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December 8, 2012

Senate Dems'Albany loss isSeward's gain

By Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star

---- — The newly minted “bipartisan governing coalition” calling the shots in the New York Senate is the latest machination to hatch in Albany, though hardly the most shocking.

Under the arrangement, a small brigade of renegade Democratic senators — among them the most conservative members of their conference  — are making it possible for outnumbered Republicans to maintain a firm grip on the Legislature’s upper chamber.

That is good news for Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford. He and other Republicans holding important committee leadership positions undoubtedly would have been stripped of those assignments, along with the financial stipends and perquisites that come along with them, had the Democrats maintained cohesiveness.

Seward is the chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee, and while committee leaders have not been appointed for the 2013 session in Albany, his spokesman, Jeff Bishop, told me: “We have no reason to believe that is going to change.”

Given that New York is known nationally as one of the bluest of the blue states – with Democrats holding a 2 to 1 enrollment edge over Republicans – some may wonder how the GOP ends up controlling one of two houses in the Legislature. The answer is that district lines continue to be controlled by the party holding power. Last year, in a political deal cut with the Legislature, Gov. Andrew Cuomo backed off his stated commitment to push for independent redistricting.

The result was that the gerrymandering that has been in play for decades simply continued.

Longtime state Capitol observer Alan Chartock, the chief executive officer at WAMC public radio station, said he thinks Cuomo is perfectly content to have Republicans in charge of the Senate, even though the disloyalty of the breakaway Democrats is showing “what a house of prostitution the whole thing is.”

The developments in Albany are bound to have important public-policy implications. For instance, Assembly Democrats have been far more resistant to opening New York to hydrofracking then Senate Republicans, many of whom march in step with the natural gas industry.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the folks who run Brewery Ommegang have done a very good deed for Barrier Brewing Co., a company whose plant in Oceanside, Long Island, was hammered by the storm. 

As Barrier rebuilds, Ommegang has collaborated with its fellow craft beer producer by producing about 400 kegs of a new brew to be called Barrier Relief Ale. The ale will be sold under the Ommegang label and distributed in Barrier’s market in the metropolitan New York City area. 

“Just to keep the name in front of people there so they don’t lose their tap lines should really help them,” said Ommegang spokesman Larry Bennett, who described the Barrier brew as a “really hoppy IPA (India pale ale).” 

In addition to utilizing its own production facilities, Ommegang provided the malts, yeast and even some of the hops for the Barrier ale. 

While most of the product is destined for downstate, Bennett said he expects a couple of kegs will be made available at Café Ommegang, located at the company’s plant off county Route 33 in Middlefield. 

The bald eagle survey that will be undertaken by the planners of the Constitution Pipeline will examine a zone within 2,000 feet of the proposed pipeline alignment, according to Christopher Stockton, spokesman for the $750 million project.

“This is best done in winter since the leaves are off the trees, allowing for easier identification of potential nests,” Stockton said in an email responding to my questions. “Should any potential nests be identified during the aerial portion of the survey, follow-up ground surveys are done to determine whether the nests are associated with bald eagles (as opposed to other species) and if they are being actively used by a breeding pair of eagles. We anticipate that this process will be completed in the first quarter of 2013.”

Also on the pipeline front, the mailbag included a note from James Dean, chairman of the Village of Cooperstown Environmental Conservation Committee. Dean, an ardent opponent of hydrofracking for natural gas, expressed strong concern about the potential use of herbicides to stop vegetation from growing above the pipeline that will be run 3 feet under the terrain, 4 feet below farmland.

“Why should so many people, wildlife, and perfectly good land be subject to so much permanent damage from so few people so they can make enormous amounts of money that will almost all leave New York state?” he asked. “Am I missing something here?”

JOE MAHONEY can be reached at jmahoney@thedailystar.com.