Last summer, we reported that researchers found that song birds nesting on Dome Island had 15 to 20 times more mercury in their blood than birds from other sections of New York State. The scientists’ next task was to determine the source of the mercury: midwestern power plants, abandoned industrial sites, closed landfills or emissions from cement manufacturing plants. Scott Lorey of the Adirondack Council told us at the time that cement plants will deposit heavy concentrations of mercury within a local radius, and we were surprised to find that little had been done to compel cement plants to cut mercury emissions. That’s why we were gratified to learn that nine states, New York included, had reached a settlement with the federal Environmental Protection Agency requiring new limits on the amount of mercury and other toxic pollutants that cement plants can discharge. The EPA’s new rules were drafted to address mercury and other toxic emissions from Portland cement plants nationwide, including those located in New York. Portland cement is the most common type of cement and a basic ingredient of concrete, mortar, stucco and grout. New York state is home to three Portland cement plants: the LaFarge plant in Ravena, the St. Lawrence plant in Catskill, and the Glens Falls plant near Lake George. Collectively, these three plants discharge roughly 170 pounds of mercury emissions in New York’s air each year – about 20 percent of all mercury emitted annually in the state. If the cement plants are the source of the mercury that is poisoning Lake George’s songbirds, those new rules would have been a necessary first step in restoring the health of Lake George’s bird population. Unfortunately, the US Congress has chosen to block EPA’s power to force cement plants to comply with these new regulations by suspending funding for implementation and enforcement. What’s even more unfortunate, Lake George’s representative in Congress, Chris Gibson, not only voted with the majority, but boasted about it. In his “60 Day Progress Report” to his constituents, Gibson noted that he had “voted to defund significant portions of EPA’s overreach.” Given that mercury emissions from cement plants may be threatening Lake George’s wildlife, that’s hardly something to be proud of.
Archive for the ‘Anthony F. Hall’ Category
By Anthony F. Hall
A federal prosecutor in Houston, Texas, has charged the owners of an insurance company with commiting the fraud that left Shoreline Cruises unprotected when its 40 ft tour boat, the Ethan Allen, capsized on Lake George in 2005, leaving 20 people dead.
United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced on February 18 that Christopher Purser, 49, of Houston, and five other defendants have been charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money.
Jim Quirk, the president of Shoreline Cruises, said he had provided information to the Internal Revenue Service and the US Attorney’s office and had offered to travel to Houston to testify against the defendants. According to Quirk, he paid premiums on a $2 million policy for approximately two years before the Ethan Allen capsized. Two weeks after the accident, he was told the policy he had purchased did not exist. The indictment alleges that Purser backdated documents after the Ethan Allen accident to make it appear that Shoreline Cruises had not purchased coverage while the vessel was operating on Lake George when, in fact, Shoreline had purchased exactly that type insurance policy.
The indictment also alleges that none of the insurance companies involved in Ethan Allen’s insurance policy had the financial ability to pay the claims. Quirk said that he was provided documents that purported to show that the insurer had the means to pay any claims. Those documents were false, the indictment alleges.
One of the defendants, Malchus Irvin Boncamper, a Chartered Certified Accountant, allegedly prepared fraudulent financial statements and audit reports that were transmitted to Shoreline Cruises to create the false appearance that its insurers had financial strength. In 2008, Shoreline Cruises, Quirk’s Marine Rentals and boat captain Richard Paris settled lawsuits filed by the families of those who who died in the accident.
The terms of the settlement remain confidential. The conspiracy, wire fraud and obstruction of justice charges each carry a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years imprisonment and a fine of not more than $250,000. According to US Attorney Moreno, the charges are the result of an intensive, four year investigation conducted by the Internal Revenue Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations, the Texas Dept. of Insurance, the New York State Dept. of Insurance, the California Dept. of Insurance and several foreign governments.