OSSINING, N.Y. For Paul Gallay, president of the Ossining-based Riverkeeper environmental watchdog organization, 2012 could be the year the Indian Point nuclear power plants are mandated to shut down.
2012 could also be the year that hydrofracking is practiced in an environmentally safe way, or not practiced at all, and a year when bacteria levels in the Hudson River improve so that it is always safe to swim in the Hudson when it is not raining.
"2012 will be a defining year in the campaign to close Indian Point and to move to a more sustainable energy for this part of New York," Gallay said. "Indian Point is old and it's dangerous and we don't even need the power."
Gallay noted that the state has already turned down an application by Indian Point to renew its license, because the plant's water cooling system is allegedly not sufficient.
"Indian Point destroys a billion fish eggs and larvae every year by using an outdated water cooling system," Gallay said. "They are fighting to re-license a plant that has such significant problems that they probably won't be able to put their thumb hard enough on the scale to balance out benefits and problems."
Addressing hydrofracking, Gallay said New York State is one of the few states in the country that did not rush headlong into the technique which injects water and chemicals at a high pressure down into wells in order to extract natural gas.
"To make a long story short, in Pennsylvania you have people's water supplies destroyed by contaminants released from this; in Wyoming you have smog levels higher than Los Angeles; and in Texas you have childhood asthma levels three times higher than average," Gallay said.
In 2012, people will see how New York State decides to deal with hydrofracking, the Riverkeeper president said.
"If it can't be done right, it can't be done at all," he said.
The Hudson River is another area where contamination can be reduced, Gallay said. Currently one out of four Hudson River water samples taken by Riverkeeper has unsafe levels of bacteria when it is not raining, and after it rains, that number goes up to 35 percent.
"We've seen a renaissance in people's enjoyment of the Hudson and Hudson River parks all because the water's cleaner," Gallay said. "Bacteria levels could go to where in dry weather it's always safe."
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