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Broome County legislature gas leasing vote will be close

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Now entering Broome County: controversy over leasing public land for gas drilling.

Legislature gas leasing vote
Jon Campbell at the Press & Sun-Bulletin has a pair of stories about gas leasing in the Binghamton area.  He reports that an upcoming vote about whether or not to lease Broome County land for drilling is likely to come down to the wire, with four legislators forced to recuse themselves.  Meanwhile Binghamton mayor Matt Ryan has weighed in against the deal, telling the paper:

"We feel that with gas prices are so low right now, it doesn't make sense to lease now," Ryan said. "We want to make sure that environmentally and economically ... we get the best deal possible. This is the taxpayers' land, and we want to make sure they get the best deal possible if it is leased."

And the Associated Press is reporting that Halliburton has begun to disclose, on a website, some of the chemicals used in its hydrofracking water in Pennsylvania.  The move comes after the Environmental Protection Agency subpoenaed the company to share its formula, when it refused to disclose it voluntarily.

Verizon lawsuit
A landowner in western New York is filing suit to prevent Verizon from siting a new data center in the town of Somerset.  The suit calls for a full-blown environmental review of Verizon's facility, and demands that elements of the incentive package for the project (including guaranteed cheap hydropower, rezoning, and sales and property tax breaks) be dropped.  The Buffalo News reports:

The heart of the suit involves a ruling last month by the Somerset Town Board, after a preliminary assessment, that the project did not merit a full-blown study under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. "Environmental, zoning and planning laws aren't meant to be set aside when a pet project comes along," said attorney Arthur J. Giacalone, who filed the suit in State Supreme Court in Lockport on behalf of Mary Ann Rizzo, owner of a 117-acre farm on Lake Road across the street from the proposed data center.

Verizon has declined to comment on the suit until officials have read it, but an environmental review could significantly delay construction of the facility, or dampen the phone giant's already slackening enthusiasm for New York.

Contested congressional race
The Post-Standard reports that the representative from the 25th congressional district is reporting for duty – regardless of who the winner of the race is.  Both Democratic incumbent Dan Maffei and his Republican challenger Ann Marie Buerkle have headed to Washington for orientation, as the ballots in their hotly contested race continue to be counted:

By the end of the day, the two had not crossed paths or made any attempts to meet. Both, in separate interviews, expressed optimism that they would be declared the winner after more than 7,000 remaining absentee ballots are counted.

Rochester red light cameras
New cameras that catch drivers running red lights have netted 518 drivers in Rochester in their first week of operation, reports the Democrat and Chronicle:

If all the fines are paid, that's $25,900 in revenue for the city in one week collected from motorists who ran afoul of cameras at three busy city intersections. The first wave of $50 fines follows a warning period that began Oct. 25 and ran through Nov. 8, during which the cameras caught 798 cars crossing the intersections illegally. The city began mailing tickets instead of warnings Nov. 9.

Those who ignore their red light ticket risk a fine increase to $75, or being booted.  Opponents of the program have called it a money grab by the city, while city officials have defended it, saying it makes dangerous intersections safer.

The Press & Sun-Bulletin reports that retirees in the Binghamton suburb of Vestal are being called back to work part-time.  They took early retirement plans to save the town cash - but now they're back on the clock, getting their pension and a salary (so-called "double-dipping").

NYS deficit
Bad budget news out of the state comptroller's office could bring the legislature back to Albany to deal with the state's growing deficit, reports the Buffalo News:

The state’s budget, stuck under the weight of rising Medicaid costs and slower-than-projected tax revenues, is facing a$1 billion deficit— more than three times the level projected by the governor and Legislature.

The next administration is facing a $9 to 9.5 billion dollar deficit.

New bus route
Megabus, with its onboard WiFi and $1 fares, is starting new service between Buffalo and Washington, D.C.

Funds for water
Projects across New York will get a combined $61.5 million for efforts to improve water quality and cut pollution, reports the Press & Sun-Bulletin.  The dollars come from the state's Environmental Protection Fund.  Among the projects: $5.1 million for Utica, $5 million for Erwin in Steuben County, $3.5 million for Monroe County, and $11.5 million for Erie County.

Plugging in
The Times Union has a profile of Plug Power, a hydrogen fuel cell manufacturer.  Right now the company is losing money, but officials are hopeful that a pivot from building-based fuel cells, to batteries for forklifts, will buoy the firm.

Robot dog
A Cornell doctor has developed a robot dog that allows student veterinarians to practice canine CPR, reports the Press & Sun-Bulletin:

Multiple embedded speakers and actuators within the "smart" dog dummy emit heart and lung sounds, and create pulses that can be felt. A balloon within the chest cavity simulates chest movements to mimic spontaneous breathing. All of these features are driven by programmable and adjustable software.

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