Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street
CAG Facilitator Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35 p.m. December minutes were approved with no revisions. Average attendance in 2016 was 19 members, which means that a quorum for 2017 will be 10 members, the same as last year (defined as 50% of the average attendance of previous year).
Natalie Loney, EPA Region 2 Community Involvement Coordinator, provided the update. She anticipated that there would be questions about EPA contract freeze that had been announced by the Trump administration, though did not have any additional information from what had been reported.
CAG Member: Will the EPA have to renegotiate contracts with all PRPs?
EPA: The Superfund law was written so that it would not be buffeted by political change. The Record of Decision was created under the CERCLA law and the EPA will move forward with the cleanup. The Gowanus cleanup is funded by PRP dollars and will continue.
CAG Member: What is the gag order that is being reported?
EPA: It’s not unheard of for an incoming administration to prefer that agencies don’t speculate about programs as they get to determine policies moving forward. We don’t comment on policy but we can talk about the work we’re doing already. We’re not tweeting or engaging in policy conversations. However, you as private citizens can discuss all aspects of Gowanus.
CAG Member: Is it possible that Walter Mugdan will be replaced?
EPA: Walter is a career employee, not an appointee. Our regional administrator Judith Enck was a political appointee and resigned on the day of the inauguration. Walter, our deputy regional administrator is now the acting regional administrator until a permanent regional administrator has been appointed.
CAG Member: There was a story in ProPublica that the administration is imposing a freeze on grants and contracts. How will this affect the cleanup?
EPA: The cleanup is not grant-funded. The ROD was signed between the EPA and the PRPs – and that is still operational. Again, it is not unheard of for an incoming administration to freeze spending. In general, operations continue depending on the kind of program.