim has hired about 80 new officers of his pledged 100 to fill out the ranks depleted by retirements and other departures. 
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CT Mirror reports:
A federal judge upheld a state law barring Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, as a felon convicted of public corruption, from obtaining public campaign financing. Ganim was convicted in 2003 after a dozen years as mayor, left prison in 2010 and successfully ran for mayor in 2015. 

He is uncertain about appealing the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals. He said he expected to decide in January if he would end his exploratory efforts for seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018 without access to public financing.  Ganim said “money.. is a huge factor, but it won’t be the one that determines this campaign.”

Public financing provides qualifying candidates with $1.5 million for a primary campaign and $6.5 million for a general campaign for governor.
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As reported by Riverhead Local, fifty-three Brookhaven National Lab employees got pink slips last week. The layoffs are the second phase of a larger workforce- restructuring plan according to a Lab statement. 

BNL recently completed a voluntary workforce reduction of 63 staffers, according to the statement. But the statement says the voluntary reduction in force alone did not generate the savings needed for planned strategic reinvestment, Those affected are primarily in support areas.

The laid-off employees, like the 63 earlier approved for buyouts, will also receive a severance package and “career transition assistance.”

The lab employs almost 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff, according to its website. 
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The Albany Times-Union reports:
New York State is facing a multi-billion-dollar budget deficit for next year, but top state education groups are not tempering their funding request. 

The Educational Conference Board — which counts as members the state teachers union, state School Boards Association and state Association of School Business Officials, among others — is asking for a $2 billion increase in education aid in the 2018-19 budget. That would put total state education funding at more than $27 billion.

Lawmakers and the governor agreed to boost education aid in the current budget by $1.1 billion. Current school aid is about $25 billion. The Board contends that the budget needs to increase education aid by $1.5 billion just to continue current services. The board suggests the other $500 million go to “pressing student needs and strengthening student achievement and opportunity.”

According to the New York State United Teachers union, school districts are spending an estimated $67 billion in the 2017-18 school year, with 55 percent of that coming from local property tax revenues. The 2018-19 budget is due April 1.

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Friday December 1, 2017  (Thanks to WPKN volunteers Trace Alford, John Iannuzzi, and Melinda Tuhus)

In the news tonight: immigrant takes sanctuary at New Haven church; report shows rentals up, homelessness down in Connecticut; New York disability rights group sues state; report outlines protections for Long Island aquifers 

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An immigrant who was supposed to be deported back to Ecuador on Thursday instead took sanctuary in the same New Haven church that had welcomed another immigrant for more than three months. 
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WPKN’s Melinda Tuhus has more:
Nelson Pinos has been in the U.S. for 25 years, and has a wife and three U.S.-born children. He is an active member of Unidad Latina en Accion, the immigrant rights group that has spearheaded the sanctuary movement in Connecticut.

(CHANTING) At a Thursday morning rally outside immigration court in Hartford, activist Jesus Morales Sanchez made their demand of federal immigration enforcement officials: “We want them to allow Nelson to stay home. They have the discretionary authority to grant him a stay any time.”


Pinos’s 15-year-old daughter Kelly spoke for the family: “I’m happy he went to sanctuary, because we can still fight. We can still fight till the very end. But I’m also anxious because he still not going to be with us. He won’t be in our household.


Pinos entered sanctuary at First & Summerfield Methodist Church on the New Haven Green. The family lives in New Haven and plans to visit Pinos every day.


Melinda Tuhus, WPKN News.

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Albany Times-Union reports: 
Disability Rights New York is suing the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities for its failure to discharge 97 adults who are 21 and older from residential schools. The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities’ failure to discharge these adults violates two federal laws, the American with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

Disability Rights New York says the lack of timely discharge blocks parents of younger disabled children from being placed in the special residential schools.


According to the lawsuit, OPWDD is required to develop a plan and secure appropriate placement once students reach 21. But the office’s discharge planning doesn’t begin until a student is 19, which is not enough time.


The disability rights group wants the court to require OPWDD take immediate steps and begin discharge planning for students at age 16.
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Newsday reports: 
A draft report released Thursday recommends 143 safeguards for Long Island’s groundwater.The Long Island Commission for Aquifer Protection’s most urgent proposals include obliging the state and Nassau and Suffolk counties to empower local planning boards to impose requirements on new developments.

Brookhaven supervisor Ed Romaine called for improving the removal of contaminants, noting 20 percent of Suffolk’s 190 sewage treatment plants not only fail to meet county standards but a number cannot afford upgrades. The Peconic Land Trust chairman Stephen Jones said education for home gardeners and lawn owners is one way the nonprofit hopes to stop the cycle of adding pollutants to water that then must be removed.


Public comments on the report are due December 8. The commission hopes to approve the final report December 13.