ALBANY — Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul on Wednesday announced appointments to the state’s Adirondack Road Salt Reduction Task Force.
The task force will be focused on reviewing and assessing the use of road salt, its impacts on waterways and drinking water and related environmental concerns in the Adirondacks.
The task force will be overseen by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, with representatives from the Department of Transportation and Department of Health.
“Protecting our environment is a high priority to my administration and appointments to this task force are long overdue,” Hochul said in a statement. “I have no doubt that this group of individuals will work tirelessly to protect our state from the adverse effects of road salt. We look forward to seeing this group finally convene and make progress in preventing further pollution to our waterways and our environment.”
The formation of the task force is a result of a bill sponsored by Assemblyman D. Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay Lake. The bipartisan legislation, called the Randy Preston Road Salt Reduction Act, was signed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo more than a year ago.
“Road salt has caused irrevocable damage to our environment and waterways, contaminating drinking water supply for homeowners for far too long,” Jones said in a statement. “It is great news that the governor has approved the appointments to the Adirondack road salt reduction task force so that the state can implement a pilot plan and test program.”
“Everyone has the right to clean water and that is why I am proud to have authored the bill that created this task force,” he added. “Contaminated drinking water due to road salt has been an issue for homeowners across the north country and Adirondack region for far too long, and this task force will finally be able to address this issue.”
Deadlines set for the unformed task force have already passed. The now-formed group’s work is expected to start as early as the beginning of the new year, according to Connie Mandeville, communications coordinator for Jones.
The task force is charged with researching alternatives to salt-spreading on winter roads and making recommendations for a three-year road salt application reduction pilot program, while keeping highway safety a priority.
“Advancing these nominations is a major step forward in empowering this Task Force to convene and ultimately ensure that we’re protecting our Adirondack waterways and prioritizing road salt reduction,” State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said in a statement. “We know that by taking action now, we will be preserving our ecosystems and wildlife for generations to come. This panel of experts has the experience and knowledge to effectively accelerate this important pilot program, and I’m eager to see them assemble as quickly as possible.”
Of the 10 appointees, Hochul directly nominated four. Two were nominated by the Temporary President of the Senate; two were nominated by the Assembly Speaker; and one each was nominated by the Minority Leaders of the Senate and Assembly.
The appointees nominated by Hochul:
— Megan Phillips, vice president for conservation at the Adirondack Council. Previously, she was a senior policy adviser on energy and the environment for the Executive Chamber.
— Daniel Kelting, vice president of research and professor of environmental sciences at Paul Smith’s College.
— Joe Martens, director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance.
— Kristine Stepenuck, associate professor of watershed science, policy and education at the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont. She is also associate director and Extension Program leader of the Lake Champlain Sea Grant, and the Public Advisory Group co-chair for the International Joint Commission, Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Flood Study.
The appointees nominated by the Temporary President of the Senate:
— Philip Sexton, founder and managing director of WIT Companies. He is also an adjunct professor in the Plant Science Department at SUNY Cobleskill.
— Robert J. Kafin, chief operating partner and general counsel at Proskauer. He is also the chair of the Council on the Environment of New York City.
The appointees nominated by the Assembly Speaker:
— Brittany Christenson, executive director of ADKAction. She was previously the operations manager for Fledging Crow Farm in Keeseville.
— Gerald Delaney, executive director for the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board. He was previously the chairman of the board. Delaney also serves the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages Board of Directors and is a town councilor in Saranac Lake.
The appointee nominated by the Senate Minority Leader:
— Kevin J. Hajos, superintendent of the Warren County Department of Public Works.
The appointee nominated by the Assembly Minority Leader:
— Tracy J. Eldridge, superintendent of Hamilton County Department of Highways. Eldridge is also a committee chair for the New York State County Highway Superintendents Association.